So, America, this is how other countries do gun control -Juliette Jowit and Sandra Laville in London, Calla Wahlquist in Port Arthur, Philip Oltermann in Berlin, Justin McCurry in Tokyo and Lois Beckett in New York March 2015

The UK, Australia, Japan and Germany have all taken measures to reduce gun homicides. Can the US learn anything from them?

A customer compares handguns before buying one as a Christmas present at the National Armory gun store in Florida.

Thirty people will be shot dead in America today. On average. It could be more. If it’s less, then more will die tomorrow. Or the next day.

The United States’s gun homicide rate is 25 times higher than other high-income countries, according to a recent study.

Americans are divided on whether the country’s gun deaths could be reduced through tougher laws on gun ownership. Liberals argue that legal restrictions on gun ownership could save lives. Conservatives say that tougher gun laws would do nothing to change the behaviour of violent criminals.

Even the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting that left 20 first-graders dead was not enough to convince American lawmakers to pass new gun control laws, with many people seeing the ownership of guns as a crucial check on government tyranny. The country’s highest court has ruled that outright bans on civilian ownership of handguns are unconstitutional.

After similar mass shootings, other countries have taken more dramatic steps to regulate gun ownership. A look at four countries show that tougher gun laws have been central to these efforts, but that enforcement and culture may also play important roles in preventing violence.


From the moment 43-year-old Thomas Hamilton unloaded his legally held arsenal of handguns on children and staff at Dunblane primary school on 13 March 1996, gun control was on the cards.

Nothing like Dunblane – a massacre of 16 five- and six-year-olds, along with the teacher who tried to protect them – had taken place before in Britain. The shock and collective grief of the whole nation resonated from the northernmost point of Scotland to the tip of Cornwall. This was not the United States, where by 1996, classroom shootings had occurred in many places including Nashville, San Diego and South Carolina.

Gwen Mayor died with 16 of her young pupils.
Gwen Mayor died with 16 of her young pupils at the school in Dunblane, Scotland. Photograph: PNR/PA

Article continues:

Asia stocks surge, bond yields tumble on Fed caution – BY WAYNE COLE SYDNEY Thu Mar 19, 2015 1:36am EDT

A man (L) looks at a stock quotation board as passers-by walk past, outside a brokerage in Tokyo February 27, 2015.   REUTERS/Toru Hanai

A man (L) looks at a stock quotation board as passers-by walk past, outside a brokerage in Tokyo February 27, 2015. — Credit: Reuters/Toru Hanai

(Reuters) – Asian shares enjoyed their best session in 18 months on Thursday as investors priced in a later start and a slower pace for future U.S rate rises, slashing sovereign bond yields from Japan to Australia.

The shift in rate expectations hit the dollar hard at first, though the damage lessened as the session wore on. The formerly friendless euro had found itself as high as $1.10625 EUR= in wild trade on Wednesday, only to fade to $1.0767 in Asia.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS climbed 1.6 percent, its largest daily gain since September 2013. Australia’s main index .AXJO jumped 1.9 percent led by banks as markets wagered on lower domestic rates.

The only laggard was the Nikkei .N225 which slipped 0.2 percent in reaction to a firmer yen.

Short-term U.S. yields boasted their biggest drop in six years after the Federal Reserve trimmed forecasts for inflation and growth, and said unemployment could fall further than first thought without risking a spike in inflation.

The median projection for the Fed funds rate at the end of 2015 was cut to 0.625 percent, down half a point from December.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen also sounded uncomfortable with the strength of the dollar, saying it would be a “notable drag” on exports and a downward force on inflation.

Article continues:

Australia’s rising solar power ‘revolution’ – by Royce Kurmelovs January 13, 2015 11:55AM ET

Australian researchers broke the world’s solar power efficiency record last month with their design of a novel commercial energy system, raising hopes the fossil-fuel dominated country may someday switch off its reliance on coal.Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at Jan 14, 2015 4.32

A team at the University of New South Wales led by professor Martin Green worked with a local company to create a highly efficient solar energy system that uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto a central solar panel to generate electricity.

The method is known as concentrator photovoltaics (CPV), and the result is a system with an efficiency of 40 percent, meaning 40 percent of the sunlight hitting the solar panels is converted into energy — the highest such level ever achieved.

Most important, the design uses readily available materials, which makes putting the system into operation easier and cheaper than trying to commercialize more experimental designs.

Green, who is also the director for the Australian Center for Advanced Photovoltaics, has a history of this kind of innovation. In 2011 he and his team built a solar cell that operated with 19.3 percent efficiency, edging out the previous record holder’s 18.9 percent efficiency.

Off the grid

This kind of innovation has become the hallmark of the solar energy industry, and it is only going to grow, according to Green.

“What’s happening now is that photovoltaics has improved so much recently that it is better at producing electricity than using hot steam,” he said. “Solar will become the cheapest way to generate electricity at any scale. The transition is going to occur where it becomes cheaper to use solar than coal.”

In the past, lower efficiencies and the risk of power outages on cloudy days meant solar was viewed with suspicion by consumers and industry analysts. But that has changed over the last five years as the cost of installing solar energy systems in Australia has been reduced.

With a huge uptick in the number of people installing solar-powered systems on their roofs, there is less demand on the power grid during periods of peak usage, such as during the afternoon.

This in turn is forcing electricity prices lower and will force a fundamental change in the way developed nations generate electricity, according to Giles Parkinson, editor of RenewEconomy, an Australian website that tracks developments in the solar energy industry.

“If you look at what the mainstream analysts are saying now, they are talking about the solar revolution,” he said. “Even the energy distributors in Australia, they are talking about the end of centralization and the rise of the microgrid.”

According to Parkinson, solar is now at “grid parity” with traditional sources of electricity. “What we’re starting to see now in Australia and around the world is that the large utilities have realized the transition is inevitable, that they can slow it down but they can’t stop it,” he said.

In Australia the solar industry is supported through subsidies such as the renewable energy target (RET), which requires the government to ensure that 41,000 gigawatt-hours of the country’s energy is produced from renewable sources by 2020.

The other function of the RET has been to promote both large- and small-scale investment in renewable projects, which helped grow the Australian renewables sector become a $20 billion industry annually.

But with a government review of the program and uncertainties around its future, large-scale investment in renewable energy projects such as wind farms has ground to a halt.

While no government decision has yet been made about the future of the RET, the uncertainty it created effectively caused the bottom to fall out from the industry, slowing its growth.

Meanwhile, smaller-scale investment — such as rooftop solar systems — has so far escaped the same fate, as consumers who install such a system could receive an upfront payment.

Article continues:


Barack Obama tells G20 a global climate change deal is possible and vital – Daniel Hurst and Lenore Taylor in Brisbane Saturday 15 November 2014 02.40 EST

US president says every nation has a responsibility to do its part and ‘overcome old divides, look squarely at the science and reach a strong global climate agreement next year’

US president Barack Obama speaks at the University of Queensland in Brisbane on Saturday. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Barack Obama has stared down both Republican hostility at home and the reluctance of his Australian G20 hosts to insist that the world can clinch a new climate change deal next year.

The president used a speech on the sidelines of the G20 in Brisbane, Australia, to confirm what was revealed by the Guardian on Friday: that the US would be contributing $3bn to the Green Climate Fund that aims to help developing nations cope with the effects of global warming.

And he insisted nowhere had more to lose from rising temperatures than the Asia Pacific region and Australia in particular.

“No nation is immune and every nation has a responsibility to do its part,” Obama said. “You will recall at the beginning I said the US and Australia has a lot in common. Well one of the things we have in common is we produce a lot of carbon … which means we’ve got to step up.”

In the backrooms of the G20 meeting, Australia was continuing to resist language in the official communique encouraging countries to make pledges to the Green Climate Fund, but to a rousing reception at a local university, Obama announced the $3bn US commitment.

Obama said the new funding would help vulnerable communities with early-warning systems, stronger defences against storm surges, and climate-resilient infrastructure, while supporting farmers to plant more durable crops.

He hailed the deal he struck in Beijing on Wednesday, saying China’s pledge to ensure its carbon emissions peaked by 2030 was historic.

“The reason that’s so important is because if China as it develops adapts the same per capita carbon emissions as advanced economies like the US or Australia, this planet doesn’t stand a chance because they’ve got a lot more people,” Obama said.

“So them setting up a target sends a powerful message to the world that all countries, whether you are a developed country, a developing country or somewhere in between, you’ve got to be able to overcome old divides, look squarely at the science and reach a strong global climate agreement next year.

“And if China and the US can agree on this then the world can agree on this, we can get this done and it is necessary for us to get it done.”

Obama faces domestic political challenges implementing greater curbs on greenhouse gas emissions in the US after the Republicans won control of both houses of Congress in mid-term elections last week.

Mitch McConnell, who will take over as the majority leader of the Senate, has called the China deal part of Obama’s “ideological war on coal” and signalled that Republicans would seek to ease the burden of power station emission regulations.

Article continues:

Global Warming Elevates Odds of Extreme Weather, From Australia to California – By Andrew Freedman Sept 2014


Manmade global warming is causing up to a tenfold increase in the risk for prolonged and severe heat waves, and is influencing other extreme weather and climate events, a slew of new studies found.

In a collection of 22 peer-reviewed analyses on 16 extreme weather and climate events during 2013, which were published Monday as a nearly 100-page report, international teams of scientists found clear ties between global warming and extreme heat events from Australia to China, and some signs of ties between the record California drought and global warming as well.

In all, nine of the 16 extreme events were attributed at least partially to manmade global warming.

The report amounts to the most ambitious attempt yet to put extreme events, such as floods and severe storms, into a long-term climate change context using methods known as “extreme event attribution.”

Global warming contributed to the baking of Australia, Korea, Japan and China

Of the 10 studies on heat waves that are included in the lengthy report, all five found clear ties between the events and global warming. For example, a study on extremely hot temperatures in Korea during the June through August 2013 period, found that manmade global warming — which has raised average surface temperatures — has made heat waves there up to 10 times more likely. In 2013, Korea had its hottest summer nights and second hottest days since 1954, the study said.

Another study found that global warming “played a significant role” in raising the chance of events such as the heat wave in Japan in 2013, during which 143 locations broke their daily average temperature records. Other studies tied global warming to increased odds of heat waves in eastern China, Europe and Australia.


Regarding the heat in Australia, where the Bureau of Meteorology was forced to add a new color to its weather maps to show extremely hot temperatures up to 129 degrees Fahrenheit, the studies showed extremely low chances that the heat could have occurred without manmade global warming. One of the studies found the percent of risk of the event that could be attributable to manmade global warming to be “essentially 100%.”

“The results from the Australian studies are rather striking,” said Peter Stott, the leader of the climate assessment team at the UK Met Office in Exeter, England.

Stott said the evidence shows that “it’s very hard to imagine how you could have had those temperatures without global warming.”

September 2013 was the hottest September on record in Australia

September 2013 was the hottest September on record in Australia, and one of the studies found that the risk of such heat in September has jumped fivefold due to manmade climate change.

Scientists gain confidence in conclusions about extreme events when multiple studies use different methods, while arriving at similar conclusions. Five independent research teams looked at different factors related to the record heat in Australia in 2013, and each team came to the separate conclusion that human-caused climate change increased the likelihood and severity of that event. This raises scientists’ confidence that global warming made the prolonged heat wave in Australia much worse.

“The evidence in the Australian papers is extremely strong,” said Martin Hoerling, a researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Boulder, Colorado, who was not involved in that research.

Article continues:

Australia spots objects possibly tied to Malaysia jet – By Simon Denyer and Chico Harlan, Published: March 19 | Updated: Thursday, March 20, 4:33 AM

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Australia’s prime minister said Thursday that two objects that may be pieces of a missing Malaysia Airlines passenger jet have been spotted in the southern Indian Ocean.

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at Mar 20, 2014 5.10

Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the Australian Parliament in Canberra that “new and credible information has come to light” on the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, with images of two objects gleaned from satellite imagery.

The images released Thursday showed grainy whitish fragments in the black-blue ocean. They were taken by a commercial satelite, according to Australian authorities, and date-stamped March 16.

Malaysia’s Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the images had needed to be assessed by experts, while Australian Air Commodore John McGarry said further information was being continuously collected as other satellites passed over the area.

“The task of locating these objects will be extremely difficult and it may turn out they are not related to the search for MH370,” Abbott cautioned.

Australia’s maritime security agency said one Australian and one American surveillance plane had already arrived in the area where the objects were spotted, with two more planes expected to reach the area later. However, poor visibility was hampering the air and satellite effort and nothing had been spotted by the planes by early evening.

Article continues: