By Dan Whitcomb LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A massive cross that serves as part of a war memorial on a San Diego hilltop must be dismantled because it has been found to violate a constitutional ban on government endorsement of religion, a federal judge grudgingly ruled on Thursday. The decision by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns marks the latest development in a long-running legal battle over the 43-foot-tall cross, a local landmark that has stood on top of Mount Soledad since 1954 and is visible for miles. Burns stayed his order to give the Obama administration and the association that erected the cross, which have fought its removal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, a chance to file another appeal. "This is a victory for religious liberty," said Daniel Mach, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's program on freedom of religion and belief who argued the matter for the plaintiffs in a hearing before Burns on Thursday.
By Kay Henderson DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Iowa has reached a tentative agreement with federal officials on a plan to expand the number of low-income state residents eligible for Medicaid under President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law, Iowa's governor said on Thursday. The two sides have been negotiating for months over the details of the "Iowa Health and Wellness Plan," which will eventually offer coverage to more than 150,000 residents. "This is an Iowa plan that fits the health needs of our state," Republican Governor Terry Branstad said in a statement.
By Andrea Lorenz HOUSTON (Reuters) - The Houston school board gave preliminary approval on Thursday to a policy to stop using mascot names such as "Redskins" that reference Native American culture and have been called offensive by advocacy groups. The Houston Independent School District is one of the largest in the United States and its decision could influence other school systems that are reconsidering mascot names that may be inappropriate. The use of ethnic team names and mascots came under new scrutiny this year with a campaign to pressure the National Football League's Washington Redskins to change their name. Native Americans and others have long condemned the "Redskins" moniker as racist.
HOUSTON (AP) ? "Affluenza," the affliction cited by a psychologist to argue that a North Texas teenager from a wealthy family should not be sent to prison for killing four pedestrians while driving drunk, is not a recognized diagnosis and should not be used to justify bad behavior, experts said Thursday.