Newtown’s community struggles to understand one of its own

Dec 17, 2012 14:08 UTC

This column was originally published in the Wall Street Journal.

NEWTOWN, CONNECTICUT – The word “community” is overused. It is even the title of a television sitcom. But in the context of Newtown – the Connecticut town of 27,000 that I’ve known as home since 1969 – it is authentic. Yet from within our midst came Adam Lanza, now a murderer of 20 innocent local children, six of their dedicated teachers, and his own mother.

Today the world is focused on our heretofore-bucolic slice of America. As the international media’s satellite dishes sprout and their choppers descend to dissect the shooting and the shooter, Newtown is mostly presented as either an affluent suburb of New York or a picture-perfect New England hamlet with old-timey colonial houses, horse farms and a historic Main Street.

Neither characterization does it justice. To live here is to know why, after two decades of global wandering, I returned eight years ago to raise my family.

I never expected to come back to Newtown. But as my two boys – born in Milan and London – began their schooling, it became obvious that of all the places I could choose to live, none was better. My parents would be nearby, and I knew the quality of the schools, with their committed teachers and involved parents, because both my brother and I attended them from K-12. Even more than all that, it was Newtown’s sense of being one town – albeit encompassing many differences- that made it so unlike any of the other places I had lived.

Yes, it is also charming. Take a stroll on Main Street from the iconic flagpole that marks the spiritual center of town, as hundreds of journalists will in the days ahead and as every politician does during the Labor Day parade. There is the Newtown Meeting House, a church first constructed in 1720 and best known for the weather vane on its steeple.

Why Chavez keeps his cancer under wraps

Dec 14, 2012 21:56 UTC

Military personnel attend a mass to pray for Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, December 13, 2012. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Six presidents from five different countries in Latin America have been diagnosed with cancer over the past few years. Yet Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez stands apart from the others, keeping details about his health shrouded in secrecy. His neighbors in the region have announced their diagnoses and treatments, stamping out speculation and allowing media coverage to get on with it. Both critics and supporters of Chavez, whose idea of medical updates has included declaring himself “completely cured” twice, claim his illness has been used for political gain. However, Chavez’s reluctance to share information about his cancer is hardly unique for a leader poor in both health and transparency.

Presidents from Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, and Colombia reconciled their illnesses with public concern by disclosing details about their cancers. Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff battled lymphoma while campaigning for president, while former Brazilian President Inacio Lula da Silva allowed journalists to photograph him shaving his head and beard before chemotherapy for throat cancer. Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo kept the public updated after the he was diagnosed with lymphoma while president, ultimately declaring the cancer to be in remission a year later. Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez announced the date of her surgery to remove her thyroid gland in early 2012, offering details of her treatment (which turned out to be for naught when a post-operative examination revealed she did not have cancer in the first place). Most recently, Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos announced he had prostate cancer halfway through his presidential term and ahead of politically-sensitive peace talks with the FARC. As with the other leaders, Santos openly discussed his recovery with reporters. These leaders kept voters abreast of developments in their treatment despite the possibility of casting doubt on their political careers.

from Hallie Seegal:

A local obstruction in the fracking pipeline

Dec 11, 2012 16:38 UTC


There are high hopes that the natural gas extraction technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, will boost the economy and bring the United States closer to energy independence, but if the energy industry expects to break new ground and fulfill a growing demand anytime soon, they need to make friends with the people who reside near the drilling rigs.

Two new reports out last week point to the potential of how fracking, the process whereby a highly-pressured mixture of water, sand and chemicals is blasted through underground shale rock formations to release natural gas, could positively benefit our economy. One study projects that natural gas will account for nearly one-third of total U.S. energy produced by 2040, and the other one, a government commissioned report which the Obama administration is expected to partially base its shale gas policy on, shows natural gas exports providing revenue to the struggling economy under every condition considered.

Fracking well

A natural gas well is drilled near Canton, in Bradford County, Pennsylvania January 8, 2012. REUTERS/Les Stone

What to watch in 2013 world news

Dec 7, 2012 16:56 UTC

Any opinions expressed here are the author’s own.

Online chatter and political dithering from every corner of the world can make it difficult to follow a narrative when it comes to international news. To cut through the noise, here are four important potential developments to watch next year. Coming up in 2013: “Drug war” frustrations hit a high, Syria groans on, U.S. foreign policy trips over its own feet, and war comes to a computer near you.


U.S. influence on drug policy goes up in smoke.

After six years of drug-related violence in Mexico that has terrorized local communities and killed at least 60,000 people, Latin American governments are fed up with the  ”war on drugs.” In 2012, the U.S. government’s no-tolerance policy was challenged both at home and abroad.

Next year, President Obama will face an “unprecedented revolt” by Latin American countries as their leaders begin to doubt U.S. policies publicly, Brian Winter writes for Reuters. Frustrations run high as cartels continue to rake in profits shuttling illegal drugs across the border to meet U.S. demand while citizens are caught up in rampant violence. Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico in 2012 together urged the UN to consider more effective drug policies, and Uruguay proposed legislation to legalize marijuana.