“Newtown’s ask of the world for the anniversary is to…do acts of kindness and honor those we’ve lost.” David Ackert, chairman of the Newtown Foundation and Newtown Action Alliance on December 14, 2013, the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn.
Nation: Another school tragedy.
Last Friday, a lone teenage gunman launched a shooting spree at Arapahoe High School in a suburb of Denver, Colorado. 18-year-old Karl Pierson was armed with 125 rounds of ammunition and three incendiary devices with the intent to attack people in numerous rooms throughout the school, local authorities said this Tuesday. The shooting spree ended up lasting just 80 seconds but enough time to fire five rounds, shooting fellow classmate Claire Davis at point blank range in the head before taking his own life. Davis remains in critical condition. Our thoughts are with all those affected.
World: Apollo Theatre collapses.
During a packed performance at London’s famed West End Apollo Theatre on Thursday night, part of the century-old structure’s ornate plaster ceiling collapsed injuring 76 people. 45 minutes into the performance of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time audience members reported hearing “creaking” and then the collapse. Authorities are still trying to determine the cause. “In my time as a fire officer, I’ve never seen an incident like this,” said Fire Brigade Officer Nick Harding, who manages the nearby Kingsland Station.
Politics: NSA panel recommends limits.
A presidential task force recommended the administration address the expansion of NSA spying this week. The 46 recommendations included, not surprisingly, putting an end to the bulk collection of domestic telephone records and limits to spying on our allies overseas. Both issues drew intense criticism when they were discovered among records leaked by Edward Snowden (that’s right, we’re still talking about Edward Snowden). The independent, five-member panel providing the recommendations emphasized that the recommendations were designed to add transparency and accountability, but not to diminish America’s ability to collect intelligence needed to keep the country safe. “What we’re saying is, just because we can doesn’t mean we should,” said Richard Clarke, a member of the task force who was a counter-terrorism advisor to President George W. Bush.
Business: Down goes the stimulus. A little.
The Fed announced Wednesday that it will begin drawing down its bond-buying program during 2014, a sign that the economy has improved enough to start working on its own again. To offset the change, the Fed will continue to hold short-term interest rates near zero, which is considered a stronger boost to the economy anyway. All of this comes out to a pretty modest change, but a change nonetheless, and a sign that things are beginning to look up. Major stock indexes spiked at the news, likely because the Fed has now provided a clear course of action for the next couple of years. Previous uncertainty had led to a volatile market as investors worried that the Fed would make a bigger move toward drawing down.
Technology: Yikes! Target breach.
Target is investigating a security breach involving stolen credit and debit card information from 40 million customers, apparently accessed the day before Thanksgiving. Criminals maintained their access to Target’s retail transactions through December 15 – a time frame that conveniently includes the biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday. Federal authorities are now involved and customers (so, all of us?) have been advised to check their records closely for unauthorized transactions. If you’re big into shopping online though, we have good news; it looks like Target’s online shoppers are safe.
Sports: Olympic committee announced. Sans Obama.
The White House announced Tuesday its delegation to the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, one that will not include the president, first lady or the vice president. But it will include an openly gay athlete: tennis great Billie Jean King. This decision delivers a strong message of opposition to Russia’s anti-gay laws and is also the latest move in a tense relationship between the two countries. Though the White House did not directly comment on the reasons behind the make-up of the Sochi delegation, Obama has said, “I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.”
Women’s Affairs: Complications with India.
A major diplomatic row is brewing between the United States and India over the U.S. federal prosecutors’ case against Devyani Khobragade, India’s up-and-coming deputy consul general in New York. A mother of two young daughters, an Indian diplomat and women’s rights advocate, Khobragade was arrested last week on charges stemming from the alleged exploitation of her nanny. Secretary of State John Kerry made a conciliatory call to India’s national security advisor on Wednesday and “expressed his regret” over the incident, but the Justice Department appears to be taking a harder line, vowing to “uphold the rule of the law.” The New Delhi government has demanded an unconditional apology for the arrest and has curtailed U.S. diplomats’ privileges and security measures in retaliation.