Student push for gun control sparks claims of anti-Trump conspiracy
Newsletter: A deeper dive into the day's most notable stories
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- Pro-gun U.S. blogs are circulating stories that claim one of the outspoken students who survived the Florida school shooting is a paid "crisis actor"
- Russia appears to be a step closer to marching under its own flag at the Pyeongchang Olympics Closing Ceremony
- World is failing its "youngest and most vulnerable" people, says a scathing UNICEF report on infant mortality
Explaining away a massacre
America's mass-shooting cycle is now as sad and familiar as the massacres themselves — thoughts and prayers, angry calls to action, and spreading conspiracies that suggest the tragedies have been exaggerated or never happened at all.
The gun murders of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last week are no exception.
Although this time, the dark internet focus is on the survivors, rather than the shooter or the victims.
Yesterday, a number of far-right, pro-gun American blogs began circulating stories that claim one of the students, David Hogg — the son of a retired FBI agent — is in fact a paid "crisis actor" and "deep-state pawn."
The easily debunked accusation was swiftly embraced by a number of high-profile Republicans. Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, "liked" two tweets that linked to stories about the alleged conspiracy, including one that accused the "mainstream media" of helping to "prop up an incompetent" FBI.
Similar stories were circulated last fall in the wake of a mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 dead and wounded more than 400, with many bloggers singling out blood-soaked victims as paid participants in a vast hoax.
Although such conspiracy theories pale in comparison with continuing claims by Infowars' Alex Jones, and other far-right figures, that the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary massacre that left 26 dead — 20 of them young children — was made up.
(Last June, a 57-year-old Florida woman was sent to jail for sending threatening messages to the still-grieving family of one of the Newtown victims, six-year-old Noah Pozner, accusing them of being actors.)
Outrage over the Parkland shooting, one of 18 such gun incidents so far this year in the United States, seems to be putting greater pressure on politicians to finally address America's gun problem.
Later this afternoon, the President will hold a "listening session" on school safety at the White House, which will include people with ties to school shooting victims in Parkland, Columbine, Colo., and Newtown, Conn.
But Trump, who started his political career by embracing the Obama "birther" conspiracy, and during his campaign trucked in false tales about 9/11, JFK's assassination and the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, has never really made it clear where he stands on school shooting theories.
They are still waiting for a response.
Forgiving Russia's Olympic sins
Russia appears to be one step closer to marching under its own flag at the Pyeongchang Olympics Closing Ceremony, despite a positive doping test from one of its athletes.
IOC President Thomas Bach met with Igor Levitin, a Vladimir Putin confidante and key member of Russia's Olympic Committee, today in South Korea. Officials described the tête-à-tête as a "brief courtesy visit," but that hasn't dampened speculation that the Olympic movement is preparing to welcome Russia back into the family as the Winter Games end.
But the so-called ban, billed as a punishment for the Kremlin's state-sponsored cheating program at the London and Sochi Games, could be lifted at a meeting of the IOC's executive board on Saturday, the day before the Closing Ceremony.
Russian mixed-doubles curler Aleksandr Krushelnitsky tested positive for the banned drug meldonium this past weekend, and he and his wife Anastasia Bryzgalova stand to be stripped of the bronze medal they won. But while that violation — one of just three positive tests so far this Olympics — will "be taken into consideration," it is apparently not a deal breaker for the IOC.
Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes dissent among IOC members over the Russia question has burst into the open.
Canada's Dick Pound, who has already said he will skip the Closing Ceremony, has accused his colleagues of abandoning the fight against doping.
"The only people that scare these old farts are athletes saying, 'If you won't clean this up, we're not going to participate in these events,'" Pound told the U.K.'s Evening Standard this week. "There are dissenting voices from countries like Britain, Canada, the U.S. and France, but not enough."
Pound's comments drew a nasty letter from John Coates, an Australian member of the IOC and Bach-ally, who claimed that the Canadian has lost the respect of his colleagues due to his repeated outbursts.
And in public comments today, the IOC suggested that Pound should get with the program, or get lost.
"In the end, if you don't like the coffee that's served at the coffee shop, and you don't like the décor and you don't like the prices, then you maybe go to another coffee shop," Mark Adams told a Pyeongchang media briefing.
Follow all the results and get a full broadcast schedule at CBC's online Olympic hub.
The National can be found at its regular time on CBC News Network, as well as streamed on YouTube and Facebook, for the duration of the Games.
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Births, and too many deaths
The world is failing its "youngest and most vulnerable" people, says a scathing UNICEF report on infant mortality.
Each year, 2.6 million babies across the globe fail to survive their first month of life, with 1 million dying on the day they are born.
And while deaths among children aged 1 to 5 have been more than halved over the past 25 years, the world has yet to make similar progress for newborns.
More than 80 per cent of the fatalities are due to premature births, complications during delivery, or treatable infections. These are all well-known medical issues that rarely kill children in rich industrialized nations, but remain deadly for those born into poverty.
The numbers are stark:
- Low income countries average 27 newborn deaths per 1,000 births, while high-income nations average just three.
- Newborns in the world's riskiest places to give birth are up to 50 times more likely to die than those in the safest.
- Pakistan has the world's highest rate of infant mortality, with 45.6 deaths per 1,000 births.
- Japan has the lowest, with just one in 1,000 dying over the first 28 days after birth.
- Eight of the 10 most dangerous places to be born are in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Eight of the safest nations are in Europe.
UNICEF is using the findings as a launchpad for a new global campaign to try and bring the developing world's average infant mortality rate in line with that of industrialized nations by 2030 — a transformation that the organization says would save 16 million lives.
The solution to the problem is simple: better and more widely available health care.
- In Finland, for example, where the infant mortality rate is 1.2 per 1,000 births, there are 175 skilled health care workers per 10,000 population.
- In Somalia, where there are 38.8 newborn deaths per 1,000 births, there is just one nurse, doctor or midwife for every 10,000 citizens.
The initial focus for UNICEF will be on the 10 countries that account for more than half of all newborn deaths: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, India, Indonesia, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan and the United Republic of Tanzania.
It's a poor showing that is part of a larger trend UNICEF identified in another report last summer. It ranked Canada 37th among the world's 41 wealthiest countries when it came to children having access to enough nutritious food.
Overall, 18 per cent of Canada's children live in poverty, but the proportion climbs to 51 per cent in the case of First Nations youth, and 60 per cent of the children who live on reserves.
Quote of the moment
"I don't want to say have sympathy for me. I just want people to look clinically at the facts and basically come to the conclusion he is not getting a gold star for his personal life, but he has made a commitment, he is with her, they're having a child, and in a 2018 world there is nothing terribly much to see there."
- Australia's Deputy PM, Barnaby Joyce, engaging in some wishful thinking about the ongoing scandal over his affair with an aide.
What The National is reading
- Famed evangelist Billy Graham dead at 99 (CBC)
- France's Macron moves to tighten immigration and asylum rules (Reuters)
- How a 62-part propaganda film shaped North Korea's ideas about Canada (CBC)
- Ex-Save The Children boss apologizes for inappropriate texts to female staffers (BBC)
- Vancouver teacher suspended after using worksheets with N-word (CBC)
- A female prosecutor's lonely fight to empower Afghan women (Guardian)
- Zambia's opposition warned over president-themed toilet paper (Africanews)
Today in history
Feb. 21, 1981: The computer kid
How long ago was 1981? Sufficiently distant that a kid liking computers was big news. Farm boy Ted Curylo took a 6 a.m. bus from Chilliwack to attend a Vancouver conference on those funny new machines. Of course, he'd already built one at home. In addition to writing a column for the weekly paper, hosting a cable access show and dominating the local 4H club. What was the secret? His parents didn't own a TV.
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