Trump calls for national unity against coronavirus

first_imgUS President Donald Trump on Tuesday called for a unified national response to the coronavirus threat, after coming under fire for downplaying the pandemic and allowing states to go their own way.Trump’s call came as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the White House was presenting a massive economic stimulus plan to Congress and was looking at sending direct payments to all Americans, as well as aid to embattled airlines.Bringing home that nobody is immune to catching the virus, one of the world’s most high-profile athletes, National Basketball Association star Kevin Durant, reportedly confirmed he tested positive. In a White House appearance that was striking for its mostly measured and sober tone, Trump praised the Democratic governors of New York and California — whom he has frequently tangled with — and excoriated states that were not adhering to strict new guidelines on social distancing.”We are looking to save the maximum number of lives. Everything else is going to come back, but a life is not going to come back,” Trump said.The number of US cases has surged to almost 6,400, according to a tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University, with 100 deaths according to an AFP tally.The outbreak has spread to all 50 US states after West Virginia confirmed its first case Tuesday. Topics :center_img Those figures seemed to be driving a sense of urgency as schools close their doors, businesses shift to teleworking and hospitals prepare to meet a wave of expected patients.Trump has been repeatedly accused of underplaying the pandemic, particularly in its early stages, in order to avoid spooking the markets.But he no longer appeared to be using that playbook and hailed a markedly improved feeling of bipartisanship.”It’s been a great thing to see… getting along with Democrats, getting along with Republicans,” said Trump. “There’s been a lot of spirit with things happening that I haven’t seen in almost three and a half years.”A coronavirus drive-thru testing site is up and running at the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center on March 17, 2020 at Jones Beach State Park, New York. It is the first drive thru coronavirus testing site on Long Island. The World Health Organization declared coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic on March 11th. (AFP/Getty Images/Al Bello)Most cases in New York The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday issued new guidelines to be followed for up to two weeks, advising against gatherings of more than 10 people and urging against visiting public spaces like restaurants or gyms.That led to criticism of public officials who had just days earlier called for people to go about their daily lives — including Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt and Californian congressman Devin Nunes, both Republicans.Democratic presidential primaries nevertheless went ahead Tuesday in three states — Florida, Illinois and Arizona.A top coronavirus task force official, Deborah Birx, said: “We believe that every mayor and every governor should implement these guidelines that came from the White House and the President of the United States.”The US epidemic had been centered on northwest Washington state, but new figures give New York state the highest number of cases with almost 1,400.Asked his views on when the national epidemic was set to peak, Anthony Fauci, the head of infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health, told reporters at the White House that 45 days “is not unreasonable.”He said the taskforce would evaluate if even more draconian measures were required in the next two weeks.And he called for young people to play their part by remaining at home even if they themselves were not particularly vulnerable to the illness.A member of the press has their temperature taken during a COVID-19 pandemic briefing at the White House March 17, 2020, in Washington, DC. – The coronavirus outbreak has transformed the US virtually overnight from a place of boundless consumerism to one suddenly constrained by nesting and social distancing.The crisis tests all retailers, leading to temporary store closures at companies like Apple and Nike, manic buying of food staples at supermarkets and big-box stores like Walmart even as many stores remain open for business — albeit in a weirdly anemic consumer environment. ( AFP/Brendan Smialowski)’Very accurate’ Trump’s administration is drawing up a massive emergency spending package while the Federal Reserve has opened the floodgates of financing to contain the growing economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic.Twice on Tuesday it announced new credit facilities. The latest will provide funding for up to 90 days to major financial institutions known as primary dealers, the Fed said.Earlier Tuesday it unveiled a facility to help households and businesses stay afloat.The president called for bipartisan support for rushing out immediate cash payments to American families.Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the emergency spending measures could surpass $1 trillion, in addition to $300 billion in deferred tax payments — far greater than during the global financial meltdown that began in 2008.While Tuesday’s appearance by the president signaled a shift in rhetoric — there was one area where he remained particularly combative, still referring to the pathogen as the “Chinese virus” despite objections from Beijing.”It did come from China, so I think it’s very accurate,” he said, indicating it was payback for a Chinese disinformation campaign that called the virus a US bioweapon.Durant, of the Brooklyn Nets, is reportedly one of four players from the team who tested positive.”We’re going to get through this,” The Athletic website quoted him as saying.last_img read more


New York considering stay-at-home order within 48 hours

first_imgDe Blasio said any decision about New York would be taken in consultation with state Governor Andrew Cuomo.New York’s restaurants and bars were ordered closed this week, except for takeout, and the city’s large public schools system is also shuttered as officials scramble to slow the spread of COVID-19.The virus has claimed seven lives in New York City, with confirmed cases at 814, according to officials. New York’s mayor said Tuesday the city’s 8.6 million inhabitants should prepare for being ordered to stay at home at any moment within the next 48 hours to help contain the coronavirus pandemic.Bill de Blasio told reporters that a decision had not been made but that New Yorkers could soon be confined to their residences, barring any essential travel. “I think that all New Yorkers should be prepared right now for the possibility of a ‘shelter-in-place’ order,” the mayor said. “I think we have to come to that decision in the next 48 hours,” he added, without specifying what exactly the order would look like.His comments came a day after San Francisco’s mayor announced a “remain-in-place” order restricting millions of Californians to their homes except for basic needs.Also Monday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced he was limiting the movements of residents of the state in a bid to contain the outbreak.He said “all non-essential and non-emergency travel” between 8:00 pm and 5:00 am was “strongly discouraged.”center_img Topics :last_img read more


Israel’s health minister diagnosed with coronavirus

first_imgLitzman heads an ultra-Orthodox Jewish party, and has appealed to his community to obey health ministry curbs after some rabbis and members cast doubt on the virus risk and chafed against stay-at-home orders.Israeli officials describe the ultra-Orthodox as especially prone to contagion because their districts tend to be poor and congested.Netanyahu announced new curbs on Wednesday to deter movement around Bnai Brak, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish town that has suffered a disproportionately large outbreak.”The public now has to listen to the health ministry,” Litzman said in an interview published on Tuesday in the Yedioth Ahronot newspaper.”I proposed to the prime minister and interior minister today to put Bnei Brak on lockdown,” he added. “The situation there is horrible. Every day we stall, we put lives at risk.” Litzman and his wife feel well, the ministry said in a statement.”(An) epidemiological investigation will be carried out, and isolation requests will be sent to those who have come into contact with (him) and his wife in the past two weeks.”Netanyahu tested negative for the virus on Monday after a parliamentary aide was confirmed to have it. The right-wing premier, 70, was in self-isolation until late on Wednesday, but it was not immediately clear if he had any contact with Litzman.Israel has reported at least 25 deaths and more than 6,000 infections. Tight curbs have largely confined Israelis to their homes, forcing businesses to close and causing unemployment to skyrocket to more than 24%. Israel’s health minister and his wife were diagnosed with coronavirus and are in isolation following guidelines, the health ministry said on Thursday.Yaakov Litzman, 71, an ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has appeared regularly alongside the premier to provide updates on the spread of the pandemic and new measures to combat it.But Litzman has scaled back public appearances in recent weeks and the ministry’s director-general has held daily briefings instead.center_img Topics :last_img read more


Activists, experts caution against slapdash reform to tackle prison overcrowding

first_imgYasonna told lawmakers at last Thursday’s teleconference that he would formally request approval from President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to resume deliberations on the revised KUHP and Correctional Facilities Law that had been carried over from the previous legislative session.Widespread protests from thousands of students and activists had forced Jokowi to delay the deliberations in September 2019. The protests criticized the deliberations for commencing just weeks before the end of the previous legislative session, as well as articles that they said would roll back decades of political reform to the New Order era.The revised KUHP and Correctional Facilities Law would automatically void a 2012 Government Regulation on the rights of prisoners, which stipulates stringent criteria to determine the eligibility for sentence remissions and parole for inmates convicted of extraordinary crimes like corruption, drug crimes and terrorism.Yasonna told lawmakers this time that he intended to revise the 2012 regulation to facilitate the conditional release of around 300 graft convicts aged 60 and above, among others.Yasonna also aims to release 30,000 convicts of general crimes who have served at least two-thirds of their jail terms to prevent outbreaks in the country’s overcrowded prisons, as part of the law ministry’s COVID-19 prevention measure.Read also: Overcrowded and understaffed, prisons scramble to protect inmates from infectionFollowing immediate objections from antigraft activists who questioned the motive behind the inclusion of corruption convicts that represented only a tiny proportion of the prison population, Jokowi was quick to clarify on Monday that his administration had never considered corruption convicts under the scheme.According to the ministry’s February data, Indonesia has locked up 4,891 corruption convicts, far fewer than 91,308 convicts serving their sentences for drug trafficking and 46,794 convicts service time for drug abuse. Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly’s latest plan to revisit prison reform is not without controversy. The growing number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia has reignited the debate on reducing overcrowding at the country’s prisons, prompting lawmakers to consider overhauling the correctional system.The government has moved fast to rally the support of the House of Representatives, which agreed to resume deliberating the controversial revisions to the Criminal Code (KUHP) and the 1995 Correctional Facilities Law, which could pave the way to end prison overcrowding.The 524 prisons and detention centers across the country hold 268,919 inmates including some 60,000 detainees, more than double the maximum capacity of 132,107 inmates, according to the Law and Human Rights Ministry’s February 2020 data. It has also been reported that graft convicts enjoy arguably less cramped prison conditions compared to prisoners convicted of other crimes.Sukamiskin penitentiary in Bandung, West Java, for example, had 464 inmates in March, including 366 corruption convicts and five detainees, about 100 inmates fewer than its maximum capacity of 560 inmates.While the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) initially said that it was open to the idea, it now says it is against the plan to grant early releases to graft convicts.Anticorruption activists have said that reducing prison overcrowding is not as simple as granting early releases or remissions. Rigorous overhaul of Indonesia’s correctional system and codifications in the KUHP, the Criminal Law Procedures Code (KUHAP) and other related laws was pivotal to developing long-term solutions. They also said that any amendments or revisions, including to the KUHP, should consider additional alternatives to imprisonment.Activists also slammed the House’s apparent haste to resume deliberating the KUHP on the pretext of the COVID-19 outbreak. They said that doing so could only lead to excessive criminalization, given that the revised bill still included contentious provisions that would penalize activities in the personal domain, like consensual sex and cohabitation among unmarried people.“Depenalization and decriminalization should be promoted [in the amended KUHP] for of several criminal offenses, considering that overcrowding has been partly caused by overcriminalization in existing regulations,” said Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) researcher Genoveva Alicia.Over the last two decades of reform, Indonesia has been obsessed with criminalizing certain acts and putting those who have committed such as behind bars.From 1998 to 2015, at least 1,600 new crimes had been added to Indonesia’s criminal justice system, most of which carried cumulative punishments such as a prison term and a fine, said criminal law lecturer Miko Ginting of the Indonesia Jentera School of Law in Jakarta.The prison population has grown steadily over the years, from around 117,000 in 2010 to 163,000 in 2014 and to 256,000 in 2018, according to the World Prison Brief (WPB) online database, hosted by the Institute for Criminal Policy Research at the University of London.Rising incarceration (JP/Swi Handono)Indonesia’s incarceration rate is among the world’s lowest at 100 people per 100,000 population, but the country ranks 8th in highest prison population total among the 223 countries and territories in the world collated in the WPB database.Many blame Indonesia’s overcrowded prisons on the judicial system, the existing KUHP and the punitive attitude of the judiciary, prosecutors and law enforcement officers, particularly when it comes to drug crimes.Read also: Dian Sasmita: Listening to troubled juveniles on the road to healing“In the Narcotics Law, there are alternative [sentences] such as rehabilitation,” Jentera’s Miko said, referring to the different sentencing options available depending on the criminal charge. “But the imposition of these charges pale in comparison to those punishable by imprisonment.”“There is a tendency among the judiciary to hand down prison sentences despite the availability of alternative forms of punishment, such as [rehabilitation] for [drug crimes],” he noted.The 2009 Narcotics Law permits judges to sentence drug users and victims of drug abuse to rehabilitation rather than imprisonment, but judges often refrain from imposing the alternative sentencing scheme.  Meanwhile, activists say that police and prosecutors often mistakenly classify drug addicts as drug dealers or traffickers.In other indications of the country’s failed correctional system, Indonesia has seen numerous jailbreaks, cases of drug rings operated from behind bars, illegal excursions and lavish facilities granted to inmates, as well as radicalization in prisons.As part of the codification of criminal law, the ICJR’s Genoveva urged the government to issue implementing regulations to ensure that the judiciary and law enforcement applied non-penal approaches like probation for certain cases.”In a nutshell, we need total reform [that involves] careful and comprehensive calculations,” said Miko.Topics : The data also showed that the nation’s correctional facilities report an average occupancy of 104 percent.Chronic overcrowding in the national prison system, combined with poor management and a shortage of wardens, has led to frequent prison riots. The most notorious among these occurred in 2013 at Tanjung Gusta prison in Medan, North Sumatra, and in 2018 at the Kelapa Dua Mobile Brigade headquarters (Mako Brimob) detention center in Depok, West Java. The two deadly incidents prompted the government to reform the prison system, yet overcrowding has persisted.last_img read more


Bikes help New Yorkers ride out coronavirus lockdown

first_imgWhen America’s oldest bike shop opened, the Spanish flu was ravaging New York. More than a century later, it’s helping residents work and stay sane as cycling takes on a vital role during the coronavirus pandemic.While almost all stores were ordered to close for the Big Apple’s COVID-19 shutdown, bike shops like Bellitte Bicycles were deemed essential businesses and allowed to stay open.They have proven a godsend for New Yorkers needing to commute to hospitals, migrant workers delivering takeouts and cooped-up residents desperate to escape their cramped apartments for some solitary exercise. Bellitte Bicycles is the oldest continuously owned bike shop in the United States, according to Bellitte, who is the third generation of his family to own the store.It opened the year a flu pandemic killed about 30,000 New Yorkers, operated during the Great Depression, World War Two, the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Sandy, which caused devastation in 2012.”We’ve seen it all. The coronavirus pandemic is like coming full circle,” Bellitte, 56, told AFP, adding that he thinks this is the worst crisis yet “because of the uncertainty.”For many workers, New York’s shutdown, which Governor Andrew Cuomo extended until April 29, has made them rely on a bicycle for the first time. Oliver Bucknor — 50 years old and originally from the Caribbean island of Jamaica — lost his job as a van driver when the deadly outbreak started spreading across the city early last month.He bought an old bike from his landlord for $250 and brought it into Bellitte’s for a tune-up before embarking on a new job delivering food.”A bike is a lifeline for a lot of people,” he told AFP. “It allows me to keep making a living.”Other residents are making use of Citi Bikes, New York’s popular bicycle share scheme, which the government has temporarily made free to overwhelmed health care staff.  Emily Rogers, a 27-year-old social worker, started cycling the half-hour to and from the public hospital where she works on a Citi Bike after she became concerned about using the subway.”It’s nice to be outside for a little bit and not feel guilty about it,” Rogers told AFP, adding that she’ll probably stick with cycling once New York reopens.Citi Bike has expanded the cleaning of its bikes. Staff placed at popular docking stations disinfect the two-wheelers when they are returned by customers.Rides increased as the virus first started to cause concern but they fell once residents were ordered to work from home later in March.During the lockdown, the most popular docks have switched from being outside train and bus stations to near hospitals, suggesting medical staff and relatives visiting COVID-19 patients are relying on Citi Bikes.”This is not a normal ridership pattern,” a Citi Bikes spokesperson told AFP.For other New Yorkers, cycling is a way to stay healthy and kill the boredom of a weeks-long lockdown, even if it means pedalling without friends. “It’s good for your body, it’s good for your soul, it’s good for your mind,” said Peter Storey, 64-year-old president of the New York Cycle Club.Robin Lester-Kenton, 41, needed to get her sons — aged seven and five — out of the house and has been taking advantage of an empty basketball court in Brooklyn to teach them how to cycle.”There is nothing like a magical open space right now,” she told AFP.Doom and gloom abounds too, though, as the coronavirus cripples bike tour companies, with operations halted due to the ban on social gathering and an absence of tourists. John McKee, owner of Brooklyn Giro tours, estimates the crisis has put his company back two years.”Last year we were all celebrating and going out for steak dinners. This year it’s like we’re all trying to figure out food stamps,” he said.Back at Bellitte Bicycles, Bellitte says it will stay open for as long as they remain healthy themselves. “If one of our guys shows symptoms we’ll have to close.”Topics : “Business has been good but it’s also about serving the community,” said co-owner Sal Bellitte, whose grandfather opened the shop, situated in the Jamaica area of Queens, in 1918.As inhabitants skip buses and subway trains due to social distancing and enjoy streets devoid of usual traffic, bike shops are one of the few businesses doing a decent trade.”Business is booming,” said 29-year-old Paris Correa, who recently started working at Bike Stop, another outlet in Queens. “I was hired because the owner knew it was going to be crazy.”Residents are getting old bikes spruced up or buying new ones to compensate for canceled Pilates classes and closed gyms while delivery men stop by to get brakes or gears fixed.last_img read more


Raw materials coming from India to produce COVID-19 medicine

first_imgState-owned firms have received COVID-19 medicine and raw materials from India to help treat infected patients in the country.Arya Sinulingga, an aide to State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Minister Erick Thohir, said on Wednesday that state-owned pharmaceutical firm PT Bio Farma had received its orders for oseltamivir on Tuesday afternoon from Hyderabad, India.“The oseltamivir is enough to make 500,000 tablets of medicine that will be used to treat COVID-19 patients,” he told the press during a virtual press briefing. Oseltamivir is the raw material for Tamiflu, which is often used to treat COVID-19 patients. Arya added that Bio Farma had also ordered 1 ton of chloroquine that will also be used to help treat patients infected with the pneumonia-like illness.Other than procuring the necessary medicine to treat the illness, he also said that several SOEs would soon produce 200 ventilators that would be used for patients in mild and critical conditions.“The ventilator prototypes from several universities and companies are still being tested by the Health Ministry. Once the test is finished, SOEs will be ready to produce them,” he said.Read also: Indonesia waives import levies for COVID-19 antivirus development, allocates Rp 1t for medical needs Several state-owned firms like weapons producer PT Pindad, electronics producer PT LEN and aircraft manufacturer PT Dirgantara Indonesia have announced plans to convert some of their production lines to produce ventilators.Research and Technology Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro also said on a separate occasion that Indonesia could have its first locally made ventilators by April 25.“PT Indofarma has agreed to take the ventilators and become the offtaker for them,” said Arya, referring to Bio Farma’s subsidiary.The government is easing trade requirements for businesses importing medical equipment and medicine needed to handle the pandemic.”We have also eliminated the import duty for medicines paid by the government,” Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said on March 16.The same will be done for medical aid and COVID-19 testing devices sent by other countries, she added.Topics :last_img read more


National plantation holding PTPN III restructures leadership positions

first_imgTopics : He detailed the plantation holding role as, among other duties, divesting assets, developing new business streams, maintaining cash flows and managing human resources.The State-Owned Enterprises Ministry assigned PTPN III to become the holding company of its 13 similarly named sister companies in 2014. PTPN III, originally a palm oil and natural rubber producer, was the largest firm by assets.Abdul said the restructuration was a continuation of the establishment of the holding, as the previous business transformation had yet to yield a desirable impact on the plantation holding’s operations and financial performance.The company booked Rp 32.8 trillion (US$2.22 billion) in revenue in 2018, the latest available financial figure, a 6.5 percent decline from Rp 35.1 trillion in the previous year. Meanwhile, its profit also fell by 23.8 percent year-on-year (yoy) to Rp 281.4 billion in 2018.“The holding will drive the subsidiaries,” ministry spokesman Arya Sinulingga told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday. “This is also about how the directors can be more agile by referring to headquarters’ policies.”PTPN III, which describes itself as one of the world’s largest plantation companies, operates 1.17 million hectares of land, over half of which is used to grow palm oil. The holding also grows other top-selling Indonesian cash crops, such as natural rubber, cocoa and tea. State-owned plantation holding company PT Perkebunan Nusantara III (PTPN) has restructured the corporate hierarchy of its 13 subsidiaries to boost their financial and operational performance.The holding, through a State-Owned Enterprises Ministry letter sent out on Tuesday, demoted all of its subsidiaries’ president directors to directors and their directors to senior executive vice presidents (SEVP).Overall, PTPN III changed 43 job titles, added two new positions and eliminated one position.“Going forward, the holding will provide strategic guidelines as well as evaluate and monitor operations, while subsidiaries will focus on producing the commodities assigned by the holding,” PTPN III president director Abdul Ghani, the sole holder of such the job title, said in a statement on Tuesday evening.last_img read more


Presidential Palaces to implement ‘new normal’ protocols

first_imgThe Presidential Palaces, the official residences and offices of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, will soon implement “new normal” protocols in day-to-day activities and official events in an effort to mitigate the risks of in-person activity during the COVID-19 outbreak.”The President has instructed us to carry out daily activities [in the palace] in accordance with the new normal measures,” Presidential Secretariat head Heru Budi Hartono said in a statement on Thursday.He explained that all four presidential palaces, which are in Jakarta, Bogor, Bali and Yogyakarta, would implement similar measures. Under the “new normal” protocols, the Baiturrahim mosque in the Jakarta Presidential Palace will resume mass prayers with strict health measures.”We will reduce the mosque’s maximum capacity to 20 percent of the original. Previously, the mosque could accommodate 750 people. Now it has become 150,” Heru said.Read also: MRT Jakarta resumes normal operational hours, with limited capacity during transition periodSeveral hand washing stations will be placed at the entrances to the mosque and at the area for wudu (ablutions). “By implementing the new normal measures, I think we will be able to worship comfortably,” Heru said.The presidential palace will also limit the number of attendees at formal functions.”For inauguration ceremonies, for example, we will limit the number of guests to 5 to 7 people,” Heru said, adding that the attendees would be required to maintain physical distance.The palace will also continue to conduct rapid tests on its guests. The guests, including ministers and their drivers, will be required to wear face masks.The annual flag-hoisting ceremonies, commonly carried out on the palaces’ grounds to commemorate Independence Day, will now be held online. The palace also aims to reduce the number of journalists reporting in person by providing livestreams of President Jokowi’s activities.Topics :last_img read more


Pentagon surplus handouts stoke the militarization of US police

first_imgSmall-town police armed for war As soon as protests began in Minneapolis, the city’s troubled police department rolled out armored vehicles appearing more suited to Middle East battlefields.Other large cities have them too, but also small towns.In 2013 police in Flathead County, Montana, which has 90,000 residents nestled near the scenic Glacier National Park, received a landmine-resistant armored vehicle, one year after taking delivery of a military transport. When US police flooded the streets around the country to confront protesters two weeks ago, for many it appeared like the army had deployed, with camouflage uniforms and combat gear, heavily armored anti-mine vehicles, and high-powered assault weapons. That’s not by accident. For years the US Defense Department has been handing its surplus equipment over for free to police departments — and the departments, large and small, have revelled in it.Critics say it has been part of the overall militarization of the police, and helped fuel mass nationwide demonstrations against police abuse and deadly tactics that began after the May 25 killing of a handcuffed African American, George Floyd, by a Minneapolis police officer. The 10-person (two only part-time) police department in Ada, Oklahoma, population 16,000, got their mine-resistant armored car in July 2019, after stockpiling 34 M-16 assault rifles over the years.  In a country where many people have their own guns and where schools have suffered mass shootings, even local education districts are taking advantage of the Pentagon’s handouts.The 47 primary and secondary schools of the Bay District in Panama City, Florida acquired no less than 27 assault rifles and two mine-resistant armored vehicles in 2012 and 2013.Trump restarted giveaway The “1033” Pentagon surplus program has existed for years. Since 1997, the US military has distributed used and new equipment ranging from handguns to helicopters to armored vehicles, worth around $8.6 billion, to more than 8,000 federal, tribal and local police forces, according to the US Congress. In 2015 President Barack Obama severely limited the program, but his successor Donald Trump restored it in 2017.That year alone, some 500 million pieces of military equipment were transferred to the country’s police services under the 1033 program.But the recent anti-police protests have recharged efforts to stop it.This week around 200 lawmakers in Congress, mostly Democrats, sponsored a bill, the “Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act”, to again reel in the program.The bill, in the House of Representatives, would strictly limit the transfer of guns, ammunition, grenades, explosives, certain kinds of vehicles, and drones and other aircraft designed for the battlefield.A parallel bill is being prepared in the Senate, pushed by Democrat Brian Schatz, who has fought against over-arming the police for years.”It is clear that many police departments are being outfitted as if they are going to war, and it is not working in terms of maintaining the peace,” Schatz told The New York Times. “Just because the Department of Defense has excess weaponry doesn’t mean it will be put to good use.”Schatz and Republican Senator Rand Paul attempted to push through a similar law in 2014, after the first publication of details of the 1033 program, amid the riots over police brutality against African-Americans in Ferguson, Missouri. The protests and riots that broke out over the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown were met by police officers carrying assault rifles and driving armored cars they got from the Pentagon. Topics :last_img read more


Energy ministry’s budget cut by a third to Rp 6.2 trillion

first_imgIndonesia has so far budgeted Rp 695.2 trillion to tackle the COVID-19 epidemic, which has claimed 2,573 lives as of Wednesday, the highest death toll in Southeast Asia, official data shows.Read also: Indonesia increases COVID-19 budget again amid soaring deficitHowever, the cuts carry repercussions for the programs’ intended recipients, many of whom include Indonesia’s poor, said House of Representatives members and industry groups.The House pressured the ministry into diverting more funds to execute solar-powered street lighting (PJUTS), water well drilling, fishermen and farmer fuel-converter distribution programs, all of which were to be slashed by a greater degree before the hearings. The Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry is cutting back on program funding after its annual budget was slashed by more than a third to Rp 6.2 trillion from Rp 9.7 trillion as the government diverts funds for COVID-19 containment. The largest cut is slated for oil and gas programs at 52 percent, lower than initially planned. This is followed by renewable energy programs (45 percent), geology programs (36 percent) and internal programs (15 percent). Some of the programs will be continued next year, according to ministry data released on Thursday.“[The budget cuts] support the financial needs to tackle COVID-19 and help the economy recover,” said Energy Minister Arifin Tasrif on June 23, which was the first of a three-day hearing with lawmakers in Jakarta. Oil and gas programsMinistry data from Thursday’s hearing shows that planned cuts in oil and gas programs are led by a 37 percent cut to farmers’ gas-to-fuel converter program and a 52 percent cut for the household gas pipe program.Such kits convert subsidized cooking gas (LPG) into a fuel for gas-fired engines, whether a fisherman’s boat engine or a farmer’s water irrigation pump. Using the gas reportedly cuts fuel expenses by around 30 percent.“Convertors are important in that it deals with fuel,” Indonesian Fishermen’s Association (HNSI) secretary-general, Anton Leonard, told The Jakarta Post. “If possible, do not make a cut now when fishermen are struggling to fish.”He added that fuel costs contributed between 40 and 50 percent of a ship’s total operational costs, depending on vehicle size.The gas pipe program, meanwhile, was slated to distribute gas pipe connectors to 266,000 households, mostly for towns in Sumatra and Java. Such piped gas is cheaper per unit volume than LPG canisters.“Fishermen’s convertor kits are meant to provide a boost for their economic growth. Household gas pipes as well, many poor people live in cities,” said Golkar Party lawmaker and former governor Alex Noerdin.Indonesia’s largest gas distributor, Perusahaan Gas Negara (PGN) , was not available for comment.Renewables programGreen technology budget cuts were led by those in solar panel-related programs, such as solar-powered street lights and solar rooftop installations for public buildings, including government offices and houses of worship.Government funding is a lifeline for the nascent domestic solar PV industry, which receives 70 percent of its business through state programs, an Indonesian Solar Panel Producers Association (APAMSI) previously told the Post.“That automatically means that a shift in spending will add to the burden on solar producers,” said APAMSI chairman Nick Nurrachman.Read also: Demand for photovoltaic panels plummets in Indonesia amid pandemicHowever, ministry data also shows that Rp 109 million was allocated to complete several unfinished renewable energy programs from last year. Programs include installing a mini hydropower plant (PLTMH) in Oksibil, Papua, and 13 biogas digesters, which process organic waste, such as human feces into cooking gas, in neighborhoods around the country.Internal programsThe ministry plans to cut 15 percent from its budget for internal programs, which is the most modest cut among the four categories.“We recommend diverting work trips and meeting package funds for infrastructure programs and imposing efficiency measures for work trips and meetings,” said ministry secretary-general Ego Syahrial during Wednesday’s hearing.His side will not cut salaries and operational costs such as utilities and office supplies.Geological programsBudget cuts to the ministry’s geology body were led by a 48 percent cut for volcanic observatories and a 37 percent cut for well drilling in remote communities.Former head of the Geology Agency, Rudi Suhendar, who retired a month ago, told the Post that the agency had completed the program bids before COVID-19 struck.“Aside from Jakarta, we were going to drill wells in almost every province,” he said. Lawmaker Ridwan Hisjam, also a Golkar politician, said the well drilling was particularly needed to support the Public Works and Housing Ministry, which was building water infrastructure as per the recently passed 2019 Water Law.“This program has to keep on going. Do not change them; programs that are pro-people, that are in the people’s interest,” he said.Topics :last_img read more