Donald Trump has signalled his support for efforts to make it harder for criminals to buy firearms.
In an apparent U-turn following last week’s mass shooting at a school in Florida, the President has said he would back proposals to improve background checks before gun purchases.
Mr Trump had faced criticism for his opposition to gun control measures in the wake of the massacre that left 17 students and teachers dead.
But White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders revealed the President has spoken to a Democrat and a Republican about a bipartisan bill that would force states and federal agencies to report more frequently on offences that prohibit a person from buying a weapon.
“While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the President is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system,” she said.
The proposed bill would punish states and federal agencies that fail to follow the law on reporting criminal history records to the national background check system – rewarding those that comply with the rules.
Mr Trump, who has been a strong supporter of gun rights and the National Rifle Association, was heavily criticised for his initial response to the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
In a tweet, he had written: “My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.”
Sarah, believed to be a teenage student at the school who used Twitter to report the attack, posted another message, since deleted, calling him a “piece of s***” and urging him to “do something instead of sending prayers”.
The President later tweeted that suspected gunman Nikolas Cruz was “mentally disturbed” – and, after the FBI admitted it failed to act on tip-offs about the 19-year-old, he suggested the agency was spending “too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign”.
The legislation that Mr Trump is supporting does nothing to address the divisive issue of America’s permissive gun laws under a constitutional amendment that protects the right to bear arms.
Known as the Fix NICS Act, it was prompted by a massacre at a Texas church in November, when gunman Devin Kelley killed 26 people.
Kelley was able to buy guns while serving in the air force despite a domestic violence conviction that should, by law, have prevented him from purchasing or possessing firearms.
The conviction was never reported, exposing a major weakness in the background check system.
COVID-19: Pregnant women and their unborn babies dying in Brazil as deaths set to pass 500k mark | World News
Brazil is likely to pass the awful mark of 500,000 COVID-related deaths in the next two days. Only the United States has a higher number of dead across the world.
Currently averaging 2,500 deaths a day, Brazil’s P1 variant has long been identified as a highly virulent cause for concern, prompting travel bans to most countries.
But researchers in Sao Paulo, one of the worst-hit cities in the country, say the P1 variant has started infecting and killing pregnant women and their unborn children in startling numbers.
Currently 42 pregnant women die every week from COVID-19; many more women are being intubated and their premature children delivered by caesarean section without consultation with obstetricians, according to medical researchers at the Brazilian Obstetric Observatory.
Dr Rossana Pulcineli Vieira Francisco from the observatory said: “The virus transmissibility is higher with this variant and I think the big problem is that the health system for maternal care in Brazil is very bad.
“In some states the patient starts treatment in one hospital, a general hospital, and when her condition starts to worsen, and she needs to deliver the baby, she will be transported while intubated because they’re not at the right hospital to do the delivery.”
This, she believes, is part of the reason Brazil is seeing a higher rate of maternal mortality.
She says obstetricians and intensivists should be working together to find the right outcomes for mother and child, otherwise it will be very difficult to stop maternal mortality during COVID.
“I think we have more cases because of the variant, and because our maternal health system is very fragile, we have this result.”
I asked her if it’s a perfect storm.
“Yes”, she replied, “and I think our only chance to stop this is the vaccine.”
The data from her and her colleagues’ research reveals that last year 10 pregnant women were dying each week from COVID-19.
This year, with the emergence of the new variant, the new figure is more than 40 per week.
Poor medical care and facilities already contributed to a high death rate for pregnant women in Brazil of 55 per 100,000 women. In Britain the figure is just 9.7.
But Dr Francisco says their research so far indicates that with COVID-19 as a factor the new number could double to over 100 per 100,000 by the end of the year.
The high overall transmission of the P1 variant (it accounts for nine in 10 coronavirus cases in Sao Paulo) combined with an overwhelmed health service, puts pregnant women at extreme risk.
The practice of intubating pregnant women and delivering the baby while the mother is in a highly stressed condition is criticised by the researchers as a “bad outcome” for both the mother and her child.
For their part, doctors working in overstretched public hospitals prioritise the life of the mother over the child and without extensive experience of intubating anyone, let alone pregnant women, they have little choice but to deliver the baby while saving the mother.
In Jardim Almeida Prado, a poor neighbourhood in the south of the city of Sao Paulo, Thais Ferreira de Lomes looks down at her tiny three-month-old baby Ezequiel, who has just been released from hospital.
Ezequiel was born 12 weeks prematurely, after Thais was intubated.
Previously fit and healthy, like most people, Thais and her family thought she was in no danger when the first symptoms of COVID developed, but they were wrong.
When her kidneys failed, the doctors said she wouldn’t live to see her third child.
She’s still scarred by her near-death experience – her uncle had died of COVID when she first got sick.
“It was great to come home, see my family, and know that God gave me the opportunity to live again,” she tearfully told me.
“Seeing so many people dying, so many people dying like my uncle died with COVID. Many people are dying with COVID.”
Even though she is over the worst of her experience, she is scared for her and her children’s futures, and worries Ezequiel might still get coronavirus.
“Even today I’m afraid because he’s tiny, he was born prematurely. I told my mother-in-law that it’s hard for me to look at him and not think that something might happen.”
At the Graiau Hospital, the maternity ward and its premature babies section where Ezequiel was cared for, are currently free of COVID cases, but doctors and nurses have no expectation that it is going to stay this way – other hospitals in the city are still treating infants with COVID-19 and their sick mothers.
Dr Patricia Sella, the medical coordinator for gynaecology – and the doctor who treated baby Ezequiel – says she has no doubt that the P1 variant, sweeping across the country, is infecting young pregnant women like she hasn’t seen before.
“In 2021 we observed an increase in pregnant women affected by COVID, likely because of the new strain.
“In 2020, in our hospital mainly, we had a very small number of pregnant women with COVID, but this year we have at least one pregnant woman hospitalised with COVID every week,” she explained to me, standing in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.
She puts this down to the high infection rate of the P1 variant.
“So, actually, I think that with the change in the strain, we saw that the inflammatory process, [and] the vasculitis caused by the virus is much greater, right, and that ended up changing, bringing it to pregnant women.
“[Pregnant women] already have decreased lung compliance due to the pregnancy itself and the evolution of the pregnancy. With the COVID infection, this ends up getting worse.
“What we observed is that this strain ended up infecting pregnant women who do not have any other pre-existing conditions, so they do not have hypertension, and do not have diabetes during pregnancy. We observed that there was an increase and an increase in severity of the cases.”
In the middle-class suburb of Jardim America, Douglas Silverio proudly shows off the latest addition to his family, three-month-old Maria Helena.
She has two elder brothers Pedro, five, and Bento, three, who run around their home playing with toys while their grandmother prepares lunch.
She now lives with the family because her daughter and the children’s mother, Vanessa, is dead; killed by COVID-19.
Vanessa was just 33 when coronavirus struck.
Within five days she deteriorated and was intubated, and Maria Helena was delivered by caesarean section, coincidentally on her dad’s birthday.
Vanessa never recovered.
“I told my sons, ‘let’s say goodbye to her’.
“Pedro, who is five years old, cried too, and he said, ‘goodbye mother, you are going to heaven’.
“The youngest one did not understand what happened. And it was crazy, that was a crazy time, because we had prayed a lot for the baby, a lot of prayers from our family, but I was not ready to bury my wife in this process.”
On the day Douglas held mass for his wife’s death, baby Maria Helena was released from hospital.
He wants everyone to fear COVID and to listen to the warnings about the disease.
“I miss my wife. And she was my friend, we had a lot of plans together.
“I get scared when I see on the streets some pregnant women without masks. I say to them please take care of yourself.”
The entire medical profession in Brazil now acknowledges that the only way to fight the virus and to stop the country being a petri dish for creating COVID-19 variants that will continue to threaten the world, is for the country’s vaccination programme to speed up and reach all members of society.
The rollout is currently very slow and so far has only started to include 56-year-olds in Sao Paulo.
Many in the profession directly blame the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, for the country’s poor response to the pandemic.
He still refuses to take the vaccine, has continuously played down the danger of coronavirus and still discourages the use of face masks anywhere.
The identification of the virus as a specific threat to young pregnant women has set off the alarm bells here that COVID-19 variants are attacking younger and younger members of society, who were previously thought to be relatively safe from serious illness.
Johnson-Putin summit possible if Russia ends ‘malign activity’, defence secretary says | World News
A summit between Boris Johnson and Vladimir Putin might be possible if Russia’s president ceases “malign activity” against the UK and its allies, the defence secretary has signalled.
But the senior minister told Sky News that Western powers would judge Moscow on what it does next before any warming of ties, which have been brought to a post-Cold War low by Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the Salisbury spy poisonings.
Asked if he thought the Kremlin might want relations with the UK to improve, the defence secretary said: “I hope so. But we will judge them on their actions. Diplomacy is only valuable if the actions that follow actually make a difference.”
He said he remained concerned about an incident last month when the Russia-backed regime of Belarus forced a civilian airliner to land and seized a journalist on board.
“We, unfortunately, still see malign activity. But I think we will judge President Putin by his actions,” he said.
As to whether there was a chance of a UK-Russia summit, Mr Wallace indicated it was a possibility if the Russian president showed some positive signs of change.
“Boris Johnson is clearly open to meet anyone where there is an important step to be made and stepping towards normalising relations with Russia will obviously and hopefully come, but it comes following certain actions,” he said.
“Crimea is still illegally occupied in Ukraine and there are still things to resolve.”
Pressed again on whether he hoped such a summit could possibly happen, the defence secretary said: “I don’t want a permanent friction between Russia and the West. That is not in anybody’s interest.
“It is not in the interests of the Russian people, it’s not in the interests of the economy of Russia, it’s not in the interests of my population and constituents either.
“Listen, no one wants conflict. No one wants friction but that is not cost-free, you have to lift that based on behaviours.”
He said the Kremlin must recognise and respect “other people’s sovereignty and the international rule of law” before any improvement in relations, such as a lifting of sanctions, could happen.
“But we’ve always got to offer people a path out, a path to improvement and I think that bilateral between President Biden and President Putin is a really welcome start,” Mr Wallace added, referring to the summit in Geneva on Wednesday.
He was speaking on the sidelines of a multinational military exercise at a base in the south of Serbia, about six miles from the border with Kosovo.
Troops, equipped with armoured vehicles, a helicopter and a small drone, practised how to respond to a terrorist attack on a convoy and deal with rioting civilians, as Mr Wallace, Serbian defence minister Nebojsa Stefanovic and other officials watched from a stand.
With 70 British soldiers involved, the UK was the largest foreign contributor to the exercise – dubbed “Platinum Wolf” – which takes place across two weeks and, as well as Serbian forces, includes troops from eight other nations, such as France and the United States.
The visit by Mr Wallace is evidence of the UK’s desire to strengthen ties with a country it once bombed as part of a NATO mission during the Kosovo War more than 20 years ago, but which it previously fought alongside during both world wars.
“The Balkans matter for the security of Europe,” Mr Wallace said. “It’s always mattered. That is why 80 years ago we were standing on hills together side by side pushing back the Nazis. That importance, that geographic importance, that strategic importance still matters today.”
Underlining the challenges in this region, at the same time as British troops train with the Serbian military, forces from Serbia are conducting an exercise with their Russian and Belarussian counterparts in Russia.
Asked whose forces Serbia liked training with more – British or Russian – the Serbian defence minister told Sky News: “We are militarily neutral, so we don’t have to prefer to train with either, we can choose both and that’s our advantage.
He added: “We get the best from East and West in training capabilities, in learning about the tactics… As a militarily neutral country we want to work with everyone in order to get our army as professional as possible.”
Christian Eriksen visits team after being discharged from hospital | World News
Denmark’s Christian Eriksen has been discharged from hospital and visited his teammates nearly a week after collapsing on the pitch.
The Danish football association said Eriksen has been through a successful operation, following his cardiac arrest during Denmark’s Euro 2020 game with Finland in Copenhagen on Saturday.
The association tweeted: “Christian Eriksen has been through a successful operation and was discharged from Rigshospitalet.
“Today he also visited the national team in Helsinger – and from here he will go home and spend time with his family.”
In a message to well-wishers Eriksen said: “The operation went well and I am doing well under the circumstances.”
The Danish football association previously said that Eriksen would be fitted with an implantable device that can function as both a pacemaker and defibrillator.
The heart starter, known as an ICD, is designed to correct the rhythm of the heart if it notices a potentially dangerous pattern by issuing a number of small or larger electric shocks.
In extreme situations it can act as a defibrillator to restore the heart’s normal rhythm, according to the British Heart Foundation website.
The 29-year-old Inter Milan midfielder collapsed on the pitch just before halftime, leaving him needing to be resuscitated and the game temporarily stopped.
Eriksen, who spent seven years with Tottenham in the Premier League, regained consciousness before being taken to hospital, where medics continue to work to identify what caused his cardiac arrest.
Denmark‘s team doctor Morten Boesen said the midfielder was “gone” but the swift response and treatment on the pitch and by medical staff meant he was stabilised and later able to message his teammates.
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