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Supreme Court to review ‘born in Jerusalem’ passport law

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By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to weigh the constitutionality of a law that was designed to allow American citizens born in Jerusalem – the historic holy city claimed by Israelis and Palestinians – to have Israel listed as their birthplace on passports.

The case concerns a long-standing U.S. foreign policy that the president – and not Congress – has sole authority to state who controls Jerusalem. Seeking to remain neutral on the hotly contested issue, the U.S. State Department allows passports to name Jerusalem as a place of birth, but no country name is included.

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The State Department, which issues passports and reports to the president, has declined to enforce the law passed by Congress in 2002, saying it violated the separation of executive and legislative powers laid out in the U.S. Constitution.

In court papers, President Barack Obama’s administration said taking sides on the issue could “critically compromise the ability of the United States to work with Israelis, Palestinians and others in the region to further the peace process.”

The government has noted that U.S. citizens born in other places in the region where sovereignty has not been established, including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, are similarly prevented from stating a country of birth on their passports.

In 2003, Ari and Naomi Zivotofsky, the parents of U.S. citizen Menachem Zivotofsky, who was born in Jerusalem in 2002, filed a lawsuit seeking to enforce the law. They would like their son’s passport to say he was born in Israel.

Since the founding of Israel in 1948, U.S. presidents have declined to state a position on the status of Jerusalem, leaving it as one of the thorniest issues to be resolved in possible future Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

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When Republican President George W. Bush signed the 2002 law as part of a broader foreign affairs bill, he said that if construed as mandatory rather than advisory, it would “impermissibly interfere” with the president’s authority to speak for the country on international affairs.

The issue reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 on the preliminary question of whether it was so political that it did not belong in the courts. The high court ruled 8-1 that the case could proceed, setting up a July 2013 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that struck the law down.

An estimated 50,000 American citizens were born in Jerusalem and could, if they requested it, list Israel as their birthplace if the law was enforced.

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While Israel calls Jerusalem its capital, few other countries accept that status. Most, including the United States, maintain their embassies to Israel in Tel Aviv. Palestinians want East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in a 1967 war, as capital of the state they aim to establish alongside Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Oral arguments and a decision are due in the court’s next term, which begins in October and ends in June 2015.

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The case is Zivotofsky v. Kerry, U.S. Supreme Court, 13-628.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham and Andrea Ricci)


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Food safety groups warn of looming zoonotic pandemic, blast USDA’s new slaughter plant regulation

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"Self-regulation when it comes to animal movement, slaughter, and meat inspection is bad news."

Food safety advocates warned Monday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's USDA newly implemented rules for pig slaughter are setting the stage for a potential public health disaster—including the possibility of another infectious disease that could come from animals.

At issue is the New Swine Inspection System (NSIS), which the USDA finalized in October. Touted by the federal agency as a "modernization" effort, the regulation sparked immediate fears and lawsuits by watchdog groups over its elimination of kill speed limits and weakening of the inspection system.

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Wisconsin Supreme Court blocks governor’s effort to postpone election — and protect voters from COVID-19

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Hours after Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order postponing this week's election to June, the state Supreme Court ordered the election must proceed as scheduled.

BREAKING: The Wisconsin Supreme Court has blocked Gov. Tony Evers' executive order postponing the spring election in the state. Tomorrow's election IS BACK ON https://t.co/nZz9D4IsA3

— Zach Montellaro (@ZachMontellaro) April 6, 2020

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US begins blood tests for coronavirus immunity: reports

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The United States has begun taking blood samples from across the country to determine the true number of people infected with the coronavirus, using a test that works retrospectively, according to reports.

The new tests are based on serological surveys, which differ from the nasal swabs used to determine if someone currently has the virus.

Instead, they look for whether certain antibodies are present in the blood which shows that the person fought and then recovered from the illness -- even if they never showed symptoms.

These tests are seen as key to gradually easing lockdown, by allowing those who have proven immunity to re-enter society.

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