Federal incentives for wind set to expire soon

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Wind energy advocates and South Dakota congressional members are worried that key federal incentives for wind power could expire in less than two weeks as negotiations over the fiscal cliff dominate lawmakers’ efforts.

The Production Tax Credit provides a 2.2-cent tax break for every kilowatt-hour of electricity produced from large-scale wind farms.

Sen. Tim Johnson says the Senate Finance Committee included an extension of the credit through 2013, but it’s wrapped in the 21 other extenders.

The South Dakota Democrat says delays have hampered growth and led to layoffs. He says stable policy will lead to more jobs in the state.

The American Wind Energy Association says a new U.S. manufacturing sector and 37,000 jobs could be lost by the first quarter of 2013 if Congress fails to act.

Energy News Headlines – Yahoo! News

Title Post: Federal incentives for wind set to expire soon

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On gun control, look to Biden

Rebecca Puckwalter-Poza says Vice President Joe Biden was a leader on gun control in the Senate.


  • Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza: Obama has apparently tapped Biden as gun control point man

  • She says he was leader in Senate on issue, shepherding 1994 gun control legislation

  • It banned manufacture of many semi-automatic guns,criminalized high-capacity magazines

  • Writer: Biden worked across aisle; he's adroit, determined statesman, right man for job

Editor's note: Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza served as deputy national press secretary of the Democratic National Committee during the 2008 election.

(CNN) -- President Obama's poignant speech at Sunday's interfaith vigil in Newtown, Connecticut, set the tone for our mourning. Now, America's path forward will be decided out of the spotlight. The question of whether the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School will linger only in memory or be memorialized by an enduring shift in gun policy can only be answered by the legislature.

Incoming Judiciary Committee chair Sen. Diane Feinstein has announced she will introduce an enhanced assault weapons ban on the first day of the new Congress, but the fate of that legislation is in the hands of Vice President Joe Biden.

Biden will reportedly lead the administration's political response.

Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza

Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza

No politician could be better suited to the challenge of passing federal gun control legislation than Biden. Over the past four decades, Biden has been one of the most consistent and effective advocates of gun control and violence prevention legislation. In 1994, Biden shepherded the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act through the Senate, a near miracle six years in the making.

After Biden wrote the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act in 1988, Republicans quickly filibustered, blocking the bill for four years. He steered "the Biden crime bill" through the lengthy filibuster by negotiating with Republicans and making revisions. "Every single line in that bill was written with every single major Republican a part of it," Biden said in a September 12, 1994, interview on the Charlie Rose show.

The Clinton administration and then-Sen. Biden repeatedly refused to make concessions that would have jeopardized the substance of the act, even after debate over the amendment we know as the federal assault weapons ban imperiled the entire bill. Instead of backing down, Biden took on Republican Sens. Phil Gramm and Orrin Hatch and faced opponents attacking the bill as taxpayer-funded "dance lessons and midnight basketball for robbers and rapists."

France: Where fear and taboo control guns more than laws

Biden did not budge: "Make no mistake, this is about guns, guns, guns." The crime bill passed the Senate in November 1993.

When the bill foundered in the House, Biden persevered. It reached President Clinton's desk thanks to an unexpected, eleventh-hour push from a "Lost Battalion of Republicans" led by Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware. He'd been swayed during a series of meetings with the House Speaker and other House Republicans, at which Biden was the only Senator in attendance.

The resulting legislation banned the manufacture of 19 types of semi-automatic firearms and criminalized the possession of high-capacity magazines. The process taught a critical lesson: When otherwise "pro-gun'" lawmakers have to choose between a crime bill including a gun ban and inaction, it is more than possible for them to vote to protect Americans. Unfortunately, the assault weapons ban expired in 2004. Since then, numerous lawmakers, including Joe Biden, have tried and failed to get the ban renewed.

Congress now has a rare opportunity to take new action on gun control. After Newtown, proponents of stricter gun legislation are backed by public opinion and bolstered by a surge of political support. The "pro-gun" wing of the GOP and the National Rifle Association remain silent even as their supporters are defecting publicly.

Democratic Sens. Harry Reid and Joe Manchin, whose voting record earned them the NRA's "top rating," have backed off their "pro-gun" positions and declared that "everything must be on the table" for legislative debate. The 31 pro-gun senators have not spoken since Friday's tragedy, signaling the possibility that some of them might be changing their minds on guns, too.

Lawmakers are essentially being asked to consider an updated version of the 1994 assault weapons ban. On Sunday, Feinstein promised the legislation "will ban the sale, the transfer, the importation and the possession" of assault weapons and ban high-capacity magazines as well as "clips of more than ten bullets."

Biden will likely support a new ban on assault weapons and push for improvements. His 2007 Crime Control and Prevention Act would not only have renewed the ban but required background checks for all gun purchases, closing the "gun show loophole.'" Biden has also called on Congress to address the relationship of mental illness to violence in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings.

Was your gun banned?

The president cautioned Americans Sunday, saying "no single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. But that can't be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this."

In his first term, however, Obama practiced a policy of appeasement, failing to block the expansion of gun rights or promote gun control. To ensure Congress passes tough, comprehensive gun control laws rather than settling for a watered-down version, as with health care, Obama must let Biden lead.

Why? Biden has distinguished himself as an adroit and effective statesman in both the legislative and the executive branches. The former six-term senator has a deft touch with moderate and conservative counterparts: in 2008, he eulogized Strom Thurmond. As vice president, he has spearheaded the implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Moreover, Biden has a particular passion for protecting students and educators. His wife, Jill Biden, has been teaching for more than 30 years.

The deaths of 20 first-graders and six adults compel all Americans as sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, uncles and aunts, to consult their moral compasses. Legislators face a greater responsibility: a moral imperative to pass any legislation that could possibly prevent a future Newtown, Aurora, Oak Creek or Blacksburg.

Opinion: Gun violence is a national security issue

As Obama ministers to the American people and offers words of comfort, Biden must move lawmakers to action. In 1994, Biden warned his colleagues, "we simply can't let the gun lobby deny to the American people the vital benefits in this bill." Biden must once more appeal to Congress to enact gun control. If anyone can succeed in those chambers, it's Joe Biden.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza

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Maine West coach suspended following hazing scandal

One of the two coaches linked to allegations of hazing on athletic teams at Maine West High School have been suspended without pay by the district while officials pursue his dismissal.

Maine Township High School District 207 reached that unanimous decision on the fate of Michael Divincenzo, a physical education teacher, former freshman baseball coach and current head boys and girls varsity soccer coach, after spending almost three hours in closed session Wednesday night at the district headquarters in Park Ridge.

"The board believes Mr. Divincenzo violated District 207 Board of Education policy and professional expectations by failing to adequately prevent, recognize, report and punish student hazing," board President Sean Sullivan said in a statement.

Divincenzo and freshman boys and girls soccer coach Emilio Rodriguez were put on paid leave and reassigned from teaching duties while the district and authorities investigate allegations of hazing on the school's soccer and baseball teams.

Divincenzo, a tenured teacher, has 17 days to request a hearing on his dismissal through the Illinois State Board of Education, Sullivan said. A hearing could take up to one year.

The board will continue consideration of any disciplinary action against other staff members involved in hazing allegations.

Earlier Wednesday night, more than 60 people, many of them former students and athletes, packed a public meeting Wednesday night to speak on behalf of the coaches.

"These two individuals that we're talking about today, they meant a lot to each and every one of us that's in this room today," said Alex Esquivel, a 2009 Maine West graduate and former soccer player, at a meeting in Maine Township High School District 207's headquarters in Park Ridge. "(Divincenzo) always stressed nothing but respect on and off the field. As a whole, I think he strived to make each and every one of us better men."

A 1994 Maine West graduate, Josh Thvedt said he has known Divincenzo since they were 5 years old. He said he's still in contact with Divincenzo.

"He's doing the best he possibly can under the circumstances," Thvedt said. "I think he'll try to find a way to move on. He's not a quitter."

Attorney Tony Romanucci, who is representing four athletes from the Des Plaines school in a lawsuit against the coaches and school officials, said after the public comments that he respected the opinions of those who spoke in defense of the coaches. But he said the accusers "suffer in silence."


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Egypt opposition vows to fight on against Islamist charter

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's opposition, facing defeat over a new constitution in a referendum this weekend, urged its supporters to reject the Islamist-backed charter and pledged to fight on to amend it during elections expected next year.

Forty-eight hours before the second round of the plebiscite, the main opposition coalition of liberals, leftist, Christians and secular Muslims called for a "no" vote against a document it views as leaning too far towards Islamism.

The first day of voting last weekend resulted in a 57 percent majority in favor of the constitution, promoted by President Mohamed Mursi as a vital step in Egypt's transition to democracy almost two years after the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

The second stage on Saturday is expected to produce another "yes" vote as it covers areas of the country that are seen as more conservative and likely to back Mursi.

The National Salvation Front, the main opposition coalition, said a "no" vote meant taking a stand against attempts by the Muslim Brotherhood, Mursi's political backers, to dominate Egypt.

"For the sake of the future, the masses of our people should strongly and firmly say 'no' to injustice and 'no' to the Brotherhood's dominance," the Front said in a statement.

A senior Front member, Abdel Ghaffar Shokr, head of the Popular Socialist Coalition Party, said that if the constitution was approved, the opposition would go on fighting to change it.

"That's why we will participate in the legislative election because it is the only way to amend the constitution," he said.

The constitution must be in place before elections can be held. If it passes, the poll should be held within two months.

In an attempt to mobilize voters, the opposition said it planned to hold public meetings, distribute flyers and send cars equipped with loudspeakers through the streets.

A street protest against the constitution in Cairo this week attracted only a few hundred people, well down on the numbers drawn to previous such events.


Islamist groups are planning a mass protest in Alexandria on Friday, a move likely to raise tensions a day before the vote.

The rally by the Muslim Brotherhood was called after a violent confrontation between Islamists and the opposition in Egypt's second city last week that ended with a Muslim preacher besieged inside his mosque for 14 hours.

The run-up to the referendum has been marked by often violent protests in which at least eight people have died.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for the final stage of the referendum to pass off peacefully so the country can focus on building "a pyramid of democracy in the heart of the Arab world".

"I sincerely hope there should be no further violence and the protest must be carried out in a peaceful manner so people will be free to express their views," Ban told reporters in New York on Wednesday.

Mursi and his backers say the constitution is needed to advance Egypt's transition from decades of military-backed autocratic rule. Opponents say it is too Islamist and ignores the rights of women and of minorities, including 10 percent of Egyptians who are Christian.

Demonstrations erupted when Mursi awarded himself extraordinary powers on November 22 and then fast-tracked the constitution through a drafting assembly dominated by his Islamist allies and boycotted by many liberals.

The referendum is being held over two days because many of the judges needed to oversee polling stayed away in protest.

Judicial authorities on Thursday named the judges who will supervise polling stations on Saturday. The opposition cited a lack of judges at some polling stations in a list of alleged irregularities in the first round.

In order to pass, the constitution must be approved by more than 50 percent of those voting.

(Writing by Giles Elgood; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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Stock futures set to gain for a third day, Oracle rallies

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stock futures rose on Wednesday as the latest offers in ongoing U.S. budget negotiations underlined hopes for a deal, while technology shares were lifted by strong results from Oracle.

The S&P 500 is on track to extend its best two-day run in a month, a sign that investors are looking past the "fiscal cliff," a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts many fear could push the economy into recession if they take effect next year.

President Barack Obama's most recent offer to Republicans in the ongoing fiscal talks made concessions on taxes and social programs spending, amid concerns from Senate Democrats. House Speaker John Boehner said he remained hopeful about an agreement, though the offer was "not there yet."

"Both Obama and Boehner have been making concessions, suggesting a deal will get done before the deadline, resulting in an acceleration in stock buying," said Adam Sarhan, chief executive of Sarhan Capital in New York.

Tech shares will be in focus a day after Oracle Corp reported earnings that beat expectations on strong software sales growth. Shares rose 2.1 percent to $33.56 in premarket trading.

FedEx Corp reported second-quarter revenue that beat expectations, but said its earnings in the quarter had been impacted by Superstorm Sandy. Shares were slightly lower in light premarket trading.

S&P 500 futures rose 2.7 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures added 37 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 10.5 points.

The S&P has gained 2.3 percent over the past two sessions, the first time it has notched two straight days of 1 percent gains since late July. Markets have been supported by any indication agreement might be reached, with banks and energy shares- groups that outperform during periods of economic expansion - leading gains.

"We've been breaking above levels of resistance, including the 50-day moving average and the November high, so from a technical standpoint we're seeing a lot of improvement," Sarhan said. "We're set up for a strong 2013."

Trading volume has been light ahead of the holidays and as some caution remains over the cliff. Equities have struggled to gain ground in recent weeks amid signs there was little room for compromise between the two political parties.

November housing starts are scheduled for release at 8:30 a.m. (1330 GMT). Economists in a Reuters survey forecast 873,000 housing starts in November versus 894,000 in October.

General Mills Inc reported earnings that beat expectations and raised its full-year profit view, citing a recent acquisition which lifted sales.

Knight Capital Group agreed to be sold to Getco Holding Company LLC in a deal valuing Knight at about $1.4 billion. Shares of Knight rose more than 6 percent in premarket trading before being halted.

Industrial machinery maker SPX Corp is closing in on a roughly $4.2 billion deal to buy rival Gardner Denver Inc , as it makes progress in securing financing, a source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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Jets bench Sanchez, will start McElroy vs Chargers

NEW YORK (AP) — Mark Sanchez is no longer the New York Jets' franchise quarterback.

He might not even be the backup.

Rex Ryan decided to bench Sanchez on Tuesday in favor of Greg McElroy after the fourth-year quarterback had another miserable performance in a 14-10 loss at Tennessee on Monday night that eliminated New York from playoff contention.

"I think it's best for our team, and for this game," Ryan said during a conference call.

So, it'll be McElroy under center for his first NFL start when the Jets (6-8) play the San Diego Chargers at home Sunday. Ryan hasn't decided whether Sanchez or Tim Tebow — listed as the No. 2 quarterback — will be the backup.

While Sanchez blew the second chance Ryan gave him a few weeks ago, Tebow was leapfrogged by a third-stringer, fueling speculation that the team has little confidence in him as a quarterback.

"I have to look at what I think is the best for the team and not necessarily the individual," Ryan said. "I'll say this about Tim and I've always said it: I know he wants to help this team be successful in the worst way and there's no doubt about that."

Sanchez threw four interceptions Monday night and wasn't able to handle a low snap with the game on the line, ending the Jets' hopes to get back into the postseason.

Things got worse after the game for Sanchez, who received a series of death threats from one disgruntled fan on Twitter. League spokesman Greg Aiello said the NFL's security staff was aware of the man's threats and was working with the Jets to assist on the matter. The team declined comment through a spokesman.

Ryan said after the loss that he wasn't ready to decide who would start against the Chargers, but told Sanchez he would be making a change at quarterback by going with either McElroy or Tebow.

"He respected my decision," Ryan said. "That's not easy, that's for sure."

After talking to his staff and members of the organization Tuesday, Ryan chose McElroy.

"This is my opinion, and I do believe that it's best for our team that Greg is our quarterback," Ryan insisted. "I'm the guy that's making this decision. Every decision I make is based on what I believe is the best decision for the team."

But Ryan was vague in his answers to why he selected McElroy above Tebow, choosing after being asked several times to not go into detail about what specifically factored into the decision.

"I can answer this question a million ways, frontward, backward, sideways, anything else," Ryan said. "It's my decision and I based it on a gut feeling or whatever."

McElroy, a seventh-round pick last year out of Alabama, helped lead the Jets to a 7-6 win over Arizona on Dec. 2 when Ryan pulled Sanchez from that game late in the third quarter. McElroy had modest numbers — 5 of 7 for 29 yards — but threw for the only touchdown of the game, and nearly led another scoring drive as the Jets ran out the clock.

Ryan decided to stick with Sanchez after that game, saying that the one-time face of the franchise gave the Jets their best chance at winning as they remained in the playoff hunt.

But Sanchez struggled in a 17-10 win over Jacksonville and again even more in the loss to Tennessee. McElroy, who gave the Jets a huge spark in his first NFL action, was inactive for both games. That hurt New York on Monday night when Ryan was unable to turn to McElroy since he was not in uniform for the game. Instead, Ryan went to Tebow for one series — which had been part of the game plan — but it was unproductive and Sanchez came back in for the next offensive possession.

Sanchez leads the league with 24 turnovers, including 17 interceptions, and has turned the ball over 50 times since the start of last season. His future with the team is uncertain because he signed a contract extension with New York in March that included $8.25 million in guaranteed money for next season.

Ryan would not commit to Sanchez beyond this season, and wouldn't discuss what the depth chart will look like.

"We have two games left and that's where my focus is going to be," he said. "What's past that will be determined later."

Sanchez was regularly booed during home games this season, falling out of favor with the fans who were excited when the Jets traded up to take him with the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft.

"Has he had better days than (Monday night)? Absolutely," Ryan said.

There certainly were some good moments for the former Southern California star, particularly in helping lead New York to the AFC championship game in each of his first two seasons, but he failed to take the next step in his development.

While his frequent mistakes in reading defenses and miscalculating throws are a huge reason for his struggles, Sanchez also wasn't helped by a constantly changing cast around him. Several of the team's top offensive players — Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, Jerricho Cotchery, Brad Smith, LaDainian Tomlinson, Plaxico Burress, Alan Faneca and Damien Woody — have all been released, traded or allowed to become free agents since Sanchez's rookie season. He is also working with his second offensive coordinator in Tony Sparano after an up-and-down three seasons with Brian Schottenheimer.

Tebow, acquired from Denver in March, has had a minor role in the offense after being expected to play a major part. He is recovering from two broken ribs that sidelined him for three games, but returned Monday night and had little impact. It would seem unlikely that Tebow, who helped lead the Broncos to the playoffs last season, will be back next season.

When Tebow arrived in New York, he often said he was "excited to be a Jet," but there's little doubt that he no longer feels that way. He has done his best to hide his frustration throughout the season, especially when the wildcat-style offense was talked up by Ryan and Sparano as a highlight of the offense.

Tebow has instead just been a spare part on an offense that ranks 30th in the NFL. He is 6 of 8 passing for 39 yards, and has run 32 times for 102 yards — playing a more significant role as the personal punt protector on special teams.

"People can speculate anything they want," Ryan said. Obviously, as a football team, we're 6-8 and nobody's happy about that and ultimately, I'm the one accountable."


Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Ecuador volcano blasts lava high above crater

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Volcano monitors say Ecuador’s Tungurahua volcano shot lava a half mile (1 kilometer) above its crater overnight and blasted hot rock and gas nearly 2 miles (3 kilometers) down its flank.

The regional director for the government’s emergency agency is Lourdes Mayorga and she says officials have prepared shelters and are working to evacuate any people in danger on Tuesday.

The country’s National Geophysics Institute said the volcano blasted lava well above its crater overnight and sent out a plume of ash and gas about a mile (1.5 kilometers) high.

The renewed eruption in central Ecuador began last week and plumes on Sunday rose as high as 3 miles (5 kilometers) above the 16,479-foot (5,023-meter) crater.

Science News Headlines – Yahoo! News

Title Post: Ecuador volcano blasts lava high above crater

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Virginia Tech mom: Ignore gun lobby

Newtown funerals: A community says goodbye

Newtown funerals: A community says goodbye

Newtown funerals: A community says goodbye

Newtown funerals: A community says goodbye

Newtown funerals: A community says goodbye

Newtown funerals: A community says goodbye

Newtown funerals: A community says goodbye

Newtown funerals: A community says goodbye

Newtown funerals: A community says goodbye

Newtown funerals: A community says goodbye

Newtown funerals: A community says goodbye

Newtown funerals: A community says goodbye

Newtown funerals: A community says goodbye

Newtown funerals: A community says goodbye

Newtown funerals: A community says goodbye

Newtown funerals: A community says goodbye

Newtown funerals: A community says goodbye

Newtown funerals: A community says goodbye

Newtown funerals: A community says goodbye

























  • Lori Haas: The magnitude of the Newtown shooting shocked me

  • Haas: It reminds me of when my daughter was injured in the Virginia Tech shooting

  • She says our elected leaders have abandoned all sense of right and wrong

  • Haas: How many victims would be alive today if leaders took their responsibilities to heart?

Editor's note: Lori Haas lives in Richmond, Virginia. After her daughter Emily was shot and injured at the Virginia Tech massacre, she became involved in gun violence prevention efforts, working for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

(CNN) -- Sitting in front of the TV on Friday, I watched in horror as the death toll climbed with each news report coming in on the mass shooting in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. The magnitude of the shooting shocked me.

It also took me back to five years ago, when I received a phone call on a blustery April morning that changed my life forever. I was out shopping, and my cell phone had rung several times, but I had chosen to ignore the calls. Luckily, I answered the third call, which came in at 10:38 a.m. My daughter Emily, then a sophomore at Virginia Tech, was on the phone. She said, "Mommy, I've been shot."

Clutching the phone, my knees buckling, I tried to make sense of what I was hearing. Emily quickly handed the phone to the EMT who had triaged her and was waiting with her for an ambulance. The EMT assured me that Emily was going to be fine, that there were very seriously wounded students that needed to be transported immediately and she was waiting with Emily for the next ambulance. She also shared that the situation on campus was "very bad."

Lori Haas

Lori Haas

The world soon knew how bad it was. The incident at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, remains the worst mass shooting in U.S. history in terms of casualties. Thirty-two students and school staff were killed that morning by a dangerously mentally ill student with guns, including high-capacity magazines. The killer should have been prevented from purchasing firearms, but when he purchased his weapons, his mental health records were not in the FBI database against which background checks are run. He used 30-round magazines, which had been outlawed up until 2004, when Congress let the Assault Weapons Ban expire.

We were one of the lucky families -- our daughter survived, when so many others did not. Eleven of the 17 students in her classroom were killed, along with her professor. A classmate dialed 911 when they first heard the shooter, but dropped his cell phone when almost immediately, the killer burst into the classroom and began spraying bullets at everyone. Emily reached over and picked up the phone and kept the dispatcher on the phone during the entire ordeal by hiding the phone. Law enforcement repeatedly told me how brave Emily was to keep them on the line.

Law enforcement has also told me that the single most effective thing we can do to prevent gun violence would be to require all purchasers for all gun sales to undergo a background check. Then-Gov. Tim Kaine appointed a panel of experts to investigate all aspects of the massacre and report back their recommendations. Recommendation VI-2 stated, "Virginia should require background checks for all firearms sales." Sadly, that hasn't happened, and gun deaths now outpace motor vehicle deaths in my state.

America has witnessed mass shooting tragedies grow in frequency in the last five years to the point that, according to one report, there have been 16 mass shootings between February 22, 2012, and December 14, 2012, leaving over 80 dead and many injured. I can't help but ache with sorrow, anguish and concern for all those families suffering the sheer agony that I saw the families of the 32 killed at Virginia Tech suffer.

And I can't help but be angered at the cowardly behavior from our elected leaders. They have abandoned all sense of right and wrong, despite epidemic deaths from guns, and ignored their duty not only to keep our communities safe from gun violence, but to keep our children safe as well.

When I think of those killed -- over 60,000 Americans have been murdered with guns since the shooting at Virginia Tech -- I have to wonder how many might be alive today if our elected leaders had taken to heart their responsibilities.

Why is it that our elected leaders have not only ignored the pleas of survivors and family members of victims of gun violence, but those of our public safety officials -- police and law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line day in and day out -- only to listen to the gun lobby when determining public safety policy? What sense can that make when the gun lobby's sole purpose is to sell as many firearms as possible to make as much money as possible?

We have come to a time when many say the unimaginable has happened again -- the mass shooting in the Newtown school where 26 people were killed, including 20 children. It is sheer senselessness. My heart goes out with the utmost compassion to the families suffering so terribly from Friday's massacre.

For those whose loved ones have been killed, there is no real closure; there are permanent holes in their hearts. Time may lend a helping hand to healing, but their lives have been changed irrevocably. As my friend Lynnette, whose son was murdered in the Virginia Tech shooting, laments, "There is no ending to the heartache." I am brought to tears thinking of all we have seen, all we have not done and all we have let die.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Lori Haas.

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NIU frat members charged in hazing surrender to police

While members of a fraternity began surrendering to police throughout the region Tuesday, Northern Illinois University officials said more than 30 men and women at the school also face disciplinary sanctions in the death of a freshman pledge.

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, 13 of 22 Pi Kappa Alpha members charged in the death of David Bogenberger had walked into police stations and were processed, DeKalb police said in a statement. At least seven posted bond and were released, police said.

DeKalb County State's Attorney Richard Schmack declined to say whether his office is considering additional actions against those involved. Authorities on Monday charged five members of the fraternity with felony hazing violations and 17 others with misdemeanor counts stemming from Bogenberger's death.

Those who turned themselves in Tuesday included three of the five fraternity leaders charged with felony hazing: fraternity president Alexander M. Jandick, 21, of Naperville; pledge adviser Omar Salameh, 21, of DeKalb; and event planner Steven Libert, 20, also of Naperville.

For two hours on Nov. 1 at the Pi Kappa Alpha house, the 19-year-old finance major from Palatine participated in an unsanctioned "parents' night," in which pledges walked from room to room and answered questions in exchange for vodka and other liquor, authorities allege.

The next morning, Bogenberger was found dead in a fraternity house bed. His blood-alcohol content was about five times the legal limit for driving, authorities said.

Those responsible for the party violated Illinois' hazing statute by providing a large quantity of alcohol to underage pledges and "creating a situation where the pledges felt compelled to consume alcohol as part of membership initiation and the Greek parenting process," according to a statement from DeKalb city and county officials and Bogenberger's family.

In addition to the criminal charges against the 22 fraternity members, NIU officials said they filed university code-of-conduct charges against 31 fraternity and sorority members alleging violations related to hazing and alcohol.

NIU previously had said 31 fraternity members faced charges but amended that Tuesday to state that the number includes fraternity and sorority members. It's likely that some students face both criminal and university disciplinary charges.

Penalties range from a reprimand to suspension or expulsion from the school.

"I believe there will be more charges coming," said Jeanne Meyer, NIU's director of community standards and student conduct. "We will pursue whatever information we receive."

University officials said Pi Kappa Alpha violated university procedures by failing to register the "parents' night" party, an annual event so named because senior members of the fraternity and associated sororities are assigned as mentors to new members. Bogenberger was among 19 pledges at the party.

His cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia, but alcohol intoxication was listed as "a significant condition contributing to death," the joint statement reported.

The school suspended Pi Kappa Alpha shortly after Bogenberger died, and the fraternity's main headquarters, which sponsors HazingPrevention.org, said Tuesday that the DeKalb chapter remains "administratively suspended."

In a statement, Pi Kappa Alpha Executive Vice President Justin Buck said the parents' night "may represent some type of locally developed, informal activity ... which stray(s) from the fraternity's mission and values, and can create dangerous environments for young people."

A few hours earlier in DeKalb, NIU student Chris Rowe walked across the shuttered fraternity house lawn and said he supported the filing of charges in Bogenberger's death.

"Somebody lost their life — it's not like they broke a finger," said Rowe, of Chicago. "Somebody should be held responsible."

Clifford Ward is a freelance writer. Jodi S. Cohen is a Tribune reporter. Tribune reporter Ted Gregory contributed.



Twitter: @ChicagoBreaking

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South Korea's Park seen winning presidential race

SEOUL (Reuters) - The daughter of a former military ruler led the count of votes in South Korea's presidential election on Wednesday, putting her on track to become its first woman head of state although her narrow advantage meant the race was set to go to the wire.

A win for 60-year old conservative Park Geun-hye would see her return to the presidential palace where she served as her father's first lady in the 1970s after Park's mother was assassinated by a North Korean-backed gunman.

With a third of the votes counted, Park led by 53 percent to 47 percent for her left-wing challenger, human rights lawyer Moon Jae-in, and broadcaster KBS said based on that, she would win by at least four percentage points.

She also led an exit poll by 50.1 percent to Moon's 48.9 percent.

Final turnout was 75.8 percent, just less than the 77 percent her opponent had appealed for in a bid to turn out the youth vote that was more likely to be for him.

If she does win, Park will take office for a mandatory single, five-year term in February and will face an immediate challenge from a hostile North Korea and have to deal with an economy in which annual growth rates have fallen to about 2 percent from an average of 5.5 percent in the past 50 years.

She is unmarried and has no children, saying that her life will be devoted to her country.

At the headquarters of her Saenuri party, officials greeted the exit polls with a huge cheer, although a clear picture of results may not emerge until 11 p.m. (1400 GMT).

"I'm sure it will go well," said Kim Sung-joo, co-chairwoman of Park's election committee.

The legacy of her father, Park Chung-hee, who ruled for 18 years and transformed the country from the ruins of the 1950-53 Korean War into an industrial power-house still divides Koreans.

For many conservatives, he is South Korea's greatest president and the election of his daughter would vindicate his rule. His opponents dub him a "dictator" who trampled on human rights and stifled dissent.

"I trust her. She will save our country," said Park Hye-sook, 67, who voted in an affluent Seoul district, earlier in the day.

"Her father ... rescued the country," said the housewife and grandmother, who is no relation to the candidate.

For younger people, the main concern of the election is the economy and the creation of well-paid jobs in a country where income inequalities have grown in recent years.

Cho Hae-ran, 41, who is married and works at a trading company, believed Moon would raise wages if he won.

"Now a McDonald's hamburger is over 5,000 Korean won ($4.66) so you can't buy a McDonald's burger with your hourly pay. Life is hard already for our two-member family but if there were kids, it would be much tougher."

Park has spent 15 years in politics as a leading legislator in the ruling Saenuri party, although her policies are sketchy.

Park has a "Happiness Promotion Committee" and her campaign was launched as a "National Happiness Campaign", a slogan she has since changed to "A Prepared Woman President".

She has cited former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a tough proponent of free markets, as her role model as well as Angela Merkel, the conservative German Chancellor who is Europe's most powerful leader.


One of those who voted on Wednesday was Shin Dong-hyuk, a defector from North Korea who is the only person known to have escaped from a slave labor camp there.

He Tweeted that he was voting "for the first time in my life", although he didn't say for whom.

Park has said she would negotiate with Kim Jong-un, the youthful leader of North Korea who recently celebrated a year in office, but wants the South's isolated and impoverished neighbor to give up its nuclear weapons program as a precondition for aid, something Pyongyang has refused to do.

The two Koreas remain technically at war after an armistice ended their conflict. Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of the North's current leader, ordered several assassination attempts on Park's father, one of which resulted in her mother being shot to death in 1974.

Park herself met Kim Jong-un's father, the late leader Kim Jong-il, and declared he was "comfortable to talk to" and he seemed to be someone "who would keep his word".

The North successfully launched a long-range rocket last week in what critics said was a test of technology for an intercontinental ballistic missile and has recently stepped up its attacks on Park, describing her as holding a "grudge" and seeking "confrontation", code for war.

Park remains a firm supporter of a trade pact with the United States that and looks set to continue the free-market policies of her predecessor, although she has said she would seek to spread wealth more evenly.

Moon had pledged to tackle the power of the country's vast export-oriented industrial conglomerates, the so-called chaebol, but Park has stressed their value in creating jobs.

The biggest of all the chaebol, Samsung Group, which produces the world's top selling smartphone as well as televisions, computer chips and ships, has sales equivalent to about a fifth of South Korea's national output.

(Additional reporting by Jumin Park, Seongbin Kang, Narae Kim, SoMang Yang; Writing by David Chance; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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