Marriage, Vegas-style; Harry Potter bows out; the United States of Africa

Illustrations by Istvan Banyai

July 1

Doctors’ Orders
Massachusetts’s landmark health-insurance law takes effect today, requiring that every resident have coverage, much as every driver is required to carry auto insurance. The commonwealth negotiated with insurers to provide subsidized plans for the poor. Scofflaws will face penalties on their 2008 taxes. (Further requirements such as prescription coverage are due next year.)
July 1

Trade Deadline

President Bush’s “trade promotion authority—the law allowing him to negotiate international trade deals and present them to Congress for a yes-or-no vote—expires today. To renew it, the White House must broker a deal with Democrats who want protections for workers (foreign and domestic) and the environment included in future trade pacts.

July 4

“Independence” Day
Hoping to push America down the road to “energy independence,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged to pass anti-global-warming legislation by today. She’s pushing an EU-like cap-and-trade system to cut greenhouse gases.
July 7

Gambling on Love

One-armed bandits may get a workout in Vegas this weekend: Wedding halls in Sin City are expecting a flood of couples betting that the triple-seven date (7/7/07) will bring a little luck to their nuptials.

July 7

Rock My World

Al Gore plays host to environmentally minded music fans the world over with Live Earth, a 24-hour series of seven concerts on seven continents that’ll feature 150 pop luminaries (including Madonna, the Police, and Kanye West) raising awareness and money to fight global warming.

July 11

A Family Business
Syrians are expected to pass a referendum today granting another seven-year term to Baathist President Bashar al-Assad, who assumed power in 2000 after the death of his strongman father, the country’s longtime ruler.
July 21

Posh Gig

Aging British soccer god David Beckham has crossed the pond to play Major League Soccer for the Los Angeles Galaxy beginning today. Beckham’s reputed five-year, $27.5 million contract is expected to pay off more on the marketing front than on the soccer field.

July 21

Closing the Book on Harry Potter
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final installment in J. K. Rowling’s kid-wizard epic, arrives in bookstores today. Tremble, muggles: Rowling has vowed it’ll be the last of the Potter stories and dropped hints about offing major characters.
July 23

American Soldier Stands Trial

Private Jesse Spielman goes to trial today, accused of raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and murdering her and her family. Spielman maintains his innocence. Three others charged in the case already pleaded guilty and received sentences ranging from five to 100 years.

August 3

Caste Off

India’s supreme court hears a dispute today between the country’s upper and lower classes over quotas for the “socially and educationally backwards” classes in elite schools, a vestige of caste laws from the 1930s. India’s quota system is one of the world’s most formal and rigid.

Also In July/August:

Another U.S.A.
During a July summit in Ghana, all 53 members of the African Union will consider a measure to join together as the United States of Africa and share markets, citizenship, foreign policy, defense, and a currency. Small African nations generally favor the idea (first put forward in 1963), but the continent’s large regional powers are unlikely to support it.
U R Fired :(

In response to a sharp increase in text-messaged layoffs, South Korea, a country mad for thumb-typing, will change its employment laws in July and require employers to provide hard copies of pink slips.

On the Fence

President Bush has set himself an August deadline for the formidable task of passing immigration reform that will satisfy conservative hard-liners, who want to seal the borders, and moderates, such as members of the business community, who want to maintain some openness. An early proposal includes guest-worker visas and a legalization program for certain illegal aliens; both require applicants to leave the country and pay steep fines.