Nation Briefs 01-29-13 Facing ceaseless protests, Boys Scouts considering retreat from no-gays policy

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NEW YORK -- Facing diverse and ceaseless protests, the Boy Scouts of America is signaling its readiness to end the nationwide exclusion of gays as scouts or leaders and give the sponsors of local troops the freedom to decide the matter for themselves.

If approved by the Scouts' national executive board, possibly as soon as next week, the change would be another momentous milestone for America's gay-rights movement, following a surge of support for same-sex marriage and the ending of the ban on gays serving opening in military.

"The pulse of equality is strong in America, and today it beats a bit faster with news that the Boy Scouts may finally put an end to its long history of discrimination," said Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign, a major gay-rights group.

Under the proposed change, which was outlined Monday by the Scouts, the different religious and civic groups that sponsor Scout units would be able to decide for themselves how to address the issue -- either maintaining an exclusion of gays, as is now required of all units, or opening up their membership.

Southern Baptist leaders -- who consider homosexuality a sin -- were furious about the possible change and said its approval might encourage Southern Baptist churches to support other boys' organizations instead of the BSA. The Southern Baptists are among the largest sponsors of Scout units, along with the Roman Catholic, Mormon and United Methodist churches.

Snyder asks for court ruling: Gov. Rick Snyder asked the Michigan Supreme Court on Monday to rule quickly on the constitutionality of the new right-to-work law that takes effect in late March, saying questions on how it would impact 35,000 unionized state employees must be resolved before new contract talks begin this summer. By making the rare request for an advisory opinion, the Republican governor is seeking to avoid a "proliferation" of federal and state lawsuits expected to be filed by labor unions.

GM plans $600M upgrade: General Motors Co. announced plans Monday to pour $600 million into upgrades at its assembly plant in Kansas City, Kan., an investment that likely ensures the facility's long-term viability. Construction on a new 450,000-square-foot paint shop, a stamping press and efficiency enhancements at the Fairfax Assembly Plant will begin this year and should take about two years to complete, GM chairman and CEO Dan Akerson said. Akerson told a crowd that included Gov. Sam Brownback, Mayor Joe Reardon and a few hundred Fairfax employees that the company was experiencing a "renaissance" and that the Fairfax plant would be among the automaker's "crown jewels." He said the $600 million was among the largest single-plant investments in GM's history.

To research hydrogen cars: Ford is joining with Daimler and Renault-Nissan to speed development of cars that run on hydrogen, with hopes of bringing a vehicle to market in as little as four years. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles generate electricity after a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen is stored in special high-pressure tanks, and the only emissions are water vapor and heat. Under the alliance, each company will invest equally in the technology. They plan to develop a common fuel cell system that the companies will use to power their own vehicles. The companies also plan to take advantage of their combined size to reduce costs.

Detroit auto show attendance up: Organizers of the North American International Auto Show say this year's attendance was the highest since 2004. The annual event at Detroit's Cobo Center closed on Sunday. Organizers say attendance during the public portion of the show was 795,416. That's also up from last year when 770,932 went to the show -- the highest number since 2005. Detroit is one of 65 shows being held in the U.S. this year -- from a tiny one in Toledo to New York and Chicago gatherings that attract more than a million visitors. Detroit has been holding an auto show almost continuously since the early 1900s.

J.C.Penney adds sales: J.C. Penney is bringing back sales. The struggling department store chain this week will begin adding back some of the hundreds of sales it ditched last year in hopes of luring shoppers who were turned off when the discounts disappeared, CEO Ron Johnson told Associated Press. Penney also plans to add price tags or signs for more than half of its merchandise to show customers how much they're saving by shopping at the chain -- a strategy used by a few other retailers. For store branded items such as Arizona, Penney will show comparison prices from competitors.

Hostess picks Little Debbie: Hostess has picked the maker of Little Debbie as the lead bidder for its Drake's cakes. According to a filing in U.S. bankruptcy court, McKee Foods has offered $27.5 million in cash for the cake brands, which include Devil Dogs, Funny Bones and Yodels. The fate of Twinkies and other Hostess cakes are still being negotiated with other bidders. Hostess also said United States Bakery agreed to pay $28.9 million for its remained bread brands.

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