Message to kids: Parks bad, guns good

A still from the video of a 9-year-old girl shortly before she accidentally shot a man with an Uzi. Image copyright AP

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The New Republic's Alec MacGillis has a simple observation. In today's US, it's illegal for 9-year-olds to play in a park by themselves, but it's perfectly permissible for them to fire Uzi machine guns.

He points to the recent tragic incident in Arizona in which a girl on a shooting range accidentally killed an instructor and contrasts it with the case a month earlier in which a mother was jailed for working at McDonald's while her daughter played in a nearby playground.

When historians of the future "try to capture the Zeitgeist of our age, they'll find some kind of larger truth in the conjunction of these two episodes," he writes.

The mom in the playground case, 46-year-old Debra Harrell, has undergone significant "societal scrutiny". Were her actions justified? What constitutes proper parental oversight? So far, MacGillis notes, the parents in the Arizona story have avoided such judgements.

After the shooting, he observes, the National Rifle Association even had the audacity to send out a bit of advice via Twitter: "Seven ways children can have fun at the shooting range". The promoted story offered advice such as using coloured, animal-shaped or exploding targets to keep the child's attention.

"Children have fun watching little chickens, rabbits or other shapes fall or spin," Mia Anstine writes. "It's also rewarding when they hear the 'tink' as they hit their metal targets."

"In all seriousness," McGillis asks, "if Harrell had dropped off [daughter] Regina at a shooting range instead of at the jungle gym, would she have been in the clear?"


Nato's promise to Ukraine - In the face of Russian belligerence, many Ukrainians believe that Nato should support their struggling nation not only with diplomatic assistance, but with military support, writes Marc Champion for Bloomberg View. He says that it is unlikely that the US and Europe will go to war on Ukraine's behalf, however.

"That may not be fair, but it is rational," says Champion. "Absent a willingness to go to war on the part of Nato, the most potent weapons against Putin's adventurism are economic and long-term."

Rather than sending troops and tanks to the Russian-Ukrainian border, Champion believes that sector-wide sanctions could have a greater impact.

"The US and Europe should give Putin every possible signal that they are prepared to ensure Ukraine's survival as a state, short of war," he concludes.


Facing the backlash of austerity - The New York Times's Paul Krugman, whose writing recently instigated a fair amount of political turmoil in France, is back at it.

In his most recent column, he says that French President Francois Hollande was elected on the promise of easing austerity measures but has "promptly folded, giving in completely to demands for even more austerity".

Mr Hollande has slipped into a "vicious circle" of promoting austerity measures that lead to stalled growth, which then becomes the rationale for greater austerity measures, Krugman says.

"In failing France, Mr Hollande is also failing Europe as a whole - and nobody knows how bad it might get," Krugman concludes.


Pakistan's torture report - A disturbing trend of torture among Pakistan's police has been revealed in a new report from researchers at Yale Law School, write Yale Law School students Kristine Beckerle, Deborah Francois and Babur Khwaja for the Baltimore Sun.

"Police in Faisalabad, Pakistan's third-largest city, tortured more than 1,400 people during a six-year period," they write.

"Pakistan's constitution, its domestic laws and the treaties it has ratified ban these cruel and inhumane practices, yet rarely have police officers been held accountable for the violence they've inflicted upon Pakistani citizens."

They warn that instead of holding the police accountable for the torture and abuse, Pakistan's parliament continues to pass laws giving the police more authority, despite the potential for greater human rights abuses.

Central African Republic

The 'gemocracy' behind the war - The French embassy in the Central African Republic is calling for an embargo on diamonds to be lifted, writes Le Monde's Cyril Bensimon (translated by Worldcrunch).

"The aim of the embargo decreed two months after the Muslim Seleka rebels took over power was to prevent armed groups from financing themselves by trading stones, but this measure led to a boom in smuggling," he says.

Although the stones cannot leave the country, writes Bensimon, UN experts have found that companies are continuing to purchase the gems, waiting for the sanctions to be lifted,

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

On Thursday, former Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was sworn in as the new president of Turkey. Turkish commentators discuss what the future holds.

"Erdogan's oath-taking was viewed with great interest... What everyone is curious about is whether he will keep the oath, which is based on principles and rules that, up to now, he has not respected." - Melih Asik in Millyet.

"In a way, Erdogan is claiming that he is the real successor to [modern Turkey's founding father] Ataturk. That is a subject open to debate since one of Ataturk's basic motivations was to make Turkey a part of secular Western civilisation, whereas Erdogan says this can be achieved by highlighting Islamic cultural ties as well." - Murat Yetkin in Hurriyet.‎

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