A long, slow contemplation, then a decisive turn, behind Obama's move to endorse gay marriage
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's evolution on gay marriage unfolded at a Darwinian pace, like that of the giant tortoise. For more than a year — eons in politics — he danced up to the edge of endorsing it, always stopping short, still "evolving."
Until very recently, much of the betting was on Obama taking a pass on the touchy issue until after the election. Why pick that fight now?
On Wednesday, he picked it. Obama gave a heads-up to a spiritual adviser, among others, and staked his position in a TV interview as the first president to declare himself in favor of same-sex marriage rights.
Obama doesn't have the power to make same-sex marriage legal. But by taking a stand, he closed the loop with gay-rights activists who are important financiers and supporters of his re-election campaign while putting himself on a potentially perilous path with voters in states such as North Carolina. That state backed him in 2008 but voted solidly Tuesday to ban gay marriage in the state constitution. And it hosts the Democratic National Convention in September.
As told by aides, Obama concluded earlier this year that gay couples should have the legal right to marry and planned to say so before the convention. Speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House conversations, they said the White House felt compelled to accelerate its plans after Vice President Joe Biden declared his support for gay marriage on a Sunday morning talk show and said he was "absolutely comfortable" with same-sex couples being legally wed.
Syrian state TV says more than 40 killed in 2 blasts in the capital
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Two strong explosions ripped through the Syrian capital Thursday, killing more than 40 people and leaving scenes of carnage in the streets in an assault against a center of government power, officials said.
Syria's state-run TV said 170 people were wounded in what one official said may have been the most powerful of a series of blasts that have hit the capital this year.
The explosions, which ripped the facade off a military intelligence building, happened at about 7:50 a.m. when employees are usually arriving at work. The building is part of a broader military compound for a feared section of the intelligence services known as the Palestine Branch.
An Associated Press reporter at the scene said paramedics wearing rubber gloves were collecting human remains from the streets after the explosions. Heavily damaged cars and pickup trucks stood smoldering in the area. The outer wall of the headquarters collapsed and some walls crumbled, although the basic structure inside appeared intact.
The Syrian government blamed "terrorists" and said dozens were killed or wounded, most of them civilians.
International adoptions drop globally as experts cite fraud crackdowns and policy shifts
HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — The number of international adoptions has plummeted to its lowest point in 15 years, a steep decline attributed largely to crackdowns against baby-selling, a sputtering world economy and efforts by countries to place more children with domestic families.
Globally, the number of orphans being adopted by foreign parents dropped from a high of 45,000 in 2004 to an estimated 25,000 last year, according to annual statistics compiled by Peter Selman, an expert on international adoptions at Britain's Newcastle University.
Some adoption advocates argue the decrease is also linked to a set of strict international guidelines known as the Hague Adoption Convention. Devised to ensure transparency and child protection following a rash of baby-selling and kidnapping scandals, critics say the guidelines have also been used by leading adopting nations, such as the U.S., as a pretext for freezing adoptions altogether from some countries that are out of compliance.
"It should have been a real step forward, but it's been used in a way that's made it a force for shutting down countries," Elizabeth Bartholet, a Harvard Law professor who promotes international adoptions. "That affects thousands of children every year."
She says places where international adoptions are stopped may ultimately see more children stuck in orphanages or on the street where they could fall prey to sex traffickers. "I question whether it's ever true where adoption is all about buying and selling and kidnapping," Bartholet says.