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Dec. 15, 2012 at 8:17 AM   |   Comments

Obama: Every parent has a heavy heart

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said Saturday "our hearts are broken" over the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn.

"On Friday, we learned that more than two dozen people were killed when a gunman opened fire in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. "Most of those who died were just young children with their whole lives ahead of them. And every parent in America has a heart heavy with hurt.

"Among the fallen were also teachers -- men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams.

"So our hearts are broken today. We grieve for the families of those we lost. And we keep in our prayers the parents of those who survived. Because as blessed as they are to have their children home, they know that their child's innocence has been torn away far too early.

"As a nation, we have endured far too many of these tragedies in the last few years. An elementary school in Newtown. A shopping mall in Oregon. A house of worship in Wisconsin. A movie theater in Colorado. Countless street corners in places like Chicago and Philadelphia.

"Any of these neighborhoods could be our own. So we have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this. Regardless of the politics.

"This weekend, Michelle and I are doing what I know every parent is doing -- holding our children as close as we can and reminding them how much we love them.

"There are families in Connecticut who can't do that today. And they need all of us now. Because while nothing can take the place of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need -- to remind them that we are there for them; that we are praying for them; and that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their own memories, but also in their community, and their country," Obama said.


Conn. school shooter called quiet, shy

NEWTOWN, Conn., Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Former classmates describe Adam Lanza, who gunned down 26 children and adults at a Connecticut elementary school, as a shy child and teenager.

The body of Lanza's mother was found Friday in the home they shared. Investigators believe he shot her in the face and then went to Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Kateleen Soy told the Hartford Courant she knew Lanza as a seventh-grader at St. Rose of Lima School in Newtown and later saw him in the halls at Newtown High School. She described him as "really painfully shy."

"I wanted people to know he wasn't always a monster," Soy said. "He became one, but he wasn't always that way."

Andrew Lapple said he was on the same Little League team and also sat next to Lanza in homeroom at the high school. He called Lanza a "tech-geek" with little talent for baseball.

"He was always carrying around his laptop holding onto it real tight," Lapple said. "He walked down the halls against the wall almost like he was afraid of people. He was definitely kind of strange, but you'd never think he'd do something like this."

Police have not speculated on Lanza's motives. The Courant said reports his mother worked at Sandy Hook Elementary School have not been confirmed.

Martha Moskowitz, a former bus driver, said she had known Lanza, his mother and his older brother, Ryan.

"You know the trouble kids, and you figure, 'Pfft, that one's going to be trouble.' But I never would have thought that about them," she said.

Investigators focused on confirming the identities of the dead, 20 children and six adults. A spokeswoman for the New York City medical examiner said a "portable morgue" had been sent to Newtown, The New York Times reported.

The Newtown shooting is believed to be the second most deadly school shooting in U.S. history. In 2007, a student at Virginia Tech, Seung-hui Cho, killed 32 students and teachers and then killed himself.


Voting begins on Egypt's constitution

CAIRO, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Voting on Egypt's draft constitution began Saturday amid reports of election violations and confrontation at polling stations.

Voting is in two stages, with some governorates voting Saturday and the rest on Dec. 22.

The new constitution has divided the country and sparked weeks of deadly confrontations between opponents and supporters of President Mohamed Morsi.

Presidential spokesperson Yasser Ali told CNN Morsi voted Saturday, denying a claim by "some opponents" that he voted outside his district, violating election laws. Ali said Morsi changed his place of residence after he was elected president.

Ahram Online said electoral violations were being reported at several polling places.

Sami Yassin of the National Human Rights Council, a monitor at polling stations in the Shubra district in Cairo, said the Salafist Nour Party is campaigning for a "yes" too close to polling stations in violation of the law.

Yassin said voting cards were not stamped in several other polling stations and that judges had to open ballot boxes to restamp them.

An elections observer was detained by bearded men in a polling station in Belbes for videotaping confrontations outside of a polling station, an activist told Ahram Online.

Ahram Online also said very few judges were available -- many judges said they would protest against the draft constitution -- resulting in long lines.


French combat troops out of Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- The last of the French combat troops left Afghanistan Saturday when about 200 soldiers from the 25th Belfort infantry regiment departed.

French officials said about 1,500 troops would remain in Afghanistan to train soldiers and prepare equipment so it can be returned to France, Radio France Internationale reported.

French troops operated in Kapisa province.

The remaining troops will be stationed mainly in Kabul.

RFI said the departure of the last of the combat troops fulfills a campaign promise of President Francois Hollande, who campaigned for an accelerated withdrawal of combat forces and called for their removal by the end of 2012, two years before all coalition combat troops withdraw.

Eighty-eight French troops have died in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

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