The international press responds scathingly to the tolerance for gun violence in the US: ‘nothing fundamentally changes’
Politicians and media around the world have reacted with horror, incomprehension and weary resignation to news that an 18-year-old gunman had murdered 19 children and two teachers in America’s 27th school shooting so far this year.
The politicians mostly observed formalities; commentators, not so much.
In devastated Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he was “deeply saddened by the murder of innocent children”, adding that his people “share the pain of the relatives and friends of the victims, and of all Americans”.
France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, described the massacre as “cowardly” and said the French shared Americans’ “shock and grief – and the rage of those who are fighting to end the violence”. Pope Francis said he was “heartbroken”.
In London, the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, said the country’s “thoughts are with all those affected by this horrific attack”, while the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, said she was “horrified by the news”. Her thoughts were “with the people of Texas”.
The press, however, did not mince words.
“There’s carnage in a US school, relatives’ endless distress, a grave presidential speech – then nothing, till the next one,” said Le Monde in a savage editorial. “If there is still an American exceptionalism, it is to tolerate its schools being regularly transformed into shooting ranges, sticky with blood.”
Neither the Uvalde killer, nor the gunman who took 10 lives in Buffalo, nor the one who killed one and wounded five in a California church faced “any legal safeguards that might have complicated access to the firearms they used”, the French daily said.
“America is killing itself, and the Republican party is looking elsewhere. The defence of the second amendment, in its most absolutist sense, is now a quasi-sacred duty, escaping all questioning. Always more weapons: that is Republicans’ only credo.”
Americans, Le Monde said, “bought nearly 20 million firearms in 2021, the second highest sales in history. They also experienced more than 20,000 firearms deaths, not counting suicides. Yet Republicans are plainly unable to establish a causal link.”
In the Netherlands, NRC Handelsblad made much the same points. It has become, the paper said, “a ritual, to which America is more accustomed than any other nation”: a governor urging togetherness, a president quoting the Bible, politicians accusing each other of politicising, “and the countdown to the next one begins”.
Regardless of “generous donations” from the NRA gun lobby, the paper said, “the right to bear arms has solidified and hardened into dogma in a polarised American society” – and with a six-to-three conservative majority on the supreme court, it was a right that might be extended rather than restricted.
Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) noted that this year would mark the 10th anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre, when “the American nation came together in its shock for a historic moment”. Sadly, it did not change anything.
Now, the paper said, “another gunman has bought, apparently legally, two semi-automatic rifles and used them to murder 19 children and two adults shortly after his 18th birthday – three years before he was allowed to drink beer”.
It is not just “a coalition of gun enthusiasts, gun sellers and fearful citizens, welded together by the NRA, that stands in the way of regulation”, the paper said.
“The real stroke of genius was to reinterpret the second amendment right as the only true badge of constitutional loyalty and a requirement for preserving the American way of life. In America, in 2022, the fact that 19 pupils were murdered by a heavily armed 18-year-old two days before the summer holidays will not change anything.”
The Suddeutsche Zeitung said it “probably takes numbers to grasp, if only faintly, what nobody will ever be able to actually understand”: this was Americas 215th firearms incident this year in which at least four people were killed or injured. Last year, there were 693. Since 2013, 2,858 children had been killed or injured.
Spain’s El País had an equally weary analysis. “Mass shootings are such an essential part of US life they have their own rules,” wrote its correspondent, Iker Seisdedos. And each one prompts “an artificial reopening of the debate on gun control”.
The US has 4% of the world’s population, but almost half the pistols and rifles registered on the planet, he said: “It’s a recurring drama, to which America’s lawmakers seem unwilling to put an end – even though they could.”
The most personal response was from Steffen Kretz, a US correspondent for Danish public radio DR. Hours after the latest tragedy, he said, he got a letter from the school his seven-year-old daughter attends promising special help for pupils on Wednesday.
“Only in the US,” write Kretz, “does a seven-year-old attend school to learn about school shootings. Only in the US do children who only just learned to ride a bike have to practise hiding under school desks in case a bad man with a gun comes.”
Every time “a maniac enters a school and spreads death and destruction in a place that should be safe and secure”, he wrote, “the same debate begins. And so far it has led only led to the same result: nothing fundamentally changes.”
The sheer number of weapons in the US, and the power of the NRA, mean this will “probably continue. America’s love-hate relationship with firearms has become an example of how money and lobby groups have corrupted the political system.”So when Kretz’s daughter meets her friends on Wednesday, they will have to process the fact that the 19 Texas victims were “children their age, whose only fault was to be at school that day. There will be a debate, with arguments everyone knows. Next week, the focus will be elsewhere. Until it happens again.”
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The Last of Us Levels Up Its Opening News Today January 30, 2023
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The Last of Us takes its time revving up. The HBO video-game adaptation opens on a 1960s TV interview program (hosted by Bighead!) featuring two epidemiologists discussing the possible end of humanity via disease. John Hannah plays the more portentous of the duo, laying out the mechanics of what will eventually drive the apocalypse in this universe: mind-controlling fungus, previously a phenomenon contained to the insect world, pushed by climate change to evolve such that it makes the jump into human beings. As he speaks of how the infection would ravage billions, the camera repeatedly cuts to the audience; faces blank, heightened, a mass. The scene is brief, but the tone is set.
That opening scene is specific to the TV show, and it immediately forecasts an intent to move this story at its own pace. As someone long familiar with the source material, the choice is exciting: the HBO version places a premium on leaving room to breathe. The narrative patiently settles into a pre-apocalypse world, introducing Pedro Pascal’s Joel Miller, his daughter Sarah (Nico Parker), and his younger brother Tommy (Gabriel Luna) on Joel’s birthday, as Sarah embarks on a quest to get his old watch fixed. You get the drift of Joel’s situation fairly briskly: single parent, tight relationship with Sarah, she’s a good kid. It’ll be another ten minutes of show before shit hits the fan, and when it does, you’re fully baked into their family and the effect of catastrophic implosion and chaos hits more clearly and holistically.
This wasn’t necessarily the case in the source material. The original video game arrived in 2013, a moment when big-budget AAA-studios were deep into a yearslong effort to aesthetically replicate a sense of cinematic spectacle. In many ways, this ran parallel to a similar movement in television; The Walking Dead had premiered three years before, and HBO’s own Game of Thrones followed a year after that. Indeed, what made the original Last of Us particularly interesting was how it seemed to emulate prestige television more than anything else: Besides its visual realism, there was an episodic nature to the grim, heady story, which usually takes around 15 hours of gameplay to complete.
However, back in 2013, the game was still doing its best with the tools it had within the context of its medium. Its opening sequence had to do more economical narrative work in order to get you into play as soon as possible, opening just hours before the outbreak with a scene that also appears in the show — albeit 15 minutes in — in which Sarah gifts Joel that watch for his birthday. This cut scene does some expository labor, but the work of grounding you in the world chiefly happens through environmental storytelling, which is something that isn’t entirely possible with television or movies. (Though one could possibly argue Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men, which does a ton of world-building through background elements that the camera often glides by, came quite close.) The very first character you control is Sarah, whom you guide through a splendid sequence that evokes the feeling of being a child alone at home. Details like soccer trophies or a weirdly placed Stairmaster around the house communicate to you, the player, the circumstances of their lives — but it’s dark, Joel isn’t around, and the world is ending.
The game and the HBO show converge when the three Millers get into the car. For those with a strong attachment to the original work, the last decade was essentially building up to this moment, and what transpires in the TV adaptation is something close to a shot-for-shot remake. The camera assumes a view from the back seat, mimicking Sarah’s perspective as the family tries to get out of Dodge. (In the game, you control where Sarah is looking, meaning you can miss whole images like their neighbor’s burning home or an overrun hospital.) Many lines from the game are preserved (“They have a kid, Joel. “So do we.), while distinct tweaks have been made to further enhance the onscreen drama. The plane crash, for example, is an invention for the show; in the video game, Sarah and Joel are knocked out when another car slams into theirs.
The HBO remake of the outbreak sequence is striking in how it fully realizes what the original work was simulating. Playing the game, you can feel The Last of Us strain to use its elemental tools to achieve the kind of cinematic storytelling it’s going for, even as it’s ultimately successful. While you control Joel navigating the chaotic streets, Sarah in tow, it’s not uncommon to spot the seams of the technology of the time: Tommy’s pathfinding blocking you in strange ways, the artificially intelligent crowd not quite swarming in a manner that tracks organically. (The remake with more modern tech, released last fall, is only somewhat better.) Since this is a game, it’s also a sequence with a fail state. If you don’t run fast enough, Joel gets bitten, the screen blacks out, and you have to begin again. This cultivates a sense of urgency in the player, but it opens up the possibility of some meaningful cost to the narrative momentum. Such a trade-off is endemic to video games.
It’s really something to see a prestige TV show literally translate a scene from a game that was, in its own way, already emulating a prestige TV show. The promise of an adaptation — and this adaptation in particular — is the possibility of expansion: to more deeply explore, or perhaps even subvert, the narrative themes of the widely beloved story that powered this wildly successful video game. It’s a dramatic act of imagining, taking an original text and finding new life. But as the first half of HBO’s spectacular pilot episode shows, you still gotta play the hits.
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Colorado plans to send more migrants to New York
NEW YORK — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis plans to send migrants to major cities including New York, Mayor Eric Adams said Tuesday, warning that the nation’s largest city is already struggling to deal an influx of people sent from Texas and other Republican-led states.
However, the Democratic governor told shortly afterward that the state has been helping asylum seekers reach their final destinations — including New York City — for weeks. The only change has been a recent winter storm and ensuing travel catastrophe that created a backlog of migrants wanting to leave Denver, which is now being cleared.
Adams made his comments during a radio appearance Tuesday morning.
“We were notified yesterday that the governor of Colorado is now stating that they are going to be sending migrants to places like New York and Chicago,” Adams said during a radio appearance. “This is just unfair for local governments to have to take on this national obligation.”
An aide to Adams said the mayor’s administration was told about the influx Monday evening.
Like many major cities around the country, Denver has been struggling to provide services for a surge of people who have fled their home countries in Central and South America, crossed the southern border and sought asylum in the United States. Over the past month, more than 3,500 migrants have arrived in Denver, according to the city, and each night around 1,800 asylum seekers have sought shelter in the city.
In response, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock declared a state of emergency and later appealed to the local Catholic archdiocese for assistance. He and Polis — both Democrats — also launched a fund to raise money to support services for migrants.
In total, Polis said the state has recently made $5 million available to assist with expenses. And while roughly 70 percent of asylum seekers who arrive in Denver are traveling to other destinations, the cost of helping them purchase bus tickets constitutes a fraction of the overall pot of cash.
In light of the recent winter storm that snarled holiday travel — with Southwest Airlines’ logistical meltdown leading to a rush on bus tickets — the Denver mayor’s office reached out to the Adams administration to let them know that more migrants than usual may be arriving by bus, according to Polis, who expected levels to moderate within a week or two.
“There is a lot of pent-up demand right now and a lot of frustration among our migrants who have been trapped for a week or two in a place they didn’t want to be through no fault of their own,” he said.
On Tuesday, Polis announced a partnership including the state, the city and local nonprofits designed to beef up transportation services for asylum seekers trying to get out of Colorado — an initiative welcomed by Hancock’s office.
“I appreciate [Polis] and the State for leaning in to support those coming to our city to reach their preferred destinations, and to help reduce the number of people in our shelters and more quickly connect them with community supports and other options,” Hancock said in a statement Tuesday. “I’ve talked with other mayors around the country and we’re united in our call for Congress to work with the Biden Administration to provide the assistance we need to manage this situation.”
Thousands of migrants have attempted to cross into the U.S. from the southern border in recent weeks, in part because a Trump administration border policy, known as Title 42, was set to expire in December. The Supreme Court last week blocked the lifting of the policy, which allows the U.S. to expel migrants to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott over the spring and summer bused thousands of migrants from the border to blue strongholds like New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, while Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis flew nearly 50 mostly Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. He claimed it was to bring attention to the border situation.
But in recent weeks, the dilemma at the border has become worse. El Paso’s Democratic mayor, Oscar Leeser, declared a state of emergency in December after migrants began pouring into the city. Abbott also deployed hundreds of Texas national guard and state troopers to the border to stop people from entering the U.S.
The migrants are coming to Colorado on buses from border towns including El Paso, Texas though it’s unclear whether any government officials have paid for those trips north.
A spokesperson for Abbott said in an email, “We are still only busing to DC, NYC, Chicago, and Philadelphia.” The El Paso mayor’s office similarly said they had not coordinated any travel to Denver, though a host of entities, from the county to individual nonprofits, are all involved in assisting migrants with transport out of Texas.
Polis said that most officials dealing with an influx of migrants have been acting in good faith.
“Too many people, in our opinion, view this through a political lens or as playing politics — and it’s terrible that in some places, people have been used as political props,” he said. “But what we are doing here is just honoring our values by treating people with dignity and respect.”
Adams said Tuesday around 30,000 asylum seekers have arrived in New York City since the spring in need of food, shelter and education — a surge that has has stretched the city’s social service infrastructure to the breaking point and opened up huge risks for the municipal budget. Adams, along with the two Colorado leaders, have called on the federal government to provide assistance to localities dealing with the influx.
“No city should have to make a decisions if they’re going to provide for their citizens — particularly coming out of Covid — or if they’re going to deal with an onslaught of migrants and asylum seekers,” he said.
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