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SaturdaySeptember 29, 2012

Latino Daily News: Bringing You the Latest Hispanic Current Events and News Stories 24/7

To reflect the dynamic interests of our audience, Latino Daily News is an online daily news source and virtual cultural center for and about Latinos. We offer the latest news headlines, as well as innovative and insightful Hispanic current events stories, photos, videos, and commentaries from a Latino perspective, 24/7.

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China Sends Venezuela’s Second Satellite Into Orbit

China Sends Venezuela’s Second Satellite Into Orbit

Photo: Venezuela's Miranda satellite

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Venezuela’s second satellite, dubbed the Miranda, was launched Saturday in optimum weather conditions from the Jiuquan space center in the northwestern Chinese province of Gansu, according to the Asian country’s state television network.

Blast off took place at 12:12 p.m. local time (0412 GMT) at the space station in a desert region along the ancient Silk Road, and was the second satellite that China has put into orbit for Venezuela after its first, the Simon Bolivar, was launched on Oct. 29, 2008 from the western base of Xichang.

The Miranda will serve as an observation platform used mainly for urban planning, military operations and controlling illegal mining and crops.

Propelled by Long March 2D rockets, the second Venezuelan satellite was launched successfully in the presence of representatives of Venezuela’s People’s Power Ministry for Science, Technology and Innovation and the Bolivarian Space Activities Agency.

Also present at the base was Venezuela’s ambassador to Beijing, Rocio Maneiro, along with diplomats from other Latin American countries with missions in the Chinese capital, who congratulated her on the successful launch.

Three minutes after blast off, the satellite began the process of separation from the launch rocket, also without incident.

The launch was televised in Caracas on public TV screens to the ecstatic crowds, while President Hugo Chavez watched the launch in his office, accompanied by China’s ambassador to Venezuela and experts from the space program.

“We’re watching history in the making, the rebirth of history,” Chavez said from Miraflores Palace, seat of the government, adding that “Venezuela, together with China and many other countries, has taken its place in the forefront of history.”

The Venezuelan president recounted some of the Miranda’s functions, such as the control of crops and estimating their productivity, and went into detail about how the orbiter operates.

The launch came nine days before the presidential elections on Oct. 7.

Construction of the spacecraft was handled by the Chinese technology company CGWIC, an affiliate of the Aerospace Corporation of China, which also built the Simon Bolivar orbiter, dedicated to telecommunications.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Mexican Navy Takes Down Organized Crime’s Communication Network

Mexican Navy Takes Down Organized Crime’s Communication Network

Photo: Dismantled communications network

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Mexico’s navy said it dismantled a radio communications network used by organized crime to report the movements of the armed forces and police.

“A trunked communications system consisting of rebroadcast antennas and a radio frequency station” was found on the Veracruz state side of the Panuco River and dismantled, the Navy Secretariat said in a statement.

The radio frequency station enabled an illegal communications network to function in the towns of Ozuluama and Naranjos, in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, as well as in the cities of Tampico, Ciudad Madero and Altamira, in the neighboring state of Tamaulipas.

In the operation, which began on Sept. 21, a group of marines and communications specialists corroborated an illegal emission of frequencies at that station and proceeded to shut it down.

Radio communication equipment, several antennas, power supply units, controllers and couplers, a 90-meter-high (295-foot-high) transmission tower and other materials were seized in the operation.

The dismantling of the station neutralized a network used to report the movements of the military and police in the northern part of Veracruz and the Tampico-Ciudad Madero-Altamira metropolitan area, the Navy Secretariat said.

The statement did not indicate which organized crime gang operated the station, although the notorious Los Zetas drug cartel is known to operate in both Veracruz and Tamaulipas.

Los Zetas - a band of special forces deserters turned outlaws - has fought ruthless battles against other gangs for control of drug routes to the United States.

Mexico has been mired in a wave of organized crime-related violence that has left some 60,000 dead since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon took office and militarized the struggle against the drug mobs.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Uruguay to Legalize Abortion

In a 50-49 vote, Uruguay’s legislature has voted to legalize abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy. President José Mujica, an atheist and former guerrilla leader who was elected in 2010, has pledged to sign the measure.

Uruguay’s episcopal conference had issued a statement against the legislation, noting that science has established that a unique human being, distinct from father and mother, exists from the moment of conception.

The nation of 3.3 million is 75% Catholic, according to Vatican statistics.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Chicago Family of Missing Undocumented Deaf-mute Reach Out to Mexican Consulate

Chicago Family of Missing Undocumented Deaf-mute Reach Out to Mexican Consulate

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The family of Juan de Dios Romero, an undocumented Mexican deaf-mute missing since April when he tried to cross the border into Arizona for the second time in a few days, asked the consul general of Mexico in Chicago to help them find him “dead or alive.”

“We fear the worst, because he could well have been left to die by people smugglers in the Sonora desert,” his sister Cristina told a press conference.

As she told it, the last time they knew anything of Romero, 41, was from a smuggler who called the family in the nearby city of Waukegan, Illinois, to demand payment of $1,500 to bring him across the border illegally.

That occurred in April, four months after Romero traveled to Mexico to see a woman he met on the Internet.

According to Cristina, it was the second time her brother tried to return to Illinois, because the first time he was detained by the Border Patrol and deported back to his country.

“The coyote seemed to know everything about my brother and we sent him the money, but we never heard any more about Juan de Dios,” she said.

The missing person first came to the United States in 1991, and after living 10 years in Los Angeles decided to move to Illinois to join his family. He settled in Waukegan until last Dec. 22 when he left for Mexico.

Cristina Romero said that her brother e-mailed her in April after failing in his first attempt to return.

“He told me he was in Hermosillo and that they were taking him to Sonorita to cross the desert,” she said.

Julie Contreras, of the League of United Latin American Citizens of Waukegan, said that her organization sought aid from the governments of Mexico and the United States to “find a human being left to his fate in the desert.”

“The coyotes are criminals, killers who should be pursued and wiped out for leaving our people to die in the desert,” she said.

“It’s unacceptable that despite the fences, patrols and militarization, the border remains an insecure no-man’s land,” she said.

Also taking part in the press conference were relatives of Jaime Pasillas, a Mexican who died 1 1/2 months ago in similar circumstances while crossing the desert, also on his way to Waukegan, a city with many residents of Mexican origin.

“I want justice for my son, I want them to find those guilty of his death,” his mother Maria said.

Mario Pasillas said that the family was given no help in the search either by the Mexican or the U.S. government, and that they found the body in an “Arizona morgue after driving all around the state asking everywhere they went.”

The consul general of Mexico in Chicago, Eduardo Arnal Palomera, told Efe that he had sent the information about Juan de Dios Romero’s disappearance to the Mexican Consulates in the Arizona border towns of Nogales and Yuma.

“This consulate will be in touch with our consulates on the border to keep Juan’s family here in Chicago informed,” he said.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Amazon Indians Win Case Against Illegal Mining, Logging in Peru

Amazon Indians Win Case Against Illegal Mining, Logging in Peru

Photo: Nanti tribe whose land is being targeted (Survival)

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A small community of Indians from the Peruvian Amazon has won a court case with potentially far-reaching implications for indigenous land rights in the country.

The Shipibo and Ese-eja Indians of Tres Islas community, in Peru’s south-east, went to court over a rash of illegal logging and goldmining that was destroying their territory.

Previous attempts by the community to block the entry of loggers and miners into their forests had been challenged in the regional courts.

The community took their case to Peru’s highest court, the Constitutional Court, which has now upheld their right to control outsiders’ access onto their lands.

The Court has ruled that indigenous peoples’ land is of such vital importance to their livelihood and survival that they must be able to control who has access to it.

However, it is not clear that the ruling gives the country’s Indians the right to block large-scale oil and gas exploration and drilling, which is affecting an increasing number of Peruvian Indians, including isolated groups.

Many Indian communities throughout the Peruvian Amazon, especially in the south-eastern region of Madre de Dios, have been blighted in recent years by massive, uncontrolled goldmining, as the price of gold has risen to record heights.

Read more at Survival International →

Chicago Teen Wins Scholarship, Quinceanera, As Grand Prize Of Verizon’s My Fabulous Quince

Chicago Teen Wins Scholarship, Quinceanera, As Grand Prize Of Verizon’s My Fabulous Quince

Photo: Corina Perez

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Verizon Wireless today announced that Corina Perez from Chicago is the grand prize winner of its My Fabulous Quince essay contest.  Perez received the highest number of online and text message votes among all of the semi-finalists.  As part of her grand prize package, she will receive a college scholarship, four smartphones and Verizon gift cards.  In addition, Perez will receive an all-expenses-paid quinceanera for up to 100 guests, featuring a special performance by one of the most acclaimed, award-winning Latin urban artists of all time, Daddy Yankee.

“Through Verizon’s My Fabulous Quince essay contest, Verizon is able to commemorate an important tradition in the Latino community, while supporting higher education,” said Elva Lima, executive director of community relations and multicultural communications at Verizon Wireless.  “We are pleased to help make Corina’s quinceanera dreams come true, as well as provide college scholarships to Corina and four other teens to assist in furthering their educational goals.”

In addition to the grand prize, four first-prize packages were awarded to the top vote recipients in the following four regions: Alexandra Barillas from Lockport, Ill. for the Midwest region; Jazzlene Herrera from Union City, Calif. for the West region;  Bianca Rosales from Homestead, Fla. for the South region; and Ashley Herrera from Guttenberg, N.J. for the Northeast region.  Each first-prize winner will receive a college scholarship, a smartphone and a Verizon gift card.

Urban Latin star Daddy Yankee will offer an exclusive performance at the Grand Prize winner’s party, slated for October in Chicago.  Daddy Yankee will perform songs from his most recent album, “Prestige”, as well as some of his greatest hits, including “Lovumba,” “Pasarela” and “Limbo,” among others.

“I am psyched to be part of My Fabulous Quince, and to be able to share this special moment in the life of Corina, her friends and her family,” said Daddy Yankee.

A voting panel of judges selected 20 teens from each of the eight participating cities and surrounding areas (Chicago; New York; Miami; Dallas; Houston; El Paso, Texas; Los Angeles and San Francisco) from thousands of entries submitted between June 1 and July 31.  Public voting was open from Aug. 24, through Sept. 2 through online and text voting.

For more information about the Verizon’s My Fabulous Quince winners, please visit http://www.myfabulousquince.com.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Mexico Joins Group to Promote Linguistic Diversity, Communications

Mexico Joins Group to Promote Linguistic Diversity, Communications

Photo: Linguistic Diversity

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Mexico will join the World Network for Linguistic Diversity in order to promote intercultural education and communications, as well as to strengthen individual languages, The National Institute of Indigenous Languages, or Inali, said.

This department of the Education Secretariat said in a communique that the country also plans to take part in the Latin American Network for Multilingual Intercultural Cooperation.

The announcement was made Friday by Inali Director General Javier Lopez Sanchez during the closure of the 2nd International Seminar on Indigenous Languages, where he said that these two organizations specialize in “promoting intercultural and multilingual education and communications by means of works based on the mother tongue.”

At the same time he said that the invitation to become members of those organizations came from their respective directors, Adama Samassekou of Mali and Ramiro Dominguez Codas of Paraguay, both present at the event.

Lopez invited the participants in the seminar, entitled “Indigenous Peoples, Linguistic Rights and the Professionalization of Interpreters in Multicultural and Multilingual Contexts,” to put technological instruments at the service of languages so that Mexico’s cultural and linguistic diversity be made known worldwide.

“In the so-called information society of the 21st century, it is essential that we don’t forget our original identity. It would be wonderful to really think in terms of a multilingual, multicultural society,” the official said.

The World Network for Linguistic Diversity, created in the context of the World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva 2003-Tunis 2005 and whose members include the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, is an exchange platform whose mission is to evaluate and promote linguistic diversity as the basis of human communications.

For its part, the Latin American Network for Multilingual Intercultural Cooperation is a cultural-educational body whose signatory nations are Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Paraguay, with Argentina and Colombia currently taking steps to join.

In Mexico, 15.7 million people - 14 percent of the population - consider themselves indigenous, but of those only 6.6 million speak any of the 364 dialects of the country’s 68 existing languages, Inali said.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Javier Bardem Plays an Extraordinary Villain in New Bond Flick “Skyfall” (VIDEO)

Javier Bardem Plays an Extraordinary Villain in New Bond Flick “Skyfall” (VIDEO)

Photo: Javier Bardem in Skyfall

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Javier Bardem makes an extraordinary villain in “Skyfall,” the new adventure of the most famous secret agent in the history of movies, James Bond, producer Barbara Broccoli said here Saturday at an event launching the film’s international presentation tour.

Broccoli apologized for Bardem not being at the event - he had to suspend his trip to Moscow due to the bad weather during the shooting in Spain of “The Counselor,” a new film by British director Ridley Scott.

Javier is an extraordinary villain because he has personal reasons to create problems for Agent 007, Broccoli explained at a press conference in a downtown Moscow hotel, where she was accompanied by the new Bond girl, France’s Berenice Marlohe.

At the packed press conference, Broccoli, co-producer of “Skyfall,” said that Bardem, who plays Raoul Silva, is a magnificent actor and it was great they could convince him to take the part - because people are going to love his work, which she called exceptional.

Broccoli, whose father was one of the original producers of the saga, said her dad would be glad that James Bond films have remained popular so long - half a century on the big screen.

Broccoli believes the value of “Skyfall” is precisely the extraordinary cast that director Sam Mendes, winner of an Oscar for “American Beauty,” managed to put together.

Both actors and producers have kept mum about the content of the movie, which is No. 23 in the series of films about the secret agent and which will premiere late this month in London.

The movie, which seeks to recover the spirit of the first films in the series, was filmed in Britain, Turkey and China.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Paraguayan Rebels Say Group is “Armed Wing” of Country’s Poor

Paraguayan Rebels Say Group is “Armed Wing” of Country’s Poor

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The purported commander of the shadowy Army of the Paraguayan People, or EPP, said in a video that his small group is the “armed wing” of the Paraguayan poor and called for the elimination of private property in the impoverished South American country.

Paraguayan news Web sites on Friday posted a series of videos featuring suspected members of the EPP, including commander Manuel Cristaldo Mieres, who appears in one of the recordings with the alias “Santiago Vasquez.”

The EPP “is a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla organization ... It is the army of the poor, which defends the interests of the poor in our country. The rich control and manage everything to their liking,” the purported commander said in one of the the videos, filmed in August according to a voiceover.

“In our country, the problem is the poor distribution of wealth. That’s why we have to do away with the private property of the wealthy and we have to give the land to the poor,” the young guerrilla added.

But the affluent will not give up control voluntarily, and therefore “we need support and we have to make our Army of the Paraguayan People strong,” he said.

“The wealthy have their armed wing, which is the police, the military and thugs who guard rural estates, who repress our people with gunfire and kill compatriots who claim rights to land,” the EPP commander said.

“That’s why we the poor have the right to our armed wing and that group is the EPP, which arose to defend us from the rich and defend our lives,” he said.

The EPP is a small armed group that adopted that name in 2008, although its most notable action was the December 2001 kidnapping of the wife of a wealthy Paraguayan business executive, Maria Edith Bordon, who was released a month later in exchange for payment of a large ransom after spending 64 days in captivity.

The alleged perpetrators of that crime have spent several years behind bars.

The federal Attorney General’s Office also says the group is behind other kidnappings and has also planted bombs and carried out attacks on rural estates and police stations.

In one video, the alleged commander is seen in a wooded area and dressed in camouflage and speaks in Jopara, a mixture of Guarani and Spanish, while others show two armed guerrillas - a man and a woman - with an EPP flag behind them.

In both recordings, the purported rebels champion Marxist ideology but also hail Jose Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia, the first leader of Paraguay following its independence from Spain, and Francisco Solano Lopez, president of Paraguay from 1862 until his death in 1870.

Solano Lopez’s death marked the end of the 1865-1870 War of the Triple Alliance, a conflict that Paraguay waged against Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay and which wiped out much of its male population.

The guerrillas also railed against Paraguay’s political class and mockingly described ex-Catholic bishop and ousted former President Fernando Lugo, who while head of state was forced to acknowledge fathering children during his years in the church, as a “sex maniac.”

Hopes for significant change under Lugo - whose 2008 election victory marked the end of 60 years of rule by the Colorado Party, including the 1954-1989 dictatorship of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner - went largely unfilled, due in part to his personal problems.

Another source of frustration for Lugo, who headed a broad-based coalition in favor of reform in the poor, landlocked South American nation, was obstruction and sabotage by Paraguay’s entrenched political establishment.

Paraguay’s Senate voted to oust Lugo three months ago after a turbo-charged impeachment process, finding him guilty of misfeasance for the events of June 15, when seven police and nine squatters were killed in a clash in the northeastern province of Canindeyu.

Land occupations are common in central and northeastern Paraguay. The peasants usually target massive soy plantations owned by businessmen from neighboring Brazil.

Paraguay’s Truth and Justice Commission said in a 2008 report that Stroessner’s regime illegally awarded titles to nearly 6.75 million hectares (16.66 million acres) of land.

Those “ill-gotten” properties represent almost a third of the country’s arable land, according to the commission.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Henrique Capriles in Tight Presidential Race

Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Henrique Capriles in Tight Presidential Race

Photo: Hugo Chavez and Henrique Capriles

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Rafael Delgado, director of the pollster Varianzas, carried out a study about the electoral campaign in Venezuela, along with the last two polls.

According to Delgado, “the study that ended on September 20, classic vote intention gave us 49.7% in favour of Hugo Chavez and 47.7% for Henrique Capriles, leaving a 2.6% of undecided voters.”

Regarding the vote abstention, the analysis of Varianzas revealed that 75% of the population has intentions of voting, while 23 to 25% are inclined not to vote.

Finally, the director of the pollster, added that “43% of the electorate would never vote for Capriles while the 42% will not vote for Chavez. This numbers are alike, so the elections will be very tight.”

Read more by HS News Staff →

Colorado Investigating Hate Crime Against Hispanic Man

Colorado Investigating Hate Crime Against Hispanic Man

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Police in Boulder, Colorado, said they are investigating an attack on an Hispanic man as a crime possibly motivated by prejudice.

The incident took place late Wednesday night on a main thoroughfare in Boulder, a city of roughly 98,000 people 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Denver.

An unidentified male suspect holding a knife called the Latino a derogatory name and when the victim tried to walk away, the assailant followed, striking and kicking the Hispanic man, Boulder police spokesman Thomas Trujillo said.

The attacker had fled by the time police reached the scene.

“Based on the comments made by the suspect to the victim and the suspect’s assaultive actions, the police department is investigating this as a potential bias-motivated crime,” Sgt. Trujillo said.

Boulder County has around 32,000 Latino residents, representing a little more than 10 percent of the total population, according to the 2010 Census.

A May 2011 report from the district attorney’s office cited an increase in bias crimes in Boulder County since 2004 and attributed the trend to the effects of the recession.

The most dramatic incident came in May 2008, when three white teenagers beat an Hispanic man as he walked out of a shop in Boulder, accusing him of stealing jobs from America.

District Attorney Stanley Garnett announced last year that his office would dedicate more personnel and resources to investigating hate crimes.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Latin Group Fuses Rock ‘n’ Roll and Electronica To Create Fresh Sound

On September 11, 2012, GALLO released their debut album, FUEGO - an upbeat, dance focused, all-Spanish language album (with the addition of one sexy track in French).  The release of FUEGO will be supported by a national tour later this year. 

GALLO [pronounced Gah-yo] is the new Los Angeles based, multi-lingual, worldbeat band created by Kinski Gallo and his brother, Rodax – the frontman and bassist, respectively, of the highly acclaimed, award winning rock band, Monte Negro. 

Collaborating with Grammy Award winning engineer, Seth Horan (Robi Draco, Black Guayaba), as well as renowned keyboardist and programmer Juan Covarrubias (Daddy Yankee) at Phantom Vox Studios in Hollywood, GALLO meticulously crafted their new high-energy vision to give birth to FUEGO.  Additional artists contributing to the record include Christopher Cester (Jet/Damn Dogs), Chris Pierce (Brothers and Sisters/Army Wives), Garrett Henritz (Fol Chen) and Julia Rose (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).

FUEGO will be followed shortly by its sister album, PHOENIX RISING, an all-English record set to be released on November 2, 2012.

After almost 10 years of delivering music geared towards alternative audiences around the world, Kinski and Rodax decided to form GALLO to pay homage to their many defining influences: ranging from electronica and pop to disco and punk rock.

Kinski and Rodax are seasoned veterans of the international music scene.  When touring with their rock band, Monte Negro, they shared the stage with a variety of mega-acts ranging from Gwen Stefani and Nine Inch Nails, to Café Tacuba, to Zoé and Enanitos Verdes.

Originally hailing from Guadalajara, Mexico, both brothers found their early Latin music influences within their own large family, looking primarily to their father who was, himself, an accomplished mariachi singer.  They were surrounded at all times by traditional romantic ballads, boleros, and norteñas.  In their early teens, they moved to Venice, CA where they were further exposed to all that American radio had to offer: rock ‘n’ roll, new wave, punk rock, and electronica.

Over the past years, Kinski and Rodax have at various times made music from every one of these genres, all the while striving to stay true to both their Latin American roots and to their contemporary Anglo inspiration.

So finally, as GALLO, the brothers are excited to offer a debut record that encompasses all that these years of experience and passion have brought them.  With FUEGO, GALLO gets us up on our feet, groovin’ and movin’ to a fresh, fun sound.  FUEGO delivers, and GALLO is only too happy to bring the music to every corner of the country and beyond.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Organization Urges NC Sheriff’s Office to Negotiate with DOJ After Discrimination Allegations

Organization Urges NC Sheriff’s Office to Negotiate with DOJ After Discrimination Allegations

Photo: Alamance County Sheriff

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A immigrant-advocacy group that has denounced racial profiling of Hispanics by a North Carolina sheriff’s office urged local authorities to reconsider their refusal to negotiate with the Justice Department, which issued a report confirming the allegations and threatening a lawsuit.

Ben Ansbacher, a member of the group Fairness Alamance, founded in 2007 to denounce unjustified arrests of Latinos by the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office, said Friday in a press conference that county commissioners should “stop spending taxpayers’ money on lawyers and reach a solution.”

His remarks came two days after the attorney for Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson announced that the lawman would not negotiate a settlement with the Justice Department, which said last week it determined his office violated Hispanics’ constitutional rights.

“The Alamance County Sheriff’s Office does not discriminate against any persons, including Spanish-speaking individuals. As such, my client does not believe that any ‘negotiated settlement’ is necessary or advisable,” attorney S.C. Kitchen said.

Johnson has until Sunday to either agree to sit down with Justice officials and discuss possible changes in his office’s policy toward Hispanics or face a lawsuit.

Fairness Alamance, the ACLU and other groups have been denouncing illegal practices by Johnson’s office since it implemented the 287(g) program - which permits law enforcement personnel to determine the immigration status of people they detain - in 2007.

Several studies show that most unauthorized immigrants identified by 287(g) in Alamance County had been arrested for driving without a license and other minor traffic offenses.

Justice began investigating the groups’ allegations in 2010 and two years later had gathered sufficient evidence to conclude there was “a pattern or practice of misconduct that violates the Constitution and federal law.”

It found that Johnson’s office set up frequent checkpoints near Hispanic neighborhoods with the goal of arresting Latinos, taking them to jail to be identified by 287(g) and having them deported.

Immigration attorney Marty Rosenbluth, who has represented several Hispanics identified by 287(g) in Alamance, told Efe Friday that “if the sheriff has nothing to hide, it’s best that he meet with the feds.”

“Not even ICE tolerates his practices,” Rosenbluth said, referring to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s decision to cancel the 287(g) agreement with the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office.

Johnson is a popular Republican sheriff who was first elected in 2002 and has since earned a reputation for making life difficult for Hispanics, who make up 11 percent of the county’s population.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Audit Shows Spanish Banks Need $76 Billion, Banks Only Asking For $40 Billion Bailout

Audit Shows Spanish Banks Need $76 Billion, Banks Only Asking For $40 Billion Bailout

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Spain’s troubled banks need roughly 59.3 billion euros ($76.3 billion) to shore up their finances, according to the results of an independent audit released Friday.

But in presenting the results of U.S. management consulting firm Oliver Wyman’s report, Spain’s secretary of state for the economy, Fernando Jimenez Latorre, said the government may only ask its euro-zone partners for around 40 billion euros in assistance, less than half the amount approved this summer.

He explained that lower figure by noting there could be a “sharp lightening of the capital needs” during the restructuring processes of some of those financial institutions.

One reason the shortfall will be less is that some toxic assets - particularly the non-performing loans banks were saddled with in the wake of the collapse of a massive housing bubble - will be transferred to an external Asset Management Company.

That so-called “bad bank” was approved by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s administration early this month and is expected to be up and running before year’s end.

The loan portfolios of Spain’s 14 largest banking groups - accounting for 90 percent of the sector - were examined in the audit.

Spain’s memorandum of understanding with the European Union on aid for its struggling banks, signed in July for up to 100 billion euros, stated that the sector’s financial needs would be determined before the end of September.

Oliver Wyman divided Spain’s banks into four groups: institutions that have no identified capital shortfall, or Group 0; those that have been taken over by Spain’s state-backed FROB bank-restructuring fund, or Group 1; entities that cannot meet their capital shortfalls without state aid, or Group 2; and those able to meet their capital shortfalls privately, or Group 3.

Among the nationalized banks, BFA-Bankia requires 25 billion euros, while Catalunya Caixa needs 10.83 billion euros and Novagalicia and Banco de Valencia have a capital shortfall of 7.18 billion euros and 3.46 billion euros, respectively.

The audit also showed that Banco Popular, one of Spain’s largest banks, needs 3.23 billion euros, a figure the institution said Friday it can raise without state aid.

Seven Spanish banking groups - Santander, BBVA, La Caixa, Sabadell, Kutxabank, Bankinter and Unicaja CEISS, which together account for 62 percent of the financial sector’s total loan portfolio - were placed in Group 0.

The deputy governor of Spain’s central bank, Fernando Restoy, said banks currently in the process of merging with other institutions plan to continue operating.

And he added that the central bank’s intention is to “auction off and sell” the four nationalized banks “as soon as possible.”

After learning the results of the audit, the European Commission - the European Union’s executive arm - called it a “major step in implementing the financial-assistance program and towards strengthening the viability of and confidence in the Spanish banking sector.”

It added that the first group of banks would be recapitalized by November.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Wealthy Guatemalan Businessman Killed in Helicopter Crash

Wealthy Guatemalan Businessman Killed in Helicopter Crash

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Wealthy businessman Jose Habie was killed Friday when the helicopter he was piloting crashed in the Guatemalan capital, authorities said.

The 56-year-old Habie, who owned textile plants and a five-star hotel in Guatemala City, died of multiple traumatic injuries while trapped amid the wreckage of the chopper, paramedics told the media.

The helicopter went down near the offices of the Guatemalan bar association, in the southeastern part of the capital, apparently due to mechanical problems.

Guatemala’s head of civil aviation, Armando Asturias, told reporters that he and Habie had been classmates.

Italia Ortiz, 24, fractured a foot trying to flee as she saw the helicopter about to crash. The biology student was in the area to conduct a field study.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Severe Rains in Southern Spain Take 3 Lives

Severe Rains in Southern Spain Take 3 Lives

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A 6-year-old girl and an elderly man died Friday in the southern municipality of Puerto Lumbreras as a result of heavy rains battering much of southern Spain, bringing to three the number of fatalities blamed on the storm.

The exact circumstances of the deaths in Puerto Lumbreras remain unclear, sources in the Murcia regional government said.

Officials in the neighboring region of Andalusia said earlier that a woman was killed in the town of Alora, where a dozen other people, including her husband, had to be rescued from rising waters.

Around 5,000 people were evacuated Friday from homes in the province of Malaga, the Andalusia regional government said.

Some communities are entirely cut off and people in Archidona had to be plucked off rooftops by helicopter as the current was too strong to allow the use of boats.

“I hunkered down in my house and I’ve seen how my car went downstream amid animals and other cars,” Jose Lopez, a resident of Villanueva del Rosario, one of the worst affected towns, told Efe.

More rain was expected in Malaga and the neighboring provinces of Granada, Seville, Almeria and Cordoba.

Power is out in some areas and the accumulation of water on the tracks interrupted rail service within the region and between Andalusia and the rest of Spain.

Two bridges collapsed and stretches of highway are also blocked by floodwaters.

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U.S. Considering to Terminate 1996 Tomato Accord with Mexico

U.S. Considering to Terminate 1996 Tomato Accord with Mexico

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The United States is leaning toward scrapping a 1996 tomato accord with Mexico that has provoked complaints from growers in Florida, the Commerce Department said.

Announcing a preliminary position in favor of terminating the deal, the department said it would make a final decision within 270 days.

The existing pact is known as a “suspension agreement” because the Commerce Department in 1996 halted an anti-dumping investigation against Mexico and negotiated a minimum price for imports of Mexican tomatoes.

U.S. producers could request the imposition of tariffs on Mexican tomatoes if the agreement were to be scrapped, potentially triggering a trade war, the Fresh Produce Association of America says.

In a statement, Florida Tomato Exchange director Reggie Brown slammed the agreement as “outdated and failed” and said the Commerce Department’s preliminary position was “welcome news to domestic growers.”

The United States imported $8.5 billion worth of farm products from Mexico last year, more than from any other nation. Tomatoes accounted for nearly a quarter of the total.

The Commerce Department announced its decision on the eve of Friday’s scheduled meeting with Mexican producers, who are willing to renegotiate the pact to prevent it from being terminated.

Mexico’s economy ministry said it is regrettable that the Commerce Department “hastily” changed its position without responding to an Aug. 15 request by Mexican tomato growers for talks aimed at finding “a mutually satisfactory negotiated solution.”

The ministry also expressed “profound concern at the negative impact this preliminary position could have on our bilateral trade relationship.”

All parties involved, including the Mexican government and the Mexican tomato industry, will be able to submit arguments in defense of the agreement over the next six weeks, the ministry said in a statement.

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SaturdaySeptember 29, 2012