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Andrew Solomon: The Reckoning

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© Peter Lanza
Adam and Peter Lanza on a hike when Adam was about ten. As a child, Peter says, Adam was “just a normal little weird kid.”
In Peter Lanza's new house, on a secluded private road in Fairfield County, Connecticut, is an attic room overflowing with shipping crates of what he calls "the stuff." Since the day in December, 2012, when his son Adam killed his own mother, himself, and twenty-six people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, strangers from across the world have sent thousands upon thousands of letters and other keepsakes: prayer shawls, Bibles, Teddy bears, homemade toys; stories with titles such as "My First Christmas in Heaven"; crosses, including one made by prison inmates. People sent candy, too, and when I visited Peter, last fall, he showed me a bag of year-old caramels. He had not wanted to throw away anything that people sent. But he said, "I was wary about eating anything," and he didn't let Shelley Lanza - his second wife - eat any of the candy, either. There was no way to be sure it wasn't poisoned. Downstairs, in Peter's home office, I spotted a box of family photographs. He used to display them, he told me, but now he couldn't look at Adam, and it seemed strange to put up photos of his older son, Ryan, without Adam's. "I'm not dealing with it," he said. Later, he added, "You can't mourn for the little boy he once was. You can't fool yourself."

Since the shootings, Peter has avoided the press, but in September, as the first anniversary of his son's rampage approached, he contacted me to say that he was ready to tell his story. We met six times, for interviews lasting as long as seven hours. Shelley, a librarian at the University of Connecticut, usually joined us and made soup or chili or salads for lunch. Sometimes we played with their German shepherd. When Peter speaks, you can still hear a strong trace of rural Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, where he and his first wife - Nancy, Adam's mother - grew up. He is an affable man with a poise that often hides his despair. An accountant who is a vice-president for taxes at a General Electric subsidiary, he maintains a nearly fanatical insistence on facts, and nothing annoyed him more in our conversations than speculation - by me, the media, or anyone else. He is not by nature given to self-examination, and often it was Shelley who underlined the emotional ramifications of what he said.

Comment:
The Sandy Hook Massacre: Unanswered Questions
SOTT Talk Radio: The Sandy Hook Massacre, What Really Happened?


Light Saber

Hundreds gathered for anti-fracking march in Manchester, England

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© Twitter/Sara Firth
Hundreds of protesters marched through Manchester, England on Sunday in what is believed to be one of the largest anti-fracking rallies to take place in the UK.

A recent survey carried out by the Manchester Evening News found that 73 percent of Greater Manchester residents are opposed to the controversial gas extraction technique - so on Sunday at noon, up to 1,000 demonstrators gathered in downtown to march from Piccadilly Gardens to Cathedral Gardens.

Many of the speakers and demonstrators included members of the long-standing Barton Moss protest camp in neighboring Irlam, just south of Manchester. There, energy firm IGas is carrying out test drilling to explore potential shale gas reserves beneath the green belt site at Barton Moss.
[PHOTO 7] #Salford Says... Anti #fracking demo #Manchester 09/03/14 pic.twitter.com/sbQzT1sknb
- Sara Firth (@SaraFirth_RT) March 9, 2014
The purpose of the march in Manchester was to send a clear message to the government and energy companies that the vast majority of Britons oppose fracking, Martin Porter, a spokesman for the Barton Moss camp and a member of Frack Free Greater Manchester, told the Manchester Evening News.

V

Thousands of Orthodox Jews swarmed NYC streets to protest Israeli military draft

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Hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews rallied in a massive show of force against plans to force them to serve in the Israeli military last Sunday in Jerusalem.
  • Israel wants to extend its compulsory military service to some of its most religious residents
  • Many ultra-Orthodox Israelis see this as a form of religious persecution
  • The demonstration was a show of solidarity with Israeli ultra-Orthodox who've been protesting the proposal for weeks
  • Last Sunday, hundreds of thousands of the devout Jews brought Jerusalem to a stand still in a massive show of force
Ten city blocks of Manhattan became a river of black Sunday as 50,000 dark-clad ultra-Orthodox Jews took to the streets to protest Israel's proposal to force their young boys into its army.

The gathering took up a stretch of Water Street, with demonstrators standing behind police barricades amid tight security as they prayed in solidarity with their brethren in Israel.

'These kids, a lot of them don't know how to hold a gun. They don't know what physical warfare is,' said Long Island rabbinical student Shmuel Gruis.

The throngs of demonstrators briefly shut down Water and Wall Streets in Manhattan's financial district.

Israel's parliament, the Knesset, is expected to vote on the conscription bill later this month.

Airplane

Missing Malaysian Flight: last contact from plane made after systems shut down

Suspicions continue that missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 may have been hijacked, after it's revealed the final message from the cockpit, "all right, good night," was sent after the first of two communications systems was disabled

Crew members, U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon, Malaysia Airlines flight MH370
© US NAVY/REUTERS
Crew members on board a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon man their workstations while assisting in search operations for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 over the Indian Ocean, in this handout photo taken March 16, 2014.
1.28pm AEST

Hello, and welcome to the Guardian's rolling coverage of the search for missing flight MH370.

Green Light

Crimea referendum professional, up to international standards and calm says head of international observers

Crimeans celebrate referendum results
© Reuters / David Mdzinarishvili
People celebrate as the preliminary results of today's referendum are announced on Lenin Square in the Crimean capital of Simferopol March 16, 2014.
People in Crimea are gripped by the feeling that their dreams have come true - a desire to join Russia, which can guarantee the stabilization in their social and political life, the head of the monitors' commission, Polish MP Mateusz Piskorski told RT.

RT: You were an observer at this referendum voting, can you tell us what you have witnessed during the voting session?

Mateusz Piskorski: The referendum has been organized professionally, considering there was very little time for all the institutions to prepare, all the staff for polling stations, for electoral commission.

Everything went like in a professionally prepared country with professionally prepared staff. And this is an interesting point. This indicates that Crimea has already created its own state institutions which are able to work even in such extraordinary conditions, even having such a short time preparing such a huge project - all-national referendum.

So when it comes to the whole evaluation of the referendum, I would like to stress not only that it was very professional but very calm, with all guarantees of safety at polling stations but without too much exposure of police presence at the polling stations, and so on. So very peaceful, calm.

It was organized according not only to the law of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea but also according to most basic, most important international standards.

Yoda

Pro-Russian Crimeans celebrate landslide vote for return to motherland

Link to video: Pro-Russian separatists: Crimea is just the beginning

With Soviet-era music blaring from loudspeakers and the Russian tricolour everywhere, the overwhelming feeling in Sevastopol was that the city was finally "going home" after a 23-year stay in Ukraine.

The home of the Russian Black Sea fleet, and a bastion of pro-Russian support in Crimea, there was barely a dissenting voice in the port during Sunday's referendum, which most of the world considers illegitimate but here is seen as a just exercise in self-determination.

With half the ballots counted, Crimean officials said that 95.5% of voters had chosen union with Russia, with a turnout of over 80%. Given the absence of recognised election observers, it was impossible to verify how honestly the ballots were counted, but in Sevastopol at least, such figures did not seem implausible.

"Today is the greatest day of my life; we are returning to mother Russia," said Ludmila Balatskaya, 72, a former deputy in the city government, as she sat on a bench beneath a flag of Sevastopol in a polling station.

"I was just a little girl when they just informed us that Crimea was now Ukraine. Everything fell down around me. We are Russia, we have always been Russian people in our souls here in Crimea, but today that becomes a practical reality again" she said, tears in her eyes.

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© Dan Kitwood/Getty Images Europe
A girl holding a Russian flag stands outside a booth inside a polling station in Bachchisaray, Ukraine, on Sunday.

People

Good for them! Crimeans vote on union with Russia‏

Supporters of the Crimean parliament
© RIA Novosti/Valeriy Melnikov
Participants hold different-colored pieces of paper to display the Russian flag at the rally in support of the Crimean Parliament and Sevastopol City Council's decision to reunite with Russia, staged on Nakhimov Square in Sevastopol.
Russian state media said Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to break with Ukraine and join Russia on Sunday, as Kiev accused Moscow of pouring forces into the peninsula and warned separatist leaders "the ground will burn under their feet".

With over half the votes counted, 95.5 percent had chosen the option of annexation by Moscow, the head of the referendum commission, Mikhail Malyshev, said two hours after polls closed. Turnout was 83 percent, he added - a high figure given that many who opposed the move had said they would boycott the vote.

Comment: The Ukrainian acting defence minister invents numbers to justify the claim of an invasion. The number allowed according to a 1997 treaty is 25000 and currently there are just 22000. The legality of this is also recognised by the CIA, which Reuters convieniently forgets in this article.

CIA says Russia troop numbers well below treaty threshold:
CIA director John Brennan told a senior lawmaker Monday that a 1997 treaty between Russia and Ukraine allows up to 25,000 Russia troops in the vital Crimea region, so Russia may not consider its recent troop movements to be an invasion, U.S. officials said.

The number of Russian troops that have surged into Ukraine in recent days remains well below that threshold, Brennan said, according to U.S. officials who declined to be named in describing private discussions and declined to name the legislator.

Though Brennan disagrees that the treaty justifies Russia's incursion, he urged a cautious approach, the officials said.



Light Sabers

People power: Activists stop Kiev's military trucks heading to Russian border

Kiev military convoy
© Unknown
Screenshot from video
Activists in eastern Ukraine in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions are blocking columns of heavy military equipment heading from Kiev to the border with Russia.

Late Thursday activists from the Donbass people's militia blocked the way of columns with about 20 trucks carrying heavy military equipment near Donetsk heading to the Russian border, a local activist and former officer of the Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry told RT.

"At about 5pm [1500 GMT], local activists called me," said Sergey Rzhavsky. "They reported that a column [with military equipment] was situated near the town of Volovaha from the side of the Valeryanovka settlement. We, the Donbass People's Self-Defense Units of Pavel Gubarev [the local governor, currently arrested in Kiev] promptly headed there. We saw about 20 heavy trucks there with some carrying airborne combat vehicles."

According to Rzhavsky, the activists engaged in negotiations with the troops that lasted about an hour or two. During the negotiations, the activists found out that the trucks were heading to a polygon situated near the border with Russia for some military training, he said.

"Since we do not want fratricidal carnage, we suggested the military to refrain from using force. We were unmasked, without any means of self-defense. We asked them to turn around and leave, because the military equipment was really heavy and if the columns passed the city it would escalate tensions, [and evoke] shock and panic," he said.


Stormtrooper

Metropolitan police strip searched more than 4,500 children in five years

the metropolitan police
© Oli Scarff/Getty Images
The Met said the force's use of strip search was found by the police watchdog to be “proportionate and appropriate”.
Data obtained under freedom of information reveals thousands of 10 - 16-year-olds faced procedure from April 2008


More than 4,500 children as young as 10 have been strip searched by the Metropolitan police over the past five years, data released under the Freedom of Information Act shows.

The figures obtained by the Guardian show 4,638 children aged between 10 and 16 were asked to remove their clothes and then searched by police between April 2008 and the end of last year. Just over a third were released by police without charge.

During a strip search suspects are required to take off all their clothes and can be asked to bend over and spread their legs. The police are allowed to do this only if they suspect the person is hiding class A drugs or an object that could cause harm. Under law, a strip search can be carried out only on those under arrest and must take place in a police cell or at a detention centre and must be approved by an inspector.

Eye 1

Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps is finally dying

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© Charlie Riedel/AP
Pastor Fred Phelps preaching at his Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.
The estranged son of the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church said his father is "on the edge of death."

Fred Phelps Sr. became famous for organizing picket lines of brightly-colored signs carrying hateful messages against tolerance during the funerals of military personnel and famous figures. His actions led to at least two federal and several state laws restricting protests during military funerals.

In a statement on his Facebook page, Nathan Phelps, who has been estranged from his father for 30 years, said the senior Phelps was dying in hospice care in Topeka, Kan., and that he had been ex-communicated from his own church in August of 2013.

"I'm not sure how I feel about this. Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made," Nathan Phelps wrote.

"I feel sad for all the hurt he's caused so many," he continued. "I feel sad for those who will lose the grandfather and father they loved. And I'm bitterly angry that my family is blocking the family members who left from seeing him, and saying their good-byes."