The school shooting that few remember

Feb 26, 2013 20:44 UTC

Newtown, Conn. ‑ What do you know about Chardon, Ohio? I have spent the past week putting this question to my friends and neighbors in Newtown, the place I have called home, off and on, since 1968. I asked my contacts, from the whip-smart hedge fund manager and graduate of Yale Law School to the big-hearted leader of a philanthropic foundation. Not one had heard of Chardon.

Shamefully, neither had I until two weeks ago, when I stumbled across a card sent to the Sandy Hook Elementary School. My 12-year-old son and I were combing through a dozen boxes, from among the tens of thousands of cards and letters that have arrived at our town hall. We were looking for artwork we could use to decorate the office walls of Sandy Hook Promise, the nonprofit I co-founded with fellow citizens to help our community heal and eventually find its voice on matters related to eliminating gun violence

The card is simple – one page of white paper, folded and adorned with a valentine on the front. Inside, another heart, with a message in red marker: “Stay Strong + Stay United. In Chardon We Are One Heartbeat.” At first glance, there was nothing that distinguished this letter from the millions of others carrying similarly lovely sentiments. That was until I read the blue cursive writing inside.

“Ten months after our school shooting at Chardon High School on Feb. 27, 2012, we are still healing and supporting each other. We still have the red ribbons tied around trees, up on houses and various places in town.” Gutted and embarrassed that Chardon had not registered in the least, I turned to the Internet.

It turns out that on that day in the school cafeteria, 17-year-old T.J. Lane fired 10 shots from a .22-caliber semiautomatic Ruger handgun, a weapon he obtained from his uncle’s home the night before. Demetrius Hewlin, 16; Daniel Parmentor, 16; and Russell King, 17, died from their wounds. Three other teenagers were injured. (On Tuesday, Lane pleaded guilty to multiple homicide charges.)

North Korea’s new neighbor in the Blue House

Feb 21, 2013 19:41 UTC

She’s been called principled, tough-mindedcompetent, and a dictator’s daughter. Park Guen-hye, a career politician and child of South Korea’s deceased military ruler Park Chung-hee, is a conservative known for her steadfast leadership. And when South Korea inaugurates its first-ever female president in a ceremony on Monday, Park’s reputation could hinge on her ability to handle her troublesome neighbor to the north.

North Korea exasperated world powers this month with its third nuclear test. Yet media reports and Park’s campaign pledges suggest her administration will seek a softer approach toward Pyongyang than that of her predecessor, Lee Myung-bak. Although her campaign offered few specifics, her criticism of Lee’s foreign policy indicates she could walk a middle line between his administration’s hardline approach and the peaceful “Sunshine Policy” of engagement and economic assistance her opponent and human rights lawyer Moon Jae-in hoped to reintroduce.

James Schoff, a senior associate in the Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former senior adviser for East Asia policy at the Department of Defense, expects the president-elect to adopt something of a “Goldilocks strategy” toward North Korea. ”Not too hard and not too soft.”

Latin America weighs odds of claiming the next pope

Feb 11, 2013 21:26 UTC

If the Vatican chose the next pope based on demographics, there would be a clear regional frontrunner. Forty-two percent of the world’s Catholics live in Latin America, and the surprise resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on Monday could be an opportunity for the Holy See to elect its first non-European pope.

Media organizations in several Latin American countries are focusing their attention on possible home-grown candidates. Yet, as this article by my colleagues at Reuters notes, the most likely candidates for the papacy from Latin America are from Brazil and Argentina:

“If the next conclave really is Latin America’s turn, the leading candidates there seem to be Odilo Scherer, archbishop of the huge diocese of São Paolo, or the Italian-Argentine Leonardo Sandri, now heading the Vatican department for Eastern Churches.”

In North Carolina, fracking rights rise to surface

Feb 8, 2013 17:12 UTC

A natural gas pipeline is seen under construction near East Smithfield in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, January 7, 2012. REUTERS/Les Stone

Three years ago, Vince and Jeanne Rhea found the house of their dreams in Shirley, Arkansas. They couldn’t believe the deal: 40 acres complete with a separate workshop that Jeanne could use as an art studio and two nearby lakes. It was also thousands of dollars cheaper than a property of that quality should have been. They booked a plane ticket from Raleigh, North Carolina that day to fly down and buy it.

When they got to Arkansas, they found out why it was so cheap.

The owner of the house had recently sold the mineral rights under the property to a natural gas company for use in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a drilling technique that is opening new areas across the country for energy exploration. The front page of the local newspaper that day had a story about problems in the water supply and was advising residents not to bathe, Jeanne recalled. “There was no way we were making an offer after that,” she said.

Amid Syrian refugee flood, aid workers grapple with a new set of problems

Feb 7, 2013 18:57 UTC

A recent report on Syria’s growing refugee crisis showed the extent to which fears of sexual violence are driving women out of the warn-torn country.

But the trail of gender-based violence and abuse also follows women out of Syria to camps, where they are also vulnerable, even under the watch of aid organizations.

As the crisis continues, more women are taking refuge in towns and villages, where they are difficult to account for, aid workers say, making it particularly challenging to provide care and protection.

Attacking obesity, one can at a time

Feb 6, 2013 21:34 UTC

 ”For over 125 years, we’ve been bringing people together. Today, we’d like people to come together on something that concerns all of us: obesity.”

REUTERS/Mike Blake

So opens a new commercial from Coca-Cola, which goes on to tout the company’s 180 low and no-calorie beverage options (roughly 27% of Coke’s 650+ beverage portfolio) and claims an overall reduction of 22% in the average number of calories per serving for Coca-Cola’s U.S. beverage products since 1997.

Unconvinced by the soda maker’s claims to nutritional progress, health advocates took Coke to task.

Brennan’s confirmation and where CIA drones go from here

Feb 6, 2013 19:09 UTC

If President Obama’s chief counterterrorism advisor John Brennan is confirmed as director of the CIA on Thursday, he will take the role of the lead authority for CIA drone strikes, institutionalizing a program that has killed an unknown number of suspected militants and civilians since 2004. Although his confirmation is expected to help preserve the drone program while glossing over concerns about its transparency and effectiveness so far, his appointment leaves a bigger question about the CIA’s future role.

Brennan’s open hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday has been pegged as a time to demand answers about the highly secretive U.S. campaigns to target and kill al Qaeda militants using unmanned aerial vehicles in places like Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. The administration is tight-lipped on the subject, and critics have assailed the campaign over its lack of public accountability. U.S. drone strikes have killed not just foreign militants, but also civilians and American citizens. Rights groups have lambasted the extrajudicial killings of American citizens, including the “Internet imam” Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son in Yemen. A New York Times report last May revealed that the government’s troubling definition of a “militant” suggests any military-age man in a strike zone is fair game. On Tuesday, a 16-page memo from the Justice Department published by NBC News further outlined the vague criteria for who can target and be targeted, as well as showed an expanded definition of conditions that the government can use to order strikes.

The effectiveness of the targeted killings remains unknown, and critics say the drone program serves as a recruiting tool for al Qaeda because it embitters local populations whose neighbors have been killed by drones.