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Kentucky shooting is 11th U.S. school attack of new year

A deeper dive into the day's most notable stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse.

Newsletter: A deeper dive into the day's most notable stories

Students embrace following a prayer vigil at Paducah Tilghman High School in Paducah, Ky., on Wednesday. The gathering was held for the victims of Tuesday's Marshall County High School shooting that left two dead and 18 wounded. (Ryan Hermens/Associated Press)

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  • Kentucky high school shooting is the latest of 50 such incidents in the U.S. since September 2017
  • Civilians paying deadly price as attacks in Afghanistan rise
  • World's top tennis players increasingly being sidelined by injuries

No safe spaces in U.S. schools

A 15-year-old student brought a handgun to school in rural Kentucky yesterday, killing two of his classmates and wounding 18 others.

In another time — or place — this would be major news. But in the sobering reality of America's culture of guns and violence, it is simply another passing tragedy.

Police at the scene of a shooting at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky, on Tuesday. (Harrison McClary/Reuters)
Yesterday's school shooting was the nation's 11th of year, by the New York Times' count, and 2018 is only halfway through its fourth week.

Students in Dallas, Seattle, New Orleans and Iowa are among those who have experienced gunfire this new year.

Students hold hands in prayer before classes Wednesday at Paducah Tilghman High School in Paducah, Ky., remembering the victims from Tuesday's shooting at a nearby high school. (Ryan Hermens/Associated Press)
There have been 50 such incidents in the U.S. since the beginning of September 2017.

Everytown for Gun Safety, the anti-violence group founded in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, counts 281 school attacks since 2013.

A map of school attacks in the U.S. from the beginning of 2013 to Jan. 24, 2018. (Everytown for Gun Safety)

The numbers attached to firearms in America are mind-boggling:

  • 13,000 homicides a year.
  • An average of 96 gun deaths each day.
  • 427 mass shootings in 2017.
  • Close to two dozen more mass shootings so far this year.

But what is even harder for outsiders to comprehend is the way many Americans conceptualize the problem.

This morning, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions published an op-ed in USA Today titled, "Trump promised to end 'American carnage.' Promise delivered."

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote an op-ed in USA Today on Wednesday saying President Trump has 'delivered' on his promise to end 'American carnage.' (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
"For the first time in a long time, Americans can have hope for a safer future, with a slower murder rate and decreasing violent crime," he wrote.

"We have placed trust in our prosecutors again, and we're restoring respect for law enforcement. We have invested in new resources and put in place smarter policies based on sound research."

There was no mention of violence in schools.

Hitting the helpers in Afghanistan

An attack on the offices of Save the Children in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad has killed at least three people and injured 26, and the fate of dozens more aid workers in the building is unknown.

A suicide bomber detonated a car outside the gates of the charity's compound shortly after 9 a.m. local time today. Then several more militants attacked the building with gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades.  

Vehicles are seen on fire after a blast at the offices of Save the Children in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on Wednesday. (Parwiz/Reuters)
Local security forces fired back and the fighting continued for hours. At one point, the top floor of the offices were set ablaze.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The violence comes just days after an audacious raid on the luxury Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul killed at least 22 people, including 14 foreigners.

Afghan police officers take cover amid gunfire during Wednesday's attack in Jalalabad. (Parwiz/Reuters)
In that case, six Taliban fighters dressed in Afghan Army uniforms and suicide vests stormed the building, spraying gunfire at guests and workers. More than 150 people escaped, hiding under mattresses or shimmying down bedsheet ladders. The siege lasted 14 hours and several floors of the hotel were destroyed by fire.

Aid groups, and foreigners workers in general, have become favoured targets of anti-government forces since the withdrawal of most NATO troops from Afghanistan in December 2014.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has been keeping track of the carnage.

"I am appalled and outraged by this attack," Adele Khodr, the UN's acting humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan, said today. "I renew our calls on all parties to the conflict to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and humanitarian workers."

The sad truth, however, is that no one seems to be paying attention to such pleas. Although 150 aid groups remain active in the country, their work has become ever more dangerous and difficult.

Among the recent attacks:

But while attacks on foreigners continue to make international headlines, the reality remains that it is Afghans themselves who are the primary victims of the never-ending conflict.

The switch to car and truck bombs resulted in a sharp increase in civilian casualties in 2017, reaching a record high according to UN figures, with child deaths up nine per cent and female fatalities up 23 per cent.

An Afghan policeman inspects the aftermath of the car bomb outside the gates of the Save the Children offices. (Parwiz/Reuters)
A Taliban truck bomb attack on the embassy quarter in Kabul last May, for example, killed 150 people and injured close to 500 more, almost all locals. The bombing of a Shia centre in Kabul in late December, an attack claimed by ISIS, killed at least 41.

The UN estimates that almost 30,000 Afghan civilians have been killed and more than 50,000 injured since it began tracking such casualties in 2009.

And with little more than half of the country — 231 out of 407 districts — under government control or influence, an end to the violence remains a distant hope.

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Tennis elbow (and everything else)

Rafael Nadal had some harsh words yesterday for the Association of Tennis Professionals, the pro-tennis governing body, after an injury forced to him withdraw from the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.

"Somebody who is running the tour should think [a] little bit about what's going on. Too many people getting injured," said the world's No. 1-ranked men's player.

Spain's Rafael Nadal during a press conference after retiring from his match due to injury against Croatia's Marin Cilic on Tuesday. (Edgar Su/Reuters)
"I don't know if they have to think a little bit about the health of the players. Not for now that we are playing, but there is life after tennis. I don't know, if we keep playing in this very, very hard surfaces, what's going to happen in the future with our lives."

Nadal suffered pains high in his right leg after running for a drop shot in the fourth set of his match against Marin Cilic, who sits at No. 6 six in the ATP rankings. Two on-court visits from a physiotherapist were not enough to ease his suffering, and Nadal retired a couple of games later.

Last season, the 31-year-old Spaniard was forced to withdraw from the French Open with a wrist problem, and remained on the DL through Wimbledon.

Nadal receives treatment from a trainer during his quarterfinal against Croatia's Marin Cilic at the Australian Open tennis championships on Tuesday. (Dita Alangkara/Associated Press)
And whether he spoke from disappointment or insight in Melbourne, Nadal has a valid point: the pro-game has been suffering a plague of injuries.

Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and a host of other top players all missed significant portions of the past two seasons due to strained knees, elbows, wrists, hamstrings and ribs.

By the time the ATP finally reached its 2017 season-ending Paris Masters event in early November, seven members of the men's Top 20 were sitting on the sidelines.

Serena Williams plays a backhand during her Ladies Final match against Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi. (Tom Dulat/Getty Images)
The problem is not limited to the men. Serena Williams, the world's top female player, missed time with a knee injury last year. A number of other high-ranked women, including Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza and Madison Keys, were also forced off the court.

Most of the blame is being placed on pro-tennis' packed schedules and players' thirst for cash.

The men's year starts at the end of December and can carry on to the Davis Cup finals in late November. (In 2016, Andy Murray finished his 87-match, two-Grand-Slam-title-season on Nov. 20, and started the next one Dec. 30.)

The women's tour, run by the WTA, goes almost as long, stretching from the New Year to mid-October.

Switzerland's Roger Federer reaches for a backhand return to Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic during their quarterfinal at the Australian Open tennis championships Wednesday. (Ng Han Guan/Associated Press)
Nadal is not the first to complain. Last fall, Canada's Raonic spoke out after he was forced to pull out of the Japan Open with a calf injury. He had just returned from a seven-week layoff after wrist surgery.

"We're the only sport, outside of golf maybe, that plays as spread out as we do without any time for rest," he noted.

Although not everyone thinks there is a crisis. Roger Federer, the 36-year-old Swiss star who won at Wimbledon last year, capturing his record-setting 19th major title, has been dismissive of his competitors' gripes.

South Korea's Chung Hyeon, left, shakes hands with Serbia's Novak Djokovic after winning the match Monday at the Australian Open. (Edgar Su/Reuters)
"Shave 10 years off our age, and we probably will do better," he said this past November, when asked about a different Nadal injury. "A lot of the guys are just touching 30-plus. Back in the day, at 30, a lot of guys were retiring …. The season has been the same for many, many years, as we know. I think just when you get older, you maybe have to manage your schedule maybe a little bit differently."

However, the rigours of Australian Open — the first Grand Slam event of the long season — appear to have done in at least one more top player. In his first tournament since sitting out six months with an elbow injury, former world No. 1 Novak Djokovic made it to the fourth round before falling to Hyeon Chung in straight sets.

Now, he's suggesting that he might need still more time to recover.

"Apart from the arm, it was fine," he said of his comeback.

Quote of the moment

"Preventing and identifying the way disinformation works also calls for a profound and careful process of discernment. We need to unmask what could be called the 'snake-tactics' used by those who disguise themselves in order to strike at any time and place."

- Pope Francis, on the subject of fake news in a message timed for tomorrow's World Communications Day. The strategies used by demagogues and propagandists are the same as those of the "crafty serpent" in the Book of Genesis, he writes.

Pope Francis. (Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters)

What The National is reading

  • Canada Post to end community mailbox conversions (CBC)
  • Uganda's president: I love Trump for being frank with Africans (BBC)
  • What you need to know about the trial of Brazil's Lulu (Brazilianreport)
  • London school board restores funding for gay prom musical (CBC)
  • Gulf Coast wreck could be the last U.S. slave ship (NBC)
  • Man who smuggled deadly cobras in potato chip cans sentenced to jail (LA Times)

Today in history

Jan. 24, 1978: Soviet nuclear satellite crashes in Canadian North

Kosmos 954, a nuclear-powered spy-satellite launched by the Soviets in September 1977, didn't deliver much bang for the buck. By December that year it was falling out of orbit, and in late January it streaked back to Earth (see the state-of-the-art CBC animation in this report), breaking up over the Northwest Territories. Canadian and U.S. troops spent weeks looking for its radioactive remains, but it was six civilians who finally found the space junk.

Six civilians on a northern expedition find the debris of the satellite that fell to earth on Jan. 24, 1978. 2:47

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About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

CBC Investigative Journalist

Jonathon Gatehouse has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, covering seven Olympic Games and authoring a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey. He works for the national investigative unit in Toronto.