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22 Oct
2018

Pivotal gun control law turns 50 in the spotlight after spate of firearms tragedies

UNITED STATES (WNF) - The Gun Control Act (GCA), the first amendment to the 1934 National Firearms Act (NFA), turns 50. The evolution of the GCA over five decades parallels America’s unequal tugs-o-war over the regulation of firearms.
For some Americans, guns are over-regulated. For others, they are under-regulated.

Recent mass shootings, which include two that set U.S. records, have fired up gun control advocates. A climate of outrage at the country’s disproportionate number of killings by firearms, and at school shootings in particular, raises some possibility that activism – the March For Our Lives movement and others – might halt the overall erosion of gun control. The erosion is exemplified by the 1986 amendment passed by Congress, which is titled The Firearm Owners Protection Act.

For gun safety advocates, tightening and closing loopholes in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), the GCA and state firearms laws will be a priority. Stephen Paddock, the record-holder for the worst mass shooting, and Adam Lanza, the record-holder for the worst school shooting, both killed with weapons legally purchased through the NICS. The New York Times pointed out in Feb 2018 that a vast majority of guns used in 19 recent mass shootings were bought legally and with a federal background check, as required by law.

A Time Magazine timeline of major gun control laws traces the tugs-o-war. It details each instance where a control was introduced in Congress and subsequently neutralized.

Whether the outrage that followed the recent mass shootings can even-up the contest will depend on whether it can outlast and outmaneuver the intense lobbying of Congress by the National Rifle Association for the firearms industry. A Denver Post headline after the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999 observed that the “Massacre energizes gun debate – but not lawmakers.” #22564 Published: 03/29/2018

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22 Oct
2018

New Ontario premier flexes political muscle ahead of Toronto municipal election

CANADA (WNF) - The new premier of the province of Ontario, Doug Ford, plans to cut Toronto city council seats from 44 to 25 members, a change for Canada’s largest city that his critics see as his attempt to weaken political rivals ahead of municipal elections on Oct 22.
“We’re going to reduce the size and cost of Toronto’s city hall so that decisions can be made quicker while services can be delivered more efficiently and effectively,” according to an internal email reported by Canada’s Global News. A higher number of councilors makes it difficult to “get things done,” the email explains.

The proposed changes would eliminate elected chair positions in the regions of Peel, York, Niagara and Muskoka. Chairs in Durham, Halton and Waterloo would continue to be selected as normal.

The Ontario provincial election in June pitted Ford’s Progressive Conservatives against Kathleen Wynne’s long-governing Liberals and Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats.

Horwath reacted to Ford’s changes in a written statement, saying the proposed legislation would mean less accountability and transparency. “This is obviously a move to make it easier for the premier to control Toronto city hall,” Horwath wrote. “And reports that Mr. Ford is cancelling elections in which his political enemies are running — elections for the chairs of the York and Peel regions — are deeply chilling,” she added.

Writing in Canada’s Globe & Mail, lawyer David Butt acknowledged that the cuts might make the council more efficient, but that it should be challenged in court. It was sprung on that city without consultation, he said, and is a troubling departure from democratic norms. “So much so that it violates constitutional principles of democratic engagement.” #22708 Published: 08/02/2018

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25 Oct
2018

NATO Trident Juncture 18 exercise on losing side of one-upmanship show?

NORWAY (WNF) - Trident Juncture 18, NATO’s largest military exercise since 2002, involves 40,000 personnel from 30 NATO and partner nations. Held on Russia’s doorstep, it closely follows Russia’s Vostok-18, which involved some 300,000 personnel and is the country’s biggest exercise since the Cold War.
NATO spokesperson Irina Novakova told German broadcaster DW that the purpose of deploying "120 aircraft, 70 ships and up to 10,000 vehicles" in the Trident exercises was to practice the Alliance's ability to "operate together and to defend our populations and territories.” By design, the expected cold and wet weather will pose additional challenges for the NATO troops, training them to operate in extreme conditions.

Russia says Vostok-18 in September will include armoured infantry vehicles, along with more than 1,000 aircraft. All of Russia's airborne units and two of its naval fleets will also take part in the drills across Siberia and the Russian Far East. Units from China and Mongolia will participate at military ranges in central and eastern Russia.

As military tensions with Russia continue to run high, Northern European nations have pledged to boost cooperation against Moscow. In an exclusive interview with DW, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO needed to adapt in the face of a more assertive Russia. But he has spoken of his wish to improve relations with Moscow.

A preliminary exercise will be staged in the waters off Iceland on Oct 15-17 and a
command post exercise will be held on Nov 14–23. #22725 Updated: 09/14/2018 UPDATED SEP TO INCLUDE VOSTOK-18

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26 Oct
2018

Irish Republic will have a presidential election after all

IRISH REPUBLIC (WNF) - The country didn’t need a presidential election until Sinn Féin announced in July that it would select a candidate to challenge President Michael D. Higgins.
The Irish president, who said he only planned to remain in the position for one seven-year term when first elected, has enjoyed high popularity during his time in office. Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour backed his bid for a second term, and he was considered unassailable.

The Belfast Telegraph reports that the move by Sinn Féin to run a candidate means it will be only the second time in the history of the modern Irish state that an incumbent president has been challenged.

The Sinn Féin announcement has drawn other candidates into the race, and the incumbent is now facing at least five contenders for the mainly ceremonial role.

Sinn Féin is reported to be considering a female candidate, and legislators Liadh Ní Riada and Michelle Gildernew are under consideration. Higgins’ immediate presidential predecessors were Mary Patricia McAleese (1997-2011) and Mary Robinson (1990-1997), the country's first woman president. #22691 Published: 07/19/2018

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