md. Senate okays Gay marriage
Same-sex couples in Maryland would have the same full marriage rights as heterosexuals under a bill that cleared the Senate on Thursday. If the House of Delegates approves it and the governor signs it, Maryland would be the sixth U.S. state to approve gay marriage. Opponents, including Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert, promised that if it does become law, a referendum question would be on the 2012 ballot so voters have the final decision.
One Republican senator joined 24 Democrats to give the bill the 25 votes it needed to pass, with 21 opposing. Senators included protections for religious groups and institutions to keep them from being forced to participate in gay weddings. The bill would grant the same rights to same-sex couples as married straight couples. If the bill passes the House, Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley said he would sign it into law.
Immediate ban urged on health care law
Florida and 25 other states suing to stop President Barack Obama's health care overhaul said in a new legal filing that they should be allowed to stop following the law immediately. The states filed a response late Wednesday to an earlier Justice Department request. The filing said a federal judge in Florida declared that the law unconstitutional, so they do not need to implement it. The Justice Department wants the judge to order the states to follow the law pending an appeal to a higher court. The health care law seems certain to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court. Two other U.S. district judges have upheld the law, and a third ruled against one of its provisions.
Clinton has warning on use of ethanol
Former President Bill Clinton on Thursday warned farmers that using too much corn for ethanol fuel could lead to higher food prices and riots in poor countries. Clinton told farmers and Agriculture Department employees that he believes producing biofuels such as corn-based ethanol is important for reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil. But, he said, farmers should look beyond domestic production and consider the needs of developing countries. At the department's annual Agricultural Outlook Forum, chief economist Joseph Glauber said food prices are expected to rise this year and corn use for ethanol will continue to grow.
FDA grants hearing in June for Avastin
The Food and Drug Administration has granted Swiss drugmaker Roche a first-of-a-kind public hearing to defend the effectiveness of its drug Avastin for treating breast cancer, just months after the agency ruled that the drug is ineffective for that use. Roche said Thursday it will make its case at the two-day hearing in June for keeping the drug approved for treating recurring breast cancer. Avastin is the world's best-selling cancer drug and is also approved for several types of colon, lung, kidney and brain cancer. Those uses have not been questioned by the FDA.
Milwaukee: Walter Ellis, 50, of Milwaukee was sentenced Thursday to spend the rest of his life in prison after being convicted of choking the life out of seven women during a 21-year killing spree.
Honolulu: The U.S. Geological Survey said a magnitude 3.6 temblor struck Hawaii at 2:12 p.m. Thursday about 12 miles deep between the islands of Oahu and Molokai.