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NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre says anti-gun lobby ‘hate freedom’

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The chief executive of the National Rifle Association said gun control advocates “hate individual freedom”, before Donald Trump told Florida officials he is the “biggest believer in the second amendment”.

Wayne LaPierre slammed critics of the gun lobby and accused them of exploiting last week’s school shooting in Florida for political advantage.

He called it a “shameful politicisation of tragedy” as he expressed his unwavering defence of gun ownership.

Just hours later, Mr Trump told a group of Florida officials he was a big believer in the second amendment, the right to bear arms, and was speaking regularly with the NRA, from whom he enjoys “tremendous support”.

Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with state and local officials on school safety in the Roosevelt Room of the White House
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Mr Trump described the NRA’s leaders as ‘great patriots’

The President met Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, Indiana attorney general Curtis Hill and Parkland mayor Christine Hunschofsky at the White House.

He told them he wants to see trained teachers, who could be paid bonuses, carry concealed weapons to ward off potential gunmen in schools.

:: Trump – I never said ‘give teachers guns’

Before the hour-long meeting, he said he was keen to discuss violence in movies, reopening mental health institutions and raising the age limit on buying guns to 21.


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NRA: ‘Give schools armed security’

Ms Bondi said Florida would bring in a system of gun violence restraining orders so law enforcement officers can take away guns of people in custody for mental health reasons.

In a tweet after, Mr Trump said: “There is nothing more important than protecting our children. They deserve to be safe, and we will deliver!”

The meeting at the White House came after the NRA’s Mr LaPierre made his first comments since the Florida massacre.

He told the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC): “It’s a classic strategy right out of the playbook of a poisonous movement…for them it’s not a safety issue, it’s a political issue.”

He pointed the finger at the Democrats, saying their anti-gun rhetoric sought to undermine the constitutional right to bear arms.

“They hate the NRA,” he said. “They hate the Second Amendment. They hate individual freedom.”

Opponents of gun rights want to “sweep under the carpet” the failure of school safety, families “and even the unbelievable failure of the FBI” to prevent shootings, he said.


Andrew Pollack's daughter Meadow died in the Florida school massacre



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‘I visit my daughter in the cemetery now’

Appearing to throw his weight behind Mr Trump’s suggestion that teachers should be able to defend themselves and their pupils in such an event, he said: “We must immediately harden our schools.”

“Every day, young children are being dropped off at schools that are virtually wide open, soft targets for anyone bent on mass murder.”

Mr LaPierre echoed his words from 2012 following the Sandy Hook tragedy, saying: “Lean in, listen to me now, and never forget these words: to stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun.”

Vice President Mike Pence also took the stage to call the Florida massacre “evil in our time”.

:: US school shootings: A deadly history

He said the Trump administration would make school safety “our top national priority”, calling for those in positions of authority “to find a way to come together with American solutions.”

Mr Pence also praised the President’s meeting with the survivors and parents of shooting victims at the White House on Wednesday.

He said the nation had become “disconnected” and that Mr Trump met and listened to people with a “spirit of humility”.



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Fukushima ‘failings’ add fuel to fire of world’s anti-nuclear movement | Climate News

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A fifth of the UK’s energy comes from nuclear but opposition to the power source persists.

Environmentalists say the best argument against nuclear energy are Fukushima and Chernobyl.

They say whilst the risks of accidents are tiny, the impact if something goes wrong can be devastating – and the fall-out over what to do with millions of tonnes of water used to cool the power station at Fukushima illustrates that global public confidence in nuclear energy still needs repair.

There are always going to be bigger safety concerns about nuclear energy compared to say wind or solar.

That coupled mainly with cost issues means environmental groups like Greenpeace are opposed to the building of new nuclear power stations.

Nuclear energy is expensive, largely due to the safety systems needed, while the cost of renewables like solar fall year on year.

The world is being urged to turn its back on fossil fuels like coal and favour low carbon solutions to tackle climate change.

Wind and solar can be built much more quickly than nuclear.

But the argument for nuclear power is that it delivers 24 hours a day, seven days a week whatever the weather.

It’s a low carbon choice because it doesn’t emit greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane.

The government says it supports nuclear in the energy mix because of its reliability – nuclear power plants don’t require a daily supply of new fuel to operate, unlike gas, coal and biomass plants.

A new power plant at Hinkley Point C shows intent to invest in nuclear for the future – in spite of the pros and cons.

But the continuing problems at Fukushima – which went into meltdown in 2011 crippled by an earthquake and tsunami – tells its own story.

For years Japan has debated over what to do with the more than a million tonnes of water used to cool the power station.

The government insists most of the radioactive isotopes have been removed using a complex filtration process but one isotope, tritium, cannot be removed.

The company that runs the power plant has promised to dilute the water within regulatory limits before pumping it into the ocean.

But the public and campaign groups are not satisfied.

Residents in Fukushima remain concerned and fishing groups believe consumers will refuse to buy produce from the region.

It’s left the Japanese government once again being accused of “failing” the people of Fukushima.

And it adds further fuel to the fire of the world’s anti-nuclear movement.

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Taiwan invasion unlikely for now – but there are other ways China can turn the screw | World News

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The good news is that there are only five months when weather conditions are good enough to mount an invasion of Taiwan, according to Ian Easton, the author of The Chinese Invasion Threat. 

The bad news is that two of them are April and May.

So when Taiwan reported that 25 Chinese air force aircraft, including nuclear-capable bombers, entered its air defence identification zone (ADIZ) this week, fears of attack are front of mind.

It was the largest incursion by the Chinese military to date.

US Admiral Philip Davidson – Washington’s top military officer in the Asia-Pacific region – recently said he was worried China could invade Taiwan in the next six years.

Chiu Kuo-cheng, Taiwan’s new defence minister, responded: “His evaluation says six years, but my concerns include six hours.”

The foreign minister, Joseph Wu, said this month that in the event of an attack Taiwan would fight “to the very last day”.

The famous Taipei 101 in the capital
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It’s unclear how far the US would go if the threat to Taiwan reaches a new level

There is belligerence from the Chinese side. A defence ministry spokesperson said that a declaration by Taiwan of independence “means war”.

Hu Xijin, the editor of a nationalistic Chinese tabloid, said that the Chinese military could fly directly over the island of Taiwan itself, and if Taiwan fired at those planes, China would attack.

Hu’s attention-seeking provocations should always be taken with a pinch of salt but they show how the conversation around Taiwan is evolving.

But although the intensity is increasing, in many ways we are still in the status quo that has existed for decades.

China’s constitution, adopted in 1949, says Taiwan is part of its “sacred territory” and details the “inviolable duty” of “reunifying the motherland”.

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On the question of “Taiwan independence”, China as far back as 2005 passed a law that formally authorised military force if Taiwan was “separated” from China.

Taiwan has its own constitution and a highly functioning democracy – rated above Japan and South Korea by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The election of President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016 led to an escalation in pressure from China. What we’re seeing now is best viewed as the latest development in that continuous period.

A pilot prepares to take off on a F-CK-1 Ching-kuo IDF at an Air Force base in Tainan
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Taiwan spent $900m scrambling jets to intercept Chinese planes last year

And as China has increased its attrition strategy, the US has increased its ties with the island, which in turn leads to more Chinese pressure.

That pressure is designed to take a psychological and logistical toll on Taiwan.

In 2020, Taiwan spent some $900m scrambling fighters to meet Chinese sorties and said it would no longer dispatch jets to meet every incursion, instead tracking Chinese aircraft with land-based missiles. Expect that pressure to continue.

But a full-scale invasion by China remains unlikely in the short term. That would require a massive build up of forces, easily detectable by US and Taiwanese monitoring.

There are options short of invasion that are still worrying.

China could blockade the island economically, or seize some of its outlying territory. The Kinmen Islands, administered by Taiwan, are barely a mile from China.

Any such move would be a test of the US resolve to defend Taiwan, perhaps analogous to Russia’s seizing of the Crimean Peninsula.

Would an aggressive Chinese move, short of full invasion, prompt the US to respond militarily?

Right now, no one knows. That means it would be hugely destabilising.

For all the pressures of the current moment, it at least fits a known, established pattern – and is far preferable to an escalation, the consequences of which would be difficult to predict.

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COVID-19: World Health Organisation calls for ban on sale of live wild mammals in food markets | World News

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The sale of live wild mammals at food markets should be suspended as an emergency measure, the World Health Organisation has said.

The statement comes after a WHO team visited Wuhan in China to investigate the origins of COVID-19.

The most likely scenario is that the virus originated in bats, was spread to another unidentified animal, and then passed on to humans, a WHO report said in March.

Live COVID updates from across the UK and around the world

The organisation said in a separate report on Tuesday that animals, “particularly wild animals”, are the source of more than 70% of emerging infectious diseases in humans.

They added many of these are caused by novel viruses – a virus that has not previously been recorded.

The report states: “Wild mammals, in particular, pose a risk for the emergence of new diseases. They come into markets without any way to check if they carry dangerous viruses.

“There is a risk of direct transmission to humans from coming into contact with the saliva, blood, urine, mucus, faeces, or other body fluids of an infected animal, and an additional risk of picking up the infection from contact with areas where animals are housed in markets or objects or surfaces that could have been contaminated with such viruses.”

The WHO said “traditional markets play a central role in providing food and livelihoods ” around the world.

It added that banning the sale of live wild animals would help to protect the health of both shoppers and workers.

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WHO: Lab leak COVID origin ‘unlikely’

The closest-related viruses to COVID-19 have been found in bats in southwest China.

The intermediate host is more elusive: mink, pangolins, rabbits, raccoon dogs and domesticated cats have all been cited as a possibility.

The WHO team said that a theory the virus was leaked from a lab was “extremely unlikely” but it has not been ruled out.

The call for a ban of the sale of wild animals comes as the the WHO said the global coronavirus pandemic is at a “critical point”.

It added that people need a “reality check” as restrictions are eased.

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Dr Maria van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s technical response, told a news conference vaccinations alone are not enough to combat COVID-19.

Coronavirus restrictions were eased in parts of the UK on Monday, with shoppers returning to high streets and drinkers visiting pub gardens in England, and non-essential retailers reopening in Wales.

Dr van Kerkhove, speaking on Monday afternoon, urged caution, saying: “We need headlines around these public health and social measures, we need headlines around the tools that we have right now that can prevent infections and save lives.

“We are in a critical point of the pandemic right now, the trajectory of this pandemic is growing.”

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