resume manufacturing of Similac formulas at its plant in Sturgis.

The company also said that it increased production at other U.S.-based manufacturing plants and one in Ireland, and that it would supply the United States with more than eight million pounds of formula in August, an increase from the year before. But it noted it would take six weeks for the Similac product from the Sturgis plant to start to hit store shelves.

But some industry experts say it will take time for Abbott to gain back the market share it once had. “To be frank, there is a lot of consumer mistrust around Similac right now,” said Mr. Dittmeier of the W.I.C. program.

That could be a boon for Reckitt Benckiser, which has been running its formula manufacturing plants at full tilt all summer, hoping to hold on to the market share it has gained at Abbott’s expense. Its market share has climbed to nearly 60 percent from 35 percent before the recall, said Robert Cleveland, who oversees the Mead Johnson nutrition business at Reckitt.

“We remain committed to making as much formula as we can,” Mr. Cleveland said. “We continue to maximize our domestic manufacturing, running overtime and going 24/7.” He added that the company had received approval to bring in formula from its plants in Singapore and specialty formula from its facilities in Mexico.

Still, in late August, when Lori Sharp, a first-time mother in Port Hueneme, Calif., realized she was down to one container of Reckitt’s Enfamil Sensitive infant formula for her 3-month-old daughter, the formula was out of stock on Walmart.com.

Panicking, she scoured more websites and widened her geographic search. She eventually discovered a container of formula at a Target 40 minutes away in Moorpark, Calif. “I went into the store and they actually had four more, but their shelves were so bare,” Ms. Sharp said. “I bought all of them.”

In Georgia, some of the most acute shortages are in rural areas. Jennifer Kelly, who is the family services manager at the early Head Start program in Swainsboro, which is between Macon and Savannah, said trying to find formula earlier this summer had become a “daily chore.”

The 14 babies she watches drink seven different kinds of formula. She and her staff were often driving to Walmart, Walgreens or a local grocery chain or scouring Amazon for some of the more obscure brands.

“It’s not like it was a few months ago when the shelves were bare,” Ms. Kelly said. “I am hoping we are on the other side of this dilemma.”

When the formula shortage was at a crisis point in May, Ms. Robinson of Bucks County, Pa., created a Facebook group that connected parents around the country. The group, called Formula Hunters, does not exchange money to keep out profiteers who have been hoarding formula and seeking to resell it at a markup.

The group operates on the notion that a parent who buys a hard-to-find formula brand and sends it to another parent in the group will eventually be repaid when others do the same for them.

Formula Hunters now has 1,500 members, who are still actively helping each other locate formula. “This has been going on for so many months,” Ms. Robinson said. “The frustration has been high.”

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AP-NORC Poll: 2 In 10 Report Experience With Gun Violence

CDC data shows a spike in gun violence since the pandemic, with gun-related homicides increasing across the country in metro and rural areas.

About 2 in 10 U.S. adults say they or someone close to them has had a personal experience with gun violence, according to a recent poll that shows Black and Hispanic adults are especially likely to have had their lives touched by it.

The poll by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 54% of Black Americans and 27% of Hispanic Americans reported that they or a close friend or family member experienced gun violence in the last five years, compared with of 13% of white Americans. Overall, 21% of U.S. adults reported a personal tie to gun violence, such as being threatened by a gun or being a victim of a shooting.

Ebony Brown, a 39-year-old accountant in Atlanta, is among those who has seen gun violence touch those close to her. Her brother was shot to death in 2002 in Jacksonville, Florida, while visiting from college.

“He was at the right place at the wrong time,” said Brown, who is Black.

An acquaintance of a friend pulled a gun during an attempted robbery at a home and shot several people, including Brown’s brother, who she said died instantly. Another person also was slain.

Brown said she doesn’t consider herself a gun lover, but she’s worried enough about becoming a victim of gun violence herself that she’s considering getting a handgun.

“I’m really getting ready to get one. I’ve been to the range,” Brown said. “My dad is a police officer and he wants me to have it.”

The survey was conducted after a stretch of mass shootings across the U.S., from a grocery store in New York, an elementary school in Texas and a Fourth of July parade in Illinois — along with a smattering of incidents of gun violence in cities across the U.S. that don’t always make national news but leave local communities on edge.

Professor Jens Ludwig, who is director of the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab, said the 1 in 5 people with a friend or family member who was a victim of violence was a “strikingly high number.”

It shows that those who experience gun violence “aren’t the only victims,” he said.

Ludwig compared the way gun violence affects entire communities to the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that the people who died or became very ill from COVID-19 weren’t the only ones affected; kids were kept home from school, businesses closed, and people couldn’t see loved ones.

The same is true with gun violence, Ludwig said. “People are changing the way they live,” he said.

For example, he said, when people who can afford to leave cities where gun violence is a big problem move out in droves, it hurts everyone still there.

He cited Detroit as one example. Gun-related homicides increased from 2016 to 2020, from a rate of 37.6 per 100,000 people to 45.4 per 100,000 people, according to FBI data collected by the pro-gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety. Black people were 2.1 times more likely to die by gun homicides than white people, according to the data.

Following a particularly violent summer weekend in Detroit that saw two dozen nonfatal shootings and seven homicides, Police Chief James White denounced the rising gun violence in the city and across the nation.

“We understand these numbers make media headlines, but to us they represent people,” White told reporters. “These represent families. This represents children. This represents husbands, wives, brothers and sisters. Our Detroit families are in pain. Neighbors near the gunfire are shaken and lives have been forever changed.”

While most Americans say they feel gun violence has increased nationwide and in their states, 59% of Black Americans and 45% of Hispanics said that gun violence is on the rise in their communities, compared with 34% of white Americans. Similarly, people living in urban areas are more likely to say gun violence is rising in their communities than those in suburban or rural areas, 51% to 39% to 27%.

That is in line with recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data has shown a spike in gun violence since the pandemic, with gun-related homicides increasing across the country in large and small metro areas and in rural areas. The data found Black people are disproportionately impacted by gun violence and are more likely to be the victims of gun crimes or homicides.

Brittany Samuels, a 31-year-old in Detroit, says she still carries physical scars from being shot at age 14 by her uncle, who she said was bipolar and schizophrenic, and fatally shot her grandmother, one of his coworkers and himself.

She said it has also shaped the way she thinks about gun violence and gun ownership, and she feels it is too easy for guns to get into the wrong hands.

Samuels, who is Black, said gun violence in her community has made her rethink where and when to go places, like skipping Detroit’s downtown entertainment district or certain gas stations as certain times.

“You don’t know if someone is going to rob you at gunpoint or if they are going to have a shootout in the middle of the gas station,” she said. “I don’t go when it’s dark — even if it’s in the morning. And you really won’t catch me at a gas station that’s not lit up.”

Diego Saldana, 30, of Baldwin Park, California, in the Los Angeles metro area, said he found himself facing a 9mm handgun during an attempted robbery six months ago. He feels gun violence is on the rise and believes it’s likely he will be a victim of gun violence again in the next five years.

“I think it’s due to the (poor) economy — people are desperate for easy money,” said Saldana, who is Mexican. “People … are stressing about stuff and expressing it with violence. Everybody is on edge.”

The poll of 1,373 adults was conducted July 28-Aug. 1 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Missouri School District Reinstates Spanking If Parents OK

Classes resumed in the Cassville School District for the first time since the school board in June approved bringing corporal punishment back.

A school district in southwestern Missouri decided to bring back spanking as a form of discipline for students — if their parents agree — despite warnings from many public health experts that the practice is detrimental to students.

Classes resumed Tuesday in the Cassville School Districtfor the first time since the school board in June approved bringing corporal punishment back to the 1,900-student district about 60 miles southwest of Springfield. The district had dropped the practice in 2001.

The policy states that corporal punishment will be used only when other forms of discipline, such as suspensions, have failed and then only with the superintendent’s permission.

Superintendent Merlyn Johnson told The Springfield News-Leader the decision came after an anonymous survey found that parents, students and school employees were concerned about student behavior and discipline.

“We’ve had people actually thank us for it,” he said. “Surprisingly, those on social media would probably be appalled to hear us say these things, but the majority of people that I’ve run into have been supportive.”

Parent Khristina Harkey told The Associated Press on Friday that she is on the fence about Cassville’s policy. She and her husband did not opt-in because her 6-year-old son, Anakin Modine, is autistic and would hit back if he were spanked. But she said corporal punishment worked for her when she was a “troublemaker” during her school years in California.

“There are all different types of kids,” Harkey said. “Some people need a good butt-whipping. I was one of them.”

Morgan Craven, national director of policy, advocacy and community engagement with the Intercultural Development Research Association, a national educational equity nonprofit, called corporal punishment a “wildly inappropriate, ineffective practice.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that corporal punishment is constitutional and left it up to states to set their own policies. Craven said 19 states, many in the South, have laws allowing it in schools. The most current data from 2017-18 shows about 70,000 children in the U.S. were hit at least once in their schools.

Students who are hit at school do not fare as well academically as their peers and suffer physical and psychological trauma, Craven said. In some cases, children are hurt so badly that they need medical attention.

“If you have a situation where a kid goes to school and they could be slapped for, you know, some minor offense, it certainly creates a really hostile, unpredictable and violent environment,” Craven said. “And that’s not what we want for kids in schools.”

But Tess Walters, 54, the guardian of her 8-year-old granddaughter, had no qualms about signing the corporal punishment opt-in papers. She said the possibility of being spanked is a deterrent for her granddaughter, who has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

“I’ve read some some people’s responses on Facebook recently, and they’re just going over the top like, ‘Oh, this is abuse, and, oh, you’re just going to threaten them with, you know, violence.’ And I’m like, ‘What? The child is getting spanked once; it’s not beatings.’ People are just going crazy. They’re just being ridiculous,” Walters said.

Mitch Prinstein, chief science officer with American Psychological Association, said decades of research shows corporal punishment will not reduce inappropriate behavior and is likely to increase aggression, rage, hostility and could lead to depression and self-esteem problems.

Prinstein said better methods for eliminating undesirable conduct including problem-solving training; rewarding positive behavior, such as with extra recess; and providing extra attention in the classroom.

“Parents are experts on what works for their own children,” Prinstein said. “But it’s important for parents to be educated on very substantial science literature demonstrating again that corporal punishment is not a consistently effective way of changing undesirable behavior.”

Sarah Font, an associate professor of sociology and public policy at Pennsylvania State University, coauthored a 2016 study on the subject. Her research found that districts using corporal punishment are generally in poor, Republican-leaning rural areas in Southern states. Font said Black children are disproportionately subjected to it.

The disparity frustrates Ellen Reddy, of the Nollie Jenkins Family Center, which advocates on issues such as corporal punishment and special education.

“Look at the history of violence against Black and brown bodies,” said Reddy, who described herself as a Black mother of sons and a grandson. “Since we’ve been in this country, there’s been violence perpetrated against our children, our families, our foreparents. So when do we stop that kind of violence?”

Disabled students also are more likely to be subjected to corporal punishment, said Elizabeth Gershoff, a professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Texas at Austin. She said that led four states — Tennessee, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Louisiana — to ban using it for those students.

She noted that overall, corporal punishment is on the decline, with the numbers dropping steadily since the federal government started tracking it in the late 1970s.

“Most schools are realizing, ‘You know what, we can discipline children, we can guide their behavior without hitting them,'” said Gershoff, who authored the 2016 study with Font.

Cassville School District spokeswoman Mindi Artherton was out of the office Friday and a woman who answered the phone in her office suggested reading the policy. She said staff had already done interviews. “At this time, we will focus on educating our students,” she added, before hanging up.

The policy says a witness from the district, which is in a county that is around 93% white, must be present and that the discipline will not be used in front of other students.

“When it becomes necessary to use corporal punishment, it shall be administered so that there can be no chance of bodily injury or harm,” the policy says. “Striking a student on the head or face is not permitted.”

In Missouri, periodic efforts to ban corporal punishment in schools have failed to gain traction in the Legislature. The state does not track which districts allow spanking because those decisions are made at the local level, a spokeswoman for Missouri’s K-12 education department said.

U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, is pushing for a ban on the use of corporal punishment in schools that receive federal funding. He has called it a “barbaric practice” that allows teachers and administrators to physically abuse students.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Somali Forces End Hotel Attack In Which 21 Were Killed

By Associated Press
August 21, 2022

The Islamic extremist group al-Shabab, which has ties with al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Somali authorities on Sunday ended a deadly attack in which 21 people were killed and dozens more wounded when gunmen stormed a hotel in the capital.

It took Somali forces more than 30 hours to contain the fighters who had stormed Mogadishu’s Hayat Hotel on Friday evening in an assault that started with loud explosions.

The siege ended around midnight, police commissioner Abdi Hassan Hijar told reporters. “During the attack, the security forces rescued many civilians trapped in the hotel, including women and children,” he said.

Health Minister Dr. Ali Haji Adam reported 21 deaths and 117 people wounded, with at least 15 in critical condition. He noted that some victims may not have been brought to hospitals.

Police are yet to give a detailed explanation of how the attack unfolded and it remains unclear how many gunmen entered the hotel.

Ismail Abdi, the hotel’s manager, told The Associated Press early Sunday that security forces were still working to clear the area. No more gunfire could be heard after 9 a.m. local time. Onlookers gathered outside the gates of the badly damaged hotel on Sunday morning, surveying the scene.

The Islamic extremist group al-Shabab, which has ties with al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest of its frequent attempts to strike places visited by government officials.

Al-Shabab opposes the federal government and the outsiders who support it.

The attack on the hotel is the first major terror incident in Mogadishu since Somalia’s new leader, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, took over in May.

Somalia’s previous president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, avoided any major confrontation with al-Shabab. But Mohamud has said his government will take the offensive against the group’s thousands of fighters, with the backing of returning U.S. forces.

Al-Shabab charged via its Andalus radio station that the attack on the hotel was in response to Mohamud’s assertion that he would eliminate the group from Somalia.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack, according to a spokesman’s statement that said the U.N. supports the people of Somalia “in their fight against terrorism and their march towards peace.”

Al-Shabab remains the most lethal Islamic extremist group in Africa.

The group has seized even more territory in recent years, taking advantage of rifts among Somali security personnel as well as disagreements between the government seat in Mogadishu and regional states. It remains the biggest threat to political stability in the volatile Horn of Africa nation.

Forced to retreat from Mogadishu in 2011, al-Shabab is slowly making a comeback from the rural areas to which it retreated, defying the presence of African Union peacekeepers as well as U.S. drone strikes targeting its fighters.

The militants in early May attacked a military base for AU peacekeepers outside Mogadishu, killing many Burundian troops. The attack came just days before the presidential vote that returned Mohamud to power five years after he had been voted out.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Gunmen Storm Hotel In Somali Capital, Leave 20 Dead

By Associated Press

and Newsy Staff
August 20, 2022

According to police and witnesses, at least 40 people were also wounded in the late Friday night attack.

Islamic militants have stormed a hotel in Somalia’s capital, engaging in an hours-long exchange of fire with the security forces that left at least 20 people dead, according to police and witnesses.

In addition, at least 40 people were wounded in the late Friday night attack and security forces rescued many others, including children, from the scene at Mogadishu’s popular Hayat Hotel, they said Saturday.

The attack started with explosions outside the hotel before the gunmen entered the building.

Somali forces were still trying to end the siege of the hotel almost 24 hours after the attack started. Gunfire could still be heard Saturday evening as security forces tried to contain the last gunmen thought to be holed up on the hotel’s top floor.

The Islamic extremist group al-Shabab, which has ties with al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest of its frequent attempts to strike places visited by government officials. The attack on the hotel is the first major terror incident in Mogadishu since Somalia’s new leader, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, took over in May.

In a Twitter post, the U.S. Embassy in Somalia said it “strongly condemns” the attack on the Hayat.

“We extend condolences to the families of loved ones killed, wish a full recovery to the injured, & pledge continued support for #Somalia to hold murderers accountable & build when others destroy,” it said.

There was no immediate word on the identities of the victims, but many are believed to be civilians.

Mohamed Abdirahman, director of Mogadishu’s Madina Hospital, told the AP that 40 people were admitted there with wounds or injuries from the attack. While nine were sent home after getting treatment, five are in critical condition in the ICU, he said.

“We were having tea near the hotel lobby when we heard the first blast, followed by gunfire. I immediately rushed toward hotel rooms on the ground floor and I locked the door,” witness Abdullahi Hussein said by phone. “The militants went straight upstairs and started shooting. I was inside the room until the security forces arrived and rescued me.”

He said on his way to safety he saw “several bodies lying on the ground outside hotel reception.”

Al-Shabab remains the most lethal Islamic extremist group in Africa.

The group has seized even more territory in recent years, taking advantage of rifts among Somali security personnel as well as disagreements between the government seat in Mogadishu and regional states. It remains the biggest threat to political stability in the volatile Horn of Africa nation.

Forced to retreat from Mogadishu in 2011, al-Shabab is slowly making a comeback from the rural areas to which it retreated, defying the presence of African Union peacekeepers as well as U.S. drone strikes targeting its fighters.

The militants in early May attacked a military base for AU peacekeepers outside Mogadishu, killing many Burundian troops. The attack came just days before the presidential vote that returned Mohamud to power five years after he had been voted out.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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U.S. To Hold Trade Talks With Taiwan

The announcement of trade talks comes after Beijing fired missiles into the sea to intimidate Taiwan after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited.

The U.S. government will hold trade talks with Taiwan in a sign of support for the island democracy that China claims as its own territory, prompting Beijing to warn Thursday it will take action if necessary to “safeguard its sovereignty.”

The announcement of trade talks comes after Beijing fired missiles into the sea to intimidate Taiwan after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this month became the highest-ranking American official to visit the island in 25 years.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government criticized the planned talks as a violation of its stance that Taiwan has no right to foreign relations. It warned Washington not to encourage the island to try to make its de facto independence permanent, a step Beijing says would lead to war.

“China firmly opposes this,” Ministry of Commerce spokesperson Shu Jueting said. She called on Washington to “fully respect China’s core interests.”

Also Thursday, Taiwan’s military held a drill with missiles and cannons simulating a response to a Chinese missile attack.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 after a civil war and have no official relations but are bound by billions of dollars of trade and investment. The island never has been part of the People’s Republic of China, but the ruling Communist Party says it is obliged to unite with the mainland, by force if necessary.

President Joe Biden’s coordinator for the Indo-Pacific region, Kurt Campbell, said last week that trade talks would “deepen our ties with Taiwan” but stressed policy wasn’t changing. The United States has no diplomatic relations with Taiwan, its ninth-largest trading partner, but maintains extensive informal ties.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s announcement of the talks made no mention of tension with Beijing but said “formal negotiations” would develop trade and regulatory ties, a step that would entail closer official interaction.

Being allowed to export more to the United States might help Taiwan blunt China’s efforts to use its status as the island’s biggest trading partner as political leverage. The mainland blocked imports of Taiwanese citrus and other food in retaliation for Pelosi’s Aug. 2 visit.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry expressed “high welcome” for the trade talks, which it said will lead to a “new page” in relations with the United States.

“As the situation across the Taiwan Strait has recently escalated, the U.S. government will continue to take concrete actions to maintain security and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” it said in a statement.

U.S.-Chinese relations are at their lowest level in decades amid disputes over trade, security, technology, and Beijing’s treatment of Muslim minorities and Hong Kong.

The U.S. Trade Representative said negotiations would be conducted under the auspices of Washington’s unofficial embassy, the American Institute in Taiwan.

“China always opposes any form of official exchanges between any country and the Taiwan region of China,” said Shu, the Chinese spokesperson. “China will take all necessary measures to resolutely safeguard its sovereignty.”

Washington says it takes no position on the status of China and Taiwan but wants their dispute settled peacefully. The U.S. government is obligated by federal law to see that the island has the means to defend itself.

“We will continue to take calm and resolute steps to uphold peace and stability in the face of Beijing’s ongoing efforts to undermine it, and to support Taiwan,” Campbell said during a conference call last Friday.

China takes more than twice as much of Taiwan’s exports as the United States, its No. 2 foreign market. Taiwan’s government says its companies have invested almost $200 billion in the mainland. Beijing says a 2020 census found some 158,000 Taiwanese entrepreneurs, professionals and others live on the mainland.

China’s ban on imports of citrus, fish and hundreds of other Taiwanese food products hurt rural areas seen as supporters of President Tsai Ing-wen, but those goods account for less than 0.5% of Taiwan’s exports to the mainland.

Beijing did nothing that might affect the flow of processor chips from Taiwan that are needed by Chinese factories that assemble the world’s smartphones and consumer electronics. The island is the world’s biggest chip supplier.

A second group of U.S. lawmakers led by Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, arrived on Taiwan on Sunday and met with Tsai. Beijing announced a second round of military drills after their arrival.

Taiwan, with 23.6 million people, has launched its own military drills in response.

On Thursday, drills at Hualien Air Base on the east coast simulated a response to a Chinese missile attack. Military personnel practiced with Taiwanese-made Sky Bow 3 anti-aircraft missiles and 35mm anti-aircraft cannon but didn’t fire them.

“We didn’t panic” when China launched military drills, said air force Maj. Chen Teh-huan.

“Our usual training is to be on call 24 hours a day to prepare for missile launches,” Chen said. “We were ready.”

The U.S.-Taiwanese talks also will cover agriculture, labor, the environment, digital technology, the status of state-owned enterprises and “non-market policies,” the U.S. Trade Representative said.

Washington and Beijing are locked in a 3-year-old tariff war over many of the same issues.

They include China’s support for government companies that dominate many of its industries and complaints that Beijing steals foreign technology and limits access to an array of fields in violation of its market-opening commitments.

Then-President Donald Trump raised tariffs on Chinese goods in 2019 in response to complaints that its technology development tactics violate its free-trade commitments and threaten U.S. industrial leadership. President Biden has left most of those tariff hikes in place.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Ex-Rebel Takes Oath As Colombia President In Historic Shift

Sen. Gustavo Petro won the presidential election in June by beating conservative parties who failed to connect with frustrated voters.

Colombia’s first leftist president was sworn into office Sunday, promising to fight inequality and bring peace to a country haunted by feuds between the government, drug traffickers and rebel groups.

Sen. Gustavo Petro, a former member of Colombia’s M-19 guerrilla group, won the presidential election in June by beating conservative parties that offered moderate changes to the market-friendly economy, but failed to connect with voters frustrated by rising poverty and violence against human rights leaders and environmental groups in rural areas.

On Sunday, he said Colombia was getting a “second chance” to tackle violence and poverty and promised that his government would implement economic policies that seek to end longstanding inequalities and ensure “solidarity” with the nation’s most vulnerable.

The incoming president said he was willing to start peace talks with armed groups across the country and also called on the United States and other developed nations to change drug policies that have focused on the prohibition of substances like cocaine, and fed violent conflicts across Colombia and other Latin American nations.

“It’s time for a new international convention that accepts that the war on drug has failed,” he said. “Of course peace is possible. But it depends on current drug policies being substituted with strong measures that prevent consumption in developed societies.”

Petro is part of a growing group of leftist politicians and political outsiders who have been winning elections in Latin America since the pandemic broke out and hurt incumbents who struggled with its economic aftershocks.

The ex-rebel’s victory was also exceptional for Colombia, where voters had been historically reluctant to back leftist politicians who were often accused of being soft on crime or allied with guerrillas.

A 2016 peace deal between Colombia’s government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia turned much of the focus of voters away from the violent conflicts playing out in rural areas and gave prominence to problems like poverty and corruption, fueling the popularity of leftist parties in national elections. However smaller rebel groups like the National Liberation Army and the Gulf Clan continue to fight over drug trafficking routes, illegal gold mines and other resources abandoned by the FARC.

Petro, 62, has described U.S.-led antinarcotics policies as a failure but has also said he would like to work with Washington “as equals,” building schemes to combat climate change or bring infrastructure to rural areas where many farmers say coca leaves are the only viable crop.

Petro also formed alliances with environmentalists during his presidential campaign and has promised to turn Colombia into a “global powerhouse for life” by slowing deforestation and taking steps to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.

The incoming president has said Colombia will stop granting new licenses for oil exploration and will ban fracking projects, even though the oil industry makes up almost 50% of the nation’s legal exports. He plans to finance social spending with a $10 billion a year tax reform that would boost taxes on the rich and do away with corporate tax breaks.

“He’s got a very ambitious agenda,” said Yan Basset, a political scientist at Bogota’s Rosario University. “But he will have to prioritize. The risk Petro faces is that he goes after too many reforms at once and gets nothing” through Colombia’s congress.

In Cúcuta, a city just a few miles from the border with Venezuela, trade school student Daniela Cárdenas hopes Petro will carry out an educational reform that includes financial aid for college students.

“He has promised so many things,” Cardenas, 19, said after traveling 90 minutes from her rural community to the city. “At least we work to be able to pay our student fees, which are quite expensive and, well, that makes many things difficult for us.”

Eight heads of state attended Petro’s inauguration, which was held at a large colonial-era square in front of Colombia’s Congress. Stages with live music and big screens were also placed in parks across Bogota’s city center so that tens of thousands of citizens without invitations to the main event could join in the festivities. That marked a big change for Colombia where previous presidential inaugurations were more somber events limited to a few hundred VIP guests.

“It’s the first time that people from the base can come here to be part of a presidential inauguration,” said Luis Alberto Tombe, a member of the Guambiano tribe wearing a traditional blue poncho. “We feel honored to be here.”

Hours before Petro took office, at the most important border crossing bridge with Venezuela, a group of people carried a Colombian flag as they walked toward Venezuela chanting “Viva Colombia, Viva Venezuela.” People crossing in both directions joined their chants.

“We wish peace for both Venezuela and Colombia,” organizer Salvador Albarracin said. “Today, we are in Colombia sowing the possibilities of peace through a person who is President Gustavo Petro.”

Dozens of people erupted in cheers the moment Petro took office.

“Seeing Gustavo Petro as president is something very impressive and being aware that for the first time in our lives we are in a government,” Javier Uscategui, a human rights defender who works with victims of the armed conflict, said while wearing a baseball cap with the faces of the late Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and other leftist leaders.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Ex-Rebel Sworn In As Colombia’s President In Historic Shift

By Associated Press
August 7, 2022

Sen. Gustavo Petro won the presidential election by beating conservative parties who failed to connect with frustrated voters.

Colombia’s first leftist president will be sworn into office Sunday, promising to fight inequality and heralding a turning point in the history of a country haunted by a long war between the government and guerrilla groups.

Sen. Gustavo Petro, a former member of Colombia’s M-19 guerrilla group, won the presidential election in June by beating conservative parties that offered moderate changes to the market-friendly economy, but failed to connect with voters frustrated by rising poverty and violence against human rights leaders and environmental groups in rural areas.

Petro is part of a growing group of leftist politicians and political outsiders who have been winning elections in Latin America since the pandemic broke out and hurt incumbents who struggled with its economic aftershocks.

The ex-rebel’s victory was also exceptional for Colombia, where voters had been historically reluctant to back leftist politicians who were often accused of being soft on crime or allied with guerrillas.

A 2016 peace deal between Colombia’s government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia turned much of the focus of voters away from the violent conflicts playing out in rural areas and gave prominence to problems like poverty and corruption, fueling the popularity of leftist parties in national elections.

Petro, 62, has promised to tackle Colombia’s social and economic inequalities by boosting spending on anti-poverty programs and increasing investment in rural areas. He has described U.S.-led antinarcotics policies, such as the forced eradication of illegal coca crops, as a “big failure.” But he has said he would like to work with Washington “as equals,” building schemes to combat climate change or bring infrastructure to rural areas where many farmers say coca leaves are the only viable crop.

Petro also formed alliances with environmentalists during his presidential campaign and has promised to turn Colombia into a “global powerhouse for life” by slowing deforestation and taking steps to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.

The incoming president has said Colombia will stop granting new licenses for oil exploration and will ban fracking projects, even though the oil industry makes up almost 50% of the nation’s legal exports. He plans to finance social spending with a $10 billion a year tax reform that would boost taxes on the rich and do away with corporate tax breaks.

Petro has also said he wants to start peace talks with remaining rebel groups that are currently fighting over drug routes, gold mines and other resources abandoned by the FARC after their peace deal with the government.

“He’s got a very ambitious agenda,” said Yan Basset, a political scientist at Bogota’s Rosario University. “But he will have to prioritize. The risk Petro faces is that he goes after too many reforms at once and gets nothing” through Colombia’s congress.

At least 10 heads of state are expected to attend Petro’s inauguration, which will take place at a large colonial-era square in front of Colombia’s Congress. Stages with live music and big screens will also be placed in parks across Bogota’s city center so that tens of thousands of citizens without invitations to the main event can also join in the festivities. That’s a big change for Colombia where previous presidential inaugurations were more somber events limited to a few hundred VIP guests.

“We want the Colombian people to be the protagonists,” Petro’s press chief, Marisol Rojas, said in a statement. “This inauguration will be the first taste of a new form of governing, where all forms of life are respected, and where everyone fits in.”

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Myanmar Executions Of 4 Activists Spur Global Outrage

The execution of the four activists prompted immediate calls from around the world for a moratorium on carrying out any further sentences.

International outrage over Myanmar’s execution of four political prisoners intensified Tuesday with grassroots protests and strong condemnation from world governments, as well as fears the hangings could derail nascent attempts to bring an end to the violence and unrest that has beset the Southeast Asian nation since the military seized power last year.

Myanmar’s military-led government that seized power from elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021 has been accused of thousands of extrajudicial killings since then, but the hangings announced Monday were the country’s first official executions in decades.

“We feel that this is a crime against humanity,” said Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah, speaking at the side of the United Nations’ Special Envoy on Myanmar Noeleen Heyzer at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur.

He said the executions would be a focus of the upcoming meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations foreign ministers, which begin in Cambodia in a week.

Myanmar is a member of the influential ASEAN group, which has been trying to implement a five-point consensus it reached on Myanmar last year calling for dialogue among all concerned parties, provision of humanitarian assistance, an immediate cessation of violence and a visit by a special envoy to meet all parties.

With the executions, he said, “we look at it as if the junta is making a mockery of the five point process.”

Heyzer said that the U.N. sees the executions as a “blatant violation” of a person’s “right to life, liberty and security.”

In Bangkok, hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators protested outside neighboring Myanmar’s embassy, waving flags and chanting slogans amid a heavy downpour.

“The dictators used their power arbitrarily,” yelled a young man through a bullhorn to the crowd, some of whom waved pictures of Suu Kyi or the four executed men. “We can’t tolerate this any more.”

Myanmar’s government spokesperson, Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, firmly rejected the criticism, saying the executions were carried out in line with the country’s law and not for “personal” reasons.

“We knew that there may be criticism when the death penalties were handed down and conducted in line with domestic law,” he told reporters. “However, we did it for reasons of domestic stability, for the rule of law and order, and security.”

He said the executed men were convicted of crimes involving supporting violent “terrorists” and acts — allegations denied by their defenders — and said their punishment was “appropriate.”

“If we considered leniency for those who committed such crimes it would have been cruel and without sympathy for the victims,” he said.

Among the four executed was Phyo Zeya Thaw, a 41-year-old former lawmaker from Suu Kyi’s party, and Kyaw Min Yu, a 53-year-old democracy activist better known as Ko Jimmy. All were tried, convicted and sentenced by a military tribunal with no possibility of appeal.

The executions were carried out over the weekend, and came as a surprise even to family members.

Phyo Zeya Thaw’s mother Khin Win May told The Associated Press she had just spoken with her son via video conference on Friday and he had asked her for reading glasses, books and some spending money.

“I was a little shocked when I heard about the execution, I think it will take some time,” she said.

She said she hoped her son and the others would be seen as martyrs for their cause.

“I’m proud of all of them as they sacrificed their lives for the country,” she said.

The execution of the four activists prompted immediate calls from around the world for a moratorium on carrying out any further sentences, and condemnation for what was broadly seen as a politically motivated move.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, announced in June that it was going to resume executing prisoners and has 113 others who have been sentenced to death, although 41 of those were convicted in absentia, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a non-governmental organization that tracks killing and arrests. At the same time, 2,120 civilians have been killed by security forces since the military takeover.

“This was a barbaric act by Myanmar’s military regime,” said New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta of the four executions carried out. “New Zealand condemns these actions in the strongest possible terms.”

Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong said she was “appalled” by the executions.

“Australia opposes the death penalty in all circumstances for all people,” she said.

Earlier, Australia and New Zealand had joined the European Union, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Norway and South Korea in a joint statement condemning the executions.

ASEAN denounced the executions as “highly reprehensible.”

It said the move represented a setback to the group’s efforts to facilitate a dialogue between the military leadership and opponents.

“We strongly and urgently call on all parties concerned to desist from taking actions that would only further aggravate the crisis, hinder peaceful dialogue among all parties concerned, and endanger peace, security and stability, not only in Myanmar, but the whole region,” the group said in a statement.

The military’s seizure of power from Suu Kyi’s elected government triggered peaceful protests that soon escalated to armed resistance and then to widespread fighting that some U.N. experts characterize as a civil war.

Some resistance groups have engaged in assassinations, drive-by shootings and bombings in urban areas. Mainstream opposition organizations generally disavow such activities, while supporting armed resistance in rural areas that are more often subject to brutal military attacks.

News of the executions prompted a flash-demonstration Monday in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, where about a dozen protesters took to the streets marching behind a banner saying “we are never afraid,” then quickly slipping away before authorities could confront them.

Similar demonstrations broke out in more rural areas across Myanmar on both Monday and Tuesday.

The last judicial execution to be carried out in Myanmar is generally believed to have been of another political offender, student leader Salai Tin Maung Oo, in 1976 under a previous military government led by dictator Ne Win.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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