Posted: 11 Jan 2011 07:21 PM PST
TUCSON, Jan 12 — The family of the accused gunman in the Arizona shooting spree expressed sorrow yesterday over the "heinous events" while the US congresswoman shot in the head showed signs of improvement.
In their first public statement, relatives of Jared Lee Loughner, 22, said it was a "very difficult time" and asked for privacy.
"There are no words that can possibly express how we feel. We wish there were, so we could make you feel better," read the statement, attributed to "The Loughner Family."
The eight-sentence statement did not mention the young man charged in the shooting at a Tucson shopping mall that killed six people, including a federal judge, and injured 14 others.
The shooting left US Representative Gabrielle Giffords in critical condition but breathing on her own days after a bullet passed through her brain.
"We don't understand why this happened. It may not make any difference, but we wish that we could change the heinous events of Saturday," the family statement said. "We care very deeply about the victims and their families. We are so very sorry for their loss."
President Barack Obama plans to go to Arizona today (Wednesday) to attend a memorial service for the dead, which included a 9-year-old girl. In Washington, the House of Representatives was scheduled to vote to condemn the bloody rampage that nearly killed one of their own and stirred debate about the angry politics of recent US campaigns.
Giffords, a 40-year-old Democrat, was in critical condition at a Tucson hospital but is "holding her own," responding to simple commands and breathing without the aid of her ventilation tube, her doctor said.
"She has no right to look this good. We're hopeful," said Dr. Michael Lemole, head of neurosurgery at the University Medical Center.
"It's week to week, month to month," he said. "She's going to take her recovery at her own pace."
Loughner is being held pending a Jan. 24 preliminary hearing on five federal charges, including the attempted assassination of Giffords.
Two young men emerged from the home of the accused gunman in a middle class neighborhood of Tucson and handed out the family's statement to a throng of media waiting outside.
A neighbor earlier told local media that Loughner's parents, Amy and Randy Loughner, were devastated.
"Their son is not Amy and Randy, and people need to understand that. They're devastated. Wouldn't you be if it was your child?" neighbor Wayne Smith, with tears in his eyes, tÿold Phoenix's News Channel Three.
A CBS News poll released yesterday found a majority of Americans reject the view that inflamed political rhetoric contributed to the weekend shootings in Arizona.
The poll found 57 per cent of respondents said the harsh political tone had nothing to do with the shooting, while 32 per cent felt it did. The rejection of a link was strongest among Republicans, with 69 per cent feeling harsh rhetoric was not related to the attack.
While the motive for the attack was not apparent, politicians and commentators have said a climate in which strong language and ideological polarization is common may have contributed.
Former President Bill Clinton cautioned that public officials should be careful about their language.
"We cannot be unaware of the fact that, particularly with the Internet, there's this huge echo-chamber out there," he told BBC News. "Anything any of us says falls on the unhinged and the hinged alike, and we just have to be sensitive to it."
Lawmakers in both political parties have called for greater civility in politics, and today members of Congress will come together in a bipartisan prayer service.
Giffords' colleagues in Congress have put most of their work on hold after the shootings, which prompted many of them to reassess their own security and even their way of life.
The Republican-led House has postponed a vote to repeal Obama's controversial overhaul of the US healthcare system, which Giffords and other Democrats backed.
Loughner is accused of opening fire with a semi-automatic Glock pistol while the congresswoman greeted constituents in a supermarket parking lot.
"In a minute, he took away six loved ones, and took away our sense of well-being," Governor Jan Brewer said in a speech in Tucson. "There is no way to measure what Tucson and all of Arizona lost in that moment." — Reuters
Posted: 11 Jan 2011 04:24 PM PST
The biggest floods in decades have so far killed 14 people since starting their devastating march across the northern mining state of Queensland last month, crippling the coking coal industry, destroying infrastructure, sending the local currency to four-week lows and threatening to put a brake on the economy.
With a flood surge expected to peak in the Queensland capital of Brisbane, a city of two million, tomorrow (Thursday), search and rescue crews took advantage of rare sunshine today to look for those still missing from tsunami-like flash floods that tore through townships west of the city this week.
"I think we're all going to be shocked by what they find in these towns that were hit by that tsunami yesterday," Queensland state Premier Anna Bligh told local television today.
The worsening floods are forcing economists to raise estimates of the economic impact, with one central bank board member quoted today as saying the disaster could cost as much as 1 per cent of economic growth — equal to almost US$13 billion (RM44.2 billion), double the previous highest estimate.
In Brisbane, thousands of homes and businesses were inundated as swirling flood waters rose in and around the riverside city, triggering residents to flee with few possessions to higher ground and evacuation centres.
City Mayor Campbell Newman said the number of homes expected to be hit by flooding had risen to 19,700, affecting up to 45,000 people, with the military now running relief flights with helicopters and C-130 transports.
Dams built to protect communities are at bursting point.
Power company Energex has switched off power to some low-lying areas of Brisbane, including parts of the financial district, to protect life and property. Residents
Bligh said the Brisbane River, which winds through the city centre, should peak at the high tide tomorrow around mid-afternoon, with thousands of properties to be inundated before that time, but she appealed for calm.
"Right across this region, this river is creating chaos, terrifying people and causing damage already," she said.
Unmoored boats and large logs could be seen floating down the Brisbane River, which was swirling with flotsam as the sun broke through today for what was expected to be a brief respite, allowing rescue helicopters to resume flying.
Some scenes in the city were surreal with early-morning joggers trying to carry on as normal, despite parts of the their routes being submerged.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard travelled to the city to inspect the devastation and said she was deeply concerned about the impact of the flood on jobs.
"I have been shocked. I think we've all been shocked by the images of that wall of water just wreaking such devastation. The dimensions of it are truly mind-boggling," Gillard said.
"We will have to work through the long-term economic impacts for Queensland, and of course the huge infrastructure re-building task to come as floodwaters subside." — Reuters
A car moves through a flooded street in the Brisbane suburb of West End January 12, 2011.— Reuters pic
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