Friday, December 14, 2012

Published:

Man kills mother, then massacres 26 at Conn. grade school, including 20 children

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) -- A man killed his mother at home and then opened fire Friday inside the elementary school where she taught, massacring 26 people, including 20 children, as youngsters cowered in fear to the sound of gunshots echoing through the building and screams coming over the intercom.

The 20-year-old killer, carrying two handguns, committed suicide at the school, bringing the death toll to 28, authorities said.

The rampage, coming less than two weeks before Christmas, was the nation's second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre that left 33 people dead in 2007.

"Our hearts are broken today," a tearful President Barack Obama, struggling to maintain his composure, said at the White House. He called for "meaningful action" to prevent such shootings. "As a country, we have been through this too many times," he said.

Police shed no light on the motive for the attack on two classrooms. The gunman was believed to suffer from a personality disorder and lived with his mother, said a law enforcement official who was briefed on the investigation but was not authorized to discuss it.

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AP source: Suspect killed his mother at their home before going on school rampage

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A law enforcement official says that the 20-year-old suspect in the Connecticut school shootings killed his mother at their home Friday and then drove his mother's car to the school where he went on a deadly rampage.

Adam Lanza's mother, Nancy, was a teacher at the school, said the law enforcement official.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, Adam Lanza's older brother, Ryan, 24, of Hoboken, N.J., was questioned by law enforcement in New Jersey and was extremely cooperative, said a second law enforcement official who was briefed on the investigation. Ryan Lanza is not believed to have any involvement and is not under arrest or in custody, but investigators were still searching his computers and phone records, said the second official.

Ryan Lanza told law enforcement that his brother was believed to suffer from a personality disorder and be "somewhat autistic" and lived with the mother in Connecticut, the second official added.

Earlier, a law enforcement official mistakenly transposed the brothers' first names.

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Connecticut school shooting revives gun debate as survivors ask, 'How long will this go on?'

LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) -- A lone police cruiser outside Columbine High School was the only outward reaction Friday to an even deadlier attack at a Connecticut elementary school.

But in a state that was rocked by the 1999 Columbine school massacre and the Aurora movie theater shooting less than six months ago, Friday's shootings renewed debate over why mass shootings keep occurring and whether gun control can stop them.

"Until we get our acts together and stop making these ... weapons available, this is going to keep happening," said an angry Tom Teves, whose son Alex was killed in the theater shooting last July in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

Teves was choked up as he answered a reporter's call Friday. A work associate of his lives in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary. The connection chilled and angered him.

The 20-year-old killer, identified by a law enforcement official as Adam Lanza, carried out the attack with two handguns. A high-powered .223-caliber rifle was found in the back of a car.

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Essay: After a moment of sheer horror, how do we talk about it?

Now and then, thanks to the strange intimacy of technology, there are times in modern American lives when our most momentous and harrowing experiences have been shared.

In the days when radios were still furniture, we listened and poured out into the streets on V-E Day and V-J Day. Comforted by Walter Cronkite's voice, we mourned around the collective video campfire when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Through the eyes of correspondents in the desert, we watched during the first Gulf War as the Scuds and Patriot missiles streaked through the skies.

The world is more fragmented now, the national watercooler a relic of another, rapidly receding age. Now we can choose, sometimes right down to the word, what information we receive. We can surround ourselves with the likeminded, or we can dive into oceans of opposition and try to hold our own. Where once we only listened and watched, now, by the millions, we shout.

Sometimes it seems that we share so little. And yet, amid all of this fragmentation, some things still stop us in our tracks, make us think, make us talk, make us look to each other, make us feel as if, somehow, we're one in shock and tragedy.

"There's no words," said Richard Wilford, the father of a second-grader who survived. But, of course, there were. In the post-my-status-update, have-my-say America where we now live, there are always words.

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Some of the deadliest mass shootings around the world

A gunman at a Connecticut elementary school killed more than two dozen people, including children, on Friday. It is among the world's worst mass shootings. Here is a look at some others:

-- July 20, 2012: Twelve people are killed when a gunman enters an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, releases a canister of gas and then opens fire during opening night of the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises." James Holmes, a 24-year-old former graduate student at the University of Colorado, has been charged in the deaths.

-- March 11, 2012: Sixteen Afghan villagers, including nine children, are killed during a predawn attack in which Army prosecutors have charged Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 39.

-- July 22, 2011: Confessed mass killer Anders Behring Breivik kills 77 in Norway in twin attacks: a bombing in downtown Oslo and a shooting massacre at a youth camp outside the capital. The self-styled anti-Muslim militant admitted both attacks.

-- Jan. 8, 2011: A gunman kills six people and wounds 13 others, including then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in a shooting spree outside a grocery store in Tucson, Ariz. Doctors say Jared Lee Loughner, who has been sentenced to life in prison, suffers from schizophrenia.

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Possible Plan B emerges on 'fiscal cliff' but complications lie ahead

WASHINGTON (AP) -- It's beginning to look like it's time for Plan B on the "fiscal cliff."

With talks between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner apparently stalled, the leading emerging scenario is some variation on the following: Republicans would tactically retreat and agree to raise rates on wealthier earners while leaving a host of complicated issues for another negotiation next year.

The idea is that House GOP leaders would ultimately throw up their hands, pass a Senate measure extending tax rates on household income exceeding $250,000, and then duke it out next year over vexing issues like increasing the debt ceiling and switching off sweeping spending cuts that are punishment for prior failures to address the country's deficit crisis.

It's easier said than done.

For starters, that scenario has a lot more currency with Senate Republicans, who wouldn't have to vote for the idea after it comes back to the Democratic-controlled Senate, than with leaders of the Republican-controlled House, who would have to orchestrate it and who still insist they're not abandoning talks with the White House and that they're standing firm against raising tax rates.

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Syrian rebels close in, but President Assad still has loyal troops and unchallenged air power

BEIRUT (AP) -- With rebels trying to penetrate Syria's capital, Damascus, President Bashar Assad may appear to be heading for a last stand as his weakened regime crumbles around him.

But the Syrian leader is not necessarily on his way out just yet.

He still has thousands of loyal troops and a monopoly on air power. A moribund diplomatic process has given him room to maneuver despite withering international condemnation. And the power of Islamic extremists among the rebels is dashing hopes that the West will help turn the tide of the civil war by sending heavy weapons to the opposition.

"The West, for all its rhetorical bombast, has restricted the flow of important weapons," said University of Oklahoma professor Joshua Landis, who runs an influential blog called Syria Comment. "They have not brought down this regime because they are frightened of the alternative."

There is no appetite for intervening actively against Assad -- as NATO did against Moammar Gadhafi in Libya -- and run the risk of having him replaced by an Islamist regime hostile to the West. Those concerns have deepened after the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and political turmoil in Egypt where a bid to promote an Islamist agenda threatens to tear the nation apart.

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Violence, tension mar last-minute campaigning before Egypt votes on disputed draft charter

CAIRO (AP) -- Waving swords and clubs, Islamist supporters of Egypt's draft constitution clashed with opponents in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria on Friday as tempers flared on the eve of the referendum on the disputed charter -- the country's worst political crisis since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.

Both sides stepped up their campaigns after weeks of violence and harsh divisions that have turned Saturday's vote into a fight over Egypt's post-revolutionary identity. Highlighting the tension that may lie ahead, nearly 120,000 army soldiers will deploy to protect polling stations. A radical Islamist group also said it will send its own members to defend the stations alongside the army and police.

The referendum pits Egypt's newly empowered Islamists against liberals, many apolitical Christians and secular-leaning Muslims. President Mohammed Morsi's supporters say the constitution will help end the political instability that has gripped Egypt since February 2011, when the autocratic Mubarak was overthrown in a popular uprising. Clerics, using mosque pulpits, defend the constitution as championing Islam.

Morsi's opponents say minority concerns have been ignored and the charter is full of obscurely worded clauses that could allow Islamists to restrict civil liberties, ignore women's rights and undermine labor unions. They charge the constitution will enslave Egyptians.

Critics have raised concern over the legitimacy of the document after most judges said they would not supervise the vote. Rights groups warned of opportunities for widespread fraud, and the opposition said a decision to stretch the vote two rounds to make up for the shortage of judges left the door open for initial results to sway voter opinions.

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Rice's withdrawal raises concerns about diversity in upper echelon of Obama's next Cabinet

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The top contenders for the "big three" jobs in President Barack Obama's second-term Cabinet are all white men, rekindling concerns among Democratic women about diversity in his inner circle.

Now that Susan Rice has withdrawn under pressure from consideration as the next secretary of state, Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts is the front-runner for the nation's top diplomatic post. Former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is Obama's favored candidate to run the Pentagon, and White House chief of staff Jack Lew is likely to be his next treasury secretary if he wants the job.

"The boys network is alive and well," Democratic activist Donna Brazile wrote on Twitter after Rice withdrew. "The war on qualified women continues here in DC."

Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a close friend of the president, dropped out of consideration for the State Department job Thursday. That followed months of withering criticism from Republicans over her initial comments about the attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya -- criticism several female House Democrats said smacked of sexism and racism. Rice is black.

Her withdrawal reignited questions about gender diversity in the upper echelons of the administration, a concern that has nagged at the Obama White House for years. The questions grew so persistent early in Obama's first term that the president invited his upper-level female staffers to a dinner to get their input on how to shake his administration's "boys club" reputation.

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Holiday dilemma: With sales slowing, stores may be forced to slash prices to lure shoppers

NEW YORK (AP) -- If shoppers don't show up in stores soon, more "70 percent off" sale signs will.

After a promising start to the holiday shopping season over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, sales have slowed, according to an analysis of data done for The Associated Press by sales tracker ShopperTrak. Worries about weak U.S. job growth and other concerns are likely to blame for Americans spending less.

That puts pressure on J.C. Penney, Macy's and other stores, which had been offering fewer discounts this season than they did last year, to step up promotions to lure shoppers like Ron Antonette from Long Beach, Calif.

Antonette so far has spent about half of what he planned to spend during this holiday season on gifts such as Legos, a Wii U game console and Apple's iPad Mini tablet computer for his two young children. Antonette stopped shopping after spending $1,000 over fears that Congress and the White House won't reach a budget deal by January. A stalemate would trigger tax increases and spending cuts known as the "fiscal cliff."

"I basically stopped moving forward in buying," said Antonette, 44, who runs a small public relations business and worries that he might not be able to take mortgage deductions on his house next year. "I feel like we're in financial limbo."