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SaturdayFebruary 23, 2013

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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Anti-austerity Protest in Spain Draws Thousands

Anti-austerity Protest in Spain Draws Thousands

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Thousands of people demonstrated Saturday in this capital and other Spanish cities against austerity measures implemented by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government.

In the Spanish capital, four columns of protesters made their way from different points of the metropolis to the downtown Fountain of Neptune.

Demonstrators marched under the banner “No to the Financial Coup. We Don’t Owe. We Won’t Pay” - alluding to a failed putsch 32 years ago today that sought to stamp out Spain’s fledgling democracy - and carried signs protesting cuts to health and education services and the privatization of government-run companies.

The marchers included miners dressed in black and wearing helmets, feminists and people protesting mortgage foreclosures and layoffs at Spanish flagship airline Iberia.

One group of protesters held up a sign “There’s Not Too Little Money. They’re Too Many Thieves,” an allusion to alleged secret payments made to high-ranking members of the ruling Popular Party out of a slush fund.

Nearly 1,400 riot police were monitoring the protest due to concerns the marches - which were organized by the group Citizens’ Tide and unfolding peacefully - could be hijacked by radical groups.

Demonstrations also were being held Saturday in more than 80 other Spanish cities and towns and also in some European cities outside Spain such as Geneva, Naples and Paris.

The Iberian nation is in recession for the second time since the 2008 global financial crisis followed hard on the heels of the collapse of a decade-long property boom.

Numerous businesses have failed amid the slump and tens of thousands of families have been evicted from their homes after falling behind on their mortgages.

Rajoy, who took office in December 2011, has responded to the crisis by opting for a series of austerity measures - including increasing the value-added tax and reducing unemployment benefits - aimed at bringing Spain’s budget deficit into line with European Union mandates.

His administration argues that fulfilling the deficit objective is the first step back to economic health, but the belt-tightening measures have sparked street protests in a country where the unemployment rate stands at 26 percent and more than 55 percent among young people.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Florida International University to Honor Cuban Blogger Yoani Sanchez

Florida International University to Honor Cuban Blogger Yoani Sanchez

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Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez will receive on April 1 in Miami the Florida International University Medallion of Courage, which is awarded “to recognize individuals who pursue or defend a noble cause at a personal cost,” the institution said.

“Yoani is an important voice in public discussions about Cuba’s present and future,” Cuban Research Institute Director Jorge Duany said.

Sanchez will give a lecture entitled “Can Technologies and Social Media Accelerate Cuba’s Democratization?” at the Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Performing Arts Center, which will also be transmitted live on the Internet.

Duany added that “we are pleased to provide a forum for Sanchez to have an open and honest conversation with our faculty, students and members of the South Florida community.”

That same day Sanchez will also receive the Presidential Medal granted by Miami Dade College in recognition of her championing human rights, and will have a “special conversation” with students and community leaders, which will be live-streamed from the institution’s iconic Freedom Tower.

The blogger, 37, won international fame for speaking out against the Cuban regime. Over the past six years she has documented her life on the island on her Generacion Y blog, as well as via Twitter.

After she was finally allowed to leave her country last week, militant Communists have continued their protests against her.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Justice Department Reaches Settlement to Resolve Immigration-Related Retaliation Claim

Justice Department Reaches Settlement to Resolve Immigration-Related Retaliation Claim

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The Justice Department announced today that it reached an agreement with FTD Inc., to resolve allegations that the company retaliated against a man for asserting rights under the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). 

The Justice Department initiated the investigation after receiving a complaint from a work-authorized immigrant that FTD rescinded the individual’s conditional job offer after a background check revealed a purported error in his Social Security account number.  The man informed FTD that he was authorized to work in the United States and provided documents showing his status. 

The man also expressed concern to FTD that the company may be violating the anti-discrimination provision of the INA by refusing to hire him and threatened to pursue his legal rights under the INA’s anti-discrimination provision.  FTD responded by terminating all communication with the individual.   

Under the terms of the agreement, FTD has agreed to pay $1,800 in back pay to the man and $3,000 in civil penalties.  FTD has also agreed to undergo Justice Department training on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA.  The case settled prior to the Justice Department filing a complaint in this matter.

“People authorized to work in this country should not be afraid to dispute errors in databases relating to their employment eligibility or documents,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.  “It is unlawful to retaliate against an individual for asserting a right to work under the anti-discrimination provision of the INA.”

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Mexico Appoints Lawmakers to Monitor Rape Case

Mexico Appoints Lawmakers to Monitor Rape Case

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Mexico’s lower house has formed a special work group to monitor the investigation into the case of six Spanish women raped earlier this month in the Pacific resort of Acapulco.

The multi-party commission of 12 lawmakers will be presided over by the heads of the Chamber of Deputies’ Human Rights and Equity and Gender committees, Miriam Cardenas and Martha Micher, respectively.

The panel is to meet on Feb. 26 with Angel Aguirre, governor of Guerrero state, where Acapulco is located, and with local lawmakers to “request a broadening of the investigation.”

Gunmen raped the six Spanish tourists around 3:00 a.m. on Feb. 4 in Playa Bonfil, located in the eastern section of Acapulco, one of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations.

The victims and several Spanish male companions were outside their bungalow when five masked assailants armed with handguns accosted the group.

After gagging the men, the attackers forced the group inside the bungalow and assaulted the six Spanish women, though they spared a Mexican woman who was with them.

The victims’ ordeal lasted for about three hours and the assailants took PCs, cell phones, credit cards and other valuables when they left, officials said.

Nine days later, Mexican authorities announced the arrest of six suspects and said another was being sought. According to officials, the detainees confessed to their participation in the crime.

Nevertheless, Cardenas, of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, said it is important to monitor the case to make sure investigators “determine with convincing evidence who took part in the criminal acts of Feb. 4 and punish them with the full force of the law.”

The lawmakers also will inquire during their meeting with the governor about preventative measures that have been taken in the wake of the attack to combat violent crime in the region.

Cardenas said Acapulco has the highest rate of violence of any Mexican city and urged the adoption of measures to ensure public safety.

According to official figures, 14,050 rapes and 17,459 other sexual crimes were reported in Mexico in 2012.

Human rights groups, however, say that only 15 percent of rape cases are reported because of victims’ distrust of authorities and other reasons.

Acapulco, one of Mexico’s most famous tourist destinations, has been plagued by drug-related violence in recent years.

The Guerrero state government launched a security operation in 2011 with the support of the federal government to step up security in areas frequented by foreign and domestic tourists.

“Operation Safe Guerrero” was launched on Oct. 6, 2011, in an effort to reduce the soaring crime rate in the state.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Tennis Star Nadal Confirms Hotel Partnership in Cozumel

Tennis Star Nadal Confirms Hotel Partnership in Cozumel

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Spanish tennis great Rafael Nadal confirmed that U.S.-based hotel management company AMResorts will operate two hotels he owns on the Mexican Caribbean island of Cozumel.

“I got to know this place a few years ago and I loved it. That’s why we invested in it; it’s also an island and there’s a connection with the place where I live as well, which is the (Spanish Mediterranean) island of Mallorca,” Nadal said Friday.

The 26-year-old Spaniard, who arrived in Cozumel Tuesday after winning a tournament in Sao Paulo - his second event after a seven-month hiatus due to a knee injury - confirmed in a press conference that his hotels will be managed by AMResorts, which is headed by Mexico’s Alejandro Zozaya.

“It’s nice to invest in a place where you really feel good. The possibility of investing here in Cozumel came up. I love nature, I love the sea, this is a natural paradise,” the 11-time Grand Slam champion said.

“In addition to the economic investment, it’s a nice, emotional investment for my future,” Nadal, who will compete in next week’s Mexican Open in the Pacific resort of Acapulco, said.

Zozaya said Nadal’s Secrets Aura Cozumel hotel was remodeled at a cost of $14 million and will cater to high-end clientele and that the Sunscape Sabor Cozumel, also owned by the tennis star, will be ready in the second half of 2013.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Urge Congress to Take Action to Protect Vital Programs Before Too Late

Urge Congress to Take Action to Protect Vital Programs Before Too Late

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On March 1, 2013 automatic cuts that were delayed from the January 2nd “fiscal cliff” debates will go into effect if Congress does not take immediate action. What do these cuts mean for the Latino community?

These cuts, known as sequesters, would force the economic recovery to ride upon the backs of America’s most vulnerable populations, including many Latinos, affecting health, education, housing and many other issues.

LULAC urges you to contact your Senators and Representatives and encourage them to find alternatives, such as revenue building, to these drastic and harmful cuts.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and other Senators outlined a plan on February 14, known as the American Family Economic Protection Act, that would replace the 2013 cuts by setting a minimum tax rate for millionaires, closing other loopholes, gradually cutting the Pentagon and ending certain farm subsidies. It will be up for a vote during the week of February 25. For more information on this alternative to sequestration read this summary from the Coalition on Human Needs.

Find below the effects on Latinos and health, education, and housing to better understand the severity of the cuts.

The Effects of the Sequester on Latino Health

Many Latinos in the U.S. rely on available assistance programs to make ends meet. Cuts to programs such as WIC, SNAP, Medicare, Medicaid, and Head Start will jeopardize the health of these individuals and their families. Overall, sequesters will impose $31.4 billion in cuts to domestic programs like WIC, Head Start, child care, housing, home energy, and homeless aid, education and training, and much more. Medicare will be cut by $11.2 billion. Tell your representatives that further limiting access to food and medical care is unacceptable.

For more information on how the sequesters will affect your state, see these helpful fact sheets from the Coalition on Human Needs.

The Effects of the Cuts on Education

The Department of Education faces a 7.8% reduction in funding for large State formula grant programs that serve over 21 million students in high-poverty schools and 6.6 million students with special needs, and could force districts to lay off teachers and reduce services to these needy children.

English Language Acquisition State Grants, which help English language learners and recent immigrant students learn English and become proficient in academic content standards, face cuts of nearly $60 million which would allow for over 350,000 fewer English language learners to be served in our education system.

States with the largest Latino populations would see the largest of English Language Acquisition State Grants sequester cuts, as detailed in the chart to the right.

English Language Learner (ELL) enrollment continues to grow across the American education system. Since 1995, ELL enrollment has grown 57%, compared to less than 4% of all student growth. With over 5 million ELL students in the country, America’s education system has a population composed of more than 10% by ELL students.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Eva Longoria Directs and Stars in Short Film

Eva Longoria Directs and Stars in Short Film

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Eva Longoria just directed AND starred in her short film, “Out of the Blue” as part of Canon’s “Project Imaginat10n” – a user generated photo contest helmed by Ron Howard where celebrity directors, including Eva, Jamie Foxx, Biz Stone (Twitter co-founder), Georgina Chapman (designer and co-founder of Marchesa) and James Murphy (founder of LCD Soundsystem) are directing short films inspired by consumer photos. Image

“Out of the Blue” is the story of a tough, sexy woman fighting her way through a series of unique physical challenges to stop a mad man. The female character’s mission takes a surprising turn that leaves us wondering if it was all just a game. 

The film co-stars Amaurey Nolasco (Prison Break) and will premiere at Canon’s “Project Imaginat10n” Film Festival in Fall 2013.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Undercover DEA Agent’s Book Chronicling his Time With Pablo Escobar to be Made Into Movie

Undercover DEA Agent’s Book Chronicling his Time With Pablo Escobar to be Made Into Movie

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Robert Mazur, Former DEA Undercover Agent and Author of ‘The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel’ After five years deeply undercover within Pablo Escobar’s network, Robert Mazur wrote a book about his life that has now been picked up by Hollywood for a new movie.

Mazur’s undercover work helped to expose corruption and money laundering schemes by the world’s 7th largest bank BCCI (The Bank of Credit and Commerce International).

He gained the confidence of the cartel leaders while posing as Tampa-based businessman Bob Musella, who would launder tens of millions of dollars for the Medellin cartel, and reported to the Federal Government.

The director of the recent hit movie ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’, Brad Furman, has signed onto to do the project and Robert Mazur will serve as an Executive Director for the movie that brings his exciting life to the big screen.

Good Films signed a deal with FilmNation Entertainment to represent The Infiltrator and several other films owned by Good Films at the Berlin Film Festival this month. The Infiltrator is the highest budget film of the 6 films that Good Films intends to produce. The budget for The Infiltrator film is estimated at $55 million (US).

FilmNation Entertainment is in the process of selling the international rights to The Infiltrator in various parts of the world, which will raise capital to finance the film’s production.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Matchbox Twenty Confirmed for ‘Rock in Rio 2013’

Matchbox Twenty Confirmed for ‘Rock in Rio 2013’

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Veteran U.S. rock band Matchbox Twenty, with more than 30 million discs sold, will be one of the attractions at Rock in Rio 2013, the organizers announced Friday.

The band led by singer and pianist Rob Thomas, which has never performed in Brazil before, will be one of the big draws on the night of Sept. 20 at the Palco Mundo, the festival’s main stage.

The American rockers are using Rock in Rio to promote their disc “North,” launched in 2012 to become the group’s first album to top the Billboard chart and which is the theme of their tour this year.

Rock in Rio 2013 is the event’s 13th edition and the fifth in the Brazilian city where it all began in 1985.

This year’s festival has concerts scheduled for Sept. 13-22 and a daily audience capacity of 85,000 fans in the so-called City of Rock, which will add up to a total of some 595,000 concert-goers.

Among the headliners already announced for this year are Metallica, Alice in Chains, Sepultura, Ghost, Beyonce, Iron Maiden and Slayer.

The previous edition of the festival in Rio de Janeiro, in 2011, attracted 700,000 people over seven days to see artists that included Coldplay, Mana, Snow Patrol, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Shakira.

Read more by HS News Staff →

McCain Confronts Radical Right on Immigration (VIDEO)

McCain Confronts Radical Right on Immigration (VIDEO)

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By Victor Landa, NewsTaco

No one said selling immigration reform was going to be easy.

Sure, there seems to be bipartisan agreement that reform should be done, especially after the schooling that the GOP received regarding Latino voters and the future of national elections.Image

So everyone’s on board, right? All we have to do is wait for Congress to get back to Washington from their little President’s Day vacation, resolve their sequester differences and violá, immigration get’s done…right?

Meanwhile, GOP Representatives and Senators are trying to sell their new-found (and in some cases re-found, again, once more) approval of immigration reform to their more belligerent anti-immigration constituents.

And what would that look like?

Here’s a glimpse of what Senator John McCain confronted in a town hall meeting back in his home state over the weekend. Let’s just say, it wasn’t pleasant, and McCain lost his cool.

The video comes to us courtesy of MSNBC.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

This article was first published in NewsTaco.

NewsTaco provides you with innovative and insightful news, critique, analysis and opinion from a Latino perspective in a 24-hour world.

Read more at NewsTaco →

Paleontologists Discover Mastodon Fossils in El Salvador

Paleontologists Discover Mastodon Fossils in El Salvador

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At least 12 fossil fragments, including some from a mastodon, have been discovered at a new paleontological site in El Salvador.

“We dug down to the fossil-bearing strata…we have now reached some materials of great importance to paleontology,” the head of the expedition, paleontologist Daniel Aguilar, told Efe.

Found up to now at the new site, where excavations began on Monday, are “12 fossil deposits,” he said.

“There is one deposit with the remains of a horse, and farther down the bones of a mastodon are to be seen,” he said, but added that it is “too soon to specify all the taxonomic information about the animals” found at the site, since they must still be brought up for analysis.

Excavations at the Nueva Apopa paleontological site in the municipality of Apopa, some 12 kilometers (7 1/2 miles) from San Salvador, were officially inaugurated on Friday.

“What we begin to find here has us giving more and more credence to the hypothesis of experts about the great fossil-bearing riches in the subsoil” at Apopa, Gustavo Milan, the Culture Secretariat’s cultural heritage director, told Efe.

The first paleontological excavations in Apopa were in 2001 at the Tomayate River, 20 kilometers (12 1/2 miles) north of San Salvador, where some “2,000 pieces, both fragments and complete fossils,” were turned up of some “23 different species,” Aguilar said.

Among the species found were “mastodons, giant sloths…giant armadillos,” he added.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Salvadoran Mother Facing Deporation Hopes for Miracle

Salvadoran Mother Facing Deporation Hopes for Miracle

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Ana Cañenguez, a Salvadoran mother living in Utah who has been on a long, painful journey to support her kids, says that only her faith keeps her from despair now that she has received a deportation order that can separate her from her family.

“The situation now is really hard, but I feel optimistic and have faith in God. I’m clinging to my faith. But at other times, like when I’m alone, my optimism vanishes,” she said in an interview with Efe.

In February 2003, after the death of her eldest son of a chronic health problem, Cañenguez decided to leave her country and come to the United States for the sole purpose of finding work “so my other children would have food and clothing.”

“As of last week I’ve been in the United States for 10 years. I’ve lived in Utah and Arizona. Since I entered the country, which I love, I took the trouble to learn the laws in order to obey them. In the country I came from, no one explained American laws to me nor what you can do and not do here,” she said.

Soon after arriving in Utah and beginning to look for work, she learned from another Salvadoran woman that she needed “certain documents” to be hired legally.

During her first two years she worked from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. at two different jobs so she could send money back to her kids in El Salvador.

In 2011, however, her now-teenage kids decided to leave home and come by themselves overland to Utah, only to be detained in Mexico.

From there they managed to contact their mother, who chose to leave the United States to rescue them. Cañenguez thought it would be a matter of days, but it took her two months of negotiations with Mexican authorities to get her youngsters back.

When she did, she had to face the Sonora Desert for a second time.

As a precaution she took a cell phone with her. When the situation in the desert got so frightening she doubted whether either she or her kids would live through it, she herself called the Border Patrol to come get them. That arrest led to her current deportation order.

“I had no alternative,” the woman said. The deep sadness she feels, besides knowing that she will have to leave her two U.S.-born children, ages 5 and 7, and their father, comes from “having to live hidden in the shadows, not like a real person.”

Read more by HS News Staff →

COLOMBIA: FARC Rebels Doubt Pres. Santos’ Commitment to Peace

COLOMBIA: FARC Rebels Doubt Pres. Santos’ Commitment to Peace

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FARC rebels on Friday slammed Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for remarks made during this week’s handover to peasants of land allegedly seized from them by the guerrillas, questioning his commitment to achieving peace.

“We thought Santos was sincere in saying he dreamed of going down in history as the president who achieved peace ... His behavior and words in San Vicente del Caguan have left us perplexed,” the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which has fought a decades-old revolution against a succession of Colombian governments, said in a statement.

The message was read in Havana, where the FARC and the Colombian government have been holding peace talks since November.

It focused on comments Santos made during a land-restitution ceremony Wednesday in the remote southern town of San Vicente del Caguan, where peasants were given back properties purportedly seized from them by late FARC chief strategist Mono Jojoy.

Santos devoted his speech to “insulting” the FARC and its “most beloved commanders,” without ever referring to the ongoing peace talks, the message said.

“Not once did he mention what he has regarded as a main banner of his government ... Is that the way to create an environment conducive to the process and to dialogue? Is that how the national government does its part for reconciliation, Santos?” according to the statement read to the media by guerrilla negotiator Andres Paris.

The FARC said that though “important progress” has been made during the talks in Cuba, “official attitudes” such as those expressed by Santos “threaten to sink (the process) in a morass.”

The guerrillas issued the statement upon their arrival Friday at the Palace of Conventions in Havana, where the peace talks are continuing with government negotiators.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Mexican Governor Says $151 Million Missing From State Coffers

Mexican Governor Says $151 Million Missing From State Coffers

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The governor of the southern Mexican state of Tabasco said Friday that an audit of his predecessor’s administration detected 1.9 billion pesos ($151 million) in missing funds.

State officials are preparing to file criminal complaints against the responsible parties, Gov. Arturo Nuñez told MVS radio.

The money disappeared during Andres Granier’s 2007-2012 tenure as governor of Tabasco, Nuñez said.

The missing funds were transferred from the federal government to Tabasco, but never reached the agencies for which they were intended, the incumbent governor said.

Moreover, Nuñez said, the debt of the state government stands at 17.7 billion pesos ($1.39 billion), not the 10 billion pesos listed on the accounts of the Granier administration when it left office Dec. 31.

The irregularities were of such magnitude that it’s very unlikely they would have passed unnoticed by Granier, Nuñez said.

The cumulative debt of Mexico’s 32 state administrations climbed by 11.3 percent last year to the equivalent of $34.2 billion, or 2.9 percent of national GDP, the federal finance ministry said earlier this week.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Outgoing Defense Secretary Says His Dog Knows Important Pentagon Secrets

Outgoing Defense Secretary Says His Dog Knows Important Pentagon Secrets

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Bravo, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s faithful golden retriever, knows every nook and cranny of the Pentagon and has accompanied his master at countless high-level meetings.

Though not as well known as the first family’s Portuguese water dog, Bo, Bravo has been privy to the country’s most sensitive military secrets.

“Bravo sat in on almost all of the meetings involving the operations against bin Laden. And you know, to this day, he hasn’t told a damn soul what happened,” Panetta, who was CIA chief before becoming defense secretary, quipped last fall at an encounter with reporters.

Bravo, Panetta said two weeks ago at his retirement ceremony, “is definitely not a leaker. At least according to that definition of the word.”

The dog’s name evokes both the second letter of the phonetic alphabet used in international air and sea communications and an Italian exclamation meaning “well done,” a nod to Panetta’s heritage.

The canine confidant has been an almost permanent presence at Panetta’s side throughout the California native’s tenures at the CIA and the Pentagon.

At his retirement event, Panetta recalled the wry advice of President Harry Truman: “if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”

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U.S. Government to Join Lance Armstrong Lawsuit

U.S. Government to Join Lance Armstrong Lawsuit

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The U.S. Justice Department will notify a federal court Friday of its plans to become a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against American former road cyclist Lance Armstrong by an ex-teammate, NBC News reported, citing legal sources.

The government is signing on to a suit that American former cyclist Floyd Landis, an admitted PED user, filed two years ago against Armstrong over the latter’s use of performance-enhancing drugs during the Tour de France, the sources said.

They told NBC the Justice Department is joining the case on the grounds that Armstrong defrauded the government by violating its strict rules against illegal drugs while racing for the U.S. Postal Service team.

NBC, however, cited legal experts as saying Armstrong could argue that his contract with the team - of which he was a member from 1998-2005 - did not explicitly prohibit blood doping, and that he never signed any agreement directly with the Postal Service banning PED use.

The athlete had denied cheating for a decade, but he told Oprah Winfrey last month that he took banned substances and received blood transfusions throughout most of his racing career and during all the Tour de France races he won.

Prior to that admission, Armstrong had been stripped of his seven consecutive Tour de France titles between 1999 and 2005 after refusing last year to defend himself from doping allegations compiled by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

He told Winfrey in an interview aired on her OWN network that, in his opinion, it would have been impossible to win the Tour de France over that seven-year period without the aid of banned substances.

In issuing a 1,000-page report last October detailing Armstrong’s involvement in a “doping conspiracy,” USADA said the U.S. Postal Team “ran the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”

Read more by HS News Staff →

South African Court Grants Oscar Pistorius Bail

South African Court Grants Oscar Pistorius Bail

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The judge at the Pretoria Magistrates’ Court on Friday granted the bail application of South African track star Oscar Pistorius, who is accused of murdering his girlfriend.

In his ruling following a week-long hearing, Judge Desmond Nair found that the disabled athlete was not a flight risk and that the prosecution had not shown that the defendant has a propensity for violence, among other reasons.

He fixed bail for the 26-year-old Olympic and Paralympic sprinter, known as the “Blade Runner” because of the high-tech, carbon-fiber prosthetics he wears on both legs during his races, at 1 million rand (roughly $113,000).

The athlete was freed under a set of conditions, including the surrender of his passport and his firearms.

Supporters of Pistorius in the courthouse shouted “Yes!” when they heard the decision, which enables the celebrity to avoid being housed pending trial in the notoriously grim and violent Pretoria Central Prison.

The athlete had been jailed since Feb. 14, when his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds at Pistorius’ home in the South African capital.

Lead defense attorney Barry Roux argued in court Thursday that his client fired gunshots at the toilet door of his home in the wee hours of Valentine’s Day because he believed there was an intruder inside and that he was in grave danger.

He said Steenkamp - who was inside the toilet, a small room inside Pistorius’s bathroom, at the time - was shot and killed in a tragic accident.

In an affidavit released this week, Pistorius said that he was seized by terror after hearing strange noises in the bathroom and did not notice that Steenkamp was not in bed because he was too afraid to turn on the light.

He said it was only after firing the gunshots and realizing Steenkamp was not in bed that it occurred to him that she might have been the person in the toilet room.

Pistorius said he then broke down the door with a cricket bat and tried to revive his girlfriend but that she died in his arms.

The judge earlier this week accepted the prosecution’s premeditated murder charge, but said Friday that it had not shown its case was so airtight that the defendant would not want to have his day in court.

Pistorius gained international fame last year when he competed against able-bodied athletes at the London Games’ 400-meters and 4 x 400-meter-relay events, becoming the first double-amputee track athlete to race in the Olympics.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Nicaragua Inaugurates Solar Farm

Nicaragua Inaugurates Solar Farm

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Nicaraguan authorities inaugurated the country’s first photovoltaic park, a 1 MW solar facility that could supply electricity to more than 1,000 homes.

Energy and Mines Minister Emilio Rappaccioli and the CEO of state electric utility Enatrel, Salvador Mansell, inaugurated the plant, which is located some 59 kilometers (36 miles) south of Managua in Carazo province.

The solar farm “is a pioneer of its type in Central America,” is made up of 5,880 photovoltaic solar panels and has a generating capacity greater than 1 MW, Mansell told reporters Thursday.

“At maximum output it could meet the needs of 1,100 homes, with estimated monthly consumption of 150 kilowatt-hours” per household, the executive said.

Electricity sector authorities said a total of $11.9 million was invested in the project, $11.4 million of which came from a Japanese government donation and the rest out of the Nicaraguan Treasury.

The solar farm will supply 1,980 megawatt-hours to the national electricity grid and displace 1,100 tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to planting 2.8 square kilometers (1.08 square miles) of forest, Mansell said.

Japan’s ambassador to Nicaragua, Masaharu Sato, attended the inauguration ceremony.

Read more by HS News Staff →



SaturdayFebruary 23, 2013