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02 Mar

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

English Online International Newspapers

Nearly all of these are English-edition daily newspapers. These sites have interesting editorials and essays, and many have links to other good news sources. We try to limit this list to those sites which are regularly updated, reliable, with a high percentage of “up” time.

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Authors say research into assault weapons ban, universal background checks, and other proposals helps fill gaps in ‘a fact-free environment’

Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Emma González hugs her father after speaking at a rally.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Emma González hugs her father after speaking at a rally. Photograph: Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images

Passing an assault weapons ban might prevent 170 mass shooting deaths a year in the US, experts who support gun control estimate. Passing a universal background check law could prevent 1,100 gun homicides each year. Raising the age limit for buying firearms could prevent 1,600 homicides and suicides.

These are some of the new estimates in a groundbreaking study of the potential impact of American gun control laws. The non-partisan analysis, based on a review of existing gun policy research and a survey of the best guesses of both gun rights and gun control experts, was conducted by the Rand Corporation, which spent two years and more than $1m on the project.

Rand’s review of the existing research concluded that only a handful of gun control laws were backed by strong research evidence. Child access prevention laws, which are designed to keep guns out of the hands of children, had the strongest evidence behind them, the researchers concluded, and appeared to reduce gun injuries and suicides. The review also found “moderate evidence” that background checks reduce firearm suicides and homicides, and that certain mental health gun prohibitions reduced violent crime.

The Rand review also found “moderate evidence” that “stand your ground” laws, which allow Americans to use guns to defend themselves without first attempting to retreat from a confrontation, may increase state homicide rates.

What the two-year project revealed most starkly were the gaping holes in both the research and the basic data needed to understand what gun laws might save the most lives.

There was only “inconclusive” research evidence about the impact of a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines on mass shootings and on violent crime. There was no rigorous research of any kind about the impact of gun-free zones. The research on the impact of laws making it easier to carry concealed firearms was “limited” or inconclusive”.

That lack of evidence is not an accident, but a political choice, shaped by more than two decades of opposition to federally funded gun research from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun rights advocates.

Having no research to answer crucial gun debate questions “creates a fact-free environment, where people can make claims that make problems for legislation moving forward”, Andrew Morral, the lead researcher on the project, said.

Congressional Republicans passed the 1996 Dickey amendment to pressure the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) away from conducting public health research on gun violence. The political pressures have never amounted to a total ban on federal funding for gun-related research. The justice department, for instance, has continued to fund important studies in this area, often focused on policing and community strategies for preventing shootings. But the amount of money the US government spends on research to prevent gun deaths is a fraction of the amount it spends on comparably prevalent causes of death and injury.

To fill in those gaping holes in what Americans know about how different gun control laws might work, Rand did what policymakers might do when there is no study offering a simple answer: they surveyed longtime gun policy experts about their best guesses about the impact of different laws.

The experts, who included gun policy researchers and affiliates of advocacy groups such as Everytown for Gun Safety, the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, provided their best guesses about how much a given law might affect gun homicides, gun suicides, gun accidents and mass shooting deaths, as well as how much each policy might affect gun industry sales.

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Worshipers clutching AR-15 rifles hold blessing ceremony at US church – video

 

Worshipers wearing crowns and clutching AR-15 rifles drank holy wine and exchanged or renewed wedding vows in a commitment ceremony at a Pennsylvania church, prompting a nearby school to cancel classes. Attendees gripped the guns, which they had been urged to bring unloaded to the church in the rural Pocono Mountains, about 100 miles (160 km) north of Philadelphia. A spokesman for the church, now headed by the Rev Hyung Jin Moon, said, ‘Each of us is called to use the power of the “rod of iron” not to arm or oppress as has been done in satanic kingdoms of this world, but to protect God’s children’, citing the biblical Book of Revelation

 

TV shows officers entering Israeli PM’s house, while his wife was also questioned elsewhere

The questioning comes with Netanyahu about to visit Washington.

The questioning comes with Netanyahu about to visit Washington. Photograph: POOL/Reuters

Israeli police questioned Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife on Friday as part of a corruption investigation involving the country’s largest telecom firm, local media reported, the third such scandal to engulf the prime minister.

Known as Case 4,000, the investigation centres around allegations that the owners of Bezeq Israel Telecom provided positive coverage of the Netanyahus on a news website in return for regulatory changes worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Bezeq has denied wrongdoing, and Netanyahu has not been named as suspect in the case. Police confirmed the Netanyahus had been questioned for several hours as part of an investigation, but did not specify which one.

Channel 10 TV showed footage on Friday of police entering Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem. His wife, Sara, was being questioned at the same time in Tel Aviv, according to her lawyer.

The reports throw a cloud above Netanyahu’s planned visit to Washington next week, where he will meet Donald Trump and give a speech to the pro-Israel lobby Aipac.

Pressure has been piling on the 68-year-old leader, whose rightwing politics have dominated Israel for a generation. Last month, police recommended Israel’s attorney general indict him in two separate bribery investigations, one of which also relates to gifts in exchange for favourable media reports.

That development, along with the arrest of high-level members of his inner circle, poses a serious threat to the country’s second-longest serving prime minister, who has held office for four terms.

Netanyahu, who also headed the communications portfolio until last year, has vehemently denied allegations of corruption and accuses the media of leading a witch-hunt against him.

Case 1,000, also known as the “gifts affair”, involves claims that he and his family received about £200,000 worth of gifts from international billionaires, including expensive cigars, pink champagne and jewellery for his wife. Alleged wealthy benefactors include the Hollywood producer and media magnate Arnon Milchan and the Australian businessman James Packer.

In return, police say, Netanyahu helped Milchan, a producer who worked on Pretty Woman and Fight Club, with US visa matters and Israeli tax breaks.

Case 2,000 relates to secret talks with the publisher of a leading Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, in which Netanyahu allegedly requested supportive coverage in exchange for damaging a competitor, the pro-Netanyahu freesheet Israel Hayom.

A further case under investigation – Case 3,000 – is an inquiry into alleged kickbacks in a deal to buy German submarines. Netanyahu is not a suspect, but he was closely involved in the deal and the case has ensnared members of his inner circle.

The attorney general will decide whether to accept the police recommendation to charge Netanyahu, a process that is likely to take months. Netanyahu’s delicately balanced coalition has stood by him so far, and he plans to run in elections due in late 2019.

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World Politics

Spain

Submission to human rights committee accuses Madrid of ‘criminalising’ Catalan leaders

Carles Puigdemont

Carles Puigdemont says Spain violated his right to participate in political life by forcing him into exile in Belgium. Photograph: Handout/Reuters

Spain has violated Carles Puigdemont’s right to participate in political life by forcing him into exile in Belgium, according to his lawyers’ submission to the UN human rights committee.

A 37-page document sent this week accused the Spanish government of “criminalising” the independence movement by initiating a “repressive crackdown” that has led to the imprisoning of former ministers.

It comes after Puigdemont announced on Thursday that he was abandoning his attempt to return as Catalan president and would throw his weight behind Jordi Sànchez, an MP in his Together for Catalonia party and the former leader of the grassroots Catalan National Assembly (ANC).

The complaint to the UN is part of a series of legal initiatives by the pro-independence campaign aimed at embarrassing Spain in international tribunals.

The papers, signed by Puigdemont, also alleged that his right to freedom of association and assembly, as well as freedom of opinion and expression, have been illegally suppressed, thereby breaching the universal declaration of human rights and the international covenant on civil and political rights.

“The series of steps taken by the Spanish executive and judicial authorities has rendered it impossible for him to discharge his duties and responsibilities as the democratically elected president of Catalonia,” the submission argued.

“The applicant’s right to participate in the government of his country through democratic elections has been snuffed out and the right of the people of Catalonia to elect their chosen representatives to govern them has been frustrated by repressive actions of the central authorities in Madrid.

“As a consequence, the applicant has been forced against his will and under protest to step aside to allow the nomination of an alternative candidate. He takes this step in the interests of the Catalan people, to enable the Catalan parliament to perform its governing function, to re-establish a measure of autonomy for the region, and thereby to advance Catalonia along its journey towards independence.”

Sànchez has been in prison since mid-October, when he and another pro-independence civil society group leader, Jordi Cuixart, were arrested as part of an investigation into alleged sedition in the run-up to the independence referendum.

It is unclear whether Sànchez would be allowed out of prison to be invested or whether he commands the support of the two other pro-independence Catalan parties.

The proposal was swiftly dismissed by the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, who has called on the Catalan parliament to choose a “clean” candidate.

“I ask that they choose a president who doesn’t have legal problems,” Rajoy said in an interview with the broadcaster Telecinco.

“Anything else is frankly a joke. As far as I’m concerned, they can choose whoever they want, but I think choosing someone with legal problems would be an enormous mistake and would send the message ‘We’re carrying on with the confrontation’.”

The document sent to the UN said Puigdemont remains willing “to enter into political dialogue” with Madrid “on behalf of the Catalan people” as a means of securing the release of “political prisoners”.

As well as Sànchez and Cuixart, the former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras and the former Catalan interior minister Joaquim Forn remain in prison facing possible charges of rebellion and sedition.

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United States

Chris Cox suggests US president has reversed his position after meeting him in the White House

Donald Trump with Chris Cox (left) and Wayne LaPierre,

Donald Trump with Chris Cox (left) and Wayne LaPierre, executive vice-president of the National Rifle Association, during an NRA convention in 2016. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The US National Rifle Association’s chief lobbyist has claimed Donald Trump has reversed his position on gun control, just a day after the US president held a televised meeting with lawmakers in which he said he supported increased background checks for gun buyers.

Chris Cox tweeted late on Thursday night that he had met Trump and the vice-president, Mike Pence, and they “don’t want gun control”. They also “support strong due process”, he added.

Trump later tweeted a confirmation of an Oval Office meeting with the NRA, saying it was “great”, but not elaborating on whether he had changed position.

The president’s remarks on Wednesday, warning lawmakers not to be afraid of the NRA and speaking in favour of a law expanding background checks for gun sales, as well as other gun-control measures, had shocked his allies and opponents alike.

“Some of you people are petrified of the NRA. You can’t be petrified,” Trump had said. His comments suggested that, after a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, left 17 people dead and sparked a youth movement for gun control, he was interested in breaking with the gun-rights group on key issues. Trump and the NRA had already expressed conflicting public views on whether to raise the legal age topurchase certain weapons.

The NRA, which endorsed Trump early and gave more than $30m to back his bid for the White House, has been one of the his staunchest supporters. Trump’s public remarks infuriated some NRA members. They appeared to suggest he was open to gun control policies that the group had long opposed. “Every word of it was a betrayal,” said one NRA member.

Trump had also on Wednesday appeared to endorse aggressive measures to confiscate guns from dangerous people. Conservatives, including Pence, had suggested that it might be possible to petition a court to temporarily remove an unstable person’s firearms.

“Take the guns first, go through due process second,” Trump said.

Gun violence groups had hailed Trump’s comments, with Everytown for Gun Safety releasing a statement saying that “the president today called for sweeping gun violence reform that would meet the moment of public sentiment after the tragedy in Parkland”.

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‘Every word of it was a betrayal’ NRA members on Trump’s plans for gun control>>

Gun control Trump’s shift ‘could make the difference’, says Republican>>

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