First family heads to Hawaii for holidays
WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama and the first family left Washington Friday evening for Honolulu, where they plan to spend Christmas, the White House said.
The president, first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters, Sasha and Malia -- with the family dog, Bo -- left Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland just after 7:35 p.m.
The announcement did not say when the president plans to return to Washington to deal with debt and budget deficit negotiations with Congress.
The first family had no scheduled public events during their stay in Hawaii.
Armored backpacks for kids now big sellers
NEW YORK, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Armored backpacks for children have been flying off the shelves since the Newtown, Conn., school shootings, U.S. distributors say.
The backpacks cost several hundred dollars each, the New York Daily News reported, with at least one company offering children's styles with motifs like Disney princesses. Companies reported sales have gone up several hundred percent, admittedly from a low base.
Elmar Uy, vice president of BulletBlocker, a Massachusetts company, said he first realized something dramatic had happened because of the increase in customer interest last Friday.
"Part of my daily activity is to monitor the numbers," he told the Daily News. "I was seeing numbers I'd never seen before and I thought it was a glitch. Our Web traffic was10 times more than normal. I turned on the TV and there it was on CNN."
Uy said BulletBlocker backpacks, which cost up to $600 each based on size, will stop more than 99 percent of handgun bullets.
Adam Lanza, 20, who had already killed his mother, gunned down 20 children and six staff members at the Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday before taking his own life.
LaPierre: Protect schools with armed guards
WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- National Rifle Association chief Wayne LaPierre Friday called a Washington news conference to call for armed guards in every school to protect children.
LaPierre, shortly after the nation observed a moment of silence for the 20 children and six teachers slaughtered one week ago at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., said the "only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." He also blamed violent movies and video games, which he said encourage violence.
The NRA had been keeping a low profile as calls for new gun control measures mounted in the wake of last Friday's shooting in which Adam Lanza, 20, shot his mother to death in their Newtown home as she slept and then forced his way into the school and opened fire. He then killed himself.
LaPierre, who declined to take questions from reporters, said NRA members are just as sickened by the massacre as anyone else.
Duma approves ban on U.S. adoptions
MOSCOW, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- The U.S. ambassador to Russia denounced a bill that would ban adoptions to the United States as the measure received final approval Friday in the Duma.
The vote in the lower house of parliament was overwhelming, The New York Times reported. The measure must still pass the upper house next week and be signed by President Vladimir Putin, who has not yet said whether he will sign it.
U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul said Russian children now in institutions would be the losers.
"If it becomes law, the legislation passed today will needlessly remove the path to families for hundreds of Russian children each year," McFaul said in a statement. "The welfare of children is simply too important to be linked to other issues in our bilateral relationship."
Incidents in which Russian adoptees were mistreated in the United States sparked the legislation. It was named after Dmitri Yakovlev, an adopted toddler who died in 2008 after being left in a hot car in Virginia.
The adoption ban was a response to the Magnitsky Act, a U.S. law named after Serge Magnitsky, a human rights lawyer who died in police custody in 2009. The law imposes economic sanctions on Russian officials found to have been involved in human rights abuses.
Lawmakers expanded the Russian bill to include all countries that approve sanctions on Russia, RIA Novosti reported.
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