Kentucky shooting is 11th U.S. school attack of new year
Newsletter: A deeper dive into the day's most notable stories
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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.
Students in Dallas, Seattle, New Orleans and Iowa are among those who have experienced gunfire this new year.
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.
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."
"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.
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.
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.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/DYK?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#DYK</a>: Last year in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Afghanistan?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Afghanistan</a>, <br><br>17 aid workers were killed, <br>32 aid workers were injured<br>47 aid workers were abducted<br><br>The country is one of the most challenging environments for <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/humanitarians?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#humanitarians</a> to operate in. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NotATarget?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NotATarget</a> <a href="https://t.co/ptZZxOHrGh">pic.twitter.com/ptZZxOHrGh</a>—@OCHAAfg
"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:
- The killing of a German aid worker and an Afghan security guard when a Kabul guest house belonging to Operation Mercy, a Swedish charity, was stormed last May. A Finnish woman was kidnapped during the raid.
- A gun and car bomb assault on the Kabul headquarters of Care in September 2016. One civilian and all of the attackers were killed.
- An August 2016 truck bomb attack on a foreign workers' compound in the capital. A policeman was killed in the ensuing gun battle.
- The November 2014 killing of a South African man who ran an education charity and his two teenage children in Kabul
- A March 2014 attack on the residential compound of Roots for Peace, an American charity, and a neighbouring daycare. One Afghan girl was killed in the crossfire.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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