By Tim Reid SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Mitt Romney's declaration that he is considering a third shot at the White House after being a two-time Republican presidential loser was widely greeted with disdain at a national gathering of Republican activists on Thursday. Romney, the Republican U.S. presidential nominee in 2012, told a meeting of donors in New York last week that he is considering another White House run in 2016. Romney lost to incumbent Democratic president Barack Obama in 2012, and lost the Republican presidential nominating race in 2008 to Senator John McCain. If Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, does enter the 2016 presidential race, opposition to a possible third White House attempt is already widespread and deeply felt, according to interviews with a gathering of grassroots Republican party members where Romney is scheduled to speak on Friday night.
The U.S. military is planning to deploy more than 400 troops to help train Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State, along with hundreds of U.S. support personnel, a Pentagon spokesman told Reuters on Thursday. The U.S. military has not yet identified where it will draw its forces from for the training mission, expected to begin in the spring at sites outside Syria, Colonel Steve Warren said. The training program is a part of President Barack Obama's multi-year plan to field local forces in Syria to halt and eventually roll back Islamic State fighters, while pounding them with U.S.-led airstrikes.
Oklahoma put to death convicted murderer and rapist Charles Warner on Thursday, its first execution since a faulty lethal injection last April sparked widespread criticism and led the state to draw up new protocols for its death chamber. At nearly the same time, Florida executed Johnny Kormondy, 42, for the fatal 1993 shooting of Pensacola banker Gary McAdams and the rape of his wife, according to the state Department of Corrections. Both executions had been delayed as the U.S. Supreme Court considered appeals concerning secrecy surrounding the source of the lethal injection cocktail and what is in the mix.
By Anna Yukhananov, Matt Spetalnick and Krista Hughes WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States announced sweeping new rules on Thursday that will significantly ease sanctions on Cuba, opening up the communist-ruled island to expanded U.S. travel, trade and financial activities. Defying hardline critics in Congress, President Barack Obama made good on his commitment last month to loosen restrictions on dealings with Cuba as part of an historic effort to end decades of hostility. The U.S. embargo on Cuba, in place for 54 years, will remain. Only Congress can lift it.
By Anna Yukhananov, Matt Spetalnick and Krista Hughes WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States announced sweeping new rules on Thursday that will significantly ease sanctions on Cuba, opening up the communist-ruled island to expanded U.S. travel, trade and financial activities. Defying hardline critics in Congress, President Barack Obama made good on his commitment last month to loosen restrictions on dealings with Cuba as part of a historic effort to end decades of hostility. The 54-year-old U.S. embargo on Cuba will remain in place - only Congress can lift it. It was the first tangible U.S. step to implement economic changes Obama pledged on Dec. 17 when he and Cuban President Raul Castro announced plans to restore diplomatic relations between the old Cold War foes.
By Scott Malone BOSTON (Reuters) - The challenge of seating a jury to hear the Boston Marathon bombing trial became clear on Thursday as candidates included a man whose roommates had urged him to vote for execution and a theologian worried such a vote would end his career. U.S. District Judge George O'Toole worked his way through a few dozen people as he sought to build a panel of 12 jurors and six alternates to determine whether 21-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was guilty of killing three people and injuring 264 in the attack and, if so, whether he deserves the death penalty. Another candidate, a professor of Catholic theology, said he could vote for the death penalty only if the U.S. prison system had physically collapsed. "Should the walls come down and we needed to protect innocent lives, then one could enforce the death penalty," said the man, who added such a vote would likely prevent him from getting tenure.
A majority of New York City residents are concerned by the unusually deep rift that has formed between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city's police department, according to a poll released on Thursday, with 77 percent saying the relationship is bad. Forty-five percent say it is the mayor's fault, while 43 percent say it is the police's, according to the Quinnipiac University Poll. Amid police anger over the mayor's qualified support for some of the police's fiercest critics, the number of arrests and court summonses plummeted for two weeks in late December as the nation's largest police department embarked on what city leaders called a slowdown.
Massachusetts State Police on Thursday arrested 29 people who stopped traffic on two sections of a major highway into Boston during the morning rush hour to protest the recent killings by U.S. police of unarmed black men. Protesters stopped traffic north and south of Boston during the morning rush hour, officials said. "Our nonviolent direct action is meant to expose the reality that Boston is a city where white commuters and students use the city and leave, while black and brown communities are targeted by police, exploited and displaced," organizer Katie Seitz said in a statement. Massachusetts State Police said the protesters prevented an ambulance carrying a crash victim with life-threatening injuries from reaching a trauma center in Boston, and forced it to divert to a smaller hospital outside the city.
Michigan must recognize the legal marriages of about 300 same-sex couples who were wed in the state in a one-day period last year after a federal court struck down a ban on gay marriage and before the decision was put on hold by a U.S. appeals court, a judge ruled Thursday. The same-sex couples who married in Michigan during that brief period acquired a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution even though a U.S. appeals court has reversed the 2014 decision that struck down the Michigan law, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith ruled. Eight same-sex couples had challenged Michigan's refusal to recognize their marriages entered into after a federal judge ruled on March 21 that the state's ban was unconstitutional and before a 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals stay closed the window the next day. Thursday's ruling comes as the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether to take up cases concerning gay marriage bans in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee, all part of the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld same-sex marriage bans in November.