Gun Deaths


RAFAH, Gaza Strip — It was clear from the bod­ies laid out in the park­ing lot of the ma­ter­ni­ty hos­pi­tal here that it had as­sumed new du­ties: No longer a place that wel­comed new life, it was now a make­shift morgue.

Oth­er bod­ies lay in hall­ways and on the floor of the kitchen at Hi­lal Emi­rati Ma­ter­ni­ty Hos­pi­tal. In the walk-in cool­er, they were stacked three high, wait­ing for rel­a­tives to claim them for burial.

Sat­ur­day was the sec­ond day of heavy bom­bard­ment by Is­raeli forces on this city on Gaza’s bor­der with Egypt af­ter Is­rael’s an­nounce­ment that one of its of­fi­cers had been cap­tured by Pal­es­tin­ian mil­i­tants here dur­ing a clash.

But ear­ly Sun­day morn­ing, the Is­raeli mil­i­tary an­nounced that the of­fi­cer, Sec­ond Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, was now con­sid­ered to have been killed in bat­tle.

Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times
Medics at a field hospital in Rafah, Gaza Strip. More than 120 Palestinians were killed in Rafah alone on Friday and Saturday.

“It is just an ex­cuse,” said Dr. Ab­dul­lah She­hadeh,

di­rec­tor of the Abu Yousef al-Na­j­jar Hos­pi­tal, the city’s larg­est. “There is no rea­son for them to force the women and chil­dren of Gaza to pay the price for some­thing that hap­pened on the bat­tle­field.”

Af­ter two days of Is­raeli shelling and airstrikes, cen­tral Rafah ap­peared de­serted on Sat­ur­day, with shops closed and res­i­dents hid­ing in their homes. The pres­ence of Is­raeli forces east of the city had caused many to flee west, crowd­ing in with friends and rel­a­tives in neigh­bor­hoods by the Med­i­ter­ra­nean.

More than 120 Pales­tini­ans were killed in Rafah alone on Fri­day and Sat­ur­day — the dead­li­est two days in the city since the war be­gan 25 days ago. Those deaths, and hun­dreds of in­ju­ries, over­whelmed the city’s health care fa­cil­i­ties.

Mak­ing mat­ters worse, Is­raeli shells hit the cen­tral Na­j­jar hos­pi­tal on Fri­day af­ter­noon, Dr. She­hadeh said, lead­ing its em­ploy­ees and pa­tients to evac­u­ate.

To con­tinue re­ceiv­ing pa­tients, his staff mem­bers moved to the small­er Ku­waiti Spe­cial­ized Hos­pi­tal, al­though it was ill equipped to han­dle the large num­ber of peo­ple seek­ing care.

Am­bu­lances screamed in­to the hos­pi­tal’s park­ing lot, where medics un­loaded cases on­to stretch­ers some­times bear­ing the blood of pre­vi­ous pa­tients. Since the hos­pi­tal had on­ly 12 beds, the staff mem­bers had lined up gur­neys out­side to han­dle the over­flow.

The city’s cen­tral hos­pi­tal had al­so housed its on­ly morgue, so its clo­sure cre­ated a new prob­lem as the ca­su­al­ties mount­ed: where to put the bod­ies.

At the Ku­waiti Spe­cial­ized Hos­pi­tal, they were put on the floor of the den­tal ward un­der a poster pro­mot­ing den­tal hy­giene. In a back room lay the bod­ies of Sa­di­ah Abu Taha, 60, and her grand­son Rezeq Abu Taha, 1, who had been killed in an airstrike on their home near­by.

Few peo­ple ap­proached the main en­trance to the pink-and-white ma­ter­ni­ty hos­pi­tal, in­stead head­ing around back, where there was a con­stant flow of bod­ies. Near­ly 60 had been left in the morgue of the cen­tral hos­pi­tal when it closed, so am­bu­lance crews who had man­aged to reach the site brought back as many bod­ies as they could car­ry. Oth­er bod­ies came from new at­tacks or were re­cov­ered from dam­aged build­ings.

New ar­rivals were laid out in the park­ing lot or car­ried down a ramp to the kitchen, fea­tur­ing a large walk-in cool­er. Some were kept on the ground, and those not claimed right away were added to the pile in the cool­er.

Word had spread that the dead were at the ma­ter­ni­ty hos­pi­tal, so peo­ple who had lost rel­a­tives came to talk to the medics or look in the cool­er for their loved ones.

One short, sun­burned man point­ed to the body of a woman wear­ing pink sweat­pants and said she was his sis­ter Souad al-Tara­bin.

The medics pulled her out, laid her on a ta­ble and wrapped her in white cloth and plas­tic. Some teenagers helped the man car­ry her body up­stairs and lay it in the back of a yel­low taxi. A man in the front seat cra­dled a small bun­dle con­tain­ing the re­mains of the woman’s 4-year-old son, Anas.

Sit­ting near­by, As­ma Abu Ju­main wait­ed for the body of her moth­er-in-law, who she said had been killed the day be­fore and was in the morgue at the cen­tral hos­pi­tal when it was evac­u­ated.

“She is an old woman,” Ms. Abu Ju­main said. “She did noth­ing wrong.”

The move­ment of bod­ies made record-keep­ing im­pos­si­ble, al­though Arafat Ad­wan, a hos­pi­tal vol­un­teer, tried to jot down names in a small red note­book he kept in his pock­et.

He wor­ried that some bod­ies would re­main there for days, be­cause fam­ilies had been scat­tered and might not know that their rel­a­tives had been killed.

“There are peo­ple in here whose fam­ilies have no idea what hap­pened to them,” he said.

Oth­ers knew they had lost rel­a­tives but could not find them.

Mo­ham­med al-Ban­na said an airstrike the morn­ing be­fore had killed nine of his in-laws, in­clud­ing his wife’s fa­ther and four of her broth­ers.

“The ag­gres­sion here is cre­at­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of youth who want re­venge for all the crimes,” he said.

He had looked at the cen­tral hos­pi­tal the day be­fore, to no avail. Then, on Sat­ur­day, he re­ceived a mes­sage sent to lo­cal cell­phones telling those who had lost rel­a­tives to re­trieve them from the ma­ter­ni­ty hos­pi­tal. He had come right away, but had not found them.

“I’ll keep wait­ing for their bod­ies to come in so we can

take them home and bury them,” he said.

Mr. Ban­na added that he had been too wor­ried to tell his wife what had hap­pened to her fam­ily and want­ed to break the news to her grad­u­ally. Ear­lier that day, she had told him that she was start­ing to wor­ry be­cause her fa­ther’s cell­phone had been switched off all day.

“I told her maybe he has no elec­tricity and his phone is dead,” Mr. Ban­na said.

 

 

JERUSALEM — The Is­raeli mil­i­tary said ear­ly Sun­day morn­ing that an of­fi­cer thought to have been cap­tured by Pales­tin­ian mil­i­tants dur­ing a dead­ly clash Fri­day morn­ing, which shat­tered a planned 72-hour cease-fire, was now con­sid­ered to have been killed in bat­tle.

The an­nounce­ment came just hours af­ter Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu vowed to con­tin­ue Is­rael’s mil­i­tary cam­paign in the Gaza Strip as long as nec­es­sary to stop Hamas at­tacks, while sug­gest­ing a de-es­ca­la­tion of the ground war in Gaza may be near.

The case of the miss­ing sol­dier, Sec­ond Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, be­came the lat­est flash point in the con­flict, prompt­ing a fierce Is­raeli bom­bard­ment and calls from lead­ers around the world for his re­lease. His dis­ap­pear­ance came af­ter Hamas mil­i­tants am­bushed Is­raeli sol­diers near the south­ern bor­der town of Rafah, at the start of what was sup­posed to have been a pause in the fight­ing.

As the death toll mount­ed Sat­ur­day to more than 1,650 Pales­tini­ans, many of them women and chil­dren, and im­ages of homes, mosques and schools smashed in­to rub­ble filled the me­dia, Mr. Ne­tanyahu was un­der con­sid­er­able in­ter­na­tion­al pres­sure, from Wash­ing­ton and Eu­rope, to end the con­flict. The Unit­ed Na­tions warned of “an un­fold­ing health dis­as­ter” in Gaza with lit­tle elec­tric­i­ty, bad wa­ter and a lack of med­ical sup­plies.

At the same time, Mr. Ne­tanyahu was un­der po­lit­i­cal pres­sure at home to de­liv­er on his promis­es to crush.

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Hamas, par­tic­u­lar­ly with 64 Is­raeli sol­diers dead. He in­sist­ed Sat­ur­day that Hamas had been se­vere­ly hurt and he warned that it would pay “an in­tol­er­a­ble price” if it con­tin­ues to fire rock­ets at Is­rael.

His for­mer deputy de­fense min­is­ter, Dan­ny Danon,who was fired by Mr. Ne­tanyahu for pub­lic crit­i­cism of the gov­ern­ment, said in a state­ment Sat­ur­day that “the cab­i­net is grave­ly mis­tak­en in its de­ci­sion to with­draw forces from Gaza. This is a step in the wrong di­rec­tion.”

But Mr. Ne­tanyahu, in a na­tion­al­ly tele­vised speech with his de­fense min­is­ter be­side him, in­sist­ed that Is­rael was achiev­ing its goals and could al­ter its tac­tics. “We promised to re­turn the qui­et to Is­rael’s cit­i­zens, and we will con­tin­ue to act un­til that aim is achieved,” Mr. Ne­tanyahu said. “We will take as much time as nec­es­sary, and will ex­ert as much force as need­ed.”

Is­rael was not end­ing its op­er­a­tion uni­lat­er­al­ly, he said, adding: “We will de­ploy in the places most con­ve­nient to us to re­duce fric­tion on I.D.F. sol­diers, be­cause we care about them.” There were Is­raeli tele­vi­sion re­ports on Sat­ur­day that some Is­rael De­fense Forces troops were pulling out of Gaza, and Is­rael in­formed Pales­tini­ans in Beit Lahiya and al-Ata­tra, in north­ern Gaza, that it was now safe to re­turn to their homes. Is­raeli of­fi­cials have said that the army’s ef­fort to de­stroy the elab­o­rate tun­nel sys­tem from Gaza in­to Is­rael would be fin­ished in the next day or two.

Is­raeli of­fi­cials sug­gest­ed that the army would leave built-up ar­eas and some forces would re­de­ploy in­side Gaza, clos­er to the bor­der fence, to re­spond to at­tacks if nec­es­sary. Oth­er units will re­turn to south­ern Is­rael.

Hamas, for its part, vowed to con­tin­ue fight­ing. Sa­mi Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, told the news agency Maan that “a uni­lat­er­al with­draw­al or re­de­ploy­ment by Is­rael in the Strip will be an­swered by a fit­ting re­sponse by the Hamas mil­i­tary arm.” He said that “the forces of oc­cu­pa­tion must choose be­tween re­main­ing in Gaza and pay­ing the price or re­treat­ing and pay­ing the price or hold­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions and pay­ing the price.”

Mr. Ne­tanyahu thanked the Unit­ed States, which along with the Unit­ed Na­tions ap­peared to sup­port Is­rael’s po­si­tion that Hamas’s ac­tions vi­o­lat­ed the cease-fire, and he asked for in­ter­na­tion­al help to re­build Gaza on the con­di­tion of its “de­mil­i­ta­riza­tion.” Is­rael ap­pears to be hop­ing that with the sup­port of Egypt and the in­ter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty, Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas of the Pales­tin­ian Au­thor­i­ty can con­trol Gaza through a uni­ty gov­ern­ment agreed up­on with Hamas and take re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for se­cu­ri­ty there and for the Rafah cross­ing to Egypt.

Mr. Ne­tanyahu re­peat­ed that his goal was to re­store “peace and calm” to Is­rael and that he in­tend­ed to do so by what­ev­er means — diplo­mat­i­cal­ly or mil­i­tar­i­ly. “All op­tions are on the ta­ble,” he said. But he in­di­cat­ed that Is­rael would not get caught up again in talk about a ne­go­ti­at­ed cease-fire with Hamas and Is­lam­ic Ji­had and would act in its own in­ter­ests, while seek­ing sup­port from Mr. Ab­bas and the in­ter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty for what Mr. Ne­tanyahu de­scribed vague­ly as “a new re­al­i­ty” in Gaza.

Is­rael has de­cid­ed not to send a del­e­ga­tion to cease-fire talks host­ed by Egypt, at least not now, Is­raeli of­fi­cials said. In Wash­ing­ton, Jen Psa­ki, a State De­part­ment

spokes­woman, said: “In the end, this par­tic­u­lar­ly bloody chap­ter will ul­ti­mate­ly re­quire a durable so­lu­tion so that all the fun­da­men­tal is­sues, in­clud­ing Is­rael’s se­cu­ri­ty, can be ne­go­ti­at­ed, and we will keep work­ing with Is­rael and oth­er part­ners to achieve that goal.” She said that Is­rael had a right to de­fend it­self.

Hours be­fore the mil­i­tary an­nounced that Lieu­tenant Goldin had died, his par­ents called on the prime min­is­ter and the army not to leave their son be­hind.

The cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing his death re­mained cloudy. A mil­i­tary spokes­woman de­clined to say whether Lieu­tenant Goldin had been killed along with two com­rades by a sui­cide bomb one of the mil­i­tants ex­plod­ed, or lat­er by Is­rael’s as­sault on the area to hunt for him; she al­so re­fused to an­swer whether his re­mains had been re­cov­ered.

As word spread on Sat­ur­day that Is­rael’s lead­ers were con­sid­er­ing pulling all ground forces from Gaza, Lieu­tenant Goldin’s fam­i­ly spoke to jour­nal­ists out­side their home in Kfar Sa­ba, a Tel Aviv sub­urb. “I de­mand that the state of Is­rael not leave Gaza un­til they bring my son back home,” said his moth­er, Hed­va. His sis­ter, Ayelet, 35, added, “If a cap­tive sol­dier is left in Gaza, it’s a de­feat.”

The fam­i­ly said they were con­vinced that Lieu­tenant Goldin was alive.

“I hope and be­lieve in hu­man kind­ness, that the world will do any­thing to bring Hadar with a smile back home,” his broth­er Che­mi, 32, said in an in­ter­view.

When his moth­er called him on Fri­day, Che­mi said, he

knew some­thing ter­ri­ble had hap­pened, but did not know whether it in­volved Lieu­tenant Goldin or his twin, Tzur, who was al­so fight­ing in Gaza. Che­mi said the twins, who at­tend­ed kinder­garten in Cam­bridge, Eng­land, did not talk much about their mil­i­tary ser­vice. In Gaza, the armed wing of Hamas said ear­ly Sat­ur­day that it was not hold­ing the Is­raeli of­fi­cer. The Qas­sam Brigades sug­gest­ed in a state­ment that the of­fi­cer might have been killed along with his cap­tors in an Is­raeli as­sault that fol­lowed a sui­cide-bomb at­tack by Pales­tin­ian mil­i­tants, who emerged from a tun­nel that Is­raeli troops were try­ing to de­stroy near Rafah.

“Un­til now, we have no idea about the dis­ap­pear­ance of the Is­raeli sol­dier,” the state­ment said. Say­ing the lead­er­ship had lost touch with its “troops de­ployed in the am­bush,” the state­ment added, “Our ac­count is that the sol­dier could have been kid­napped and killed to­geth­er with our fight­ers.”

The Is­raeli Army con­tin­ued to pound Rafah in its search for Lieu­tenant Goldin, strik­ing more than 200 tar­gets across Gaza in the 24 hours since the Rafah con­fronta­tion, in­clud­ing what it de­scribed as a “re­search and de­vel­op­ment” lab for weapons man­u­fac­tur­ing at the Is­lam­ic Uni­ver­si­ty, run by Hamas. Five mosques that the mil­i­tary said con­cealed weapons or Hamas out­posts were al­so hit, the Is­raelis said.

Around noon, a bar­rage of rock­ets flew in­to south­ern Is­rael.

The Gaza-based health min­istry, which had re­port­ed 70 peo­ple killed in Rafah on Fri­day, said the ca­su­al­ties had con­tin­ued there overnight, in­clud­ing sev­en mem­bers of one fam­i­ly who died when their home was bombed.

 

Steven Erlanger reported from Jerusalem, and Jodi Rudoren from Kfar Saba, Israel. Fares Akram contributed reporting from Gaza City, and Michael R. Gordon from Washington.

This section of Graphic Humor in political-economic, national or international issues, are very ingenious in describing what happened, is happening or will happen. It also extends to various other local issues or passing around the world. There are also other non-political humor that ranges from reflective or just to get us a smile when we see them. Anyone with basic education and to stay informed of important news happening in our local and global world may understand and enjoy them. Farewell!. (CTsT)

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Singer-songwriter Rona Kenan panned by right-wing extremists after expressing sympathy for Gazan children

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An Israeli singer-songwriter canceled her show in Haifa Thursday after she was harshly criticized and threatened by right-wing Israelis who accused her of showing solidarity with the mothers of dead terrorists.

Rona Kenan announced that her acoustic show in Haifa’s Turkish Market, which was scheduled to begin at 9 p.m., would not take place due to what she described as incitement against her.

Kenan said she had been “subjected to severe verbal attacks and threats over a false report” that during a conference with Palestinian women, she had observed a moment of silence in solidarity with Palestinian “martyrs.”

She said that while she had sung two songs at the conference, she had not observed a moment of silence. But this week, right-wing extremists raised the accusations again in comments on Kenan’s Facebook page after she expressed sympathy for the children of Gaza and called for an end to war between Israel and Hamas.

The onslaught began after Kenan posted a message on July 11, three days into the Gaza war, reproaching Israeli society and the Israeli press over their reaction to the offensive in Gaza, which she described as “one of the saddest places in the world.”

Kenan expressed sympathy for the children of both Sderot and Gaza, saying it “fills her with despair” to think that they “wet their beds at night out of fear and will grow up to see each other not as human beings, but as children of the devil.”

Kenan said she was “left speechless” by the knowledge that “any objections to the war, which Israel named Operation Protective Edge, was perceived in Israeli society as treason, as a lack of solidarity.” She ended her post with a prayer for quiet both in Israel and the Gaza Strip.

While many fans echoed Kenan’s sentiments, others criticized her for overlooking the threat posed by Hamas and Iranian-funded terror groups, as well as the suffering of residents of southern Israel and the risks IDF soldiers were taking to ensure Israel’s security. Some urged her to blame Hamas, not Israel, for the plight of the children of Gaza. Yet others said the children were themselves future terrorists, with one poster saying she had thought Kenan was “smarter than that” and another calling her “hypocritical, self-righteous filth.”

One poster wrote, “I’ve never responded to people like you, but to observe a moment of silence for martyrs with whom we are engaged in combat on a daily basis? For shame, and we even provide her livelihood. With people like you among us, we don’t need enemies.”

After the Haifa show was canceled, one Facebook user suggested, “Why don’t you volunteer to sing in Gaza? I think you will find a stage to sing on there without being subjected to criticism. You’re so stupid to voice criticism in wartime.”

The Thursday evening show will still take place, but will be headlined by singer-songwriter Shai Gabso rather than Kenan.

Kenan, the daughter of Lehi underground member, sculptor and journalist Amos Kenan and author and literary scholar Nurith Gertz, has released four albums so far, to critical acclaim.

 

July 31, 2014

This section of Graphic Humor in political-economic, national or international issues, are very ingenious in describing what happened, is happening or will happen. It also extends to various other local issues or passing around the world. There are also other non-political humor that ranges from reflective or just to get us a smile when we see them. Anyone with basic education and to stay informed of important news happening in our local and global world may understand and enjoy them. Farewell!. (CTsT) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

A photo of a desperate young Palestinian boy, badly wounded and screaming for his father as he clutches at the shirt of a paramedic in a hospital, has captured the tragic and bloody tension of the Gazan conflict.

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Shirtless and with cuts to his face, torso, arms and legs, the child clings to the hospital worker who is attempting to lay him flat on a girdle.

The Electronic Intifada, a pro-Palestinian publication, reports the photo, taken at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City last Thursday, was captioned with the boy’s desperate cry: ‘I want my father, bring me my father’, according to Fairfax.

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The Palestinian paper claims the young boy was one of four siblings brought to the hospital wounded, two of them just three years old.

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It comes as grinning Israeli tank commanders were pictured flashing the victory signs as they blast their way through Gaza in the bloodiest day of the offensive so far – as one resident of the troubled region said: ‘The gate of hell has opened.’

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At least 65 people have been killed since this yesterday’s dawn strike on Gaza City’s Shijaiyah neighbourhood – including the son, daughter-in-law and two small grandchildren of a senior Hamas leader.

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Hamas says it has captured an Israeli soldier – a scenario that has proven to be fraught with difficulties for the country in the past – but Israel’s U.N. Ambassador has denied the claims.

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The neighbourhood has come under heavy tank fire as Israel widened its ground offensive against Hamas, causing hundreds of residents to flee.

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The dead and wounded – including dozens of women and children – have reportedly been left in streets, with ambulances unable to approach.

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Source: (July 21, 2014)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2699772/This-desperate-little-boy-face-tragedy-Palestinian-toddler-clutches-shirt-hospital-worker-screaming-I-want-father-bring-father.html?ito=social-facebook

The Pentagon announced Friday it will spend $1 billion to add 14 interceptors to a West Coast-based missile defense system, responding to what it called faster-than-anticipated North Korean progress on nuclear weapons and missiles.

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Threats will only “further isolate” North Korea, Carney says

Citing a “series of irresponsible and reckless provocations” by Pyongyang, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he is determined to ensure protection of the U.S. homeland and stay ahead of the North Korean missile threat.

“We will strengthen our homeland defense, maintain our commitment to our allies and partners, and make clear to the world that the United States stands firm against aggression,” Hagel told a Pentagon news conference.

The Pentagon intends to add the 14 interceptors to 26 already in place at Fort Greely, Alaska. That will expand the system’s ability to shoot down long-range missiles in flight before they could reach U.S. territory. In addition to those at Greely, the U.S. also has four missile interceptors at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon, Friday, March 15, 2013. / AP Photo/Cliff Owen

James Miller, the undersecretary of defense for policy, said the project would cost about $1 billion. CBS News correspondent David Martin reported that how much added security that will buy is subject to debate, since the interceptors have an uneven test record.

“The reason we’re advancing our program here for homeland security is to not take any chances, is to stay ahead of the threat and to assure any contingency,” Hagel said.

The Pentagon announced on March 15, 2013 it will spend $1 billion to add 14 interceptors to a West Coast-based missile defense system, responding to what it called faster-than-anticipated North Korean progress on nuclear weapons and missiles.

Martin also reported that U.S. intelligence does not believe North Korea yet has a nuclear-armed missile capable of reaching the U.S. But a photo of a mobile intercontinental ballistic missile in a military parade last year heightened concerns they are working hard to develop one.

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Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates once said North Korea could have an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) by 2016, added Martin, but the extra interceptor missiles to shoot it down won’t all be in place until 2017.

Miller and Hagel said the U.S. will conduct environmental studies on three additional potential locations for interceptors in the United States, including on the East Coast, as required by Congress. Hagel said no decision on a particular site has been made, but the studies would shorten the timeline should a decision be made.

Miller said that would provide options for building an interceptor base on the East Coast or adding more interceptors in Alaska, should either approach become necessary due to further future increases in the threat from Iran and North Korea.

The threat of a missile strike from North Korea was the rationale for building the missile defense sites in Alaska and California during the administration of President George W. Bush. Technical difficulties with the interceptors slowed the pace at which they were installed at Greely and Vandenberg.

“Our policy is to stay ahead of the threat — and to continue to ensure that we are ahead of any potential future Iranian or North Korean ICBM capability,” Miller said in a speech Tuesday at the Atlantic Council.

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Miller noted that last December, North Korea launched a satellite into space, demonstrating its mastery of some of the same technologies required for development of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

“Our concern about Pyongyang’s potential ICBM capability is compounded by the regime’s focus on developing nuclear weapons,” he said. “North Korea’s third nuclear test last month is obviously a serious concern for all nations.”

North Korea recently threatened to reduce Seoul to a “sea of fire” and stage pre-emptive nuclear attacks on Washington.

“North Korea’s shrill public pronouncements underscore the need for the U.S. to continue to take prudent steps to defeat any future North Korean ICBM,” Miller said in his speech Tuesday.

In this handout image provided by the German Bundeswehr armed forces a patriot missile is fired during the Operation Red Arrow exercise on October 15, 2008 in Crete, Greece. Germany’s cabinet agreed on Thursday to send Patriot missiles and up to 400 soldiers to Turkey to act as a deterrent against any spread of the conflict in Syria across the border. (Photo by Peter Mueller/Bundeswehr via Getty Images)* CBS (March 15, 2013)

“WE DON’T go around shooting people, the sick people do. They need to be fixed.” So said the gun-owning pensioner in the Korean War veteran’s hat, demonstrating outside Connecticut’s state capitol on March 11th. He was holding a sign reading: “Stop the Crazies—Step Up Enforcement of Current Laws”, and like many of the gun-rights supporters rallying in Hartford this week, he wanted to talk about how improving mental health care was the proper response to massacres such as December’s school shooting in Newtown, an hour’s drive away.

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Your reporter was in Hartford to report on the gun lobby, and its campaign to push back against state and federal gun-control plans proposed after Newtown’s horrors, which saw 20 young children and six staff murdered. The politics of gun control will form the basis for this week’s print column, but this posting is about something more specific: the gun lobby’s focus on mental illness as the “true” cause of such massacres.

The message discipline of the National Rifle Association and congressional allies has been impressive. After an initial period of silence, the NRA came out with a consistent narrative about mass shootings. The problem, said such spokesmen as Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice-president, was that criminals and the dangerously ill can get their hands on guns.

At moments, the NRA and supporters almost sounded like liberal gun-control advocates. “We have a mental health system in this country that has completely and totally collapsed,” Mr LaPierre told NBC television on December 23rd last year, days after the Newtown murders. The NRA backs the FBI-run instant background checks system used by gun dealers when selling firearms, Mr LaPierre noted. It supports putting all those adjudicated mentally incompetent into the system, and deplores the fact that many states are still putting only a small number of records into the system.

On the chill streets of Hartford this week, that same sentiment went down well with the Korean War veteran and his fellow demonstrators. All of which is perfectly sensible, yet puzzling. For the demonstrators, holding signs that read “Stand and Fight” and “Feels like Nazi Germany”, made clear their deep distrust of government. Did they really support a large expansion of officialdom’s right to declare someone mentally unfit, trumping their right to bear arms under the constitution’s second amendment? In Hartford the question provoked some debate. But most demonstrators followed the NRA’s line in opposing any talk of moving to “universal” background checks: jargon for closing the loophole that currently allows private individuals to buy and sell guns without any checks on the criminal or mental-health records of buyers. Almost 40% of gun sales currently fall through that loophole.

Mr LaPierre’s line is both clear and not. He supports improving the quality of the federal database used for background checks, but opposes using that same database more often, calling any talk of universal background checks a ruse paving the way for the creation of the national gun register that the government craves, so it can confiscate America’s guns.

He talks of improving mental-health treatment, but then uses the harshest possible language to describe the mentally ill, telling NBC:

We have no national database of these lunatics… We have a completely cracked mentally ill system that’s got these monsters walking the streets.

So what is really going on? Interviewing the Democratic governor of Connecticut, Dannel Malloy, he accused the NRA of a “bait-and-switch”, in which the gun lobby is trying to appear constructive without allowing any gun rules to change.

The argument quickly drifts into party politics. Marco Rubio, a Republican senator from Florida, casts the debate about post-Newtown gun controls as an either/or question, in which gun curbs and improved mental health are somehow antithetical. Responding to President Barack Obama’s calls for ambitious gun controls in the wake of the school shootings, including a renewed ban on assault weapons, Mr Rubio said:

Nothing the president is proposing would have stopped the massacre at Sandy Hook… Rolling back responsible citizens’ rights is not the proper response to tragedies committed by criminals and the mentally ill.

On the Democratic side, the new junior senator for Connecticut, Chris Murphy, asserts that the general public are not buying such arguments, which he calls a “smokescreen”. People understand that a mental-health system that can pick out mass murderers before they strike is a “policy illusion”.

On balance, the talk of a gun lobby smokescreen is fair. Examine the NRA’s arguments more closely, and Mr LaPierre demolishes his own suggestions even as he makes them. Ina ferocious speech to supporters in Salt Lake City on February 23rd, he predicted that criminal records and the mentally incompetent would “never” be part of a background check system, which was really aimed at “one thing—registering your guns”.

Instead, Mr LaPierre and allies paint a picture of an American dystopia, in which hand-wringing liberals, having closed down mental hospitals during the civil-rights era, refuse to put dangerous criminals behind bars:

They’re not serious about prosecuting violent criminals… They’re not serious about fixing the mental-health system. They’ve emptied the institutions and every police officer knows dangerous people out there on the streets right now. They shouldn’t be on the streets, they’ve stopped taking their medicine and yet they’re out there walking around…

The powerful elites aren’t talking about limiting their capacity for protection. They’ll have all the security they want… Our only means of security is the second amendment. When the glass breaks in the middle of the night, we have the right to defend ourselves

Such rhetoric has effects far beyond the world of gun rights. Both in Congress and in state legislatures around the country, politicians are debating proposals for increased supervision of the mentally ill, and mandatory reporting of those seen as posing a danger to themselves or others.

New York state has already passed a package of gun-control measures that includes a requirement for mental-health professionals—from psychiatrists to social workers and nurses—to report anyone deemed likely to seriously harm themselves or others. A report triggers a cross-check against a database of state gun licences and police may be authorised to find and remove that person’s firearms.

Such intense attention to mental illness—for years the forgotten Cinderella of public-health policy—both pleases and alarms doctors and academics working in the field. Professor Jeffrey Swanson of Duke University has written a commentary for the Journal of the American Medical Association, examining the “promise and the peril of crisis-driven policy”, and arguing that in a nation with constitutionally protected gun rights, the “real action in gun control is people control”, or preventing dangerous people from getting their hands on a gun.

That carries risks, he writes:

The first is overidentification; the law could include too many people who are not at significant risk. The second is the chilling effect on help seeking; the law could drive people away from the treatment they need or inhibit their disclosures in therapy. The third is invasion of patient privacy; the law amounts to a breach of the confidential patient-physician relationship. Mental health professionals already have an established duty to take reasonable steps to protect identifiable persons when a patient threatens harm. However, clinicians can discharge that duty in several ways… For example, the clinician could decide to see the patient more frequently or prescribe a different medication. Voluntary hospitalization is also an option for many at-risk patients

Reached by telephone as he waited for a flight, Professor Swanson elaborated on a fourth risk, that of over-estimating the small proportion of violent crimes carried out by the mentally ill. What’s more, he noted, the mental-health system is good at describing behaviour patterns but very poor at predicting specific acts by specific people. With hindsight, mass shooters are often described as obviously disturbed, he notes. “But you can’t go around locking up all the socially awkward young men.”

In one area—suicide by gun—mental illness plays a very strong role, Professor Swanson says, and closer supervision could do real good, despite the risks. In 2010 suicide accounted for 61% of gun-injury deaths in America.

Such statistics do not fit the narrative of the gun lobby, of course, with their insistence that a gun in the home makes citizens safer. Yet even here, where improved gun controls linked to mental health could do real good, it is vital to get the details right and avoid “knee-jerk” law-making, says Dr Howard Schwartz, chief psychiatrist and director of the Institute of Living, one of the oldest psychiatric hospitals in America, founded in Hartford in 1822.

The post-Newtown national discussion about mental health is distinctly double-edged, says Dr Schwartz. It may increase access to some programmes. But the debate is also being used by those with other motives. Mental illness is ubiquitous, he notes, with rates of schizophrenia or bipolar disorders more or less the same around the world, with some rare exceptions. Yet rates of gun violence differ dramatically between America and comparable countries. And those differences tally closely with differences in the accessibility of weapons. To Dr Schwartz the diagnosis is straightforward: “the NRA is demonising mental illness to distract from the obvious, in-your-face relationship between the availability of guns and murder rates.”

Opponents of gun controls may respond with familiar flurries of statistics. In Hartford, for instance, several pro-gun demonstrators cited the same talking point, claiming (falsely) that home invasion rates soared in Australia after that country banned the most powerful forms of guns in 1996, following a mass shooting. Actually, home break-in and robbery rates have fallen sharply in Australia since 1996, as have gun-death rates, with no corresponding rise in other forms of homicide.

The most recent Australian crime statistics may be found here, and set out the historical trends clearly. As this newspaper noted shortly after the Newtown killings:

America’s murder rate is four times higher than Britain’s and six times higher than Germany’s. Only an idiot, or an anti-American bigot prepared to maintain that Americans are four times more murderous than Britons, could possibly pretend that no connection exists between those figures and the fact that 300m guns are “out there” in the United States, more than one for every adult

Mr LaPierre of the NRA is a proud patriot. But when he talks of mentally ill “monsters” and “lunatics” walking the streets in such numbers that all prudent citizens must arm themselves to the teeth, he is slandering both them and his country, just as surely as any American-hating bigot.

(Photo credit: AFP)

It was Christmas night when Sincere Smith, 2, found his father’s loaded gun on the living room table of their Conway, S.C., mobile home. It took just a second for Smith’s tiny hands to find the trigger and pull. A single bullet ripped into his upper right chest and out his back.

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His father, Rondell Smith, said he had turned away to call Sincere’s mother, who had left to visit a friend. His back was turned to the toddler, he said, for just that moment.

Sincere was still conscious when his father scooped him up and rushed him to the hospital, just a few minutes away.

Eleven hours earlier, Sincere Smith had woken up to Christmas — the first that he was old enough to appreciate. His father remembered their last morning well -– his son ripping through wrapping paper, squealing with delight with each new gift — his first bike, a bright toy barn.

It was quite a sight seeing Sincere so happy around a cloud of crinkled wrapping paper. “We bought him a little barn thing,” Smith said. “He knew what a barn is. He just seen it -– ‘Oh Mommy, Daddy! Barn!’ He went crazy over it. … He lit up like a Christmas tree.”

Smith, 30, lit up too. “I just wanted to see him open them up,” he said. His own parents were teenagers when they had him. He had vowed to be there for his five children, giving up college and a possible basketball career to take care of them. With Sincere, he promised his wife he’d be a hands-on parent. He said he considered Sincere his best friend.

The two kept close that day visiting relatives for more presents and a Christmas dinner of chicken and macaroni and cheese. “Everything was normal,” Smith said. “He was happy. Everything was good then.”

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Two weeks earlier, Smith had bought a .38-caliber handgun to protect his family after bandits had tried to break into their home. He doesn’t know what to say about the national gun-control debate. He just wants that lost second back. “I would say, man, keep them out of your house,” he offered. “It’s just. Boy. All it takes is a second. Just a second to turn your head. I don’t know, sir.”

Sincere died on an ambulance gurney as he was transferred to a second hospital in Charleston.

He never got to ride his new blue Spiderman bike outside. It sits in the trunk of his grandmother Sheila Gaskin’s car. “He didn’t get to ride his bike,” she explained. “It was cold [on Christmas]. My daughter doesn’t want to take it back to the store.”

Gaskin lives across the street from her daughter and Smith. She saw Sincere every day of his life. “He hear me coming down the road, my gospel music blasting and he hollering ‘Nana!'” she recalled. Now, she said she visits his grave every day. She hasn’t gotten a full night’s sleep since the accident. “It’s just killing me,” she said.

After Sincere was shot, Rondell Smith thought about taking his own life, Gaskin said. “It’s just not good,” she said. “It’s not good at all. He just has to stay prayed up. … That’s all he can do is give it to God.”

Smith wasn’t at Sincere’s side when he died in the ambulance. He was being interrogated by the police, who eventually charged him with involuntary manslaughter. His next court date is Feb. 8.

As he was rushing Sincere to the hospital, Smith said he told his son that he loved him. “He couldn’t really talk,” Smith said. “Last thing I heard him say was, ‘Daddy.’ He kept trying to say ‘Daddy.’ Believe me I hear it every day.”

There were 29 other shooting deaths across the U.S. on Christmas. A soldier was shot and killed in his barracks in Alaska. A man was murdered in the parking lot of Eddie’s Bar and Grill in Orrville, Ala. A 23-year-old was shot at a party in Phoenix. A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department employee was killed in a drive-by.

A 20-year-old Louisville, Ky., man was shot and killed after walking his sister home. On Christmas Eve, he had posted an R.I.P. on his Facebook page for a friend and former classmate, who had been gunned down that day.

A 10-year-old in Memphis, Tenn., Alfreddie Gipson, was accidentally shot to death by gun purchased by an older brother, who had gotten the weapon after being bullied at school. Gipson was jumping on a bed when the gun slipped out of a mattress. It discharged when his 12-year-old brother tried to put it back, their mother said at a vigil.

There were at least 41 homicides or accidental gun deaths on New Year’s Eve. On New Year’s Day, at least 54 people died from bullet wounds.

Through Google and Nexis searches, The Huffington Post has tracked gun-related homicides and accidents throughout the U.S. since the schoolhouse massacre in Newtown, Conn., on the morning of Dec. 14. There were more than 100 such deaths the first week after the school shooting. In the first seven weeks after Newtown, there have been more than 1,280 gunshot homicides and accidental deaths. Slate has counted 1,475 fatal shooting incidents since Newtown, including suicides and police-involved shooting deaths, which The Huffington Post did not include in its tally.

A 17-year-old took his last breath in the backyard of an abandoned house in New Orleans. Prince Jones, 19, was found bleeding to death in a 1998 Buick LeSabre in Nashville, Tenn. A woman was slumped over the steering wheel in Houston, the engine still running.

A 52-year-old man was shot and killed at a Checkers parking lot in Atlanta. A 26-year-old man was shot to death in a church parking lot in Jacksonville, Fla. Steven E. Lawson, 28, was shot and killed just outside a church in Flint, Mich., where he was attending a funeral for another gunshot victim.

On a Tuesday morning in Baton Rouge, La., police knocked on Alean Thomas’ door and told her: “You have a young man dead in your driveway.” It was her 19-year-old son. Three days later, a 17-year-old in California was killed visiting family for his birthday.

On a Thursday afternoon in New Orleans’ Sixth Ward, Dementrius Adams was murdered on his way to buy groceries for his mother. He was 28 and had a 5-year-old daughter. “He was a hard-working man,” his sister said told a reporter. “He was so proud of his job. … He was a good brother, a good father — he was a loveable man.”

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Adams had just been promoted from a dishwashing job to cook at a New Orleans restaurant.

The dead included grandmothers and a 6 month old. There were police officers and a Texas prosecutor. There was a Bodega worker in Queens, N.Y., and a gas station attendant in East Orange, N.J.

A high school majorette, a college freshman at Auburn University and a man planning to get his GED in Bradenton, Fla., were killed. One victim became Chicago’s 500th murder of 2012. Another was his town’s 40th. One was found frozen and bloody in an alley — Tacoma, Wash.’s first slaying of 2013. The victim, a mother, was planning to move with her daughters to Manhattan.

“I am lost, hollow,” said the mother of the GED aspirant gunned down at a Chevron station on New Year’s Day.

In Newport News, Va., after a shooting broke out, a mother ran outside to protect her two sons, ages 5 and 7. She yelled at one of the gunman and was killed.

A Davidson, N.C., husband murdered his wife, then shot himself . Their 3-year-old daughter was found watching T.V. in another room.

There were murder-suicides in Florida, Kentucky, Oregon, Texas and California. Most were men killing women, husbands killing wives, boyfriends killing girlfriends, sons killing mothers.

There were so many drive-bys.

On Jan. 11, in Baltimore, Devon Shields, 26, was found lying in a street with a fatal gunshot wound to the chest. Three hours later, Delroy Davis was found lying face-up between two houses. Two-and-a-half hours later, Baltimore police rushed to a double-shooting that left one man dead with multiple gunshot wounds. The next day, Sean Rhodes was found “lying face-down in a pool of blood,” according to the Baltimore City Paper. Two others survived gunshot wounds.

Silly arguments became final arguments. A man was murdered over two broken cigarettes. Another after getting into a spat at a taco truck. Travis Len Massey, 23, was shot and killed by his sister’s boyfriend in a family dispute over a missing gun. A 52-year-old Jacksonville man shot and killed a longtime friend over an argument, according to police. When asked what the argument was about, the gunman said he didn’t remember, according to a television report.

A 6-year-old accidentally killed a 4-year-old. A different 4-year-old accidentally killed a 58-year old.

Alexander Xavier Shaw, 18, put a gun to his head to show how safe it was. “Witnesses told officers that Shaw, his uncle, grandparents and some friends were on the back patio talking when he showed them a .38-caliber revolver,” a St. Petersburg, Fla., newspaper account said. The gun accidentally fired, killing Shaw.

 

* Mark Hanrahan, Melissa Jeltsen, Benjamin Hart, Adam Goldberg, Peter Finocchiaro, Chelsea Kiene and William Wrigley contributed reporting. (Feb.1, 2013)