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World leaders pledge billions to fight AIDS, TB, and malaria | Health News

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has secured $14.25bn in crucial new funding, after decades of progress against the diseases was derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

United States President Joe Biden, who hosted the conference in New York City on the sidelines of the annual high-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), said the funding — the highest amount ever pledged for a multilateral health organisation — is crucial to combating the diseases.

“This is an investment that will save another 20 million lives, reduce mortality from these diseases another 64 percent in the next four years,” said Biden.

The fund, a public/private alliance set up in 2002, is seeking $18bn for its next three-year funding cycle from governments, civil society and the private sector. Before Wednesday’s conference, it had already raised more than a third of the total.

“What’s happened today is actually an unparalleled mobilisation of resources for global health,” said Global Fund Executive Director Peter Sands.

“Thank you all for stepping up, especially in a challenging global economic environment, and I ask you, keep it going,” urged Biden.

The Global Fund said the $14.25bn figure was likely to increase as more donations come in. The United Kingdom and Italy have said they will announce their commitments at a later date.

“For the government and people of Malawi, this is not a conference but a life saver,” Lazarus Chakwera, the president of Malawi, said earlier in the day after pledging $1m.

The donor conference was hosted by US President Joe Biden who told world leaders that their investment would save some 20 million lives [Ludovic Marin/AFP]

According to UNAIDS, there were 990,000 adults and children in Malawi living with HIV in 2021, and USAID says that tuberculosis is a “major public health problem in Malawi”.

Among the donors, the US has pledged the most at $6bn.

France, Germany, Japan, Canada, the European Union and the Gates Foundation also announced sizeable commitments.

“We can cure tuberculosis. We can prevent malaria. We can fight these terrible diseases. We will end AIDS, we will end tuberculosis, we will end malaria – once and for all,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said after announcing the bloc’s latest donation.

‘Some are counting pennies’

The fund raised a then-record $14bn at its last donor conference in 2019, which was hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Within the UK, there was some criticism of the government’s decision to delay its announcement.

In a Twitter post, shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said it would “slow the fight against AIDS, TB and malaria and damage the UK’s national interest”.

Camille Spire, president of the French non-profit AIDES, told the AFP news agency that even when the UK and Italy made their pledges, the total would probably still not meet the planned target.

“While some are counting their pennies, some are counting the dead,” she said, adding she was “angry” and the outcome would mean fewer screening campaigns than had been hoped for, fewer treatments, less funding for community health centres and less strengthening of health systems.

The fund estimates it has been able to reduce the death toll from AIDS, TB, and malaria by 50 percent over the past 20 years, saving more than 50 million lives.

The Global Fund provides 30 percent of all international financing for HIV programmes, 76 percent of funding for TB, and 63 percent of funding for malaria.

Under US law, the country cannot provide more than one-third of funding for the Global Fund — a limit designed to serve as a matching challenge to other nations to double the US pledge.

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Mexico’s $10bn lawsuit against US gun makers dismissed by judge | News

Mexico estimates that 2.2 percent of the nearly 40 million guns made annually in the US are smuggled across its border.

A US judge has dismissed Mexico’s $10bn lawsuit that sought to hold US gun manufacturers responsible for facilitating the flood of weapons that are smuggled across the US-Mexico border to drug cartels.

In its August 2021 complaint, Mexico estimated that 2.2 percent of the nearly 40 million guns made annually in the United States are smuggled into Mexico, including as many as 597,000 guns made by defendants named in the lawsuit.

Mexico said that in 2019 alone, at least 17,000 homicides were linked to trafficked weapons from the US.

“While the court has considerable sympathy for the people of Mexico, and none whatsoever for those who traffic guns to Mexican criminal organizations, it is duty-bound to follow the law,” Chief Judge F Dennis Saylor said in a 44-page decision announced in federal court in Boston on Friday.

Saylor said federal law “unequivocally” bars lawsuits seeking to hold gun manufacturers responsible when people use guns for their intended purpose. He said the law contained several narrow exceptions, but none applied.

The decision is a victory for gun makers Smith & Wesson Brands, Sturm, Ruger & Co, Barrett Firearms Manufacturing Inc, Colt’s Manufacturing Company LLC, Glock Inc, and others who were accused of undermining Mexico’s strict gun laws by designing, marketing, and selling military-style assault weapons that drug cartels use.

Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said it would appeal the decision “and continue insisting that the sale of guns be responsible, transparent and accountable, and that the negligent way in which they are sold in the United States facilitates criminals’ access to them”.

“This suit by the Mexican government has received worldwide recognition and has been considered a turning point in the discussion around the gun industry’s responsibility for the violence experience in Mexico and the region,” the ministry said.

Shielding gun makers from lawsuits

Mexico was seeking at least $10bn in compensation, but legal experts had viewed the lawsuit as a long shot.

The Mexican government had argued that the companies know their practices contribute to the trafficking of guns into Mexico and facilitate it. Mexico wanted compensation for the havoc the guns have wrought on its people.

A lawyer for Smith & Wesson declined to comment. Lawyers for Sturm, Ruger did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mexico said gun smuggling has been a key factor in its ranking third worldwide in the number of gun-related deaths each year. It also claimed to suffer many other harms, including declining investment and economic activity and a need to spend more on law enforcement and public safety.

But the judge said Mexico could not overcome a provision in a US law – the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act – that shields gun makers from lawsuits over “the harm solely caused by the criminal or unlawful misuse of firearm products … by others when the product functioned as designed and intended”.

Mexico argued the US protection act did not apply when an injury occurred outside the United States.

Saylor did not agree.

“Mexico is seeking to hold defendants liable for practices that occurred within the United States and only resulted in harm in Mexico,” he wrote. “This case thus represents a valid domestic application of the PLCAA, and the presumption against extraterritoriality does not apply.”

The sale of firearms is severely restricted in Mexico and controlled by the Defence Department. But thousands of guns are smuggled into Mexico each year by the country’s powerful drug cartels.

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Small protests appear in Havana over islandwide blackout

HAVANA — The widespread power outage caused by Hurricane Ian prompted several hundred people to protest in Havana, and a monitoring group said the island’s internet service shut down again Friday in what appeared to be an attempt to curb information about the demonstrations from spreading.

An Associated Press journalist saw about 400 people gathered Thursday night in at least two spots in the Cerro neighborhood shouting, “We want light, we want light,” and banging pots and pans.

It appeared to be the first public display over the electricity problems that spread from western Cuba, where Ian hit on Tuesday, to the entire island, leaving the country’s 11 million people in the dark. The storm also left three people dead and caused still unquantified damage.

Power was restored to much of the island within a day after the storm’s blast. But there still areas without service, including in the capital.

Internet service was interrupted Thursday, then returned by Friday morning, at least in some areas. But it went out again later in the day, groups that monitor internet access reported.

Alp Toker, director of London-based Netblocks, said the blackout in internet service on Thursday and Friday appeared different from an internet outage that occurred soon after Ian hit.

“Internet has been cut again in Cuba, at around the same time as yesterday,” Toker said in an email to AP on Friday night. “The timings provide another indicator that the shutdowns are a measure to suppress coverage of the protests.”

Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at Kentik Inc., a network intelligence company, earlier described Thursday’s event as a “total internet blackout.”

Repeated blackouts on Cuba’s already fragile grid were among the causes of the island’s largest social protests in decades in July 2021. Thousands of people, weary of power failures and shortages of goods exacerbated by the pandemic and U.S. sanctions, turned out in cities across the island to vent their anger and some also lashed out at the government. Hundreds were arrested and prosecuted, prompting harsh criticism of the administration of President Miguel Diaz-Canel.

The government has not said what percentage of the overall population remained without electricity as of early Friday, but electrical authorities said only 10% of Havana’s 2 million people had power Thursday.

Experts said the total blackout showed the vulnerability of Cuba’s power grid and warned that it will require time and sources — things the country doesn’t have — to fix the problem.

Authorities have promised to work without rest to address the issue.

Calls by AP to a dozen people in Cuba’s main cities — Holguín, Guantánamo, Matanzas, Ciego de Ávila, Camagüey and Santiago — found problems similar to those in Havana, with most reporting their neighborhoods were still without electricity.

Authorities say the total blackout happened because of a failure in the connections between Cuba’s three regions — west, center and east — caused by Ian’s winds.

Cuba’s power grid “was already in a critical and immunocompromised state as a result of the deterioration of the thermoelectric plants. The patient is now on life support,” said Jorge Piñon, director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy’s Latin America and Caribbean program at the University of Texas.

Cuba has 13 power generation plants, eight of which are traditional thermoelectric plants, and five floating power plants rented from Turkey since 2019. There is also a group of small plants distributed throughout the country since an energy reform in 2006.

But the plants are poorly maintained, a phenomenon the government attributed to the lack of funds and U.S. sanctions. Complications in obtaining fuel is also a problem.

———

Andrea Rodríguez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP

———

Associated Press writer E. Eduardo Castillo contributed to this report from Mexico City.



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Japan PM condemns Russian annexation of parts of Ukraine

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, in telephone call with Ukraine’s president, has condemned Russia’s new annexation of parts of Ukraine as illegal and a violation of the country’s sovereignty

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, in telephone call Friday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, condemned Russia’s new annexation of parts of Ukraine as illegal and a violation of the country’s sovereignty.

“I told him that the process that Russia called a referendum and its annexation of parts of Ukraine should never be accepted, and that I strongly condemn them,” Kishida said afterward.

Kishida said he also reassured Zelenskyy in their 30-minute conversation that Japan is committed to working with other Group of Seven nations and the broader international community in further supporting Ukraine, and plans to impose more sanctions against Russia.

Western leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden have also condemned Russia’s annexation of four occupied Ukrainian regions days after voters supposedly approved Moscow-managed “referendums” on joining Russia.

Kishida, who is to host a meeting of leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations next year, told Zelenskyy he plans to propose that they impose tough sanctions against Russia, and will lead a discussion on Ukraine’s reconstruction.

He said Japan is assessing when it can reopen its embassy in Kyiv, which he described as important for close contacts between Japan and Ukraine. Japan closed its embassy in March as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine intensified and moved part of its operations to Lviv in western Ukraine.

Japan has closely cooperated with other G-7 members and European nations in imposing sanctions on Russia over its war in Ukraine. Most recently, Japan banned exports of sensitive materials that could be used to make chemical weapons.

Japan’s sanctions against Russia have further damaged their ties, already strained over a group of islands taken by Moscow at the end of World War II that have prevented the two countries from signing a peace treaty formally ending their war hostilities.

In retaliation for Tokyo’s sanctions, Moscow terminated peace talks, including negotiations over the islands.

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