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Hundreds attend vigil for Sandy Hook shooting victims at National Cathedral

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Hundreds solemnly gathered in Washington’s National Cathedral on Thursday to mark the first anniversary of the Newtown school massacre and demand tougher laws to combat gun violence in the United States.

Pop icon Carole King was lined up to perform her 1977 song “In the Name of Love” at the late-afternoon vigil, which organizers hoped would pull the media spotlight away from the New England town where 20 first-grade pupils and six educators were killed.

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Several Newtown residents, including relatives of the dead, were expected at the vigil spearheaded by the Newtown Foundation, a non-profit group that calls for tougher gun laws.

“As Christians, we follow one who died at the hands of human violence,” said the Episcopal cathedral’s dean Gary Hall, who noted that 32,000 have died this year in the United States in firearm-related incidents.

“We call our elected leaders to find the moral courage and the political will to lead us all into a new, safer era in American history,” said Hall in remarks released ahead of the vigil.

“Make us instruments of your peace, and strengthen our hearts and hands and minds — not only to care for the victims and survivors of gun violence, but also to bring about the change that will end the violence caused by guns in the hands of the criminal, the sick, and the cruel.”

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Twenty-year-old Adam Lanza used an military-style semi-automatic rifle during his shooting spree in the classrooms and hallways of Sandy Hook Elementary School, then shot himself in the head on the morning of December 14, 2012.

He had earlier shot and killed his mother, who owned the guns he used, in her bed as a prelude to the second deadliest mass shooting by a single person in the United States after the Virgina Tech massacre in 2007 in which 33 died, including the lone gunman.

Newtown’s civic leaders have urged reporters to stay away from their picturesque and affluent community two hours’ drive from New York to enable it to mourn the victims and comfort each other in peace.

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Many news organizations say they will respect the request, while the Newtown Bee newspaper, on its website Thursday, carried a photo of a sign outside a local church that read: “No media — police take notice.”

The school, shuttered after the bloodbath, underwent demolition in October, with plans afoot to erect a new school in its place.

In a report last month, Connecticut state attorney Stephen Sedensky said Lanza had “significant mental health issues” and an obsession with the Columbine high school massacre in Colorado in 1999 in which 15 died, including the two young gunmen.

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But he said Lanza’s motive was a mystery.

“The evidence clearly shows that the shooter planned his actions, including the taking of his own life, but there is no clear indication why he did so,” the report said.

The majority of gun-related deaths in the United States involve suicide, but one group, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, says an “escalating epidemic of gun violence” is claiming a child’s life every three hours and 15 minutes.

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The shocking scale of Newtown triggered calls for tougher gun laws, in a nation where the right “to keep and bear arms” is enshrined in the Constitution and where there are, by some estimates, as many guns as people.

But a high-profile attempt by President Barack Obama to outlaw semi-automatic rifles and expand background checks for gun-buyers failed amid stiff opposition from the National Rifle Association and other gun groups.

The White House said earlier this week that Obama, the father of two young daughters, would honor the Newtown anniversary with a moment of silence on Saturday.

Moms Demand Action has meanwhile announced rallies in more than 35 states for Saturday, each featuring a communal ringing of bells “to remember the victims and show that the time for silence is over.

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[Image via Agence France-Presse]


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Iran accuses foreign forces of raising Gulf ‘insecurity’ — but doesn’t mention Trump by name

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President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday denounced the presence of foreign forces in the Gulf and said Iran will present a peace plan, after its arch-foe Washington ordered reinforcements to the tense region.

"Foreign forces can cause problems and insecurity for our people and for our region," Rouhani said before a military parade commemorating the Iran-Iraq war.

Rouhani also said Iran would present a peace plan to the United Nations within days.

"In this sensitive and important historical moment, we announce to our neighbours that we extend the hand of friendship and brotherhood to them," he said.

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2020 Election

Trump holds mass rally with Indian Prime Minister that was more like a campaign event than official one

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US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday declared themselves united in a relentless fight against "terrorism," vowing a close, personal alliance in front of tens of thousands of Indian-Americans.

The two leaders, like-minded nationalists fond of fiery rallies and skeptical of traditional media, heaped praise on each other in an unusual joint appearance inside a football stadium in Houston.

To the bhangra beats of four drummers in saffron turbans, Trump in his dark suit and Modi in a yellow kurta and vest made a grand entrance with arms clenched together to ecstatic cheers from a crowd estimated by organizers at 50,000.

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Here’s how the law governing whistleblowers applies to the Trump Ukraine complaint

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This week it was revealed that President Donald Trump did something so concerning that an intelligence staffer felt the need to report the incident and file for whistleblower protections.

Trump asked Ukraine to look into scandals about former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter. For nearly a year, Trump's former attorney Rudy Giuliani was admittedly working to persuade officials in Ukraine to find "dirt" on the Bidens that they could use in the election. While the accusations against the younger Biden have been disproven, it's suspected, but not confirmed, that this was the incident detailed in the complaint.

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