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Fall and rise: Marcos family back in power in the Philippines

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© Reuters. Supporters of presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. gather to celebrate as partial results of the 2022 national elections show him with a wide lead over rivals, outside the candidate’s headquarters in Mandaluyong City, Philippines, May 10

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By Karen Lema and Tom Allard

MANILA (Reuters) – Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. was 28 years old when a helicopter whisked his family from the Philippines’ presidential palace as millions of protesters demanded the ouster of his dictator father in a historic “people power” revolution.

Just over 36 years later, the son is celebrating a landslide victory in a presidential election, an extraordinary comeback for a family once best known for widespread human rights abuses and the plunder of an estimated $10 billion.

Marcos’ share of the vote from Monday’s election was double that of his nearest rival according to an unofficial election commission tally. The results – largely deemed legitimate, unlike the last election held during his father’s martial law rule – left some of the original people power activists dejected and confused.

“We said in 1986, ‘Never again’,” said Florencio Abad, who was among the millions of protesters who swarmed the streets of Manila back then and later became a member of the cabinet. “How did they manage to come back?”

The Marcos family has waged a decades-long campaign to resurrect its reputation. That, plus the shortcomings of successive governments and a political masterstroke in aligning with the daughter of current President Rodrigo Duterte, helped fuel their once-unthinkable return to the presidency.

Sara Duterte-Carpio has an insurmountable lead in the election for vice president, which is run separately, according to the unofficial count.

“I would not have believed this in 1986 or even 1995,” said Joshua Kurlantzick, a Southeast Asia analyst at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations.

Since the late 1990s, the Philippines has seen a succession of ineffective and corrupt governments, Kurlantzick said, which led to the rule of Duterte, who he described as a “a semi-autocrat”.

“The idea of strongman rule is again very popular, including with young people”.

The Marcos family was allowed to return to the Philippines in 1991 by then-President Corazon Aquino, whose husband’s assassination in 1983 helped trigger the People Power movement that eventually ousted the elder Marcos after 20 years in power.

Allowing the family to return from exile after the senior Marcos died was an act of “extraordinary generosity”, according to David Chaikin, a researcher at the University of Sydney.

“This was the beginning of the Marcos family clawing their way to power,” he said.

‘NEW GENERATION OF VOTERS’

Both Marcos Jr. and his mother Imelda quickly moved back into politics, rebuilding their political networks as they fought scores of cases to recover the family’s wealth. The family has maintained their fortune was legitimately obtained despite the small salaries Marcos Sr. and Imelda Marcos earned during his presidency.

Imelda Marcos was elected to congress for four terms. Meanwhile, her son spent 21 years in public office, serving in congress and as governor of the family’s stronghold in the province of Ilocos Norte. He unsuccessfully ran for vice president in 2016.

The high-profile political roles of the Marcoses – Marcos’ sister, Imee, is a senator – was augmented by a well-tuned social media campaign downplaying the human rights abuses and corruption during their father’s reign and calling it a “golden age’ of economic prosperity and infrastructure building.

The Philippines recorded strong growth during much of the 1970s but its fortunes plummeted in the early 1980s as debt and global interest rates soared, economists have said. The economy contracted almost 15% in the last two years of the Marcos administration, according to World Bank data.

With half of voters aged between 18 and 40, the social media campaign found a receptive audience.

“This is also a new generation of voters,” said Patricio Abinales, a Filipino and professor of Asian studies at the University of Hawaii-Manoa. “None lived through the Marcos and post-Marcos eras.”

Voter support for Marcos doubled in November when Duterte-Carpio announced she would be his running mate, according to pollster Pulse Asia.

The people power protester Abad – who served in cabinet positions under President Corazon Aquino and also her son, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino – said post-1986 governments were unable to reverse the injustices of the Marcos era.

“The changes that happened were not deep enough … particularly addressing the problem of inequity and the exclusion of so many Filipinos from the distribution of wealth in the country,” he said.

“There is justifiable disappointment.”

Alongside Marcos Jr., other clan members have also won elections, by unofficial count. His son Sandro looks set to be a member of House of Representatives, his sister Imee’s son Matthew Manotoc is likely to be reinstated as governor of Ilocos Norte province, another relative as vice-governor, and another as mayor of Laoag City, the provincial capital.

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U.S. Justice Dept requests Jan 6 committee transcripts -panel chair

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A mob of supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump fight with members of law enforcement at a door they broke open as they storm the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice asked the House of Representatives committee investigating last year’s attack on the U.S. Capitol to turn over some transcripts from interviews conducted as part of its probe, the panel’s chairman said on Tuesday.

Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson told reporters that the department had asked for the transcripts but the panel had not agreed to turn them over.

“It’s our work product. It’s the committee’s work product,” Thompson said, when asked about the request, first reported by the New York Times.

“We’re in the midst of our work. If they want to come and talk, just like we’ve had other agencies to come and talk, we’d be happy to talk to them, but we can’t give them access to our work product at this point,” he said.

Thompson said the committee planned to turn over the transcripts when it completed its investigation.

On Jan. 6, 2021, supporters of Donald Trump stormed the Capitol building, after the Republican then-president gave a fiery speech urging them to protest congressional certification of his defeat by Democrat Joe Biden in the November 2020 election.

The committee has conducted hundreds of interviews, including many with close Trump associates and former White House aides, about the Capitol riot and events leading up to it.

It plans to hold public hearings next month.

Earlier on Tuesday, Thompson said the panel had not yet decided to call Trump himself to testify.

The Jan. 6 committee last week sent subpoenas to five House Republicans, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the party’s leader in the House, demanding that they sit for interviews.

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Pollution killing 9 million people a year, Africa hardest hit – study

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A boy swims in the polluted water of the Makoko community in Lagos, Nigeria March 9, 2020. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja/File Photo

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By Gloria Dickie

(Reuters) – Worsening outdoor air pollution and toxic lead poisoning have kept global deaths from environmental contamination at an estimated 9 million per year since 2015 – countering modest progress made in tackling pollution elsewhere, a team of scientists reported Tuesday.

Air pollution from industry processes along with urbanization drove a 7% increase in pollution-related deaths from 2015 to 2019, according to the scientists’ analysis of data on global mortality and pollution levels.

“We’re sitting in the stew pot and slowly burning,” said Richard Fuller, a study co-author and head of the global nonprofit Pure Earth. But unlike climate change, malaria, or HIV, “we haven’t given (environmental pollution) much focus.”

An earlier version of the work published in 2017 also estimated the death toll from pollution at roughly 9 million per year — or about one of every six deaths worldwide — and the cost to the global economy at up to $4.6 trillion per year. That puts pollution on par with smoking in terms of global deaths. COVID-19, by comparison, has killed about 6.7 million people globally since the pandemic began.

For their most recent study, published in the online journal Lancet Planetary Health, the authors analyzed 2019 data from the Global Burden of Disease, an ongoing study by the University of Washington that assesses overall pollution exposure and calculates mortality risk.

The new analysis looks more specifically at the causes of pollution – separating traditional contaminants such as indoor smoke or sewage from more modern pollutants, like industrial air pollution and toxic chemicals. Here are some of the key takeaways:

WATER AND INDOOR AIR

Deaths from traditional pollutants are declining globally. But they remain a major problem in Africa and some other developing countries. Tainted water and soil and dirty indoor air put Chad, the Central African Republic and Niger as the three countries with the most pollution-related deaths, according to data adjusted for population.

State programs to cut indoor air pollution and improvements in sanitation have helped to curb death tolls in some places. In Ethiopia and Nigeria, these efforts brought related deaths to drop by two-thirds between 2000 and 2019. Meanwhile, the Indian government in 2016 began offering to replace wood-burning stoves with gas stove connections.

MODERN POLLUTANTS

Deaths caused by exposure to modern pollutants such as heavy metals, agrochemicals and fossil fuel emissions are “just skyrocketing”, rising 66% since 2000, said co-author Rachael Kupka, executive director of the New York-based Global Alliance on Health and Pollution.

When it comes to outdoor air pollution, some major capital cities have seen some success, including in Bangkok, China, and Mexico City, the authors said. But in smaller cities, pollution levels continue to climb.

HIGHEST POLLUTION-RELATED DEATHS

The study offered a list of the 10 countries most affected by pollution-related deaths, based on their findings on mortality adjusted for population.

1. Chad; 2. Central African Republic; 3. Niger; 4. Solomon Islands; 5. Somalia; 6. South Africa; 7. North Korea; 8. Lesotho; 9. Bulgaria; 10. Burkina Faso

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N.Korean leader Kim slams officials’ ‘immature’ response amid COVID outbreak

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective face masks walk amid concerns over the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in front of Pyongyang Station in Pyongyang, North Korea April 27, 2020, in this photo released by Kyodo.

SEOUL (Reuters) -North Korean leader Kim Jong Un slammed his country’s response to its first officially confirmed COVID-19 outbreak as “immature,” accusing government officials of inadequacies and inertia as fever cases swept the country, state media reported on Wednesday.

North Korea reported 232,880 more people with fever symptoms, and six more deaths after the country’s first admission of the COVID outbreak last week. It did not say how many people had tested positive for COVID-19.

Presiding over a politburo meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party on Tuesday, Kim said the “immaturity in the state capacity for coping with the crisis” increased the “complexity and hardships” in fighting the pandemic when “time is the life”, according to the KCNA.

Since its first acknowledgement of the COVID-19 outbreak, the North has reported 1.72 million patients with fever symptoms, including 62 deaths as of Tuesday evening.

Amid concerns over the isolated country’s lack of vaccines and adequate medical infrastructure, the KCNA said health officials have developed a COVID-19 treatment guide aimed at preventing drug overdoses and other mistreatments that have led to many of the reported deaths.

The guide includes treatments individualised for different types of patients, but state media did not elaborate on which drugs are involved in the treatment plans.

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