AZ Shooter a Liberal Leftist, Not a Tea Party Supporter

A Second Amendment rights advocate says the liberal media and Democratic politicians are trying to blame conservatives and talk radio for the recent shooting in Tucson, even though the shooter is likely “a man of the left.” While Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords (D-Arizona) fights for her life in a hospital intensive care unit, the left is trying to piece together a right-wing-inspired motive behind the madness by irresponsibly placing blame on talk radio and the tea party movement. But Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America (GOA), believes there is substantial evidence to show that suspect, Jared Lee Loughner, is an angry leftist who hates America and Christianity. “In the back yard they found a satanic altar with a skull and some oranges before it. Kind of like Cain’s offering in Scripture [Genesis 4] — instead of the animals, he did it his way,” Pratt notes. “He was anti-Christian; he was for burning the flag.” During the past few days friends of the shooter, Jared Loughner, have stepped forward to say that they knew him to be a political liberal.  He admired the Communist Manifesto and burned the American flag. A friend of the shooter also said in an interview on Tuesday that Loughner, 22, had talked about a philosophy of fostering chaos.

Lawmaker Blames Sheriff for Not Protecting Tucson Rally

An Arizona lawmaker who proposes legislation that would let college faculty members carry firearms assailed Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik for his criticism of the state’s lenient gun laws. He blames the sheriff for not ensuring that U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ outdoor rally in Tucson was protected from a mass shooting. “If he would have done his job, maybe this doesn’t happen,” Republican state Rep. Jack Harper said in an interview Monday. “Sheriff Dupnik did not provide for the security of a U.S. congresswoman.” Harper’s remarks expose a deep, hard-edged political divide over the volatile issue of gun rights in the state and nation two days after a gunman killed six, gravely wounded Giffords and injured 13 others. At a news conference Sunday, Dupnik singled out Harper’s proposed college faculty gun bill as an example of what he called the state’s lax firearm laws. One of the nation’s leading media analysts, L. Brent Bozell, says the left’s systematic ridicule of Sarah Palin and other conservatives following the Arizona shooting rampage reflects a deliberate campaign to “ultimately criminalize” conservative thought in America.

What Causes a Young Person to Snap?

This weekend’s Tucson shooting spree, which killed six people and wounded 14 others, has left many people wondering what was going on in the mind of the suspected gunman. It is too early to know if Jared Lee Loughner, 22, is struggling with mental health, but experts say it is not uncommon for people in his age group to experience their first serious episode of mental illness. The Tucson tragedy is just one in a string of violent attacks by young adults in recent years. In 2007, a massacre at Virginia Tech left 33 dead. A University of Virginia lacrosse player is awaiting trial in the beating death of his girlfriend in May. Several other school shootings have occurred recently. Why the late teens and early 20s are a vulnerable time for those prone to mental illness probably is the result of a combination of factors, says Alec Miller, a professor of psychiatry and chief of child and adolescent psychology at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y.

“There is a biological piece, then you add certain life stressors at that time of life: going to college or leaving home for first time; having a first, profound and intimate breakup. They don’t have the same kind of support that they had when they were 14, 15, 16,” Miller says. Loughner exhibited disruptive behavior before this weekend’s shooting. Pima Community College suspended Loughner last year for classroom and library disruptions, according to a statement from the school. Officials briefed his parents, and told Loughner to come back only after a mental health professional had assessed that he was not a danger to himself or others. After that, “there was no further college contact with Loughner,” the college says. One of Loughner’s teachers, Ben McGahee, told USA TODAY that after just one week of classes, Loughner proved so disruptive and belligerent that “I remember going home and thinking to myself, ‘Is he going to bring a weapon to class?’  The police were sent to the home where shooter Jared L. Loughner lived with his family on more than one occasion.

o This tragedy is more reflective of youthful angst than it is of political rhetoric which was merely the excuse for inexcusable violence.

Abortion Decline Leveling Off

The steady, long-term decline in the number and rate of abortions in the USA leveled off in 2008, according to the most comprehensive survey of statewide data. The report released Monday online by the New York City-based Guttmacher Institute, which has tracked abortion since 1974, also found that medical abortion using drugs approved in 2000 by the federal government has risen as a percentage of all abortions. The analysis finds the total number of abortions in 2008 — 1.21 million — was essentially the same as in its last report, which used 2005 data. The 2008 rate of 19.6 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44 is also statistically virtually unchanged from the 2005 rate of 19.4 abortions. It is far below the peak in 1981 of 29.3 abortions.

Guttmacher, which supports abortion rights, bases its periodic reports on surveys of abortion providers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which relies on voluntary reporting by state health departments, released its most recent report in 2009, based on 2006 data. Karen Pazol of Atlanta, who oversees the CDC’s report, says the 2006 data did show “an interruption of the long-term decline” but because CDC doesn’t have data for 2007 or 2008, she “can’t predict whether it’s a short-term change or a interruption of a long-term decline.”

Alaska Oil Pipeline Reopened

The Trans Alaska Pipeline was shut for down over the weekend after a leak was discovered at Prudhoe Bay, forcing oil companies to cut production to 5 percent of their average 630,000 barrels per day. The shutdown of one of the United States’ key oil arteries, which carries about 12 percent of the country’s production, is the latest setback for the aging, 33-year old pipeline, which handles less than a third of the oil it did at its peak in the 1980s. Closures of the pipeline, although short, have provoked criticism of its operators, particularly major owner BP, whose reputation is already at an all-time low after the Gulf of Mexico blow-out last year, causing the largest-ever U.S. oil spill. The pipeline was reopened on an interim basis while workers build a bypass at the pump station where the leak occurred.

Governor Brown Seeks Extension of Calif. Tax Increases

Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a budget Monday that would slash funding to most areas of state government and maintain a series of tax increases for five years to close California’s huge budget deficit. The Democratic governor released his first budget proposal since winning election last fall. He called for $12.5 billion in spending cuts, including reductions in welfare, social services, health care for the poor and a combined $1 billion cut to the University of California and California State University systems. Brown also wants the Legislature to call a special election in June to give voters an opportunity to continue hikes in the income, sales and vehicle taxes for five years. His proposal relies on new revenues of $12 billion. The governor’s office says the only area of state spending he would protect is K-12 education. Brown said his recommendations will close an 18-month budget gap estimated at $25.4 billion and require sacrifice from all Californians.

Economic News

U.S. home prices fell 5.1% in November from a year earlier and are expected to go lower as the housing market struggles to find its recovery, according to a report Tuesday. Real estate analytics firm CoreLogic said that single-family home prices declined for the fourth month in a row and at a faster pace. Sales and prices have fallen since the federal tax credits expired in June. The economy avoided a double-dip recession, but housing is double dipping.

The Swiss government has scheduled an emergency meeting Friday on the franc, which is soaring against the dollar and the euro because of investor concerns about European and U.S. debt. The Swiss currency has hit record highs against both those currencies in recent months as investors consider it a safe haven during turbulent economic times. The Swiss National Bank has spent billions to try to dampen the franc’s surge, to little effect.

Haiti

More than $300 million dollars and thousands of volunteers — all powered by religious faith — have poured in to earthquake-shattered Haiti to help rebuild the country and restore its spirit. Church by church, parish by parish, hundreds of thousands of Americans have donated funds or traded vacations for mission trips. Among the leaders, Catholic Relief Services has raised $192 million, including $80 million raised in a special U.S. parish collection. About 80% of Haitians say they are Catholic. The agency doubled its Haiti-based staff from 300 workers before the quake to 600 now. It expanded its focus from agriculture and HIV/AIDS work to emergency food and shelters, reconstruction employment for 10,000 Haitians and, now, to fighting the cholera epidemic on the northern side of the island. Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian global relief agency, “raised more for Haiti this year than for any project we’ve ever undertaken, $51 million — most with $40 individual donations,” agency founder Rev. Franklin Graham says. The United Methodist Church raised more than $43 million for Haiti after the quake. Its Committee on Relief has sent more than 80 volunteer mission teams last year and expects to double that number in 2011 to work in clearing rubble, distributing food and rebuilding infrastructure.

Iraq

Violence in Iraq dropped last year despite the political turmoil, demonstrating the ability of Iraq’s forces to maintain security in the country, the U.S. military command in Iraq says. The number of violent incidents fell to 8,233 in 2010, down from 11,203 in 2009, according to U.S. military statistics. That is the lowest level of violence since the emergence of a widespread insurgency after the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. The peak of violence was 2007 when there were 67,727 incidents. The statistics include attacks on U.S. and IraqThe decrease in violence came in a year when the two top vote-getters in Iraq’s second national elections in March had been in negotiations for months over who would take over as prime minister. Making those security gains permanent will depend on Iraq’s ability to develop democratic institutions that allow people to express their discontent through politics rather than violence, some analysts say.

Afghanistan

NATO’s top commander in Afghanistan said Monday that a recent pledge by a southern Afghan tribe to stand up to the Taliban shows the military push in the country’s most violent region is making headway and stifling the insurgents’ “central nervous system.” U.S. Gen. David Petraeus told The Associated Press in the southern city of Lashkar Gah that a shift in thinking by the Afghan government and NATO means that the tribe’s risky move is being embraced rather than ignored. And that brings the hope that others may follow suit, he said. He told the AP that the Taliban is losing sway in volatile Helmand and Kandahar provinces in the south. Petraeus said there is increasing dissension among the fighting ranks of the insurgency and that fighters are bristling at being ordered to battle through the winter by bosses sitting far away in Pakistan.

Lebanon

The Islamic militant group Hezbollah and its allies plan to resign from the Lebanese Cabinet on Wednesday, a move that would likely topple the government over tensions stemming from the international investigation into the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Health Minister Mohammed Jawad Khalifeh told Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV that ministers were planning to resign in the afternoon unless Western-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri— the son of the slain leader — agrees to their demand to convene an urgent Cabinet meeting over the tribunal crisis. Hariri, whose coalition has been sharing power with the Iranian-backed militant group, was to meet Wednesday with President Obama in Washington to discuss the crisis. A U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the elder Hariri’s killing is widely expected to name members of the Hezbollah in upcoming indictments, which many fear could re-ignite hostilities between Lebanon’s rival Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

North Korea

North Korea‘s development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles poses a direct threat to the United States, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday, a blunt assessment of the risk posed by an erratic dictatorship that considers the U.S. its foremost enemy. North Korea will have a limited ability to deliver a weapon to U.S. shores within five years using intercontinental ballistic missiles, Gates predicted. North Korea has threatened to test such missiles, and has already conducted underground nuclear tests that prove it has manufactured at least rudimentary nuclear weapons. The risk of war on the Korean Peninsula is also rising because South Koreans are fed up with provocation and harassment from the North, Gates said.

Sudan

A security official in Southern Sudan says another bout of violence during this week’s independence referendum has killed 10 people. Arab tribesman attacked a bus carrying southern Sudanese from the north to the south, killing 10 people and wounding 18. Southern officials have said that the Misseriya tribe on Sunday attacked police in the contested region of Abyei, killing 20. International officials worry the tentative peace between north and south Sudan could be disrupted during this week’s referendum.

Eritrea

International Christian Concern reports that Eritrean officials arrested 30 Christians for praying at a private house in the capital of Asmara on Jan. 2. Some of the Christians were only recently released after being detained for their faith. The detained Christians are members of the Philadelphia Church, an evangelical church outlawed in Eritrea. Several churches have been forced to go underground in Eritrea since 2002 when officials required all religious groups to register. The officials only registered four religious groups: Islam, the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Evangelical Church of Eritrea. More than 3,000 Christians in the tiny country have been detained for their faith and imprisoned in inhumane conditions.

Weather

Up and down the East Coast, armies of emergency workers with plows and salt spreaders hit the streets Wednesday morning, as the snowstorm that caused mayhem in the South moved into the region and dumped more than a foot in some areas overnight. About 22 inches of snow has fallen in Ridgefield, Conn., and 18 inches in Danbury. State police there have responded to about 500 spinouts, fender-benders and stranded vehicles. Airports reported hundreds of flights canceled. The heaviest snow was expected on Long Island. On Tuesday, freezing temperatures have left snowy Southeastern states “like a big ice skating rink,” says Julia Jarema, spokeswoman for North Carolina Emergency Management. Nearly 70% of the contiguous USA is covered in snow — more than double the snow cover of last month, the weather service says. Every state except Florida reported snow on the ground Tuesday.

Deadly floodwaters that have cut a swath across northeast Australia seeped onto the streets of Brisbane Wednesday, the nation’s third-largest city, forcing people to flee both suburbs and skyscrapers. City Mayor Campbell Newman said almost 20,000 homes in low-lying areas of the city of about 2 million were expected to be swamped by the time the river system it is built on reaches its expected peak Thursday. Military helicopters searched Tuesday for scores of people missing after a tsunami-like wall of water ripped through an Australian valley, tossing cars like toys in the deadliest episode of a weeks-long flood crisis. At least nine people were killed and 59 still unaccounted for almost 24 hours after the flash flood hurled untold millions of gallons of water down Queensland state’s Lockyer Valley on Monday. The valley funneled rain from a freak storm — forecasters estimated up to 6 inches fell in half an hour fell near Toowoomba city — into a stream that formed a path of destruction, lifting houses from foundations. The torrent slowed and spread out as it moved downstream toward the state capital of Brisbane, Australia’s third-largest city with some 2 million people.

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