ECM WORLD WATCH: GLOBAL AND NATIONAL NEWS

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December 19, 2012 -- (San Diego’s East County) – ECM World Watch helps you be an informed citizen about important issues globally and nationally. As part of our commitment to reflect all voices and views, we include links to a wide variety of news sources representing a broad spectrum of political, religious, and social views. Top world and U.S. headlines include:

U.S.

Mass shooting at Connecticut elementary school:

Other national news:

WORLD

Read more for excerpts and links to full stories.

U.S.

Mass shooting at Connecticut elementary school:

Fear of being committed may have caused Connecticut gunman to snap (Fox)

December 18, 2012--The gunman who slaughtered 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school may have snapped because his mother was planning to commit him to a psychiatric facility, according to a lifelong resident of the area who was familiar with the killer’s family and several of the victims’ families.

Adam Lanza, 20, targeted Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown after killing his mother early Friday because he believed she loved the school “more than she loved him,” said Joshua Flashman, 25, who grew up not far from where the shooting took place. Flashman, a U.S. Marine, is the son of a pastor at an area church where many of the victims' families worship.

After a 1996 mass shooting, Australia enacted strict gun laws. It hasn’t had a similar massacre since. (Slate)

December 16, 2012--On April 28, 1996, a gunman opened fire on tourists in a seaside resort in Port Arthur, Tasmania. By the time he was finished, he had killed 35 people and wounded 23 more. It was the worst mass murder in Australia’s history.

Twelve days later, Australia’s government did something remarkable. Led by newly elected conservative Prime Minister John Howard, it announced a bipartisan deal with state and local governments to enact sweeping gun-control measures. A decade and a half hence, the results of these policy changes are clear: They worked really, really well.

Feinstein says bills to ban assault weapons will be a priority (La Mesa Patch)

December 16, 2012--Bills to return a ban on assault weapons in the United States will be introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives on the first day they are in session next month, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein vowed on national television Sunday.

“We’ve tried to take my bill from ’94 to 2004 and perfect it,” the California Democrat said on the NBC “Meet The Press” program.

Newtown tragedy could put mental health in spotlight (USA Today)

December 16,2012--Families and doctors who treat the mentally ill say they hope that Friday's tragedy in Newtown, Conn., will refocus the nation's attention on improving mental health services.

Police have not yet released details about the motives or mental state of shooter Adam Lanza. But the perpetrators of similar mass murders -- at Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University and a Tucson gathering for Rep. Gabby Giffords, for example -- all suffered from serious mental health conditions.

'I Am Adam Lanza's Mother'  (Huffington Post)

December 16, 2012--Friday’s horrific national tragedy -- the murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut -- has ignited a new discussion on violence in America. In kitchens and coffee shops across the country, we tearfully debate the many faces of violence in America: gun culture, media violence, lack of mental health services, overt and covert wars abroad, religion, politics and the way we raise our children. Liza Long, a writer based in Boise, says it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

While every family's story of mental illness is different, and we may never know the whole of the Lanzas' story, tales like this one need to be heard -- and families who live them deserve our help.

How many more Mondays? Changing a culture of glorified violence (San Diego Free Press)

December 15, 2012--The plan for the day had been to finally get the Christmas decorations up and address cards.  I turned on the news to get my daily laugh from the cirque de D.C. and see how much closer we were coming the fiscal cliff.  I wish I had not.  The news was so just awful, again, I wept.  Twenty-six souls lost, 20 of them only 6 and 7 years old. In an instant, another mad man took away so many dreams, so much joy, and so much love.

According to reports, the 20-year-old murderer took his own life, so we will never get the chance to ask him why or how he became so full of evil.  Even if we were able to, it would not stop the carnage which all too often frequents the innocent, here and abroad.  It will not stop, because we either do not care enough, or we must ghoulishly enjoy it enough to not do anything about. 

Sandy Hook: Police say shooter forced his way into school (Christian Science Monitor)

December 15, 2012--Police said Saturday they had found "very good evidence" they hoped would answer questions about the motives of the 20-year-old gunman, described as brilliant but remote, who forced his way into a U.S. school and killed 26 children and adults in one of the world's worst mass shootings.

Witnesses said the gunman, Adam Lanza, didn't say a word as he shot children as young as 5 years old and later killed himself. The bodies of victims were still inside the school for some time Saturday morning, and authorities prepared to release their names later in the day.

School adviser: Gunman a loner who felt no pain (U-T San Diego)

 December 15, 2012--At Newtown High School, Adam Lanza had trouble relating to fellow students and teachers, but that was only part of his problem. He seemed not to feel physical or psychological pain in the same way as classmates.

Richard Novia, the school district's head of security until 2008, who also served as adviser for the school technology club, said Lanza clearly "had some disabilities."

Other national news:

Kerry favorite to become Secretary of State (CBS)

December 17, 2012--Longtime Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., seems poised to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, but no announcement appears imminent in the wake of recent mass shootings in Connecticut, and senior White House officials said that as of this weekend a decision had not yet been made.

Kerry, who is currently chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has made no secret of his desire for the post since Mr. Obama took office, has looked increasingly likely to earn the nomination since U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice - previously thought to be the favorite to succeed Clinton - withdrew her name from consideration last week.

Deficit deal offers chance for salvation for 112th Congress (The Hill)

December 17, 2012--The historically unpopular 112th Congress has one final chance at redemption: two weeks to strike the deficit deal that has eluded it for nearly two years.

For the current crop of congressmen, the long-running battle over taxes and spending will culminate in the kind of year-end showdown that voters have come both to expect and fear from Washington.

The man in the most perilous position is inarguably Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who is confronting on one side a president whose standing has been solidified by reelection and on the other side a Republican conference reluctant to compromise on tax hikes.

Boehmer offers debt ceiling increase in cliff compromise (Washington Post)

December 16, 2012--House Speaker John A. Boehner has offered to push any fight over the federal debt limit off for a year, a concession that would deprive Republicans of leverage in the budget battle but is breathing new life into stalled talks over the year-end “fiscal cliff.”

The offer came Friday, according to people in both parties familiar with the talks, as part of the latest effort by Boehner (R-Ohio) to strike a deal with President Obama to replace more than $500 billion in painful deficit-reduction measures set to take effect in January.

Obama’s new offer on fiscal cliff could lead to deal (New York Times)

December 17, 2012--President Obama delivered to Speaker John A. Boehner a new offer on Monday to resolve the pending fiscal crisis, a deal that would raise revenues by $1.2 trillion over the next decade but keep in place the Bush-era tax rates for any household with earnings below $400,000.

The offer is close to a plan proposed by the speaker on Friday, and both sides expressed confidence that they were closing in on a major deficit-reduction plan that could be passed well before January, when more than a half-trillion dollars in automatic tax increases and spending cuts would kick in.

Flight of hypocrisy: Feds fine oil companies, give pass to wind farms killing birds (Fox)

December 17, 2012--Lights left on during a foggy night last year at a West Virginia wind farm are thought to be behind the grizzly deaths of nearly 500 songbirds. 

It was the third time it happened -- and each time, the federal government looked the other way. 

Fast forward to last week. Following the deaths of a dozen migratory birds in Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska several years back, a Denver-based oil company was fined $22,500. The company was also ordered to make an additional $7,500 payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.  

Cyberattacks on US banks resume, aiming to block their websites-tied to Hamas (Christian Science Monitor)

December 14, 2012--A massive new wave of cyberattacks aimed at blocking access to US banking websites has resumed after a three-month break, but with only mild impacts reported so far despite its size, cybersecurity experts report.

Cybersecurity experts analyzing the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks – which shoot data from myriad computers to clog the Internet pipes at the target site – say the attacks that began early Tuesday are similar to those that struck banks' website server computers in mid-September and continued for several weeks.

December 13, 2012--Good Tidings Of Great Joy: Google Maps App Released For iPhone (NPR)

Google's native maps app for the iPhone finally was released Wednesday, and there was much rejoicing. Just in time for Christmas, the three wise men are able to find the manger without spilling their frankincense or myrrh.

Unsurprisingly, reviewers like Google Maps better than Apple's maps app, which tends at times to strand travelers in vast and isolated areas.

What fascinates me about this mess is that the new Google Maps for iPhone is not only better than Apple's maps — it's also much better than the old Google Maps app that had been on the iPhone from Day 1. The new version loads faster and offers turn-by-turn directions — something Google had been offering Android users since 2010 — along with a host of other modern goodies.

Turn that down: FCC orders TV ads to lower volume (RawStory)

December 13, 2012--In the end it took an act of Congress, but US television advertisers are finally required to do something parents have been pleading for for decades: turn down their excessively loud ads.

“A small bill with a big impact for the American consumer” is how Representative Ann Eshoo described the CALM Act, which came into force on Thursday to the blessed relief of countless television watchers.

Government PR surges amid media cuts (UT-San Diego)

December 16, 2012--“Undersheriff Looks Back on Outstanding Career”

“County Building Permits Keep Residents Safe”

“County’s ‘Live Well, San Diego!’ Improving the Region’s Health”

The headlines all appeared on the County News Center website, which looks like a real news outlet — but isn’t. The site has a .com address, as opposed to .gov, and contains only subtle cues that it’s a San Diego County government public-relations operation.

Illegal immigration drops after decade-long rise (U-T San Diego)

December 5, 2012--New census data released Thursday affirm a clear and sustained drop in illegal immigration, ending more than a decade of increases.

The number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. dropped to an estimated 11.1 million last year from a peak of 12 million in 2007, part of an overall waning of Hispanic immigration. For the first time since 1910, Hispanic immigration last year was topped by immigrants from Asia.

'We've Got Bigger Fish To Fry' Than Going After Pot Smokers, Obama Says (NPR)

December 14, 2012--It looks like the feds will not be worrying much about those folks who choose to smoke pot in Colorado and Washington state, where new laws decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Mormon Women Dare To Wear Pants To Church (NPR)

December 14, 2012--Sunday morning could see a pants revolution at church, at least if you're Mormon. A group of women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is inviting all sisters to shed their skirts and dresses, and wear slacks or pantsuits in an attempt to change the conservative dress code.

Worship services in the LDS church aren't formal; "Sunday Best" hasn't meant gloves, hats and tights for decades. These days in most American congregations, the women wear skirts and the men wear ties. Stephanie Lauritzen discovered that pants on women can still raise eyebrows at her congregation in Utah. 

WORLD 

Death toll from Typhoon tops 1,000 in Philippines (CNN)

December 17, 2012--The grim toll from a typhoon that devastated southern Philippines earlier this month continues to climb, with 1,020 reported dead as of Sunday morning, authorities said.

Officials fear the toll from the December 4 storm will rise further. Because while rescue crews continue searching, the chances of finding people alive dim with each passing day.

'Syrian jets bomb Palestinian camp in Damascus' (Jerusalem Post)

December 17, 2012--Syrian fighter jets rocketed the Palestinian Yarmouk camp in Damascus on Sunday, killing at least 25 people sheltering in a mosque in an area where Syrian rebels have been trying to advance on the capital, opposition activists said.

They said the deaths resulted from a rocket hitting a mosque in the camp, to which refugees have fled from other fighting in nearby suburbs of Damascus. It was the first reported aerial attack on the camp since the revolt against Syrian President Bashar Assad erupted last year. 

Codex committee: you can’t tell people that nutrients prevent disease! (Alliance for Natural Health)

December 11, 2012--Not even nutrient-related disease! Our executive director’s gripping report from the front lines.

As we discussed last week, ANH-USA represented US consumers at the international Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses, which met last week in Germany. Our executive director, Gretchen DuBeau, reports that the committee made a number of decisions that may well affect natural health in the US. 

U.S. Officials: Syria Has Prepared Several Dozen Chemical Bombs (NPR)

December 14, 2012--U.S. and allied officials say the forces of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad have prepared several dozen bombs and shells loaded with the lethal chemical sarin.

The number is a larger estimate than has previously been reported. The Syrians loaded the weapons with the chemical agents in the past several weeks, the officials say. 

Police in Facebook global arrests (BBC)

December 12, 2012--An alleged cybercrime ring said to be responsible for losses of $850m (£530m) looks to have been foiled by the FBI - by using Facebook.

In a statement, the US authority said 10 suspects had been arrested globally, including from the UK and US.

Facebook users were targeted over two years beginning in October 2010. 

Egyptian women claim judge barred them from voting (U-T San Diego)

December 15, 2012--Some 1,500 Egyptian women blocked a main road in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, claiming a judge prevented them from voting on the draft constitution because they weren't veiled.

The women lined up on Saturday night in front of cars in the city's Sedi Gaber district, chanting "down with the Muslim Brotherhood rule."

Why Africa's lions are rapidly disappearing (Christian Science Monitor)

December 4, 2012--The lions that roam Africa's savannahs have lost as much as 75 percent of their habitat in the last 50 years as humans overtake their land and the lion population dwindles, said a study released Tuesday.

Researchers at Duke University, including prominent conservationist Stuart Pimm, warn that the number of lions across the continent have dropped to as few as 32,000, with populations in West Africa under incredible pressure.

Lack of food stunts Chad children, damages minds (U-T San Diego)

December 15, 2012-- One morning, a little girl called Achta sat in the front row of this village's only school and struggled mightily with the assignment her teacher had given her.

She grasped a piece of chalk in her tiny fingers. Her face tense with concentration, she tried to direct the chalk clockwise across her slate. She'd been asked to draw a circle. What she drew looked more like a lopsided triangle.

New Palestinian group declares 3rd Intifada (Jerusalem Post)

December 15, 2012--In a video posted on several Palestinian websites, a spokesman for the new group said it consisted of members of Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The spokesman said that although his group backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s statehood bid at the UN, “We will not give up one inch of the land of Palestine, from the river to the sea.”

He said the group would “pursue our struggle until we expel the occupation and liberate all Palestine.” 

Russia raids activists in 'revolution' probe (Jewish World Review)

December 11, 2012--Russian investigators on Tuesday raided the homes of opposition activists said to have attended seminars abroad on how to spark a revolution aimed at toppling President Vladimir Putin.

Investigators raided the homes of opposition activists Taisiya Alexandrova, Yuri Nabutovsky and Anna Kornilova, confiscating documents as well as computers, Investigative Committee (SK) spokesman Vladimir Markin said in a statement. 

Egypt court gives Christian 3 years for blasphemy (U-T San Diego)

December 12, 2012--A Cairo court on Wednesday convicted a Coptic Christian blogger who shared an anti-Islam film on social networking sites and sentenced him to three years in prison for blasphemy and contempt of religion.

The case of Alber Saber is one of several seen by rights advocates as a campaign led by Egypt's ultraconservative Islamists to curb free expression. Many of those targeted in the campaign are Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population of 85 million.

The Israeli Periphery (Jewish World Review)

December 19, 2012--The state of Israel has a basic, inescapable geopolitical dilemma: Its national security requirements outstrip its military capabilities, making it dependent on an outside power. Not only must that power have significant military capabilities but it also must have enough common ground with Israel to align its foreign policy toward the Arab world with that of Israel's. These are rather heavy requirements for such a small nation.

Israeli expansion threatens West Bank Bedouin (Al Jazeera)

December 15, 2012--On the dusty slopes leading to the Dead Sea, the red roof tiles of Israel's illegal settlements flicker in patches of sunlight as distant mosque minarets of nearby Palestinian villages peek through the hills. Adjacent to this route linking Jerusalem with the Jordan Valley lie several Bedouin communities leading a simple existence.

Eid Khamis, who goes by many names including Abu Khamis and Badawi (Arabic for nomad), is the head of Khan al-Ahmar, a community that was forced to leave the Negev Desert during the 1948 war. These Bedouin of the Jahalin clan then set up their homes in a dusty valley - now nestled between the Israeli settlements of Kfar Adumim and Ma’aleh Adumim - approximately 10km from Jerusalem.

E.U. Votes To Have A Single Regulator For Its Banks (NPR)

December 13, 2012--European leaders have taken a big step forward in their efforts to address the continent's debt problems. At a meeting today in Brussels, they approved the idea of a single regulator who would have power over most of Europe's banks. Officials say such a regulator could have averted the kind of credit bust that has crippled the economies of Spain, Greece and Ireland.

Japan’s ABE sees difficult road ahead (Al Jazeera)

December 17, 2012--The leader of Japan's conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections, has said that the road ahead for the country will be difficult, as he tries to revive a sputtering economy and bolster national security amid deteriorating relations with China.

Shinzo Abe was speaking on Monday after his party won 294 seats in the 480-seat lower house of parliament in a nationwide election, according to unofficial results.