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World News: Connecticut in mourning; Gunman kills 28

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Quiet Connecticut town rocked by mass school shooting
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The peace and security of the suburban Connecticut community of Newtown lay shattered yesterday after a gunman attacked a primary school in one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.

Tearful parents and children gathered around Sandy Hook Elementary School by midday, surrounded by police vehicles, as young and old alike struggled to make sense of a shooting rampage that killed at least 28 people, including 20 children.

Mergim Bajraliu, a 17-year-old high school student, said he was at his home nearby when he heard two shots. He and a neighbor ran to the school to find his 9-year-old sister, Venesa, a fourth-grader.

“My heart sank,” he said, describing seeing two students covered in blood being carried out of the building, one of whom looked like his sister. To his relief, his sister later emerged unharmed, and Bajraliu greeted her with a hug.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God,” Bajraliu said.

Police said a heavily armed gunman fatally shot 26 people, including 20 children at the school, and was later found dead in the school building. Another adult was found dead in the town, which police were investigating as a related incident.

Home to about 27,000 people, the wealthy, wooded town of Newtown is in south-western Connecticut, about 80 miles (130 km) northeast of New York City. It is a bedroom community, with many homes situated on multiple acres of land and some residents commuting to larger cities including Hartford and Stamford.

“Evil visited this community today,” Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy told reporters. “What has happened, what has transpired at this school building will leave a mark on this community and every family impacted.”

President Barack Obama brushed away tears during an appearance at the White House briefing room where he said, “We’re endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years.” He ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in a national symbol of mourning.

Illusions of safety shattered
Local churches quickly organized evening memorial services to help residents cope with the trauma that shattered their illusions of safety and made their town the focus of extensive national and international media coverage.

“I don’t think you are safe anywhere,” said Lori Amaral, who lives about 1/4 mile (400 meters) from the school. She added that her college-age daughter and her friends were afraid even to go out to the vigil.

“They are afraid to go anywhere,” Amaral said.

John Hess was at the airport in Cleveland yesterday morning when his wife, Patty, called him to tell him about the shooting. He immediately hopped a plane home to Newtown, where his family moved recently from nearby Stamford.

“We moved here because we thought it would be a safe community,” Hess said.

Parents of children at the school for kindergarten-to-fourth-grade students gathered at a fire station down the street from the school building to await news of their children.

Helicopters hovered over the school building and scores of cars were parked on lawns up and down the street, reflecting the hurried response of police, parents and officials after the shooting took place around 9:30 a.m. local time (21:30 Phuket).

“Everybody was crying,” said Alexis Wasik, 8, a third-grader who was in the school when the shooting began. “I was a little scared and felt sick to my stomach.”

Friday’s attack was the deadliest mass shooting at a U.S. school since a 2007 attack at Virginia Tech University left 32 people dead.

“I am still in a daze,” said Alexis’ mother, Lynn. “My heart is in a million pieces for the children.”

Juanita Hall, a school counselor in Ridgefield, Connecticut, whose daughter attends a nearby school, said it would take time for the residents to recover from the shock.

“The most difficult thing is to have a conversation with the children about this. My immediate thoughts were about Columbine,” Hall said, referring to a 1999 incident in which students at a Colorado high school killed 13 students and staff.

“It’s going to take a very long time for this community to get over this, if it’s even possible. I’m not sure it’s even possible.”

Killer identified
A federal law enforcement source later identified the gunman as 24-year-old Ryan Lanza, whose mother was a teacher at the school and who was also among those killed. The suspect’s father was said to have been found dead at their residence in New Jersey.

In addition to those killed, officials confirmed three patients were transported to Danbury Hospital, although their conditions were not immediately known. “Out of abundance of caution and not because of any direct threat Danbury Hospital is under lockdown,” New Milford Hospital said in a statement. “This allows us simply to focus on the important work at hand.”

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Pfizer vaccine OK for US children 12-15, critics urge better use

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Children age 12-15 now deemed safe to received the Pfizer vaccine. (by Wikimedia)

While drug regulators authorised Pfizer vaccine for children aged 12 to 15 in the US, critics are saying that the jabs would be more useful if sent to poor countries. The American Food and Drug Administration cleared the vaccine on Monday, saying that it was safe for children over the age of 12, and the US Centres for Disease Control will now convene an advisory committee to discuss the formal recommendation. But there are many countries where very vulnerable people still have not had access to any vaccine. Children are considered to have a minimal risk for Covid-19.

The head of the World Health Organisation spoke critically against vaccine diplomacy, the red tape and international negotiation that is slowing the distribution and administering of vaccines to other countries in need. The United States is one of many wealthy nations that have been able to quickly spread the vaccine throughout its population, with over 115 million people already fully vaccinated. The American economy is the world’s biggest, and thanks to the rapid vaccination, governmental authorities have begun to loosen restrictions related to Covid-19 and begin to revive the ailing economy.

President Joe Biden hailed the vaccine approval for children aged 12 to 15, saying that it was a promising development and will help the country fight against the Coronavirus. But the United States has been coming under increased pressure to aid in getting vaccines to less fortunate countries with greater need. The United States has recently joined the push to convince Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers to release their intellectual property rights in order to allow other nations to produce vaccines locally.

Here in Thailand, Americans have been calling for the United States government to make arrangements for expats and citizens abroad to get vaccinated when they’re in countries that do not provide them with vaccines. At the same time, many frustrated Thai people with the means to travel to the US are participating in vaccine tourism, planning American vacations where they can get vaccinated.

The head of the European Medicines Agency believes that the EU will also approve the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 12 to 15, possibly within this month. The move will further help vaccination efforts it hopes to jumpstart European economies. As Covid-19 restrictions are being lifted, the Justice Minister in Spain reminded people the coronavirus is not gone and they need to behave responsibly following the end of a six-month state of emergency there. People had responded by dropping masks and social distancing protocol to celebrate in the streets. Greece has reopened schools for younger children up to middle school and hopes to remain open from May 14th for the tourism season. Ireland also revoked domestic travel bans allowing people to move around the country more freely again.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

 

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World

China sees slowest population growth since 1960’s despite relaxing 1 child policy

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Stock photo via Flickr

China is seeing the slowest amount of population growth since the 1960’s despite relaxing its 1 child policy. The birthrate has been in a steady decline since 2017, and its growth is being measured at 5.4% since the last census in 2010. The population has reached 1.41 billion, but that number is low due to the sluggish growth rate.

The newest figures point towards an ageing population with a large drop in the number of working age people in the nation. The number of people aged between 15 and 59 dropped 7%, while those over the age of 60 increased more than 5%. Beijing relaxed the 1 child policy back in 2016, but it has yet to see the effects of the change. Ning Jizhe, an official from the National Bureau of Statistics, seems confident, however, that the family planning change will work.

“The adjustment of China’s fertility policy has achieved positive results.”

Failing marriage rates have increased in recent years, along with couples struggling to financially support a child in major cities. Women are also choosing to delay having children, or avoiding it altogether. China recorded its slowest birthrate since 1949 in 2019, at 10.48 per 1,000 people. In February of 2021, preliminary data indicated that the birthrate for 2020 was also down, but official findings have yet to be disclosed.

10 years ago the average size of a family was 3.10, but now, it is 2.62 people. As China’s society evolves, more and more people are choosing to live in urban areas. 63% of Chinese people reside in urban areas, increasing the urban population to 236.4 million, a 15% increase from the last census. But 500 million are part of what Beijing has termed, the “floating population” which is comprised of migrant workers living in other places than what they officially registered as their home.

The 2020 survey was conducted by sending out over 7 million volunteers to survey residents door-to-door. This year, however, most of the data was collected online.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Flight booking data shows vaccinations are key to rebooting travel globally

Maya Taylor

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Greece, ready to welcome vaccinated travellers. PHOTO: Flickr/Pedro Szekely

The latest findings from a research firm that analyses flight booking data confirms that vaccination is the key to rebooting international travel. The most recent research from ForwardKeys shows that destinations prepared to welcome vaccinated tourists have seen a surge in bookings.

In particular, Greece and Iceland, have had a significant uptake in inbound flights, while countries where mass vaccination is at an advanced stage, such as Israel, the US and the UK, have seen outbound bookings climb. They key point is that the world’s travel and flight industries are looking to insist on proof of vaccination or vaccine passports for the right to get on an international flight or travel beyond their borders.

Like Thailand, Greece is highly dependent on international tourism. Anxious to revive its decimated economy, the country has announced that tourists who are fully vaccinated, who have a negative Covid-19 test result, or who have recovered from the virus, are welcome to visit. The result is that the country is now the most popular destination among those summer booking holidays from the UK. According to TTR Weekly, confirmed flight bookings between July and September are 12% above what they were at the same time in 2019.

A similar trend can be seen in bookings from the US to Iceland. In March, the Icelandic government confirmed that vaccinated arrivals would face no entry restrictions, which led to a surge in bookings. Flight ticket sales shot up to 158% what they were at the same time in 2019.

Olivier Ponti from ForwardKeys says there is a clear correlation between high vaccination rates and outbound travel. In Israel, which has now vaccinated over 60% of the population, bookings for European trips have reached 63% of what they were in 2019, while in the UK, where over 52% of people are vaccinated, bookings are at 32% of 2019 numbers.

“Vaccinations appear to hold the key to reviving international travel, as countries that make clear promises to welcome vaccinated travellers are being rewarded by strong surges in flight bookings. We see a revival of confidence in outbound travel from countries where there has been a successful rollout of Covid-19 vaccines too.”

SOURCE: TTR Weekly

 

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