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In switch, gay rights issue now favoring Democrats

DENVER (AP) — It wasn't all that long ago that Republicans used gay marriage as a tool to drive Election Day turnout. But as public opinion on the issue has turned and courts strike down same-sex marriage bans, gay rights is evolving into a wedge issue for Democrats to wield.

Polls show growing public support for gay marriage

Over the last decade, public opinion on whether gay couples should be allowed to marry legally has reversed, with more now in favor of legal same-sex marriage than opposed to it. The latest Associated Press-GfK poll shows that the share of Americans who favor legal gay marriage in their state outweighs that opposed — 46 percent to 39 percent. Only 1 in 7 say they're neutral on the question, and strong supporters outnumber strong opponents, 35 percent to 28 percent.

Children of Slavyansk face the trauma of war

Slavyansk (Ukraine) (AFP) - Every day, Ibrahim, a six-year-old boy living in the eastern Ukraine town of Slavyansk, asks the same question: "Mummy, when will the war end?" "I try to make her believe that it's a firework.

India says consulate in western Afghanistan attacked

Gunmen launched a pre-dawn attack on India's consulate in the main western Afghan city of Herat Friday before being repelled by security forces, the foreign ministry in New Delhi said. While there were no immediate reports of casualties among staff at the mission, the attack underlined the precarious security situation in Afghanistan ahead of a presidential election run-off next month. India has previously accused Pakistan's security services of being behind attacks on Indian targets in Afghanistan, and the assault comes only days after incoming prime minister Narendra Modi invited Pakistan's premier Nawaz Sharif to his inauguration ceremony in Delhi next Monday.

Fitch upgrades Greece a notch to 'B'

Fitch ratings agency on Friday upgraded Greece's credit rating to "B" from "B-", forecasting the economy will return to growth this year for the first time since 2008. The decision to upgrade reflects the efforts made by the government to tackle its budget deficit, the agency said in a statement. "The economy is bottoming out," the report continued, forecasting the gross domestic product (GDP) would grow by 0.5 percent this year and by 2.5 percent in 2015. Greece's economy shrank 1.1 percent in the first quarter of 2014 on a 12-month basis.

Despite Obama's new rules, no end in sight for drone war

By Matt Spetalnick, Mark Hosenball and Yara Bayoumy WASHINGTON/SANAA (Reuters) - When a barrage of drone-fired missiles hit al Qaeda cells in Yemen in mid-April and killed dozens of militants, the results were strikingly different from a mistaken U.S. attack on a Yemeni wedding convoy just four months earlier. It was a stark reminder that a year after Obama laid out new conditions for drone attacks around the world, U.S. forces are failing to comply fully with the rules he set for them: to strike only when there is an imminent threat to Americans and when there is virtually no danger of taking innocent lives. Although Obama promised greater transparency in his speech at the National Defense University, U.S. lawmakers are increasingly critical of the secrecy surrounding the operations. Despite some spectacular drone hits that took out militant leaders in places such as Yemen and Pakistan, there are growing concerns in Washington that the net effect of the targeted-killing program may be counterproductive.

Jury out on army-Qaeda showdown in Yemen

The military has claimed rapid victories against Al-Qaeda in southern Yemen but experts say the advances could be the result of a tactical retreat by militants in coordination with local tribes. The army launched a major offensive on April 29 against the southern strongholds of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), seen by Washington as the jihadist network's deadliest franchise. President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi said Wednesday that troops had "cleansed the provinces of Shabwa and Abyan" of militants. Authorities say they have retaken several Al-Qaeda strongholds, including Huta, Azzan, and Rawda in Shabwa, and Mahfad and Ahwar in Abyan, after heavy fighting in which they say dozens of insurgents were killed.

In switch, gay rights becoming wedge for Democrats

DENVER (AP) — It wasn't all that long ago that Republicans used gay marriage as a tool to drive Election Day turnout. But as public opinion on the issue has turned and courts strike down same-sex marriage bans, gay rights is evolving into a wedge issue for Democrats.

Bangkok creeps back to life after Thai-style coup

An uneasy calm settled over Bangkok Friday as one of the world's most vibrant cities crept back to life after a night-time curfew imposed by the military as part of a very Thai coup. "At first I thought the coup was a bad idea," Vichit Kriyasaun, 27, told AFP.

Liberia police dogged by graft despite decade of reforms

In the shade of palms lining Monrovia's Waterside Market, street vendors vie for customers, yelling to passers-by about their latest bargains while keeping an eye out for the ever-present menace of the police. Sitting behind her jewellery stall, 29-year-old student Zoe Freeman smiles nervously as she explains how officers in Liberia's capital regularly confiscate her merchandise and extort money from her. Abel Dayougar, 26, quit a life spent in and out of jail for armed robbery to become a used-clothes trader, but says police harassment is making him question whether turning over a new leaf was the right decision. "That's what brought me into the market -- to make an honest living... I am begging the president (Ellen Johnson Sirleaf) to talk to her police to leave us alone," he said.

Obama to nominate San Antonio mayor as US housing secretary

President Barack Obama will announce on Friday his plan to nominate Julian Castro, the charismatic Hispanic mayor of San Antonio, Texas, as US secretary of housing and urban development. The rising young star will replace current HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, whose nomination as the new director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will also be announced at the event, according to a White House official. "The president is thrilled that Secretary Donovan will take on this next role and believes that Mayor Castro is the right person to build on his critical work at HUD based on his work in San Antonio," the White House official said.

White House: Obama to add Julian Castro to Cabinet

CHICAGO (AP) — President Barack Obama will nominate San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to become housing secretary and will tap Shaun Donovan, his current housing chief, to run the budget office, a White House official said Thursday.

Obama to tap rising Democratic star Castro for Cabinet post

By Jeff Mason and Roberta Rampton WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will shuffle his cabinet on Friday, nominating San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro as secretary of housing and urban development and naming outgoing HUD chief Shaun Donovan as his new budget director, a White House official said on Thursday night. The switch brings a high-profile Latino leader who is a rising star in Democratic politics into the Obama administration and moves a long-serving Cabinet member into the president's inner circle at the Office of Management and Budget. Obama was set to make the announcement at 3:35 p.m. ET at the White House, flanked by Castro and Donovan, the White House official said. "The President is thrilled that Secretary Donovan will take on this next role and believes that Mayor Castro is the right person to build on his critical work at HUD based on his work in San Antonio," the White House official said in a statement.

You Don’t Know Why Alyssa Funke Died

Bullying or the ‘pressure of porn’? Everyone’s trying to add their own narrative to explain the 19-year-old’s suicide, which came weeks after her first amateur adult video went live.

Ukraine vote campaign climaxes after 17 troops killed

Volnovakha (Ukraine) (AFP) - Ukraine's presidential candidates will hold their final rallies Friday as pre-election clouds darkened after the army lost 17 soldiers in attacks by pro-Russian separatists in the country's east. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk accused Russia of trying to "escalate the conflict" and disrupt Sunday's presidential vote, calling on the UN Security Council to hold an urgent meeting on the crisis. He said the Kremlin's announcement of a troop withdrawal from the border was merely a "bluff" and that even if soldiers were redeploying, Ukraine was still being infiltrated by "armed terrorists". Western governments have pressured Russia not to meddle in the snap election, seen as crucial to preventing all-out civil war erupting on Europe's eastern flank.

Obama urges Democrats to vote in midterms, attacks Republicans

President Barack Obama on Thursday urged Democrats to vote in November elections, saying the chance to pass immigration reform is at risk if Republicans gain control of both houses of Congress. "We have a congenital defect to not vote in midterm elections," he said at a fundraising reception for Democratic Senate candidates. "The midterm comes and we fall asleep." Democrats hold a 55-45 seat majority in the Senate, but many analysts give the Republicans an even chance of picking up the six seats they would need to seize control of the chamber. The Republican majority in the House of Representatives is not considered to be in play.

Thai army summons over 100 from rival political camps

Bangkok (AFP) - Thailand's army summoned more than 100 prominent figures from the nation's rival political sides on Friday, including "Red Shirt" leaders, former police and military officers and politicians from the opposing parties.

US alone in helping Nigeria find kidnapped girls says Kerry

The United States is alone in helping Nigeria locate more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamists, Secretary of State John Kerry said, despite help on the ground from Britain, France and Israel. With 80 military personnel sent to neighboring Chad for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, the United States is the biggest foreign participant in the effort against the militant group Boko Haram. Washington has also deployed surveillance drones, spy planes and about 30 civilian and military specialists to support Nigeria's security forces.

Mali in crisis as rebels take control of northern towns

Mali was in crisis after losing two northern towns including the rebel bastion of Kidal to Tuareg separatists in a humiliating defeat forcing the government to call for an "immediate ceasefire". Around 20 Malian soldiers were killed and 30 wounded in the fighting that saw insurgents led by Tuareg rebels recapture the key northern town of Kidal, the defence minister said. "There were dead and wounded on both sides," Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga told public television. But a leader of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), said 40 Malian soldiers had been killed and 70 taken prisoner since hostilities began on Saturday while 50 "brand new" 4x4s and 12 armoured vehicles had been seized along with several tonnes of weapons and ammunition.