Wednesday December 19, 2012

NRA ends silence on Conn. shooting, promises ‘to help to make sure this never happens again’

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The National Rifle Association is breaking its silence four days after a school shooting in Newtown, Conn., where 26 were killed, including 20 children.

The nation’s largest gun rights organization made its first public statements Tuesday after a self-imposed media blackout that left many wondering how it would respond to the killings. In its statement, the group said its members were, quoting, "shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders."

The group also said it wanted to give families time to mourn before making its first public statements. The organization pledged "to help to make sure this never happens again" and has scheduled a news conference for Friday.

NBC’s Richard Engel, crew safe in Turkey after escaping gunmen who abducted them in Syria

BEIRUT (AP) -- NBC’s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel said Tuesday he and members of his network crew escaped unharmed after five days of captivity in Syria, where more than a dozen pro-regime gunmen dragged them from their car, killed one of their rebel escorts and subjected them to mock executions.

Appearing on NBC’s "Today" show, an unshaven Engel said he and his team escaped during a firefight Monday night between their captors and rebels at a checkpoint. They crossed into Turkey on Tuesday.


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NBC did not say how many people were kidnapped with Engel, although two other men, producer Ghazi Balkiz and photographer John Kooistra, appeared with him on the "Today" show. It was not confirmed whether everyone was accounted for.

Engel said he believes the kidnappers were a Shiite militia group loyal to the Syrian government, which has lost control over swaths of the country’s north and is increasingly on the defensive in a civil war that has killed 40,000 people since March 2011.

"They kept us blindfolded, bound," said the 39-year-old Engel, who speaks and reads Arabic. "We weren’t physically beaten or tortured. A lot of psychological torture, threats of being killed. They made us choose which one of us would be shot first and when we refused, there were mock shootings," he added.

Ireland’s government says it will introduce law spelling out right to life-saving abortions

DUBLIN (AP) -- Ireland’s government says it will draft a new law spelling out the right of women to receive abortions in cases where the pregnancy poses a risk to their lives -- including from a woman’s own threats to commit suicide.

For two decades, successive governments have resisted passing any law in support of a 1992 Supreme Court judgment that such abortions should be legal in Ireland.

Catholic conservatives particularly oppose the suicide-threat justification, arguing it could be used to expand access to abortion beyond relatively rare cases where a pregnancy endangers a woman’s life.

Tuesday’s announcement follows international uproar over the October death of a miscarrying Indian woman in an Irish hospital.

Her widower said she was denied a prompt termination because the fetus had a heartbeat.

White House: Obama is ‘actively supportive’ of efforts to reinstate assault weapons ban

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House says President Barack Obama is "actively supportive" of efforts on Capitol Hill to reinstate an assault weapons ban.

Obama has long backed the ban, but has failed to push for it throughout his first term. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., plans to introduce legislation to reinstate the ban early next year.

White House spokesman Jay Carney says Obama would also support legislation to close the gun show "loophole," which allows people to buy guns from private dealers without background checks.

The president has pledged to address gun violence in the coming weeks following Friday’s deadly shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.

Obama spoke Tuesday with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat and avid hunter who is now supportive of a national discussion on preventing gun violence.