A Venezuelan man who migrated to Colombia one-and-a-half-year ago makes handicraft items with obsolete banknotes.
Edixon Infante, 24, is among the growing number of migrants in Colombia, who are using the now defunct Venezuelan bolivar currency notes, to create art.
They were replaced by the new Venezuelan sovereign bolivar last August in the face of hyperinflation.
Many Venezuelans who migrated to bordering Colombia in the pursuit of jobs and better lives now look after their families selling bags, ornaments and toys made of the abandoned currency notes on the streets.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Infante said that he worked as a hawker in Venezuela.
"If I had this money in the past, I would have been a millionaire. I would buy a house, get a car," Infante said, waving a bundle of banknotes.
But it has no value now, he adds.
He said he got the idea by some of his country people who were making a living selling paper goods made of old bolivars.
In particular, the handicraft goods drew the interest of tourists, said Infante, adding that he sends a part of the money that he earns to his family living in Venezuela.
Venezuela's economy has been in precipitous decline following a global downturn in the price of crude oil, the country's main export.
The country has been rocked by protests since Jan. 10, when Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a second term following a vote boycotted by the opposition.
Tensions flared when opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself acting president on Jan. 23, a move supported by the U.S. and many European and Latin American countries.
Turkey, Russia, China, Iran, Bolivia and Mexico have thrown their weight behind Maduro.
Sanders calls on US to follow New Zealand gun ban
Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has called for the U.S. to follow New Zealand's lead in banning military-style assault rifles.On Wednesday, New Zealand enacted a ban on all such weapons following a recent terrorist attack on two Christchurch mosques that left at least 50 dead."This is what real action to stop gun violence looks like. We must follow New Zealand's lead, take on the NRA and ban the sale and distribution of assault weapons in the United States," Sanders, who is seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination, wrote on Twitter Wednesday, referring to the powerful National Rifle Association lobbying group.Sanders, along with many Democrats, has long called for the U.S. to overhaul its firearms laws following a series of mass shootings that have repeatedly devastated the nation.But U.S. lawmakers have so far been reticent to re-enact an assault weapons ban despite the mounting death toll from attacks in which that type of weapon is commonly used, in part due to opposition from the NRA.The U.S. had banned the manufacture of assault weapons for civilian use in 1994, but the law lapsed 10 years later when it was not extended.Following its own horrific mass shooting, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her cabinet agreed to overhaul the country’s gun laws, adding her government will ban "every semi-automatic weapon used in the terror attack".At least 50 Muslims were killed and as many injured when Australian-born Brenton Tarrant, 28, entered the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch and shot indiscriminately at those inside.Tarrant has been charged for the massacre and is being held at a maximum-security prison in Auckland.Among the victims were four children under the age of 18. Other children are still being treated at local hospitals for injuries they sustained during the attack.
US acting defense chief grilled over proposed budget
U.S. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan was grilled last week by senators over a request by the Department of Defense (DoD) to Congress for a sharp increase in funding for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).The DoD's request is $100 billion or 140 percent more than its OCO request in 2019.Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford and Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist were also present at the Fiscal Year 2020 Defense Budget Request session held at the Senate Armed Services Committee.Republican Senator Tom Cotton questioned the "very large request" in the budget for OCO funds and Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is also running for president in 2020, slammed the administration's use of OCO for reasons "that have nothing to do with the establishment of OCO in 2009 by [former President] Barack Obama".Warren said the last time the military requested such an increase was in 2010, when there were around 200,000 troops deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, compared to the current 21,000 troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria combined.All three defense officials said the OCO funds are based on military requirements, without getting into detail or providing a comprehensive explanation.Turkey has also voiced concerns about alleged U.S. plans to allocate $300 million in the 2020 budget for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Syria, which is predominantly composed of members of the PKK/YPG terror group.The two-and-a-half-hour session shed light on the U.S. military plans underway and related spending.AfghanistanDunford said they are "cautiously optimistic" about Afghanistan after Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad's completion of the first round of talks with the Taliban."For the first time, serious inroads were made into the reconciliation," said Dunford, adding they will continue to support Khalilzad's efforts."On the ground [in Afghanistan], by and large, the general strategic situation has not changed," said Dunford.He said the pressure they have built on the Taliban’s leadership has pushed them to the negotiating table for the first time since the war began.Dunford added that the U.S. must continue providing combat enabling capability to Afghan security forces in the form of "train, assist, advise" as well as aviation, logistics and intelligence support to achieve real progress with the peace process.He said the most important reason for the U.S. presence in Afghanistan and South Asia is to prevent attacks against the American people.Notes from the sessionDemocratic Senator Richard Blumenthal praised the Trump administration's decision to invest in underwater warfare by building three Virginia-class attack submarines in 2020, an area he believed the U.S. "has an asymmetric advantage".IraqAnswering a question from Republican Senator David Perdue about the presence of 5,000 American troops in Iraq at a time when the Iraqi Parliament is bracing for a vote to ask U.S. troops to leave the country, Dunford said the 2020 budget includes “an enduring presence in Iraq slightly less than the forces that are on the ground right now".Dunford added that they are in partnership with the Iraqi government until a lasting defeat of Daesh by Iraqi security forces is achieved.Space ForceShanahan said the existing space technologies of the "$19 trillion U.S. economy" are not resilient enough to cope with the threats and challenges of today and that new "capability" has to be designed and put in orbit as soon as possible.He elaborated on the three steps the U.S. is planning to take in a bid to strengthen its capabilities in space.Shanahan said that, first, the U.S. Space Force (USSF) recommends the creation of a Space Development Agency which will "cut the red tape" and "tap into the commercial space technology".He said the second step is to set up a space command “just like we did with the Cyber Command" and the third is to provide space professionals with the right training to turn space jobs into careers.In response to a question on whether Space Forces could be the sixth branch of U.S. Armed Forces along with the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy, Shanahan ruled out the option because of the "bureaucracy" it would create.The Pentagon is requesting $14.1 billion for space, $2.6 billion for hypersonic weapons technology and $9.6 billion for cyber.Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth outlined a "shift in U.S. national defense strategy from countering violent extremism to great power competition".Sexual assaults in the armyRepublican Senator Martha McSally recalled that in 2017, there were 6,769 sexual assaults reported across the U.S. military and thousands of others that were not reported.McSally demanded a commitment from Shanahan and Dunford and proposed forming a team of experts to get to the bottom of that issue. Both Shanahan and Dunford agreed to cooperate.Speaking about nuclear modernization projects, Shanahan said the U.S. "should not unilaterally disarm" at a time when its competitors are building up their nuclear capabilities.In response to a comment criticizing the physical condition of family housing for service members of the U.S. Army, Shanahan said it is an "embarrassment".Shanahan dodged questions from Democratic senators about a border wall proposed by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump as well as allegations that Boeing MAX 737 planes are not safe to fly after an accident in Ethiopia killed 356 people in the capital, Addis Ababa.He said they should let regulators do their job on the Boeing issue.The U.S. Constitution grants Congress the final say on budgetary matters.Netanyahu thanks Trump after provocative Golan Heights announcementUS's eight democratic presidential hopefuls drop AIPAC conf.Turkey slams Trump's Golan Heights tweet
Nearly half of EU covered by forests
The European Union had around 182 million hectares of forests and other wooded land in 2015, corresponding to 43 percent of its land area, the bloc's statistical office said Thursday.The latest available data was released by Eurostat on the occasion of the International Day of Forests to "raise awareness of the importance of forests of all types"."Wooded land covers a slightly greater proportion of the land than the area used for agriculture (some 41 percent)," Eurostat said.The statistical office noted that in seven EU countries, more than half of the land area was wooded in 2015.Across the 28-member bloc, Sweden reported the largest wooded area, with 30.5 million hectares.It was followed by Spain, with 27.6 million hectares, and Finland with 23 million hectares."Of the total area of the EU covered by wooded land in 2015, Sweden and Finland together accounted for 29.4 percent," Eurostat said.The report also revealed that Turkey had nearly 22 million hectares of forest and wooded land in 2015, putting the country in fourth place compared to the 28 EU member states.