Monday, December 17, 2012

Published:

'Momma loves you': Funerals begin for littlest victims of Conn. school shooting rampage

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) -- Opening a long and almost unbearable procession of grief, Newtown began laying its dead to rest Monday, holding funerals for two 6-year-old boys -- one a football fan who was buried in a New York Giants jersey and one whose twin sister survived the school shooting rampage.

Two funeral homes filled with mourners for Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto, the first of the 20 children killed in last week's massacre to receive funerals. The gunman also killed six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary, and his mother in her home, before committing suicide.

A rabbi presided at Noah's service, and in keeping with Jewish tradition, the boy was laid to rest in a simple brown wooden casket with a Star of David on it.

"If Noah had not been taken from us, he would have become a great man. He would been a wonderful husband and a loving father," Noah's uncle, Alexis Haller, told mourners, according to remarks he provided to The Associated Press. Both services were closed to the news media.

Noah's twin, Arielle, who was assigned to a different classroom, survived the killing frenzy by 20-year-old Adam Lanza, an attack so horrifying that authorities could not say three days later whether the school would ever reopen.

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Gun control gets unlikely backers in Congress; WH says Obama to make it second-term priority

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Prominent gun-rights advocates in Congress are now calling for a national discussion about restrictions to curb gun violence, signaling that the horrific shooting at a Connecticut elementary school could be a tipping point in a debate that has been dormant for years.

"Everything should be on the table," West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin declared Monday. He is a conservative Democrat, avid hunter and lifelong member of the National Rifle Association. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa proposed a debate not just about guns but also about mental issues.

White House officials said President Barack Obama would make preventing gun violence a second-term policy priority. But it was unclear what Obama would pursue or how, and aides said stricter gun laws would be only part of any effort.

The president met Monday afternoon with Vice President Joe Biden and a handful of Cabinet members to begin discussions on ways the country should respond to the Newtown shootings. Among those in attendance were Attorney General Eric Holder, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

It remains to be seen whether Obama and Congress can turn their rhetoric into action or whether the shock over the Connecticut shootings will fade before they do. Public opinion has shifted against tougher gun control in recent years, and the gun lobby is a powerful political force, particularly in Republican primaries. Also, Obama has called for a national dialogue after other mass shootings during his presidency, only to see those efforts take a backseat to other pressing issues.

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10 Things to Know for Tuesday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and stories that will be talked about Tuesday:

1. MOURNERS GATHER FOR LITTLEST VICTIMS OF SHOOTING RAMPAGE

"The message was: You're secure now. The worst is over," says a woman who attended one of Monday's services in Newtown, Conn.

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School neighbor gave refuge to 6 children who ran from school after their teacher was shot

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) -- Gene Rosen had just finished feeding his cats and was heading from his home near Sandy Hook Elementary school to a diner Friday morning when he saw six small children sitting in a neat semicircle at the end of his driveway.

A school bus driver was standing over them, telling them things would be all right. It was about 9:30 a.m., and the children, he discovered, had just run from the school to escape a gunman.

"We can't go back to school," one little boy told Rosen. "Our teacher is dead. Mrs. Soto; we don't have a teacher."

Rosen, a 69-year-old retired psychologist, took the four girls and two boys into his home, and over the next few hours gave them toys, listened to their stories and called their frantic parents.

Rosen said he had heard the staccato sound of gunfire about 15 minutes earlier but dismissed it as an obnoxious hunter in the nearby woods.

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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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Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, decorated veteran, dies at age 88 after 50-year Senate career

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Recovering from war wounds that left him with one arm, Danny Inouye wanted a cigarette and needed a light.

The nurse at the Army hospital in Michigan threw a pack of matches on his chest. He wanted to curse her. Instead, she taught him how to light it one-handed.

"Then she said, 'I'm not going to be around here for the rest of your life. You'll have to learn how to light your own matches, cut your own meat, dress yourself and do everything else. So from now on you're going to be learning,'" Inouye recalled decades later.

From that moment on it seemed like nothing would stop a determined Daniel K. Inouye, who died Monday after a uniquely American life defined by heroism in war and decades of service in the Senate -- and a lifelong love of Hawaii symbolized by his last utterance.

"Aloha."

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AP sources: New Obama offer moves toward Boehner with $400,000 tax hike threshold, more cuts

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama has agreed to curtail future cost-of-living increases for recipients of Social Security and softened his demand for higher taxes at upper income levels as part of accelerating negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner to avoid a "fiscal cliff," people familiar with the talks said Monday.

Speaking a few hours after Obama and Boehner met at the White House, these people said the president was now seeking a higher tax rate beginning at incomes over $400,000, up from the levels of $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples that were cornerstones of his successful campaign for re-election.

Obama's willingness to reduce future cost-of-living increases in Social Security, government retirement and numerous other programs marked another clear concession to Boehner, although it came with an asterisk. The president wants lower-income recipients to receive protection against any loss from scaling back future cost of living increases, these officials said.

Nor did Obama's offer include raising the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 67, a Republican goal that has drawn particularly strong objections from Democratic liberals.

Several officials also said during the day that Boehner's offer late last week to accept higher tax rates included provisions that would mean higher taxes on investment income and dividends earned by wealthy Americans and also in the estate tax.

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Sobs mix with satellite pride as N. Korea unveils body of Kim Jong Il on anniversary of death

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) -- North Korea unveiled the embalmed body of Kim Jong Il, still in his trademark khaki jumpsuit, on the anniversary of his death Monday as mourning mixed with pride over a recent satellite launch that was a long-held goal of the late authoritarian leader.

Kim lies in state a few floors below his father, national founder Kim Il Sung, in the Kumsusan mausoleum, the cavernous former presidential palace. Kim Jong Il is presented lying beneath a red blanket, a spotlight shining on his face in a room suffused in red.

Wails echoed through the chilly hall as a group of North Korean women sobbed into the sashes of their traditional Korean dresses as they bowed before his body. The hall bearing the glass coffin was opened to select visitors -- including The Associated Press -- for the first time since his death.

North Korea also unveiled Kim's yacht and his armored train carriage, where he is said to have died. Among the personal belongings featured in the mausoleum are the parka, sunglasses and pointy platform shoes he famously wore in the last decades of his life. A MacBook Pro lay open on his desk.

North Koreans paid homage to Kim and basked in the success of last week's launch of a long-range rocket that sent a satellite named after him to space.

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2 police officers fatally shot in Topeka; officers shoot, kill suspect after 2-hour standoff

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- A man with a history of theft and weapons convictions gunned down two police officers investigating possible drug activity in a Kansas grocery parking lot, and was later killed after an armed standoff, authorities said Monday.

Hundreds gathered outside Topeka police headquarters with candles in memory of Cpl. David Gogian and Officer Jeff Atherly. Members of the slain officers' families attended Monday night's vigil along with dozens of law enforcement officers in uniforms.

"You never really think you're going to lose friends. Everybody, I think, is still in shock," said Officer Kurtis VanDonge, a 31-year-old Army veteran who was in Atherly's training class and worked under Gogian.

A bagpiper played "Amazing Grace," and a minister read from the opening chapter of the Gospel of John that includes the verse: "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

The man who opened fire on the officers Sunday night was David Edward Tiscareno, 22, of Topeka, said Kyle Smith, deputy director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

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Low turnout in Egypt's referendum raises questions about voting fatigue, stalling tactics

CAIRO (AP) -- Just under a third of voters turned out for the first stage of the referendum on a constitution meant to be a historic milestone in setting Egypt's future -- a showing critics say deepens doubts over the legitimacy of a charter that has already polarized the country.

The dismal showing also raises the question whether Egyptians have been turned off by the turmoil that has characterized the country's politics throughout the nearly two years since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak's autocratic regime.

Last Saturday's voting took place in 10 of Egypt's 27 provinces, including Cairo and the nation's second largest city Alexandria. Some 26 million voters were eligible to vote, but only 32 percent of them did. Voting in the remainder 17 provinces will take place the coming Saturday.

The turnout was the second lowest of the relentless series of five nationwide elections that Egyptians have been called to in the 22 months since Mubarak's fall in last year's popular uprising. The highest was nearly 60 percent in the election of parliament's lawmaking lower chamber. The lowest was an embarrassing 8 percent for the vote for the upper chamber, a largely toothless body that the public cares little about.

Besides the low turnout, preliminary results show that the "yes" vote carried the first round only by a slim margin of 56 percent -- hardly the resounding endorsement the Islamists were looking for to silence the increasingly vocal and united opposition that called on supporters to vote "no."