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Monday, December 17, 2012

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News,Science and Technology

Newtown, Conn., braces for first funerals after school shooting and debates school's future

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — A grieving Connecticut town braced itself Monday to bury the first two of the 20 small victims of an elementary school gunman and debated when classes could resume — and where, given the carnage in the building and the children's associations with it.

The people of Newtown weren't yet ready to address the question just three days after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and a day after President Barack Obama pledged to seek change in memory of the children and six adults ruthlessly slain by a gunman packing a high-powered rifle.

"We're just now getting ready to talk to our son about who was killed," said Robert Licata, the father of a student who escaped harm during the shooting. "He's not even there yet."

Newtown officials couldn't say whether Sandy Hook Elementary, where authorities said all the victims were shot at least twice, would ever reopen. Monday classes were canceled, and the district was considering eventually sending surviving Sandy Hook students to a former school building in a neighboring town.

The gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, was carrying an arsenal of hundreds of rounds of especially deadly ammunition, authorities said Sunday — enough to kill just about every student in the school if given enough time, raising the chilling possibility that the bloodbath could have been even worse.

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Obama vows to use power of his office to safeguard children, but offers few specifics

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is vowing to use "whatever power this office holds" to safeguard the nation's children, raising the prospect that he will pursue policy changes to stem gun violence in the wake of an elementary school massacre.

"Because what choice do we have?" a somber Obama said at a Sunday evening vigil in the grieving community of Newtown, Conn. "We can't accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard?"

The newly re-elected president offered few specifics about how he planned to proceed, saying only that he will engage with law enforcement, mental health professionals, parents and educators in the coming weeks. Just days after the shooting at an elementary school, Obama is already facing pressure from fellow Democrats and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to tackle gun control legislation, a contentious issue he avoided as he sought a second term.

But Friday's shooting, which left 20 children and eight adults dead, appears to have spurred some soul-searching by Obama, who told Connecticut's governor that Friday was the most difficult day of his presidency. Speaking to families of the victims and first responders, Obama said Sunday that he had been reflecting on whether the country was doing enough to give its children "the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose."

"And if we're honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We're not doing enough, and we will have to change," Obama said.

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Conn. victims recalled as young children full of life and adults devoted to them

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — At the very start of their lives, the schoolchildren are remembered for their love of horses, or for the games they couldn't get enough of, or for always saying grace at dinner. The adult victims found their life's work in sheltering little ones, teaching them, caring for them, treating them as their own. The gunfire Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School left a toll both unbearable and incalculable: 20 students and six adults at the school, the gunman's mother at home, and the gunman himself.

A glimpse of some of those who died:

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CHARLOTTE BACON, 6

They were supposed to be for the holidays, but finally on Friday, after hearing much begging, Charlotte Bacon's mother relented and let her wear the new pink dress and boots to school.

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AP PHOTOS: Scenes from the Connecticut elementary school shooting

Most died at the very start of their young lives, tiny victims taken in a way not fit for anyone regardless of age. Others found their life's work in sheltering little ones, teaching them, caring for them, treating them as their own. After the gunfire ended at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the trail of loss was more than many could bear: 20 students and six adults at the school, the gunman's mother at home, and the gunman himself.

Here are some images from the town that was the scene of the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

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Mother of school gunman shared friendships, but kept home life a hidden card

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — At the bar, everybody knew her name.

Nancy Lanza was the one who, if she heard you were short on cash, regularly offered to pick up the tab at My Place.

Two or three nights a week, Lanza — the mother of the gunman in Connecticut's horrific school massacre — came in for carryout salads, but stayed for Chardonnay and good humor. The divorced mother of two — still smooth-skinned and ash blonde at 52 — clearly didn't have to work, but was always glad to share talk of her beloved Red Sox, gardening and a growing enthusiasm for target shooting.

But while Lanza spoke proudly about her sons and brought them in for breakfast when they were younger, friends say she held one card very close: home life, especially its trials and setbacks, was off limits.

Now, the secrets Lanza kept are at the center of the questions that envelop this New England town, grieving over the slaughter unleashed by her 20-year-old son Adam, who investigators say killed his mother Friday with one of her own guns before murdering 26 children and teachers at a nearby school.

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Car bomb kills 17 people in crowded market in northwest Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — A car bomb exploded in a crowded market in Pakistan's troubled northwest tribal region Monday, killing 17 people and wounding more than 40 others, officials said.

The bomb went off next to the women's waiting area of a bus stop, which is located near the office of one of the top political officials in the Khyber tribal area, said Hidayat Khan, a local government official. But it's unclear if the office was the target.

The 17 dead included five boys and two women, said Abdul Qudoos, a doctor at a local hospital in Jamrud town, where the attack occurred. At least 44 people were wounded, he said.

Local TV footage showed several cars and shops in the market that were badly damaged. Residents threw buckets of water on burning vehicles as rescue workers transported the wounded to the hospital.

The market was located close to the office of the assistant political agent for Khyber, said Khan, who works in the office. Initial reports wrongly indicated the women's waiting area was for the political office, not the bus stop.

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Movement seen in 'fiscal cliff' talks as Boehner offers revenue boost

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House and congressional Republicans are a long way from agreeing on a plan to deal with the "fiscal cliff." But it seems like some progress is being made.

House Speaker John Boehner is offering $1 trillion in higher tax revenue over 10 years and an increase in the top tax rate on people making more than $1 million a year. He's also offering a large enough extension in the government's borrowing cap to fund the government for one year before the issue must be revisited — conditioned on President Barack Obama agreeing to the $1 trillion in cuts.

The offer, made Friday after a long impasse between Boehner, R-Ohio, and Obama, calls for about $450 billion in revenue from increasing the top rate on million-dollar-plus income from 35 percent to the Clinton-era rate of 39.6 percent.

The additional revenue required to meet the $1 trillion target would be collected through a rewrite of the tax code next year and by slowing the inflation adjustments made to tax brackets.

In return, Boehner is asking for $1 trillion in spending cuts from government benefit programs like Medicare. Those cuts would defer most of a painful set of across-the-board spending cuts set to slash many domestic programs and the Pentagon budget by 8-9 percent, starting in January.

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After leading his conservative party to big win, Japan's Shinzo Abe says road ahead not easy

TOKYO (AP) — After leading his conservative party to a landslide victory that will bring it back to power after a three-year hiatus, Shinzo Abe stressed Monday that the road ahead will not be easy as he tries to revive Japan's sputtering economy and bolster its national security amid deteriorating relations with China.

The Liberal Democratic Party, which led Japan for most of the post-World War II era until it was dumped in 2009, won 294 seats in the 480-seat lower house of parliament in Sunday's nationwide elections, the party said.

With the elections over, a vote among the members of parliament to install the new prime minister is expected on Dec. 26. Abe, who was prime minister for a year in 2006-2007, is almost certain of winning that vote because the LDP now holds the majority in the lower house.

Abe, who would be Japan's seventh prime minister in 6 1/2 years, will likely push for increased public works spending and lobby for stronger moves by the central bank to break Japan out of its deflationary trap.

Stock prices soared Monday to their highest level since April, reflecting hopes in the business world that the LDP will be more effective in its economic policies than the outgoing Democrats were.

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Topeka police: 2 officers fatally shot responding to suspicious vehicle near grocery store

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas police officers were fatally shot outside a grocery store Sunday while responding to a report of a suspicious vehicle, authorities said.

Topeka Police Chief Ronald Miller called the shootings of Cpl. David Gogian and Officer Jeff Atherly "unspeakable." He said both Gogian, 50, and Atherly, 29, were shot in the head by a gunman who opened fire on them within minutes of their arrival to investigate the vehicle.

"It's clearly beyond words. It's unspeakable almost about why this happens and why this is happening in America at this stage in our history," Miller said.

Police were searching for a 22-year-old man believed to have been the one who fired on the officers from the vehicle. He remained at large Sunday night. Miller didn't know the motive for the shooting but said the suspect has a criminal history, though he wouldn't elaborate.

A third officer who went to the scene to check on the vehicle was not injured in the shooting.

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Goodbye moon: Twin NASA spacecraft poised to slam into lunar mountain in a mission-ending move

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ebb and Flow chased each other around the moon for nearly a year, peering into the interior. With dwindling fuel supplies, the twin NASA spacecraft are ready for a dramatic finish.

On Monday, they will plunge — seconds apart — into a mountain near the moon's north pole. It's a carefully choreographed ending so that they don't end up crashing into the Apollo landing sites or any other place on the moon with special importance.

Skywatchers on Earth won't be able to view the double impacts since they will occur in the dark.

"We're not putting out an all-points bulletin to amateur astronomers to get their telescopes out," said mission chief scientist Maria Zuber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Earthlings may be shut out of the spectacle, but the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter circling the moon will pass over the crash site and attempt to photograph the skid marks left by the washing machine sized-spacecraft as they slam into the surface at 3,800 mph.

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