NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — With security stepped up and families still on edge in Newtown, schools are opening for the first time since last week's massacre, bringing a return of familiar routines — at least, for some — to a grief-stricken town as it buries 20 of its children.
Two 6-year-old boys were laid to rest Monday in the first of a long, almost unbearable procession of funerals. A total of 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in one of the worst mass shootings in U.S history.
While classes resume Tuesday for Newtown schools except those at Sandy Hook, some parents were likely to keep their children at home anyway. Local police and school officials have been discussing how and where to increase security, and state police said they would be on alert for threats and hoaxes.
Suzy DeYoung said her 15-year-old son is going back to the high school.
"I think he wants to go back," she said. "If he told me he wants to stay home, I'd let him stay home. I think going back to a routine is a good idea; at least that's what I hear from professionals."
NRA goes unusually silent after Connecticut school shooting leaves 20 youngsters dead
WASHINGTON (AP) — Where is the NRA?
The nation's largest gun-rights organization — typically outspoken about its positions even after shooting deaths — has gone all but silent since last week's rampage at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school that left 26 people dead, including 20 children.
Its Facebook page has disappeared. It has posted no tweets. It makes no mention of the shooting on its website. None of its leaders hit the media circuit Sunday to promote its support of the Second Amendment right to bear arms as the nation mourns the latest shooting victims and opens a new debate over gun restrictions. On Monday, the NRA offered no rebuttal as 300 anti-gun protesters marched to its Capitol Hill office.
After previous mass shootings — such as in Oregon and Wisconsin — the group was quick to both send its condolences and defend gun owners' constitutional rights, popular among millions of Americans. There's no indication that the National Rifle Association's silence this time is a signal that a change in its ardent opposition to gun restrictions is imminent. Nor has there been any explanation for its absence from the debate thus far.
The NRA, which claims 4.3 million members and is based in Northern Virginia, did not return telephone messages Monday seeking comment.
In a slaughter's aftermath, grateful parents offer small indulgences to their kids
NEW YORK (AP) — There's snow on the ground in Londonderry, N.H., nearly 200 miles to the north of the still-raw slaughter at a Connecticut elementary school, and dad Eric Heenan found himself in a routine fuss with his 9-year-old son over boots.
"It's not cool to wear snow boots to school," he said Monday, "and then I was like, you know what, God forbid the last conversation we have is this. There but for the grace of God go we."
Parents around the country are letting the small stuff slide, indulging their kids just a little bit, relieved as Heenan is to have them safe only a few days after a gunman claimed the lives 20 students and six adults in Newtown.
In Safety Harbor, Fla., close to Tampa Bay, Christie O'Sullivan feels it with her two boys, 5 and 6, the latter the same age as many of the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary.
She returned home Friday afternoon, several hours after Adam Lanza's rampage and suicide, to find a sink clogged by toilet paper and dirty tissues all over the floor of her guest bathroom as she madly tried to clean for a holiday party.
Obama softens stance on taxes as he and Boehner seek a 'fiscal cliff' compromise
WASHINGTON (AP) — Narrowing a "fiscal cliff" negotiating gap, President Barack Obama is backing off what had once been ironclad positions.
A new proposal handed to House Speaker John Boehner on Monday drops Obama's long-held insistence that taxes rise on individuals earning more than $200,000 and families making more than $250,000. He is now offering a new threshold of $400,000 and lowering his 10-year tax revenue goals from the $1.6 trillion he had argued for a few weeks ago.
Obama also abandoned his demand for permanent borrowing authority. Instead, he is now asking for a new debt limit that would last two years, putting its renewal beyond the politics of a 2014 midterm election.
And in a move sure to create heartburn among some congressional Democrats, Obama is proposing lower cost-of-living increases for Social Security beneficiaries, employing an inflation index that would have far-reaching consequences, including pushing more people into higher income tax brackets.
Those changes, as well as Obama's decision not to seek an extension of a temporary payroll tax cut, would force higher tax payments on the middle class, a wide swath of the population that Obama has repeatedly said he wanted to protect from tax increases.
Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, decorated veteran, dies at age 88 after 50-year Senate career
HONOLULU (AP) — On Dec. 7, 1941, high school senior Daniel Inouye knew he and other Japanese-Americans would face trouble when he saw Japanese dive bombers, torpedo planes and fighters on their way to bomb Pearl Harbor and other Oahu military bases.
He and other Japanese-Americans had wanted desperately to be accepted, he said, and that meant going to war.
"I felt that there was a need for us to demonstrate that we're just as good as anybody else," Inouye, who eventually went on to serve 50 years as a U.S. Senate from Hawaii, once said. "The price was bloody and expensive, but I felt we succeeded."
Inouye, 88, died Monday of respiratory complications at a Washington-area hospital. As a senator, he became one of the most influential politicians in the country, playing key roles in congressional investigations of the Watergate and Iran-Contra scandals. He was the longest serving current senator and by far the most important for his home state of Hawaii.
"Tonight, our country has lost a true American hero with the passing of Sen. Daniel Inouye," President Barack Obama said in a statement Monday. "It was his incredible bravery during World War II — including one heroic effort that cost him his arm but earned him the Medal of Honor — that made Danny not just a colleague and a mentor, but someone revered by all of us lucky enough to know him."
In training camp, rebel forces show few skills but high motivation to fight Syrian regime
MAARET IKHWAN, Syria (AP) — Sixteen grunting rebel fighters dropped down for pushups in a rain-slick backyard, practiced storming a house from the cover of an olive grove, and then assembled for a refresher course on firing rocket-propelled grenades.
Their instructor, a former Syrian commando, said his young trainees still have a lot to learn, but that their drive to topple President Bashar Assad already makes them better soldiers than the regime's conscripts.
"Our faith in our cause outweighs our shortcomings," said the instructor, who defected from the Syrian army in February and gave his name only as Abu Hamza to protect his relatives against regime retribution. "Psychologically, they (rebel fighters) are stronger than the Syrian army."
Monday's training, in a rural area of Syria's largely rebel-controlled northwestern Idlib province, is part of a widening attempt to transform ragtag rebel groups into a disciplined fighting force.
Earlier this month, more than 500 commanders of rebel units, meeting in Turkey, elected what is to be a unified command, headed by a new chief of staff, defected Syrian army Gen. Salim Idries, and a 30-member group of senior officers.
Conn. victims recalled as young children full of life and adults devoted to them
NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — At the very start of their lives, the schoolchildren are remembered for their love of horses, or for the games they couldn't get enough of, or for always saying grace at dinner. The adult victims found their life's work in sheltering little ones, teaching them, caring for them, treating them as their own. The gunfire Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School left a toll both unbearable and incalculable: 20 students and six adults at the school, the gunman's mother at home, and the gunman himself.
A glimpse of some of those who died:
CHARLOTTE BACON, 6
They were supposed to be for the holidays, but finally on Friday, after hearing much begging, Charlotte Bacon's mother relented and let her wear the new pink dress and boots to school.
Headed to US Senate, SC's Scott credits modest background, downplays status as a minority
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — To U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, keeping his modest upbringing in the front of his mind has helped guide his swift ascent in South Carolina's business and political circles and will continue to serve him in the U.S. Senate.
While race is certainly part of the man he has become, Scott hesitates to say it has anything to do with his status as a rising GOP star in a strongly conservative Southern state.
"What I've not ever really heard on the campaign trail was, besides the fact that you're black, or because you're black, here's what we want to do," Scott said Monday. "They've asked me questions about values and issues, and that's an amazing thing."
On Monday, Scott stood by as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announced she had picked him to succeed Jim DeMint, who is departing the U.S. Senate in January to lead The Heritage Foundation. Scott will fill DeMint's seat for two years, then he could run in 2014 to finish out the remaining two.
Haley, the daughter of Indian-American immigrants and South Carolina's first female governor, said she chose Scott not to help diversify the GOP but because of his love for the state and ability to strongly advocate for it in Washington.
22 fraternity members facing charges in Ill. after student dies following night of drinking
DEKALB, Ill. (AP) — Nearly two dozen fraternity members at Northern Illinois University were charged Monday with hazing-related counts after a freshman was found dead at their fraternity house following a night of drinking.
DeKalb police and prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 22 members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity in DeKalb. Five members are charged with felony hazing, while the other 17 members are facing misdemeanor hazing charges.
Phone messages and emails sent to local and national fraternity officials were not immediately returned.
The warrants were filed after David Bogenberger, 19, was found unresponsive at the fraternity house early on Nov. 2. The DeKalb County Coroner's Office said toxicology results found his blood alcohol content was about five times the legal limit for driving.
The coroner ruled Bogenberger's cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia, with alcohol intoxication as a contributing cause.
Top 10 photos of 2012, selected by AP's Director of Photography Santiago Lyon
The AP's award-winning team of hundreds of staff photographers, freelancers and photo editors sends out some 3,000 photos every 24 hours - over 1 million photos a year - to our subscribers around the globe.
How then to sum up an entire year of news in just 10 photos? The very notion is daunting.
Photo editing is a process of comparison and selection. It involves aesthetics and storytelling and impact and memory.
In the end, I chose 10 representative photos, some from the biggest stories of 2012, some for their eye-catching content (and then a broader edit of some 150 news photos to try to capture almost everything else).
In the 10, we see grief over the loss of children in Colorado and Syria. We see children being led to safety from the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. We see a fleet of emblematic New York taxis partially submerged after super storm Sandy. We see President Obama and Mitt Romney facing off in debate. A man sets himself alight in India to protest the situation in Tibet. We also see amazing things; A man leaps from a balloon 38 kilometers (24 miles) above the earth's surface, and a cruise ship floats on its side after running aground of the coast off Italy. A bear falls out of a tree after being tranquilized, and a high-speed underwater camera captures a swimmer plunging into the water at the London Olympics.