The National Today

Texas shooting marks 23rd school gun incident in U.S. since Florida tragedy

A closer look at notable stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse: there have been 23 gun incidents and 17 deaths at U.S. schools since the Parkland, Fla., shooting; Melania Trump conspiracy theories; Belgium's human trafficking problem

Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories

People embrace outside the Alamo Gym where students and parents wait to reunite following a shooting at Santa Fe High School Friday in Texas. (Michael Ciaglo/Associated Press)

Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.


TODAY:

  • With today's shooting in Texas, there have been 23 gun incidents and 17 deaths at American schools and universities in the 93 days since a gunman killed 17 staff and students at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
  • A two-year-old girl has died after police in Belgium pursued and fired shots at a van carrying 30 Kurdish migrants 
  • Conjecture is swirling around why Melania Trump remains in hospital after routine surgery, just the latest flurry of rumours surrounding the First Lady
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here


'This has been going on too long...'

In the 93 days since a gunman killed 17 staff and students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, there have been 23 more gun incidents at American schools and universities. And at least 17 more people have died, including nine students and a teacher today at Santa Fe High outside of Galveston, Texas.

There have been 133 "mass" shootings — where four or more people are shot — in the United States so far in 2018, resulting in 195 dead and 454 wounded.

Law enforcement officers respond to the shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, on Friday. (Harris County Sheriff Office via Reuters)
"This has been going on too long in our country. Too many years, too many decades now," Donald Trump said this morning, vowing that his administration will, "do everything in our power to protect our students, secure our schools, and keep weapons out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and to others."

Two weeks ago, the U.S. president travelled to Dallas, about a four-hour drive from Santa Fe High, to address the National Rifle Association's annual convention. He delivered a different message there.

"Your Second Amendment rights are under siege, but they will never, ever be under siege as long as I'm your president," he told the cheering crowd.

"Ninety-eight per cent of mass public shootings have occurred in places where guns are banned, just so you understand," Trump said a bit later — a contention rated as "half true" by fact-checking site Politifact.

President Donald Trump speaks about the high school shooting in Texas from the East Room of the White House in Washington on Friday. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)
And the president restated his post-Parkland plan to arm and train teachers to police America's schools.

"There is no stronger deterrent for a sick individual than the knowledge that their attack will end their life and will end in total failure," he said. "When they know that, they're not going in. You're not going to have school attacks."

Fifteen stateshave introduced gun control measures since the Parkland massacre. For example, Washington State lawmakers banned bump stocks and passed a measure to keep guns out of the hands of convicted domestic abusers, but rejected a bid to restrict the sale of assault rifles.

Demonstrators participate in a March for Our Lives rally on March 24 in Killeen, Texas. The events, organized by survivors of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting on Feb. 14 that left 17 dead, are calling for legislative action to address school safety and gun violence. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Florida's "Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act" raised the minimum age for a weapons purchase from 18 to 21, and instituted a three-day waiting period.

Legislators in Utah ultimately voted down a bill that would have made it easier to temporarily confiscate the firearms of people deemed to be a safety threat — the only gun control proposal they would even consider.

The U.S. Congress, meanwhile, added a couple of very modest gun provisions to a $1.3 trillion omnibus government spending package that passed in late March.

James Everard and his son Steven, 9, join a group advocating for the rights of gun owners as they stage a counter-protest near a March for Our Lives rally on March 24 in Killeen, Texas. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
One tightened the National Instant Criminal Background Check System that gun sellers use to verify if someone is eligible to purchase a weapon, requiring state and federal agencies to regularly update their records and stiffening penalties for those who don't.

The other permits the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct research on the causes of gun violence — bringing an end to a 22-year, NRA-backed ban on such studies.

It marked the first time that a gun control measure had passed into federal law since 2010.


No more 'politics of hugs'

A two-year-old girl has died after police in Belgium pursued and fired shots at a van carrying 30 Kurdish migrants yesterday.

Police say they noticed the van driving in a "strange manner" early Thursday morning on the E42 motorway near the town of Namur. A registration check found that the licence plate did not match the vehicle.

The chase went on for more than 70 kilometres, growing to involve 15 police cars before the van struck another car outside of the city of Mons.

There was a struggle with some of the occupants, shots were fired and the toddler, a Kurdish girl named Mawda, was found with unspecified "fatal injuries."

Protesters hold placards as they take part in the 'Human Wave for Solidarity and Humanity' demonstration on Feb. 25 in Brussels, calling for a better treatment of refugees. (Hatim Kaghat/AFP/Getty Images)
The local prosecutor's office has opened an investigation into the incident, but a spokesman has already said that the girl was not hit by the gunfire. Frédéric Bariseau told the BBC that there several other possibilities are being explored, including illness, or injuries caused by the driver's behaviour.

Belgian media have reported that the girl had been held outside the window of the van in an effort to keep police at bay, but the prosecutor's office has not confirmed that information.

In addition to the little girl, police found 26 adults, including Mawda's mother, and three children in the van. They are all being held for questioning while prosecutors look for evidence of people smuggling and consider manslaughter charges.

Belgian Vice-Prime Minister and Interior Minister Jan Jambon, seen at a counter-terrorism session in 2016, has been trying to clamp down on human traffickers. (Nicolas Maeterlinck/AFP/Getty Images)
Over the past few years, Belgium has become an increasingly popular transit point for migrants seeking to hop the English Channel and reach the U.K., with many congregating in Brussels' parks and rail stations. Some are former residents of the infamous "Jungle" camp across the border in Calais that was closed down by French authorities in the fall of 2016.

The country's centre-right government has gone to great lengths to try and make them feel unwelcome:

  • Police have staged frequent raids on their makeshift camps and have stepped up efforts to deport people back to their countries of origin.
  • Forests along the sides of highways have been cut down to deny migrants a place to shelter or hide.
  • There are more ID checks aboard trains and at stations and in ports.
  • Security guards have been hired to patrol motorway car parks.
  • More "removal centres" have been opened to house the soon-to-be-deported.  

Belgium's home minister, Jan Jambon, says the focus is on people traffickers. "If we can neutralize the networks, fewer transit migrants will be brought here," he said in January.

But critics have their doubts — especially after the government recently proposed legislation to permit police to search private homes in their pursuit of illegal immigrants without obtaining a warrant.

Earlier this month, Theo Francken, the country's hardline minister for migration and asylum, said it is time to do away with "the politics of hugs" towards illegal migrants. He denounced the "leftists" who he says want to turn Belgium into a "migratory hub" between Italy and the U.K.

Belgium's State Secretary for Asylum and Immigration, Theo Francken, said earlier this month that it is time to do away with 'the politics of hugs' towards illegal migrants. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)
Last January, Francken found himself under investigation over allegations that he had colluded with the Sudanese government, allowing it to select political opponents seeking refuge in Belgium for repatriation, torture and jail.

Now he is campaigning to persuade the EU to automatically deport migrants who cross the Mediterranean back to the shores of Africa.

"This system is totally crazy and is not working. We have to fix this by being very clear: taking a ticket on a smuggler boat does not give you free entrance into the European continent," he said in an interview.

"Do it for two weeks and it stops immediately. Nobody will pay thousands of euros to end up in Tunisia, Egypt or Morocco."

As it stands, Belgian authorities seem resolute about continuing their crackdown. Yesterday, just a couple hours after Mawda's death, police in Brussels staged sweeps in Parc Maximilien and the Gare du Nord. Eleven migrants were arrested.


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Melania mystery

On Monday, Melania Trump checked into Walter Reed Medical Center for an embolization procedure to treat a benign kidney condition.

It was expected that she would be back home at the White House recovering by Wednesday or Thursday at the latest, but the U.S. first lady remains in hospital.

Despite assurances from staff that she is "doing well," her continued absence is fuelling all sorts of speculation.

U.S. first lady Melania Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 7. She has been in hospital for several days after a kidney-related procedure. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
CNN interviewed four different urologists for a "Why is Melania Trump still in hospital?" story. The consensus seemed to be that it's impossible to say, given the scant details provided about the kidney problem, but that a decent guess might be she's experiencing some pain.

The embolization procedure, which cuts off the blood flow to an area of body tissue, is often done on an outpatient basis, but it still hurts.

Nothing is that simple, however, in the overheated media frenzy that surrounds her husband.

One theory already making the rounds online, for example, suggests that she has had a kidney transplant, and that the donor is Donald Trump. This, despite the fact that the U.S. president has been up and around all week, and has visited her in hospital three times.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks while flanked by first lady Melania Trump. Earlier this month, the Washington Post published a story about the president and first lady's independent daily routines. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
The first lady must be getting used to such falsehoods by now, given the number of conspiracy theories involving her that are circulating on the internet.

There's a story today that points to "fake news" accounts that the 48-year-old former fashion model is actually a Russian spy. The idea seems to be based entirely on photos of Melania Trump having a friendly conversation with Vladimir Putin at last year's G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

Earlier this month, the Washington Post published a story on the president and first lady's "remarkably separate daily routines" that eventually addressed another fast-spreading rumour — that she doesn't actually live at the White House, but rather with her parents in the suburbs.

"It's 1,000 per cent false. We laugh at it all the time," her spokesperson Stephanie Grisham told the paper.

The flames were fanned again this week by a few lines in Donald Trump's 93-page 2017 financial disclosure report. They referred to a holding company transaction related to the first lady's January 2016 purchase of a one-bedroom, 1,052-square-foot apartment in New York City's Trump Tower, 35 floors below the penthouse she shares with her husband.

Michael Cohen admitted paying a sum to adult film performer Stormy Daniels, who has alleged an affair with the president. (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)
The $1.49 million US unit overlooks 5th Avenue. And it's similar to apartments that some other building residents have purchased for the use of their staff.

There is, however, one item that was included in the president's disclosure report that might raise legitimate questions about the state of their marriage. A payment to Michael Cohen, his former personal lawyer, of "$100,001 - $250,000."

The amount includes a $130,000 reimbursement for a 2016 "hush money" payment that Cohen made to porn actress Stormy Daniels to stop her sharing her story of an alleged affair.


Quote of the moment

"The family looked and they're saying, 'Oh geez. You know. Maybe. Probably. Umm, I don't know. Nobody else is unaccounted for. Maybe.'"

- Wayne Nogier, a community coroner in Melfort, Sask., explains the chaotic process that led to a victim of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash being misidentified as one of the survivors.


What The National is reading

  • Airliner crashes on takeoff from Havana, Cuba (CBS)
  • Poisoned former Russian spy Sergei Skripal released from hospital (CBC)
  • Cambridge Analytica files for bankruptcy (CNBC)
  • Survivor of Manchester concert bombing receives royal wedding invite (CBC)
  • Assange's guest list: who visited the Wikileaks founder in his embassy refuge (Guardian)
  • Gunman arrested at Trump resort in Florida after opening fire (Fox News)
  • Canadian who moved to Australia as baby begs not to be deported to Canada (National Post)
  • Couple finds safe buried in their backyard (CNN)

Today in history

May 18, 1980: Referendum boxing match

Long before Liberal Justin Trudeau shed the wimp label by beating Conservative Patrick Brazeau in the ring, there was another political boxing match. Two days before the 1980 referendum, André Beauchamp, a 50-year-old federalist and public relations executive, took on Reggie Chartrand, a noted separatist with an actual prize-fighting past and a 20-pound advantage. The whole thing lasted 48 seconds as Chartrand landed blow after blow and then crumpled Beauchamp with a hard left to the ribs. "I hope we win the referendum as easily as I won the fight," Chartrand said afterwards. Nope.

Partisan pugilists ply political punches. 2:12

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About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

Jonathon Gatehouse

Has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, including seven Olympic Games and a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey.