Saturday, December 1, 2012

Police: Wyo. murder-suicide happened during class

A man wielding a sharp-edged weapon killed one person in a Casper neighborhood Friday before killing a male teacher and himself in front of students in a community college classroom, causing a campus-wide lockdown as authorities tried to piece together what happened. Police found the suspect and teacher dead at a science building on the Casper College campus, which was locked down for about two hours, school and police officials said. The other victim, a woman, was found in a street about two miles away. Casper Police Chief Chris Walsh said the murder-suicide took place in a classroom with students present, but he didn't know how many students or what the class topic was. He said investigators were still trying to determine a motive. Walsh said an "edged weapon" was used it at least one of the killings, but he didn't offer specifics and it was unclear if the same or a similar weapon was used in all of the deaths. The attacker wasn't believed to be a Casper College student and it appeared he knew the victims, Walsh said. No names were released. "We're locating next of kin and working on notification absolutely as fast as we can," Walsh said. He added authorities didn't believe there was any further threat to the community. "I want to emphasize that this is a horrible tragedy," Walsh said. "And I want the city to ... just feel safe right now. There is no one at large." The attack at the two-year community college in Casper, about 250 miles northwest of Denver, occurred just before 9 a.m. in a classroom on the science building's third floor. All students and staff were evacuated from the building. The college sent out a campus-wide alert via text message and email within two minutes of receiving word of the attack at 9:06 a.m., school spokesman Rich Fujita said. The lockdown ended at about 11 a.m. after school officials received word that police were no longer searching for a suspect, Fujita said. There are fewer classes on Fridays than any other day of the week at Casper College, so only between 1,500 and 2,000 of the college's 5,000 students were there, he added. One of them, freshman Pearson Morgan, was in a math class on the first floor of the science building when his instructor relayed the news in a state of shock. "My teacher was just so sick, he said, 'You can just leave,'" Morgan said. Morgan walked outside his classroom to find a female student crying. He then turned to see two or three officers with assault rifles bounding up the stairs. Then, all the classrooms emptied and a crush of students carried him outside, but nobody panicked, Morgan said. "There was a large group of students behind me," he said. "There was a lot of confusion." Political science instructor Chris Henrichsen said he was showing the film "Frost/Nixon" to his Wyoming and U.S. government class when he stepped into the hall to get something for a student and was told a homicide had occurred on campus. He went back to his classroom, where students were getting messages about the campus lockdown on their phones. "We locked the door and waited for further instruction," Henrichsen said. The students were later sent home, but some who parked near a different campus building where the attack occurred had to leave their cars there, Henrichsen said. About two miles away, Dave Larsen said he was headed to the gym when he drove past a body in a gutter with two people standing over it, one talking on a cellphone. Larsen lives about a block from the location of the body, a well-kept neighborhood of mostly single-story houses. Emergency vehicles had the street blocked off Friday afternoon. Police provided some details in a news conference streamed live by the Casper Star-Tribune ( Walsh said 33 law enforcement officers from different agencies responded to the college after receiving reports of the attack. He said authorities first thought it might have been an "active-shooter-type situation." "We quickly contained the building and started a sweep through the building," he said. Walsh said that within minutes of the initial call, there was another report of a traumatic injury about two miles southwest of campus. That victim was...More

Why Obama is pushing for stimulus in 'fiscal cliff' deal

How about a little government economic stimulus? That may sound incongruous considering the budget deficit and the push from Republicans to cut government spending. But President Obama’s first offer to avoid going over the "fiscal cliff" holds out the hope of at least some stimulus. This would include extending the 2 percentage point Social Security payroll tax cut, boosting a tax incentive to businesses, establishing a $50 billion bank for long-term infrastructure projects, and extending unemployment benefits. RECOMMENDED: 'Fiscal cliff' 101: 5 basic questions answered The total bill: about $255 billion out of the federal government's pocket – an amount the GOP would likely say needs to be offset by spending cuts elsewhere. The argument in favor of such stimulus? The tax measures, at least, could minimize the drag on the economy from Mr. Obama's proposed tax increases on the wealthy. “The increases in the top two income tax brackets would put a drag on consumption, so I think, from the Obama point of view, the spending or tax cuts are designed to offset that drag to consumption,” says Michael Brown, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, N.C. But to some budget experts, Obama’s list seems more like an opening round of negotiations, where he has asked for a lot more than he will get. “It looks to me like these are bargaining chips,” says Pete Davis of Davis Capital Ideas, which advises Wall Street firms. “Even most Democrats had given up on the prospect of getting the payroll tax cut extended.” Mr. Davis considers the odds of most of the stimulus proposals passing Congress “very low.” What's needed most, say others, is just buckling down and negotiating an end to the fiscal cliff. “Cancelling the fiscal cliff is economic stimulus,” says Stan Collender, a budget expert and partner at Qorvis Communications in Washington. If Obama's stimulus were passed, however, here is a look at the impact the four elements might have. SOCIAL SECURITY PAYROLL TAX CUT The largest chunk of the Obama plan is the extension of the payroll tax cut. This is the money that comes out of an individual’s paycheck as a contribution to Social Security. Two years ago, in an effort to stimulate the economy, Congress decreased the individual contribution from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent. The employer’s contribution of 6.2 percent remained unchanged. The Obama administration estimates extending the cuts would cost the government as much as $115 billion in revenue. The argument for extending the tax cut is that it helps lower-income workers who live paycheck to paycheck. “The difference in the paycheck might be the ability to pay the electric bill for someone or the chance to go to a sit-down restaurant once a month,” says Chris Christopher, an economist at IHS in Lexington, Mass. The argument against continuing the cut is that it is weakening the Social Security Trust Fund. In order to make up for the loss of contributions, the government taps the general tax revenues, says Pamela Tainter-Causey, a spokeswoman for the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

North Korea vows to test long-range rocket soon

North Korea said Saturday it will launch a long-range rocket between Dec. 10 and Dec. 22, a move likely to heighten already strained tensions with Washington and Seoul ahead of a South Korean presidential election on Dec. 19. This would be North Korea's second launch attempt under leader Kim Jong Un, who took power following his father Kim Jong Il's death nearly a year ago. The announcement comes several weeks after President Barack Obama was elected to a second term in the United States and ahead of his January inauguration. Washington considers North Korea's rocket tests to be veiled covers for tests of long-range missile technology banned by the United Nations. An unnamed spokesman for the Korean Committee for Space Technology said North Korea had "analyzed the mistakes" made in a failed April launch and improved the precision of the rocket and satellite, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. The April launch broke up shortly after liftoff, but quickly drew condemnation from the United Nations, Washington, Seoul and other capitals. The North's statement said a rocket carrying a polar-orbiting earth observation satellite will blast off southward from its northwest coastal space center. The United States has criticized North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles as a threat to Asian and world security. North Korea under its young leader has pledged to bolster its nuclear arsenal unless Washington scraps what Pyongyang calls a hostile policy.