Saturday, the 9th of June
Over the past few years same-sex marriage has become one of the most contentious issues around the world. In some countries same-sex marriage is a given. In others, equal constitutional recognition isn't even on the table. This week we'll dive into two court cases and explore how they outline the meandering progress of same-sex unions.
Jack Phillips, Christian baker. PHOTO: David Zalubowski / AP
Baked goods and evils
It's not often that a legal entanglement makes its way into our vernacular, and yet many readers may already have some inkling of the "gay cake" dilemma. The nub of the dilemma is whether a baker can refuse to decorate a cake for the celebration of a gay marriage if he or she believes it to be a religious transgression.

This is not some weird half-baked hypothetical but an actual legal battle in the United States (Masterpiece Cakeshop vs Colorado Civil Rights Commission) underway right now. And despite the fact that the case has already been in the oven long enough to inspire spin-offs in Australia, Britain and elsewhere, the top American court has decided that it still needs more time.

This week the Masterpiece Cakeshop case came to a distinctly unsatisfying conclusion (for both sides) as the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favour of the the baker Jack Phillips on narrow grounds, so narrow as to have left untouched the complex legal and ethical problem at the heart of the case. Rather than allowing for wholesale religious discrimination the court found that in the early stage of this debacle the equal rights commissioners had been unduly critical of the religious defence proffered by Phillips. The court equivocated on the central issue, opting to fight another day (which will surely come soon enough with another case about florists and gay flowers following hot on the heels of the first).

To Romania with love
While the US Supreme Court opted for evasive manoeuvres this week the top court in the European Union dove headfirst into the fray. The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled that same-sex marriage spouses deserve the same residency rights as heterosexual spouses - even if the ceremony was performed in another country. It's a leap forward for civil rights campaigners and a lightning rod for those already disaffected with what they perceive as diktats from afar, especially in EU states that have banned same-sex marriage.

The decision wraps up a lengthy legal battle waged by Romanian citizen Adrian Coman and his American husband Clai Hamilton for legal recognition of their marriage (they tied the knot in Belgium back in 2010). Same-sex marriage is against the law in Romania, as it is in Bulgaria, Poland and Slovakia. Yet while member states are free to make such laws they are subservient to EU-wide regulations. The ECJ outlined Romania's responsibility to recognise the validity of Hamilton's rights as a spouse of Coman and confer residency rights upon him. At its crux was the reaffirmation that the term 'spouse' in the relevant legislation was a gender-neutral term.

But many in Romania - which only decriminalised homosexuality in 2002 - remain staunchly opposed to same-sex marriage and will likely undermine the ECJ's ruling at every opportunity. As we've seen in recent years the European Union's decisions are challenged, ridiculed and ignored by its more stubborn member states - this will doubtful be an exception to that behaviour. 

Meanwhile, although it is not a member of the Union, the Russian Federation has raised eyebrows as well with its demand that same-sex couples not hold hands or kiss while visiting Russia for the FIFA World Cup.

The Bermuda Triangle
We'll leave you with this frankly bizarre arm-wrestle in the tiny  Caribbean British protectorate of Bermuda. Same-sex marriage rights vanished into thin air earlier in the year only to reappear again this week. A High Court ruling allowing for gay civil unions had proved unpopular on the island territory and was overthrown earlier in the year by the governor. Outraged that Bermuda had become the first country to ban same-sex marriage after having allowed it, gay Bermudans sued the government and won. The Chief Justice (unsurprisingly) has agreed, stating that Parliament doesn't have the authority to overturn its ruling. There is a six-week opportunity for Bermudans (a majority of whom actually oppose same-sex marriage) to now challenge - and perhaps cause these rights to disappear once again.
Protestors clogged Amman's streets during the week. PHOTO: Reuters
In the past week protestors in Jordan have toppled their prime minister, earned concessions from his successor and still show few signs of slowing down. What started over a week ago as peaceful demonstrations by Jordanian unions ballooned into nationwide marches, a general strike and sit-ins. Living costs have risen sharply in the kingdom in recent years and a deeply unpopular new tax hike looked set to exacerbate an already-tenuous situation. Displaying his family's remarkable knack for keeping its finger on the pulse, King Abdullah II quickly secured the resignation of Prime Minister Hani Mulka and picked his successor, a respected economist Omar Razzaz. On his first day in office Razzaz scrapped Mulka's controversial tax bill and outlined a review of the country's austerity measures.

Jordan has long been regarded as one of the most stable Arab countries, a notable feat when one considers its long borders with Iraq and Syria. A mixture of (relatively) democratic rule, a vigorous intelligence service and a stable civil society kept Jordan intact. It's even more remarkable considering it's taken in just shy of one million Syrian refugees through the official United Nations program and perhaps double that unofficially. Yet these civil wars and insurgencies have taken a toll in other ways: the road to Baghdad - an artery for Jordanian commerce - was choked off for years by ISIS in western Iraq. With the two nearest Arab capitals all but beyond reach and the road to Asia unsecured, Jordanian businesses have undergone death by a thousand cuts. Their frustration is palpable.
Survivors search for survivors in the aftermath of the initial flow. PHOTO: Carlos Jasso / Reuters
Rescue operations in the shadow of Volcán de Fuego were temporarily halted for safety reasons even as the death toll reached 109. Last Sunday the Guatemalan volcano - famous for its regular low-scale eruptions - produced a violent eruption that sent a column of ash 15km into the sky. Pryoclastic flows (toxic gas and volcanic matter) sped downwards and claimed many lives in the villages below the volcano. The lava flows and lahar (volcanic mud) that followed moved much slower. The town of San Miguel Los Lotes is believed to have been completely buried - hundreds are still missing. Reports have emerged that the evacuation effort was delayed due to a critical miscommunication between seismologists and emergency services.

Meanwhile the volcano of Kilauea on Hawaii's big island continues to wreak havoc on eastern townships. On Tuesday an earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale sent lava fountains bubbling up from the crater. The flow that emerged has destroyed as many as 600 hundred more properties as it creeps towards the Pacific. This dwarfs the 215 homes lost in the initial destruction. In fact, so much lava has made its way downhill that Kapoho Bay has been completely filled in. If and when residents do decide to return to the community they will do so to find an extra half-mile of seaside land at their doorsteps.
Curiosity doesn't just take selfies. PHOTO: The Independent
  1. Nasa's Mars rover Curiosity discovered the remains of organic matter; the startling find indicates the earlier presence of life
  2. Celebrity Chef Anthony Bourdain, and New York fashion stalwart Kate Spade took their own lives in two separate incidents.
  3. Spain's newly-minted socialist government elected 11 women (a majority) into cabinet - a national record
  4. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani extended the olive branch to Taliban fighters during Ramadan hoping that the move will be reciprocated
  5. UK regulators gave American cable giant Comcast the green light to bid for the prized satellite network Sky; the move may spark a bidding war with the Murdochs and Disney
  6. American negotiators caved to Turkey's demand that the remaining Kurdish YPG fighters leave the Syrian town of Manbij; Ankara upped its rhetoric ahead of the June national election
  7. Australia's vaunted Special Air Service was accused of committing war crimes in a 2016 report that had been kept under wraps
  8. Thousands gathered in Gaza for the funeral of 21-year-old medic Razan Najjar who was shot by Israeli snipers while attending to wounded; the IDF promised an investigation
  9. Norway's parliament voted to ban the burqa in the nation's schools and universities
  10. Yet another member of the overseas US diplomat corp reported falling ill after hearing strange noises - this time in Guangzhou, China
Immunotherapy is shaping up as our best weapon against cancer. PHOTO: AFP
Late-stage breast cancer is notoriously hard to corral, let alone beat into remission. Judy Perkins may now become a reason for hope among those currently afflicted with the disease. The Floridian was suffering from an advanced case that defied conventional treatment. Perkins chose to trial a new course of immunotherapy that involved the removal of operative T-cells from near a tumour. These cancer-killing cells were multiplied in a lab over the course of two months and then returned to their home. Her beefed-up immune system did the rest of the work, and she has now passed the two-year mark of being healthy and cancer-free. 

A comprehensive new study into intra-species communication amongst various animals has turned up some incredible findings. First amongst these is the fact that we've been vastly underestimating how often creatures like songbirds, sperm whales, naked mole-rats and elephants communicate: they are always having a chat. The same researchers also nodded to a complex system of social rules amongst some animals; several bird species will fly away from their interlocutor if they are interrupted! Some scientists believe that turn-based communication (not talking over the top of each other) may have been a major milestone on the way to the formation of complex human language. Something that many of us appear to have now forgotten!
Penka the cow is on the chopping block. PHOTO: The Independent
You've already read at the top of this Wrap about European Union regulations being used to impose standards upon its diverse member states. This week a pregnant Bulgarian cow named Penka launched a cross-border raid into the non-EU state of Serbia last week; presumably for greener pastures. But her fortnight-long incursion was brought to an end when she was returned (along with a clean bill of health from Serbian veterinarians) to her herd. Yet the laws from Brussels dictate that Penka must now be killed for her transgression - to safeguard against non-EU diseases. Will the technocrats err on the side of forgiveness?

A war of words has erupted in Israel over Argentina's decision to cancel a friendly football match between the two countries. Argentinian officials offered excuses but many believe the South Americans were alarmed at the politicisation of the match. Israel's reactionary sports minister had insisted on moving the sold-out game from Haifa to West Jerusalem. Such a move proved extremely controversial considering the ongoing carnage along the Gaza fence. The famed Lionel Messi was due to play in a final warm-up before next weeks FIFA World Cup.
Your weekend long read... "To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub" mused the Bard. But why dream at all? We'll let the Financial Times tackle this one.

Quote of the week... “Reports that Saudi Arabia is liberalising are completely wide of the mark... Put simply, there is no separation of powers in Saudi Arabia, no freedom of expression, no free press, no effective trade unions and no functioning civil society.” - United Nations special rapporteur Ben Emmerson, QC unloads on Riyadh

What to watch next week... We're off to Sentosa Island but not for the luxury resorts: the bombastic leaders of America and the DPRK are meeting for a much-hyped powwow on the 12th. Fingers crossed that it won't be the 21st century's "peace in our time" moment. Stay tuned.

One last thing... If you haven't purchased an inkl plan as yet, you can get the world's best news coverage for an entire month for just 99c. That's a mere 3 cents per day for access to important, trusted news from the world's most experienced journalists. Do it now!