The Latest: Vatican, Mexico lament suffering of migrant kids

The Latest on the immigration debate in Europe (all times local):

12:15 p.m.

The Vatican and Mexico are lamenting how children “are suffering the most” from migration, as the Trump administration comes under increasing criticism for its policy of separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Vatican on Monday released the conclusions of the second Vatican-Mexico conference on international migration, held last week at the Vatican.

The statement made no explicit reference to the U.S. separation policy, though it stressed the need to “insist on the centrality of the human person in every political act … reaffirming the inviolability of human rights and the dignity of every human being on the move.”

The U.S. conference of Catholic bishops has condemned as “immoral” the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border, which the U.S. has defended as enforcing the law.

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10 a.m.

The European Union’s asylum office says the number of people applying for international protection in Europe has plunged but remains higher than before 2015, when more than one million migrants entered, many fleeing the war in Syria.

EASO said in an annual report Monday that 728,470 application requests were made for international protection in 2017, compared to almost 1.3 million applications the previous year. It says around 30 percent of the applicants come from conflict-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

EASO says there is a still a backlog: more than 950,000 applications were still awaiting a final decision at the end of last year, almost half of them in Germany.

Over 460,000 people applied for asylum in Europe in 2013. More than 660,000 did so in 2014.

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17 killed in stampede after brawl at crowded Caracas club

FABIOLA SANCHEZ and CLBYBURN SAINT JOHN

AP,

June 16, 2018

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Seventeen people were killed at a crowded nightclub in Venezuela’s capital Saturday after a tear gas device exploded during a brawl and triggered a desperate stampede among hundreds gathered for a graduation celebration, government officials said.

Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said the incident at the “Los Cotorros” club in the middle-class neighborhood of El Paraiso left eight minors dead and five injured. Eight people were detained, including two teens believed responsible for setting off the tear gas canister.

“The establishment has been ordered closed, and we are investigating in coordination with the public ministry, which is directing the criminal investigation,” he said.

Family members wept and embraced one another after identifying the remains of their loved ones at a nearby hospital. Outside the club, several mismatched shoes, including a sandal with a puckered red lip decoration, lay on the sidewalk.

“All I know is my son is dead,” Nilson Guerra, 43, told local journalists.

More than 500 people were believed to be inside the club when the fight broke out. Julio Cesar Perdomo said his injured son told him the tear gas was launched from inside a bathroom and that partygoers tried to flee but found the club’s door closed. Pictures posted by Reverol on Twitter show a narrow tiled staircase leading to a metal door.

“The kids couldn’t leave,” Perdomo said.

Officials did not provide any information to confirm or deny Perdomo’s account.

The club is officially called “El Paraiso” or “Paradise” but is more widely known as “Los Cotorros” or “The Chatterboxes.” Photos shared online from previous celebrations at the club show a dark interior with wooden tables and a stage upfront where DJs shuffled songs. Green painted metal bars and gates covered the doors and windows.

Outside, a faded sign on the red brick building read “We’ve opened!”

Jesus Armas, an opposition councilman who lives in the neighborhood, said the Interior Ministry should explain how a civilian was able to obtain tear gas canisters that should only be utilized by state security forces. He also urged authorities to investigate whether the club had permission to hold several hundred people inside.

“That’s not a big space and that should not be authorized,” he said.

He added that other violent incidents had taken place inside the club, which is frequently used by the Ecuadorean community for parties and political events. Several campaign signs for Ecuadorean politicians were hung outside the building.

Police have detained the owner of the club for “not guaranteeing adequate supervision and preventing the entry of any type of weapon.” No information on the owner’s name, exact charges or current whereabouts was immediately provided.

Caracas is one of the most violent capitals in the world and the country is engulfed in a deepening economic crisis that has forced hundreds of thousands to flee. The Venezuelan Observatory of Violence estimates about 26,600 people were killed in 2017. InSight Crime, a group that studies organized crime in Latin America, characterized Venezuela as the “most homicidal country in the region” with a rate of 89 violent deaths per 100,000 residents.

Haide Berrio, the aunt of a 17-year-old boy killed in the melee, told local media she went running out to find her nephew in the middle of the night after hearing about the commotion and knowing that he was attending the party.

Relatives of the boy found him among the dead and said he was killed by asphyxia.

Her eyes sunken in grief, she said all the family wants now is for the club to be permanently closed and the owner held responsible.

“I am asking for justice,” she said.

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Google to invest $550 million in Alibaba rival JD.com

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Google said Monday that it will invest $550 million in Alibaba’s main rival JD.com as the U.S. tech giant seeks to expand in fast-growing Asian e-commerce markets.

Under the partnership, JD.com products will appear on Google’s shopping service, giving JD.com access to consumers outside Asia, while Google can apply the Chinese e-commerce company’s supply chain and logistics expertise to its technology.

Google said that through the partnership, the company will explore new solutions to improve shopping experiences of consumers around the world.

It was not clear if the partnership was the American company’s latest attempt to make a foray into China, where its major services, including email and its search engine, are blocked.

The two companies, however, will jointly develop retail solutions in Southeast Asia, the latest battlefield among global online commerce giants such as Alibaba, JD.com and Amazon. Southeast Asian consumers are forecast to spend $88.1 billion online by 2025, according to Google.

JD.com is China’s second-largest e-commerce company after Alibaba. It counts Tencent Holdings, the developer of the WeChat messenger app and a key rival of Alibaba, as its investors.

Google will receive 27.1 million newly issued JD.com Class A ordinary shares as part of the deal.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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White House says Trump supports both House immigration bills, after all

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House said on Friday that President Donald Trump supported both Republican immigration bills being considered in the House of Representatives, offering a lifeline after the president suggested earlier that he opposed the more moderate bill.

In an interview on Fox News Channel early on Friday, Trump appeared to blast one of two delicately crafted immigration proposals that had a better chance of passing.

“I certainly wouldn’t sign the more moderate” of the two bills, he said. “I need a bill that gives this country tremendous border security. I have to have that,” he added.

Shortly after the president’s comments, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s leadership team suspended their Friday plans to build support for the more moderate of the two draft bills, which would protect 1.8 million “Dreamers” from deportation and provide them a path to citizenship.

Dreamers is a term for a group of immigrants, mostly Hispanic, who were brought illegally over U.S. borders when they were children and have been living for years in limbo. While most have attended American schools, they have also lived under the threat of deportation.

But the White House said later that Trump did in fact back the proposal that would protect the Dreamers, as well as the other, more hardline one.

“The president fully supports both the (Representative Bob) Goodlatte bill and the House leadership bill,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement. “He would sign either the Goodlatte or the leadership bills.”

House leadership officials put together the more moderate bill. Goodlatte’s more conservative bill, seen as having lower prospects of passing the Republican-controlled House, would deny Dreamers the chance of future citizenship.

Shah said that, in the interview, Trump had been voicing opposition not to either of those bills but to a “discharge petition,” a rarely used procedural manoeuvre House Republicans had threatened to employ that would have forced debate on four immigration bills, including a popular bipartisan one that would have a good chance of passing the House but is opposed by Trump, Ryan and House conservatives.

Attempts to achieve Republican consensus on passing legislation to address the status of Dreamers were already facing difficulties before Friday.

“Until we know exactly where he’s (Trump) at and his concerns have been satisfied, I think things will be on hold,” said veteran Republican Representative Tom Cole.

Later on Friday, Trump tweeted: “Any Immigration Bill MUST HAVE full funding for the Wall, end Catch & Release, Visa Lottery and Chain, and go to Merit Based Immigration. Go for it! WIN!”

Both the Republican bills under discussion, which have been blasted by Democrats and immigration advocacy groups as being too harsh, would fund the wall that Trump wants to build on the southwest border with Mexico. Both would reduce legal migration, in part by denying visas for some relatives of U.S. residents and citizens who are living abroad, sometimes referred to as “chain migration.”

Republican Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader, issued a schedule for next week that included “possible consideration of legislation related to border security and immigration.”

Last September, Trump announced that he was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created by President Barack Obama in June 2012. Trump set a March 5, 2018, deadline for Congress to replace DACA.

The deadline was never met.

Hundreds of thousands of Dreamers have won temporary protections from deportation under DACA that is now under review in federal courts.

Since last September, Trump’s conflicting messages about Dreamers and immigration legislation has helped create a chaotic atmosphere both in Congress and for the Dreamers.

Now, with November’s congressional elections nearing, Republicans are scrambling to minimize a potential backlash among Hispanic voters.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference after his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Reporting by Susan Cornwell, Richard Cowan; additional reporting by Jeff Mason and Justin Mitchell; editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Leslie Adler

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No single stop button to halt fatal Dreamworld ride: Inquest

Senior Constable Cornish was asked if there was a single button that could stop the ride if water levels stopped.

“No,” he replied after telling the inquest his team recreated 20 different scenarios with crash-test dummies to try to replicate the flipping of the raft.

Both police told the inquiry that the tests could not get the rafts to flip.

Senior Constable Cornish was questioned about his his investigations into the ride’s pumps, the conveyor, the water pump outlets and changes to timber slats that formed railings around the ride’s rafts.

He disagreed the incident was a “totally unforeseeable type of accident” that could not be anticipated.

“The potential for that to happen was always there,” Senior Constable Cornish said.

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“If safety mechanisms were in place to stop the ride upon the drop in the water level the rafts would never have got to the point that they got to,” he said.

“Those rafts could not have never have become inverted, they could have been gripped upon.”

Earlier Detective Sergeant Brown told the inquiry the ride’s southern water pumps had broken down twice before with “earth faults” on the same day as the fatal incident on October 25, 2016.

Detective Sergeant Brown also told the inquest that staff with different levels of experiences were told different information about the stop buttons.

One ride operator, who had one day’s training, was closest to the emergency stop to slow the ride.

However she was told “not to worry about the button,” Detective Sergeant Brown said.

The inquest has been told it was very noisy working in the unloading section of the Thunder River Rapids Ride and clear sight between workers was difficult.

This young staff operator closest to the range of stop buttons was one of the 37 witnesses to give evidence in the inquest, which began on Monday.

It runs for two week in June and again in September.

Earlier, Detective Sergeant Brown told how the southern water pump had broken down twice – at 11.50am and 1.09pm – on the day of the fatal incident where the four holidaymakers died.

There had also been a series of previous breakdowns in 2001, 2004 and 2005 on the Thunder River Rapids Ride, the inquest heard.

Counsel assisting the victims, Ken Fleming QC, read from an email obtained from a Dreamworld staff member during the investigation of the 2001 incident when ride rafts backed up: “I shudder when I think if there had been guests on the ride.”

The inquest returns on Tuesday at Southport Magistrates Court.

Tony Moore

Tony Moore is a senior reporter at the Brisbane Times

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Difficult Merkel allies mull next move in German migrant row

“We as the CSU leadership will certainly give Horst Seehofer full support for what he plans, what he considers necessary,” the party’s general secretary, Markus Blume, told ZDF television.

In an op-ed piece for the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Seehofer said he “must have the right to turn back” people who aren’t entitled to enter.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer is pushing for changes to immigration policy.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer is pushing for changes to immigration policy.

Photo: AP

But he said the aim should be a “consensual solution” and wrote that it was “of decisive significance that the EU summit at the end of June finally makes decisions that recognise Germany’s burdens in migrant policy”.

Merkel’s CDU was holding a separate leadership meeting Monday in Berlin.

However it ends, the spat has laid bare deep tensions in a fractious government that took office only in March, after nearly six months of post-election haggling, and exposed the limits of Merkel’s authority. The two conservative parties govern with the centre-left Social Democrats.

Seehofer and Merkel have long had an awkward relationship. In his previous job as Bavarian governor, Seehofer was one of the leading critics of Merkel’s decision in 2015 to leave Germany’s borders open as migrants streamed across the Balkans. Most first arrived in Bavaria, which borders Austria.

Merkel is adamant that a European solution is needed and is seeking bilateral deals with some partners, such as Italy and Greece, similar to one agreed between Turkey and the EU in 2016.

The row with Bavaria’s CSU, which faces a tough election in October, has piled the pressure on her to deliver.

Daily newspaper Bild reported the CSU would give Merkel two weeks until the EU summit to get a European solution before defying her and enforcing Seehofer’s plan. However, the CSU’s General Secretary denied the report.

Merkel’s open-door migrant policy is widely blamed for the rise of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) who are now the main opposition party in Parliament.

There are reports that Brussels has been alarmed at the events in Berlin, fearing Merkel’s weakened position could further inflame an intractable debate over asylum reform.

One senior EU official said: “I don’t think we can solve her domestic issues. That is beyond us . . . It is so personal and politicised now — it doesn’t have much to do with the actual migration problem. It is about something else.”

Central and eastern EU nations such as Hungary and Poland have either refused outright or resisted taking in refugees under an EU quota system that has essentially floundered.

A populist-far right government in place in Italy, as well as the conservative-far right in power in neighbouring Austria, have also taken an uncompromising stance on immigration.

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UK facing weakest growth since 2009 as Brexit and trade war fears bite –business live | Business

Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.

Britain is facing its weakest growth since the financial crisis, as uncertainty over Brexit and fears of a global trade war hit confidence.

So warns the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), which has just downgraded its growth forecast for the UK. It fears that consumer spending, business investment and trade are all weakening, leading to weak wage growth and stretched households.

In short, Britain is trapped in a ‘torpor’, it warns, with growth expect to fall to just 1.3% this year. That would be the weakest performance since 2009 (down from a previous forecast of 1.4%).

The service sector is expected to struggle, with growth slowing to 1.2% in 2018 (that would be the weakest outturn since 2010.)

The BCC has also cut its forecast for 2019 from 1.5% to 1.4%. It predicts that Britain’s net trade position will weaken in the next few years, as exporters struggle but imports pick up.

Adam Marshall, director general of the BCC, says the government must act to help businesses through the ‘testing times’ ahead:


“A decade on from the start of the financial crisis, the UK now faces another extended period of weak growth amidst a backdrop of both domestic and global uncertainty.

“Our forecast should serve as a wake-up call to government – as it demonstrates that ‘business as usual’ is not an option when it comes to the economy.

“With firms facing ongoing Brexit uncertainty, increasing global protectionism and instability in some parts of the world that will impact on costs and profits, now is the time for more robust action to support business confidence and investment.

Marshall also warns that MPs can’t simply fixate on Brexit, given the other problems in the country:


Businesses across the country want to see far more urgency around fixing the fundamentals here at home and a concerted effort to lower the high costs of doing business.

Also coming up today…

Tensions between the US and China are rising, after president Trump approved tariffs on $50bn of Chinese goods last Friday. China swiftly hit back by imposing its own tariffs on US products.

These geopolitical tensions are weighing on the markets; Europe’s Stoxx 500 index has dropped by 0.3% in early trading after losses in Asia.

European investors should also keep an eye on Germany, where a deepening row over migration could bring down the government. Angela Merkel is refusing to bow to pressure from her own interior minister to turn away asylum-seekers who have registered in other European countries.

Merkel hopes to find a Europe-wide solution, but pressure is building on the chancellor.

Otherwise it looks like a quiet day, leaving the City free to anticipate England’s opening World Cup game (KO: 7pm BST).

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Roger Stone ‘not concerned’ he failed to tell Congress about 2016 Russia contact

Roger Stone says he is not concerned that he neglected to tell to congressional investigators about a meeting he held with a Russian national offering dirt on Hillary Clinton, despite being asked about foreign contacts, the longtime friend of President Donald Trump told ABC News.

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Stone said Sunday he forgot, and his lawyer has since sent a letter to amend his testimony.

“I just didn’t remember. 2016 was a pretty busy year,” Stone said. “I don’t think a failure of memory constitutes a perjury.”

Stone served as an adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign but left amid controversy in 2015. The contact in May 2016 was between Stone —- a self-described political “dirty trickster” — Michael Caputo, another former Trump campaign aide, and Henry Greenberg, reportedly a Russian citizen who claimed to have damaging material on Hillary Clinton, as first reported by The Washington Post on Sunday.

PHOTO: Former Trump campaign official Michael Caputo arrives at the Hart Senate Office building to be interviewed by Senate Intelligence Committee staffers, May 1, 2018, in Washington.Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Former Trump campaign official Michael Caputo arrives at the Hart Senate Office building to be interviewed by Senate Intelligence Committee staffers, May 1, 2018, in Washington.

The new disclosure brought immediate concerns from Democrats overseeing congressional investigations into allegations of Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential campaign.

“In multiple respects now, the testimony of Roger Stone appears inaccurate or deliberately misleading,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday.

“The truthfulness of many of our witnesses has been difficult to ascertain, which is why I have urged the committee to make the transcripts available to Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller for a determination whether any witnesses committed perjury before our committee,” Schiff added. “The Majority’s unwillingness to do so demonstrates that protecting the President remains its paramount objective, even when it means shielding witnesses who may have testified before us untruthfully.”

Schiff said he had similar concerns about Caputo’s testimony, which he said also omitted mention of this interaction with a Russian national offering dirt on Clinton, something Schiff said could not plausibly have escaped his recollection.

Attorneys for both men sent letters dated June 15 to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., seeking to revise their prior testimony to the committee to include reference to the interactions with Greenberg. Both letters say the men forgot about the interactions, but have since had their memories refreshed.

Caputo served on the Trump campaign from November 2015 until June 2016 working out of Trump headquarters in New York. Greenberg purportedly reached out about setting up a meeting, which Caputo subsequently arranged. Meeting in Sunny Isle, Florida, for lunch in May 2016, Greenberg reportedly offered Stone damaging material on Clinton for $2 million — a deal Stone and Caputo say they declined.

PHOTO: Roger Stone, a longtime political adviser and friend to President Donald Trump, speaks during a visit to the Womens Republican Club of Miami, May 22, 2017, in Coral Gables, Florida.Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Roger Stone, a longtime political adviser and friend to President Donald Trump, speaks during a visit to the Women’s Republican Club of Miami, May 22, 2017, in Coral Gables, Florida.

Speaking shortly after his testimony in May, Caputo told ABC News there was no collusion between Russians and the Trump campaign.

”In fact, there’s nobody in Trump Tower at that time who has closer connections to Moscow to the Kremlin than me. … Nobody ever asked me about Russia. Nobody ever spoke to me about what you know how Russia might help,” Caputo said.

Reached on Sunday, Caputo confirmed investigators asked him about a text message exchange with Stone about the meeting, the content of which was reported by The Washington Post.

“How crazy is the Russian?” Caputo wrote, according to the Washington Post.

Stone noted that Greenberg had asked for “big money,” and told Caputo the meeting was a “waste of time,” according to The Post.

PHOTO: Donald Trump leaves with Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Advisor John Bolton after holding a press conference, June 9, 2018 ,in La Malbaie, Canada.Leon Neal/Getty Images
Donald Trump leaves with Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Advisor John Bolton after holding a press conference, June 9, 2018 ,in La Malbaie, Canada.

Caputo and Stone now allege they were set up by the FBI because they said a private investigation funded by Caputo’s legal defense fund identified Greenberg is an FBI informant.

There is no outside evidence to support the claim that Greenberg was working as an FBI informant when he approached Caputo and Stone.

Calls by ABC News to phone numbers associated with Greenberg were not immediately answered.

Stone says he never told Donald Trump during the campaign about the newly revealed contact with the Russian national who claimed to have damaging material on Clinton.

“I never discussed the matter with Donald Trump or anyone in his campaign,” Stone told ABC News on Sunday. “I flatly rejected this proposal as ludicrous and frankly forgot about it.”

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Suicide is born of despair. Suicide prevention is far from hopeless

SUICIDE is often born of despair, but suicide prevention is far from hopeless. What is required is a better understanding of the suicidal brain, says Dan Reidenberg of SAVE, a non-profit organisation. Research suggests that people cannot remain acutely suicidal for much more than an hour, and that half of those who do commit suicide take the final decision less than ten minutes before killing themselves. Yet what goes on in the brain in those minutes remains a mystery. It is one that is worth trying to solve, since a new report from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows a sharp spike in suicide across the country (see map).

In practical terms, measures that increase the distance between a suicidal thought and access to lethal means can make a big difference. After the Australian government reduced the country’s stock of guns by around one-fifth through a gun buy-back programme in 1997, the rate of suicide by gunshot dropped by almost 80%. America is unlikely to follow Australia in the near future, but even a requirement to store guns safely at all times could help; half of all American suicides are by gunshot. Pharmacists still sell painkillers loosely in pots, enabling people to pour the whole lot down their throats in one movement. They could follow Britain, which in 1998 switched to blister packs that require users to punch pills out one by one. Deaths from overdoses of paracetamol (the active ingredient in Tylenol) dropped by 44% in 11 years.

In theory, all suicides are preventable until the last minute of life. Robert Gebbia, head of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, would like the federal government to provide $150m for research into prevention. He would also subsidise the 160 local call centres that serve the national suicide-prevention lifeline, and tend to operate on a shoestring. (On June 30th Crisis Connection, Minnesota’s hotline, which handles 50,000 calls a year, will be forced to shut down for lack of funds.)

One idea is a bill currently being considered by Congress, which would change the 11-digit number of the suicide lifeline to a more easily memorised three-digit number, like 911, the nationwide number for emergencies. Studies suggest that celebrity suicides can have a “Werther effect” (named after Goethe’s novel): a spike in copycat suicides. In the days after the deaths of Kate Spade, a handbag designer, and Anthony Bourdain, a foodie, writer and presenter (see Obituary), calls to the lifeline increased by 63%, further evidence both for the Werther effect and for the importance of hotlines. According to the CDC, suicide rates increased for all age groups younger than 75, with the group aged 45 to 64 reporting the largest overall increase (from 13 per 100,000 people to 19 per 100,000) and the greatest number of suicides (232,108). Native Americans and elderly white men seem to be particularly vulnerable.

Many still see suicide as a choice rather than a public-health problem, which is why initiatives to prevent suicide are much newer (a national strategy was first devised in 2001) than those aiming at the prevention of cancer or heart disease. They are also far less generously funded compared with other leading causes of death. The suicide-prevention grants named after Garrett Lee Smith, the son of a senator who killed himself, have been funded at the same rate of $35.4m since 2013. The national suicide-prevention hotline, which has helped more than 6m people since it started in 2005, has also been funded with the same $7m a year for the past five years.

The most effective help, though, remains the support of friends, family and neighbours, especially if they can learn to detect warning signs such as withdrawal, talk about wanting to die or the sudden misuse of booze or pills. “The solution lies in social, economic, spiritual and other connections,” says Jerry Reed of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, echoing Émile Durkheim, the sociologist who wrote the first study that treated suicide as a health problem, rather than a religious or moral one.

Melancholy suicide is a state of great sadness “causing the patient no longer to realise sanely the bonds which connect him with people and things around him”, wrote Durkheim in Le Suicide at the end of the 19th century. At the time, doctors prescribed buckets of cold water thrown over the head to combat suicidal thoughts. The Western world has made progress in treating mental illness since, but a few buckets of icy water over the heads of America’s lawmakers might do some good.

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