The last of the funerals have been held for the 27 victims of the Newtown massacre, the worst grade school shooting in U.S. history. On Friday, mourners held a moment of silence at the Newtown memorial site and across the country to mark the first week since the 20 children and seven adults were killed. On Christmas Day, visitors from neighboring areas flocked to Newtown’s memorial site to honor the dead.
Sandra Johnson: “Because it was Christmas and as a parent I just couldn’t move on celebrating unless we came and, you know, respect these kids and the adults. It touched everybody’s hearts. So I just couldn’t move forward. I came in this morning, early, you know, and just saying a prayer.”
Jesus Carrion: “We wanted to contribute and bring some teddy bears for the families, you know, of these kids and the teachers who are not here today because of some tragic moment. And so we just wanted to come down and show support for the families — obviously that will be never be the same again, whose holidays will never be.”
The National Rifle Association has broken a lengthy silence following the Newtown shooting massacre with a call to deploy armed guards in every U.S. school. NRA head Wayne LaPierre unveiled the proposal at a highly anticipated news conference on Friday, the one-week anniversary of Newtown.
Wayne LaPierre: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. I call on Congress today to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation and to do it now, to make sure that blanket safety is in place when our kids return to school in January.”
LaPierre was interrupted by CODEPINK protesters who held up banners reading “The NRA Is Killing Our Kids” and ”NRA: Blood On Our Hands.” The NRA spoke out after going silent in the days following Newtown, ceasing activity on its Facebook and Twitter pages. In the days leading up to its call for firearms in schools, the NRA had promised to unveil what it called “meaningful contributions” to the gun control debate. After sparking a torrent of criticism, LaPierre appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday to defend his stance.
Wayne LaPierre: “If it’s crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our school to protect our children, then call me crazy. I’ll tell you what the American people — I think the American people think it’s crazy not to do it. It’s the one thing that would keep people safe. And the NRA is going to try to do that.”
In another deadly shooting incident in the Northeast, two firefighters were killed and another two were wounded in upstate New York Monday night when a gunman ambushed them as they entered his burning home. Police say William Spengler set his house ablaze and then opened fire at the firefighters who rushed to the scene. Spengler later shot himself after a gunfight with police. Webster, New York Police Chief Gerald Pickering said Spengler had been heavily armed and left a chilling note bragging about “killing people.”
Gerald Pickering: “He had armed himself with three different weapons and an arsenal of ammunition. He had armed himself with a Smith & Wesson .38-caliber revolver, a Mossberg 12-gauge pump shotgun, and a Bushmaster .223-caliber rifle with a flash suppressor. I will read to you one of the sentences out of the two-page or two- or three-page typewritten note that really clearly goes to his intent, while the note does not go to motive. Quote: 'I still have to get ready to see how much of the neighborhood I can burn down and do what I like doing best, killing people.'”
Police now say they have found human remains in the home believed to belong to Spengler’s sister, who lived there with him. Spengler had previously served 17 years in prison for the murder of his grandmother.
President Obama has cut short his annual vacation in Hawaii to return to Washington for talks on the so-called fiscal cliff. Obama and congressional Republicans are seeking to work out a deal before a new round of spending cuts and tax hikes kick in next week. On Friday, Obama said he remains confident that an agreement can be reached.
President Obama: “Nobody can get 100 percent of what they want, and this is not simply a contest between parties in terms of who looks good and who doesn’t. There are real-world consequences to what we do here. Call me a hopeless optimist, but I actually still think we can get it done.”
President Obama has formally announced his nomination of Democratic Senator John Kerry to replace Hillary Clinton as Obama’s second-term secretary of state. Obama appeared with Kerry at the White House on Friday.
President Obama: “I think it’s fair to say that few individuals know as many presidents and prime ministers or grasp our foreign policies as firmly as John Kerry. And this makes him a perfect choice to guide American diplomacy in the years ahead. As we turn the page on a decade of war, he understands that we’ve got to harness all elements of American power and ensure that they’re working together.”
Obama tapped Kerry after Republicans helped pressure U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to drop out of contention for the post. If confirmed, Kerry’s appointment will free up his Massachusetts Senate seat for a special election early next year. Outgoing Republican Senator Scott Brown, who lost his re-election bid to Democrat Elizabeth Warren, is among those rumored to covet Kerry’s seat.
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has signed into law a new constitution following its approval by voters in a contentious referendum. Morsi enacted the document after official results showed it received more than 63 percent support in two rounds of voting. Opponents had criticized the referendum process for its exclusion of secular voices from drafting the constitution and alleged cases of fraud when it went to a vote.
Iran is accusing the United States and Israel of waging a new round of cyberwarfare against its internal computer systems. The Iranian government says hackers have recently tried to disrupt computer networks in a southern province as well as in the national Culture Ministry. If confirmed, the hacking would be the latest major U.S.-Israeli cyber-effort against Iran to come to light since the operation that disrupted Iranian nuclear facilities and unleashed the global computer virus Stuxnet. The Obama administration’s cybercampaign in Iran is believed to be the first sustained effort by one country to destroy another’s infrastructure through computer attacks.
At least four people have been killed and several wounded in a suicide car bombing at a U.S. base in eastern Afghanistan. The victims were all believed to be Afghan nationals. The attack comes two days after an Afghan policewoman killed a U.S. official at police headquarters in the capital Kabul.
U.S. Army teams will be deploying to as many as 35 African countries early next year for training programs and other operations as part of an increased Pentagon role in Africa. The move would see small teams of U.S. troops dispatched to countries with groups allegedly linked to al-Qaeda, such as Libya, Sudan, Algeria and Niger. The teams are from a U.S. brigade that has the capability to use drones for military operations in Africa if granted permission. The deployment could also potentially lay the groundwork for future U.S. military intervention in Africa. In related news, the United Nations Security Council has unanimously backed sending thousands of African troops into Mali to help combat Islamist militants who have claimed vast areas in the country’s north.
Newly revealed documents show the FBI monitored the Occupy Wall Street movement from its inception last year. Internal government records show Occupy was treated as a potential terrorism threat when organizing first began in August of 2011. Counterterrorism agents were used to track Occupy activities despite the internal acknowledgment that the movement opposed violent tactics. The monitoring expanded across the country as Occupy grew into a national movement, with FBI agents sharing information with businesses, local police agencies and universities. One FBI memo warned that Occupy could prove to be an “outlet” through which activists could exploit “general government dissatisfaction.” Although the documents provide no clear evidence of government infiltration, they do suggest the FBI used information from local law enforcement agencies gathered by someone observing Occupy activists on the ground. In a statement, the group that obtained the documents, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, said they show that federal law enforcement agencies are “treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity.”
A New York church used as a relief hub for the group Occupy Sandy has been targeted with an apparent act of arson. The Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Brooklyn suffered major damage after an alleged arsonist poured gasoline around the front entrance and set it on fire. The church had been serving as Occupy Sandy’s headquarters and as a storage space for supplies and donations in the post-Sandy relief effort, including thousands of toys for children in devastated areas.
New details have emerged in the internal turmoil at the key tea party group FreedomWorks. The Washington Post reports the group’s chairman and former House majority leader, Dick Armey, attempted to seize power in a coup-like maneuver earlier this year before receiving a multimillion-dollar payout to leave. Armey entered the FreedomWorks offices in September with an armed aide who escorted two top employees off the premises while Armey suspended several others. Just days later, Armey left the group after an Illinois millionaire pledged $8 million over 20 years in exchange for his departure. FreedomWorks has been a pivotal force behind the victories of tea party candidates in recent years. The money for Dick Armey’s exit came from Illinois billionaire Richard Stephenson, founder of the for-profit Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Stephenson was reportedly behind more than $12 million in donations funneled to the FreedomWorks super PAC in the weeks before the 2012 election.