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‘Not a quitter’: The Karachi doctor taking rapists to court | Women

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Warning: This article includes details about sexual abuse that some readers may find disturbing.

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The toys on the desk are “ice-breakers” for the children, the doctor tells me. A beaded bracelet, a small toy skull, chalky white dental moulds, a glass shaped like a lightbulb with a green candy-striped straw.

When her son and daughter were younger and would eat McDonalds’ Happy Meals, Dr Summaiya Syed would save the toys from them and bring them to work to add to the stash.

She would buy dolls and hand them to a child sitting across from her in the hospital room and play a game. The doll has been hurt. “Can you show me where it is hurting?” she would ask. “Did someone touch the doll?”

If the child showed her where it hurt, where the doll had felt an unwanted grasp, Dr Summaiya would ask, “Who did this to the doll?” There are no dolls here today. The children keep them when they leave the hospital.

Dr Summaiya has been a woman medico-legal officer (WMLO) for 23 years. The bespectacled 50-year-old doctor looks like a kindly but firm teacher. She has a warm smile and she patiently answers questions, but when a visitor asks her to tweak the rules just a little for some paperwork he needs, she adamantly refuses.

On the day we meet, her hair is pulled back in a bun and she is wearing a casual orange and black kameez with black jeans and sandals. Dupattas only get in the way, she says.

The door to her office does not remain closed for long, with staff popping in to run a decision by her or give updates on a case. Some of them call her ‘Sir’. She answers their queries and picks up the thread of our conversation without pause.

If I’m waiting for a lull to begin asking my questions, I’ll be here a while.

“We don’t stop for anyone,” she says.

Toys on Dr Summaiya's desk
The “ice-breakers” for the children sit on Dr Summaiya’s desk [Sanam Maher/Al Jazeera]

‘The bowels of society’

In 1999, Dr Summaiya, fresh out of medical school, was posted at the police surgeon’s office at Karachi’s Civil Hospital, where it was her job to examine female victims of violence including rapes, assaults and unnatural deaths, such as suicides, homicides or accidents.

At that time, she says, they didn’t even use the words “domestic violence”; it was just called “physical assault”.

“I had no idea what I was in for,” she recalls.

In medical school, while her peers were interested in lucrative specialisations, she told a friend she would like to be a coroner. And so it felt like a stroke of luck to her that she was a 27-year-old with a stable government job at a public hospital that paid 6,000 Pakistani rupees ($34) a month, tasked with determining the circumstances under which someone had lost their life or been injured.

Not everyone thought that. This is a job where you get your hands dirty.

“The MLO sits in the bowels of society,” Dr Summaiya explains. “I’ve seen bodies with heroin capsules in their abdomen, I’ve dealt with new-born children thrown on rubbish dumps, battered women, we go to graveyards for exhumations, you have to deal with the police and go to court to present your findings…” She trails off.

Most of the doctors who had been inducted with her, especially the women, requested transfers. In a city of roughly 10 million people at the time, there were only four WMLOs and, as far as she can remember, 20 male MLOs.

In the first month of her new job, Dr Summaiya dealt with the case of a girl who had been raped by her sports teacher. She was summoned to court – her first time there – to present her evidence.

Even after all this time, she still remembers the judge’s name and the court room number. “Jaffrey sahib in court room number one.”

When she was grilled in cross-examination about why the girl’s hymen seemed to have escaped injury, she quoted from the MLO’s “holy book”, Parikh’s Simplified Textbook of Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology to explain why she could not conclusively say that it had, as she was unable to see the hymen clearly to check for injuries. “I knew that with children under the age of 10, the hymen cannot be easily visualised, and I knew exactly which page it said so in the textbook,” she says.

The judge turned to her and said, “You’re in the right field.” The perpetrator was sentenced to 14 years. It was Dr Summaiya’s first conviction. She hasn’t looked back since. “I thrive on this work,” she says.

A photo of Dr Summaiya behind her desk examining a piece of paper someone is holding in front of her.
Staff pop into Dr Summaiya’s office often to ask a question or update her on a case [Sanam Maher/Al Jazeera]

Each case is a puzzle

An MLO is responsible for conducting a complete physical examination of a victim, collecting evidence for testing, providing treatment (such as emergency contraception in the case of rape), referring the case to the police and testifying in court if necessary. An MLO can deal with victims of incidents such as bombings, firearm injuries, physical assault, homicide, suicide, rape and sexual assault. The MLO writes a report based on their examination and records statements from living victims. Both are submitted to the police.

“I tried my hand at paediatrics, but I was too emotional with my patients to be of any use to them,” says Dr Summaiya. Even now, she is greatly troubled when she has to examine the bodies of children or pregnant women who have suffered violence.

“I can imagine the agony they were in in their last moments,” she says. “It’s a curse. I had to learn to compartmentalise and not lose my objectivity.”

Dr Summaiya is motivated by the prospect of an investigation. “I cannot sit still until a case is solved.”

Each case, she says, is like a puzzle, one that requires not just a close study of the textbooks, but good instincts. In one case, for instance, a girl was brought in by her father as he said she had been raped by their neighbour. “I felt suspicious about why the mother was not with the child at this traumatic time,” Dr Summaiya explains. She asked for the father’s blood sample.

The cells from the girl’s vaginal swabs matched with the father’s blood sample. He had lied about the neighbour to cover up for sexually assaulting his child. “These puzzles don’t bring me down, they wake me up,” she says.

When I ask where she developed a taste for mystery, she laughs. “Who knows! Agatha Christie books? A hefty dose of Famous Five? Maybe Nancy Drew or jasoosi (spy) novels.”

A photo of Dr Summaiya with a whiteboard with some writing on it behind her.
On a whiteboard, Dr Summaiya has written a few key proverbs as a reminder [Sanam Maher/Al Jazeera]

‘Not a regular mom’

There is no satisfaction, however, in some cases. In May 2020, when a plane crashed in a residential neighbourhood in Karachi, killing 97 passengers, Dr Summaiya did 34 autopsies in one day.

And in this city, where everyone has a story about a mugging gone awry or can tell you exactly where they were when a riot broke out, it didn’t take long for a familiar face to arrive on a gurney in her examination room. In one case, the body of a 16-year-old girl who had been stabbed by a home intruder was brought in. She was a friend’s daughter. “I lost count of the wounds,” Dr Summaiya recalls quietly.

Three years into her first job, Dr Summaiya’s son was born. When he was not even a year old, she would bring him in to work with her when she was on night duty. “You’re on call 12 hours a day, with no days off for Eid, no sick leave, no days off for a death in the family,” she says.

Her son was learning to walk, still wobbly on his legs, as she would sit at her desk and write her notes from examinations. The violence she witnessed indelibly seeped into her experience as a mother. By the time her daughter was born in 2004, she says, “I was a traumatised mom, not a regular mom.”

While her children, now 18 and 20, joke that they’re ‘prisoners’ because of her rules (curfews, no riding motorbikes, all friends must be introduced to her), she explains, “Here’s what I knew even before they were born: at even six months, a child can be raped. At 10, they can be kidnapped.”

When her son went to a concert on Valentine’s Day this year, she called him close to his 10pm curfew. He didn’t answer the phone. The concert was in a basement venue and he had no cell reception there. “For an hour, I was going crazy with worry,” she says. “I stopped short of calling the police in that neighbourhood’s jurisdiction to raid the venue.”

A photo of a sign with a list of names of additional police surgeons
In November 2020, Dr Summaiya became the Additional Police Surgeon, Karachi at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre. She is the first woman to hold this post [Sanam Maher/Al Jazeera]

Changing the system

In November 2020, she started a new role, becoming the first woman to hold the post of Additional Police Surgeon, Karachi, at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), one of the city’s busiest public hospitals. “I was posted here by some people who thought I could bring about a change in the system,” she explains. “My colleagues and I wanted to make this hospital the face of medico-legal standards in the country.”

Among the reforms on her agenda: the need for greater discussion on ‘object rape’, introducing standard operating procedures for the collection of samples for evidence, and no MLO working under her would be allowed to use the ‘two-finger test’ on rape victims.

Dr Summaiya describes the latter, whereby a doctor inserts two fingers into the vagina to detect if the hymen is present and how “habituated” a woman is to intercourse, as “akin to raping a survivor again”. Many MLOs, she says, persist in using the test rather than note bruising or injuries or speaking with the survivor to determine what has happened as they feel it is “quicker and easier”, and often don’t bother to take vaginal swabs or other samples once they’ve conducted the test.

In 2021, the Lahore High Court banned the test in Punjab province, saying it was “illegal and against the Constitution of Pakistan”; Dr Summaiya and a senior doctor, Dr Farhat Hussain Mirza, were tasked by the health department with supporting a petition calling for the test’s abolition in Sindh province, and the court ruled in their favour in September 2021.

“We have been working in the dark ages for so long, and that is why our judicial system is the way that it is,” Dr Summaiya says. She draws a triangle for me on a piece of paper. She writes at each point: MLO, prosecution, investigating officer. In the centre of the triangle, “judge”.

Each point needs to work together on a case for a successful conviction, she explains. In the case of sexual assault, a cursory look at the numbers tells you that this is not happening: more than 14,000 women have reportedly been raped in Pakistan in the last four years, and fewer than three percent of rapists in those cases were convicted.

A photo of Dr Summaiya sitting outside the room where female patients/victims are taken to be examined, sitting on a bench and looking at her phone.
Dr Summaiya sits outside the room where female patients and victims are examined [Sanam Maher/Al Jazeera]

Evidence for a watertight case

In her corner of the triangle, one of the changes that Dr Summaiya has been working on since 2016 is an overhaul of the way that evidence of sexual assault is documented.

She hands me a form with a few sections to be filled in. When she first started working, this is the kind of form she would be required to use to gather evidence. With experience, an MLO would learn that this form contains a fraction of the information needed for a watertight case. “A doctor would fill this form based on their expertise,” she explains. “A great deal was left to chance as a doctor with a day’s experience will record evidence very differently to a doctor who has 20 years of experience.”

That piece of paper is a crucial record. In 2002, in one of the most well-known cases of rape in Pakistan, 14 men in the village of Meerwala in Muzaffargarh district, Punjab, were accused of raping a woman named Mukhtara Mai as revenge for her 13-year-old brother’s alleged relationship with a woman from another tribe. She was then paraded naked through the village. Only six of the 14 men were convicted and sentenced to death. They appealed and five were acquitted. In 2005, the Supreme Court upheld this judgement by the Lahore High Court, citing a lack of evidence.

Dr Summaiya does not want anything to slip through the cracks. She places a second form on the table. It is far more detailed, with three sections documenting a physical examination, the doctor’s notes and opinion. “Look at this one,” she instructs. “Even if it was your first day on the job, the form guides you. With this, we do not have to rely on a doctor’s experience to check for certain things.”

For instance: Has the victim bathed, therefore getting rid of potential evidence? Does the victim have children and if so, what was the mode of delivery? “A woman who has had four children will present differently compared with a 14-year-old,” Dr Summaiya explains. “If she has fewer injuries, that does not mean she wasn’t subjected to rape.”

The new form asks the doctors to mention the victim’s gait. If a woman has been gang-raped, her gait is affected. A doctor must note down the dates of the incident, the victim’s recovery and the date and time they were examined. With the passing of each day, an MLO’s findings will change as evidence – traces of semen, blood, or marks of violence – can be lost.

“With all the additional information, I’m giving the police and prosecution evidence to build a case, to corroborate what the victim tells them,” Dr Summaiya says. The new form has two times the space to note down “marks of violence”, so a doctor can be as thorough as possible.

A form used at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre to assess possible rape cases
The new form to document cases of sexual assault that was introduced by Dr Summaiya at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, has been designed so that no evidence slips through the cracks [Sanam Maher/Al Jazeera]

Resistance in her stride

A kitten mewls from under her chair. Dr Summaiya has forgotten to feed the litter of strays outside her office. “Come on, baby,” she says, getting up. Another kitten darts out from a corner. “The cats we take care of do have names but this is a new bunch, so for now their names are billi (cat) number 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.”

When she returns, one of her clerks brings in a plate and she beams. Masala-covered French fries. He thought she might be getting hungry. She continues to explain the details on the new forms to me while nibbling on the fries. But then another member of her staff walks in and scolds her. “Your blood pressure is going to be high if you eat those.”

She ignores him and continues. “When I first started working, we did not have to record the victim’s consent to be examined,” she says. “If you forcefully examined someone who has been raped, what is the difference between you and the rapist?”

The forms were submitted for approval to the prosecutor general and they have been in use at JPMC for a year. Dr Summaiya describes them as an evolving document and she hopes that they will eventually be used across Sindh. She asks her MLOs – four women and three men – for feedback and plans to tweak them further, with the addition of sections such as pictograms to thoroughly document marks of violence on the body.

But the change has not come easily.

To the left of her desk is a small whiteboard mounted on the wall with the following instructions: “Stop expecting honesty from people who lie to themselves. Save your explanations for those who understand you. Give your silence to those who are determined to misunderstand you.”

Dr Summaiya has glanced at this whiteboard often in the past year. She keeps a yellow and green rubber snake on her desk, to remind her of her enemies, she says, only half-joking.

There has been resistance to the new forms. While some MLOs said it was not their job to gather extra data and it took too much extra time, others knew that it hampered their chances of fudging data, misreporting it or leaving out information in exchange for a bribe from the perpetrators.

The form reveals poor treatment: for instance, an MLO is now required to note the time a victim was brought in and the time they were examined. “If there is a gap of several hours, the MLO gets caught, you see, and they’re not happy about it,” Dr Summaiya says. The amounts slipped under the table can significantly supplement a meagre government salary. In one case, Dr Summaiya says she was offered – and refused – 2.5 million Pakistani rupees ($14,000) to record a homicide as an accident.

She has learned to take the resistance in her stride. The hurdles are not new.

A photo of a toy snake on a desk.
Dr Summaiya keeps a toy snake on her desk to, as she explains half-joking, remind her of her critics. During meetings, when she’s going through files or chatting with her clerk, the snake sits on her desk [Sanam Maher/Al Jazeera]

‘Stepchildren of the medical system’

The office allotted to her is located in the hospital’s old surgical wing. Faded signs for the thyroid clinic and exam rooms remain on the doors. Files are laden on stretchers and three clerks have devised a system to keep them organised. Outside the office doors, men ride their motorbikes through the corridor and paan stains walls plastered with notices to respect the hospital space and keep it clean. The office we sit in has no air conditioner, no large windows for ventilation. It would be brutal in the summer heatwaves.

Dr Summaiya has been in this room for six months, as her last office, just across the corridor, became unusable when part of the ceiling crumbled and caved in. It is now filled with sacks of old files destroyed by water damage or termites. Some of those bags may contain reports needed in court, as cases can take six months to four years to go to trial. The last time Dr Summaiya was in court this year, it was for a case she documented in 2016.

Every day, people arrive here on one of the worst days of their life and they are at the mercy of a system that seems designed to fail. There is no budget for the forms that document the violence they have endured – every month, the MLOs contribute Rs1,000 ($5.60) each to pay for the printing of forms, and Dr Summaiya makes up the deficit.

This year, the Legal Aid Society, a not-for-profit organisation offering assistance and representation, offered the funds. The victims will be examined in a room with blinds that Dr Summaiya paid for to ensure their privacy, with bilingual posters she had printed to inform them of their rights. A victim relies on the MLO to collect as much evidence as possible, but what they may not know is that the MLO may be required to buy swabs, jars, or sterile casings for samples out of their own pocket if supplies fall short. “If you don’t take on the cost, you’re weakening the case,” Dr Summaiya explains. “In court, it’s not good enough to say that you didn’t do your job properly because you didn’t have what you needed.”

Ambulance drivers share clean sheets from their supplies to cover bodies, E.R. staff provide sanitiser, PPE or gloves. Once samples are collected, a police officer will transport them to the lab, often travelling on a motorbike. In one instance, an officer carrying glass vials of samples in plastic bags got into an accident. All evidence was destroyed. “We are the stepchildren of the medical system,” Dr Summaiya says with a smile. “No one is willing to accept us or provide for us.”

There is little interest, she says, in how crucial their work is. Most doctors dismiss the MLOs as a corrupt bunch. “Our reputation precedes us, and the few who aren’t dishonest are tarred with the same brush,” Dr Summaiya explains. “After all, you don’t eat the entire deg (pot) to judge the biryani, do you? You base your opinion on one bite.”

When I ask her if she ever thinks of quitting, she laughs. “Every day! Every day I tell my husband, ‘That’s it, I’m done, I’m not going in tomorrow.’ And he reminds me, ‘That’s what you said yesterday.’”

She pulls the rubber snake on her desk closer and strokes its webbed pattern. “This is a fight that continues, and if I quit, I’ve lost. I’m not a quitter.”

In Pakistan, the hotlines for gender-based harassment or violence are 1043 (toll-free; Punjab Commission on the Status of Women; 1098 (toll-free), 0311-6641098 or email madadgaar@cyber.net.pk (Madadgaar); or 0800-13518 (toll-free; Sahil).



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Texas school shooting live news: Biden calls for US action | Gun Violence News

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  • At least 19 children and two adults have been killed after a gunman opens fire in a Texas primary school.
  • The attack took place at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, a small community about 135km (85 miles) west of San Antonio in the southern part of the state.
  • The gunman, identified as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was shot dead by police.
  • US President Joe Biden tells Americans it is time to take on the gun lobby.

Here are all the latest updates:

Family grieves teacher Eva Mireles who was killed in shooting

Eva Mireles has been named as the teacher who was killed in the shooting.

She was trained in bilingual and special education, and taught children of nine and 10 years old, according to a report from Reuters news agency.

“My beautiful cousin! Such a devastating day for us all! My heart is shattered into a million pieces,” Cristina Arizmendi Mireles wrote on Facebook.

In a short biography posted on the school district’s website, Mireles had written she had “a supportive, fun, and loving family” including her husband, her college graduate daughter, and “three furry friends.”

Her husband, Ruben Ruiz, is a police officer at the school district’s police force, the agency investigating the shootings.

Her aunt, Lydia Martinez Delgado, grieved for her niece in a Facebook post.

“I’m furious that these shootings continue. These children are innocent. Rifles should not be easily available to all. This is my hometown, a small community of less than 20,000. I never imagined this would happen to especially loved ones,” Martinez Delgado said in a statement.


McConnell says ‘horrified and heartbroken’ at Uvalde shooting

The Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has tweeted his shock at the shooting in Uvalde.

He says the entire country “is praying” for all those affected.

He doesn’t mention anything about the need for gun reform.


Attacked acted alone, killed grandmother before heading to school

The gunman’s motive is not yet clear.

It seems Ramos was a local man and killed his grandmother before heading to the school with two military-style rifles he had bought to celebrate his birthday.

“That was the first thing he did on his 18th birthday,” State Senator Roland Gutierrez was reported as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

Ramos had hinted on social media that an attack could be coming, Gutierrez added, noting that “he suggested the kids should watch out.”

The school district’s police chief, Pete Arredondo, said that the attacker acted alone.

A girl (left) and boy (right) hold flowers in the aftermath of the Robb Elementary School shooting
Children stand outside the Ssgt Willie de Leon Civic Center, where students of the Robb Elementary School after a gunman went on a rampage in their school [Marco Bello/Reuters

Another child dies from injuries after Ulvade shooting

It seems the death toll on the shooting has been revised.

News agencies, citing local officials, say at least 19 children were killed as the gunman went from classroom to classroom at the school.

The attacker also killed two adults, one of them confirmed to be a teacher.

The school had about 600 children aged between five and 12 years old.


‘Enough is enough’: Gun control activists demand action

Hollye Dexter, a long-term advocate for gun control, has told Al Jazeera that politicians in Congress who continue to back the gun lobby after so many mass shootings should be held to account, singling out Republicans in particular.

“This should not have happened,” she said. “Enough is enough. We cannot be polite anymore. We’ve got to call these people out for not standing up to the NRA.”


Nancy Pelosi joins call for legislative action after ‘monstrous’ shooting

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says it’s time for Congress to join together to enact gun control legislation after what she described as the “monstrous” shooting in Ulvade.

“Across the nation, Americans are filled with righteous fury in the wake of multiple incomprehensible mass shootings in the span of just days,” Pelosi said in a statement.

“This a crisis of existential proportions – for our children and for every American.  For too long, some in Congress have offered hollow words after these shootings while opposing all efforts to save lives.  It is time for all in Congress to heed the will of the American people and join in enacting the House-passed bipartisan, commonsense, life-saving legislation into law.”

Women console each other after the Ulvade shooting
People react outside the Civic Center following the deadly shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. Nancy Pelosi said the attack was “monstrous” [Dario Lopez-Mills/AP Photo]

Kamala Harris says it’s time for ‘courage’

Vice President Kamala Harris has called on the US to have the “courage to take action” and prevent a repeat of the mass shooting at Uvalde.


‘Why are we here if not to solve a problem as existential as this?’: Senator Chris Murphy

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy has called on his fellow politicians to take action on guns.

“What are we doing?” the Democrat asked on the floor of the House.

“There are more mass shootings than days of the year. Our kids are leaving in fear every time they set foot in a classroom because they fear they will be next. Why are we here if not to solve a problem as existential as this?”

 


Biden says time to take on the gun lobby

Biden made impassioned comments calling for United States elected representatives to pass ‘common sense’ gun control legislation.

“When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby,” he asked. “When in God’s name are we going to do what we know in our gut needs to be done.”

Biden noted that it had been 10 years since he had been to Sandy Hook where 26 people were killed, 20 of them children.

US president Joe Biden addresses the nation with his wife behind him
President Joe Biden pauses as he speaks about the mass shooting at the Robb Elementary School from the Roosevelt Room at the White House as first lady Jill Biden listens [Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo]

‘I’m sick and tired. We must act’: Biden

Biden opens his speech with his voice sounding as if it was about to break, talking of the children who had watched their friends die “as if on a battlefield” and parents who will never see their children again.

“[These] parents will never be the same again,” he said. “To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped out.”

Biden, himself, lost an infant daughter in a car crash and his adult son to cancer.

He says it’s time for the US to take action.

“I’m sick and tired. We have to act. Don’t tell me we cannot have an impact on this carnage.”


Joe Biden begins his address

 


Texas shooting follows record year for attacks in 2021

The latest shooting comes just a week after a white gunman killed 10 Black people in a racist attack on a Buffalo supermarket.

The FBI has said 2021 was the worst year ever for gun attacks.

The Reuters news agency has compiled a list of some of the most serious recent shootings.

New York: April 12 – In one of the most violent attacks in the history of New York’s transit system, 23 people were wounded when a 62-year-old man activated a smoke bomb and opened fire on the subway. He was taken into custody the next day.

Oxford, Michigan: November 30, 2021Four students were killed, and seven other people were wounded after a teenager opened fire at a high school in Oxford, Michigan.

Indianapolis: April 16, 2021 – A former FedEx employee who had been under psychiatric care shot eight people dead and injured several others at an Indiana facility of the shipping company before taking his own life.

Los Angeles: March 31, 2021 – Four people were killed, one of them a child, in a shooting at an office building in suburban Los Angeles before the suspect was taken into custody.

Boulder, Colorado: March 22, 2021 – A mass shooting at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, left 10 people dead, including a police officer.

Atlanta, Georgia: March 16, 2021 – Eight people, including six women of Asian descent, were shot dead in a string of attacks at day spas in and around Atlanta. A male suspect was arrested.


Death toll climbs to 21: Texas Senator Roland Gutierrez

An update on the death toll from the shooting.

Texas state Senator Roland Gutierrez has told CNN that 18 children had been killed, and three adults.

He cited the Texas Rangers state police for the figures.


‘Part of the culture’: Why the US is so attached to guns

Kenneth Williams, a professor at South Texas College of Law, has said it is hard to change gun laws in the US because gun ownership is “part of the culture”.

Williams noted that there are more guns in the country than there are people.


US President Joe Biden to address nation

US President Joe Biden is back in the United States after his visit to South Korea and Japan.

He is due to address the country at 8:15pm (00:15 GMT).

Biden has already ordered flags to be flown at half-mast until sunset every day until May 28 in response to the tragedy.





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North Korea fires three missiles as Biden ends Asia visit | Weapons News

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South Korea says the launches began early on Wednesday morning.

North Korea has fired three ballistic missiles off its east coast, South Korea’s military said, hours after United States President Joe Biden wrapped up his visit to the region.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the first missile was launched at 6am local time (21:00 GMT) on Wednesday, with a second launch 37 minutes later and the third five minutes after that.

The military said it was “maintaining a full readiness posture” and closely cooperating with the US.

South Korea’s new-elected President Yoon Suk-Yeol immediately convened a meeting of the National Security Council.

North Korea has carried out a record number of missile launches this year, including a test of its biggest intercontinental ballistic missiles since 2017.

The US had warned that Pyongyang was poised for more weapons tests as Biden headed to South Korea and Japan, his first visit to the region as president.

Biden left Japan on Tuesday night but had been briefed on the latest launches, the Reuters news agency said.

The US military command in the region said it was aware of “multiple” ballistic missile launches from North Korea and was assessing the situation.

“The missile launches highlights the destabilizing impact of the DPRK’s illicit weapons program,” it said in a statement, referring to North Korea by its official name.



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14 children, 1 teacher killed in Texas school shooting: Governor | Gun Violence News

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DEVELOPING STORY,

Governor Greg Abbott says 18-year-old gunman entered Robb Elementary School in small town of Uvalde, killing 15.

At least 14 schoolchildren and one teacher have been killed in a shooting at a primary school in the US state of Texas, Governor Greg Abbott said, in the latest mass shooting in the United States.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday afternoon, Abbott said an 18-year-old gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, a small community just over an hour west of San Antonio.

“He shot and killed – horrifically, incomprehensibly – 14 students and killed one teacher,” Abbott said.

Abbott said the gunman was himself killed, apparently by police officers responding to the scene.

Local police earlier said the shooting began at around noon local time (17:00 GMT).

Uvalde Memorial Hospital had said on Facebook earlier on Tuesday that 13 children had been transferred there for treatment. It said two people were deceased on arrival.

Gun violence has been a problem across the US for decades, drawing condemnation and calls for tougher restrictions, especially in the aftermath of mass shootings at schools.

The US reported 19,350 firearm homicides in 2020, up nearly 35 percent compared to 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in its latest data.

More to follow.





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