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Obamas host anti-bullying conference at White House

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama poked fun at his own big ears and funny name Thursday, but all in the service of a serious subject as he and Michelle Obama opened a White House conference to spur anti-bullying efforts in schools and communities nationwide.

“If there’s one goal of this conference, it’s to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up,” Obama told about 150 students, parents, teachers, and advocates of prevention measures gathered in the East Room. “With big ears and the name that I have, I wasn’t immune,” he added. “I didn’t emerge unscathed.”

While Obama elicited chuckles with that memory, he and other participants also recalled examples from more recent and tragic stories of young people who killed themselves rather than endure further abuse from classmates, often for being gay or for being thought to be gay.

The conference, at a time when the president and his advisers are dealing with budget fights in Congress and upheaval in the Middle East, underscored the power of the presidency and the presidential residence in raising awareness of issues.

—Jackie Calmes, The New York Times

Cousin of Afghan president killed in NATO raid

KABUL, Afghanistan — A cousin of Afghanistan’s president was killed Wednesday during a night raid by NATO and Afghan forces in which they detained the man’s son as a suspected Taliban commander, as well as at least two of the family’s bodyguards.

The case brought the delicate issue of civilian casualties into the presidential palace and added to the already tense relationship between the Afghans and the Americans. It also raised questions about whether a member of the extended family of President Hamid Karzai might have Taliban ties, or whether bad intelligence led to a deadly raid on an innocent family’s home.

Either way, the raid raises the prospect of another intense flare-up between NATO and Afghan officials, coming after two other cases of civilian casualties in the past three weeks.

This raid occurred in the southern province of Kandahar, in the rural village of Karz, the Karzai clan’s ancestral home.

The death was confirmed by the president’s half brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, the chairman of the provincial council in Kandahar, who said the killing was a mistake.

He said the raid was a joint operation by the NATO force — the International Security Assistance Force — and the Afghan National Army that had gone awry.

—Alissa J. Rubin and James Risen, The New York Times

Sheen sues TV show’s creator, Warner seeking $100 million

Charlie Sheen escalated his war with the creator of his hit comedy Two and a Half Men and the studio that produces it by filing a suit Thursday demanding more than $100 million in damages for halting production on episodes planned for this season and then removing him from the show.

The suit, obtained and posted by the celebrity gossip website TMZ, is in response to the decision this week by the studio, Warner Brothers, to fire Sheen, citing both his behavior — which has included drug use and accusations of violence toward women — and his comments about the show’s creator, Chuck Lorre, and studio executives.

In the suit, filed Thursday in Superior Court in Los Angeles, Sheen goes on the offensive, saying Lorre first stopped production on the series and then forced Warner to dismiss Sheen “to serve his own ego and self-interest.”

—Bill Carter, The New York Times