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Check out the blog of Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis as she traveled this month to Argentina for the inauguration of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Solis attended on President Obama’s behalf and lead the U.S. delegation to Argentina’s presidential inauguration ceremony.
The U.S. Department of Labor has an important relationship with Argentina. Last year a letter of understanding with Argentina’s Labor Ministry was signed to promote collaboration on labor matters, ensure equitable economic growth, raise living standards and support youth employment programs and the protection of labor rights.
Solis notes that the U.S. is doing a lot to support women and girls in Argentina and across the globe. For many girls, options for the future are grim because today they are deprived of schooling. Far too many are exploited in the worst forms of child labor and denied access to education, making it more likely that they end up living in poverty.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has hailed a new Mexican Government initiative aimed at improving child welfare as a “breakthrough” towards ensuring greater social cohesion for children and adolescents as well as boosting the country’s economic development.
In rural Mexico, 27 per cent of children live in extreme poverty compared to 8 per cent in the cities, according to a press release issued by UNICEF. Children from indigenous communities are often the most marginalized, lacking access to quality education and other crucial services.
“Mexico’s economic trends are promising. But behind positive national averages and Mexico being one of the world’s 15 largest economies in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), lies a reality of poverty and marginalization of thousands of children,” warned Susana Sottoli, UNICEF’s representative in Mexico, who added that while parts of the country have development levels close to those of Scandinavia, others are more in line with sub-Saharan Africa.
As a result, the new program, an annex to Mexico’s 2012 federal budget, will designate $41 billion – over 15 per cent of the total annual budget – of investment to spending measures targeting education, children’s health and nutrition, and protection against abuse and violence. The annex was approved by the Mexican Government on 22 December.
The new measure is the result of close cooperation between UNICEF and Mexico’s finance ministry, which has also established monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to produce quarterly reports on the implementation of the new expenditure plan.
Six people were killed and two others injured when a bus and a pick-up truck collided head-on in Brazil’s Sao Paulo state, the federal highway patrol said Tuesday.
The accident occurred on federal highway BR-153 in Lins, a city located about 430 kilometers (267 miles) north of Sao Paulo, the state capital.
The driver of the bus, which was not carrying any passengers, was killed along with five of the people riding in the pick-up truck, all of them employees of the company that provides maintenance services for the highway.
This is the second serious accident this week on Brazilian highways.
On Monday, at least five Argentines died and seven other people were injured in a head-on collision involving an automobile and a bus in southern Brazil.
Two children, ages 11 and 3, were among the dead, while a 16-year-old girl was hospitalized in serious condition.
Six Brazilians, all of whom were riding on the bus, were slightly injured and taken to a hospital near the accident scene on national highway BR-290 between the cities of Rosario do Sul and São Gabriel in Rio Grande do Sul state.
A total of 91 people died on Brazil’s federal highways over the long Christmas weekend, while 19 fatalities and 659 injuries were reported on Sao Paulo’s state highways during the same period.
With just a few days before an animal shelter was going to euthanize him, a lost, blind dog named Stevie Oedipus Wonder, with help from a new friend, was able to find his way back to his family.
It is believed Stevie, a one-year-old cairn terrier mix was born without eyes, leading him to keep them permanently closed.
A San Antonio animal shelter took Stevie in after finding him after he ran off from owner Belinda Gutierrez in San Antonio, TX. They tried to contact Stevie’s family, but the tags he was wearing no longer had accurate information. He was likely unable to find his own way back to them after wandering to far from his home after getting out.
After failing to find his family, the shelter had scheduled Stevie to be euthanized. San Antonio Animal Care Services have a policy of euthanization after five days, and Stevie’s time was up.
However, after high school teacher Brooke Orr saw him while working with her school’s Voice for Animals club, she stepped in and began the speedy search for Stevie’s family.
Orr took to Craigslist to see if she could find a “lost dog” notice on the site. Ms. Gutierrez’s daughter had indeed posted in the site’s ‘Lost and Found’ section, and seeing the title of ‘blind dog’, Orr knew she had found his owners.
Orr contacted the Gutierrez family and within hours, she was at the shelter.
Worried he may not respond to her voice or scent, Gutierrez says she began calling his name anyway.
Without skipping a beat, Stevie began barking, and shelter workers were able to send Stevie home with his family in time for a merry Christmas.
Puerto Rican reggaeton duo Dyland & Lenny led a protest march Tuesday against domestic violence and also against shooting guns in the air, so typical of the Caribbean island’s New Year’s festivities.
Dyland, born Carlos Castillo Cruz, told Efe in an interview that his participation in the march, which wended its way through the streets of the western city of Mayaguez, was due to his concern over violence and a wish to use his fame to contribute to a good cause.
Julio Manuel Gonzalez Tavarez - Lenny - said he felt “alarmed” by the number of murders in Puert Rico, 1,116 to date in 2011, or 154 more than at the same time last year.
He added that the march could be organized on a monthly basis and that he feels he ought to contribute something to causes like this.
“We feel responsible because when you’re an artist, you become a role model for many youngsters who don’t have a role model at home and are kids who look up to artists and do what the artists say,” he said.
More than 5,000 young people in San Diego, most of them Hispanics accused of being involved in street gangs, have been held in confinement by the city’s corrections system during the past two years.
Most of the crimes are associated with assaults, robbery, drug trafficking or consumption, since according to the authorities, being near the border also makes the youths easy targets for Mexican cartels that recruit them to smuggle drugs.
Pedro Rios, an activist with the San Diego office of the American Friends Service Committee, told Efe on Tuesday that the situation is particularly prevalent at high schools in the southern part of the county, which is fertile terrain for recruiting U.S.-born Hispanics who can cross the border with little difficulty.
“The traffickers pay them around $400 per trip carrying drugs, but we have also seen them get involved in human trafficking, generally picking the people up on this side of the border and taking them to safe houses,” he said.
A report by the San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG, notes the positive results of San Diego County’s 2000 Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act, adopted in response to a sharp rise in youth violence during the 1990s.
Rios believed that the increase in crime was associated with Operation Guardian, implemented by the Clinton administration to seal off the border with Mexico, which moved criminal organizations to engage in human trafficking mixed with drug trafficking.
The extent of prevention programs based on the 2000 law is limited, Rios said, adding that they should be expanded particularly in the southern part of the county, since the problem is not only that the youths transport drugs but that they also become addicts.
County prosecutors have visited San Diego schools and community centers to warn parents about the dangers facing young people, and these visits have been made a priority for 2012, considering that the family is where an early intervention can be most effective.
According to SANDAG, among the youths interviewed in San Diego County detention facilities, 11 percent said that at some time they have been asked to transport drugs over the border, with their first crossing at the average age of 14.
Las Independencias I, a poor neighborhood of 12,000 residents on the western mountainside of the Colombian city of Medellin, is the world’s first urban district installed with outdoor transport escalators to solve the problem of people getting up and down steep terrain.
The escalators in six double up-and-down segments have replaced the 350 cement steps that many Las Independencias I residents had to climb as part of their daily routine.
The escalators, a project dubbed Independencias I Connection Pathways, were inaugurated Tuesday by Medellin Mayor Alonso Salazar and the Urban Development Company, or EDU, that tackled the joint initiative four years ago.
“We suggested the escalators as a possible transit solution that would enable people on the mountainsides to get around more easily,” EDU interim chief Luz Adriana Campuzano told Efe.
In Las Independencias I, which is one of the 20 neighborhoods in Medellin’s problematic Comuna 13 district, there are pathetic cases of residents confined to their homes by old age or disabilities.
Some people “couldn’t ever leave their houses because quite simply they had no way to do so,” Campuzano said.
Now they can thanks to Independencias I Connection Pathways, a route of escalators 130 meters (426 feet) long, from the foot of the mountain on which the neighborhood sprang up 30 years ago, to the highest point on the peak.
The project, with a cost of 10 billion pesos (about $5.2 million), involved the Japanese company Fujitec, which designed the escalators and manufactured them at its plant in China, along with Conservicios, a local firm responsible for importing and installing the parts.
Fujitec made the basic elements of stainless steel, used smelted aluminum for the steps and a synthetic resin for the entry platforms, in order to meet the highest standards of quality.
It’s a “transit solution that will give residents a better quality of life,” Campuzano said.
EDU is a decentralized industrial and commercial organization of the municipality of Medellin, the provincial capital of Antioquia and the second most important city in Colombia.
The escalators are not the first in the world to be installed outdoors, since there are several for purposes of tourism, but this is a first for urban transport.
The official also said that Connection Pathways were conceived as an urban landmark that will help Medellin residents see Comuna 13 in a new way and not as just a dangerous haunt for crime gangs.
Comuna 13 is one of the 15 “comunas,” or districts, that make up the industrial city of Medellin with its more than 2.36 million inhabitants, which has taken the lead in Colombia in urban transport solutions, beginning in the 1990s with a metropolitan train and subsequently with the cable-car project known as Metrocables, which also serves poor mountainside areas.
The line of escalators is the latest chapter in this story of progress, and will not only transport other Comuna 13 inhabitants, who number 130,000 or 5.7 percent of the entire city, but is available to all Medellin inhabitants and tourists as well.
The work as a whole includes 1,102 sq. meters (11,846 sq. feet) of public spaces, 343 meters (1,125 feet) of pedestrian walks, two public buildings - one of them with a terrace overlooking the city - plus benches and other urban furnishings.
A Wisconsin father had a very Merry Christmas this year, after his daughter, who had been taken to Japan by her mother, was finally brought back to him after a years-long custody battle.
Moises Garcia, 39, picked up his daughter Karina at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport Saturday and drove to Garcia’s home in Fox Point, Wisconsin after a very long and expensive 4-year custody battle with her mother.
The physician had been without his daughter since February 2008, when her mother, 43-year-old Emiko Inoue, a Japanese women living in the U.S., took the girl to Japan with her shortly after Garcia filed for divorce. Inoue ignored court orders to return with the girl, as she did not have legal custody, but last February she was arrested and pled no contest to interfering with child custody. An agreement was reached the Inoue would be convicted of a misdemeanor and allowed to leave jail if she returned Karina, 9, to Garcia.
Despite everything, Inoue’s attorney says the goal is to give Karina two parents.
The girl’s return is remarkable, as she is one of about 300 children kidnapped and taken to Japan that has actually been returned.
Garcia had help and support from Global Future, which is an advocacy group for parents. Patrick Braden, the group’s founder said he hopes Garcia’s case will make it easier for parents to brings back their children who have been taken by another parent to Japan.
The singer revealed in a chat with fans that he often thinks that he won’t live past the age of 40 years old, based on a number of dreams he has had in the past.
“It’s not that I’m a negative person,” the singer said during a videochat with Puero Rican news site Primera Hora, “but I don’t think I’m going to get to 40. I dream a lot about that, and they say dreams come true,” René said.
If the singer’s prophecies were to be right, he would only have 7 years left, but he is the first to hope he’s wrong and it’s just in his dreams, as he wants to have children and grandchildren.
Selena Gómez wrote a note for her fans, thanking every single one for their thoughts and prayers after her mom’s miscarriage earlier in the month.
Selena cancelled two concert appearances earlier this month to tend to her mother, Mandy Teefey, who lost the baby she was expecting.
The 19-year old singer and actress went on Facebook to thank fans for their sympathetic thoughts, and revealed the unborn baby was a baby girl.
“Belated Merry Christmas everybody.. I can’t thank you enough for all of your thoughts and prayers. We appreciate every one of you.. I love you all so much and we hope you and your family had a beautiful Christmas! Love, Me, Momma, Brian and our guardian angel Scarlett” the young starlet wrote on her Facebook account.
Selena’s fans have already made ‘Scarlett Teefey’ a trending topic on Twitter.
Selena is expected to perform in Times Square during MTV’s live New Year’s Eve special.
The rich forests of Costa Rica provided the setting this year for science to discover 53 new species of insects, fungi and plants.
The National Biodiversity Institute, or INBio, said that it is still too soon to say if all these species are endemic to this country.
“We can’t say if they are endemic or unique to Costa Rica because this is the first description ever made of them. It’s very probable that, with time, we’ll begin to discover them in other countries as well,” said INBio’s director of science, Jesus Ugalde, as cited in the daily La Nacion.
This year 26 new species of insects, 19 of plants and eight of fungi were discovered in the Central American country.
Costa Rica’s biodiversity inventory includes some 500,000 species, of which 75 percent are easily distinguished on sight because they are insects.
For that reason experts found it unsurprising that most of the species discovered this year were forms of mites, bumblebees, fruit flies, wasps, lice and moths.
A California man will spend as many as 10 years in prison for the horrific sexual abuse he put a young Chihuahua puppy through.
While the owners of the home he was renting a room in where out, Robert Edward DeShields sexual assaulted their Chihuahua, Shadow.
The owners returned to find DeShields, 55, in the act, and their 8-month-old dog “in pain and shock.” They immediately took Shadow to a veterinarian determined there was severe damage to the dog’s internal organs.
Though surgery was successful in beginning the repair to the dog physically, the psychological effect of such a terrible encounter has damaged the dog, who is now said to be extraordinarily fearful of men, much like human victims of sexual abuse are when the attacker is male.
The homeowners had given DeShields, a parolee and chronic methamphetamine user, a temporary place to live.
Friday, after being convicted of animal cruelty, DeShields was sentenced to 10 years in prison and forced to register as a sex offender, making it the first time Jessica’s Law has been used in a case of animal sexual abuse.
Shadow now lives in a foster home with county shelter employee Laura Badeker, who testified on the psychological effects the abuse has had on the dog.
Judge Thadd Blizzard stated that DeShields was given the maximum of 10 years and was to register as a sex offender due to the fact that the crime was “inherently sexual in nature,” adding that he is “a serious threat to society.”
Monday, Ruben Ray Jurado turned himself in to Chino Hills police near Los Angeles after allegedly shooting returning soldier Christopher Sullivan at the Sullivan family’s homecoming party.
Though he survived a suicide bombing attack in Afghanistan, Sullivan, 19, is fighting for his life in a Southern California hospital after being shot by Jurado on Friday.
Sullivan is said to be in critical condition after being shot twice, once in the neck, shattering his spine, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down.
The shooting is said to have happened after Sullivan’s 16-year-old brother and Jurado began arguing about sports teams at the soldier’s homecoming party in San Bernadino. When the altercation turned physical, Sullivan attempted to break it up, which is when witnesses say Jurado pulled out a gun and began shooting.
While in Afghanistan, Sullivan was wounded when a suicide bomber attacked his unit. The member of the 101st Infantry Division suffered a cracked collarbone and brain damage. He was stationed in Kentucky where he was recovering before returning to his family’s Southern California home on leave.
For his actions in Kandahar, Sullivan received a Purple Heart. His enlistment period was scheduled to end in April, after which he planned to return to California and attend college. Now paralyzed, Sullivan requires a machine to help him breathe.
Jurado has booked on suspicion of attempted murder and has been transferred from Chino Hills to the San Bernadino Police Department.
Ana Botella, the wife of former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, was sworn-in Tuesday as Madrid’s first woman mayor.
She succeeds Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon, mayor of the capital since 2003, who resigned to serve as justice minister in the new government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Botella, 58, became a member of the city council in 2003, during her husband’s 1996-2004 tenure as prime minister, but has been active in the conservative Popular Party since 1978.
She occupied the second spot on the PP ticket in the May 22 municipal elections that gave Ruiz-Gallardon a third consecutive term as capital mayor.
In her first speech as mayor, Botella pledged to govern the city with austerity tempered by concern for the poor, the elderly, the unemployed and people living on the margins of society.
Botella, whose swearing-in ceremony was attended by six members of Rajoy’s Cabinet, said she will soon implement a “specific plan to contain spending” by the municipal government.
She faces the challenge of dealing with a municipal debt of 6.35 billion euros ($8.25 billion), the legacy of big projects undertaken by Ruiz-Gallardon, who led an unsuccessful bid to bring the 2012 Olympics to Madrid.
The new mayor will also have to come up with a way to bring the capital’s air-quality up to European Union standards.
Police are investigating what happened to mixed martial arts fighter Salvador Flamenco following his fight with an unidentified fighter in Washington earlier this month.
Flamenco, a 38-year-old amateur MMA fighter, is said to have traveled to Vancouver, WA to meet up with another fighter for a training session.
After his second day of training Flamenco reportedly said he was dizzy, vomited, and was rushed to the hospital after someone at the gym called 911.
Within an hour of being taken to the hospital, the Chicago resident was dead. An autopsy revealed he died of blunt force injuries and his death was ruled a homicide.
Despite that ruling however, it is unlikely anyone will be charged, as it appears the California-born fighter died as a result of a tragic accident.
Though an amateur mixed martial artist, Flamenco was not new to the sport. He reportedly began training in MMA while still in high school and took many trips like this to train with various fighters and trainers.
Following Flamenco’s death, another fighter suffered severe injuries during an amateur MMA bout in Chicago on the same day.
Jeff Dunbar, 20, was left paralyzed after he attempted a risky move during a match with Rudy Bahena on December 17 in Joliet, IL.
Attempting to get out of a rear-naked choke he had been put in by Bahena, Dunbar threw himself and Bahena’s body forward, attempting to peel his opponent off of him. This rarely used and extremely dangerous move, not only failed to work in this case, but instantly paralyzed Dunbar.
Though Dunbar did not die as a result of his injuries, both his story and Flamenco’s serve to demonstrate just how dangerous the sport can be.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection received an unmanned aircraft today, the fourth at National Air Security Operations Center in Sierra Vista, Ariz. Flights performed from this location will provide critical aerial surveillance to CBP border security personnel on the ground along the Southwest border.
The arrival of the Predator-B marks the second of two unmanned aircraft earmarked in the supplemental budget provisions identified in August 2010.
On the southwest border, CBP now operates a total of six Predator-B aircraft from Sierra Vista, and Corpus Christi. The missions from these two centers will allow CBP to deploy its unmanned aircraft from the eastern tip of California across the Mexican land borders of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
CBP identified Arizona as a location for its ninth UAS because it will allow for the greatest support of the CBP Strategic Plan to secure the shared land border between U.S. and Mexico, and will allow for the most effective execution of counter-drug operations and Homeland Security missions.
Since the inception of the program, CBP has flown more than 12,000 UAS hours in support of border security operations and CBP partners in disaster relief and emergency response. The efforts of this program has led to the total seizure of approximately 46,600 pounds of illicit drugs and the detention of approximately 7,500 individuals suspected in engaging in illegal activity along the Southwest border.
22-year-old Yorlibeth Altamar Góngora from Sincelejo, Colombia gave birth to a baby girl with two heads last Thursday. A mere 4 days after Brazilian Maria de Nazare gave birth to a two-headed baby.
Doctors expected the second pregnancy of Yorlibeth Altamar Góngora to be a routine twin-baby delivery, but realized at the time of birth that the twins were in reality one baby with two heads.
The heads shared a heart that had one extra auricle and ventricle as well as every internal organ located in the thorax, which made it impossible to separate them, and proved to be fatal, the baby died this morning.
Though there is another case of conjoined twins in the family, possibly pointing to a genetic disorder, relatives of the baby’s parents blame the hospital and are outraged that the malformation came as a surprise to doctors at the time of birth.
Three independent United Nations human rights experts today expressed their alarm at the decision of Venezuelan authorities to extend the house arrest of a judge for another two years, saying it was concerned about her physical and mental health.
Judge María Lourdes Afiuni Mora has been detained since December 2009 after she ordered the release of a man whose own detention had been declared arbitrary that year by a group of UN human rights experts.
“It is becoming increasingly difficult to understand what Judge Afiuni is living through,” said Juan Méndez, Special Rapporteur on Torture, in a joint statement with Gabriela Knaul, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, and El Hadji Malick Sow, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
“The substitutive preventive measure of house arrest imposed a few months ago seemed to be a positive step. However, this latest decision represents an unacceptable worsening of her situation, particularly in light of her delicate physical and mental state,” he said.
Ms. Knaul described as significant the fact that the judge who decided to extend Judge Afiuni’s detention had himself been challenged several times by Judge Afiuni and her lawyers for his alleged lack of impartiality.
“As the ongoing detention of Judge Afiuni shows, the independence of the judiciary is severely compromised in Venezuela. Judicial actors fear the same fate as Judge Afiuni if they dare to act against governmental interests,” she said.
McConaughey proposed on Christmas to Brazilian model Camila Alves, his long-time partner and the mother of his two children, Levi and Vida.
Camila said yes!
The 42 year-old actor chimed in about his wedding bells plans via Twitter, “just asked Camila to marry me, Merry Christmas,” he shared with fans and posted a picture of himself and his fiancé sharing a kiss in front of their Christmas tree.
Alves, 29, a Brazilian model, actress and TV host met McConaughey at a Los Angeles bar in 2006; two years later the couple welcomed a son, Levi, and in 2010 a daughter, Vida.
Check out Al Jazeera’s overview on Mexico’s economy. The report notes that despite a tough economic climate, Mexico has been weathering the storm thanks to the free trade agreement with the U.S. giving it access to the world’s largest consumer market.
The reports notes that Mexicans are hopeful that the 2012 election of a new president will still bring policies that will grow the economy and rescue nearly half of the country’s population that lives in poverty.
The National Park Service, together with the Colorado state government, has launched a survey of the cultural and natural resources in the Hispanic region of southern Colorado with an eye toward the possible creation of a national park in the area.
The study will be carried out in the San Luis Valley and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, a region that was Mexican territory until the mid-19th century.
The study will concentrate on an area that contains Colorado’s oldest settlement founded by non-Native American people.
This is also a zone that functions as a corridor for animals that migrate annually between northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, according to a preliminary report by the Department of the Interior.
The same document, the “San Luis Valley and Central Sangre de Cristo Mountains Reconnaissance Survey Report,” says that in the future the region could be made into a national park or be protected in some other way.
The report asks Congress to authorize the funds necessary to continue the study and to protect the cultural and natural resources of southern Colorado. It also requests that a conservation corridor be created that includes both public and private lands, and that the historic sites in the region be identified.
The first Hispanic colonists reached the region in the 1600s, and due to the geographical isolation of the area, 35 percent of the population in the San Luis Valley still speak a form of 17th-century Spanish.
The historical and natural attractions could be used to attract tourism, which in turn would provide a needed boost to the economy of the San Luis Valley and surrounding areas, one of the poorest corners of Colorado, according to the report.
“The San Luis Valley has been home to a variety of cultures dating back 11,000 years and represents the northernmost expansion of the Spanish colonial frontier in the region,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, a native of the region, said.
“The people who settled here helped build America, and their cultural and historic contributions are an important chapter in the story of our nation that should be preserved and told to future generations,” he said.
For his part, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper recalled that the San Luis Valley was the place where water-use rights were first awarded and that many of the irrigation canals built almost two centuries ago are still in operation.
For that reason, he said, the Colorado state government will collaborate with the Department of the Interior in “finding ways to protect and promote” the region and its heritage.
Early in the morning of December 22, several vehicles, including three ordinary passenger buses, were attacked with gunfire in northern Veracruz state, resulting in several deaths. One of these buses was traveling on Highway 105 between the municipalities of Panuco and Tempoal.
The vicious attackes left eleven people dead including three U.S citizens, identified as Maria Sanchez Hernandez and her two daughters: Karla and Cristiana. All three held dual U.S.-Mexican citizenship and were traveling from their home in Fort Worth, Texas to visit relatives in Mexico. The gun men were eventually killed by Mexican authorities in a shoot-out.
The U.S. Consulate General in Matamoros reminds American citizens to exercise caution and remain vigilant when traveling in the State of Veracruz. American citizens residing in, visiting, or traveling through the northern portion of Veracruz that borders Tamaulipas and San Luis Potosi should maintain a heightened sense of alert. Americans in this area should monitor local news and information to stay informed about situations that could affect their security. The Consulate General also reminds American citizens to avoid intercity road travel at night.