Three small Canadian oil companies agree to merge

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) – A trio of small oil and gas companies said on Thursday they have agreed to combine to form a mid-sized Canadian producer, focusing on light crude in Alberta and paying dividends.

Pace Oil and Gas Ltd , AvenEx Energy Corp and Charger Energy Corp said they would offer new shares in a combined operation known as Spyglass Resources Corp that will produce about 18,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day.

It will be led by former Provident Energy executives, Tom Buchanan as chief executive and Dan O’Byrne as president, the companies said.

Combined properties are in such Alberta geological zones as Halkirk-Provost Viking, Randell Slave Point and Gilwood and the Pembina Cardium.

Under the deal, 1.3 Spyglass shares would be exchanged for each Pace share, one Spyglass share for each AvenEx share, and 0.18 Spyglass shares for each Charger share.

The transaction values Pace shares at C$ 4.32 each, AvenEx shares at C$ 3.32 each, and Charger shares at 60 Canadian cents each, the firms said.

“The combined asset base features mature, low decline properties and a balanced commodity profile coupled with the light oil development opportunities needed to sustain the model,” Buchanan said in a statement.

The companies said recent deep discounts on Canadian heavy crude show the value of assets producing light oil, which has been much closer to U.S. benchmark prices.

Capital spending for 2013 is budgeted at C$ 80 million to C$ 90 million (US$ 81 million to C$ 91 million).

The companies said they would hold meetings for their shareholders in February to vote on the transaction. Two-thirds of each company’s shareholders must approve the deal for it to proceed, they said.

The deal is expected to close in February.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Jones; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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On gun control, look to Biden

Rebecca Puckwalter-Poza says Vice President Joe Biden was a leader on gun control in the Senate.


  • Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza: Obama has apparently tapped Biden as gun control point man

  • She says he was leader in Senate on issue, shepherding 1994 gun control legislation

  • It banned manufacture of many semi-automatic guns,criminalized high-capacity magazines

  • Writer: Biden worked across aisle; he's adroit, determined statesman, right man for job

Editor's note: Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza served as deputy national press secretary of the Democratic National Committee during the 2008 election.

(CNN) -- President Obama's poignant speech at Sunday's interfaith vigil in Newtown, Connecticut, set the tone for our mourning. Now, America's path forward will be decided out of the spotlight. The question of whether the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School will linger only in memory or be memorialized by an enduring shift in gun policy can only be answered by the legislature.

Incoming Judiciary Committee chair Sen. Diane Feinstein has announced she will introduce an enhanced assault weapons ban on the first day of the new Congress, but the fate of that legislation is in the hands of Vice President Joe Biden.

Biden will reportedly lead the administration's political response.

Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza

Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza

No politician could be better suited to the challenge of passing federal gun control legislation than Biden. Over the past four decades, Biden has been one of the most consistent and effective advocates of gun control and violence prevention legislation. In 1994, Biden shepherded the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act through the Senate, a near miracle six years in the making.

After Biden wrote the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act in 1988, Republicans quickly filibustered, blocking the bill for four years. He steered "the Biden crime bill" through the lengthy filibuster by negotiating with Republicans and making revisions. "Every single line in that bill was written with every single major Republican a part of it," Biden said in a September 12, 1994, interview on the Charlie Rose show.

The Clinton administration and then-Sen. Biden repeatedly refused to make concessions that would have jeopardized the substance of the act, even after debate over the amendment we know as the federal assault weapons ban imperiled the entire bill. Instead of backing down, Biden took on Republican Sens. Phil Gramm and Orrin Hatch and faced opponents attacking the bill as taxpayer-funded "dance lessons and midnight basketball for robbers and rapists."

France: Where fear and taboo control guns more than laws

Biden did not budge: "Make no mistake, this is about guns, guns, guns." The crime bill passed the Senate in November 1993.

When the bill foundered in the House, Biden persevered. It reached President Clinton's desk thanks to an unexpected, eleventh-hour push from a "Lost Battalion of Republicans" led by Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware. He'd been swayed during a series of meetings with the House Speaker and other House Republicans, at which Biden was the only Senator in attendance.

The resulting legislation banned the manufacture of 19 types of semi-automatic firearms and criminalized the possession of high-capacity magazines. The process taught a critical lesson: When otherwise "pro-gun'" lawmakers have to choose between a crime bill including a gun ban and inaction, it is more than possible for them to vote to protect Americans. Unfortunately, the assault weapons ban expired in 2004. Since then, numerous lawmakers, including Joe Biden, have tried and failed to get the ban renewed.

Congress now has a rare opportunity to take new action on gun control. After Newtown, proponents of stricter gun legislation are backed by public opinion and bolstered by a surge of political support. The "pro-gun" wing of the GOP and the National Rifle Association remain silent even as their supporters are defecting publicly.

Democratic Sens. Harry Reid and Joe Manchin, whose voting record earned them the NRA's "top rating," have backed off their "pro-gun" positions and declared that "everything must be on the table" for legislative debate. The 31 pro-gun senators have not spoken since Friday's tragedy, signaling the possibility that some of them might be changing their minds on guns, too.

Lawmakers are essentially being asked to consider an updated version of the 1994 assault weapons ban. On Sunday, Feinstein promised the legislation "will ban the sale, the transfer, the importation and the possession" of assault weapons and ban high-capacity magazines as well as "clips of more than ten bullets."

Biden will likely support a new ban on assault weapons and push for improvements. His 2007 Crime Control and Prevention Act would not only have renewed the ban but required background checks for all gun purchases, closing the "gun show loophole.'" Biden has also called on Congress to address the relationship of mental illness to violence in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings.

Was your gun banned?

The president cautioned Americans Sunday, saying "no single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. But that can't be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this."

In his first term, however, Obama practiced a policy of appeasement, failing to block the expansion of gun rights or promote gun control. To ensure Congress passes tough, comprehensive gun control laws rather than settling for a watered-down version, as with health care, Obama must let Biden lead.

Why? Biden has distinguished himself as an adroit and effective statesman in both the legislative and the executive branches. The former six-term senator has a deft touch with moderate and conservative counterparts: in 2008, he eulogized Strom Thurmond. As vice president, he has spearheaded the implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Moreover, Biden has a particular passion for protecting students and educators. His wife, Jill Biden, has been teaching for more than 30 years.

The deaths of 20 first-graders and six adults compel all Americans as sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, uncles and aunts, to consult their moral compasses. Legislators face a greater responsibility: a moral imperative to pass any legislation that could possibly prevent a future Newtown, Aurora, Oak Creek or Blacksburg.

Opinion: Gun violence is a national security issue

As Obama ministers to the American people and offers words of comfort, Biden must move lawmakers to action. In 1994, Biden warned his colleagues, "we simply can't let the gun lobby deny to the American people the vital benefits in this bill." Biden must once more appeal to Congress to enact gun control. If anyone can succeed in those chambers, it's Joe Biden.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza

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Snow, high winds expected as storm takes aim at Chicago

Chicago's morning weather forecast. (WGN - Chicago)

A winter storm warning has been issued for the Chicago metropolitan area, and the National Weather Service says winds up to 60 mph could whip snow into near blizzard conditions in some spots during the evening commute.

Rain is expected to turn to snow around 3 p.m. as temperatures drop and winds pick up, the weather service said. The heaviest snow will fall from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. with wind gusts of 50 to 60 mph. Three to 7 inches is expected in the far northwest suburbs, 2 to 4 inches in Chicago and 1 to 3 inches in the south and southwest suburbs.

But the weather service says the winds will be the real problem. "We may not get a whole lot of snow but the potential for snowing, drifting and poor visibility is very high," weather service meteorologist Mark Ratzer said.

In its storm warning, the weather service said the greatest chance of near white-out conditions is near the shoreline in Lake and Porter counties in Indiana. The storm warning is in effect from 3 p.m. until 3 a.m. Friday.

In western Illinois and Wisconsin, a blizzard warning is in effect with as much as a foot of snow forecast. Snow could fall 1 to 2 inches an hour around Rockford late in the afternoon, the weather service said.

To the south, a high wind advisory has been issued for Kankakee County. And in Indiana, a lakeshore flood warning is in effect for Lake and Porter counties.

The storm will end a record stretch of 290 days without snow in the Chicago area. This will also be the lastest that the city has seen its first measurable snowfall.

Delays and cancellations were already being reported at O'Hare International Airport. FlightStats, which collects data from the Federal Aviation Administration and airports, reported 142 cancellations and 131 delays at O'Hare.

United Airlines said it is waiving change fees for travelers scheduled to fly out of O'Hare on Thursday who want to change their plans.

ComEd said it was bracing for power outages because of the storm. The company said it was preparing additional crews and equipment and asking for help from other utilities to respond quickly to outages.

ComEd Vice President Terence Donnelly said the storm was “expected to be especially damaging” to the company's power system because of the combination of wind, snow and ice.

The approaching storm dropped nearly a foot of snow in Des Moines. The airport at Creston, Iowa, recorded the highest winds, with a gust of 53 mph.

On the southern edge of the storm system, high winds damaged homes and downed trees in central Arkansas, the weather service said. A powerful storm peeled the roofs off buildings and toppled trucks in Mobile, Ala., but injured no one. Tornado warnings remained in effect in parts of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama early Thursday.

Transportation officials shut down parts of Interstate 29 in Missouri early Thursday, and Interstate 80 in Nebraska remained closed due to blowing snow.

Contributing: Associated Press
Twitter: @chicagobreaking

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Syrian rebels fight for strategic town in Hama province

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Rebels thrust into a strategic town in Syria's central Hama province on Thursday, activists said, pursuing a string of territorial gains to help cut army supply lines and cement a foothold in the capital Damascus to the south.

They have made a series of advances across the country, seizing several military installations and more heavy weaponry, hardening the threat to President Bashar al-Assad's power base in Damascus 21 months into an uprising against his rule.

Rebels said a day earlier they had captured at least six towns in Hama province. On Thursday heavy fighting erupted in Morek, a town on the highway that runs from Damascus north to Aleppo, Syria's largest city and another battleground.

The opposition-linked Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels were trying to take checkpoints in Morek, one of which they had already seized, and described the town as a critical position for the Syrian army.

"The town of Morek lies on the Damascus-Aleppo road ... it has eight checkpoints and two security and military headquarters. If the rebels were able to control the town they would completely sever the supply lines between Hama and Damascus to Idlib province," the group said in an email.

Idlib is in the rebel-dominated north bordering on Turkey.

The British-based Observatory has a network of activists across the country. Activist reports are difficult to verify, as the government restricts media access into Syria.

Fighting in Hama could aggravate Syria's sectarian strife as it is home to many rural minority communities of Alawites and Christians. Minorities, and particularly the Alawite sect to which Assad himself belongs, have largely backed the president. Syria's Sunni Muslim majority has been the engine of the revolt.

"Rebels are trying to take Mohardeh and al-Suqaylabiya, which are strongholds of the regime and are strategic. The residents are Christian and the neighboring towns are Alawite. The rebels worry security forces may be arming people there," said activist Safi al-Hamawi, speaking on Skype.

He said the opposition feared skirmishes that had previously been largely Sunni-Alawite could spread into a broader sectarian conflict.

"I think it is still unlikely, because the residents have tried to maintain neutrality, but if the battle became a sectarian clash, it could be a catastrophe. Christians and Muslims could suddenly find themselves enemies."

U.N. human rights investigators said on Thursday that Syria's conflict was becoming more "overtly sectarian", with more civilians seeking to arm themselves and foreign fighters - mostly Sunnis - flocking in from 29 countries.

"They come from all over, Europe and America, and especially the neighboring countries," said Karen Abuzayd, one of U.N. investigators, told a news conference in Brussels.

The deepened sectarian divisions may diminish prospects for post-conflict reconciliation even if Assad is ousted, and the influx of foreigners raises the risk of fighting spilling into neighboring countries riven by similar communal fault lines.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia, Assad's main ally and arms supplier, warned that any solution to the conflict must ensure government and rebel forces do not merely swap roles and fight on forever. It appeared to be his first direct comment on the possibility of a post-Assad Syria.

The West and some Arab states accuse Russia of shielding Assad after Moscow blocked three U.N. Security Council resolutions intended to increase pressure on Damascus to end the violence, which has killed more than 40,000 people. Putin said the Syrian people would ultimately decide their own fate.


Assad's forces have been hitting back at rebel advances with bouts of heavy shelling, particularly along the eastern ring of suburbs outside Damascus, where rebels are dominant.

A Syrian security source said the army was planning heavy offensives in northern and central Syria to stem rebel advances, but there was no clear sign of such operations yet.

Rebels seized the Palestinian refugee district of Yarmouk earlier this week, which put them within 3 km (2 miles) of downtown Damascus. Heavy shelling and fighting forced thousands of Palestinian and Syrian residents to flee the Yarmouk area.

But rebels said on Thursday they were negotiating to put the camp - actually a densely packed urban district - back into the hands of pro-opposition Palestinian fighters. There are some 500,000 Palestinian refugees and their descendants living in Syria, and they have been divided by the uprising.

Palestinian factions, some backed by the government and others by the rebels, had begun fighting last week, a development that allowed Syrian insurgents to take the camp.

Despite warnings of continued violence, a video released by activists on Thursday showed dozens of people returning to Yarmouk. Most of the people in the footage were men, suggesting entire families may not be venturing back yet.

"There are still negotiations going on between the Palestinians and the rebels. The rebels want control of the checkpoints to be sure they can keep supply routes open to central Damascus," said a rebel who asked not to be named.

"Palestinians want their fighters to run the checkpoints so the army will stop attacking and people can go home. But we are worried there are government collaborators among them."

The fighter said rebels were looking to ensure their Palestinian allies could keep open access for rebels in Yarmouk, which they have described as a gateway to central Damascus.


Elsewhere, Syrian insurgents took over an isolated border post on the western frontier with Lebanon earlier this week, local residents told Reuters on Thursday.

They said around 20 rebels from the Qadissiyah Brigade overran the post at Rankus, which is linked by road to the remote Lebanese village of Tufail.

Video footage downloaded on the Internet on Thursday, dated December 16, showed a handful of fighters dressed in khaki fatigues and wielding rifles as they kicked down a stone barricade around a small, single-storey army checkpoint.

"This is the end of you, Bashar you dog," one of the fighters said. The remains of two army trucks, which the rebels said had been blown up, stood nearby on a single track dirt road crossing a flat brown plain between snow-capped mountains.

The rebels already hold much of the terrain along Syria's northern and eastern borders with Turkey and Iraq respectively.

Syrian Interior Minister Ibrahim al-Shaar arrived in Lebanon on Wednesday for treatment of wounds sustained in a bomb attack on his ministry in Damascus a week ago.

Lebanese medical sources said Shaar had shrapnel wounds in his shoulder, stomach and legs but they were not critical.

The Syrian opposition has tried to peel off defectors not only from the army but from the government as well, though only a handful of high-ranking officials have abandoned Assad.

But the conflict has divided many Syrian families. Security forces arrested on Thursday an opposition activist who is also the relative of Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa, the Syrian Observatory said. The man was arrested along with five other activists who are considered pacifists, it said.

Sharaa, a Sunni Muslim who has few powers in Assad's Alawite-dominated power structure, said earlier this week that neither side could win the war in Syria. He called for the formation of a national unity government to solve a crisis that has killed more than 40,000 Syrians.

(Reporting by Erika Solomon; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Wall Street steadies after two-day rally; Oracle gains

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks were little changed on Wednesday as investors found scant reason to continue buying following the best two-day rally for the S&P in a month.

The Nasdaq notched slight gains, helped by technology shares following strong results at Oracle Corp .

The S&P added 2.3 percent over the past two sessions, the first time it has notched two straight days of 1 percent gains since late July. The advance came as the latest offers in ongoing U.S. budget negotiations supported hopes for a deal.

President Barack Obama's most recent offer to Republicans in the ongoing fiscal talks made concessions on taxes and social programs spending, amid concerns from Senate Democrats. House Speaker John Boehner said he remained hopeful about an agreement, though the offer was "not there yet."

"We're starting to see signs that there will be a deal on the 'fiscal cliff,' but after two strong days and with a fair amount of uncertainty left, people are just taking money off the table," said Peter Tuz, president of Chase Investment Counsel in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Tech shares <.gspt> were the top gainers of the day after Oracle reported earnings that beat expectations on strong software sales growth. Shares of Oracle rose 3.7 percent to $34.08, making it the biggest percentage gainer on the S&P 500.

FedEx Corp reported second-quarter revenue that beat expectations, but said earnings had been impacted by Superstorm Sandy. Shares rose 2.3 percent to $94.44.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> gained 2.60 points, or 0.02 percent, to 13,353.56. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> dropped 0.52 points, or 0.04 percent, to 1,446.27. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> gained 3.08 points, or 0.10 percent, to 3,057.61.

Equities have had difficulty maintaining strong gains amid concerns over the "fiscal cliff," a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts many fear could push the economy into recession if they take effect next year.

Markets have been buoyed in recent weeks by any indication that an agreement between policy makers over the budget may be reached, with banks and energy shares - groups that outperform during periods of economic expansion - leading gains.

Still, trading has been light ahead of the holidays, and with investors' focus on the budget talks.

Knight Capital Group Inc climbed 6.3 percent to $3.54 after it agreed to be bought by Getco Holdings in a deal valued at $1.4 billion. The stock, which nearly collapsed after a trading error in August, remains down about 76 percent so far this year.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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Penn State voted AP sports story of year again

NEW YORK (AP) — The Penn State child sex abuse scandal was selected as the sports story of the year by U.S. editors and news directors in an annual vote conducted by The Associated Press.

The news broke in November 2011, with a grand jury report outlining charges against Jerry Sandusky, and the outrage that followed led to the firing of Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno. But the aftershocks were felt long into 2012: Sandusky was convicted in June of assaulting 10 boys, and the NCAA handed down brutal sanctions in July.

In both years, the scandal was picked as the top sports story, the first time since the AP began conducting its annual vote in 1990 that the same story was selected twice in a row. The results of this year's tally were announced Wednesday.

Even before the Sandusky trial, the State College community had absorbed another huge blow as Paterno died Jan. 22 at age 85 of lung cancer.

The year ended with a small step to normalcy — joy on the football field. Under new coach Bill O'Brien, the Nittany Lions won eight of their last 10 games to finish 8-4, capped by an overtime victory at home over Wisconsin.

There were 157 ballots submitted from U.S. news organizations. The voters were asked to rank the top 10 sports stories of the year, with the first-place story getting 10 points, the second-place story receiving nine points, and so on.

The Penn State saga received 1,420 points and 109 first-place votes. The No. 2 sports story, Lance Armstrong stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, had 10 first-place votes and 1,008 points.

Football's popularity, college and pro, was unmistakable with seven of the top 10 stories. But only two of them involved the action on the field.

Here are 2012's top 10 stories:

1. PENN STATE: Sandusky, the former defensive coordinator whose crimes led to such devastation for his victims and for his former employer, was found guilty on 45 of 48 counts. In October, the 68-year-old was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison. His conviction provided some closure, but a messy aftermath remained. Former FBI Director Louis Freeh released the results of his investigation July 12, saying Paterno and other top school officials covered up allegations against Sandusky. The NCAA used that report as a basis for its sanctions announced later that month, which included a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban and scholarship reductions.

2. LANCE ARMSTRONG: In February, federal prosecutors closed an investigation into whether the star cyclist doped. That turned out to be only a temporary reprieve for a once-revered figure. In June, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency accused him of using performance-enhancing drugs, and in August, when he dropped his fight against the charges, USADA ordered his record seven Tour titles wiped out. A report released in October laid out vivid details of the evidence. The year ends with Armstrong dropped by many of the companies he endorsed and no longer formally involved with the cancer charity he founded, Livestrong.

3. NFL BOUNTIES: This much is clear: Saints coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire season and New Orleans started 0-4 to quickly fall out of playoff contention. Much else about the bounty scandal remains in dispute. Players deny the NFL's assertions of a pay-for-injury program. On Dec. 11, former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue overturned his successor's suspensions of four players but endorsed the findings of the investigation under Roger Goodell.

4. FOOTBALL CONCUSSIONS: The deaths of NFL greats Alex Karras — who suffered from dementia — and Junior Seau — who committed suicide — were grim reminders of the angst over head injuries in the sport and their possible consequences. Thousands of retired players have sued the league, alleging the NFL failed to protect them from the dangers of concussions.

5. LONDON OLYMPICS: Michael Phelps retired from swimming after setting an Olympic record with his 22nd medal at a Summer Games bursting with memorable performances. Usain Bolt became the first man to successfully defend both the 100- and 200-meter dash titles. And the host country racked up 65 medals in an Olympics so successful for Britain that it barely even rained.

6. COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS: Instead of complaining about the BCS, soon we can moan about the selection committee. After years of carping, fans finally got a playoff system, which will debut after the 2014 season. The four-team bracket will feature semifinals and a title game to determine a national champion.

7. REPLACEMENT OFFICIALS: Fans and pundits predicted a blown call would decide a critical game when the NFL started the season with replacement officials. Sure enough, in Week 3, on the national stage of "Monday Night Football," a missed offensive pass interference penalty and a questionable touchdown catch handed the Seattle Seahawks a win over the Green Bay Packers. Two days later, the league resolved its labor dispute with the regular refs.

8. SUPER GIANTS: A team that had been 7-7 upset the top-seeded Green Bay Packers on the road in the playoffs, needed overtime to beat the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game, then came from behind to defeat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, 21-17, an outcome strangely similar to their matchup four years earlier. Eli Manning won his second Super Bowl MVP award.

9. SUMMITT RETIRES: Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, retired from the Tennessee bench in April at age 59, less than eight months after revealing she had early-onset dementia. Longtime assistant Holly Warlick took over the Lady Vols. Summitt was 1,098-208 with eight national titles in 38 seasons.

10. MANNING'S RESURGENCE: Peyton Manning was released from the Indianapolis Colts in March after missing last season because of neck surgery, the future uncertain for the four-time MVP. John Elway and the Broncos gambled that he still had some championship play left in that right arm, and so far it's looking like a brilliant move as Denver won the AFC West.


AP Projects Editor Brooke Lansdale contributed to this report.

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The Psychology of Mass Shootings

After the horrifying shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school last week, people seem to be asking the same questions: What kind of person could open fire on innocent children? Why do such incidents keep happening? And what can we do to prevent such crimes?

We may never know what spurred the man who killed 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Conn., on Friday, and whether he could have been stopped.

But psychologists have created profiles of mass shooters, and many common themes — and even warning signs — emerge.

“In most cases, there’s a long trail leading up to the actual act of violence,” said Peter Langman, a psychologist in Allenton, Penn., who has studied mass shooters.

Yet despite a list of red flags, psychologists say, it is maddeningly difficult to separate the next school shooter from the millions of other disaffected students who may never go on to kill.

“There are certainly a lot of people who have a lot of things go wrong, and they’re not committing mass murders,” said Mary Muscari, a forensic nurse at Binghamton University in New York who has researched mass killers. “Even when you look at mental illness, most people with mental illness are not violent,” Muscari told LiveScience in July after the Aurora, Colo., movie theater killings.

Profile of a shooter

Many mass shootings are motivated by revenge or envy. That’s why many take place at a school or a workplace where shooters felt rejected, said Tony Farrenkopf, a forensic psychologist in Portland, Ore., who has created psychological profiles of mass shooters.

In addition, killers often exhibit risk factors that are generally tied to criminality: a history of abuse or ineffective parenting, a tendency to set fires or hurt animals, a sadistic streak, and self-centeredness and a lack of compassion.

“To most of us, children are beautiful little creatures that we love,” Farrenkopf told LiveScience. “So why would someone target them?”

In order to kill innocent little children, it’s possible the killer lacked compassion or empathy for them, instead seeing them as symbols of something he wanted to obliterate, Langman said.

School shooters often harbor anger and paranoid delusions, have low self-esteem and hang out with an outcast group, Farrenkopf said. And there is usually a triggering event — either a lost job or a falling out with a girlfriend — that finally makes them snap, he said. [10 Surprising Facts About the Teen Brain]

They also tend to be obsessed with guns, violent video games or movies.

In retrospect, investigators uncover warning signs, such as trying to recruit a peer or writing hateful stories, Langman told LiveScience.

“In many cases, students actually come out and say exactly what they’re going to do: ‘I’m going to come back with a gun and kill all of you,’” Langman said.

Toxic culture

Overwhelmingly, mass shooters are men, Langman said. That’s no surprise when you consider their self-professed motives, he said.

“These kids often feel very powerless. The one way they can feel like they’re somebody, that they’re a man, is to get a gun and kill people.”

Our culture and media (such as violent movies and video games) only reinforce the notion that manhood is about attaining power, and social and sexual status. Violence is glorified as a way to get that power, he said.

“There is that cultural script that a lot of kids are very influenced by. We don’t have a lot of alternative cultural scripts for males in terms of popular media,” he said. [The History of Human Aggression]

Society doesn’t necessarily teach constructive ways to deal with depression and disappointment, either. And we provide very little to support to people at risk before they become violent, Farrenkopf said.

Each mass shooting also holds the potential to spawn others, because other would-be shooters see stories about the crimes in the newspaper, and may want to emulate them, Farrenkopf said.

No crystal ball

Despite a fairly consistent profile, psychologists can’t predict who will kill. Millions of people will feel disaffected and vengeful, and may even lack empathy, but the vast majority would never shoot defenseless, 6-year-old children, Langman said.

And if fascination with violent media and guns were predictive, the average ninth-grade boy could be considered at risk.

“It’s only these kids who are really fundamentally struggling with their own identities,” he said. “Those really vulnerable kids who are the ones who will take a movie or video game that 10 million other kids would watch and play and take as a guide for how to live their lives.”

Even so, psychologists stress the importance of preventing these massacres before they happen. One step in that direction might be to help the kids who do feel the burden of social isolation and feelings of insignificance, regardless of whether they will ever snap.

“It’s not so much to catch shooters, because we know that’s very difficult, but actually to address very widespread problems that reach millions of kids,” Katherine Newman, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University, told LiveScience in July.

Follow LiveScience on Twitter @livescience. We’re also on Facebook & Google+

Copyright 2012 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Arming teachers would halt massacres

William Bennett argues that schools would be safer with at least one armed person there who is well-trained in firearms use.


  • William Bennett: Arming, training one person in a school could help prevent shootings

  • He says armed people have stopped instances of mass killing

  • Killers may target places where they know they can't be shot down, Bennett says

  • Bennett: Guns help prevent crime and improve public safety

Editor's note: William J. Bennett, a CNN contributor, is the author of "The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood." He was U.S. secretary of education from 1985 to 1988 and director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H.W. Bush.

(CNN) -- On NBC's "Meet the Press" this past Sunday, I was asked how we can make our schools safer and prevent another massacre like Sandy Hook from happening again. I suggested that if one person in the school had been armed and trained to handle a firearm, it might have prevented or minimized the massacre.

"And I'm not so sure -- and I'm sure I'll get mail for this -- I'm not so sure I wouldn't want one person in a school armed, ready for this kind of thing," I said. "The principal lunged at this guy. The school psychologist lunged at the guy. Has to be someone who's trained. Has to be someone who's responsible."

William Bennett

William Bennett

Well, I sure did get mail. Many people agreed with me and sent me examples of their son or daughter's school that had armed security guards, police officers or school employees on the premises. Many others vehemently disagreed with me, and one dissenter even wrote that the blood of the Connecticut victims was ultimately on the hands of pro-gun rights advocates.

To that person I would ask: Suppose the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary who was killed lunging at the gunman was instead holding a firearm and was well trained to use it. Would the result have been different? Or suppose you had been in that school when the killer entered, would you have preferred to be armed?

Evidence and common sense suggest yes.

In 2007, a gunman entered New Life Church in Colorado Springs and shot and killed two girls. Jeanne Assam, a former police officer stationed as a volunteer security guard at the church, drew her firearm, shot and wounded the gunman before he could kill anyone else. The gunman then killed himself.

In 1997, high school student Luke Woodham stabbed his mother to death and then drove to Pearl High School in Pearl, Mississippi, and shot and killed two people. He then got back in his car to drive to Pearl Junior High to continue his killings, but Joel Myrick, the assistant principal, ran to his truck and grabbed his pistol, aimed it at Woodham and made him surrender.

These are but a few of many examples that the best deterrent of crime when it is occurring is effective self-defense. And the best self-defense against a gunman has proved to be a firearm.

LZ Granderson: Teachers with guns is a crazy idea

And yet, there is a near impenetrable belief among anti-gun activists that guns are the cause of violence and crime. Like Frodo's ring in "The Lord of The Rings," they believe that guns are agencies of corruption and corrupt the souls of whoever touches them. Therefore, more guns must lead to more crime.

But the evidence simply doesn't support that. Take the controversial concealed-carry permit issue, for example.

In a recent article for The Atlantic magazine, Jeffrey Goldberg, by no means an avowed gun-rights advocate, declared, "There is no proof to support the idea that concealed-carry permit holders create more violence in society than would otherwise occur; they may, in fact, reduce it."

Goldberg cites evidence from Adam Winkler, a law professor at UCLA, that concealed-carry permit holders actually commit crimes at a lower rate than the general population.

The General Accountability Office recently found that the number of concealed weapon permits in America has surged to approximately 8 million.

According to anti-gun advocates, such an increase in guns would cause a cause a corresponding increase in gun-related violence or crime. In fact, the opposite is true. The FBI reported this year that violent crime rates in the U.S. are reaching historic lows.

This comes in spite of the fact that the federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004. Supporters of the ban (not including anti-gun groups who thought it didn't go far enough in the first place) claimed that gun crime would skyrocket when the ban was lifted. That wasn't true at all.

In fact, after the expiration of the ban, The New York Times, whose editorial pages are now awash with calls for more gun restrictions, wrote in early 2005, "Despite dire predictions that America's streets would be awash in military-style guns, the expiration of the decade-long assault weapons ban in September has not set off a sustained surge in the weapons' sales, gun makers and sellers say. It also has not caused any noticeable increase in gun crime in the past seven months, according to several city police departments."

But let's take the issue one step further and examine places where all guns, regardless of make or type, are outlawed: gun-free zones. Are gun-free zones truly safe from guns?

John Lott, economist and gun-rights advocate, has extensively studied mass shootings and reports that, with just one exception, the attack on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona, in 2011, every public shooting since 1950 in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns. The massacres at Sandy Hook Elementary, Columbine, Virginia Tech and the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, all took place in gun-free zones.

Do you own a gun that fell under the now-expired federal weapons ban?

These murderers, while deranged and deeply disturbed, are not dumb. They shoot up schools, universities, malls and public places where their victims cannot shoot back. Perhaps "gun-free zones" would be better named "defenseless victim zones."

To illustrate the absurdity of gun-free zones, Goldberg dug up the advice that gun-free universities offer to its students should a gunman open fire on campus. West Virginia University tells students to "act with physical aggression and throw items at the active shooter." These items could include "student desks, keys, shoes, belts, books, cell phones, iPods, book bags, laptops, pens, pencils, etc." Such "higher education" would be laughable if it weren't true and funded by taxpayer dollars.

Eliminating or restricting firearms for public self-defense doesn't make our citizens safer; it makes them targets. If we're going to have a national debate about guns, it should be acknowledged that guns, in the hands of qualified and trained individuals subject to background checks, prevent crime and improve public safety.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of William J. Bennett.

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Snow, high winds -- but maybe a white Christmas, too

A snow storm is headed for the Chicago area and WGN's Tom Skilling tells you what you can expect. (Posted Dec. 19th, 2012)

A winter storm whipped by high winds is expected to hit the Chicago area just in time for the evening rush hour Thursday, dumping up to 4 inches here but maybe a foot or more in Wisconsin where a blizzard warning has been issued.

But on the bright side (for some, at least), the National Weather Service is giving us a 30 percent chance of a white Christmas next week.

Thursday will begin with rain but that will change to snow around 6 p.m. as temperatures plunge. Winds will gust at 50 mph and wind chills will drop into the single digits, according to the weather service. There could even be thunder snow, it said.

The snow will continue past midnight and there could still be flurries for the morning commute Friday.

Chicago and most of the collar counties could see 2 to 4 inches of snow, with 1 to 2 inches south of Joliet and 4 to 6 inches near Rockford and Dixon, the weather service said. This would be the first measurable snowfall for Chicago this season -- and the latest it has ever occurred.

The worst of the storm will be north and west of Chicago: Both the Davenport and Milwaukee offices of the weather service have issued blizzard warnings.

“Winter’s held off so long, it’s going to come here with a bang,” weather service meteorologist Jamie Enderlen said.

In Wisconsin, the heaviest snow is expected to arrive after midnight and continue throughout the day on Thursday. Wind gusts of up to 45 mph by Thursday afternoon should make travel treacherous.

The weather service posted blizzard warnings for at least eight south central counties for Thursday afternoon. Forecasters say it could be the biggest snowstorm to hit the state since the Groundhog Day blizzard last year. That storm dumped 1 to 2 feet of snow in southeastern Wisconsin.

WGN-Channel 9 meteorologist Tom Skilling warns that the lack of snow to date over a wide swath of the Midwest, including Chicago, means there's no residual ice-deterring chemicals on the road which "could lead to especially icy road surfaces, producing hazardous travel conditions."

Skilling also reports that Chicago's first measurable snow of the season is usually a minor event, totaling just a few tenths of an inch and not causing any problems. But a check of the city's snow archives dating back to 1884 found that Chicago has logged 12 first measurable snowfalls of 3 inches or more.

The largest was 4.8 inches on Nov. 15, 1940 that helped boost that month to the city's snowiest November on record. The month ended with 14.8 inches of snow. The 1940-41 snow season went on to produce a robust 52.5 inches, well above the city's current 36.7 inch normal.

The forecast for next week is a little cheerier. For Christmas Day, the weather service says it will be in the middle 30s with a 30 percent chance of light snow.

chicagobreaking@tribune.comTwitter: @chicagobreaking

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Park wins South Korea presidency, to be first woman leader

SEOUL (Reuters) - The daughter of a former military ruler won South Korea's presidential election on Wednesday and will become the country's first female leader, saying she would work to heal a divided society.

The 60-year old conservative, Park Geun-hye, will return to the presidential palace in Seoul where she served as her father's first lady in the 1970s, after her mother was assassinated by a North Korean-backed gunman.

With more than 88 percent of the votes counted, Park led with 51.6 percent to 48 percent for her left-wing challenger, human rights lawyer Moon Jae-in, giving her an unassailable lead that forced Moon to concede.

Her raucous, jubilant supporters braved sub-zero temperatures to chant her name and wave South Korean flags outside her house. When she reached her party headquarters, Park was greeted with shouts of "president".

An elated Park reached into the crowd to grasp hands of supporters wearing red scarves, her party's color.

"This is a victory brought by the people's hope for overcoming crisis and for economic recovery," she told supporters at a rally in central Seoul.

Park will take office for a mandatory single, five-year term in February and will face an immediate challenge from a hostile North Korea and have to deal with an economy in which annual growth rates have fallen to about 2 percent from an average of 5.5 percent in its decades of hyper-charged growth.

She is unmarried and has no children, saying that her life will be devoted to her country.

The legacy of her father, Park Chung-hee, who ruled for 18 years and transformed the country from the ruins of the 1950-53 Korean War into an industrial power-house, still divides Koreans.

For many conservatives, he is South Korea's greatest president and the election of his daughter would vindicate his rule. His opponents dub him a "dictator" who trampled on human rights and stifled dissent.

"I trust her. She will save our country," said Park Hye-sook, 67, who voted in an affluent Seoul district, earlier in the day.

"Her father ... rescued the country," said the housewife and grandmother, who is no relation to the candidate.

For younger people, the main concern is the economy and the creation of well-paid jobs in a country where income inequalities have grown in recent years.

"Now a McDonald's hamburger is over 5,000 Korean won ($4.66) so you can't buy a McDonald's burger with your hourly pay. Life is hard already for our two-member family but if there were kids, it would be much tougher," said Cho Hae-ran, 41, who is married and works at a trading company.

Park has spent 15 years in politics as a leading legislator in the ruling Saenuri party, although her policies are sketchy.

She has a "Happiness Promotion Committee" and her campaign was launched as a "National Happiness Campaign", a slogan she has since changed to "A Prepared Woman President".

She has cited former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a tough proponent of free markets, as her role model as well as Angela Merkel, the conservative German chancellor who is Europe's most powerful leader.


One of those who voted on Wednesday was Shin Dong-hyuk, a defector from North Korea who is the only person known to have escaped from a slave labor camp there.

He Tweeted that he was voting "for the first time in my life", although he didn't say for whom.

Park has said she would negotiate with Kim Jong-un, the youthful leader of North Korea who recently celebrated a year in office, but wants the South's isolated and impoverished neighbor to give up its nuclear weapons program as a precondition for aid, something Pyongyang has refused to do.

The two Koreas remain technically at war after an armistice ended their conflict. Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of the North's current leader, ordered several assassination attempts on Park's father, one of which resulted in her mother being shot to death in 1974.

Park herself met Kim Jong-un's father, the late leader Kim Jong-il, and declared he was "comfortable to talk to" and he seemed to be someone "who would keep his word".

The North successfully launched a long-range rocket last week in what critics said was a test of technology for an intercontinental ballistic missile and has recently stepped up its attacks on Park, describing her as holding a "grudge" and seeking "confrontation", code for war.

Park remains a firm supporter of a trade pact with the United States that and looks set to continue the free-market policies of her predecessor, although she has said she would seek to spread wealth more evenly.

The biggest of all the chaebol, Samsung Group, which produces the world's top selling smartphone as well as televisions, computer chips and ships, has sales equivalent to about a fifth of South Korea's national output.

(Additional reporting by Jumin Park, Seongbin Kang, Narae Kim, SoMang Yang; Writing by David Chance; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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