Archive for: ‘March 2019’

1 child is killed every day from an accidental shooting in the U.S.

24/03/2019 Posted by admin

Hours earlier, he was a happy four-year-old who loved Ironman and the Hulk and all the Avengers. Now, as Bryson Mees-Hernandez approached death in a Houston hospital room, his brain swelling through the bullet hole in his face, his mother assured the boy it was okay to die.

“When you are on the other side,” his mother, Crystal Mees, recalls telling him, “you are going to see Mommy cry a lot. It’s not because she’s mad. It’s because she misses you.”

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READ MORE: US boy, 7, injured in ‘tragic accidental shooting’

And this: “It’s not your fault.”

But whose fault was it?

Bryson shot himself last January with a .22-caliber Derringer his grandmother kept under the bed. It was an accident, but one that could be blamed on many factors, from his grandmother’s negligence to the failure of government and industry to find ways to prevent his death and so many others.

READ MORE: Americans under 30 more open to gun control: poll 

The Associated Press and the USA TODAY Network set out to determine just how many others there have been.

The findings: During the first six months of this year, minors died from accidental shootings – at their own hands, or at the hands of other children or adults – at a pace of one every other day, far more than limited federal statistics indicate.

Tragedies like the death of Bryson Mees-Hernandez play out repeatedly across the country. Curious toddlers find unsecured, loaded handguns in their homes and vehicles, and fatally shoot themselves and others. Teenagers, often showing off guns to their friends and siblings, end up shooting them instead.

READ MORE: Emotional plea for gun control issued by Orlando shooting victim’s mom at DNC 

Using information collected by the Gun Violence Archive, a nonpartisan research group, news reports and public sources, the media outlets spent six months analyzing the circumstances of every death and injury from accidental shootings involving children ages 17 and younger from Jan. 1, 2014, to June 30 of this year – more than 1,000 incidents in all.

Among the findings:

Deaths and injuries spike for children under 5, with 3-year-olds the most common shooters and victims among young children. Nearly 90 3-year-olds were killed or injured in the shootings, the vast majority of which were self-inflicted.Accidental shootings spike again for ages 15-17, when victims are most often fatally shot by other children but typically survive self-inflicted gunshots.They most often happen at the children’s homes, with handguns legally owned by adults for self-protection. They are more likely to occur on weekends or around holidays such as Christmas.States in the South, including Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia, are among those with the highest per capita rates of accidental shootings involving minors.In all, more than 320 minors age 17 and under and more than 30 adults were killed in accidental shootings involving minors. Nearly 700 other children and 78 adults were injured.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 74 minors died from accidental discharges of firearms in 2014, the latest year for which comparable data are available. The AP and USA TODAY analysis counted 113 for that year, suggesting the federal government missed a third of the cases.

While accidental shootings account for only a fraction of firearm deaths in the U.S., gun safety advocates have long argued that they are largely preventable and thus prefer to call them unintentional shootings, rather than accidental.

“The extent of the problem is a little bit shocking. The extent of the undercount is a little bit shocking,” said Lindsay Nichols, an attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in San Francisco.

“A lot of it provides further evidence that this is such a horrible pattern that continues and that more action is needed.”

Gun control advocates demand stricter laws requiring guns to be kept locked up and unloaded. But gun rights supporters argue those measures make guns less useful in emergencies; citing CDC statistics, the National Rifle Association argues in public statements that such deaths have declined significantly in recent decades and that the chance of a child dying in a firearms accident is “one in one million.”

Bob Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch of the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, suggested the NRA was citing statistics that underestimate the risk guns represent to American children.

He would not, he said, “put money on that interpretation.”


Bryson Mees-Hernandez


Bryson and his 2-year-old sister were staying with their grandparents in January to give their mother a break. She had given birth months earlier to a baby girl and needed sleep.

It was a typical night. After their baths, Bryson asked if he could hop in bed with his grandfather, who was already asleep. His grandmother, Anna Sperber, said yes, before she fell asleep on the living room couch with the younger girl.

When Sperber got up to get a blanket hours later, she saw Bryson face down on the bedroom floor. She thought he had fallen asleep.

Then she noticed the lump on his head and panicked when she saw the pistol she kept under her bed lying next to him. He had shot himself above the right eye.

Bryson’s grandfather, who used a noisy breathing machine, had slept through the gunshot. After a frantic 911 call, emergency responders would take Bryson to a hospital by helicopter as his sister watched. Soon, a neurosurgeon would tell his mother it was only a matter of time before the boy would be dead. The bullet had gone straight to the back of his brain and shattered.


The undercount documented by the AP and USA TODAY Network is “significant and important,” but not surprising, said the CDC’s Anderson.

He said the agency has long suspected that its statistics on accidental firearms deaths are too low; the agency tracks deaths from accidental discharges of firearms but tallies only those that are officially classified that way by coroners on death certificates. Coroners categorize many such deaths as homicides because they can fit the definition of being killed by another. They also can classify them as undetermined, if the cause is unclear.

The AP and USA TODAY Network did not rely on coroners’ findings, but rather counted those shootings that were declared accidental or unintentional by investigating agencies. They were tallied primarily from the Gun Violence Archive, where researchers track media, government and commercial sources to compile a comprehensive database of gun incidents. The review also uncovered a handful of shootings that had not previously been made public.

READ MORE: Child killed in northern Alberta after reported accidental shooting 

The findings were in line with prior research done by Everytown for Gun Safety, the advocacy group founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which keeps a running database of such shootings. The group says that up to 70 percent of accidental shootings could be prevented if parents kept their guns locked and separated from ammunition, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Since the start of 2014, more than 80 children age 4 and under have fatally shot themselves.

“That 3- to 5-year-old age group, they are going to be looking at the gun when they shoot it. They point the gun barrel at themselves and put their thumbs on the trigger,” said Sheriff David McKnight of Marion County, Texas, who is investigating the death of a 3-year-old who killed himself with his father’s gun in July.

But children of every age, and especially boys, seem drawn to guns.

WATCH: Stephen Colbert rips into U.S. senate about lack of gun control 

Last year, 4-year-old Cameron Price and his 6-year-old brother, Ka’Darius, were riding their bikes outside the Levingston Motel in Shreveport, Louisiana, where their family had taken a $30-a-night room – all they could afford, their mother would later say.

They decided to go inside, into a room where several adult acquaintances of their parents had been smoking marijuana.

A gun was sitting out, and Ka’Darius thought the chrome and black .40-caliber pistol was a toy.

A single shot rang out. Robert Price found his younger son slumped over on the arm of a couch when he entered after hearing a loud “pop” while in the bathroom of an adjacent room. He cradled the toddler as he took his final breaths before being whisked to a hospital, where he died.

Ka’Darius later told police he “pushed the bad button” and he understood his brother “had a hole in his head,” was going to the hospital and not coming home.

The Caddo Parish district attorney’s office charged two people in the room with weapons and drug charges. Both pleaded down to attempted possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. In August, a judge sentenced them to four years with credit for time served.

WATCH: Is U.S. gun control reform possible?


For children ages 10 and up, the cases usually involve a group playing together when one manages to obtain a gun.

The AP-USA TODAY Network research showed the most vulnerable years are the middle teens, specifically for those just reaching the age when they can obtain a driver’s license.

A shooting in Iowa earlier this year illustrates one of the more common types of accidental shootings.

It was the Friday of spring break, and the University of Iowa Hawkeyes had just won an NCAA tournament game on a buzzer-beater. It was a thrill for Senquez Jackson, a basketball-loving 15-year-old from Cedar Rapids.

He relayed the news of the big win to his mother, who was resting in her bedroom before her night shift at an educational testing company.

The high school freshman returned to the living room to hang out with friends, who had spent the week with him and his older brother, Malik.

READ MORE: Obama says Senate ‘failed the American people’ on gun control measures

One, a 17-year-old, had brought over a handgun that had been legally owned by a friend’s mother and recently disappeared from her home. A 13-year-old wanted to see the weapon and removed the clip. Thinking it was unloaded, he started playing with it.

“Bro, I’m hit,” Senquez said.

The friend thought he was kidding, but the gun had fired. The bullet ripped through the right side of Senquez’s chest, piercing his lung.

His mother, Tamara Bloemendaal, was jolted awake with Malik screaming: “Mom, get up. Senquez has been shot.”

Bloemendaal recalls helping Senquez out of the recliner and watching him collapse on the floor in a pool of blood. She rode in the ambulance with the tall, handsome boy she called “Chunks” as a baby. Within hours, he was dead.

The 13-year-old pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in juvenile court, expressing remorse.

“It doesn’t seem like any of them had access to a gun before. They were fascinated by it; what it looks like, what it feels like to hold,” said the boy’s attorney, Jeremy Elges. “It turned out there was a round in the chamber. He wasn’t savvy enough with guns to know that’s a risk.”

READ MORE: NRA says more gun control in America not the answer


Gun safety advocates have urged a public health approach that includes more research by the federal government, more public awareness and stricter state laws. But the problem of lax gun storage is difficult to address in part because it’s hard to quantify, and the federal government stopped trying 12 years ago.

The CDC had asked Americans about whether they kept loaded, unlocked guns in their homes as part of an annual telephone survey that asked 400,000 adults about various health risks. Using that data, researchers estimated that 1.5 million children lived in such homes – and the results varied greatly by state based on gun ownership levels.

But the CDC scrapped that line of questioning in 2004. State public health officials voted this year not to reintroduce the questions in next year’s survey, in part because of the political sensitivity around asking about gun ownership, which some see as an invasion of privacy.

READ MORE: ‘The problem is guns’: UN human rights chief criticizes US gun laws after Orlando shooting

“Some states did not think they would be allowed to ask such questions by their governor,” said Donald Shepherd, the survey coordinator for Iowa.

Gun control advocates say Child Access Prevention laws – on the books in about two dozen states – act as a deterrent. In general, those laws allow prosecutors to charge parents when children obtain their guns and use them to harm themselves or others.

Supporters say a study of a Florida law suggests they can save lives if implemented correctly. And the concept enjoys wide public approval: Two-thirds of Americans support laws making adults criminally liable for gun safety lapses that endanger children, according to an AP-GfK Poll in July.

WATCH:President Obama: Doing nothing on the issue of gun control ‘is a decision as well’

But efforts to expand those laws have stalled in the face of opposition from the NRA and other gun rights supporters. Bills in several states, including Missouri and Tennessee, to create similar laws were introduced this year and died without action.

The NRA argues that more education and training should be the solution, not more laws and prosecutions. The NRA takes credit for improving safety through its Eddie Eagle Gun Safe program, which warns children not to touch any firearms they come across and to tell adults.

Critics dispute the effectiveness of that message, pointing to academic research that shows curious children will pick up loose guns, even when told otherwise.


Bryson Mees-Hernandez


Bryson Mees-Hernandez’s grandfather had bought the gun and another firearm from his own father the year before, in California. The boy’s grandmother kept them under her side of the bed because she was often home alone, struggled with mobility due to back problems and was concerned for her safety after reading about local break-ins on Facebook.

The guns were kept in a case that had been used to transport them on an airplane back to Texas, and Anna Sperber believed that would keep them away from children. But Bryson was able to open the side of the case, reach in and grab the gun.

“I thought it was secure, but I was wrong. My grandbaby’s gone. And it happened while I was watching him and I failed him,” Sperber said, through tears. “I don’t want anyone to ever, ever go through this. It’s so horrible.”

A grand jury declined to bring charges against Sperber, but Crystal Mees blames her mother for the boy’s death and no longer talks to her or brings her two children around; she says she had warned her to keep the gun out of children’s reach. She plans to push for a “Bryson’s law” in Texas to make it easier for prosecutors to bring charges against adults who allow children access to firearms.

Both women attended the funeral, where relatives dressed up as Bryson’s beloved Avengers, and his casket had an Ironman theme. He was buried with Legos, toy cars and his grandfather’s favorite cologne.


Larry Fenn is a data journalist for The Associated Press.

Erin O’Toole launches leadership bid, Lisa Raitt steps down as finance critic to mull ‘future leadership’

24/03/2019 Posted by admin

OTTAWA – Conservative MP Erin O’Toole is joining the burgeoning list of candidates to replace former prime minister Stephen Harper as party leader.

“As we look to the future, our priorities are clear: we need to reconnect with Canadians,” O’Toole said in a statement issued Friday as he launched his leadership campaign from his home town of Bowmanville, Ont.

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“We need to show Canadians that government can – and must – be so much more than sunny ways, slogans and photo ops,” he said.

“We need to build on the strengths and successes of our past while actively seeking opportunities to win back the trust of Canadians.”

READ MORE: Tony Clement steps away from Tory leadership race

The Ontario MP, who served as veterans affairs minister in the previous Conservative government, was joined by his family – his wife, Rebecca, their children, Jack and Mollie, and his father, John O’Toole, who was a Progressive Conservative MPP for the riding of Durham, Ont., from 1995 to 2014.

Erin O’Toole, a lawyer and former officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force, was elected to represent the federal riding of Durham in a 2012 by-election.

“From an early age my siblings and I were taught the importance and value of public service. We learned those lessons from our dad, who spent close to three decades serving the people of this community in government. And from our mom who was a school board trustee,” O’Toole said in his statement.

The O’Toole campaign also announced endorsements from 10 Conservative MPs: Cathy McLeod, Todd Doherty, Blake Richards, Michael Cooper, Kevin Waugh, Robert Sopuck, Jamie Schmale, John Brassard and Colin Carrie.

O’Toole, who last year had put his name forward to become interim party leader, had originally said he had no immediate plans to join the contest.

He changed his mind after being encouraged by caucus colleagues to enter this summer.

The leadership race is a crowded one.

Earlier today, Conservative MP Lisa Raitt announced on 桑拿会所 she is stepping down from her role as finance critic to “continue discussions on the future leadership” of her party.

That development suggests the former cabinet minister is getting closer to declaring her intention to run, because interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose has asked all leadership candidates to abandon such roles.

The current candidates in the Conservative leadership race are MPs Maxime Bernier, Andrew Scheer, Kellie Leitch, Michael Chong, Deepak Obhrai and Brad Trost.

WATCH: Tom’s Take: First Conservative leadership drop-out

Others, including MPs Erin O’Toole and former MP Chris Alexander are also expected to join the race.

The first leadership debate is to take place Nov. 10 in Saskatoon. Conservatives will elect their new leader next May 27.

How did 21 Chibok schoolgirls get released?

24/03/2019 Posted by admin

JOHANNESBURG – Conflicting reports emerged Friday about whether the first negotiated release of some Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria in 2014 involved a ransom payment, a prisoner swap for Islamic extremist commanders, or both.

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A Nigerian hostage negotiator who was not involved in Thursday’s release told The Associated Press a “handsome ransom” in the millions of dollars was paid by Switzerland’s government on behalf of Nigerian authorities. He said the Swiss would recoup the money from some $321 million it had said it would repatriate to Nigeria this year from frozen funds looted under former military dictator Sani Abacha.

READ MORE: 21 abducted Chibok girls freed after negotiations with Boko Haram

Swiss officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment after confirming Thursday that they had played a neutral, humanitarian role in the operation. The International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed that it had received 21 Chibok girls from Boko Haram and handed them over to Nigerian authorities.

Nigerian authorities have said negotiations continue for the release of the remaining 197 missing girls, though at least half a dozen are reported to have died of illnesses.

Two military officers told the AP the 21 girls were swapped for four detained Boko Haram leaders. The hostage negotiator and officers spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Nigerian officials deny any swap. Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo said “there was no exchange of any kind … No such thing took place.” He did not mention a ransom.

READ MORE: 75,000 children could starve to death in Nigeria after Boko Haram: UN

Some parents of the freed girls on Friday were making their way to Abuja, the capital, where the girls were flown Thursday, to be reunited with their daughters. At least 23 parents of the kidnapped girls have died since their abduction, some from stress-related illnesses and others in Boko Haram attacks.

More than 20,000 people have died and 2.6 million have been driven from their homes in Boko Haram’s seven-year insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic state across the West African oil producer, whose 170 million people are divided almost equally between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south.

The first negotiated release of Chibok schoolgirls comes after three failed attempts over several months broke down as extremist leader Abubakar Shekau kept changing his demands, according to Information Minister Lai Mohammed. Negotiations last year failed when Boko Haram demanded a ransom of $5.2 billion, according to a recently published authorized biography of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari by American historian John Paden.

Daily Trust, the most widely read newspaper in northern Nigeria, has reported a ransom was paid for the 21 Chibok girls because none of the detained Boko Haram commanders wanted to be released, fearing for their lives amid a leadership struggle in the extremist group.

The girls are from a Christian enclave in the predominantly Muslim northeast. Many of their parents are involved in translating the Bible into local languages and belong to the Nigerian branch of the Elgin, Illinois-based Church of the Brethren.

Samsung Note 7 recall to cost at least $5.3 billion

24/03/2019 Posted by admin

SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of – Samsung Electronics said Friday that the discontinuation of the Galaxy Note 7 would cost the company about $3 billion during the current and next quarters, bringing the total cost of the recall to at least $5.3 billion.

The Note 7 discontinuation will cost in the mid-2 trillion won range during the October-December period and another 1 trillion won ($884 million) during the January-March quarter, the company said in a statement.

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READ MORE: Samsung sending Galaxy Note 7 users fireproof boxes, gloves

Samsung already slashed its third-quarter profit forecast by $2.6 billion earlier this week, an amount that could wipe out its entire mobile business profit. That did not include the cost of Samsung’s first recall, which analysts estimated at 1 trillion won to 2 trillion won.

Samsung has enough cash and other businesses to absorb the shock from the phone recall. It said it expected to generate 5.2 trillion won ($4.6 billion) in operating income during the third quarter after the recall cost. Analysts said most of the income will be generated by sales of advanced displays and semiconductors.

Samsung added that it will make significant changes in its quality assurance processes to enhance product safety for consumers. It did not elaborate.

WATCH: Home security camera footage captures Samsung Galaxy Note 7 catching fire in woman’s hand 

The company said it will expand sales of two other smartphones released in spring, the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, quashing rumours that it may try to release updated versions of those devices. Samsung usually releases a new iteration of the Galaxy S series in spring, so the company may have to provide a strong incentive to sell the 6-month-old phones, such as lowering their prices.

Due to unexplained fires and overheating problems, more than 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 smartphones were recalled before the product was discontinued earlier this week just two months after its launch in August.

In the United States, 1.9 million Note 7 phones are subject to the two recalls. Samsung also recalled about 200,000 phones in China and about half a million phones in South Korea.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said there were 96 reports of batteries in Note 7 phones overheating in the country, including 23 new reports since the first recall announcement last month. The company received 13 reports of burns and 47 reports of property damages associated with the phones.

“Consumers should immediately stop using and power down all Galaxy Note 7 devices, including Note 7 devices received as replacements in the previous recall,” the agency said.

WATCH: Tech giant Samsung to stop production of Galaxy Note 7

The botched recall raised questions about Samsung’s initial analysis of the Note 7 phone’s problems. At first, Samsung said a minor manufacturing error in the batteries for the Note 7 was causing the phones to overheat.

The problem with the replacements is still unclear. Experts say Samsung may have rushed to conclude the Note 7’s problem was a battery issue and it may take a long time to find the real cause.

Seeking to retain customers, Samsung is giving an incentive of a $100 credit to Note 7 owners who switch to another Samsung phone.

The Note 7 device was one of the most expensive smartphones in the market with all the latest technologies from Samsung, including the ability to unlock the phone by scanning a user’s iris. It was sold for between $850 and $890.

5 things to watch during American League Championship Series

24/03/2019 Posted by admin

CLEVELAND – The Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians will play in the American League Championship Series for the right to play the National League champion in the World Series.

Here’s a look at five things to watch in the best-of-seven showdown:


Toronto’s Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez are as strong a foursome as you’ll find in the American League.

The Indians are anchored by ace Corey Kluber, who went 18-9 in the regular season and had a 3.14 earned-run average. There is a dropoff after that due to injuries to starters Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, but Kluber could pitch on short rest in the series if needed.

“I think we’re at the point in the year where anybody is going to do anything they can to help the team win,” Kluber said Thursday.

“If that means starting on short rest, pitching out of the bullpen on short rest, if it comes down to it and that’s what the team needs to get a win, then I’m all for it.”

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Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez will likely make just one appearance per series through the post-season.

The Blue Jays are trying not to overwork the 24-year-old right-hander, who was a sparkling 15-2 in his first full season as a starter.

Sanchez, who led the American League with a 3.00 ERA, worked 5 2/3 innings and did not get a decision in his lone start in the ALDS. He’s scheduled to start Game 4 on Tuesday in Toronto.

Sanchez enters with 197 2/3 innings pitched on the year.

“I’m the type of player that’s going to listen to my body and there’s nothing that’s given me any red flags to be concerned,” Sanchez said. “I’ve bounced back good and having these days off has given me some extra time to get my body underneath me so to speak. I’m looking forward to this opportunity.”

WATCH: ‘We feel good about them all’: Gibbons on his pitching staff for ALCS (Oct. 13)


The Blue Jays and Indians enter the American League Championship Series brimming with confidence after impressive sweeps in the divisional series.

Toronto extended its winning streak to six games by dumping the Texas Rangers in three straight games. Cleveland also needed just three games to dispatch the Boston Red Sox.

The Indians had a 4-3 edge in the season series against the Blue Jays.

The best-of-seven ALCS will begin with two games in Cleveland before shifting to Toronto for two games.

A fifth game, if necessary, would also be played at Rogers Centre. The series would move back to Progressive Field for Games 6 and 7 if required.

WATCH: Devon Travis should be ready to go for Game 1 of ALCS: Gibbons (Oct. 13)


Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna said he’s feeling strong heading into this showdown with the Indians.

He has seen a lot of work in recent weeks and has already worked five innings over three post-season appearances.

“Like they say, you don’t feel tired in these games,” Osuna said. “You just want to go out there and do your job and try to give the edge to your team.

Osuna had to leave the wild-card game victory over Baltimore last week when he felt a ‘stretch’ in his throwing shoulder.

He rested for a few days and came back with an impressive five-out save in Game 2 of the ALDS.

WATCH: With Francisco Liriano still out, Jays may be a player short for Friday’s ALCS opener (Oct. 13)


Many Blue Jays were sporting toques for the late afternoon batting practice Thursday at Progressive Field.

It was a chilly 13 C in Cleveland and a similar temperature is expected for Game 1 on Friday.

The forecast calls for sunny skies and a comfortable 23 C for Saturday’s Game 2.