The government adopted on Monday a draft of its Next Cybersecurity Strategy, naming China, Russia and North Korea for the first time as countries that conduct cyberattacks.
Adopted at a meeting of the Cybersecurity Strategic Headquarters held in the Prime Minister’s Office, the draft sets out Japan’s policy to drastically strengthen the Self-Defense Force’s cyberdefense capabilities.
The draft is to be adopted at a Cabinet meeting soon.
“It is observed that China, Russia and North Korea are continuing to build the cyber capabilities of their military and other institutions,” says the draft, which outlines Japan’s strategy for the next three years.
Due to the need to strengthen capabilities for defense, deterrence and situational awareness against attacks on critical infrastructure, the draft stipulates a plan to strengthen cyber defense capabilities by enhancing the structure of cyber-related units.
It also includes cooperation with the United States, Australia, India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Japan’s government plans to crack down on the rampant crime utilizing cryptocurrencies, the dark web and social media. It is considering setting up a cyber command center and a working unit within police authorities.
The draft says Japan’s strategy will proceed in line with the government’s digital reforms, which have included the launch of the Digital Agency in September. The agency will present a basic policy on cybersecurity for the development of national and local information systems.
“Enhancing our capabilities and the cooperation of related organizations are necessary to make effective use of limited human resources,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, who leads the headquarters, said at the meeting.
North Korea fired a short-range missile into the East Sea on Tuesday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. The launch took place just minutes before North Korea’s ambassador to the UN urged the US to drop its “hostile policy” at the UN.
The JCS offered no details, saying South Korean and US intelligence are looking into the launch, while Japan’s defense minister said the projectile appeared to be a ballistic missile, without elaborating. North Korea has recently test-launched ballistic missiles, criticizing US hostile policy.
At the UN General Assembly, Kim Song, North Korea’s UN envoy, said the US has to scrap its hostile policy and stop holding joint military drills with South Korea and bringing in strategic weapons into the Korean Peninsula.
“The US should show all of that in action and not words,” Kim said, noting North Korea would be open to any offer to talks once the US makes the change. He added he believed Washington would not drop the policy right away and Pyongyang would no longer ask but watch how the situation unfolds.
The US abandoning its “hostile policy” was one of the two conditions, alongside doing away with “double standards,” that North Korea suggested last week South Korea find ways to do in order to reopen nuclear dialogue. Cheong Wa Dae said it was closely looking at the proposal.
The “double standards” mentioned were Washington’s reaction to the two Korea’s missile tests on Sept. 15, when they tested their ballistic missiles hours apart. The US condemned the North Korean test but not the South Korean launch.
Since then, Pyongyang has reached out to Seoul with overture on talks if the South drops the hostile policy and double standards.
While the Moon Jae-in administration is looking to seize the opportunity to reconnect with the regime at the last minute before Moon leaves office in less than a year, some experts consider the offer a ruse to see Seoul’s response and make it accountable for actions it takes against Pyongyang later.
South Korea cannot unilaterally make change to either of the US position and even if Seoul were to do it, Seoul risks fraying the alliance with Washington, experts said, adding that North Korea was manipulating the Moon administration, which is eager to see another Moon-Kim summit open.
Moon and Kim have met three times since April 2018, but the two Koreas have seen little progress on denuclearization.
YANGON- Many of the businesses across Myanmar have stopped their operation temporarily or permanently following protests and internal political instability since February 1 takeover.
Among them are CMP (cutting, making and packing) factories and businesses. Some of them had to shut down due to a complete lack of overseas order.
A Chinese-owned Hanmauk (Myanmar) Garment Factory with a 1,000-strong workforce in Shwe Thanlwin Industrial Zone in Hlinethaya Township officially announced its closure on its Facebook page on June 19 as it could no longer survive amid various hardships. The administrator of the Shwe Thanlwin Industrial Zone Management Committee cited severe shortages of raw materials and lack of orders as reasons for the shutdown.
“They submitted a letter to us informing that they had to close down as they received no order from overseas. Political instability may be another reason. The main reason is they could not obtain raw materials,” he said.
On September 21, Myanmar Unique Garment Factory in Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone closed temporarily after operating for five years due to a lack of orders. The factory is owned by a Myanmar citizen.
“The factory operation has been suspended. It is partly due to the Covid-19 crisis. We received few orders since 2020. The political issue is also one of the reasons. We stopped operation because we received no orders. But, it is only a temporary closure,” a factory official said.
There are three industrial zones—Hlaing Tharyar , Shwe Linban and Shwe Thanlwin— in Hlaing Tharyar Township where most of the factories and businesses in Yangon Region are centered.
A lot of factories in these industrial zones have closed since February of this year, according to the zone committees.
Twenty nine factories in Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone have closed down so far, said a zone committee official.
“In our zone, 29 have closed since February. But they said in their letters they have only closed temporarily. The factories closed after paying all compensations to the workers in accordance with the law,” he said.
Likewise, nine factories in Shwe Thanlwin Industrial Zone have closed temporarily or permanently, said an official from the zone committee. He,however, said some factories had moved to other places.
There have been 35 factories in Shwe Linban Industrial Zone which closed temporarily or permanently.
In our zone, about 30 factories have closed temporarily while about five others have shut down. They closed only after paying salaries and wages to their workers,” said a zone official.
He added that a least 10 garment factories were among the 35 closures.
Thousands of workers became unemployed after the factory and business closures.
The closure of 29 factories in Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone alone left about 7,000 workers unemployed, said a zone official.
Similarly, nearly 3,000 workers lost their jobs after nine factories closed down in Shwe Thanlwin Industrial Zone while around 10,000 workers became unemployed after the closure of 35 factories and businesses in Shwe Linban Industrial Zone, according to the respective zone committees.
“They will be facing hard times because they are out of work. As you know, all are in trouble. There are various hardships and difficulties including high inflation rate. Even operative factories and businesses are facing difficulties more or less. There are closed factories as well as operative ones. But, the running ones have to struggle. Things are not good anymore,” said an official from the Shwe Linban Industrial Zone Management Committee.
A female worker said most of the factory workers in Yangon came from various regions of the country. When their factories closed, they became unemployed and faced problems with their living conditions such as their hostel rents and meals.
“I came from another town to work here at a factory. I came to work despite the political situation in our country. With factory closures and the current political situation, we find it very hard to find a job. While seeking a job, we have to struggle for our cost of living,” the woman commented.
In some cases, whole families moved to Yangon to work in factories. When the factories closed, they became jobless facing a lot of problems.
With high commodity prices, even those going to work regularly have to be grappling with their day-to-day living as they are poorly paid.
“I still have to go to work. I receive my salary regularly. We also receive overtime fees. As our factory continues to operate, we can still afford our living with our salary even though we may be poorly paid. Due to high commodity prices, we have to tighten our belt. I have pay hostel rents,” said a garment factory worker in Yangon.
The garment industry, a lifeline for workers
Among other businesses, garment factories require a large number of workers. Although there are a wide range of factories in the industrial zones, garment factories have a much stronger workforce.
Garment industry plays an important role in Myanmar’s economic growth. The garment sector topped the list of exported goods in 2019. Garment businesses are also best prospects for the labour intensive industry.
Myanmar’s garment industry is based on a CMP (cutting, making and packing) system. The garment export value was US$1 billion in 2013-2014 fiscal year and jumped to US$3 billion in 2017-218 fiscal, seeing a triple increase in five years.
According to the data from the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA), nearly 600 garment factories with about 500,000 workers exported garment and textile products worth US$4.37 billion in 2019.
Under its ten-year strategic plan, the MGMA has estimated the garment industry will be able create up to 1.5 million jobs and export garment products worth about US$10 billion.
Not only garment industry but also some other businesses such as shoe making and bag making are operating in Myanmar under CMP system.
However, the closure of such a large number of garment factories does not bode well for the country’s future and its economic prospects.
A joint India and the United States collaboration will advance scientific discovery and management of global health threats, Union Minister of State for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar said here on Monday.
Addressing an inaugural session of the 4th Indo-US Health Dialogue, being hosted by India, at the Ministry of Health, she said “Collaboration between our countries will advance scientific discovery and management of global health threats.”
Marking the beginning of the two-day dialogue, Pawar said the platform will provide an opportunity to all the participants for detailed deliberations, which may be used to broaden the scope of partnership on the health agenda with multiple agencies both in India and the US.
Multiple ongoing collaborations between the two countries in the health sector are the focus of the meet, the ministry said in the statement.
This also includes several areas of concern pertaining to strengthening of epidemiological research and surveillance, vaccine development, the “One Health” approach, zoonotic and vector-borne diseases, health systems and health policies etc., it added.
The US delegation for the dialogue is led by Loyce Pace, Director, Office of Global Affairs at the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
She lauded the way in which the two countries have enhanced collaboration in research and development, especially with respect to pharmaceuticals, therapeutics and vaccine development, which could be seen in Indian manufacturers collaborating with US-based agencies to develop Covid vaccines, the statement said.
Pawar appreciated a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed in 2020 on mental health that enhanced cooperation and strengthened bilateral ties between India and the US in the health sector.
Another MoU between the Ministry of Health and the US Department of Health and Human Services in the health sector has been finalised, that is likely to cover issues such as health safety and security, communicable diseases and non-communicable diseases, health systems and health policy, the statement said.
Pawar recapitulated the need to focus on these emerging areas to prevent and control infectious diseases, relying on well-designed and validated scientific approaches and collaboration between countries to aid in advance scientific discovery and management of global health threats, it added.
She also said the public and private sector should work together and combine their strengths in fighting the inequities of the health systems through innovations.
Shri Rajesh Bhushan, Union Health Secretary, Dr Renu Swarup, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Dr Balram Bhargava, Director General, Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) and Secretary, Health Research among other senior officials of the Ministry represented India at the event.
PUTRAJAYA: With interstate travel likely to resume by mid-October, the government is also looking at lifting border control, it was announced.
National Recovery Council (NRC) chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the government would deliberate on whether the country was ready to reopen to tourists and business travellers.
“The reopening of the country’s borders was discussed and will be deliberated further by the related ministers this week.
“They will be looking into whether to allow fully vaccinated Malaysians to travel abroad.
“At the same time, it will also be discussed whether to allow tourists and business travellers into the country.
“I believe this will bring about a big effect to the country.
“The matter will be brought to the Prime Minister, and an announcement will be made soon,” Muhyiddin told a press conference yesterday after chairing the council meeting for the first since his recent appointment.
On interstate travel, he said the council was given a briefing by Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.
He said people would be allowed to cross states when 90% of the adult population had been immunised.
“We were told this could be achieved by early October or at the latest by the middle of the month.
“So you can start making plans to travel around country after this. But do not forget the SOP,” Muhyiddin said.
At present, about 83% of the country’s adult population have been fully vaccinated.
He said Khairy also briefed the council on the falling numbers of Covid-19 patients in intensive care units.
“We are pleased and this shows the positive effects of the vaccination programme,” Muhyiddin added.
He said it was proposed that state-level NRCs be formed to ensure that recovery plans were implemented efficiently, adding that the respective mentris besar and chief ministers would chair it.
He said the meeting also discussed the reopening of schools and higher learning institutions.
Also present was Senior Minister (Security) Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, Senior Minister (International Trade and Industry) Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, Senior Minister (Education) Datuk Dr Radzi Jidin, Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz and Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
New Covid-19 cases fell sharply in Southeast Asia to its lowest in weeks, however the number of deaths were higher on Monday, collated data showed.
Asean reported 54,998 new cases on Monday, lower than Sunday’s 63,014, while deaths rose to 840 from 712 the previous day.
The number of Covid-19 cases crossed 11.95 million while the death toll in the region has gone up to 259,612.
Vietnam Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh said the National Steering Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control has agreed to change the strategy policy from “Zero Covid” to “Safe and flexible adaptation and effective control of the Covid-19 pandemic”, striving to bring the country back to a new normal by the end of September. The country reported 9,362 new cases and 174 deaths on Monday, bringing cumulative cases to 766,051 patients and total 18,758 deaths.
Meanwhile, Malaysia is considering reopening theme parks by the end of November as the Ministry of Public Health estimates that by then up to 90 per cent of the adult population in the country would have been vaccinated against Covid-19. On Monday, Malaysia reported 10,959 news cases and 278 deaths, bringing cumulative cases in the country to 2,209,194 patients and deaths to 25,437.
“A booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine will help particularly at-risk New Yorkers stay protected from the virus for longer,” said New York Governor Kathy Hochul.
New York State announced Monday that eligible New Yorkers could get COVID-19 booster doses with the launch of a new dedicated website for the purpose.
In a letter to the state health commissioner, the New York State Clinical Advisory Task Force endorsed a statement in this regard issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday.
Four groups of New Yorkers who received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after the primary vaccine series should or may receive their COVID-19 booster dose, according to a release by the state government.
The criteria for COVID-19 booster dose in New York are in line with recommendations by the CDC.
“A booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine will help particularly at-risk New Yorkers stay protected from the virus for longer. While the focus of our vaccination effort remains ensuring all unvaccinated New Yorkers get vaccinated, those who are booster eligible should waste no time receiving maximum protection from COVID-19 as soon as possible,” said New York Governor Kathy Hochul.
The top priority remains staying ahead of this constantly changing virus and protecting New Yorkers with effective, long-lasting vaccines, Hochul said.
Individuals who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine are not currently eligible for a booster dose at this time, but may be in the near future, said the release.
Now, free booster doses are already widely available statewide at state-run mass vaccination sites, pharmacies, local health departments, clinics, Federally Qualified Health Centers, and other locations across New York State, according to the release.
New York State also launched a new website with dedicated information about booster doses, additional doses, eligibility, frequently asked questions, and resources for providers on-the-ground to support in the dissemination of information to eligible populations.
A pedestrian passes a mobile vaccine clinic in the Brooklyn borough of New York, United States, on Aug. 23, 2021. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Xinhua)
New York State recently announced 65 million U.S. dollars in funding to county health departments to build the infrastructure needed to support the quick and reliable distribution of booster doses.
U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday received his COVID-19 vaccine booster shot on camera at the White House.
The U.S. CDC last week recommended Pfizer boosters for older adults, long-term care facility residents, some people with underlying health conditions and adults at increased risk of COVID-19 because of their jobs.
Healthcare systems in some parts of the United States are in “dire straits” as unvaccinated people fill up hospitals, says Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Mixed or de-synchronized responses to the U.S. federal government’s universal call for vaccination against the coronavirus have been delaying the whole process, and in some states dragging hospitals into an overflow of unvaccinated patients.
Healthcare systems in some parts of the United States are in “dire straits” as unvaccinated people fill up hospitals, Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told CBS on Sunday.
Some parts of the country are using “crisis standards of care” and are running out of hospital beds, Walensky said. “That means that we are talking about who is going to get a ventilator, who is going to get an ICU bed.”
A medical worker prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine at the Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles, California, the United States, June 18, 2021. (Photo by Zeng Hui/Xinhua)
Between Sept. 18 and 24, U.S. hospitals admitted a daily average of nearly 9,000 COVID-19 patients, much lower than in early January, when the seven-day average peaked at 16,489, per CDC data. However, Walensky stressed, those filling up the hospitals were mostly unvaccinated.
As the CDC updated on Monday, 213,456,787 people have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, making up 64.3 percent of the whole U.S. population; fully vaccinated people stood at 183,670,870, accounting for 55.3 percent of tha total.
According to The New York Times, the 7-day average of confirmed cases of the pandemic stood at 119,883 nationwide on Sunday, with its 16-day change striking an 18-percent fall. COVID-19-related deaths were 2,031 on Sunday, with the 14-day change realizing a 23-percent rise.
REJECTION OF VACCINES
Tens of thousands of health care workers in New York appeared to be risking their jobs by defying the state mandate to receive at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by Monday, setting up an early test for similar employer mandates across the United States, reported The New York Times.
In New York, Rhode Island, Maine, Oregon and the District of Columbia, health care workers must get vaccinated to remain employed. In California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Illinois, workers have the option to be tested regularly if they choose not to get inoculated.
Resistance to vaccine mandates has so far stopped most states from threatening to fire unvaccinated workers, even though employers are legally allowed to require workers to get vaccinated, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Meanwhile, under New York City’s vaccination mandate for education department employees, the requirement to receive at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine was set to take effect close of business Monday, with unvaccinated staffers barred from entering schools on Tuesday and faced with unpaid leave.
But a federal appeals court granted an injunction that is expected to remain in place until a panel of three judges reviews the case on Wednesday. Currently, at least 87 percent of teachers are vaccinated, according to city officials.
Administrators have been bracing for staff shortages, since a sizable minority of teachers, school safety agents, and other staff still haven’t received the vaccine, reported New York news portal The City on Sunday.
Photo taken on Aug. 23, 2021 shows Pfizer signage at Pfizer
Pfizer and BioNTech plan to ask for the authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine for some children under 12 soon, bringing the United States one step closer to offering protection to a population that has grown particularly vulnerable as the fall season gets underway, reported CNN on Monday.
“It is a question of days, not weeks,” said Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla. On Monday, CDC Director Walensky told ABC that the CDC will review data on vaccines for 5 to 11-year-olds with urgency.
“We are all enthusiastically awaiting these data,” she said. “As soon as they get submitted to the FDA (the Food and Drug Administration), I know the FDA is urgently planning to review these data, it will go from the FDA to the CDC, and we will review it with similar urgency.”
In the mean time, the recommendation of COVID-19 booster shot by the FDA and the CDC includes those older than 65, the immunocompromised and those in high-risk jobs, but it leaves out most of people who received the Moderna shot and all who received Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“The wait for boosters news is making some non-Pfizer vaccine recipients a bit salty,” The Washington Post reported on Monday, noting there has been “a rush of patients, and their questions.”
To give those non-Pfizer vaccine recipients some hope in their wait, J&J said in a press release last week that a global study showed boosters helped increase the protection of its COVID-19 shot. Moderna similarly has said data supports boosters and has been submitted for the FDA’s approval.
WASHINGTON – Sitting before a bank of cameras in an auditorium at the White House complex, President Joe Biden received a booster shot of Pfizers coronavirus vaccine Monday, a step that the U.S. government has authorized for many Americans.
The president was adhering to new recommendations issued last week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which, after a torturous and at times contradictory process, recommended extra doses for many who got the German company’s immunization more than six months ago.
“Let me be clear. Boosters are important, but the most important thing we need to do is get more people vaccinated,” the president said in brief remarks before shedding his jacket and rolling up his sleeve.
Biden, who is the oldest man to serve as U.S. president, dwelled on how he fit into one category of those needing a booster, the 65 years and older age bracket.
“Now, I know it doesn’t look like it, but I am over 65 – way over,” 78-year-old Biden quipped. “And that’s why I’m getting my booster shot today.”
Others eligible include long-term care residents and staff, anyone over 18 years old with underlying medical conditions known to make covid more severe and those working in “high-risk settings,” a broad category that essentially allows many Americans to decide for themselves whether they need an extra shot.
During a briefing on Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that no determination had been made about whether younger White House staff would be eligible for the shots.
Recommendations on whether additional doses are needed for those with the Moderna and single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccinations will be forthcoming, officials said.
Vice President Kamala Harris, at 56, is among the Americans who will have to wait. She received the Moderna shot in late December, and she has not taken a booster, according to her office.
Hours after Biden’s announcement, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Monday that he, too, has received a coronavirus booster shot.
McConnell, 79, mentioned – as he frequently does when discussing the vaccine – that he survived polio.
“I’ve been a lifelong champion of vaccinations,” McConnell said in remarks on the Senate floor. “Mountains of evidence tell us these shots are safe, effective, and dramatically shrink the odds of severe disease or death from covid. Like I’ve been saying for a month, these safe and effective vaccines are the way to defend ourselves and our families from this terrible virus. They’re also how we stay on offense against covid as a country.”
He added: “All Americans should speak with their doctors and get vaccinated.”
McConnell has been a staunch supporter of the coronavirus vaccine. His vocal advocacy stands in contrast to the ambivalence or outright refusal of some other members of his party to get vaccinated.
Over the summer, Biden indicated that Americans would soon be eligible for booster shots, pending sign-offs from the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC.
But it soon became clear that there was only enough data to provide guidance for those who’d received the Pfizer shots.
The FDA then authorized boosters for those 65 and over along with younger people who are at risk for severe illness, including those”whose frequent institutional or occupational exposure” to the virus puts them at high risk of serious complications. But a key CDC panel suggested a more limited approach, nixing the high risk job designation. Ultimately Rochelle Walensky, the director of the agency, set aside recommendations from her own internal advisers and went with the broader FDA approach.
In explaining why the president got his shot publicly, Psaki acknowledged the zigzagging messages that preceded the official recommendation.
“We want to do everything we can to alleviate any confusion – answer questions people have,” Psaki said, with a slide over her shoulder laying out who should get the extra dose.
She added that the president got his booster shot on camera to show that “it’s safe, it’s effective.”
Biden received his first covid shot during the transition in December. He also did that publicly, going to a Delaware medical facility for the jab.
Still, the president seemed aware of the oddity of receiving his vaccine so publicly as the leader of the free world. “Did you ever think the press would come watch somebody get a shot in the old days?” Biden asked the assembled reporters.
“No,” replied several.
“Me either,” said the president.
Biden fielded questions as the shot was administered, revealing that he did not have any side effects from his first two Pfizer shots.
“Thank goodness,” he said.
He noted that first lady Jill Biden, who is 70, hasn’t yet received her booster shot – but expects to soon. “I think she’s teaching today,” Biden said. Jill Biden teaches at Northern Virginia Community College.
As a nurse sanitized the president’s upper arm with a wipe, he said pushed back on criticism from some world leaders and public health experts who have criticized the United States for recommending booster shots while many around the world do not have access to their first vaccine doses.
“We are doing more than every other nation in the world combined,” the president said, just as the nurse actually administered the dose. “We’re going to do our part.” Under pressure from world leaders, the U.S. announced last week that it is doubling it’s contribution of vaccine doses to roughly 1.1 billion shots.
Biden didn’t have a firm answer when asked how many Americans must be vaccinated before the country can return to normal.
“I’m not a scientist,” the president said as he stood up and put his suit jacket back on. “But one thing’s for sure – a quarter of the country cannot go unvaccinated.”
As of Monday afternoon, only 55.4% of eligible Americans were fully vaccinated, according to a Washington Post tracker.
Killings in the United States jumped nearly 30% last year, according to FBI data released Monday that indicate a growing number of gun-related slayings amid the pandemic.
The FBI said murder and manslaughter rose 29.4% – the largest one-year increase since such the federal government began compiling national figures in the 1960s. That historic increase has been known for some time, and has sparked concern from police officials and prosecutors.
But the FBI release of data compiled from thousands of law enforcement agencies formally confirms the trend.
Overall, violent crime rose 5.6% in 2020, while property crimes fell 7.8%, the FBI said. Assaults increased 12%, according to the bureau.
Criminologists and police officials have been studying possible explanations for the sudden, sharp increase in killings – from societal changes due to the coronavirus, to changes in policing, to increased gun sales. So far this year, officials are seeing a further increase in homicides, but not as pronounced as last year.
The FBI data also shows how much killing in America is fueled by shootings. Gun homicides account for more than two out of every three such deaths, according to officials.
While different places saw different rates of increase in killings, the rise was nearly universal across the country, occuring in small towns, big cities, and many places in between.
Overall, however, crime is still well below the historic highs reached in the early 1990s. And in many cities, including Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago, the number of killings is still far below the record-high tolls from nearly 30 years ago.
“Homicides jumped almost everywhere, while overall crime was down, so there’s no real surprises in this,” said Justin Nix, an associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at the university of Nebraska in Omaha.
Nix said the most likely culprits for the sharp spike in killings is twofold: the pandemic, and what he called a ” police legitimacy crisis” brought on by the videotaped killing last year of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.
That incident and others have caused many people to trust police less, making them less willing to call for help, or provide information to investigators about killings, Nix said. He added that the effect is magnified when officers “de-police” by pulling back from patrol and other duties in the fact of public criticism.
On top of that, Nix said, the data suggests there may be more people carrying and using guns in public spaces, leading to more killings.
Republican and Democratic elected officials disagree on what is causing the increase in homicides after years of decline, and how to stop it. Conservatives blame Democratic-run cities for what they say are overly restrictive policies placed on police departments; the Biden administration faults the easily availability of guns as a primary reason for more deaths, and the Justice Department is trying to stem the violence by cracking down on illegal gun trafficking.
The disturbing crime data comes as the FBI is pushing the nation’s roughly 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies to change how they provide information to calculate national figures and trends.
The switch-over to the new crime data format, known as the National Incident-Based Reporting System, or NIBRS, has been a years-long process. But officials say 2020 is the last year for which data reported through the old system will be accepted.
Many law enforcement agencies don’t yet provide the FBI with the data that is needed for the new system, leaving some crime experts to predict that national crime figures will get more shaky in the near term, with markedly fewer jurisdictions included in the FBI summary that comes out each fall.
“It’s a little bit like cleaning out your garage – first you put a lot of stuff on the lawn, so it looks worse before it looks better,” said Mitch Beemer, who manages crime data for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, which adopted a similar data-tracking program years earlier. “But I’m optimistic that we are moving in the right direction and will get most of the way there in five or six years.”
Nix, the criminologist, said that when it comes to the FBI’s data, “I’m kind of worried about the future, because I think we’re about to have a real blind spot for the next few years.”
Changes in crime rates have long fueled political debates over gun laws, and the newly released data is likely to intensify that trend. On Monday, gun control advocates said a large increase in first-time gun owners around the start of the pandemic likely played a significant role in rise in shooting deaths.
“We know having a gun in your home, having a gun in public, makes you less safe and more likely to be a victim and perpetrator of gun violence,” said Ari Davis, a policy analyst at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.
Davis said he was concerned about states that are repealing local gun control measures and passing “stand your ground” laws, which allow people to use deadly force in public – without a duty to retreat – if they are being attacked or threatened.
With more guns circulating in communities, Davis said, “that’s a dangerous mix. When we’re talking about community-based gun violence, that kind of violence can be retaliatory. If we don’t interrupt now, the spikes of today in gun violence can be hard to reduce even when the causes, like covid, are gone.”
But Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy, said it was too early to tie the jump in gun sales to new owners to the rise in shooting deaths.
He noted police departments in 2020 saw personnel shortages due to covid-19, and new rules at some police agencies designed to curb abusive policing.
“Having an environment in which there are slightly fewer cops, with more out for Covid and more of them not doing proactive things, that creates a place in which people might want to carry guns around, might be prone to do bad things with those guns,” Webster said.