Deep Convictions

THE WHITE HOUSE — President Obama is considering a range of sanctions options in response to mounting violence and deaths in Ukraine.

The White House Thursday expressed outrage at what it called “images of Ukrainian security forces firing automatic weapons on their own people.”

A White House statement called on President Yanukovych to immediately withdraw security forces and respect the right of peaceful protest. Washington also is urging protesters to express themselves peacefully.

There are strong indications the Obama administration will announce additional steps, including possible financial sanctions, which the president would impose through executive order.

This would be on top of visa restrictions announced on Wednesday targeting 20 Ukrainian government officials.

In recent years, a bevy of messaging apps has fought for global domination, with many boasting a lucrative combination of communications features, online shopping and games.

But this week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent a staggering $19 billion to buy WhatsApp, the contender with perhaps the simplest functionality and negligible revenue. WhatsApp, which has 450 million users, has stuck to basic messaging, but also a simple business model of charging users an annual subscription fee of just $1.

Zuckerberg’s bet may ultimately prove to be a strategic masterstroke: shutting rival Google Inc out of an upstart phenomenon with a unique “mobile graph” and gaining swathes of users – and their data – in emerging markets.

Wall Street cheered the deal on Thursday, but for many Silicon Valley insiders the price tag proved difficult to swallow, especially if WhatsApp’s business model and product roadmap doesn’t evolve under Facebook’s stewardship.

The Legislature has given final approval to a controversial religion bill that’s spurring intense debate at the Legislature and across the country.

The legislation, written by the conservative advocacy group Center for Arizona Policy and the Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom, would allow individuals to use religious beliefs as a defense against a lawsuit.

Opponents have dubbed it the “right to discriminate” bill, and say it could prompt an economic backlash against the state, similar to what they say occurred when the state passed the controversial immigration law Senate Bill 1070 in 2010.

Proponents argue the bill is simply a tweak to existing state religious freedom laws to better assure individuals and businesses are not forced to do something that goes against their beliefs.

The bill will be sent to Gov. Jan Brewer, who has five days to sign it into law, veto the bill or do nothing and allow it to become law.

Specifically, the legislation proposes to:

— Expand the state’s definition of the exercise of religion to include both the practice and observance of religion;

— Allow someone to assert a legal claim of free exercise of religion regardless of whether the government is a party to the proceedings;

— Expand those protected under the state’s free exercise of religion law to “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution or other business organization.”

— In order to assert a free exercise of religion defense, the individual, business or church must establish that their action is motivated by a religious belief, that the belief is sincerely held, and that the person’s beliefs are substantially burdened.

The bill votes were mostly along party lines, with Republicans supporting and Democrats opposing. Three Republicans representatives, Ethan Orr, Kate Brophy-McGee and Heather Carter were also no votes.

Many freedoms are restricted around the world. The actions of a few affect us all and it is mostly negative. This is why the world should not work this way. This is why we should not let other people determine how we live or who we choose to interact with. When these interests conflict with our deeply held convictions of who we are, then we go against them.

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