Trump Cites Progress in Japan Ahead of Address to U.S. Troops
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Lawmakers in gun-loving Texas have quietly gone around the National Rifle Association by slipping language into a massive spending bill that would fund a $1 million public safety campaign on gun storage.
The last-minute move late Sunday sets up a political test rarely seen in Texas for Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who must decide whether to veto the spending or to ignore NRA opposition and approve the program.
An Abbott spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and the Texas Legislature adjourned Monday until 2021.
The campaign for safe home gun storage is a small item in the two-year, $250 billion state budget, and it was fiercely opposed by the NRA and gun-rights activists. The measure failed to get a vote and appeared all but dead weeks ago.
Then budget negotiators — the majority of whom are Republicans — added the funding into a budget bill. The legislation was approved Sunday night by the GOP-controlled Legislature.
„I have full confidence that the governor will look at it hard and will realize it’s all about saving lives. I hope there is no one discouraging him,” Gyl Switzer, executive director of Texas Gun Sense, said Monday.
Abbott has said he would support promoting gun safety. But he has also bowed to pressure from the NRA and gun rights advocates on issues such as stiffer penalties for negligent gun storage, as well as „red flag” laws to keep guns away from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others.
Creating a new safe storage campaign in Texas would be a rare defeat for the NRA, which has long flexed considerable muscle in a state with more than 1.3 million handgun license holders.
Texas lawmakers have steadily expanded gun rights over the last decade. That includes a Sunday night vote to allow anyone who can legally own a gun to carry it openly or concealed for a week after a natural disaster declaration.
The NRA and its state affiliate, the Texas State Rifle Association, have worked to beat back new restrictions on gun ownership, including after two recent high-profile mass shootings: one at a church in Sutherland Springs in November 2017 that killed more than two dozen people, including a pregnant woman, and a shooting at Santa Fe High School near Houston that killed 10 people and wounded 13 others in May 2018.
The proposal for a safe gun storage public service campaign came after the Santa Fe High School shooting. Police have said the then-17-year-old gunman took his father’s weapons from their home.
After the Santa Fe shooting, Abbott’s gun law proposals said he wanted to „to encourage the millions of law abiding, gun-owning Texans to embrace their personal responsibility for gun safety.”
Bills filed by Democrats to have the Texas state police agency create a safe storage campaign never made it to votes in the House or Senate. The NRA lobbied against them, arguing that gun rights groups and gun manufacturers have similar campaigns that are widely distributed to gun stores and shooting ranges. In one public hearing, an NRA lobbyist warned lawmakers that a campaign designed by the Texas state police could easily be corrupted by anti-gun rhetoric.
Abbott has line-item veto power in the budget, meaning he could strip out the safe storage campaign without scuttling the entire spending bill.
Alice Tripp, legislative director and lobbyist for the Texas State Rifle Association, said the group still opposes the program but isn’t in the business of asking for veto.
„We don’t do that. Gov. Abbott does not need that kind of advice from us. We bring information to the table,” Tripp said. „If he calls me, I would tell him that.”
Advocates for the safe-storage campaign say it’s needed far beyond efforts to stop mass shootings.
Nationwide, nearly 1,700 children under age 18 died from accidental gun deaths from 2001 to 2017, while more than 33,000 were injured, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A University of Texas study of pediatric shooting injuries or deaths over a 15-year period in Houston found that in most cases, there was no adult supervision at the time and most families had received no training on safe gun storage at home
Rescue workers operate at the site where sixteen people were injured in a suspected stabbing by a man, in Kawasaki, Japan
TOKYO (Reuters) – One young schoolgirl was killed and at least 12 others were injured in a stabbing at a bus stop just outside the Japanese capital, Tokyo, on Tuesday, national broadcaster NHK cited police as saying.
Three adults were also injured, with one of them showing no vital signs, after the incident in Kawasaki city, south of Tokyo, a city official told Reuters. NHK said a suspect detained at the scene died later.
The girls, aged around 6 to 7, were students at a private Catholic school and were waiting for their school bus, NHK said.
The broadcaster said a man detained at the scene also died.
The suspect, a man probably in his 40s or 50s, was unconscious when he was detained after stabbing himself in the neck, it said.
The man was said to have begun slashing at people as they waited at the bus stop and then on the bus, it said.
„I heard screaming, then I saw a man standing with a knife in each hand,” NHK quoted an unidentified witness as saying. „Then he crumbled to the ground.”
Two knives were found at the scene, NHK said.
The Kawasaki City fire department put the number of injured at 19, including three with severe wounds.
Violent crime is relatively rare in Japan but occasional high-profile incidents have shocked the nation.
More than a dozen people were injured in a 2010 stabbing spree on a school bus and a commuter bus in a Tokyo suburb.
Two years earlier, a 28-year-old man drove a truck into a crowded pedestrian crossing in Tokyo, killing three people, and then fatally stabbed four more.
(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim and Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Paul Tait)
US President Donald Trump, while in Japan, says he „smiled” when North Korean Kim Jong UN attacked Democratic presidential contener Joe Biden as „a low IQ individual”
Washington (AFP) – The longtime Washington adage that politics should stop at the water’s edge took a new beating over the weekend, as US President Donald Trump cited the North Korean dictator as agreeing with his own dim view of Democrat Joe Biden.
A White House spokeswoman on Sunday brushed off criticism of Trump’s remark and confirmed the two leaders’ critical opinion of the former US vice president.
Trump had tweeted on Saturday, at the outset of an official visit to Japan, that he „smiled when (Kim) called Swampman Joe Bidan a low IQ individual, & worse.”
Trump later corrected the spelling of Biden’s name, but his reliance on a dictator’s opinion to ambush a political foe from overseas drew sharp criticism from Biden’s team and others.
„I would say the tweet speaks for itself, but it’s so unhinged and erratic that I’m not sure anyone could even say that with a straight face,” an unnamed Biden aide told ABC News.
During a satellite interview from Tokyo with NBC, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders was asked „why Americans should not be concerned that the president of the United States is essentially siding with a murderous authoritarian dictator over a former vice president of the United States.”
„The president’s not siding with that,” Sanders replied, „but I think they agree in their assessment of former vice president Joe Biden.”
„The president doesn’t need somebody else to give him an assessment of Joe Biden.”
Biden, a six-term senator before serving as No. 2 to President Barack Obama, has taken a substantial lead in early polling on the nearly two dozen Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination.
He has increasingly been a favored target of Trump, who refers to the Democrat as „Sleepy Joe.”
Bucharest (AFP) – Romania’s ruling party strongman Liviu Dragnea began a three-and-a-half-year jail sentence on Monday for corruption as his party grappled with a crushing defeat in the European elections.
A court earlier Monday upheld Dragnea’s original sentence, a verdict that will almost certainly remove from public life a man who was widely seen as the puppet master behind the Social Democrats (PSD) and the government they lead.
He was convicted last year of using his influence to procure fake public jobs for two women who were actually working for the PSD at the time.
Dragnea, 56, was also a key figure in his party’s push for controversial judicial reforms which have led to clashes with Brussels and have overshadowed Romania’s first-ever EU presidency.
Despite the PSD’s election victory in 2016, Dragnea’s deep-seated ambition to become prime minister was thwarted because of a previous suspended jail sentence for electoral fraud.
– ‘Difficult moment’ –
Still the moustachioed leader wielded considerable influence behind the scenes and toppled two prime ministers in just seven months before nominating Viorica Dancila to the post in January 2018.
Dancila admitted that Monday’s verdict against Dragnea was „a difficult moment” for the party.
She said that PSD leaders would meet on Tuesday to decide the timetable for electing Dragnea’s successor, with Dancila herself taking over the post in the meantime.
She ruled out resigning after the PSD’s disastrous showing in Sunday’s European Parliament elections, where it slumped 12 points from its score in 2014 to 25.8 percent.
Centre-right and liberal opponents racked up almost 50 percent of the EU vote between them.
Young people and city-dwellers turned out in force to express their frustration with the government, with turnout nudging 50 percent.
„Never has Romania seen so many big events in such a short time, between the humiliation at the ballot box of the ruling party and the incarceration of the one considered the country’s strongman,” wrote the Romanian investigative website HotNews.ro.
On the eve of Monday’s court appearance, Dragnea was his normal defiant self, alluding to conspiracies against him and „unimaginable pressure” being exerted on judges to find him guilty.
Florentin Negrutiu, editorial writer for the Digi24 site, said of the court verdict: „This is a victory for the judicial system after two-and-a-half years in which Dragnea has tried to employ all means to stop it working.”
Over the past three years, Dragnea and the PSD — the successor party to the communists — have courted voters in poorer and more rural areas of the country with generous promises.
But analysts say his focus on curtailing the activities of the country’s anti-corruption agency has lost the PSD many voters.
His argument was that he wanted to put an end to abuses of power by prosecutors „suffered by millions of Romanians”.
Dragnea had begun to mimic attacks on the EU of the kind made by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, accusing Brussels of „interfering” in Romania’s affairs and its sovereignty.
A second headache for the PSD is likely to come in the results from a referendum also held on Sunday on the government’s controversial judicial reforms.
Turnout for the vote, called by President Klaus Iohannis, was well in excess of the 30 percent threshold needed to make the referendum valid and analysts expect voters to have rejected the PSD’s plans as the votes continue to be counted.
Romania, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency until July, is deeply split between its left-wing government critical of European governance and the pro-EU Iohannis, who will seek re-election at the end of the year.
The European Commission on Monday called on the government to listen to the „clear message” from voters and ensure „an independent judicial system which offers no impunity for criminals and no tolerance for corruption”.
The Commission has warned sanctions may follow if the government does not change course.
(Bloomberg) — A worse-than-expected result for Romania’s ruling party in the European Parliament elections put its chairman, the country’s de-facto leader, under pressure to resign, including from some members of his own party.
Social Democratic Party boss Liviu Dragnea vowed to take responsibility for the poor result, but said any decision he takes will have to be debated with party members in the coming days after official results are out. He brushed off calls from his rivals, including President Klaus Iohannis and opposition parties, for the government to resign.
Dragnea’s party got about 25% in the vote, trailing the opposition Liberal Party who scored a victory with 28%. The opposition Save Romania Union mustered a surprising 21%.
“I’ve always taken responsibility for what I’ve done,” Dragnea told reporters in Bucharest. “Under no circumstances should we give up governing.”
Romanians turned out in droves to vote for the European Union’s assembly and for a referendum that could put the brakes on a controversial overhaul of the judiciary, which is torpedoing relations with the bloc. Turnout was 49%, the highest in Romania’s four European parliament elections, compared with 32% in 2014.
Officials from Brussels say the judiciary reforms curb courts’ independence — mirroring similar charges aimed at Hungary and Poland — an allegation the government in Bucharest denies. The EU this month warned Romania, which currently holds the bloc’s rotating presidency, over the possibility of sanctions if it doesn’t reverse course.
Dragnea, who may have to serve prison time as early as this week for a corruption conviction he’s fighting, was prevented from becoming prime minister because of an earlier criminal case for trying to fix a referendum.
(Updates with results in third paragraph.)
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