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FridayDecember 14, 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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Germany Honors Mexican Chemist Eusebio Juaristi for His Research

Germany Honors Mexican Chemist Eusebio Juaristi for His Research

Photo: Eusebio Juaristi

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Mexican chemist Eusebio Juaristi has been chosen for a Georg Forster Research Award, with its cash prize of 60,000 euros ($78,457) and a year of research in Germany, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation said Thursday.

The prize honors “one of the most innovative researchers in the field of organic chemistry,” the foundation’s communique said, while noting Juaristi’s decades-long contributions to science.

Juaristi will do his year of research in Germany at the Rhenish-Westphalian Technical University of Aachen.

Also in line for a Georg Forster Research Award are Turkish historian Selcuk Esenbel, South African mathematician Batmanathan Dayanand Reddy, and Nigerian biochemist Jonathan Andrew Nok.

The Georg Forster Research Awards, to be presented this year for the first time, are granted by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to prominent scientists from developing countries, and are funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Mexico’s Aracely Arambula to Star in Telemundo’s “La Patrona”

Mexico’s Aracely Arambula to Star in Telemundo’s “La Patrona”

Photo: Mexico's Aracely Arambula to Star in Telemundo's "La Patrona"

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Mexican actress Aracely Arambula will star in the new Telemundo telenovela “La Patrona” (The Boss), to premier Jan. 8, the Hispanic network announced.

The former companion of singer Luis Miguel, with whom she has two children, will share the set with Jorge Luis Pila and the popular Argentine actress Christian Bach.

Arambula will be debuting her first production with the network, after signing an exclusive contract last May to join the Telemundo talent pool.

The telenovela tells the story of Gabriela Suarez, played by Arambula, the only woman working in a mine in San Pedro del Oro, a Mexican village where the miners don’t allow a woman in a world dominated by men.

The main character falls in love with Alejandro Beltran (Pila), with whom she has a complicated romance opposed by the mother, Antonia Guerra (Bach), known as “the boss.”

Arambula began her acting career in 1995 with a part in the telenovela “Acapulco, Cuerpo y Alma” (Acapulco, Body and Soul), and went on from there with “Cañaveral de Pasiones” (Swamp of Passions), “El Alma No Tiene Color” (The Soul Has No Color), “Soñadoras” (Dreamers), “Rencor Apasionado” (Passionate Resentment), and “Corazon Salvaje” (Wild Heart), among other series.

Also a singer, Arambula in 2002 launched her first disc, “Solo Tuya” (Yours Alone), followed by “Sexy” produced by Abraham Quintanilla III, brother of the late music icon Selena.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Moody’s Downgrades Puerto Rico’s Credit Rating

Moody’s Downgrades Puerto Rico’s Credit Rating

Photo: Puerto Rico

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Ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service on Thursday slashed Puerto Rico’s credit rating two notches to Baa3, or one level above speculative grade.

Moody’s, which maintained a negative outlook for Puerto Rico’s debt, said advances have been made in recent years on the economic and fiscal fronts but that they were not enough to impede the two-notch downgrade from Baa1.

The ratings agency expressed particular concern over the ability of the island’s government to control public spending and lack of progress on pension reform.

“Economic growth prospects remain weak after six years of recession and could be further dampened by the commonwealth’s efforts to control spending and reform its retirement system, both of which are needed to stabilize the commonwealth’s financial results,” Moody’s said in its report.

“The lack of significant economic growth drivers and the commonwealth’s declining population have also reduced prospects for a strong economic recovery,” the agency said.

Looking back at the island’s recent economic history, Moody’s noted that in 2006 “Puerto Rico entered recession when the rest of the (United States) was still in full expansion mode.”

Although pointing to encouraging sales in the retail, automotive and cement sectors, it said those economic indicators “are improving off a very low base, and reflect what is still essentially a weak economy that is not likely to be able to absorb much additional stress.”

The agency said the “pension systems’ combined unfunded liability of $33 billion is almost four times the annual budget of $9 billion,” adding that it remains unclear how the incoming administration of Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla will resolve that problem and warning that lack of action could trigger another debt downgrade.

Moody’s said that other factors that influenced its decision were high and rising debt levels, continued wide budget gaps, reliance on debt restructuring and deficit financing.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Mexican Tequila Industry to Adopt Gov’t Regulations to Protect Standards

The Mexican government announced Thursday a set of new regulations designed to protect makers of tequila - a key export - from unfair competition.

Norm 006 establishes procedures for obtaining official certification as a tequila distiller or bottler.

Besides addressing techniques of production, the measure lays down standards for how tequila is to be bottled and sold and mandates what kind of information must be included on labels.

“The change in regulations will allow (consumers) to be sure of the authenticity of tequila ... permitting producers and marketers to better place their product in various market niches,” the Economic Secretariat said.

The proclamation of Norm 006 followed calls from tequila makers for tighter regulation and the imposition of labeling standards to clearly distinguish agave-based drinks from cheaper tipples made using derivatives of the plant.

Sales of those cheaper beverages have surged in Mexico in recent years.

The three spirits distilled from agave - tequila, mezcal and bacanora - together account for a third of alcoholic beverage sales in Mexico.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Brazil, Russia Enter Into Strategic Cooperation Agreement

Brazil, Russia Enter Into Strategic Cooperation Agreement

Photo: Brazil-Russia Strategic Agreement

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The leaders of Russia and Brazil, two giants of the world economy seeking a more powerful global role, sealed a strategic cooperation pact Friday to promote their interests jointly in a multipolar world.

The current state of world affairs and bilateral relations within the framework of international institutions was the obligatory topic at the Kremlin summit of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff.

Brazil and Moscow seek to merge their international policies, not only to promote a multipolar world but to push the reform of organizations like the IMF and the United Nations.

“Our countries champion a multipolar world that reflects the profound transformation humanity is going through,” the Brazilian president told the press after the meeting.

Rousseff made it clear that the two countries maintain “a constant dialogue on reforming the International Monetary Fund and international financial institutions.”

“We want to publicly thank President Putin for yet another show of support for Brazil’s ambition to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council,” she said.

Russia and Brazil hope their annual volume of bilateral trade will soon reach $10 billion, Putin said.

Trade between Russia and Brazil doubled between 2005 and 2008, a rate of growth halted by the world economic crisis but that made a comeback last year, according to a report from Putin’s office.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Selena Gomez and Friends Dance to Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” (VIDEO)

Selena Gomez and Friends Dance to Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” (VIDEO)

Photo: Selena Gomez and Friends Dance to Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble"

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Taylor Swift recently released the video for her latest single, “I Knew You were Trouble,” but she’s not the only one who made a video for the song.

Selena Gomez and her friends Francia Raisa, Samantha Droke, and Laura Quinn made a video of themselves dancing to the song and uploaded it to YouTube.

Me and my friends just goofing around to our favorite song. I want to give a big thanks to my friend Gweny for Choreographing this fun dance. My girls for being amazing and for Taylor being such an inspiration.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Telemundo Announces Aracely Arambula Will Star in “La Patrona” Telenovela

Telemundo Announces Aracely Arambula Will Star in “La Patrona” Telenovela

Photo: Aracely Arambula

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Mexican actress Aracely Arambula will star in the new Telemundo telenovela “La Patrona” (The Boss), to premier Jan. 8, the Hispanic network announced.

The former companion of singer Luis Miguel, with whom she has two children, will share the set with Jorge Luis Pila and the popular Argentine actress Christian Bach.

Arambula will be debuting her first production with the network, after signing an exclusive contract last May to join the Telemundo talent pool.

The telenovela tells the story of Gabriela Suarez, played by Arambula, the only woman working in a mine in San Pedro del Oro, a Mexican village where the miners don’t allow a woman in a world dominated by men.

The main character falls in love with Alejandro Beltran (Pila), with whom she has a complicated romance opposed by the mother, Antonia Guerra (Bach), known as “the boss.”

Arambula began her acting career in 1995 with a part in the telenovela “Acapulco, Cuerpo y Alma” (Acapulco, Body and Soul), and went on from there with “Cañaveral de Pasiones” (Swamp of Passions), “El Alma No Tiene Color” (The Soul Has No Color), “Soñadoras” (Dreamers), “Rencor Apasionado” (Passionate Resentment), and “Corazon Salvaje” (Wild Heart), among other series.

Also a singer, Arambula in 2002 launched her first disc, “Solo Tuya” (Yours Alone), followed by “Sexy” produced by Abraham Quintanilla III, brother of the late music icon Selena.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Mexico Joins G8 Global Partnership as 25th Member

Mexico Joins G8 Global Partnership as 25th Member

Photo: Mexico Joins G8 Partnership

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The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation welcomes Mexico as the newest addition to the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction (Global Partnership). Mexico is the first Latin American country to join the Global Partnership, which addresses nuclear and radiological security, biosecurity, scientist engagement, and facilitates the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 through cooperative projects.

The Global Partnership began at the 2002 Kananaskis G8 Summit as a 10-year, $20 billion initiative to prevent terrorists or states that support them from acquiring or developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Since then, the Global Partnership has grown to include 25 members and has allocated about $21 billion worldwide. At the 2011 G8 Summit in Deauville, leaders agreed to extend the Partnership beyond 2012 and to make it more truly global

Read more by HS News Staff →

FBI Releases 2011 Hate Crime Statistics

FBI Releases 2011 Hate Crime Statistics

Photo: FBI Releases 2011 Hate Crime Statistics

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According to statistics released this week by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 6,222 criminal incidents involving 7,254 offenses were reported in 2011 as a result of bias toward a particular race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity/national origin, or physical or mental disability. The statistics, published by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program in Hate Crime Statistics, 2011, provide data about the offenses, victims, offenders, and locations of the bias-motivated incidents reported by law enforcement agencies throughout the nation. Due to the unique nature of hate crime, however, the UCR program does not estimate offenses for the jurisdictions of agencies that do not submit reports.

Hate Crime Statistics, 2011 includes the following information:

  - There were 6,216 single-bias incidents, of which 46.9 percent were motivated by a racial bias, 20.8 percent were motivated by a sexual orientation bias, 19.8 percent were motivated by a religious bias, and 11.6 percent were motivated by an ethnicity/national origin bias. Bias against a disability accounted for 0.9 percent of single-bias incidents.
  - Of the 4,623 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against persons in 2011, intimidation accounted for 45.6 percent, simple assaults for 34.5 percent, and aggravated assaults for 19.4 percent. Four murders and seven forcible rapes were reported as hate crimes.
  - There were 2,611 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against property. The majority of these (81.4 percent) were acts of destruction/damage/vandalism. Robbery, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, arson, and other offenses accounted for the remaining 18.6 percent of crimes against property.
  - Fifty-nine percent of the 5,731 known offenders were white; 20.9 percent were black. The race was unknown for 10.8 percent, and other races accounted for the remaining known offenders.
  - Most hate crime incidents (32.0 percent) occurred in or near homes. Eighteen percent took place on highways, roads, alleys, or streets; 9.3 percent happened at schools or colleges; 5.9 percent in parking lots or garages; and 4.4 percent in churches, synagogues, or temples. The location was considered other (undesignated) or unknown for 11.3 percent of hate crime incidents. The remaining 19.1 percent of hate crime incidents took place at other specified or multiple locations.

Of hate crimes based on Ethnicity/national origin, 56.9 percent of the victims were targeted because of an anti-Hispanic bias.


To see the list broken down, click here to see the full report.

Read more by HS News Staff →

NASA on the “Mayan Apocalypse”: Not Real, Not Going to Happen

NASA on the “Mayan Apocalypse”: Not Real, Not Going to Happen

Photo: NASA on the "Mayan Apocalypse": Not Real, Not Going to Happen

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Dec. 21, 2012, won’t be the end of the world as we know, however, it will be another winter solstice.

Contrary to some of the common beliefs out there, the claims behind the end of the world quickly unravel when pinned down to the 2012 timeline.

Below, are NASA Scientists’ answers to questions regarding the Mayan Apocalypse myth and about the world not really ending later this month.

Question (Q): Are there any threats to the Earth in 2012? Many Internet websites say the world will end in December 2012.

  Answer (A):The world will not end in 2012. Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012


Q: What is the origin of the prediction that the world will end in 2012?

  A: The story started with claims that Nibiru, a supposed planet discovered by the Sumerians, is headed toward Earth. This catastrophe was initially predicted for May 2003, but when nothing happened the doomsday date was moved forward to December 2012 and linked to the end of one of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar at the winter solstice in 2012—hence the predicted doomsday date of December 21, 2012.


Q: Does the Mayan calendar end in December 2012?

  A: Just as the calendar you have on your kitchen wall does not cease to exist after December 31, the Mayan calendar does not cease to exist on December 21, 2012. This date is the end of the Mayan long-count period but then—just as your calendar begins again on January 1—another long-count period begins for the Mayan calendar.


Q: Is NASA predicting a “total blackout” of Earth on Dec. 23 to Dec. 25?

  A: Absolutely not. Neither NASA nor any other scientific organization is predicting such a blackout. The false reports on this issue claim that some sort of “alignment of the Universe” will cause a blackout. There is no such alignment (see next question). Some versions of this rumor cite an emergency preparedness message from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. This is simply a message encouraging people to be prepared for emergencies, recorded as part of a wider government preparedness campaign. It never mentions a blackout.  —Watch this video.—


Q: Could planets align in a way that impacts Earth?

  A: There are no planetary alignments in the next few decades and even if these alignments were to occur, their effects on the Earth would be negligible. One major alignment occurred in 1962, for example, and two others happened during 1982 and 2000. Each December the Earth and sun align with the approximate center of the Milky Way Galaxy but that is an annual event of no consequence.


Q: Is the Earth in danger of being hit by a meteor in 2012?

  A: The Earth has always been subject to impacts by comets and asteroids, although big hits are very rare. The last big impact was 65 million years ago, and that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Today NASA astronomers are carrying out a survey called the Spaceguard Survey to find any large near-Earth asteroids long before they hit. We have already determined that there are no threatening asteroids as large as the one that killed the dinosaurs. All this work is done openly with the discoveries posted every day on the NASA Near-Earth Object Program Office website, so you can see for yourself that nothing is predicted to hit in 2012.


Q: How do NASA scientists feel about claims of the world ending in 2012?

  A: For any claims of disaster or dramatic changes in 2012, where is the science? Where is the evidence? There is none, and for all the fictional assertions, whether they are made in books, movies, documentaries or over the Internet, we cannot change that simple fact. There is no credible evidence for any of the assertions made in support of unusual events taking place in December 2012.
  › Why you need not fear a supernova
Read more about the so-called Mayan Apocalypse prediction here.

And for reference:

This is Maya
Image


and this is Aztec
Image

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DEADLY SCHOOL SHOOTING:  27 Dead, Including 18 Children - Count May Go Up

DEADLY SCHOOL SHOOTING:  27 Dead, Including 18 Children - Count May Go Up

Photo: Mass Shooting Sandy Hook Elementary School

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UPDATE:  The mass shooter has been identified as 24-year-old Adam Lanza of Hoboken, New Jersey.  The alleged shooter died at the scene of the crime, inside the school.  It is not known if he killed or took his own life.


ORIGINAL: More than two dozen people, including 18 children, died Friday in a shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, authorities told U.S. media outlets.

The fatalities also include one suspect and the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Police said they were searching for a second suspect.

ABC News cited sources who described one of the shooters as a man of 24 equipped with four weapons and wearing a bullet-proof vest.

Authorities were first alerted by a 911 call at 9:41 a.m. and Connecticut state police quickly dispatched emergency units to the school in Newtown.

Sandy Hook Elementary has 450 students.

Newtown officials put all public and private schools in the area on lockdown.

Police escorted the surviving students out of Sandy Hook, telling them to hold each other’s hands and keep their eyes closed until they were outside, a 9-year-old girl told the Hartford Courant.

President Barack Obama is being kept informed on developments in Newtown, White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

Read more by HS News Staff →

For Murdering Woman, Stealing Fetus, Annette Morales-Rodriguez Gets Life, No Parole

For Murdering Woman, Stealing Fetus, Annette Morales-Rodriguez Gets Life, No Parole

Photo: For Murdering Woman, Stealing Fetus, Annette Morales-Rodriguez Gets Life, No Parole

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In September, Annette Morales-Rodriguez was convicted on two counts of first-degree intentional homicide for kidnapping and murdering a pregnant woman and stealing her full term fetus in 2011.

After faking multiple pregnancies and miscarriages, Morales-Rodriguez had grown desperate, as she had claimed she was pregnant once again and the made-up due date was approaching.

In October 2011,the wannabe mother reportedly staked out a Hispanic community center known for helping expecting mothers and found 23-year-old Maritza Ramirez-Cruz who was in her 40th week of pregnancy.

ImageIn October 2011, Morales-Rodriguez offered Ramirez-Cruz a ride home, lured her to her Morales-Rodriguez’s home, and bludgeoned and choked the mother of 3 until she was unconscious. Using an x-acto knife, Morales-Rodriguez cut the fetus from its mother.

An autopsy determined Ramirez-Cruz died from a combination of blunt force trauma, asphyxiation, and blood loss. After disposing of the now lifeless mother’s belongings, Morales-Rodriguez returned to her body and crudely cut her from hip to hip. What the now double-murderer pulled from its mother’s body was a stillborn baby boy.

While Morales-Rodriguez’s attorney urged the jury to convict her client of a lesser charge, first-degree reckless homicide, Morales-Rodriguez was ultimately convicted of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide.

Though it was determined she would spend the rest of her life in prison, a judge still had to determine if Morales-Rodriguez would have the possibility of parole.

On Thursday, she was sentenced to life in prison with the judge offering no chance of parole.

Ramirez-Cruz leaves behind three children, ages 3, 5, and 7. They, along with their father, Christian Mercado, are currently receiving psychiatric help to cope with this unspeakable loss. Mercado’s father moved into the apartment below the family’s shortly after the 2011 incident so he and his fiancé could help his son care for the children.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Hollywood Tribute for Spanish Director Pedro Almodovar

Hollywood Tribute for Spanish Director Pedro Almodovar

Photo: Pedro Almodovar Honored in Hollywood

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Pedro Almodovar unveiled the first footage from his new film, “Los amantes pasajeros” (I’m So Excited), during a Hollywood tribute to the Spanish filmmaker in the English capital.

Almodovar chose the intimate and moving retrospective by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to show the trailer for his much-anticipated film, a comedy that unfolds on board a plane and whose cast includes Javier Camara, Cecilia Roth, Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz.

The film is due to premiere in Spain in March.

A scene in which three flight attendants dance in front of the passengers to the tune of The Pointer Sisters’ song “I’m So Excited” was shown at the end of Thursday’s tribute.

The maker of films such as “Volver” (To Return) and “Todo sobre mi madre” (All About My Mother) was surrounded by family and friends during the ceremony, including his brother and producer Agustin.

Also in attendance were leading figures in British cinema including director Stephen Frears and actors Miranda Richardson and Kristin Scott Thomas.

U.S. filmmaker Quentin Tarantino also paid tribute to Almodovar in a videotaped message, calling him the contemporary director he most admired.

Almodovar said he was deeply moved by the expressions of affection and admiration during the long, entertaining retrospective and wished to thank everyone from the “bottom of his heart.”

“I’m surrounded by family and friends and they are the ones who deserve this tribute because I do what I do thanks to them,” the 63-year-old filmmaker said.

Almodovar, who gained fame in the 1980s with a series of sexually charged melodramas, has won a pair of Oscars for two of his more recent and less outrageous efforts - best original screenplay for the 2006 film “Hable con ella” (Talk to Her) and best foreign-language film for “Todo sobre mi madre” (All About My Mother), which was released in 1999.

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“Heavenly Jade of the Maya” Exhibits Opens in Washington D.C. Next Week

“Heavenly Jade of the Maya” Exhibits Opens in Washington D.C. Next Week

Photo: Mayan Calendar and Jade

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The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Cultural Center will host the exhibit entitled “Heavenly Jade of the Maya,” comprising rare jade jewelry and objects from recent archaeological discoveries, starting December 19, 2012.

The exhibit will commemorate the ending of the Maya calendar cycle (December 21, 2012) known as bak´tun, and the beginning of a new era. The Mesoamerican civilization studied the movement of the stars for centuries, and constructed a conceptual foundation to explain the relation of the individual and the cosmos.

The exhibit displays the creative wealth worn by powerful nobles to keep their rituals and beliefs alive, since the Maya considered jade more precious than gold.

The contents of the exhibition are from the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in Guatemala City. Part of the exhibition project includes financing a technical cooperation to train three Guatemalans in jade conservation in a newly installed laboratory facility at the museum.

The event will be open to the public until February 15, 2013.

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Spanish Population Grows by 6 Million in 10 Years, Driven by Foreigners Migrating to Country

Spanish Population Grows by 6 Million in 10 Years, Driven by Foreigners Migrating to Country

Photo: Spanish Population Grows due to Foreigners

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The Spanish population grew by 6 million people over the last decade (2001-2011) to reach 46.8 million inhabitants, largely due to the number of foreigners living in Spain, a segment that has tripled in that period to a total of 5.2 million.

The part of the population coming from other countries grew by 234 percent over the last 10 years, with the entry of 3.5 million foreigners, while the native Spanish population grew by 5.8 percent with 2.2 million more citizens for a total of 41.6 million.

The figures are provided by the latest nationwide census, an exhaustive study that the National Statistics Institute, or INE, takes once every 10 years, and which this time reflects a 14.6-percent growth since 2001 in the total number of residents - the biggest increase in history.

With regard to foreigners, what is particularly noteworthy is the increase in the number of Romanians and Moroccans in absolute terms, and of Paraguayan and Bolivians in relative terms.

The Paraguayan population grew by 6.836 percent in that period, going from a little more than 1,000 people in 2001 to 77,000 in 2011.

At the same time the number of Bolivian immigrants grew by 1.523 percent, from 11,300 to almost 184,000 people.

Other Latin American communities that showed large growth in absolute terms were the Ecuadorians - they were up some 100,000 people for a total of 316,000 by 2011 - and the Colombians - 90,000 more for a total of 250,000 - which means relative increases of 46.3 percent and 56.2 percent, respectively.

Argentines numbered 120 percent more, increasing from 47,000 to 105,000, while 380 percent more Brazilians arrived to boost their population from 18,000 to 88,000.

As for the increase in the Spanish population, the INE attributes it to a longer life expectancy, a slight increase in the birth rate between 2005 and 2009, and the fact that many foreigners acquire Spanish nationality.

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Mexican Congress Approves Government Overhaul and Downsizing

Mexican Congress Approves Government Overhaul and Downsizing

Photo: Mexico's President Peña Nieto Reforms

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Mexico’s Congress has approved a public administration overhaul sought by President Enrique Peña Nieto, although his Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, plans to file a constitutional challenge against amendments introduced by opposition lawmakers.

The lower house approved the bill - earlier passed by the Senate - by a vote of 423-38 with four abstentions on Thursday.

The legislation eliminates the Public Safety and Public Administration ministries, reducing the number of federal government departments from 18 to 16, but it also includes controversial amendments that give Congress veto power over some domestic security appointments.

One amendment grants the Senate to power to ratify top police brass, a change that the PRI said it will challenge before the Supreme Court.

Senators from the leftist PRD party and conservative National Action Party, or PAN, also introduced an amendment granting the lower house the right to confirm appointments to two high-level public safety posts.

The legislation also would require the government secretary to appear every six months before a bicameral committee to provide an update on public safety advances.

The government reorganization restores to the Government Secretariat - Mexico’s equivalent of an interior ministry - the domestic security functions that had been in the hands of the Public Safety Secretariat since 2000.

Under the change, the Government Secretariat will oversee the 36,500-strong Federal Police force, which was a main pillar in the fight against organized crime under Peña Nieto’s predecessor, the PAN’s Felipe Calderon.

Calderon militarized the struggle against the drug trade shortly after taking office in December 2006, deploying tens of thousands of army soldiers and Federal Police officers to drug war hotspots.

The strategy was deeply unpopular with some sectors who say it exacerbated the security problem in Mexico, where conflict among drug cartels and between criminals and the security forces claimed some 60,000 lives during Calderon’s tenure.

In addition to taking over responsibility for public safety, new Government Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong will coordinate Peña Nieto’s governmental team as Cabinet chief, a position that did not exist under the previous public administration model.

The overhaul also grants new powers to the ministries of Finance and Public Credit, Social Development and Agrarian Reform, which will be renamed, as well as to the Office of the President.

That latter department will permanently monitor federal public policy and conduct periodic evaluations to improve decision-making.

The overhaul still must still be signed into law by Peña Nieto.

Once published in the Official Gazette, the PRI will have 45 days to file its constitutional challenge.

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Honduran Police Make Large Weapons Seizure that Include Grenade-launchers

Honduran Police Make Large Weapons Seizure that Include Grenade-launchers

Photo: Illegal Guns Seizure Honduras

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A man was apprehended Thursday as he tried to bring assault rifles, grenade-launchers and other war materiel into the Caribbean province of Colon, Honduran police said.

Jose Andino, 35, was at the wheel of the pickup truck carrying the contraband, police inspector Julian Hernandez told the press.

The arms cache included five U.S.-made M-16 assault rifles, which are standard issue for Honduran soldiers, as well as three grenade-launchers, bullet-proof vests and various types of ammunition.

Police stopped the truck in the Plan de Flores sector of Colon after receiving a tip about a consignment of arms coming into the Caribbean province from the northern city of San Pedro Sula, Hernandez said.

Colon is wracked by conflict between palm-oil barons and landless peasants, while authorities say drug traffickers are also active in the area.

Honduras’s 2011 homicide rate of 92 murders per 100,000 people was one of the highest in the world, U.N. experts said in a recent report.

About 18 violent deaths occur in the Central American country daily, according to figures compiled by the National Police and human rights groups.

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Messi’s Goal Record Recognized by Guinness World Records

Messi’s Goal Record Recognized by Guinness World Records

Photo: Messi's Goal Record Recognized by Guinness World Records

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Guinness World Records has recognized FC Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi for setting a new mark for most goals in a calendar year - 88 and counting.

The 25-year-old Argentine has notched that total with two Spanish league matches left in 2012, surpassing the previous record that Germany’s Gerd Muller had held for 40 years.

Guinness and FIFA issued a statement Thursday saying that Messi’s goals this year and those of Muller in 1972 are part of the official record and there should be no controversy surrounding the Argentine’s feat.

Messi has scored 58 goals this year in the Spanish league, 13 in the UEFA Champions League, seven in international friendlies, five in World Cup qualifying matches, three in the Copa del Rey (King’s Cup) and two in the Supercopa de España (Supercup of Spain).

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Puerto Rican Politician Wants to be New Leader of Pro-Statehood Party

Puerto Rican Politician Wants to be New Leader of Pro-Statehood Party

Photo: Pedro Pierluisi

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Puerto Rico’s non-voting representative in the U.S. Congress, Pedro Pierluisi, said that if he has taken a step forward to become the new leader of the pro-statehood PNP party, it’s because he understands that’s what Puerto Ricans want.

“If I’ve raised my flag early it’s so everyone will know that it’s my responsibility to lead the party and because I hope the people expect that of me,” Pierluisi, who won a second four-year term in the Nov. 6 elections, told Efe in San Juan.

“This is what’s best for the party and the statehood movement, but the decision belongs to the (PNP) delegates,” he said.

Pierluisi said the goal is to get the PNP organized to win the 2016 gubernatorial election and maintain vigilant oversight on the incoming administration of Alejandro Garcia Padilla and the PPD, Puerto Rico’s other major party, which opposes statehood.

Garcia Padilla defeated incumbent PNP Gov. Luis Fortuño in last month’s ballot.

Pierluisi said he would not let the PNP fall into despair or disarray next month when Fortuño leaves office and steps down as party chair.

As for some pundits’ conjectures that if he becomes the next PNP chair so soon it could jeopardize his standing with the public, he said now is the time to take the reins of the party in hand, not to become the candidate for governor, something that won’t be decided until mid-2015.

“Whoever has the best image before the people is the one who should assume that role, and whoever believes he can do it better than me, let him step forward and let the delegates decide,” Pierluisi said.

He also said that becoming the new head of the PNP would help achieve the goal of getting Congress to favor the calling of a binding referendum on the political status of Puerto Rico.

“The ideal is a bill based on bipartisan support, since any bill…that lacks bipartisan support is doomed to failure,” Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner in Washington said.

Pierluisi’s words came after Puerto Ricans voted 54 percent to 46 percent in a non-binding plebiscite to end the island’s current commonwealth relationship with the United States.

On the second question, 61.1 percent voted for U.S. statehood.

Puerto Rico came under Washington’s sway in 1898 and island residents were granted U.S. citizenship in 1917, yet they cannot vote in presidential elections, though Puerto Ricans living in the continental United States can.

Since 1952, the island has been a self-governing, unincorporated territory of the United States with broad internal autonomy, but without the right to conduct its own foreign policy.

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Chinese Company Inching Towards Dam Project in Bolivia

Chinese Company Inching Towards Dam Project in Bolivia

Photo: Sinohydro Corporation Ltd

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Bolivia’s government has signed a memorandum of understanding with Chinese company Sinohydro Corporation Ltd., which pledged to review existing studies for a hydroelectric dam project in the northern Amazon region of Beni.

The Hydrocarbons and Energy Ministry said in a statement that the document was signed by Minister Juan Jose Sosa and a representative of Sinohydro Corporation, Li Wei.

Under the terms of the MOU, the Chinese company will review and optimize design plans for the Cachuela Esperanza hydroelectric dam project within a period of 90 days.

“Execution of Phase 1 does not involve any financial commitment by the Hydrocarbons and Energy Ministry nor for (Bolivian state-owned power company) ENDE,” the statement said.

If authorities accept the study, a second phase will commence to negotiate “the financing, construction and launch” of the project.

Bolivia signed a similar deal in July with state-owned company Hydrochina, which in recent days delivered a feasibility study for the Rositas hydroelectric dam in the eastern region of Santa Cruz.

The Bolivian government expects these projects will enable it to export electrical energy to neighboring countries while also guaranteeing domestic supplies.

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FridayDecember 14, 2012