Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (C) addresses the
audience during a meeting of the annual Mercosur trade bloc presidential
summit in Mendoza June 29, 2012. (Credit: Reuters/Enrique Marcarian)

Chinese leader woos Latin America with deals

Chinese leader woos Latin America with deals
Chinese President Xi Jinping (4-L, first row) poses with leaders of the CELAC group of Latin American and Caribbean states, in Brasilia, on July 17, 2014 (AFP Photo/Nelson Almeida)
"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."

"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)

Map of Latin America showing countries where major protests have occurred in recent months (AFP Photo)
A student holds a sign reading "Don't shoot, listen!!!" during a protest
on June 17, 2013 in Brasilia (AFP, Evaristo)

Paraguay police search S. American football HQ

Paraguay police search S. American football HQ
The Conmebol headquarters in Luque, Paraguay, is seen on January 7, 2016, during a raid within the framework of the FIFA corruption scandal (AFP Photo/Norberto Duarte)

'Panama Papers' law firm under the media's lenses

'Panama Papers' law firm under the media's lenses
The Panama Papers: key facts on the huge journalists' investigation into tax evasion (AFP Photo/Thomas Saint-Cricq, Philippe Mouche)

Mossack Fonseca

Mossack Fonseca


"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Saturday, December 26, 2015

More than 160,000 evacuated in deadly LatAm floods

Yahoo – AFP, December 26, 2015

People sit outside their house at a flooded area in Falcon, 42 km west from
Asuncion, along the Paraguay-Argentina border on December 26, 2015
(AFP Photo/Norberto Duarte)

Asuncion (AFP) - More than 160,000 people have been driven from their homes in Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay in some of the worst floods in decades, which have left at least six people dead, authorities said Saturday.

The areas hardest hit in the week leading up to Christmas were in Paraguay, where four people have been killed by falling trees. President Horacio Cartes has declared a state of emergency to free up more than $3.5 million in disaster funds.

The intense rain storms, caused by an unusually strong "El Nino" pattern, have forced 130,000 Paraguayans from their homes, authorities said. In the capital Asuncion, thousands were temporarily without power.

Emergency personnel were carrying out rescue and evacuation operations, said David Arellano, the head of operations for the National Emergency Secretariat (SEN).

"We cannot abandon the thousands of families who each year are affected by flooding," Cartes said in his Christmas message.

El Nino is the name given to a weather pattern associated with a sustained period of warming in the central and eastern tropical Pacific that can spark deadly and costly climate extremes.

Last month, the UN's World Meteorological Organization warned the phenomenon was the worst in more than 15 years, and one of the strongest since 1950.

People affected by floods set up improvised shacks in Falcon, 42 km west from
 Asuncion, along the Paraguay-Argentina border on December 26, 2015 (AFP
Photo/Norberto Duarte)

In northeastern Argentina, two people were killed and about 20,000 were evacuated from their homes by flooding caused by a rise in the level of the Uruguay River, authorities said.

Entre Rios province was the worst off with about 10,000 people displaced, most of them in Concordia, a city of some 170,000 located on the banks of the river where officials said it was the most serious flooding in 50 years.

Uruguay, which borders the river, has declared a state of emergency in several northern departments. As of Saturday, about 9,000 people were forced from their homes, according to national emergency officials.

And in Brazil, President Dilma Rousseff on Saturday flew by helicopter to survey the damage in southern Rio Grande do Sul state, where about 9,000 people have been displaced by flooding in recent days.

The federal government has released $1.7 million in emergency funds for the affected areas.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Colombia legalizes medical marijuana

Yahoo – AFP, Paula Carrillo, December 22, 2015

Ines Cano (R) and her daughter Luna Valentina, who uses medical marijuana
 to treat the symptoms of refractory epilepsy, visit the Cannalivio cannabis lab
near Medellin, Colombia on May 7, 2015 (AFP Photo/Raul Arboleda)

Bogota (AFP) - Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signed a decree Tuesday legalizing and regulating medical marijuana, the latest softening of the country's hardline tactics in the war on drugs.

In a nationally televised address, Santos announced it would be fully legal to grow, process, import and export cannabis and its derivatives for medical and scientific use.

"This decree allows licenses to be granted for the possession of seeds, cannabis plants and marijuana," he said from the presidential palace.

"It places Colombia in the group of countries that are at the forefront... in the use of natural resources to fight disease."

He added that the measure "does not go against our international commitments on drug control."

Colombia's government has long been a close ally of the United States in fighting international drug trafficking, using its military and billions of dollars in US funding to try to shed its title as the world's largest cocaine producer.

But it has shown signs of easing its hardline stance in recent months.

Santos's announcement follows a recent decision to stop aerially spraying the herbicide glyphosate on fields of coca, the raw ingredient for cocaine.

The World Health Organization warned in April that the chemical, sold by US biotech company Monsanto under the brand name Roundup, is "probably carcinogenic."

Santos also announced in September that Colombia would begin giving land to farmers who stop growing coca.

Medical marijuana had previously fallen into a legal gray area in Colombia.

It was authorized under a 1986 law, but the lack of regulation prevented production on a national level.

"The manufacture, export, sale, and medical and scientific use of this and other substances have been permitted for several decades in Colombia. However, they were never regulated. That is what we are doing today," Santos said.

Ines Cano administers medical marijuana to her daughter Luna Valentina (L)
 at their home in Medellin on November 25, 2015; Valentina, 12, was born with 
refractory epilepsy and uses cannabis to calm her seizures (AFP Photo/Raul Arboleda)

Under the decree, growers will apply for licenses from the National Narcotics Council, while those seeking to manufacture cannabis-based drugs will apply for permits from the health ministry.

The health ministry will also grant permits to export such drugs to countries where they are legal.

"Our goal is for patients to be able to access medications made in Colombia that are safe, high-quality and accessible. It is also an opportunity to promote scientific research in our country," Santos said.

'Plan Colombia'

Colombia decriminalized possession of up to 20 grams of marijuana in 2012, and it is legal to grow up to 20 cannabis plants. But consuming it in public and selling it are illegal.

Colombia's Congress is currently debating a separate medical marijuana bill that would define crop limits and other production details.

Its sponsor, Senator Juan Manuel Galan, told AFP he hopes to have it signed into law by June.

Medical marijuana is already used in Colombia on a small scale.

For example, some epileptics use cannabis extract to control their seizures.

But health professionals and pharmaceutical companies say the new decree will make it much easier to buy, sell and manufacture such drugs.

Illegal drugs have given rise to horrific violence by drug cartels in Colombia, and have fueled a five-decade conflict between leftist guerrillas and the Colombian government that has killed more than 220,000 people.

The country has received $9 billion in US funding since 1999 under "Plan Colombia," a military and economic cooperation program aimed at combating drug trafficking.

But it remains a top producer of illegal drugs, particularly cocaine.

Coca cultivation surged by 44 percent last year, to 69,000 hectares (170,000 acres), according to the United Nations.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Brazilian courts freezes companies' assets in mining spill

A court has blocked the Brazilian assets of mining giants Vale and BHP Billiton to ensure they pay for damage of a deadly toxic discharge that buried villages. The spill caused Brazil's worst environmental disaster.

Deutsche Welle, 20 December 2015

A judge in Brazil's state of Minas Gerais ruled late Friday that the Brazilian assets of mining giants BHP Billiton and Vale SA be frozen after their joint venture Samarco was unable to pay for damage caused by the bursting of a dam at its iron ore mining operation.

"In 30 days, the companies should make an initial deposit of 2 billion reais ($502 million, 462 million euros) to carry out the full recovery plan," the judge ruled. Vale and BHP Billiton will be fined $37,000 a day if they fail to comply.

The dam burst last November - considered Brazil's worst ever ecological disaster - killed more than a dozen people, left hundreds homeless and polluted a 800-kilometers (500-miles) stretch of the Doce River across two states and into the Atlantic Ocean.

Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said it will take at least 10 years for the river basin to recover from the extensive mining waste that's permeated the watershed.

But despite the scale of the disaster, multinational mining giant Vale had argued its Samarco venture is an independent legal entity and wholly responsible for liability and cleanup.

Federal Judge Marcelo Aguiar Machado disagreed in his 19-page judgment: "I understand to be correct the allegation that Vale and BHP, as controllers of Samarco, can be classified as indirect polluters and as such responsible for the environmental damage caused."

Prosecutors plan to sue Vale and BHP Billiton for $5.2 billion for cleanup costs and damages relating to the disaster.

The collapse of two dams at a Brazilian mine has cut off drinking water for
 a quarter of a million people and saturated waterways downstream with dense
orange sediment that could wreck the ecosystem for years to come.

Farmers' livelihoods destroyed

A BHP spokesman said in a statement Sunday that it could not comment on the ruling as the mine company had yet to receive formal notification of the decision but made assurances it would assist with the cleanup.

"We are committed to supporting Samarco to rebuild the community and restore the environment affected by the breach of Samarco's Fundao and Santarem tailings dams, in the state of Minas Gerais," a company spokesman said.

The Australian company's share price has fallen more than 40 percent on the Australian Securities Exchange this year.

jar/sms (Reuters, AP)
Related Article:

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Narco submarine carrying 3 tons of cocaine captured off Galapagos Islands

A narco-sub carrying three tons of cocaine has been captured by the Ecuadorian and Colombian navies. Narco-traffickers have used submarine-like vessels to move drugs to the United States.

Deutsche Welle, 19 December 2015

The semi-submersible drug boat was captured and three crew members arrested after the vessel encountered mechanical problems 200 miles (320 kilometers) from the Galapagos Islands.

The Colombian navy said in a statement on Friday its boats had been pursuing the makeshift submarine through the Pacific Ocean for four-days with the help of US government surveillance aircraft.

Authorities said the ultimate destination of the cocaine was likely the United States.

Since the early 1990s authorities have captured some 100 handcrafted submarines trafficking cocaine from where it is grown and processed in the Andes to Central America and Mexico on its way to its ultimate destination, the United States.

Peru and Colombia are the world's top producers of cocaine, the production and trafficking of which has fueled deadly violence and corruption throughout Mexico and Central and South America.

cw/jlw (AP, dpa)

Friday, December 18, 2015

Obama reaffirms will to close terror 'magnet' Guantanamo

Yahoo – AFP, December 18, 2015

US President Barack Obama holds a press conference in the briefing room at
 the White House in Washington, DC, on December 18, 2015 (AFP Photo/
Nicholas Kamm)

Washington (AFP) - President Barack Obama reaffirmed on Friday his determination to close Guantanamo Bay, with backing from Congress or -- as a last resort -- by executive decree.

"Guantanamo continues to be one of the key magnets for jihadi recruitment," Obama told a year-end news conference.

"We see the Internet traffic. We see how Guantanamo has been used to create this mythology that America is at war with Islam," said the president, who made shutting down the military prison in Cuba a central electoral pledge.

Obama has repeatedly clashed with the Republican-dominated Congress for blocking his efforts to close the prison, and he left open the door to bypassing them altogether if they continue to do so.

"We will wait until Congress has said no to a plan with numbers attached to it before we say anything definitive about my executive authority here," he said.

The White House is currently working on a new proposal to close the prison set up in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

"I'm not going to automatically assume that Congress says no," Obama said. "Every once in a while they will surprise you."

Obama's remarks follow the announcement that 17 low-risk detainees will be transferred from Guantanamo Bay, probably in mid-January, putting the military prison's population below 100.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Regular flights to resume between US and Cuba: State Department

Yahoo – AFP, December 17, 2015

The United States announced Thursday the resumption of regular
flights to and from Cuba (AFP Photo)

Washington (AFP) - The United States and Cuba announced Thursday plans to resume flights between the two countries, erasing another vestige of what had been strained ties rooted in the Cold War.

The latest progress as the countries work to build on their restoration of full diplomatic relations this summer was made public a year to the day after Barack Obama and Raul Castro first said they would bury the hatchet.

In a short statement, the US State Department said that on Wednesday Washington and Havana had reached "a bilateral arrangement to establish scheduled air services between the two countries."

An old American car passes by the
 US Embassy in Havana on December 17,
 2015 (AFP Photo/Yamil Lage)
But this does not mean American tourists can now start flocking to communist-run Cuba to lie on beaches, sip rum and fire up cigars.

Such travel is still illegal, as the trade embargo that the Americans slapped on Cuba in 1960 after Fidel Castro came to power in a communist revolution remains in effect.

In a statement marking the anniversary of the start of the reconciliation, Obama renewed his call for the Republican-controlled Congress to lift the embargo, which he termed the "legacy of a failed policy."

Republicans are wary of rewarding Cuba until it improves its human rights record.

Until now only charter flights were allowed. Current US law also allowed for special permits to visit Cuba, and the criteria for getting one of these have been looser since January.

The charter flights will continue under the new agreement, and scheduled flights for non-tourist purposes will also start, according to the US statement.

Although the ban on tourist travel remains in force, the new accord will "facilitate an increase in authorized travel, enhance traveler choices, and promote people-to-people links between the two countries."

It added: "a stronger civil aviation relationship will facilitate growth in authorized travel between our two countries."

The Cuban Embassy in Washington said the two countries had reached preliminary agreement on a memorandum of understanding for the establishment of regular flights.

Its adoption by the two governments will be confirmed in the next few days, the embassy added.

Airlines eager to fly

Under the new arrangement airlines in the two countries can now strike deals in such areas as code-sharing and aircraft leasing, the embassy said.

Ever since the historic thaw began a year ago US airlines have been eager to start flying to Cuba and tap its potential as a new market.

Tourists visit the Old Havana, on December 16, 2015 (AFP Photo/Yamil Lage)

These include American Airlines, which runs 22 weekly charter flights to Cuba from New York and Newark, New Jersey.

JetBlue and United, which also fly charters to Cuba from those two cities, are also chomping at the bit to begin all-out service to the island.

The United States and Cuba formally restored diplomatic relations in July and re-opened embassies in each other's capitals.

Obama said he had made the decision because he had concluded that 50 years of trying to encourage democratic and economic change in Cuba by isolating it had simply failed. It is better to engage Cuba and work with it, he said.

The countries are now attempting the arduous task of achieving fully normal relations, like those of any other countries without a historic bone to pick.

As part of that process the countries set up commissions to address specific issues and accords have been reached in such areas as migration, mail service and cooperation on science and the fight against drug trafficking.

But in April Raul Castro said full normalization would take time.

Cuba wants the embargo lifted, payment of damages for what it calls lost revenue as a result of that embargo, and talks on recovering the land which it leases to the United States and that houses a US naval base and the Guantanamo Bay prison for terror suspects.

Washington for its part is seeking damages for property that Cuba seized from US companies and citizens in the early 1960s, and also wants to see democratic and free-market reforms on the island.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Costa Rica wins bitter territory row with Nicaragua

Yahoo – AFP, Ariela Navarro and Nicolas Delaunay, December 16, 2015

The San Juan River is the natural border between Nicaragua and
Costa Rica (AFP Photo/Yuri Cortez)

The Hague (AFP) - Costa Rica won a lingering, bitter territorial row with Nicaragua Wednesday when a top UN court ruled it had sovereignty over a small patch of wetlands on the river San Juan.

The court "finds that Costa Rica has sovereignty over the disputed territory as defined by the court," the judges from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled, in a statement read to the hearing.

Basing its ruling in part on an 1858 treaty between the two countries, the court also reproached Managua for violating San Jose's right to navigation in the waters which form their joint border.

By "excavating" three channels in the river and "establishing a military presence on Costa Rican territory, Nicaragua has violated the territory and sovereignty" of its neighbour, the 16-judge panel found.

A satisfied Costa Rica hailed the decision, and while Nicaragua lamented the loss of the territory it took heart from some sharp criticism of its neighbour for building a road along the banks.

"The ICJ resolution... constitutes total vindication of the national viewpoint on the integrity of our territory," Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis told a news conference in San Jose.

He said he hoped a "horizon of dialogue" would now start between the countries.

Nicaragua's deputy foreign minister, Cesar Vega, told reporters in Managua that his country "will abide by the verdict".

Tensions have flared for years between the two Central American nations over the land -- called the Isla Portillos by San Jose and Harbour Head by Managua.

The fight first reached the ICJ in 2010 when Costa Rica complained Nicaragua's army had occupied a three square kilometre (just over one square mile) block near the mouth of the river San Juan as it flows into the Caribbean.

Nicaragua maintained the territory historically belonged to it, and in a separate 2011 counter-claim to the ICJ argued that Costa Rica was causing environmental damage by building a road next to the waterway.

President of the International Court of Justice Ronny Abraham (2R) looks at 
a document during the case on the border dispute between Costa Rica and
Nicaragua, in the Hague on December 16, 2015 (AFP Photo/Bas Czerwinski)

Turning the page

The case has ping-ponged back and forth in the International Court of Justice -- the UN's highest court founded in 1945 to rule on border and territorial disputes between nations.

Costa Rica had maintained in a hearing earlier this year that Nicaragua had "invaded" the tiny stretch of territory on its northeast coast.

And while the 16 judges did not go so far, the ICJ did award Costa Rica compensation for "material damages caused by Nicaragua's unlawful activities on Costa Rican territory."

The two countries now have 12 months to negotiate a fair settlement, otherwise the court warned it would be prepared at the request of one of the parties to step in and set the amount of compensation due.

"Nicaragua has lost 250 hectares of wetlands that we considered to be ours," said Nicaragua's ambassador to the Netherlands, Carlos Arguello Gomez.

But he insisted his country now wanted to "turn the page. This ruling will help ties between our two countries. When things are cleared up, then problems go away and that is the most important thing."

He also welcomed the judges' ruling in the 2011 case brought by Nicaragua, which found that San Jose had failed to carry out an environmental impact assessment when it built the road that veers close to the river.

However, the judges refused to award any damages to Nicaragua, saying the ruling in its favour was "satisfaction" enough and Managua had failed to prove the road had caused "significant transboundary harm".

A third dispute between the countries is also before the ICJ, as Costa Rica has asked it to rule on their maritime borders.

The court has no power to enforce its rulings, but two countries must agree before a case can be brought before the tribunal.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Ecuador, Sweden break legal impasse over Assange questioning

Sweden has reached an agreement with Ecuador for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to be questioned by Swedish authorities over rape allegation. Assange avoided extradition by taking refuge inside Ecuador's embassy.

Deutsche Welle, 14 Dec 2015

Assange has been holed up for more than three years inside Ecuador's London embassy to avoid facing sexual assault charges in Sweden.

The 44-year-old Australian denies any wrongoing and says the charges are a ruse to have him handed to the United States, where he stands accused of presiding over Wikileaks, which disclosed hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010.

Ecuador has now come to an agreement with Sweden that would allow Assange to be questioned by Swedish police inside the embassy. The South American country granted him asylum in 2010 and has allowed him to live inside its London embassy.

"The agreement is, with no doubts, an instrument that strengthens bilateral relations and will facilitate, for example, the fulfillment of judicial matters such as the questioning of Mr. Assange, who is granted asylum in the embassy of Ecuador in London," said a statement from Ecuador's foreign ministry.

Virtual house arrest

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange took
 refuge inside Ecuador's London embassy
in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden
The Swedish cabinet is due to approve the agreement in coming days.

Assange's attorney has also welcomed the breakthrough which has been a source of tension between the two countries.

"We are glad that Ecuador and Sweden have reached an agreement for judicial co-operation," Baltasar Garzon, coordinator of Assange's international legal team, told the Press Association in Britain. "The most important thing now is that it must provide the appropriate legal guarantees."

Swedish prosecutors had offered in March to question Assange in London, dropping their previous demand that he come to Sweden to answer to the 2010 criminal charges.

But Ecuador refused to allow such a meeting until a bilateral judicial agreement was in place.

Prosecutors dropped a sexual assault probe against Assange this summer after the five-year statute of limitations expired. But he is still wanted for questioning over an alleged rape, which carries a 10-year statute of limitations that only expires in 2020.

Britain, which at one time threatened to storm the embassy to capture Assange, also welcomed the agreement.

"It is for the Swedish prosecutor to decide how they now proceed with a legal case," a spokeswoman for the British Foreign Office said.

jar/gsw (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

Friday, December 11, 2015

Mexico issues first permit to grow and use marijuana

Yahoo – AFP, December 11, 2015

A man shows medical marijuana at a greenhouse in Mexico City
on November 30, 2015 (AFP Photo/Yuri Cortez)

Mexico City (AFP) - Mexican health authorities issued Friday the first permit allowing four individuals to grow and use their own marijuana for recreational purposes, following a landmark Supreme Court ruling.

While the permit opens a crack in Mexico's prohibitionist policies, the government health watchdog Cofepris stressed that the authorization is limited to those four people only.

The group, part of the Mexican Society for Responsible and Tolerant Personal Use (SMART), is pushing for full legalization of marijuana, arguing that it will help reduce the country's relentless drug violence.

Their legal victory has set a potential precedent for others to seek similar permits while forcing President Enrique Pena Nieto and Congress to debate whether to change the country's marijuana laws.

For now, Cofepris underlined in a statement that under the current laws marijuana "is still an illegal substance" and its cultivation and sale remain forbidden.

But the four SMART members -- two lawyers, an accountant and a social activist -- are allowed to "sow, grow, harvest, prepare, possess, transport and consume marijuana for recreational uses," Cofepris said.

They are not permitted, however, to sell it to other people or use marijuana in front of children, pregnant women "or people who do not give their consent."

The SMART members say they have no intention of using marijuana. Their goal, they say, is to force the government's hand.

While Pena Nieto has repeatedly voiced his opposition to legalization, he has convened experts to a national debate in several states between January and March to decide potential new regulations.

Congress, meanwhile, is discussing a bill that would legalize the import and consumption of medical marijuana.

Related Articles:

US, Cuba to renew direct postal service after 52 years

Yahoo – AFP, December 11, 2015

Tourists from the United States pose in front of the Capitol in Havana, on April 6,
2015, as sanctions between the two countries ease (AFP Photo/Yamil Lage)

Havana (AFP) - The United States and Cuba said Friday they have agreed to restore direct postal service 52 years after severing it at the height of the Cold War.

The pilot plan "will provide for mail flights between the two countries several times a week, rather than routing mail through a third country," the US State Department said in a statement.

It said details were still under discussion. The Cuban foreign ministry said the plan would take effect "in the coming weeks" and then be rolled out permanently.

The news comes six days from the first anniversary of the historic announcement by Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro that the two countries would renew diplomatic ties after more than half a century.

The two nations reopened embassies in each other's capitals in July.

The United States and Cuba broke off direct postal service in 1963, the year after Washington slapped a suffocating trade and financial embargo on Havana that exists to this day, despite Obama's calls for Congress to lift it.

Currently, letters and packages must pass through third countries, delaying delivery by up to a month.

The two countries had opened talks in 2009 on restoring postal service and direct flights.

Commercial airline service has still not restarted, although the large Cuban-American community and other US citizens with a special license can travel to Cuba on charter flights.

Dozens of such flights connect Miami and Havana each week.

The two countries have already re-established a direct telephone link since the thaw.

The Cuban state telecommunications company, ETECSA, has said the new phone connection could eventually be used for Internet communications as well.

Cuba has one of the lowest rates of Internet access in the world, with just 3.4 percent of households connected.

Several deeply divisive issues remain untouched in the ongoing talks between Washington and Havana, including the embargo and the future of the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay.

On Tuesday, they began discussions on one of the thorniest outstanding issues: compensation claims on both sides.

Washington is seeking payment of between $7 billion and $8 billion for American citizens and companies whose property on the Caribbean island was confiscated by Fidel Castro's government in the wake of the Cuban Revolution in 1959.

Havana for its part is seeking damages for its losses under the embargo -- an estimated $121 billion to date, according to the Cuban government.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Venezuela's opposition wins majority in legislative poll

A coalition opposing Venezuela's ruling Socialists have claimed 99 of 167 seats in the country's parliament, according to election officials. President Nicolas Maduro said he recognized the "adverse" results.

Deutsche Welle, 7 Dec 2015

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles

Venezuela's opposition Democratic Unity coalition has gained control of the National Assembly following a landslide victory at the polls.

The country's electoral commission said that the opposition won at least 99 seats in the 167-seat parliament.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles celebrated the victory on Twitter, stating in a tweet, "Venezuela has won!"

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro conceded defeat, saying he recognized the "adverse" results in the elections.

"We are here, with morals and ethics, to recognize these adverse results," Maduro said in a televised statement, blaming the coalition's gains on a so-called "economic war."

"I can say today that the economic war has triumphed," Maduro added.

The end of a socialist dream?

Maduro's United Socialist Party of Venezuela came to power nearly two decades ago following the late President Hugo Chavez's ascension to presidency in 1999.

Under the banner of a socialist revolution, the charismatic leader implemented sweeping changes to Venezuela's social and economic policies.

However, following his death in 2013, his successor Maduro has struggled to cope with a stagnant economy in the wake of dwindling oil prices.

The commodity was largely used by the OPEC nation to pay for policies that witnessed a significant increase in literacy among the most at-risk communities in the country.

In the early 2000s, Caracas made several policy decisions to bring the industry under its control in a process Chavez called "re-nationalization."

The opposition's gains are a major setback to the government's ruling socialist party, which had held a majority for 16 years.

ls/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa, EFE)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Colombia finds treasure galleon, ending 300-year mystery

Yahoo – AFP, Paula Carrillo, 6 Dec 2015

The remains of the Spanish galleon San Jose sunk off the Caribbean coast
 of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia in an undated picture released on 
December 5, 2105 by the Colombian Culture Ministry's press office (AFP Photo)

Cartagena (Colombia) (AFP) - Colombia says it has found the shipwreck of a storied Spanish galleon laden with gold, silver and precious stones, three centuries after it was sunk by the British in the Caribbean.

"This is the most valuable treasure that has been found in the history of humanity," President Juan Manuel Santos declared on Saturday.

He was speaking from the northern port city of Cartagena, close to where experts made the hugely valuable find.

Treasure hunters had searched for the ship for decades, described by some as the holy grail of shipwrecks.

The loot is estimated to be worth around $2 billion, its value having dropped significantly due to the falling price of silver, according to US-based company Sea Search Armada.

SSA, whose subsidiary claimed in the early 1980s that it had found the galleon's final resting place, was engaged in a long-running battle with the government of Colombia.

The find was not confirmed and a US court ultimately ruled it was Colombian property.

The San Jose has long been the source of fascination and popular legends, and even figures in Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "Love in the Time of Cholera."

Mystery solved after centuries

Although they found plenty of other wrecks, the San Jose's location had remained a mystery until now.

The San Jose was sunk in June 1708 near the Islas del Rosario, off Colombia's Caribbean coast, during combat with British ships attempting to take its cargo, as part of the War of Spanish Succession.

The galleon was the main ship in a treasure fleet carrying gold, silver and other valuable items from Spain's American colonies to King Philip V.

Only a handful of the ship's crew of 600 survived when the San Jose sank.

A team of Colombian and foreign researchers, including a veteran of the group that discovered the wreck of the Titanic in 1985, studied winds and currents of the Caribbean 307 years ago and delved into colonial archives in Spain and Colombia searching for clues.

The remains of the Spanish galleon San Jose sunk off the Caribbean coast of 
Cartagena de Indias, Colombia seen in an undated picture released on December 5, 
2105 by the Colombian Culture Ministry's press office (AFP Photo)

Experts confirmed that they found the San Jose on November 27 "in a place never before referenced by previous research," Santos said.

At least five other major shipwrecks were discovered when searching the ocean floor.

The experts confirmed that they located the San Jose, which was lying on its side, identifying it by its unique bronze cannons with engraved dolphins.

"The amount and type of the material leave no doubt of the identity" of the shipwreck, said Ernesto Montenegro, head of the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History.

There could be up to 1,000 shipwrecks off the Caribbean coast of Colombia, but of those only between six and 10 had a large cargo of treasures, anthropologist Fabian Sanabria told AFP.

The biggest find, and the most sought after, was the San Jose, he said.

The discovery "is an unprecedented event for the country," said Cartagena Mayor Dionisio Velez.

On Twitter, the issue was trending under #GaleonSanJose, as users of the one-to-many social network debated whether to return the loot to Spain, and made various estimates about its current value.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Top FIFA officials among 16 indicted in widening scandal

Yahoo – AFP, 4 Dec 2015

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch speaks about the corruption scandal
 engulfing FIFA at the Justice Department in Washington, DC, on December 3,
2015 (AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm)

Washington (AFP) - Sixteen more top football officials were charged in a dramatic widening of the FIFA corruption scandal on Thursday, as US prosecutors vowed to leave no stone unturned in their quest to root out graft.

Several senior FIFA officials from the past or present were named in a 92-count US Justice Department indictment which came after a series of dawn raids at a luxury hotel in Zurich hosting FIFA officials.

Among those indicted on Thursday were the president of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), Juan Angel Napout, and Alfredo Hawit, head of the North, Central American and Caribbean ruling body (CONCACAF).

Other notable officials indicted include Ricardo Teixeira, the once-powerful former head of the Brazilian Football Confederation and a former FIFA vice-president.

The indicted also included Ariel Alvarado, a Panamanian official who currently sits on FIFA's disciplinary committee.

The main players in the deepening FIFA corruption scandal (135 x 156 mm)
(AFP Photo/S.Ramis-K.Tian/P. Defosseux)

"The message from this announcement should be clear to every culpable individual who remains in the shadows, hoping to evade our investigation: You will not wait us out. You will not escape our focus," US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said, describing the allegations as "outrageous" and "unconscionable."

Lynch revealed that eight more people indicted since authorities launched an earlier wave of FIFA raids and arrests in Switzerland in May had now pleaded guilty.

"I can report eight additional defendants have agreed to plead guilty for their involvement in the corruption scheme," she said.

Millions forfeited

Among those who had pleaded guilty were Jeffrey Webb, a former FIFA vice president and head of CONCACAF.

Webb, who was indicted when the corruption scandal erupted earlier this year, has pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering conspiracy.

As part of his plea deal, Webb has agreed to forfeit more than $6.7 million in assets.

Webb and former CONCACAF chief Jack Warner, who was indicted earlier, were also accused of siphoning off cash intended for disaster relief, according to the new indictment.

"Certain of the defendants and their co-conspirators, including the defendant Jack Warner and Jeffrey Webb, took advantage of these opportunities and embezzled or otherwise personally appropriated funds provided by FIFA, including funds intended for natural disaster relief," the indictment read.

Several senior FIFA officials from the past or present were named in a
 92-count US Justice Department indictment which came after a series of dawn
 raids at a luxury hotel in Zurich hosting FIFA officials The unprecedented 
corruption scandal engulfing FIFA widened on December 3 with the arrests of
 two more top officials in another dramatic dawn raid at a luxury hotel in Zurich.
(AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)

Napout and Hawit are both in Switzerland where they are now fighting extradition to the United States, officials said.

Both men are suspected of taking millions of dollars in bribes in return for selling marketing rights for regional tournaments and World Cup qualifying matches, according to the US indictment.

The investigation also covered the payment and receipt of bribes in connection with the sponsorship of the Brazilian soccer federation by a major US sportswear company, and the selection of the host country for the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 FIFA presidential election. Lynch would not confirm that the US sportswear company was Nike.

Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey meanwhile said those indicted had run corrupt schemes spanning decades.

"For decades, these defendants used their power as the leaders of soccer federations throughout the world to create a web of corruption and greed that compromises the integrity of the beautiful game," Comey said.

Lynch meanwhile dismissed claims by FIFA's suspended President Sepp Blatter that the US investigation was triggered by sour grapes over the country's failed bid for the 2022 World Cup, controversially awarded to Qatar in a 2010 vote.

"I think (Blatter) is well aware of the nature of our charges," Lynch said.

"This covers years of conduct by dozens and dozens of people from the past into the future. I called it outrageous and unconscionable. That still stands."