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Newtown, Connecticut is reeling from Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school, which took the lives of 20 children and seven adults, including the shooter’s mother. 

The tragedy is the second deadliest school shooting in the United States, and investigators are still trying to find a motive behind gunman Adam Lanza’s unspeakable actions. 

Can hope still exist in this tiny town? Read more on Newtown at GlobalPost. 

As the spotlight turns to gun control following the Connecticut mass shooting, the focus is also on gun sales, which are at record levels. 

ABC News reported that during the Black Friday sales last month, Americans bought a record number of guns, with the FBI conducting background checks on 154,000 purchases of firearms.

For the month of November, the number surged to 2 million inquiries.

Read more on America’s record gun sales on GlobalPost. 

America has an image problem.

Following the unceremonious departure of Gen. David Petraeus on Friday, we chatted with Andrew Butler, a brand strategist and modern-day Mad Man who has worked on creating strategic ideas for Taco Bell, Nissan and more, to find out what he would do if America came to him looking for a fresh ad campaign to spice up its image.

If you were advising the US government right now what would you recommend?

If America were to become my client, I would focus on what it means to be free. Not just showing pictures and images of how great America is, what we have, why people love us, what they do here. I would work to understand and communicate how people are truly able to live and be free in America. And while there are separations in color, race, creed, political affiliations, geographies, finances, we all have one thing in common, we want to be free to be who we want to be. 

What kinds of messages should the government be sending out right now, with regard to the widening scandal?

Focus on showing Americans that you have a plan to ensure their safety and security while you are investigating this case. 

While [Petraeus] is a public figure, he is a private citizen. We need to understand that while he has been a public official, leading American endeavors, he still is a private citizen.  This investigation needs to draw a line between the two. Investigate how his actions affected his public duty. But ensure that his private life is not too deeply infringed upon. 

There are consequences to all actions. Some consequences may be positive and some may be negative. We need to utilize this as a tool for us to learn from.  If there are rules and you break them, you will be punished. The military is built on rules, and when one is broken, service men and women understand the penalties.  We as people need to understand the rules and the consequences associated with those rules.

What role does President Obama play? 

He has to become the CEO. I think that he has to be the one who calls for the action as well.

Would anyone else play a key role in our image?

In my mind I think that there is the CEO, but then no matter who you are in the country, we’re all citizens. We are all equal. It doesn’t matter what your social status is, or what your religious status, it doesn’t matter what it is, we are all citizens and we all have equal voice and we all have equal stake. 

Butler further explained that America needs to switch the messaging of the scandal from pointing the finger at Petraeus, to showing the American people that they are still competent and have a plan.

An old Godfather quote ‘never let anyone outside of the family know what you’re thinking’ comes to mind here. When an investigation like this happens, we need to determine an action plan that best enables the investigators to do their job. What we’ve seen here is the public calling for a tar and feathering even before all of the facts have come to light.  

Do you have any taglines that America could use?

Live free or die.

Butler later emailed to add one more line. 

While we all have different points of view, it is the freedom to have those differences that connect us as Americans. 

To help get America’s new image started, we gave Butlers taglines to our in-house graphic designer, Kyle Kim, who provided two ads that America is free to use to help revamp its image. (See one above) 

GlobalPost is proud to present our feature documentary from our in-depth series, America The Gutted.

America the gutted is a 10-month global investigation of the shrinking American middle class. For more from the series, visit GlobalPost. 

In his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, President Obama cast war as a necessary evil.

Referring to just war theory, a classical underpinning of military ethics, Obama said, “War is justified only when certain conditions were met; if it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the force used is proportional; and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.”

“For most of history, this concept of ‘just war’ was rarely observed,” he continued, citing the Third Reich and other examples. “Modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale.”

Then came Obama’s caveat, and a shape of things to come: “There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”

Technology is the moral black box that lies between those “few small men” in remote geographies of militant Islam, and teams of American military personnel who target them in front of closed-circuit screens, peering into the places of their hunted lives, programming drone attacks like a surreal video game.

Read more the the US drone war… 

Got advice to the next president? Share it!


GlobalPost is collecting words of advice on what the next president — either a re-elected Barack Obama or a triumphant Mitt Romney— should do during his term in office.

We hit the streets to find out what people want to see happen in the White House. 

What’s your advice? Share it with GlobalPost. 

It’s not exactly news that Mitt Romney has had some trouble connecting with a large part of the American electorate.

This is especially true when it comes tomiddle and lower income Americans, particularly those who receive government assistance and — according to the GOP presidential candidate — voted for President Barack Obama four years ago.

So it’s a safe bet to assume that Romney’s standing with this group won’t be helped by a video scoop today from Mother Jones, which features a “secret video” of Romney speaking at a private fundraiser earlier this year.

Here’s how David Corn framed the Mother Jones exclusive:

"During a private fundraiser earlier this year, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a small group of wealthy contributors what he truly thinks of all the voters who support President Barack Obama. He dismissed these Americans as freeloaders who pay no taxes, who don’t assume responsibility for their lives, and who think government should take care of them. Fielding a question from a donor about how he could triumph in November, Romney replied: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax."

Romney went on to say the following: “[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Here’s the clip obtained by Mother Jones, which has been blurred to protect the identity of the photographer, and which Corn claims has been verified by the publication.

For the entire story head to GlobalPost

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Morning news roundup via GlobalPost

President Obama reportedly signed a secret order months back, authorizing the United States to aid Syrian rebels in toppling the Assad regime. Indeed, the report just makes official what most people already knew: that the US has been involved in supporting the Free Syrian Army since the early days of the uprising. The documents do not say whether the US would be supplying arms to the emboldened fighters.

This as the fighting continues to rage in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, where it was reported that rebel fighters were able to steal a tank and open fire on an airbase. The reports, always difficult to confirm from Syria, suggest that this is the first use of heavy weapons by the rebels.

Despite advances by the Free Syrian Army, videos by unknown sources may show the bodies of those summarily executed by rebels - 52 in all. The next daymore video appeared, with rebels claiming that it showed the bodies of those killed by Assad’s forces after house-to-house raids.

Want to know: 

Michael Phelps has become the most decorated Olympian of all-time. The US swimmer now has 19 career medals, including 15 golds, 2 silver and two bronze, after helping his team win the 4x200m freestyle relay yesterday.

His victory pushes him past the medal count of Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina who participated in the 1956, 1960 and 1964 games.

Phelps’ glory caught the attention of President Obama who tweeted at the swimmer: “Congrats to Michael Phelps for breaking the all-time Olympic medal. You’ve made your country proud. -bo.” Phelps and his teammate Ryan Lochte are set for a showdown tonight in the 200-meter individual medley.

Dull but important: 

Uganda is still on high alert as the death toll from the Ebola virus increases to 16 after two others died overnight. About two dozen others are being kept in quarantine after coming in contact with the virus, made famous by the 1995 Hollywood film, “Outbreak.”

The last serious outbreak of the virus in Uganda occurred in 2000, when 425 people became infected and over half of them died.

The country’s president has warned against human contact and even told countrymen to refrain from shaking hands - a move that has been said to have increased awkward social situations. 

Just because: 

The law exempting ultra-Orthodox Israelis from military service expired yesterday, with the government signalling that it had no intention of renewing it. The controversial move will likely end what many Israelis feel has been an unfair privilege to the ultra-Orthodox community. The effort to expand participation in military service in Israel will undoubtedly affect the Arab Israeli community, which has also been exempt from serving until now.

The lead-up to the expiration has seen protests around the country by ultra-Orthodox Jews who have vowed to fight the new draft law. “The Israeli military is not ready, won’t be ready and doesn’t want to be ready to draft ultra-Orthodox Jews,” Meir Porush, an ultra-Orthodox community leader and former lawmaker told the Associated Press, vowing a “civil war,” if the draft law on conscription is passed.

Strange but true: 

Here’s another way for Olympic athletes to give back to their country: pay more taxes. Americans for Tax Reform, led by a man some call the most powerful person in America, Grover Norquist, pointed out recently that the US is one of the only places that taxes Olympic medal wins.

Win a gold medal? Athletes can expect to pay $236 for the medal itself and another $8,750 for the prize money. Silver medallists pay $135 for their award, while, to add insult to injury, Bronze winners pay a solid $2.

After the release of the news, Senator Marco Rubio announced the Olympic Tax Elimination Act, exempting athletes from the medal tax.

The United States is suffering its worst drought in 50 years. Yes, that’s bad news for Americans. But what happens in the parched fields and prairies of the Midwest can affect people, prices and political stability worldwide.

In this reporting series GlobalPost correspondents and editors investigate what America’s drought means for the rest of our hungry and increasingly worried planet.

The man accused of shooting dead 12 people in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, has appeared in court.

Suspect James Holmes attended the Arapahoe County Court this morning. A live broadcast showed him in prison clothes, looking dazed and occasionally frowning. His hair was dyed bright red.

He has so far refused to cooperate with authorities, local police told the Associated Press.

"He’s not talking to us," said Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates.

More from GlobalPost: Americans struggle with the aftermath of the Aurora shooting

Today’s hearing was to advise Holmes of the charges against him. Those will likely include first-degree murder and possibly aggravated assault and weapons violations, according to the AP.

"We get about 10 minutes into the movie and there is this big action scene and there’s lots of gunfire. And there is just maybe five or six really loud pops” she said. “So I freak out and I jump a little. And my husband laughs at me and I said, ‘no you don’t understand that wasn’t part of the movie, that was real. That was way too loud.’"

Read GlobalPost’s interview with a witness at the Colorado movie theater showing. 

The Boy Scouts of America says that their policy banning openly gay members is “absolutely the best” for the organization, The Associated Press reports.

The quote belongs to the Boy Scouts’ national spokesman, Deron Smith, who told AP today that an 11-member committee who undertook a confidential two-year review of the policy were unanimous in their decision to assert the rule against openly gay leaders and scouts. The policy, which the Supreme Court found in a 2000 opinion it could not challenge, has long been a source of dispute by rights groups and individuals — like Jennifer Tyrrell, a mother and Cub Scout leader whose membership was revoked because she is gay — incensed by the discriminatory measure.

In a statement last month, the Boy Scouts clarified the policy, stating: “While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”

The Boy Scouts’ mission is to “prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law,” codes that reinforce developing qualities like honor, loyalty and kindness.

ThinkProgress notes that the enduring policy appears especially antiquated in light of the non-discriminatory policies of most other major national youth groups and the US military’s 2011 decision to allow openly gay service members.

Indeed, the Boy Scouts appear well behind the military— Slate published a story today profiling two servicemen who they report are the first gay couple to wed on a military base.

July 17th — and with 5 notes

Many may have guessed this already, but the first half of 2012 was the warmest six months in a calendar year on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s data, released on Monday.

The NOAA reported that the average temperature for 2012, through June, was 52.9 degrees Fahrenheit, about 4.5 degrees higher than the long-term average for the same period.

The New York Times noted that that is “1.5 degrees warmer on average than the second hottest temperatures recorded, in 2006.”

The Guardian published highlights from the report:

- Most of the contiguous United States was record or near-record warm for the six-month period, except the Pacific Northwest.

- 28 states east of the Rockies hit record warm temperatures.

- 15 other states were top ten warm.

- The period was also drier than average with precipitation at 1.62 inches bellow the national average.

The BBC said the last year was the hottest since record-keeping began in 1985, according to government scientists.

More on GlobalPost: Heat wave spreads across US

The percentage of the contiguous US experiencing drought went up from 37 percent to 56 percent in the first six months of 2012, according to The Times. Colorado, which has been ravaged by wildfires, experienced a June that was 6.4 degrees higher than its historical average.

According to the NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center’s climate scientist Jake Crouch, the jet stream has remained far north of its usual location since December, contributing to the warmest winter and spring on record,USA Today reported.

More on GlobalPost: Power outages leave 2.1M without power in heat wave

More than 170 all-time heat records were broken or tied during the latter half of June, said the BBC. Forecasters now predict that hot weather could plague the Western US and Canada.

Crouch told Reuters, “It’s hard to pinpoint climate change as the driving factor, but it appears that it is playing a role.” He added, “What’s going on for 2012 is exactly what we would expect from climate change.”

July 10th — and with 2 notes

Supreme Court upholds Affordable Care Act

The US Supreme Court ruled that the core of the federal health care legislation, the individual mandate, was constitutional, on Thursday morning.

The court upheld the majority of the Affordable Care Act, including the controversial individual mandate, according to the SCOTUS blog.

Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal justices on the bench.

CNN initially got it wrong, reporting that the mandate was struck down.

As The Washington Post noted, the decision could play a pivotal role in President Obama’s bid for re-election. The health care law was a landmark achievement for the Obama presidency, while Republicans and presidential candidate Mitt Romney vowed to repeal it.

If upheld, the law would extend coverage to more than 30 million Americans who currently lack it, said The Post.

The court was deciding on three separate matters:

1. Whether the case could be heard yet, because of the Anti-Injunction Act which says that taxes cannot be challenged until they are first levied. The court was to decide whether the health care law’s penalties, which would be due in 2015, could be considered a tax, said The New York Times.

2. Whether the individual mandate, what some consider the core of the Affordable Care Act, was constitutional. The mandate requires even healthy people to have health insurance or risk paying a penalty, and would make universal health care a possibility.

Critics of the health care law said the mandate amounted to the government forcing people to buy a service they did not need, according to NPR.Supporters of the mandate saw it as a way of spreading the cost of health insurance among a wider pool of people.

More on GlobalPost: Supreme Court considers core of health care law, the individual mandate

3. If the mandate was struck down, the court would decide how much of the law could be preserved. Called “severability,” this means the court would have to decide how much of the health care law could survive if the individual mandate was ruled unconstitutional. Many argue that other provisions in the health care law, such as a ban on insurers denying people coverage due to preexisting conditions would not work well without the individual mandate.

Back in March, The Post reported that Justice Antonin Scalia asked the court-appointed lawyer arguing for severability, “Is this not totally unrealistic? That we are going to go through this enormous bill item by item and decide each one?”

The SCOTUS blog provided a guide to reading the Supreme Court’s ruling, here.

More on GlobalPost: Supreme Court debates health care without individual mandate