A ban on the manufacture and sale of assault weapons in the US ends today, having been fatally wounded in the crossfire of the US presidential election. \nPresident Bill Clinton signed the ban in 1994 in a wave of outrage after a series of multiple killings in schools and fast food restaurants. Even the late Ronald Reagan, a legendary Republican president, lobbied for the law. \nBut the powerful gun lobby has had the ban in its sights ever since. \nAnd even though the 1999 Columbine school massacre is fresh in many minds, the ban will end at midnight today -- seven weeks from the presidential election -- unless the Republican-dominated Congress has an unlikely change of heart. \nWhen the ban was passed, a provision allowed for it to lapse unless Congress voted an extension. Republican leaders have made it clear they oppose the ban. \n"It will expire Monday [today], and that's that," stated Tom DeLay, the Republican head of the House of Representatives from Texas. \nA variety of groups tried to get President George W. Bush to pressure Congress to extend the move. \nBacked by a poll by the University of Philadelphia's National Annenberg election survey, which found that 68 percent of Americans support the ban, the Million Moms March group bombarded the White House on Friday with phone calls and petitions. \nNo meeting \nPolice chiefs from across America sought a meeting but said it was told the president has a "scheduling conflict." \nInternational Association of Chiefs of Police president Joseph Polisar said: "This year alone there have been more than a dozen officers killed with assault weapons." \nLos Angeles Police Chief William Bratton added: "These are weapons of murder. They're not weapons of hunting or collecting. \n"The irony is we'll probably have more of these weapons in the United States than there are in Iraq in the hands of insurgents." \nBush had supported an extension of the ban, but said it was up to Congress to find the time for legislation. \nThe anti-gun lobby blames Bush, who now spends much of his time campaigning in West Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Missouri and Pennsylvania. These are all battleground states in the election where the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) says that a quarter of its four million members live. \nValuable \nWayne LaPierre, the NRA executive vice president, reckons the assault weapons issue could be worth several percentage points for or against a candidate for the presidency or Congress on Nov. 2. \nThe NRA is expected to announce soon after the ban expires whether it will throw its weight behind Bush. \nIt has already condemned Democratic challenger John Kerry as "the most anti-gun presidential nominee in United States history," even though the Massachusetts senator portrays himself as a hunter who supports the right to bear arms. \nBut Kerry has accused the president of playing with "the safety of the American people." \n"The NRA put the squeeze on George Bush and they're spending tens of millions of dollars to support his campaign. So now, the president is saying with a wink and a smile that he'll extend the assault weapons ban if Congress sends it to him." \nThe law banned 19 types of assault weapons with military features such as bayonet mounts, collapsible stocks and clips of more than 10 bullets. But the debate over its effectiveness has largely been lost in the election sniping. \nThe NRA and other lobbyist says there is no proof that the ban has had any impact on the number of gun crimes.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
LIFELONG LOSS: Jiro Hamasumi, who was not quite born when an atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, lost his father and other relatives, but said he thinks about his father daily As Japan marks 75 years since the devastating attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the last generation of nuclear bomb survivors is working to ensure their message lives on after them. The “hibakusha” — literally “person affected by the bomb” — have for decades been a powerful voice calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. There are an estimated 136,700 left, many of whom were infants or soon to be born at the time of the attacks. The average age of a survivor now is a little over 83, according to the Japanese Ministry of Health, lending an urgency as they share their testimonies