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For Parkland survivors, a year of political gains and unresolved pain

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PARKLAND, Fla. (Reuters) – A year after the deadliest high-school shooting in U.S. history, students from Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School look back with pride on the network they have built to stem the country’s epidemic of gun violence through the ballot box.

FILE PHOTO: Emma Gonzalez, a student and shooting survivor from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, addresses the conclusion of the “March for Our Lives” event demanding gun control after recent school shootings at a rally in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein/File Photo

Even so, it has been difficult for many to come to terms with the trauma of Feb. 14, 2018, when a former Stoneman student with an assault gun massacred 17 people at the Parkland, Florida campus.

“There’s definitely not a day that goes by where I’m not thinking about it, and I know for a fact that everyone that has to walk through those campus gates is thinking about it,” said junior Caitlynn Tibbetts.

The student campaign in support of gun control, which featured a massive march on Washington and in other cities around the country, resulted in the formation of a sprawling national network called March for Our Lives.

With some 500 chapters, it has linked tens of thousands of student activists in pushing for political candidates who support their goals of new measures to reduce gun violence.

“We have to replace these terrible actors who are comfortable putting our lives at risk for a check from the NRA,” said Matt Deitsch, the group’s chief strategist, referring to the National Rifle Association, which opposes what it considers any retreat on gun rights.

Deitsch, along with Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Delaney Tarr and Jaclyn Corin, is among the most prominent Stoneman students who have toured the nation to encourage young people to register and vote for pro-gun control candidates.

By “terrible actors,” Deitsch was referring to political incumbents who oppose the group’s goals, which include a ban on assault weapons. It also backs funding for gun violence research and supports universal background checks, disarming domestic abusers and enacting laws to staunch gun trafficking. 

“The fact that gun violence is a top issue for the first time ever is something that should scare the people arrayed against us,” Deitsch, 21, said with evident pride.

Having put together a multimillion-dollar war chest, with the help of A-list celebrities like George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg, the network aims to expand to thousands of high schools and colleges by the end of 2019, giving it even more clout going into the 2020 election.

On Monday, activists were to launch a petition campaign to put an assault weapons ban on Florida’s ballot in the 2020 election. March For Our Lives leader Hogg, among the first Stoneman students to call for greater gun control in the hours after the shooting, was expected to attend the campaign kickoff, along with parents of some of the victims. The petition needs 800,000 signatures. 

“I’M A HUMAN BEING”

Success has come at a cost for the student activists. Since last year’s shooting, many have not had enough time to grieve or properly process the tragedy.

In a series of recent Twitter messages, Tarr, a March for Our Lives co-founder, reflected on having to put on a composed “performance” over the past year as a public figure on social media.

“I can’t sit back and let you think that I’m always fine, that I’m always ready to go. That’s not realistic,” she wrote. “I’m a human being and god damn if all of this work and pain isn’t hard.”

The past year has brought more U.S. gun violence, complicating the task of recovery. In a shooting with echoes of Parkland, a gunman at Santa Fe High School in Texas killed 10 and wounded 14 on May 18. Months later, an anti-Semitic attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh left 11 dead and six injured.

By the end the year, that pair of shootings, combined with hundreds of others, left a total of 387 dead, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

“We carry a heavy weight, and every single day there’s another mass shooting in America, and we see ourselves as vessels amplifying what’s going on this country,” Deitsch said.

For many students, sharing their experiences, both broadly and with those who have gone through something similar, has been therapeutic, however.

Slideshow (5 Images)

Not long after the shooting, a publisher contacted Sarah Lerner, a journalism and English teacher at Stoneman, about publishing a book filled with reflections of that day and its aftermath.

“Parkland Speaks: Survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories” was released late last month and includes 43 accounts of the shooting and what followed, including two pieces by Tibbetts, the junior.

“This book gave us the opportunity to look past politics and look at the heart of it,” Tibbetts said. “And the heart of it is that we’re struggling to move past it, but we’re trying.”

Reporting by Zachary Fagenson; Editing by Frank McGurty and Tom Brown

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Saudi Arabia signs oil agreement to supply Pakistan: minister

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FILE PHOTO: Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih speaks during a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia January 9, 2019. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo

CAIRO (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia has signed an agreement to supply Pakistan with crude oil and petroleum products to secure its fuel needs, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said on Sunday on Twitter.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in Pakistan on Sunday and said Saudi Arabia has signed investment agreements worth $20 billion during his visit to the country.

Reporting by Hesham Hajali; Editing by Sandra Maler

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Indonesian presidential hopefuls vow energy self-sufficiency via palm

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JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s two presidential candidates pledged to achieve energy self-sufficiency by boosting the use of bioenergy, particularly fueled by palm oil, to cut costly oil imports by Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

Indonesia’s presidential candidate Joko Widodo (L) shakes hands with his opponent Prabowo Subianto after the second debate between presidential candidates ahead of the next general election in Jakarta, Indonesia, February 17, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

Indonesia, the world’s biggest palm oil producer, has been pushing for all diesel fuel used in the country to contain biodiesel to boost palm consumption, slash fuel imports, and narrow a yawning current account gap.

In a televised election debate, President Joko Widodo said if he won a second term the government planned to implement a B100 program, referring to fuel made entirely from palm oil, after last year making it mandatory to use biodiesel containing 20 percent bio-content (B20).

“We hope 30 percent of total palm production will go to biofuel. The plan is clear, so we will not rely on imported oil,” Widodo said, adding that Indonesia’s crude palm oil production had reached 46 million tonnes a year.

Agreeing on the importance of bioenergy for self-sufficiency, his opponent Prabowo Subianto said if elected he would also “boost the use of palm oil, palm sugar, cassava and ethanol from sugar (cane)”.

The challenger did not elaborate on his bioenergy plan, but his campaign team has proposed using millions of hectares of degraded land to cultivate palm sugar to produce energy.

Widodo’s government has previously said it would offer incentives for developers of B100, which the net oil importer hopes can replace fuel imports within three years.

Oil imports have contributed to Indonesia’s widening current account deficit and the volatility of the rupiah currency. The government claimed that its biodiesel program would save billions of dollars in diesel fuel imports.

Although retired general Prabowo agreed with Widodo on several points during the debate, he said Indonesia’s “land and water, and the resources within” must be controlled by the government.

“We are of the view that the government must be present in detail, thoroughly, firmly and actively to correct inequalities in wealth,” he said.

The challenger said the proportion of small farmers’ holdings in the country’s palm plantations should also be larger. Smallholders currently account for roughly 40 percent of Indonesia’s 12 million hectares of palm oil plantations.

Farmers currently do not require larger plots of land, but instead, they need a program to boost yield from their current farm, Mansuetus Darto of Palm Farmers Union said.

He added that farmers wanted more clarity on Widodo’s B100 program and have asked to ensure that small holders play a greater role in the biodiesel supply chain.

“This is an important task for Jokowi on how to prevent big palm companies to be the only main suppliers and not farmers,” Darto said, referring to the president’s nickname.

Meanwhile, environmental group Greenpeace criticized both candidates for failing to ensure that the biofuel programs they promised will not cause further erosion of forests, peatlands and mangrove, due to potentially higher demand for palm oil that is mixed with the fuel.

Slideshow (2 Images)

By 2030, the global demand for biofuels would reach 67 million tonnes from the current 10.7 million tonnes, which could potentially result in 4.5 million hectares of deforestation and 2.9 million hectares of mangrove disappearance, Greenpeace said.

Both candidates expressed support for greater control of Indonesian natural resources.

President Widodo highlighted Pertamina’s takeover of stewardship of major oil and gas blocks from foreign operators, and an agreement for a state company to purchase a 51 percent stake in the giant Grasberg copper mine from Freeport McMoRan.

Reporting by Fransiska Nangoy and Tabita Diela,; Additional reporting Bernadette Christina Munthe,; Editing by Ed Davies, Jan Harvey and Sherry Jacob-Phillips

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Indonesian presidential hopefuls vow energy self-sufficiency through palm

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JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s two presidential candidates pledged on Sunday to achieve energy self-sufficiency by boosting the use of bioenergy, particularly fueled by palm oil, to cut costly oil imports by Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

Indonesia’s presidential candidate Joko Widodo (L) shakes hands with his opponent Prabowo Subianto after the second debate between presidential candidates ahead of the next general election in Jakarta, Indonesia, February 17, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

Indonesia, the world’s biggest palm oil producer, has been pushing for all diesel fuel used in the country to contain biodiesel to boost palm consumption, slash fuel imports, and narrow a yawning current account gap.

In a televised election debate, President Joko Widodo said if he won a second term the government planned to implement a B100 program, referring to fuel made entirely from palm oil, after last year making it mandatory to use biodiesel containing 20 percent bio-content (B20).

“We hope 30 percent of total palm production will go to biofuel. The plan is clear, so we will not rely on imported oil,” Widodo said, adding that Indonesia’s crude palm oil production had reached 46 million tonnes a year.

Agreeing on the importance of bioenergy for self-sufficiency, his opponent Prabowo Subianto said if elected he would also “boost the use of palm oil, palm sugar, cassava and ethanol from sugar (cane)”.

The challenger did not elaborate on his bioenergy plan, but his campaign team has proposed using millions of hectares of degraded land to cultivate palm sugar to produce energy.

Widodo’s government has previously said it would offer incentives for developers of B100, which the net oil importer hopes can replace fuel imports within three years.

Indonesia’s state energy company PT Pertamina has signed an agreement with Italian oil company Eni to develop a refinery in Indonesia that would produce fuel completely derived from crude palm oil (CPO).

Oil imports have contributed to Indonesia’s widening current account deficit and the volatility of the rupiah currency. The government claimed that its biodiesel program would save billions of dollars in diesel fuel imports.

Although retired general Prabowo agreed with Widodo on several points during the debate, he said Indonesia’s “land and water, and the resources within” must be controlled by the government.

“We are of the view that the government must be present in detail, thoroughly, firmly and actively to correct inequalities in wealth,” he said.

The challenger said the proportion of small farmers’ holdings in the country’s palm plantations should also be larger. Smallholders currently account for roughly 40 percent of Indonesia’s 12 million hectares of palm oil plantations.

Farmers currently do not require larger plots of land, but instead, they need a program to boost yield from their current farm, Mansuetus Darto of Palm Farmers Union said.

He added that farmers wanted more clarity on Widodo’s B100 program and have asked to ensure that small holders play a greater role in the biodiesel supply chain.

Slideshow (2 Images)

“This is an important task for Jokowi on how to prevent big palm companies to be the only main suppliers and not farmers,” Darto said, referring to the president’s nickname.

Both candidates expressed support for greater control of Indonesian natural resources.

President Widodo highlighted Pertamina’s takeover of stewardship of major oil and gas blocks from foreign operators, and an agreement for a state company to purchase a 51 percent stake in the giant Grasberg copper mine from Freeport McMoRan.

Reporting by Fransiska Nangoy and Tabita Diela,; Additional reporting Bernadette Christina Munthe,; Editing by Ed Davies, Jan Harvey and Sherry Jacob-Phillips

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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