Daily Archives: December 15, 2012

U.S. overseeing mysterious “Site 911” construction project for Israel Defense Forces

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Washington Post | Nov 28, 2012

By Walter Pincus

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to supervise construction of a five-story underground facility for an Israel Defense Forces complex, oddly named “Site 911,” at an Israeli Air Force base near Tel Aviv.

Expected to take more than two years to build, at a cost of up to $100 million, the facility is to have classrooms on Level 1, an auditorium on Level 3, a laboratory, shock-resistant doors, protection from nonionizing radiation and very tight security. Clearances will be required for all construction workers, guards will be at the fence and barriers will separate it from the rest of the base.

Only U.S. construction firms are being allowed to bid on the contract and proposals are due Dec. 3, according to the latest Corps of Engineers notice.

Site 911 is the latest in a long history of military construction projects the United States has undertaken for the IDF under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program. The 1998 Wye River Memorandum between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has led to about $500 million in U.S. construction of military facilities for the Israelis, most of them initially in an undeveloped part of the Negev Desert. It was done to ensure there were bases to which IDF forces stationed in the West Bank could be redeployed.

As recorded in the Corps’ European District magazine, called Engineering in Europe, three bases were built to support 20,000 troops, and eventually the Israeli air force moved into the same area, creating Nevatim air base. A new runway, 2.5 miles long, was built there by the Corps along with about 100 new buildings and 10 miles of roads.

Over the years, the Corps has built underground hangers for Israeli fighter-bombers, facilities for handling nuclear weapons (though Israel does not admit having such weapons), command centers, training bases, intelligence facilities and simulators, according to Corps publications.

Within the past two years the Corps, which has three offices in Israel, completed a $30 million set of hangars at Nevatim, which the magazine describes as a “former small desert outpost that has grown to be one of the largest and most modern air bases in the country.” It has also supervised a $20 million project to build maintenance shops, hangars and headquarters to support Israel’s large Eitan unmanned aerial vehicle.

Site 911, which will be built at another base, appears to be one of the largest projects. Each of the first three underground floors is to be roughly 41,000 square feet, according to the Corps notice. The lower two floors are much smaller and hold equipment.

Security concerns are so great that non-Israeli employees hired by the builder can come only from “the U.S., Canada, Western Europe countries, Poland, Moldavia, Thailand, Philippines, Venezuela, Romania and China,” according to the Corps notice. “The employment of Palestinians is also forbidden,” it says.

Among other security rules: The site “shall have one gate only for both entering and exiting the site” and “no exit or entrance to the site shall be allowed during work hours except for supply trucks.” Guards will be Israeli citizens with experience in the Israeli air force. Also, “the collection of information of any type whatsoever related to base activities is prohibited.”

The well-known Israeli architectural firm listed on the plans, Ada Karmi-Melamede Architects, has paid attention to the aesthetics of the site design as well as the sensibilities of future employees. The site, for example, will be decorated with rocks chosen by the architect but purchased by the contractor. Three picnic tables are planned, according to the solicitation.

The Corps offered a lengthy description of the mezuzas the contractor is to provide “for each door or opening exclusive of toilets or shower rooms” in the Site 911 building. A mezuza (also spelled mezuzah) is a parchment which has been inscribed with Hebrew verses from the Torah, placed in a case and attached to a door frame of a Jewish family’s house as a sign of faith. Some interpret Jewish law as requiring — as in this case — that a mezuza be attached to every door in a house.

These mezuzas, notes the Corps, “shall be written in inerasable ink, on . . . uncoated leather parchment” and be handwritten by a scribe “holding a written authorization according to Jewish law.” The writing may be “Ashkenazik or Sepharadik” but “not a mixture” and “must be uniform.”

Also, “The Mezuzahs shall be proof-read by a computer at an authorized institution for Mezuzah inspection, as well as manually proof-read for the form of the letters by a proof-reader authorized by the Chief Rabbinate.” The mezuza shall be supplied with an aluminum housing with holes so it can be connected to the door frame or opening. Finally, “All Mezuzahs for the facility shall be affixed by the Base’s Rabbi or his appointed representative and not by the contractor staff.”

What’s the purpose of Site 911? I asked the Pentagon on Tuesday, and the Corps on Wednesday said that only an Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman could provide an answer.

This may be a trend-starter. The Corps is also seeking a contractor for another secret construction project in Israel in the $100 million range to awarded next summer. This one will involve “a complex facility with site development challenges” requiring services that include “electrical, communication, mechanical/
HVAC [heating, ventilation, air conditioning] and plumbing.” The U.S. contractor must have a U.S. secret or equivalent Israeli security clearance for the project, which is expected to take almost 21/2 years to complete.

That sounds like a secure command center.

The purpose of Site 911 is far less clear.

Jackie Chan: China should crack down on Hong Kong protesters

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Martial arts star Jackie Chan Photo: Getty Images

Jackie Chan, the martial arts star, has placed his Kung Fu-kicking foot in his mouth by reportedly suggesting Chinese authorities should crackdown on Hong Kong’s vibrant protest movement.

telegraph.co.uk | Dec 12, 2012

By Tom Phillips, Shanghai

The actor’s comments, made during an interview with a Chinese newspaper, provoked a fierce reaction from critics who described him as a stooge for the Chinese government.

“Hong Kong has become a city of protest,” Chan, the star of more than 100 films, reportedly told China’s Southern People Weekly newspaper.

“People scold China’s leaders, or anything else they like, and protest against everything.

“The authorities should stipulate what issues people can protest over and on what issues it is not allowed,” he added.

Hong Kong’s residents, many of whom are fiercely proud of their ability to speak and protest freely, were quick to respond.

“Chan doesn’t bother to understand why some Hong Kong people choose to take to the streets. He just tends to think that whatever the government does is correct,” Leung Man-tao, a Hong Kong-based writer, told Hong Kong’s leading newspaper, the South China Morning Post.

The newspaper also published photographs showing Mr Chan himself protesting on three separate occasions. “The Rush Hour star has obviously forgotten his own penchant for protesting,” it noted.

Online opinion also rounded on the Hong Kong-born film star. “Protest is a basic right for Hong Kong people,” wrote Cao Junshu on the Chinese microblog Weibo. “Jackie Chan has problems with morals and in the realm of thought. He is following the government so closely and takes great delight in kissing ass. In fact, this man has a loose mouth.”

Chan, 58, has fallen foul of public opinion before. In 2009 he triggered outrage after telling a forum in China: “I don’t know whether it is better to have freedom or to have no freedom. With too much freedom, it can get very chaotic. Chinese people need to be controlled, otherwise they will do whatever they want.” A British colony until it was returned to Chinese control in 1997, Hong Kong retains considerable autonomy from the mainland under Beijing’s “One-country, two-systems” policy.

The shelves of Hong Kong’s bookshops are stocked with books and magazines that are banned in mainland China and its streets frequently host major protests which would not be permitted on the mainland.

In September, thousands of Hong Kongers took to the streets to protest against Beijing-backed plans to introduce compulsory “moral and national education” classes to local schools.

The protests underlined growing nervousness about Beijing’s perceived meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs.

US sends troops to Turkish-Syrian border

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U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (R) speaks with Col. Christopher E. Craige, Commander of the 39th Air Base Wing at Incirlik Air Base Photo: REUTERS

The United States will send 400 troops to the Turkish border along with two Patriot missile batteries to help its ally defend against potential threats from neighbouring Syria.

telegraph.co.uk | Dec 14, 2012

The move was part of a wider Nato effort to bolster Turkey’s air defences amid growing border tension, with Ankara siding with opposition forces battling President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Speaking at the Incirlik base, 60 miles from the Syrian border, Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary, called Turkey a key ally and said the deployment of Patriot batteries would ensure Ankara will “have the missile defence they may need”.

Germany and the Netherlands have also agreed to provide advanced “hit-to-kill” Patriot weapons, which are designed to knock out cruise and ballistic missiles as well as aircraft. On Friday, the German parliament approved by a wide majority the deployment of the missiles to Turkey, along with up to 400 German soldiers.

The move coincides with rising fears the Syrian regime may resort to using chemical weapons against rebel forces and after Assad’s army unleashed Scud missiles in recent days.

Panetta renewed a US warning that the Assad regime must not use its chemical weapons against opposition forces, saying the United States was prepared to take military action if necessary.

He said the Pentagon had drawn up possible options to present to President Barack Obama “as to what should be done … should we get intelligence that’s what they intend to do”.

But he acknowledged that any attempt to secure or destroy Syria’s chemical weapons would be fraught with danger.

“When you’re dealing with this kind of stuff, you can’t just simply go in there and blow it up,” as bombing could trigger the release of chemical agents, he said.

“It’s not easy,” he added.

The Pentagon chief said his biggest concern was that the Assad regime might resort to chemical weapons in desperation.

“You can’t imagine anyone who would do that to their own people. But history is replete with those leaders who made those kind of decisions, terrible decisions,” he said. “So we have to be ready.”

Turkey has vowed to defend its territory after cross-border artillery fire wounded civilians and following the downing of one of its fighter jets.

The Patriot batteries would not be useful for artillery or mortar fire but would be employed to thwart missile attacks.

The Patriot, or “Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target”, came into its own during the 1991 Gulf War when they were deployed to protect American and allied forces from Iraqi Scud missiles. The Patriot’s boxy launch units became instantly recognisable in TV images of the conflict.

The anti-ballistic defence system was developed by arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin for the US military

Killing Civilians: Obama’s Drone War in Pakistan

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On August 11, 2011 a report of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism said, “The Guardian published some of the pictures, we have obtained…as many as 168 children have been killed in drone strikes in Pakistan during the past seven years.

globalresearch.ca | Dec 14, 2012

By Sajjad Shaukat

In his second term, it was expected that the U.S. President Barack Obama would reassess America’s controversial foreign policy, especially by ceasing CIA-operated drone attacks on Pakistan. But these aerial strikes continue on Pak tribal areas.

It is worth mentioning that Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam, who visited America in August, 2012, emphatically told the then-CIA Director David Petraeus that predator strikes are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty that must be stopped. He pointed out that these strikes are proving counterproductive, giving a greater incentive to fundamentalist and extremist elements in Pakistan and are increasing anti-U.S. sentiments among the people.

While addressing the UN General Assembly on September 25, President Asif Ali Zardari said, “Drone strikes and civilian casualties on our territory add to the complexity of our battle for hearts and minds through this epic struggle” against terrorism.

Besides, after her meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on September 21 in Washington, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar stated that they had discussions on drones, saying, “These are illegal and counterproductive.” She explained that when “a U.S. drone carries out a strike, Pakistani officials have to hear remarks that this is a U.S. war.” Khar elaborated that in 352 terrorist attacks in Pakistan, many of those killed were Pakistanis as opposed to foreigners.

While justifying these air strikes by spy planes, the counterterrorism advisor to Obama, John Brennan, and Defense Minister Leon Panetta have defended these attacks on Pakistan’s tribal areas under the pretext of North Waziristan-based Haqqani militants whom they have blamed for several assaults on American and NATO bases in Afghanistan. On the other hand, U.S.-led coalition forces have failed in stopping incursions of heavily-armed insurgents in Pakistan from thye Afghan side who have killed more than 100 personnel of Pakistan’s security forces in the last two years while targeting the infrastructure of the area. In fact, the U.S. seeks to make North Waziristan a scapegoat for NATO’s defeat in Afghanistan by continuing the illegal mass murder of innocent people through Predator strikes.

However, setting aside parliamentary resolutions, rallies and processions of Pakistan’s political and religious parties against drone attacks, and ignoring the new rapprochement between Islamabad and Washington, without bothering about any internal backlash, these strikes keep on going on in the FATA.

In fact, such American duplicity contains a number of covert designs. The fresh wave of strikes by pilotless aircraft has thwarted the offer of militants and the Pakistani government for peace talks. And the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has as a result accelerated subversive activities in the country. Now, the U.S. seeks to incite the Haqqani network as over the past 14 months, as most of these strikes have targeted North Waziristan. So, these aerial attacks are provoking the tribal people against Pakistan’s security forces and increasing the recruitment of insurgents. Another aim of these strikes is to create a rift between Pakistan’s armed forces on one side and the political and religious parties including the general masses on the other. Besides, Pakistan is the only nuclear country in the Islamic world. Hence, the U.S., India and Israel are determined to weaken it. The drone campaign is also part of this game.

The strikes by the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) which have continued in Pakistan’s tribal areas since 2004 have intensified during the Obama era. In one of the major drone attacks more than 40 civilians and policemen were killed on March 18, 2011 in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan. In the past few months, these unmanned aircraft killed more than 100 people in North Waziristan.

As regards civilian casualties, on August 11, 2011 a report of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism said, “The Guardian published some of the pictures, we have obtained…as many as 168 children have been killed in drone strikes in Pakistan during the past seven years.” While rejecting the CIA’s false claim, the report disclosed, “It is a bleak view: more people killed than previously thought.”

Besides, a report of the New America Foundation revealed that President Obama has “authorised 193 drone strikes in Pakistan, more than four times the number of attacks that President Bush authorised during his two terms.” The report explained, “When the U.S. drones attack Pakistan’s tribal areas, it is not just the 10, or 50, innocent civilians they kill, these killings provide reason to youth for joining terrorist groups waging war against the U.S. and of course Pakistan…while killing 10 militants, the U.S. has murdered more than 1,400 Pakistanis not involved in any terrorist activities. Could it not be inferred that it gave birth to another 1,400 militants?”

The latest report, “Living Under Drones,” prepared by experts from the Stanford Law School and the New York University School of Law, disclosed that the U.S. campaign of drone “strikes in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt is terrorising civilians 24 hours a day and breeding bitter anti-American sentiment. [They] have killed thousands of people…even stopping their children going to school for fear of being targeted.” Based on research, the report urged Washington to rethink its drone strategy, arguing it was counterproductive and undermined international law.

Nevertheless, details collected by Pakistani journalists show that civilian casualties through drone strikes are higher as indicated [even] by U.S. officials. In the last four years, more than 800 innocent civilians and only 22 Al-Qaeda commanders have been killed by these aerial attacks.

Particularly during his first presidential campaign, Barack Obama pledged to reverse the excesses of the Bush era in relation to terrorism. He also promised to reformulate a counterterrorism policy in accordance with the legal and moral values of the U.S. Contrary to his assertions, Obama followed Bush’s approach to counterterrorism in its worst form by expanding and accelerating the Predator strikes.

In this respect, The New York Time on May 26, 2011, in an article which was written with the assistance of several counterterrorism advisers of the administration, revealed, “President Obama has become personally involved in the process” and “has normalised extrajudicial killings from the Oval Office, taking advantage of America’s temporary advantage in drone technology. Without the scrutiny of the legislature and the courts, and outside the public eye, Obama is authorising murder on a weekly basis.”

Notably, the American constitution explicitly grants the right to declare war to the Congress so as to restrain the president from chasing enemies around the world, based solely on his authority as commander-in-chief, by waging a secret war.

Instead of capturing militants alive and to avoid giving the right of due process of law to them in a court, President Obama has openly been acting upon a ruthless policy of targeted killings by supervising the CIA-controlled drone warfare.

Notably, President Obama has broken all the records for human rights violations by extrajudicial killings of innocent people through CIA-operated unmanned aircraft, which are part of his so-called counterterrorism operations in Somalia, Yemen, etc. in general and Pakistan in particular, while the U.S. claims to be the protector of human rights not only inside the country but all over the world.

On the one hand, top U.S. officials, particularly Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have repeatedly said that America needs Pakistan’s help not only for the peace process with the militants, but also for stability in Afghanistan in the post-2014 scenario; but on the other, U.S. spy planes in Pakistan’s tribal regions are undermining international efforts for stability both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including a peace dialogue with the Afghan militants.

Meanwhile, Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism, said on August 16 of this year that it was time for “the U.S. to open itself up to scrutiny as to the legality of such attacks…each strike is visually recorded and videos could be passed to independent assessors.” Recently, former U.S. presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have also opposed Obama’s faulty strategy of drone strikes.

Nonetheless, these strikes are illegal, unethical and a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty as well as the UN Charter. But U.S. warrior President Obama remains intransigent in continuing his secret war through drone attacks.

White House to consider building a Death Star

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A petition to build a Death Star space station has received the 25,000 signatures needed for it to be considered by the White House.

telegraph.co.uk | Dec 14, 2012

The Death Star is the size of the Moon in the Star Wars film franchise and is capable of destroying a planet with a single laser beam.

The petition, which calls on the US government to “secure funding and resources” and “begin construction” on a Death Star by 2016 now has more than 27,000 signatures.

The Death Star is the size of the Moon in the Star Wars film franchise and is capable of destroying a planet with a single laser beam.

The campaign’s founder, identifying himself only as John D, is based in Longmont, Colorado, and registered the petition on the White House website on Nov 14.

The website claims that any petition gaining the appropriate number of signatures will be guaranteed an assessment by the president’s staff, sent to the “appropriate policy experts” and receive an official response.

John D wrote: “By focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform and weapon system such as a Death Star, the government can spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering and space exploration.”

In February, students at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania calculated that the cost of steel alone for a Death Star would be 13,000 times the world’s gross domestic product, or £541,261 trillion.

Knife wielding man goes on rampage in Chinese school

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State-run news agency Xinhua said police had arrested a 36-year-old villager named as Min Yingjun Photo: Alamy

Twenty-two school children and an elderly woman have reportedly been injured after a knife-wielding man went on the rampage outside a school in central China.

telegraph.co.uk | Dec 14, 2012

The attack took place at around 7.40am Friday morning as children arrived for class at a primary school in Henan province’s Chenpeng village.

State-run news agency Xinhua said police had arrested a 36-year-old villager named as Min Yingjun.

In a post on Weibo, the Chinese micro-blogging site, local reporter He Zhengquan, described the attack as a “vicious incident.” “One mental patient charged into a group of students on their way to school, hacked and injured one resident and 22 students,” he wrote.

Police were putting their “full efforts” into rescuing the injured, Mr He added. A photograph, posted online, showed one apparently injured child being carried into a hospital. It was not clear if there had been any fatalities.

An official at a local hospital told Associated Press the man had attacked an elderly woman before setting on the children and then being controlled by school guards.

Recent years have seen a series of often-deadly attacks on Chinese schools. Among the worst was a March 2010 attack, when a man used a knife to kill eight students outside a school in Fujian province.

Two months later a man armed with a meat cleaver killed seven children and two women at a nursery in Shaanxi province. He then committed suicide.

China school knife attack leaves 23 injured

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An image circulated on Weibo, China’s equivalent to Twitter, allegedly shows family members with a child hospitalized for injuries suffered in a knife attack at a school in the village of Chengping, in Henan Province, Dec. 14, 2012.

CBS News | Dec 14, 2012

BEIJING A man wielding a knife attacked students Friday at a school in central China, leaving 22 children and one adult injured, according to state-run media reports.

The attack occurred at the gate of an elementary school in the village of Chengping, in Henan Province. Police arrested the attacker, who they identified as local resident Min Yingjun, 36.

Children as young as six were among those hospitalized after the attack, suffering injuries including slashes to the ears and head.

An official at Guangshan Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital, the local facility, told CBS News at least two students had been transferred to the larger city of Wuhan, not far from Chengping, for treatment. The editor of the local newspaper which first reported the story said none of the children had injuries severe enough to threaten their lives.

The attack marks the latest in a series of violent assaults at elementary schools in China. In 2010, a total of 18 children were killed in four separate attacks. On March 23 of that year, Zheng Minsheng attacked children at an elementary school in Fujian Province, killing eight.

One month later, just a few hours after Zheng Minsheng was executed for his crime, another man, Chen Kanbing wounded 16 students and a teacher in a knife attack at another primary school in Fujian. The following month, on May 12, a man named Wu Huangming killed seven children and two adults with a meat cleaver at a kindergarten in Shaanxi Province. That attack was followed by an August 4 assault by Fang Jiantang, who killed three children and one teacher with a knife at a kindergarten in Shandong Province.

In 2011, a young girl and three adults were killed with an axe at an elementary school in Henan Province by a 30-year-old man named Wang Hongbin, and eight children were hurt in Shanghai after an employee at a child care center attacked them with a box cutter.

Some Chinese bloggers have blamed the lack of freedom of expression for the attacks, suggesting people frustrated by their own circumstances but lacking the means to seek justice or voice their concerns with the all-powerful communist government, lash out instead at the least powerful members of society.

China’s lack of mental health care facilities may also be partly to blame for the attacks. There are almost no mental health care facilities in rural communities, which have experienced dramatic changes over the last several years as China’s economy has grown.

Obama remains committed to assault weapons ban, White House

CNN | Dec 14, 2012

obamaWashington (CNN) — The White House said President Barack Obama supports reinstatement of a federal ban on assault weapons — a position he took in the 2008 campaign but failed to press during his first term.

“It does remain a commitment of his,” presidential spokesman Jay Carney told reporters as the nation reeled from a mass shooting in Connecticut that mainly killed school children.

An emotional Obama did not address that issue directly in a televised statement from the White House on the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown that killed 26 people but said something had to be done.

“We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics,” said Obama, the father of two girls.

He wiped away tears when he spoke of the “beautiful little kids” killed in the massacre.

Police recovered three weapons from the scene: a semi-automatic .223 Bushmaster rifle, a Glock and a Sig Sauer, both handguns, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation.

Others also spoke out for a strong federal response.

“We cannot simply accept this as a routine product of modern American life. If now is not the time to have a serious discussion about gun control and the epidemic of gun violence plaguing our society, I don’t know when is,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, said in a statement.

Witness: At least 100 rounds fired

Congress approved a ban on assault weapons in 1994. The prohibition, which expired in 2004, did not eliminate them, but restricted their features, limiting magazine capacity to 10 rounds and regulating pistol grips, bayonet attachments and flash suppressors.

Gun rights generally divide Americans.

A Pew poll conducted after the 2011 assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, that killed six other people, found that 49% of Americans said it was “more important to protect the rights of Americans to own guns,” while 46% said it was “more important to control gun ownership.”

But a survey conducted by CNN/ORC International in August shortly after the deadly theater mass shooting earlier this year in Aurora, Colorado, found that 76% of those surveyed believe “there should be some restrictions on owning guns.”

Obama supported a platform while running for president in 2008 that included reinstating the assault weapons ban, but has largely avoided the issue of gun control during his first term.

He wrote an opinion piece two months after the Giffords shooting acknowledging the importance of the Second Amendment right to bear arms and called for a “focus” on “effective steps that will actually keep those irresponsible, law-breaking few from getting their hands on a gun in the first place.”

Obama said at a presidential debate in October that he wanted a “broader conversation” in general about reducing gun violence.

“Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced,” he said.

The National Rifle Association, which advocates for gun rights, said in a statement it would not have anny comment on the Connecticut shooting “until the facts are thoroughly known.”

Kristin Goss, an associate professor of public policy and political science at Duke University and author of “Disarmed: The Missing Movement for Gun Control in America” earlier this year that the pro gun control side of the issue “has struggled to come up with a compelling narrative” to convince more people to support stricter gun laws.

“For a long time, these gun violence rates and massacres speak for themselves. They relied on that to make the case but were up against a very powerful but very well disciplined and skillful army that was good at taking those arguments apart,” Goss said.

Obama Pledges ‘Meaningful Action’ After Connecticut Shooting

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President Barack Obama wipes his eye as he talks about the Connecticut elementary school shooting, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, in the White House briefing room in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Time | Dec 14, 2012

By Alex Altman

Wiping tears from his eyes, President Barack Obama urged the nation to “come together” in the wake of a shooting that left more than two dozen people dead, many of them children, Friday morning at a Connecticut elementary school.

“We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years,” Obama said in brief remarks Friday afternoon at the White House, some six hours after a gunman in his 20s reportedly opened fire in a kindergarten classroom.

According to the Associated Press and other news outlets, the grisly massacre — which unfolded at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in the wooded enclave of Newtown, Conn., some 70 miles northeast of New York City — left 27 people dead, including 20 children. Connecticut law enforcement officials said the gunman was among the dead. The preliminary tally would make the massacre among the deadliest in U.S. history, perhaps surpassed only by a 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech University, where a mentally ill student killed 32 people before turning his guns on himself.

Obama Wiping Away

His voice halting and cracking, Obama spoke emotionally of the young victims — “beautiful little kids,” he said, between the ages of 5 and 10, who “had their entire lives ahead of them: birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.” As he has after similar tragedies, Obama invoked his own role as a father as he sought to comfort a community wracked with grief.

The incident is the latest in a sequence of mass shootings around the U.S. in recent years. Obama referenced several in his remarks, including the slayings at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisc., and a rampage at a suburban Denver movie theater last summer. “As a country, we’ve been through this too many times,” Obama said. “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

Many Americans have called on lawmakers to impose new gun-control regulations in an effort to curb future catastrophes. There is no evidence yet that such measures would have prevented the carnage in Connecticut. Although the gun-rights lobby has stoked fears about Obama’s desire to restrict gun rights, the President signed bills in his first term that allowed the possession of firearms in national parks and on Amtrak trains. His record of modestly expanding gun rights prompted one gun-control group to assail Obama’s “extraordinary silence and passivity,” and award the President an “F” on gun control in 2010. Obama eschewed the topic on the campaign trail this year, though he did allow, during the second presidential debate, that he favored the reintroduction of an assault-weapons ban.

What Obama meant by “meaningful action” was unclear. White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters earlier Friday that a policy debate could wait for another day. Despite the spate of shootings, gun control has been a dormant issue in Congress of late. The stakes of the issue, however, were underlined by Obama’s surroundings as he addressed the public on Friday. He delivered his remarks in the James S. Brady Briefing Room, named for the press secretary who was shot and severely injured during an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.

Michael Bloomberg: Gun Control Needs ‘Immediate Action’ From Obama In Wake Of School Shooting

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called on President Barack Obama to take immediate action on gun control following the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting on Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

huffingtonpost.com | Dec 24, 2012

WASHINGTON — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called on President Barack Obama to take “immediate action” following Friday’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which reportedly left at least 27 dead, including 20 children.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, Bloomberg noted that Obama rightly sent his condolences to the families in Newtown, but urged the president to immediately introduce reforms that would create more restrictions around gun control. He is the co-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of more than 600 mayors who support gun control initiatives, through which he issued the statement.

“The country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem,” Bloomberg wrote. “Calling for ‘meaningful action’ is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership – not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response.”

Earlier in the day, the president addressed the shooting from the White House with a call for action to prevent such violence in the future. “We’re going to have to come together to meaningful action on this, regardless of the politics,” Obama said.

Bloomberg, one of the nation’s most vocal proponents of gun control, expressed frustration at the lack of any such action on gun laws after the spate of mass shootings over the past several years.

“With all the carnage from gun violence in our country, it’s still almost impossible to believe that a mass shooting in a kindergarten class could happen,” Bloomberg wrote. “It has come to that. Not even kindergarteners learning their A,B,Cs are safe.”

The mayor expressed similar criticism in the wake of the deadly movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., in July, which claimed 12 lives and injured dozens of others.

“I don’t think there’s anybody, any rational person, that seriously could argue that what we have and the way we enforce it prohibits carnage,” Bloomberg said in July about the nation’s gun enforcement laws. “There’s 34 people killed every single day [nationwide]. We’ve killed more than 400,000 Americans since 1968, when RFK and Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated. That is more Americans than died during WWII. So the argument that we can do with existing laws and stop this is just preposterous. It isn’t worth having a discussion about.”

His own proposal for gun control calls for a federal requirement for background checks at gun shows in order to deny individuals access to firearms if they have a criminal record or a history of mental illness. Bloomberg has also fought for updated and more streamlined databases on gun ownership and purchases that would enable law enforcement agencies to work together more efficiently.