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A federal judge on Friday struck down Utah's ban on gay marriage, saying that the western state's law -- approved by voters in a referendum in 2004 -- violates the US constitution. Judge Robert J. Shelby of Utah's Federal District Court, said the state's law conflicts with the right of same-sex couples to equal protection under the 14th Amendment to the constitution. "It is only under exceptional circumstances that a court interferes with such action," he wrote in the 53-page ruling, based on a lawsuit filed by three gay and lesbian couples who wish to marry in Utah, but are unable to do so.
Russia's most famous prisoner and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Friday arrived in Germany a free man after more than 10 years behind bars, in a whirlwind release hours after his surprise pardon by President Vladimir Putin. The former oil tycoon was escorted out of his prison in northwestern Russia, in a hush-hush operation worked out behind the scenes with the German government and brokered by Berlin's former foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher. In a dizzying succession of events, the father of four then boarded a plane that landed at Berlin's Schoenefeld airport. A source told AFP that Khodorkovsky's ailing mother Marina, 79, who has cancer, was currently in Russia but planned to fly out on Saturday to Berlin where she has been undergoing treatment.
US President Barack Obama on Friday gave the Pentagon a year to fix the scourge of sexual assaults that have sparked calls for commanders to lose the power to adjudicate such crimes. The military in August launched a raft of new measures to combat sexual assaults, but their action did not appease some lawmakers who want much stronger measures to deal with hundreds of alleged offenses from harassment to rape. Obama, who has previously warned that sexual assaults harm military morale and US national security, said in a written statement that he had told Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey to continue efforts to prevent and deal with assaults. "If I do not see the kind of progress I expect, then we will consider additional reforms that may be required to eliminate this crime from our military ranks and protect our brave service members who stand guard for us every day at home and around the world."