Plant blast victims remembered
President Barack Obama on Thursday was consoling mourners of the first responders who died last week in a fertilizer plant explosion that killed at least 14 people and devastated a small Texas town.
Obama attended a memorial service at Baylor University for those killed in last week’s explosion in nearby West, Texas, even as crews continued to search for answers to what caused the blast or whether foul play was involved.
The April 17 explosion left a crater more than 90 feet wide and damaged dozens of buildings, displacing many residents from their homes. The Insurance Council of Texas estimates it caused more than $100 million in damage.
Ten of those killed were first responders who sped out to the nighttime blaze.
Israel downs Hezbollah drone
Israel shot down a drone Thursday as it approached the country’s northern coast, the military said. Suspicion immediately fell on the Hezbollah militant group in Lebanon, which denied it sent the craft.
Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV made the announcement Thursday through a one-line statement flashed as an urgent news bar on its screen.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said he was in a helicopter in northern Israel at the time of the incident, said he viewed the infiltration attempt with “utmost gravity.”
GOP takes on immigration
House Republicans will take on the immigration issue in bite-size pieces, shunning pressure to act quickly and rejecting the comprehensive approach embraced in the Senate, a key committee chairman said Thursday.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., declined to commit to finishing immigration legislation this year, as President Barack Obama and a bipartisan group in the Senate want to do. He said bills on an agriculture worker program and workplace enforcement would come first, and he said there’d been no decision on how to deal with legalization or a possible path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living here illegally, a centerpiece of a new bipartisan bill in the Senate.
Road map to gay marriage?
Phone banks, an army of volunteers and alliances with organized labor, business leaders and religious clergy propelled gay marriage to victory in Rhode Island this week, a savvy and coordinated strategy that relied on growing public support and old-fashioned bare-knuckle politics.
Gay marriage legislation had failed every year in Rhode Island since 1997, leaving the heavily Catholic state the lone holdout in New England as the five other states changed their marriage laws. That’s soon set to change. The state Senate voted Wednesday to allow gay marriage, and Gov. Lincoln Chafee plans to sign the bill into law following a final, procedural vote in the House next week.
The successful campaign could serve as a model for similar efforts in other states and reflects the increasingly sophisticated political strategy driving what only two decades ago was dismissed as a fringe issue with little public support, advocates and lawmakers alike say.