In brief | Nation & World, December 16, 2013


Colorado governor visits school shooting victim; lauds security measures

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Colorado’s governor asked the nation Sunday for prayers for the 17-year-old girl who was critically wounded by a classmate at her suburban Denver high school.

Gov. John Hickenlooper also credited security procedures adopted after the 1999 massacre at nearby Columbine High School for helping put a quick end to the Arapahoe High School shooting by Karl Pierson, an 18-year-old student who shot Claire Davis at point-blank range before killing himself.

“We all have to keep Claire in our thoughts and prayers,” he told CBS’ “Face the Nation.” Davis is hospitalized at Littleton Adventist Hospital.

Hickenlooper told The Associated Press that Davis’ parents “are remarkable people. I feel so directly their suffering. … They raised this beautiful young woman who had her whole life ahead of her.”

About 500 classmates held a candlelight vigil Saturday for Davis, who was sitting with a friend near the school library when she was shot in the head. Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson has said investigators think she was shot at random by Pierson, who had gone into the school looking for a teacher with whom he had a dispute.

Ukrainian opposition presses demands; doubts emerge over EU pact

KIEV, Ukraine — About 200,000 anti-government protesters converged on the central square of Ukraine’s capital Sunday in a dramatic show of morale after nearly four weeks of daily protests, but the rally was shadowed by suggestions that their goal of closer ties with Europe may be imperiled.

A much smaller demonstration of government supporters, about 15,000, was taking place less than a mile away from Kiev’s Independence Square. Anti-government protesters have set up an extensive tent camp there and erected barricades of snow hardened with freezing water and studded with scrap wood and other junk.

U.S. Sens. John McCain and Chris Murphy joined the anti-government demonstration to express support for them and their European ambitions, threatening sanctions against the government of President Viktor Yanukovych if authorities use more violence to disperse the protests.

The protests began Nov. 21 after Yanukovych announced he was backing away from signing a long-awaited agreement to deepen trade and political ties with the EU and instead focus on Russia, and have grown in size and intensity after two violent police dispersals.

In the face of the protests, which present a serious challenge to Yanukovych’s leadership, Ukrainian officials this week renewed talks with the EU agreement and promised that they would sign the deal once some issues are worked out.

Aid groups scramble to help Syrian refugees facing winter in tents

BAALBEK, Lebanon — Shivering in the snow, Syrian Aisha Mohammad looked at the last-minute charity that saved her children from freezing during the smack of a particularly tough Lebanese winter: a wood-burning stove complete with twigs and garbage to ignite in hopes of warming her drafty tent in an icy eastern plain.

Still, her seven children quake from the cold in their donated, bright plastic rain boots, even as they build snowmen resembling their own skinny selves. Since fleeing Syrian government shelling in the northeast province of Raqqa nine months ago, their playground has been here, among the rows of crowded tents they call home.

“We would have frozen to death,” without the aid, said the tall, 40-year-old wife of a day laborer who also lives at the camp as she held her runny-nosed four-year-old daughter, Rawan.

Like tens of thousands of impoverished refugees living in tents, shacks and unfinished buildings throughout Lebanon, the family faces a miserable winter as aid organizations scramble to meet their needs, constantly overwhelmed by ever-more people fleeing the Syrian conflict, now entering its third year.

Some one-third of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million has been displaced, with 2.3 million now refugees, mostly in neighboring countries.

By wire sources