Obama urges speedy action on gun control measures

Updated 17 January 2013
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Obama urges speedy action on gun control measures

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama yesterday called for speedy action on gun control measures and vowed to use "whatever weight this office holds" to make them a reality.
"We can't put this off any longer," Obama said in urging Congress to approve measures requiring universal background checks on gun buyers, and banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.
Obama said every day the United States waits to act, the number of people killed from gun violence will keep growing.
"This will not happen unless the American people demand it," he said.
President Obama proposed an assault weapons ban and better background checks for gun buyers yesterday in a package of proposals to curb gun violence after the killing of 20 children and six adults in a Connecticut school a month ago.
The proposals include executive and legislative action, with the latter sure to face an uphill battle in Congress, where appetite for renewing an assault weapons ban is low.
The president's announcement comes the day after New York State lawmakers approved one of the toughest gun control bills in the United States and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed it into law.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who led a task force that made recommendations on the issue, presented the measures at a White House event attended by children from around the country who wrote letters to the president about gun violence and school safety.
Obama, who has said the day of the shooting was the worst of his presidency, said on Monday he would study the panel's ideas and then move forward "vigorously" on those that he endorsed, including some actions he could take without congressional approval.
A White House official said Obama had not endorsed all of the ideas put forward by Biden's team but declined to lay out specifics on what would be announced.
"The president has made clear that he intends to take a comprehensive approach," White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Tuesday.
The president will ask Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, a measure to ban high-capacity magazine clips, and closing loopholes in the background check system, Carney said.
The proposals are Obama's first major foray into gun control, despite several mass shootings that have occurred during his four years in office. Gun restrictions are a divisive issue in the United States, which constitutionally protects a citizen's right to bear arms.
Biden delivered his recommendations to Obama after a series of meetings with representatives from the weapons and entertainment industries. The president requested the recommendations after the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, by a 20-year-old gunman who later killed himself.
The proposals are likely to touch on mental health and could address violence portrayed in video games.
Obama has signaled his plan would include elements that did not require congressional approval. The president could take action to ban certain gun imports and bolster oversight of dealers.
The proposals are likely to draw ire from the National Rifle Association, a powerful lobbying group that is traditionally associated with Republicans. The NRA proposed having armed officials in schools throughout the country and has said the media and violent video games shared blame for the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.
"There is common ground" with the White House, NRA President David Keene said on the PBS Newshour on Tuesday. "It is not on banning rifles that we don't think will make any difference and it is not on setting up a national gun registry."
"We have for 20 years been asking that those people who have been adjudicated to be mentally, potentially violent be put on the list of people who are not allowed to buy firearms."


Rohingya refugees rescued after drifting at sea for 9 days

Updated 21 April 2018
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Rohingya refugees rescued after drifting at sea for 9 days

BIREUEN, Indonesia: A Rohingya Muslim man among the group of 76 rescued in Indonesian waters in a wooden boat says they were at sea for nine days after leaving Myanmar, where the minority group faces intense persecution, and were hoping to reach Malaysia.
The eight children, 25 women and 43 men were brought ashore on Friday afternoon at Bireuen in Aceh province on the island of Sumatra, the third known attempt by members of the ethnic minority to escape Myanmar by sea this month. Several required medical attention for dehydration and exhaustion, local authorities said.
Fariq Muhammad said he paid the equivalent of about $150 for a place on the boat that left from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where a violent military crackdown on the minority group has sparked an exodus of some 700,000 refugees over land into neighboring Bangladesh since August.
The refugee vessel was intercepted by a Thai navy frigate and later escorted by a Thai patrol vessel until sighting land, said Fariq. The group believed the Thais understood they wanted to reach Malaysia and were dismayed when they realized they were in Indonesia, said Fariq, who gave the identification numbers of the Thai vessels.
“We were forced to leave because we could not stay, could not work so our lives became difficult in Myanmar. Our identity card was not given so we were forced to go,” he told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Local officials and a charitable group are providing shelter and food for the refugees. The International Organization for Migration said it has sent a team from its Medan office in Sumatra, including Rohingya interpreters, to help local officials with humanitarian assistance.
Rohingya, treated as undesirables in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar and denied citizenship, used to flee by sea by the thousands each year until security in Myanmar was tightened after a surge of refugees in 2015 caused regional alarm.
In April, there has been an apparent increase in Rohingya attempts to leave the country by sea. An Indonesian fishing boat rescued a group of five Rohingya in weak condition off westernmost Aceh province on April 6, after a 20-day voyage in which five other people died.
Just days before, Malaysian authorities intercepted a vessel carrying 56 people believed to be Rohingya refugees and brought the vessel and its passengers to shore.
Mohammad Saleem, part of the group that landed Friday in Aceh, said they left from Sittwe in Rakhine state, the location of displacement camps for Rohingya set up following attacks in 2012 by Buddhist mobs.
“We’re not allowed to do anything. We don’t have a livelihood,” the 25-year-old said. “We can only live in the camps with not enough food to eat there. We have no rights there.”