People across the United States are expected to join a moment of silence at 9:30 a.m. this morning to mark one week since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. Last Friday morning, Adam Lanza opened fire at the school, killing 20 children and six adults. A series of back-to-back wakes and funerals are continuing for the victims. Those mourned on Thursday include Catherine Hubbard, Benjamin Wheeler, Jesse Lewis and Allison Wyatt, all age six, and Grace McDonnell, age seven. A service was held in New York for teacher Anne Marie Murphy, who is believed to have used her body to shield students from a hail of bullets. Thirty-year-old teacher Lauren Rousseau was also mourned Thursday in Connecticut. Rousseau’s partner of a year, Tony Lusardi, spoke to CNN.
Tony Lusardi: "I want the world to know that Lauren was a great person. She touched the lives of everyone she ever met. Even if you only met her once, you liked her. She was a great person, and she didn’t deserve this. No one deserved this."
A private memorial service was also held Thursday in New Hampshire for Nancy Lanza, the mother of the gunman and his first victim. Adam Lanza shot his mother in her bed with her own gun before driving to the school.
Vice President Joe Biden met Thursday with Cabinet members and law enforcement officials from around the country as part of the Obama administration’s push for tighter gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. Speaking to reporters before the meeting, Biden affirmed the president’s commitment to reform.
Joe Biden: "The president is absolutely committed to keeping his promise that we will act, and we will act in a way that is designed — even if, as he says, we could only save one life, we have to take action."
The National Rifle Association is expected to break its silence following the Newtown killlings today with a news conference by CEO Wayne LaPierre. The pro-gun group issued a statement earlier this week promising "meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again." The NRA’s Facebook page went dark and activity was suspended on its Twitter account last Friday following the shooting.
Amid the growing national conversation on gun control and mental illness, a new analysis has found millions of mental-health records remain missing from the national database used by gun dealers to run background checks on buyers. The group Mayors Against Illegal Guns found 19 states have provided fewer than 100 mental-health records each to the database.
House Speaker John Boehner has failed to gather enough support from his own party to pass his purported "Plan B" aimed at forcing concessions from President Obama over the so-called fiscal cliff. Boehner’s plan would have extended Bush-era tax cuts for virtually everyone except those earning $1 million a year or more. That’s far higher than the $250,000 income threshold long sought by President Obama. Obama floated a compromise at $400,000 earlier this week and has also offered to cut his revenue target and allow curbs on so-called entitlements like Social Security.
Police in Egypt have fired tear gas canisters today in Alexandria as supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi clashed a day before the final stage of voting on a controversial draft constitution. The two sides hurled stones at each other during a rally called by Islamists who support the constitution. Morsi’s opponents have called for voting against the document. At least eight people died in clashes leading up to the first day of voting on December 15, when a 57 percent majority backed the constitution amid numerous complaints of violations at the polls.
Outcry is continuing in India over the gang rape and beating of a 23-year-old student on a bus in Delhi. The woman was hospitalized and remains in critical condition after the attack Sunday night. On Wednesday, police used used water canons against protesters who condemned the violence. Police say a group of six men raped the woman and beat both her and a male friend with iron rods while driving through the city, reportedly passing through several police checkpoints. Both victims were stripped and dumped by the side of the road. Police say five men have been arrested. Indian women’s rights activist Ranjana Kumari said rapists in India often escape punishment.
Ranjana Kumari: "Under the current laws, rapists are not being prosecuted the way they should be. Almost 40,000 rape cases are pending in various courts across the country. In 2003, there was an instance of rape whose judgment has come now in 2012 after a gap of nine years. If it takes nine years for justice to be delivered, do you think culprits would be afraid to commit such heinous crimes? It is important to put a system in place to deal with such cases. We also demand to expedite the trial of crime against women in fast-track courts."
Amid the mounting protests, officials in India have reported at least two more gang rapes. In two separate incidents, a 10-year-old girl was gang-raped and murdered and a 14-year-old was in critical condition after being raped by a group of men. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, one woman is raped every 20 minutes in India.
A new case of mass rape has been reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The U.N. mission for the DRC says that 126 women were raped in eastern Congo last month after Congolese troops fled there to escape rebels advancing on the provincial capital of Goma. Two Congolese soldiers have been arrested to date in connection with the violence.
Rape continues to be a major issue for the U.S. military. The number of sexual assaults reported at military academies has increased by nearly 25 percent this year amid signs many victims are remaining silent. A military report says the number of assaults at the country’s three military academies jumped from 65 last year to 80 in 2012. But nearly half of those attacks involved victims who sought confidential resources such as medical care and did not prompt an investigation. More than half of women at U.S. military academies have been sexually harassed, while 12 percent say they experienced "unwanted sexual contact," according to an anonymous military survey.
A new report says four Israeli attacks launched on journalists and media facilities during the bombardment of Gaza last month violated the laws of war by targeting civilians and civilian objects. Human Rights Watch issued the findings Thursday on the attacks that killed two Palestinian camera people, wounded at least 10 media workers and damaged four media offices. One strike also killed a two-year-old boy, Abdelrahman Naim, who lived across from a targeted building.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange made a rare public appearance Thursday, six months after seeking refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, and ultimately, he says, to the United States. Speaking from the embassy balcony, Assange condemned what he called an "immoral" investigation against him by the U.S. and said WikiLeaks is preparing to release more than a million documents that will affect "every country in this world."
Julian Assange: "It is from the revelation of the truth that all else follows. Our buildings can only be as tall as their bricks are strong. Our civilization is only as strong as its ideas are true. My work will not be cowed. But while this immoral investigation continues, and while the Australian government will not defend the journalism and publishing of WikiLeaks, I must remain here. However, the door is open, and the door has always been open, for anyone who wishes to speak to me. Like you, I have not been charged with a crime."
In Colorado, a group representing major oil and gas companies has filed a lawsuit against the city of Longmont’s ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Longmont residents made theirs the first city in Colorado to ban fracking last month in an overwhelming vote. But the Colorado Oil and Gas Association is seeking to challenge the ban in court, saying voters have no right to impose it. Speaking to the New York Times, a Longmont fracking opponent called the lawsuit an effort to "undermine a democratic vote in order to put a dangerous industrial activity next to homes, schools and public parks."
The AIDS activist Spencer Cox has died of AIDS-related causes at the age of 44. He was a spokesperson for ACT-UP — the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power — and early advocate for AIDS treatment. Cox was featured in the documentary, "How to Survive a Plague," about the early days of AIDS activism in the United States. Film director David France posted a clip from his final interview with Spencer Cox after his death this week.
Spencer Cox: "I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know what’s going to happen day to day. I don’t know what’s going to happen next year. I just know, you keep going. You keep evolving, you keep progressing, you keep hoping, until you die, which is going to happen someday. You make your life as meaningful as you can make it. You live it. You don’t be afraid of who’s going to like you, or, you know, are you being appropriate, or are you being — you worry about things like being kind."