January 17, 2013

By Eric Lee

LAWT Contributing Writer

 

On Wednesday President Barack Obama took to the podium in Washington to propose legislative actions that will take a comprehensive approach to tackling gun violence in the United States, including universal background checks, an assaults rifles ban, strengthening punishments on gun trafficking, and a ten round limit on magazine clips.

Though these measures are still to be discussed and debated on the congressional floor, the president implemented 23 executive orders that surpass the need for congress approval, taking place immediately.  These orders include ending a ban on gun violence research by federal agencies, reinforcement of the existing background check system, putting more counselors in school, and increasing access to mental health programs. 

With the most controversy surrounding gun control law in years, the president’s address was met with mixed reactions. The National Rifle Association (NRA) actually released an advertisement prior to the speech, depicting the executive as a hypocrite for allowing his children to be protected by government agencies while the children of civilians are not. The lobbyist group received immediate backlash from both sides of the political pond, but has yet to retract statements. Other organizations, such as Mayors Against Illegal Guns, praised Obama for his efforts to distain violence in America.

As for now, the majority of American people seem to align with the president on gun control. CNN, Time, and ORC released a combined poll claiming that the American populous stands 80/20, 70/30, and 60/40, on matters of universal background checks, magazine clip round limits, and an assault rifle ban respectively. In fact, the poll showed 55% of Americans to be in favor of new gun laws, while 44 percent are not. Ironically as the government is receiving praise for the valid attempts to hinder the impact of weapons in our nation, the poll shows many Americans to be skeptical of the new law’s productivity. The poll shows that 61 percent of Americans do not believe gun reform will deter violence, while 39 percent believe it will.

After the most recent of events, rather aligning with forces in support or against weapons, all sides agree that something needs to be done to make our country safer. It seems as if the issue of gun control will be a major factor in the president’s second term, with the possibility to make or break Obama’s image in the history books decades from now.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

January 17, 2013

By Lee-Anne Goodman Associated Press

 

The United States has long been a breeding ground for conspiracy theorists, spurred by an often-violent history riddled, in particular, with shadowy political assassinations.

But the latest conspiracy movement seems custom-made to underscore the need for a national debate on mental illness. Some of the Sandy Hook Truthers, as they’ve been dubbed, believe last month's mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax.

The Obama administration perpetrated the hoax, the conspiracy theorists claim, in order to ratchet up support for tougher gun control measures.

They call themselves Operation Terror, and many of the movement's adherents appear to have ties to the so-called 9-11 truthers who have long held that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were an inside job by the George W. Bush administration.

Their theories on the Dec. 14 shooting in Sandy Hook appear to lack any basis in fact, reality or common sense. But Google Trends suggests the movement is gaining momentum with both a Florida college professor and a libertarian Fox News anchor in Cincinnati questioning the official narrative on the events.

On various websites and blogs, some Sandy Hook truthers crow about the “smoking gun” they say proves the shooting was a hoax — a photo of President Barack Obama, backstage at a Newtown vigil two days after the shooting, a young blonde girl sitting on his lap.

They insist the girl is six-year-old Emilie Parker, one of the 20 child victims of the shooting. The Sandy Hook truthers claim her parents slipped up in their participation in the hoax, and allowed their eldest daughter to cuddle up to Obama.

“The story that she was killed at Sandy Hook is not possible, because here she is sitting on the president’s lap after the shooting,” intones the narrator of a YouTube video, one of dozens of its kind, this one the recipient of more than 260,000 web hits.

In fact, it’s the dead girl’s little sister.

The child’s father, Robbie Parker, was also faking his profound despair when he tearfully addressed the media shortly after his daughter's murder, the believers claim, and was reading from cue cards.

The family members of the massacre’s tiniest victims aren’t the only ones being accused of such unthinkable fraud as they continue to grieve.

A town resident who sheltered six youngsters after they fled Sandy Hook Elementary School in terror is even facing harassment from some of the conspiracy theorists.

Gene Rosen, a 69-year-old pet-sitter, told Salon.com this week that he’s getting phone calls and emails accusing him of fabricating his story.

One email read: “How are all those little students doing? You know, the ones that showed up at your house after the ‘shooting.’ What is the going rate for getting involved in a government-sponsored hoax anyway?”

Police are investigating the harassment. Rosen, who also comforted a frantic mother who came to his door looking for her deceased child, told Salon he’s furious at anyone who believes in such an outrageous conspiracy theory.

“There must be some way to morally shame these people, because there were 20 dead children lying an eighth of a mile from my window all night long,” he said.

“I am rageful about it, both for the children and for the mother of the child who came to my house looking for her son.”

Other Newtown conspiracy theorists allege there were four perpetrators from Israeli special forces, and that it wasn’t children who died, but a secret United Nations delegation.

Fox News’s Ben Swann is among those doubting Adam Lanza was the only shooter.

A Florida college professor also suggested on his personal blog that the Sandy Hook shooting may not have played out the way many believe it did — if it happened at all.

“I said that there may very well be elements of that event that are synthetic to some degree, that are somewhat contrived,” James Tracy, of Florida Atlantic University, recently told a local TV station in Boca Raton.

“I think that, overall, the media really did drop the ball. I don’t think that the media have gotten to the bottom of some of the things that may have taken place there.”

Conspiracy theories, indeed, are part of the national fabric of the United States.

A veritable cottage industry still surrounds the assassination of John F. Kennedy almost 50 years ago, with alleged culprits ranging from the CIA to the mob, Fidel Castro and Lyndon Johnson, or a combination of them all. One book even alleged a UFO connection.

During the Cold War, some believed Republican president Dwight D. Eisenhower was a Communist plant.

The 9-11 truthers assert that the twin towers of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan were brought down by timed explosions by those working for the Bush administration. And it was a guided missile that hit the Pentagon, not a jetliner, they allege.

More recently, the so-called birther movement advanced the theory that Obama was born in Kenya, not in Hawaii, and is therefore an illegitimate president.

One expert on the American conspiracy theory phenomenon points out, however, that throughout the course of U.S. history, there have been no shortage of massive government cover ups — and they’ve only served to encourage skeptics.

“There have been so many well-documented conspiracies in American history,” James Broderick, a professor at New Jersey City University, said in an interview.

Broderick points to everything from weapons of mass destruction to Lance Armstrong’s admission of longtime drug use after years of denials and Robert F. Kennedy’s recent acknowledgement that his family has long believed the official government report on JFK’s assassination was a whitewash.

“It does seem appalling the way conspiracy theorists, and many people in general, try to exploit for their own petty political purposes a national tragedy — it's sickening and disgraceful,” said Broderick, the co-author of the 2008 book “Web of Conspiracy.”

“But what the 9-11 truthers told me is what’s truly sickening and disgraceful is to not look deeper, to just accept pat answers without asking questions.”

Some of the people advancing theories of more than one shooter in Newtown might have their hearts in the right place, Broderick said.

“But of course there’s also a segment who are just angry at the government and at Obama all the time — the people who believe he’s a Muslim and a fascist and everything else — and they have jumped on the bandwagon, posted terrible things on the web and tried to fuel the fires in the most shameful ways.”

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

January 17, 2013

By FRAZIER MOORE Associated Press

 

Robin Roberts’ grueling road to recovery will be bringing her back to the “Good Morning America” anchor desk soon.

Appearing from her home on Monday’s show, Roberts wore a broad smile as she announced that her most recent bone marrow test showed no sign of the life-threatening disease that has kept her off the air for months.

That means she can begin the process of returning to the anchor chair, she said, emphasizing she needs to go through a “process of re-entry.”

She said she hopes to be back “in weeks, not months,” perhaps as soon as February.

“I’m coming home,” she declared during a festive appearance complete with “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” played as a musical accompaniment.

One of Roberts’ physicians, Dr. Gail Roboz, said the test last week gave them the results “we were looking for: Right now, did we get rid of what we started out trying to get rid of?”

She described Roberts’ recovery process as “no vacation — this has been brutal.”

The good news came 138 days after Roberts’ September bone marrow transplant. The donor for the 52-year-old Roberts was her older sister, Sally-Ann.

“Her cells continue to make themselves at home in my body,” Roberts said.

In June, she disclosed that she had MDS, a blood and bone marrow disease. Her last day on “GMA” was Aug. 30 before she began extended medical leave from the ABC morning show, which last summer overtook longtime ratings leader “Today.”

“I haven’t been live on television since the end of August,” she reminded her colleagues Monday. “My heart is beating so fast right now. But that means I’m alive. I’m alive!”

Roberts hasn’t exactly been absent from “GMA.” Reports on her condition have been faithfully showcased on the show, maybe to excess in the minds of some observers.

Pressed for details by her co-anchor, George Stephanopoulos, Roberts likened her return to an athlete getting back on the field after an injury.

“They don’t go right back into the starting lineup. They go to practice, they throw the ball, and see how their body reacts,” she explained.

One preliminary step: “I got up at 4 a.m. this morning,” she said proudly. “I’ve got to get back on ‘GMA’ time.”

Next week, she will go through a dry run: arriving at the studio and getting into makeup as if she were about to do the show, but stopping short of actually going on camera. It will be a test to see how her body reacts to the stress of being back in the studio environment, she said, adding that she will even need to re-accustom her skin to the studio lights.

After the dry run, Roberts and her doctors will evaluate her status to further pinpoint a return date.

“We’re going to take it step by step,” she said.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

January 17, 2013

Associated Press

 

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell says his own Republican Party is having “an identity problem.”

The former Joints Chief of Staff chairman who twice endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president tells NBC’s “Meet the Press” that in recent years there's been “a significant shift to the right,” and that’s produced two losing presidential campaigns.

He says the GOP needs to “take a very hard look at itself and understand that the country has changed” demographically, and that if the party doesn’t change, “they’re going to be in trouble.” He also bemoans what he calls “a dark vein of intolerance” in some elements of the party.

He describes himself as a moderate but still a Republican.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

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