President Obama hit the fundraising trail Thursday, one day after announcing his support for same-sex marriage. Speaking at a campaign event in Seattle, Obama placed his public shift on same-sex marriage within his re-election theme of moving the country “forward.”
President Obama: “We are moving forward to a country where every American is treated with dignity and with respect. And here in Washington, you’ll have the chance to make your voice heard on the issue of making sure that everybody, regardless of sexual orientation, is treated fairly. You will have a chance to weigh in on this. We are a nation that treats people fairly.”
Obama ended his day with a $15 million fundraiser at the Hollywood home of the actor and director George Clooney. Outside the event, protesters urged Obama to take action on foreclosures.
Melvina Bogan: “Tell the President to keep up the good work, but, you know, to be very assertive when he’s talking to the bankers, because they can be very deceiving.”
Beverly Roberts: “I wish he would do more about the homeowner situation, because it’s—I’m not the only one. I mean, it’s hundreds and thousands and more that are in trouble, and some worse than me. I’m not in foreclosure, but I’m headed that way.”
Five people who attended high school with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney have come forward to reveal Romney bullied a student who was thought to be gay. Speaking to the Washington Post, Romney’s former classmates at Michigan’s Cranbrook School say Romney became incensed after seeing the student, John Lauber, with bleached-blond hair. According to their account, Romney and other classmates tackled Lauber to the ground and then forcefully cut off his hair with a pair of scissors. Speaking to Fox News Radio, Romney said he could not recall the 1965 incident and initially laughed when confronted with the details. He then offered a conditional apology.
Brian Kilmeade: “They say that you and a couple of his friends, who—this guy was thought to be a homosexual—cut his hair, pinned him down and cut his hair. Do you remember any of this?”
Mitt Romney: “You know, I don’t—I don’t remember that incident. And I’ll tell you, I certainly don’t believe that I or—I can’t speak for other people, of course, that thought the fellow was homosexual. That was the furthest thing from our minds back in the 1960s, so that was not the case. But as to pranks that were played back then, I don’t remember them all. But again, you know, high school days, and I did stupid things, why, I’m afraid that I got to say sorry for it.”
The White House says Vice President Joe Biden has apologized to President Obama for publicly declaring his support for same-sex marriage earlier than planned. Obama gave an interview backing same-sex marriage just days after Biden sparked a media controversy by doing the same.
The death toll from a pair of bombings in the Syrian capital of Damascus Thursday has reached at least 55, with another 370 people wounded. The attacks struck near a key intelligence compound used by Syrian forces in the 14-month crackdown on opposition protests. Both government and opposition forces have blamed each other for the blasts, while some have suspected a third party. At the United Nations, a spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged all sides to respect a U.N.-brokered ceasefire plan.
Martin Nesirky: “There’s an urgent call on all sides fully to comply with their obligations to cease armed violence in all its forms and to protect civilians, as well as to distance themselves from indiscriminate bombings and other terrorist acts. And let me just say that, of course, the Secretary-General strongly condemns today’s attacks in Damascus, which killed more than 50 people and injured scores of others.”
A servicemember with the U.S.-led NATO occupation force in Afghanistan has been killed by a man wearing the uniform of an Afghan soldier. At least 18 foreign troops have been killed by Afghan soldiers so far this year.
In other news from Afghanistan, the United Nations’ top humanitarian official is warning internally displaced refugees continue to face dire conditions. Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos spoke out after visiting a refugee camp near Kabul.
Valerie Amos: “The number of camps has more than doubled. We’re talking to people who are here for a variety of reasons. Some are people who have returned as refugees and have nowhere else to go. Some are people who have been displaced from within Kabul, from areas where there has been fighting. Clearly there is a lot of work we need to do, talking to the local municipality, because there’s a real issue here of finding land and helping people to relocate. The situation, as we can all see, here is deeply, deeply distressing, and expecting people to go on living in these kinds of conditions is not acceptable.”
Tens of thousands of public sector workers marched through London on Thursday in a one-day strike against austerity measures that stand to cut pensions and wages. Organizers say more than 400,000 police officers, civil servants and other state employees took part.
The financial giant JPMorgan Chase has acknowledged a $2 billion loss on a complex investment package meant to hedge against other risks. The company says the losses on the portfolio could grow to another $1 billion. Critics say JPMorgan appears to have engaged in “proprietary trading,” and could have potentially avoided the loss had there been tougher regulations that it has in fact lobbied against.
The financial firm Deutsche Bank has agreed to pay the federal government more than $200 million to settle charges of fraudulent mortgage practices that cost taxpayers nearly twice that amount. According to the settlement, a Deutsche Bank subsidiary insured its home loans under a federal program despite not meeting the program’s requirements. The federal government was forced to pay when the mortgages later defaulted. In a statement, U.S. prosecutors with the Southern District of New York said the bank and its subsidiary had used federal insurance as “free government money to backstop lending practices that did not follow the rules.”
In news on the housing crisis, the Florida Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday in a major case that could reverse hundreds of thousands of foreclosures and allow severe financial penalties against banks in one of the states hardest hit by foreclosure fraud. The lawsuit, Pino v. Bank of New York Mellon, stems from the widespread practice of “robo-signing,” where foreclosure documents are rapidly signed without proper vetting. At issue is whether banks that file fraudulent documents can simply dismiss a foreclosure case, then refile it later with new paperwork. The case could have national ramifications since voluntary dismissal is a main bank tactic for mortgage fraud allegations in the more than two dozen states requiring judicial approval for foreclosures.
New details have been revealed on a military course recently cancelled by the Pentagon for teaching senior military officers the United States is at war with Islam. According to course materials obtained by Wired magazine, the class instructor — Army Lt. Col. Matthew Dooley of the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia — taught that the United States will need to fight a “total war” against the world’s Muslims to protect the nation. Dooley also instructed that the United States should “[take] war to a civilian population wherever necessary” and apply the “the historical precedents of Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki” to Islam’s holiest cities, bringing about “Mecca and Medina[’s] destruction.” Dooley also told his pupils, “By conservative estimates, a staggering 140 million [Muslims] … hate everything you stand for and will never coexist with you, unless you submit [to Islam].” In addition, Dooley’s course declared international laws protecting civilians are “no longer relevant” in the fight against Islam. A presentation from July 2011 declared: “This barbaric ideology will no longer be tolerated. Islam must change or we will facilitate its self-destruction.” Finally, Dooley instructed his students, “Remember — we are at war. Act like it. You are part of a resistance movement, not a social club.” Dooley’s course was suspended last month, but he remains on staff at the college.
A Montana district judge has overturned a state law banning taxpayer funding of birth control coverage for teenage girls. The decade-old law was challenged by Planned Parenthood in 2009. In his ruling, Judge Jim Reynolds said the ban is unconstitutional for infringing upon the teens’ privacy rights.
Hundreds of family members of people who have disappeared in Mexico’s drug war marched in Mexico City on Thursday. The rally, held on Mexico’s Mother’s Day, passed through violence-ridden states before arriving in the capital. Diana Iris Garcia, whose son has been missing since 2007, criticized the Mexican government.
Diana Iris Garcia: “We have always said that the state and local governments have the power, the weapons, the resources, but have not been interested because they are not their children. They have been called collateral damage. Our children are collateral damage. They are people that have names and family names. They were honest and hard-working, and their only crime was to be honest people.”
In Honduras, a Honduran journalist and gay rights activist has been murdered in the capital, Tegucigalpa. The victim, 32-year-old Erick Alex Martínez Ávila, was reportedly strangled to death. He is at least the 19th journalist to be killed in Honduras since the coup that overthrew President Manuel Zelaya three years ago next month.
House Republicans have trimmed protections for immigrants and other victims of domestic violence from a version of the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, which is up for reauthorization this year. VAWA is a sweeping law that provides legal protection to abuse victims, but Republicans have objected to a Senate version of the bill that provides protections for immigrants, Native Americans and LGBT victims. Native Americans say a version passed by the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee earlier this week strips tribal court jurisdiction and protection order provisions aiding Native American victims.
Attorneys for the jailed environmental activist Tim DeChristopher appeared in a Denver courtroom on Thursday to challenge DeChristopher’s two-year sentence for posing as a bidder to prevent oil and gas drilling on thousands of acres of public land. DeChristopher’s attorneys argued he should be released for stopping an auction that was later deemed to have been in violation of government rules.