Posted: May 11, 2012 4:00 PM
Updated: May 12, 2012 4:01 AM
GOP activists to use Obama's support for gay marriage against him, boost Romney's image
WASHINGTON (AP) President Barack Obama delighted his liberal base by coming down on the side of gay marriage, but he cheered the opposition, too.
Republican activists now want to use Obama's stance on the issue public opinion is about evenly split to paint the president as a flip-flopper and to boost Mitt Romney's image in the eyes of conservatives who are still warming to him.
Yet, across the Republican Party, from leaders to activists interviewed since Obama's announcement, there's been wide agreement to use the gay marriage issue selectively in battleground states that have banned gay marriage, for example and keep the GOP's national political focus on Obama's stewardship of the economy.
"I'm going to stay focused on jobs, thanks," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said repeatedly when asked about Obama's announcement on gay marriage. "The president can talk about it all he wants. I'm going to stay focused on what the American people want us to stay focused on."
Romney is taking a similar approach, avoiding any discussion of the issue unless he's questioned about it and focusing on the economy.
Video in name of militant group claims Syria bombings, says were response to regime attacks
BEIRUT (AP) A video posted online in the name of a shadowy militant group late Friday claimed responsibility for twin suicide bombings in the Syrian capital this week that killed 55 people.
In the video, a group calling itself the Al-Nusra Front says the bombing was in response to attacks on residential areas by the regime of President Bashar Assad.
"We fulfilled our promise to respond with strikes and explosions," a distorted voice says, reading black text that rolls across a white screen while Islamic chanting plays in the background.
The video's authenticity could not be independently verified. The Al-Nusra Front has claimed past attacks through statements posted on militant websites. Little is known about the group, although Western intelligence officials say it could be a front for al-Qaida.
Western officials say there is little doubt that Islamist extremists, some associated with al-Qaida, have made inroads in Syria as instability has spread since the start of the uprising against President Bashar Assad 14 months ago.
People around the world feel Obama failed to deliver on promises, but hope he wins second term
In Europe, where more than 200,000 people thronged a Berlin rally in 2008 to hear Barack Obama speak, there's disappointment that he hasn't kept his promise to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, and perceptions that he's shunting blame for the financial crisis across the Atlantic.
In Mogadishu, a former teacher wishes he had sent more economic assistance and fewer armed drones to fix Somalia's problems. And many in the Middle East wonder what became of Obama's vow, in a landmark 2009 speech at the University of Cairo, to forge a closer relationship with the Muslim world.
In a world weary of war and economic crises, and concerned about global climate change, the consensus is that Obama has not lived up to the lofty expectations that surrounded his 2008 election and Nobel Peace Prize a year later. Many in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America were also taken aback by his support for gay marriage, a taboo subject among religious conservatives.
But the Democrat still enjoys broad international support. In large part, it's because of unfavorable memories of his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, and many people would still prefer Obama over his presumptive Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
"We all had high hopes for him," said Filomena Cunha, an office worker in Lisbon, Portugal, who said she's struggling to make ends meet. "But then things got bad and there's not much he can do for us over here."
$2 billion loss at JPMorgan triggers calls for tougher regulation of banks
WASHINGTON (AP) JPMorgan Chase faces intense criticism for claiming that a surprise $2 billion loss by one of its trading groups was the result of a sloppy but well-intentioned strategy to manage financial risk.
More than three years after the financial industry almost collapsed, the colossal misfire was cited as proof that big banks still do not understand the threats posed by their own speculation.
"It just shows they can't manage risk and if JPMorgan can't, no one can," Simon Johnson, the former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund, said Friday.
JPMorgan is the largest bank in the United States and was the only major bank to remain profitable during the 2008 financial crisis. That lent credibility to its tough-talking CEO, Jamie Dimon, as he opposed stricter regulation in the aftermath.
But Dimon's contention that the $2 billion loss came from a hedging strategy that backfired, not an opportunistic bet with the bank's own money, faced doubt on Friday, if not outright ridicule.
Jurors say Hudson's stardom no factor in convicting ex-in-law for killing mom, brother, nephew
CHICAGO (AP) Jurors shrugged off Jennifer Hudson's star status and insisted it played no role in their decision to convict her former brother-in-law for slaying the Oscar winner's mother, brother and nephew a verdict that means the 31-year-old Chicago man will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.
"This wasn't about her," juror Jacinta Gholston told reporters Friday evening. "It was a case about William Balfour."
Balfour, a former gang member, was convicted on three counts of first-degree murder. He faces a mandatory life prison sentence. Illinois no longer has a death penalty.
Just an hour before their verdict, the jury of 12 sent a note to the judge saying three panelists still weren't convinced of Balfour's guilt. Prosecutors said Balfour shot dead Hudson's family members in an act of spite after his estranged wife at the time, Hudson's sister, Julia Hudson, refused to reconcile.
As the verdict was read, Jennifer Hudson, sitting on a fourth-row bench, bit her lip, tears streaming down her cheeks. A minute later, she looked over at her sister and smiled.
Maritime tensions with China bonds Philippines closer to US but brings its own risks
WASHINGTON (AP) China's assertive behavior is breathing life into America's historically tumultuous relationship with the Philippines.
With Washington turning its attention more to the Asia-Pacific region, the U.S. and the Philippines last week held the first joint meeting of their top diplomats and defense chiefs. The U.S. increased military aid and resolved to help its ally on maritime security.
The steps came with the Philippines locked in a standoff with China over competing territorial claims in the South China Sea that has stoked passions on both sides. The U.S. is a walking a delicate diplomatic line. It doesn't want the dispute to escalate, but it is showing where its strategic interests lie.
The relationship between the U.S. and its former colony thrived during the Cold War but ebbed after nationalist political forces prompted the closure of American military bases in 1992. As the U.S. seeks to build a stronger presence in Southeast Asia, a region it neglected during the past decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the alliance is assuming growing importance.
For its part, the Philippines is looking to Washington and its allies to help equip and train the nation's bedraggled military, to put up a show of resistance to Chinese vessels that frequently sail into waters Manila considers to lie within its exclusive economic zone.
Putin's first week: days that could bring tears to any leader's eyes
MOSCOW (AP) Vladimir Putin appeared to shed tears of joy the night he won back the presidency in March. After less than a week in office, he may be tempted to shed some in frustration.
Since his inauguration on Monday, the man whose 2000-2008 presidency was characterized by steely control and a cowed opposition has faced a wave of confrontations and misfortunes.
Opposition activists, energized by this winter's unprecedented wave of massive protest rallies and angered by Putin's March 4 re-election, which they claim was riddled with vote fraud, are showing new willingness to risk arrest and police beatings.
A corps of the most determined has occupied a Moscow square since Wednesday. Although small in number, the defiance is significant in a country where unauthorized rallies are routinely dispersed with force.
Putin has also taken hits on other fronts.
3 Boston University students killed, at least 5 injured when minivan crashes in New Zealand
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) Three Boston University students who were studying in New Zealand were killed Saturday when their minivan crashed. At least five other students from the university were injured in the accident, including one who was in critical condition.
The students were traveling in a minivan at about 7:30 a.m. Saturday near the North Island vacation town of Taupo when the vehicle drifted to the side of the road and then rolled when the driver tried to correct course, New Zealand police said.
Three of the students died at the scene, police said. Another woman was in critical condition at an area hospital, while at least four other students suffered moderate injuries.
Joseph Bergen, the U.S. vice consul in Auckland, New Zealand, identified the deceased students as Daniela Lekhno, Roch Jauberty and Austin Brashears, according to the Boston University website. New Zealand police confirmed their identities.
Another BU student, Margaret Theriault, was airlifted from the crash site to a hospital in Taupo and was in critical condition, the university said.
Young Seattle cancer patients' 'Stronger' video a big hit; Kelly Clarkson calls effort amazing
SEATTLE (AP) A video featuring cancer-stricken children, their nurses, doctors and parents lip-synching and dancing to the popular Kelly Clarkson song "Stronger" has become an online sensation.
Clarkson, in her own video message to the children at Seattle Children's Hospital, said it was "amazing."
"It made my day. I know it's making everybody else's day online," Clarkson said in a message posted on her website. "I just can't wait to meet you."
The youngsters, many attached to IVs and holding signs that say "Stronger," ''Fighter" and "Hope," dance along with parents and medical staff. One child even rides a bike through the hallways of the hematology oncology floor. The video is part of a creative arts program with cancer patients at Seattle Children's.
The kids' video went online May 6. It was the idea of 22-year-old Chris Rumble, a patient at the hospital who was diagnosed with leukemia in April. He wanted to do something to share with his old hockey team in the central Washington town of Wenatchee
Person familiar with plans tells the AP James' 3rd MVP win to be announced Saturday
MIAMI (AP) LeBron James loves telling the story about his first MVP award.
In James' first season of organized basketball, he was the best player on an undefeated team, but everyone on the roster got an MVP trophy from coach Frank Walker Sr.
"Right then and there, I knew that this is what I wanted to do," James said Friday.
On Saturday, the Miami Heat forward was set to get another MVP award one that puts him on a list alongside seven of the game's absolute greats.
A person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press that James will be announced as the winner of the NBA's top individual honor, and that he'll be formally presented the trophy by Commissioner David Stern on Sunday afternoon before Miami faces Indiana in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.