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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Newtown Residents Testify Before State Task Force

WFSB 3 Connecticut

Hundreds of people, including families who lost children in the Dec. 14 mass shooting, packed Newtown High School in Connecticut on Wednesday night so they could tell members of a state legislative task force on gun violence and children’s safety what changes in laws and policies they wanted to see.

Members of the General Assembly’s 52-member bipartisan task force traveled to Newtown to hear from residents at the hearing. The task force, looking to make changes in areas ranging from gun control to mental health, held a similar hearing recently in Hartford.

Among those who spoke on Wednesday night was Scarlett Lewis, a 44-year-old single mother, whose 6-year-old son, Jesse Lewis, died in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The task force hearing in Newtown was held on the same day that the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington held its first hearing on gun violence in the aftermath of the Connecticut shooting, which left 20 pupils and 6 staff members of the elementary school dead.

During the hearing in Washington, which the Lede covered earlier, former Representative Gabrielle Giffords called on lawmakers to be “bold and courageous” in creating! solutions to reduce gun violence.

In Connecticut, the hearing also drew teachers with views on what steps should and should not be taken to quell violence.

Earlier this week, The Newtown Bee, the town’s newspaper, reported that the first permanent memorial to the lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School had been dedicated.

Video: Tornadoes Rip Across Southeast

At least two people were killed when a powerful line of storms in the Southeast spawned tornadoes, demolishing homes and businesses, downing trees and flipping more than 100 cars and several tractor-trailers on a major interstate in northern Georgia./p>

In Adairsville, Ga., about 60 miles northwest of Atlanta, a WBS-TV reporter captured a video on his iPhone of a funnel cloud that suddenly appeared before him.

Ross Cavitt, who is also a meteorologist for WSB-Channel 2, reported that the funnel cloud moved across a parking lot in Adairsville’s downtown area.

On Twitter, there were images of the devastation, including photos of a flattened manufacturing plant in Adairsville. The factory’s manager told reporters that employees hid in a kitchen as the tornado tore the building apart around them starting about 11:15 a.m. Wednesday.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that one man died in Adairsville after a tree fell on his mobile home.

It was the same line of storms overnight that killed a man in Tennessee when a tree fell on a shed, according to WSMV-TV in Nashville. The National Weather Service has confirmed that at least eight tornadoes touched down in Tennessee, where the extent of the damage is still being assessed, authorities said.

In northern Georgia, The Journal-Constitution reports that Robert Jones, the police chief in Adairsville, estimated that the tornao was a quarter-mile wide late Wednesday morning as it ripped through the town while on the ground for about two miles. He said the police had not yet determined the extent of injuries because officers and volunteers were still assessing the damage and going door to door.

On Interstate 75 and downtown streets, the storm tossed around cars and turned over tractor-trailers.

The storm also caused widespread power failures.

But the mail still got delivered.

Piecing Together Accounts of a Massacre in Syria

Dozens of bodies were found in a river in Aleppo, Syria.YouTube Dozens of bodies were found in a river in Aleppo, Syria.

As my colleagues Hania Mourtada and Alan Cowell report, the bodies of dozens of young men, shot in the head from close range with their hands bound, were found in a narrow river in a neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, on Tuesday.

The bodies were found in the Queiq River, which skirts the front line and de facto border between government-held areas of Aleppo and territory controlled by rebel fighters in the neighborhood of Bustan al-Qasr.

Video posted to YouTube showed bodies lined up alongthe muddy riverbank. Many had visible head wounds and lengths of cord wrapped around their wrists. Gunfire echoed in the distance, and at the end of the clip the cameraman broke into a run. “A sniper is firing at us,” he said.

Dozens of bodies, shot in the head and bound at the wrists, were found in a river in a suburb of Aleppo.

Early video and reports from the scene on Tuesday suggested the number of dead to be around 50, a figure that rose significantly on Wednesday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-government group based in Britain that has a network of contacts inside Syria, said 65 bod! ies were recovered from the river. The group estimated that 15 more remained in the water but could not be retrieved because of a threat posed by government snipers.

The Daily Telegraph, a British newspaper whose correspondent, Ruth Sherlock, was on the scene of the grim discovery, reported that residents pulled 79 bodies out of the river. A rebel fighter interviewed by Ms. Sherlock estimated that as many as 30 more bodies could remain in the water, but said they were impossible to retrieve because of nearby government sniper positions.

Thomas Rassloff, a freelance photographer based in Germany, was taken to the riverbank by Free Syrian Army fighters who he said told him “there are a lot of bodies.” Mr. Rassloff somber commemorations of Hitler’s rise to power eight decades ago on Wednesday, Egypt’s president was pressed several times to explain anti-Semitic comments he made in 2010, when he called Israelis “bloodsuckers” and “the descendants of apes and pigs.”

As my colleagues Melissa Eddy and Nicholas Kulish report, Mr. Morsi insisted that his comments had been taken out of context when asked about them by a German reporter at a joint news conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. “I am not against Judaism as a religion,” he replied. “I am not against Jews practicing heir religion. I was talking about anybody practicing any religion who spills blood or attacks innocent people â€" civilians. I criticize such behavior.”

Before her meeting with the Egyptian president, Ms. Merkel spoke at the opening of a new exhibition on the Nazi era at the Topography of Terror Museum and urged Germans to remember that Hitler was appointed chancellor on Jan. 30, 1933 with popular support.

A video report from the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle on commemorations of Hitler’s rise to power on Jan. 30, 1933.

Speaking at the museum, which is located on the site of the former Gestapo and SS headquarters, Ms. Merkel said, “There ! is no other way to say this: the rise of the National Socialists was made possible because the elite and other groups within German society helped and, most importantly, because most Germans at least tolerated their rise.”

Later in the day, when Mr. Morsi sat down for a discussion of the upheaval in the Arab world organized by the Körber Foundation, he was again reminded of how seriously Germans take his inflammatory remarks about Zionists and Jews. As video of the event shows, the first question put to the Egyptian president by Georg Mascolo, editor in chief of Der Spiegel, concerned “this infamous video” of Mr. Morsi calling Jews “bloodsuckers.” In response to Mr. Mascolo’s question, “did you really say that or not” Mr. Morsi first complained that he had already answered the question “five times today” and reiterated his claim that the comments needed to be put into context.

He then went on to esentially defend his rhetorical attacks on Jews and Zionists as an appropriate response to the killing of civilians in Gaza by Israel’s military during the offensive that preceded his remarks in 2010. “The bloodshed of innocent people is universally condemned, now and in the future. The colonizing of the land of others is to be condemned as unacceptable, and the right to self-defense is also guaranteed” as a human right, Mr. Morsi said.

Mr. Mascolo then asked about a report in his magazine this week, in which a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood said that Mr. Morsi, in his previous role as a senior leader of that organization, was ultimately responsible for the publication of even more inflammatory remarks in articles on the society’s Web site, Ikhwan Online. In one such ar! ticle! from 2010 that was discovered last week by an anti-Islamist American Web site, a Brotherhood official called the Holocaust “a myth” fabricated by American intelligence agents and “the biggest scam in modern history.”

That Spiegel report was based on an interview with Abdel-Jalil el-Sharnoubi, a former editor of the Brotherhood’s Web site, who said that Mr. Morsi had used the exact same words about Zionists in 2004 and had never objected to hate speech against Jews on the site.

Sharnoubi wasn’t surprised by the Morsi hate video. “Agitation against the Israelis is in keeping with the way Morsi thinks. For the Morsi I know, any cooperation with Israel is a serious sin, a crime.” Morsi’s choice of words is also nothing new, says Sharnoubi. As proof, he opens his black laptop and shows us evidence of the former Muslim Botherhood member’s true sentiments.

Indeed, the video gaffes do not appear to be a one-time occurrence. In 2004 Morsi, then a member of the Egyptian parliament, allegedly raged against the “descendants of apes and pigs,” saying that there could be “no peace” with them. The remarks were made at a time when Israeli soldiers had accidentally shot and killed three Egyptian police officers. The source of the quote can hardly be suspected of incorrectly quoting fellow Brotherhood members: Ikhwan Online, the Islamist organization’s website.

Few people are as familiar with the contents of that website as Sharnoubi, who was the its editor-in-chief until 2011. The current president became the general inspector of the organization in 2007, says Sharnoubi. In this capacity, Morsi would have been partly responsible for the anti-Jewish propaganda on the website, which featured the “banner of jihad” at the time and saw “Jews and Zionists as archenemies.”

Without po! inting to! any specific factual errors, Mr. Morsi claimed that the Spiegel article was inaccurate and reiterated that he was “not against Judaism or Jews,” but reserved the right to criticize Zionism in the strongest terms.

Mr. Morsi was also met in Berlin by protesters who objected to his government’s continued use of tear gas and bullets against demonstrators.

Pakistani Girl Shot by Taliban to Get Skull Surgery

The Pakistani teenager who was shot in the head by the Taliban last year for advocating for the education of girls will return to a British hospital for skull surgery and has asked to keep a fragment of bone from her skull as a souvenir, medical staff said on Wednesday.

The schoolgirl, Malala Yousafzai, was shot in October 2012 by a gunman who singled her out as she returned from school in Mingora, in the northwestern Swat Valley. Just 15 years old at the time of the shooting, she had already worked for several years to promote girls’ education and children’s rights.

She was initially treated at a Pakistani hospital before being flown to Britain for what medical experts said would be a long period of rehabilitation. When she was discharged from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham in early January, doctors said at the time that she would be staying with her family, who had joined her in Britain, before returning for further surgery to rebuild her skull. Video posted online showed her waving as she left the hospital.

On Wednesday, the hospital explained the surgery needed on her skull, which she will undergo in the next week or so. Dr. Dave Rosser, the medical director at the hospital, said Ms. Yousafzai’s skull would be fitted with a titanium plate that had been shaped to recreate the original contour of her skull and cover the piece that had been removed. Doctors had sewn that piece of skull b! one under the skin in her abdomen; it had been removed in the initial surgery in Pakistan.

But after consultation with Ms. Yousafzai, the decision was made to fit her skull with the plate instead of trying to replant the bone, which might have been partly reabsorbed and therefore slightly smaller in size, Dr. Rosser said. The bone piece will be surgically removed from her abdomen, sterilized, and given to the girl “who wishes to keep it for, as a memory I guess,” he said in a video of the news conference posted by The Telegraph.

She will also be implanted with a cochlear implant since she is completely deaf in her left ear.

Her shooting brought global condemnation of the Taliban, who have vowed to try to attack her again.

Stefan Edmondson, the principal maxillofacial prosthetist, provided further dtails about the procedure, known as titanium cranioplasty, using a series of videos and animations based on her medical records released by the hospital. They show the making of the plate, the image of her CT scans when she was first admitted to the hospital, and the fitting of the plate and implant. A red line drawn diagonally down the skull shows the approximate journey of the bullet.

A hospital statement said:

Malala was shot at point blank range. The bullet hit her left brow and instead of penetrating her skull it traveled underneath the skin, the whole length of the side of her head and into her shoulder. The shock wave shattered the thinnest bone of the skull and the soft tissues at the base of her jaw/neck were damaged. The bullet and its fracture lines also destroyed her eardrum and the bones for hearing. She has no hearing in her left ear (right ear remains normal) howe! ver, the ! nerve of hearing is intact.

The titanium cranioplasty procedure is carried out first and will take between one and two hours. The head will be shaved at the wound location and the flap of skin covering it will be prepared and draped back. This will expose the dura - the tough fibrous membrane covering the brain. The 0.6mm metal plate that has been molded from a 3D model created through CT imaging from Malala’s own skull, will then be put in place. It is secured to the skull with screws placed in 2 mm countersunk holes. The flap of skin is then draped back over the plate and stitched into place.

The cochlear surgeon then takes over from the neurosurgeon. The surgeon will locate the cochlear and identify the structures of the inner ear. An incision will be made in the round window membrane and the implant is fed through it. A small well will be drilled in the skull behind the titanium plate to allow the electronics to be implanted. This part of the surgery will take approximately 90 minutes.

The surgery was similar to a procedure done on former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head and was fitted with a custom-made piece of synthetic bone attached to cover for the portion of her skull that was removed to allow her brain to swell, as this CNN interview with the neurosurgeon who performed the operation showed. Ms. Giffords testified at a Senate hearing on gun violence on Wednesday.

In an interview on Wednesday, Ms. Giffords doctor, Dr. Dong H. Kim, the chair of neurosurgery at Memorial Hermann Hospital-Texas Medical Center, said the two operations were similar. Usually, he said, the layer of bone that is removed from the skull is better replaced with an artificial one rather than the original.

Both titanium and plastic are fairly similar and equivalent, it is a local choice. They can both be molded to size, so there is no cosmetic defect. If you are going to use the patient’s own bone there might be problems. Sometimes it shrinks over time and doesn’t fit the skull and cosmetically it is not as good. And when you remove the bone after trauma, especially from a laceration or bullet, you cannot be certain that the bone has not been contaminated with bacteria.

He added that the practice of inserting a piece of the skull in the abdomen was not an uncommon one. The abdomen is sterile and the fragment is portable, meaning it goes with the patient if at some point he or she might end up somewhere else. In the United States however, it is usually not done anymore because surgeons do not want to create another incision.

Follow Christine Hauser on Twitter @christineNYT.

TimesCast Media+Tech: BlackBerry Has High Hopes for New Phones

A closer look at the reinvented BlackBerry. Behind the scenes at Super Bowl media day. David Pogue's 60-second BlackBerry review.

Tools of Modern Gunmaking: Plastic and a 3-D Printer

Tools of Modern Gunmaking: Plastic and a 3-D Printer

A gun with a plastic lower receiver that was produced using a 3-D printer.

A man in Wisconsin viewed it as a technical challenge. Another, in New Hampshire, was looking to save some money. And in Texas, a third wanted to make a political point.

Chapman Baetzel, right, with his girlfriend, said that to save money he made his receiver on a 3-D printer he built from a kit.

The three may have had different motivations but their results were the same: each built a working gun that included a part made in plastic with a 3-D printer.

What they did was legal and, except for the technology and material used, not much different from what do-it-yourself gunsmiths have been doing for decades. But in the wake of the shootings in Newtown, Conn., and the intensified debate over gun control, their efforts, which began last summer, have stoked concerns that the inexpensive and increasingly popular printers and other digital fabrication tools might make access to weapons even easier.

“We now have 3-D printers that can manufacture firearms components in the basement,” said Representative Steve Israel, Democrat of New York. “It’s just a matter of time before a 3-D printer will produce a weapon capable of firing bullets.”

A 3-D printer builds an object layer by layer in three dimensions, usually in plastic. To effectively outlaw weapons made with them, Mr. Israel wants to extend an existing law, set to expire this year, that makes weapons that are undetectable by security scanners â€" like a printed all-plastic gun â€" illegal.

But there are also major technical obstacles to creating an entire gun on a 3-D printer, not the least of which is that a plastic gun would probably melt or explode upon firing a single bullet, making it about as likely to kill the gunman as the target.

In the meantime, Michael Guslick in Milwaukee, Chapman Baetzel in Dover, N.H., and Cody Wilson in Austin, Tex., did something much simpler and, for now, more effective. They printed the part of an AR-15 assault rifle called the lower receiver, the central piece that other parts are attached to. Then, using standard metal components, including the chamber and barrel â€" the parts that must be strong enough to withstand the intense pressure of a bullet firing â€" they assembled working guns.

In all, the three men, who have written about their efforts on the Web, have fired hundreds of rounds, although the plastic receivers eventually deform, crack or otherwise fail from heat and shock. But Mr. Wilson, for one, is working on a fourth-generation design that he says should be more durable.

A lower receiver is the only part of an AR-15 that, when bought, requires the filing of federal paperwork. But it is legal to make an AR-15 â€" and many other guns â€" for personal use as long as there is no intent to sell them. And if the lower receiver is homemade, no paperwork is required.

Amateur gunsmiths have made lower receivers for years, in metal, although the process requires a certain level of machining expertise. Inexpensive 3-D printers have grown in popularity â€" their rise has been compared with that of personal computers in the 1980s â€" in part because they are easy to use. It is not even necessary to know how to create the design files that instruct the device to print bit after bit of plastic to build the object, as there are files for tens of thousands of objects available on the Internet, created by other users and freely shared.

Still, some tinkering is usually required. Mr. Guslick, who works in information technology and describes himself as a hobbyist gunsmith, printed his receiver on a machine he bought online through Craigslist. He used a file and abrasive paper to make the piece fit properly, but over all the project was not much of a technical challenge. “Anybody could do this,” he said.

Mr. Baetzel, who made his receiver on a 3-D printer he built from a kit, said the part worked fine until he cracked it when bumping the gun while putting it in his car. He has since printed a replacement along with a modified grip and stock which, he said, has made the gun sturdier.

A version of this article appeared in print on January 30, 2013, on page A12 of the New York edition with the headline: Tools of Modern Gunmaking: Plastic and a 3-D Printer.

Daily Report: BlackBerry 10 Critical to Research in Motion

Research in Motion’s introduction on Wednesday of a new BlackBerry phone will be the most important event in the company’s history since 1996, when its founders showed investors a small block of wood and promised that a wireless e-mail device shaped like that would change business forever, Ian Austen of The New York Times reports.

RIM, now with just 4.6 percent of the global market for smartphones in 2012, according to IDC data, long ago exchanged dominance for survival mode. On Wednesday, the company will introduce a new line of smartphones called the BlackBerry 10 and an operating system of the same name that Thorsten Heins, the president and chief executive of RIM, says will restore the company to glory.

The main elements of the new phones and their operating system are already well-known. Mr. Heins and other executives at RIM have been demonstrating the units for months to a variety of audiences. App developers received prototype versions as far back as last spring.

While analyst and app developers may be divided about the future of RIM, there is a consensus that BlackBerry 10, which arrives more than year behind schedule, was worth the wait.

Initially, RIM will release two variations of the BlackBerry 10, one that will be a touch-screen model that resembles many other phones now on the market. The other model is a hybrid - with a keyboard similar to those now found on current BlackBerrys as well as a small touch screen.

The real revolution, though, may be in the software that manages a person’s business and personal information. It is clearly designed with an eye toward retaining and, more important, luring back corporate users.

In other reports across the Web on RIM’s new phone, Crackberry.com focused on the entertainment possibilities of the new phone. The Register sees the NFC capabiliti! es of the phone as more promising.

Updates from Senate Hearing on Gun Violence

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The Lede is following testimony Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing entitled “What Should America Do About Gun Violence” Former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, her husband, Mark E. Kelly and Wayne LaPierre, chief executive officer of the National Rifle Association, are among the witnesses expected to testify. As our colleague, Jennifer Steinhauer reports, this is the first hearing since the Dec. 14 mass shooting at the elementary school in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 schoolchildren and six staff members.

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Updates from Senate Hearing on Gun Violence

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The Lede is following testimony Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing entitled “What Should America Do About Gun Violence” Former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, her husband, Mark E. Kelly and Wayne LaPierre, chief executive officer of the National Rifle Association, are among the witnesses expected to testify. As our colleague, Jennifer Steinhauer reports, this is the first hearing since the Dec. 14 mass shooting at the elementary school in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 schoolchildren and six staff members.

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