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MondayMarch 25, 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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6.2 Magnitude Earthquake Rattles Guatemala

6.2 Magnitude Earthquake Rattles Guatemala

Photo: Guatemala by Al-Jazerra

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A 6.2 magnitude earthquake shook the Pacific coast of Guatemala late Monday afternoon at approximately 4pm PST.  The epic center was near the capital city of Guatemala City some 6 miles southeast.

The quake was 124.6 deep according to the U.S. Geological Survey, therefore barely felt.  Authorities have not reported any casualties or severe damage to buildings. 

The country has suffered through several catastrophic earthquakes with mass casualties.  On November 7, 2012 a 7.4 magnitude quake hit San Marcos leaving 50 dead and the deadly 1976 earthquake left 23,000 dead. 

Read more by HS News Staff →

White House Denies Sen. Ted Cruz Accusations It Wants Immigration to Fail

White House Denies Sen. Ted Cruz Accusations It Wants Immigration to Fail

Photo: Sen. Ted Cruz v White House

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The White House on Monday rejected the recent accusations by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz that President Barack Obama is really looking for immigration reform to fail and for that situation to become a Democratic campaign weapon in 2014 and 2016.

“There’s no evidence to support those claims,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

“What the President has been saying for quite some time now is that he believes that comprehensive immigration reform is in the best interest of the economy of the United States of America,” Earnest told reporters.

“And what we’re looking for is a piece of legislation that falls in line with the principles that the president has offered,” the spokesman said.

A group of four Republican and four Democratic senators are currently trying to devise an immigration reform proposal.

Obama “is hopeful” that the eventual Senate proposal “would pass the Congress and would be something the president could sign into law sooner rather than later,” Earnest said.

Earnest moved to deal head on with the accusations Cruz made during an interview last weekend with the Dallas Morning News in which he claimed that Obama really wants immigration reform to fail so that Democrats can use this fact as a campaign weapon.

The president’s “behavior concerning immigration leads me to believe that what he wants is a political issue rather than actually to pass a bill,” the freshman Cuban-American senator from Texas said.

“What he wants is for the bill to crater, so that he can use the issue as a political wedge in 2014 and 2016. That is why I believe the president is insisting on a path to citizenship for those who are here illegally. Because by insisting on that, he ensures that any immigration reform bill will be voted down in the House,” Cruz said.

But the version of immigration reform that the Senate is studying seeks only to open a path to legalization - and possible citizenship - for the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants and does not provide for that to be automatically extended to those people.

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Nicaragua Keeps an Eye on Rumbling San Cristobal Volcano

Nicaragua Keeps an Eye on Rumbling San Cristobal Volcano

Photo: Nicaragua's San Cristobal Erupting

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The Nicaraguan government said Monday that it has stepped up its watch on the San Cristobal volcano after it shook its surroundings with four moderate earthquakes.

San Cristobal, 135 kilometers (84 miles) northwest of Managua, gave off the temblors Sunday night.

“There’s a process of decompression (in the crater), which doesn’t mean we’ll let our guard down - today a team of vulcanologists is finishing its revision of the San Cristobal phenomena,” Guillermo Gonzalez, head of the Sinapred emergency management agency, said.

Gonzalez said that current activity in the volcano does not warrant an alert for any degree of danger.

Last December, Sinapred issued a yellow alert in the municipalities near San Cristobal after the volcano spewed columns of gas and ash more than 500 meters (1,600 feet) in the air.

Unlike San Cristobal, seismic activity of the Telica volcano weakened Sunday afternoon, Sinapred said.

Telica, at 105 kilometers (65 miles) northwest of Managua, had more than 20 microquakes each day since last Thursday.

Both San Cristobal and Telica are located on Nicaragua’s volcano range, made up of 13 active volcanic cones running parallel to the Central American country’s Pacific shoreline.

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5 Die in Shootout in Los Mochis, Sinaloa

5 Die in Shootout in Los Mochis, Sinaloa

Photo: Los Mochis, Sinaloa Violence

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At least four civilians and a police officer died in a shootout and an attack Monday in Los Mochis, a city in northwestern Mexico, city officials said.

Police acting on a tip that a young man was being attacked in Los Mochis ended up pursuing the suspected assailants through the city’s streets and engaging them in a shootout.

The young man died while being treated at a hospital.

Three suspected gunmen and a police officer died in the shootout, city officials and prosecutors said.

Another police officer wounded in the shootout was taken to a hospital.

Los Mochis is in Sinaloa state, which is home to the criminal organization led by Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman, the world’s most-wanted drug trafficker.

The Sinaloa organization, sometimes referred to by Mexican officials as the Pacific cartel, is the oldest drug cartel in Mexico and has an extensive drug distribution network in the United States.

The Sinaloa cartel, according to intelligence agencies, is a transnational business empire that operates in the United States, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the Americas and Asia.

Over the weekend, San Juan Mixtepec Mayor Feliciano Martinez Bautista and a municipal police officer were ambushed and murdered in the southern state of Oaxaca.

Martinez Bautista and officer Policarpo Remigio Rojas were driving through the city when they were attacked and killed around 2:30 a.m. Sunday, the Oaxaca state government said.

The mayor was shot in the head and the officer was hit in the chest, officials said, adding that the vehicle rolled over after the attack.

At least 30 mayors and more than 1,200 other municipal officials were murdered by organized crime groups during the administration of former President Felipe Calderon, the National Federation of Mexican Cities said.

The war on drugs launched by Calderon, who was in office from 2006 to 2012, left about 70,000 people dead in Mexico, officials say.

Calderon deployed thousands of soldiers and Federal Police officers across the country to fight drug cartels, which infiltrated many state and municipal police departments.

Mexican press tallies estimated that about 12,000 people died in violent incidents linked to organized crime groups in 2012.

More than 3,100 people have been killed in drug-related violence since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office on Dec. 1.

Read more by HS News Staff →

STUDY:  Latinos Leaving Segregated Neighborhoods Except for Mexicans

STUDY:  Latinos Leaving Segregated Neighborhoods Except for Mexicans

Photo: Segregated Mexican Neighborhoods

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The Hispanic community, with the exception of people of Mexican origin, is becoming less and less segregated in the United States.

“It surprised us to find changes in the residential patterns in the majority of Hispanic groups because up to now we believed that there had been no alterations in recent decades,” Brown University sociology professor John R. Logan told Efe on Monday.

Logan is one of the authors of “Hispanics in the United States: Not Only Mexicans,” which also states that the Honduran and Guatemalan communities are growing more rapidly than the Mexican one, though people from the Aztec nation still represent 60 percent of the 50.5 million U.S. Hispanics.

The report, which analyzes data from the 2010 Census, found that the trend among Hispanics to concentrate in neighborhoods separate from the rest of the population has diminished.

“When we analyze the trends and the levels of separation of each group by their country of origin with respect to whites, we see that - except for Mexicans - there has been a significant decline in the level of segregation,” Logan said.

He said that, in his opinion, this is “surprising and also encouraging because it shows us that the boundaries are not as clearly marked as we had thought.”

Although one might expect that Mexicans would be those with a greater tendency to mix in with the larger population since the second generation of that group is increasing, the reality is that there are other communities that are integrating to a greater degree within the population as a whole.

Of all the Latino groups studied, Dominicans are the ones who are in the “worst situation,” while Argentines and Venezuelans are among those who have a higher level of education and less of a tendency toward segregation, even though they may have arrived in this country more recently than the members of other communities.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Authorities Arrest Colombian Narco Wanted in Spain

Authorities Arrest Colombian Narco Wanted in Spain

Photo: Oscar Javier Becerra Mejia Arrested

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A suspected drug trafficker wanted by Spain was arrested in Pereira, a city in central Colombia, the National Police said.

Oscar Javier Becerra Mejia, a Colombian citizen who Spanish authorities are seeking to extradite, was captured by National Police officers working with Interpol.

Spain’s National Court issued an arrest warrant for Becerra Mejia on drug trafficking, drug possession and drug production charges, the National Police said in a statement.

Becerra Mejia belongs to a gang made up of Colombians, Spaniards and Frenchmen that smuggles and distributes drugs in Europe.

The suspect was linked to the June 6, 2003, meeting on the high seas of the Caridad C and Doña Rosa with the San Miguel.

The Caridad C and Doña Rosa sailed from the Venezuelan port of La Antilla and met up with the San Miguel in the Atlantic, where narcotics changed hands.

Police seized 1,360 kilos of cocaine with 76 percent purity on Nov. 16, 2003, aboard the Doña Rosa in the northwestern Spanish port of Vigo and arrested two suspects.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Spanish Cartoon Character Pocoyo to be Featured in U.S. Literacy Programs

Spanish Cartoon Character Pocoyo to be Featured in U.S. Literacy Programs

Photo: Pocoyo and Literacy

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Spain’s Zinkia, creator of the popular kiddie cartoon character Pocoyo, has been picked by The Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network to take part in an educational project aimed at Latino kids in the United States.

Pocoyo will be the leading character in a series of apps for tablets and mobile phones that seek to instill early literacy, language skills and a grasp of mathematics in children ages 3-5 whose first language is Spanish.

Among the sources of support for the program are the U.S. Department of Education’s Ready to Learn program and outstanding experts like Robert Rodriguez, education adviser to President Barack Obama.

The app collection is expected to consist of 23 episodes, of which the first two will be available by late 2013.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Brazil’s Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz Meets with Pope Francis

Brazil’s Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz Meets with Pope Francis

Photo: Brazil Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz

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Pope Francis met Monday with Brazilian Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz and Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Vatican said.

The Brazilian cardinal is prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and the Canadian is prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

Both men were considered candidates for pope in the conclave that elected Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church on March 13.

The meetings were private and the Vatican did not release any details on what was discussed.

Pope Francis also met with Mexican Ambassador to the Holy See Hector Federico Ling Altamirano, who is leaving his post.

The 76-year-old pope celebrated the first Mass of the morning with Cardinal Raul Eduardo Vela Chiriboga, the archbishop emeritus of Quito, marking the second time in the past few days that they concelebrated Mass.

The Mass was attended by members of the photographic service of the L’Osservatore Romano newspaper.

The photographic service employees attended with their director, Salesian priest Sergio Pellini, and L’Osservatore Romano director Giovanni Maria Vian.

Vatican landscapers and cleaning employees, as well as the household workers at the Santa Marta Residence, where Pope Francis is staying until the papal apartment’s renovations are completed, have attended the pontiff’s morning Mass recently.

A documentary on the first weeks of Francis’ papacy will be broadcast on Wednesday, the Vatican said.

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‘Princesa de la Salsa’ India Victim of Domestic Abuse

‘Princesa de la Salsa’ India Victim of Domestic Abuse

Photo: La India Beaten by Boyfriend

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Puerto Rican singer La India has been hospitalized in San Juan after being beaten by her boyfriend, police said Monday.

Authorities said that Linda Bell Viera Caballero, 44, was found by police before dawn inside a residence in the capital neighborhood of Santurce with her nose broken and a large bruise on her forehead.

The artist was taken to Pavia Hospital for medical treatment, while the aggressor, identified as 32-year-old Javier Padilla Gonzalez, owner of the residence where the beating occurred, was arrested.

Detectives are currently investigating details of the physical abuse suffered by the singer of “Mi Mayor Venganza” (My Greatest Revenge), “Dicen que Soy” (They Say That I Am), “Que Te Pedi” (What I Asked You) and “Si Vuelves Tu” (If You Come Back).

La India’s last big concert in Puerto Rico was on March 17, when she took part in the 30th National Salsa Day at San Juan’s Hiram Bithorn Stadium.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Peru Wants Argentine Oil Company to Clean Up Contaminated Amazon Region

Peru Wants Argentine Oil Company to Clean Up Contaminated Amazon Region

Photo: Amazon River - Loreto Peru

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Peru’s government will require Argentine oil firm Pluspetrol to rehabilitate a contaminated area in the Amazonian region of Loreto, the Andean nation’s environment minister said Monday.

“We are already drafting an order to initiate work of comprehensive and permanent restoration,” Manuel Pulgar-Vidal told RPP radio.

The government declared an environmental state of emergency in the Pastaza basin, located in the Pacaya Samiria reserve, after reports of contamination from the indigenous groups who live in the area, the minister said.

“Pluspetrol took over oil exploration in this zone in 2001, yet we know there is environmental misbehavior by the firm. While a rehabilitation program was done at some point, it was not done correctly, and to this was added the inappropriate conduct of the authorities between 2003 and 2005,” he said.

The Peruvian government upheld in January a $11.37 million fine the Oefa watchdog agency levied on Pluspetrol for violating environmental regulations in the Pacaya Samiria reserve.

Oefa fined Pluspetrol for failing to comply with a plan that called for remediation of damage to around 7 hectares (15 acres)

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Mexico’s Pronghorn Antelope Comes Back from Near Extinction

Mexico’s Pronghorn Antelope Comes Back from Near Extinction

Photo: Mexico's Pronghorn Antelope

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The pronghorn, a native species that has been listed as being in danger of extinction since 1997, is making a comeback in Mexico, thanks to the efforts of several organizations.

More than 250 adults and 40 young pronghorns are currently being cared for at the El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve.

The peninsular pronghorn (antilocapra americana), which also lives in desert areas of the United States and in Canada, inhabits the El Vizcaino reserve, which protects mountains, desert and sea.

Only 170 of the animals were counted in 1997, prompting environmentalists to sound the alarm.

The Environment Secretariat and environmental groups have worked since then to bring about the animals’ recovery via the “Save the Pronghorns” campaign.

Several females that recently gave birth are at the La Choya station, which sprawls over more than 23,000 hectares (56,790 acres).

The pronghorns are about one meter (three feet) tall and weigh around 50 kilos (110 pounds).

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Spaniard Antonio Banderas Returns to Hometown of Malaga for Holy Week

Spaniard Antonio Banderas Returns to Hometown of Malaga for Holy Week

Photo: Malaga Holy Week

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Spanish actor Antonio Banderas is observing Holy Week again this year in his hometown of Malaga in southern Spain, taking part over the weekend in the Virgin of Tears and Favors procession of the Combined Brotherhoods, in which he walked “as one brother more.”

“The pointed hood gives me a freedom I no longer find walking down the street with my face uncovered - it puts me at the same level as everybody else, we’re all even. That’s what the pointed hood is all about, hiding your identity and going from being an individual to being part of a group,” Banderas told reporters just before the procession left the Church of San Juan.

“I believe that Holy Week in the 21st century must involve the entire community. The Malaga brotherhoods have 70,000 members, and if we can put all that energy and human potential to use, we can do many things, and that’s the commitment many brotherhoods are making,” the actor said Sunday.

Banderas considers Palm Sunday “the beginning of a great ritual that lasts for a week and has been celebrated for five centuries,” and he does not want “to be absent from the local tradition.”

Besides being the steward of the Tears and Favors procession on Palm Sunday, and a bearer of the statue of Our Lady of Hope on Holy Thursday, Banderas plans to “find some little corners” where he can watch the other processions in Malaga during the rest of Holy Week “if the weather is with us,” because, he said, rain “is the brotherhoods’ greatest enemy.”

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NASA Hosts Its First Google+ Hangout In Spanish

NASA Hosts Its First Google+ Hangout In Spanish

Photo: NASA to Host Its First Google+ Hangout In Spanish

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NASA is expanding its reach to the nation’s growing Spanish-speaking population by holding its first-ever Google+ Hangout en Espanol from 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. EDT, Thursday, March 28.

As part of Science4Girls, a NASA initiative to partner with libraries during National Women’s History Month, participants will be able to learn more about the life and career of two prominent Hispanic women at NASA.

During this event, Earth scientist Erika Podest and principal investigator and systems engineer Michela Munoz Fernandez , both of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., will share their stories. They will answer participants’ questions about the path they took to get to NASA, what they do, why it matters, and how to become a part of the space program.

“NASA has many truly inspiring Spanish-speaking role models,” said event organizer Laura Delgado Lopez of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies’ (IGES). “This is the first of what we hope will be many more opportunities for Spanish-speaking students and their families to engage with them and learn more about what NASA does and why it’s so important.”

During the event, several questions will be selected and answered by Podest and Munoz, along with questions from library patrons and other participants. NASA’s social media followers will be able to submit questions before or during the event via the NASA en Espanol Google+ page or via Twitter @NASA_Es using the hashtag.

Those who submit questions can watch the hangout live on the NASA en Espanol Google+ page or the NASA Television YouTube channel to see whether their question is asked.

To watch the hangout, and for updates and opportunities to participate in upcoming hangouts and other events in Spanish, visit the NASA en Espanol Google+ page:

http://go.nasa.gov/15nL2DX

To join the hangout, and for updates and opportunities to participate in upcoming hangouts in English, visit the NASA’s Google+ page at:

http://www.google.com/+NASA

Women@NASA is a continuing joint effort by NASA and the White House Council on Women and Girls to relate science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, fields to young females. To learn more about Women@NASA and the speakers, visit:

http://women.nasa.gov/spanish

IGES leads the NASA Earth Science Education and Public Outreach Forum and collaborates with a national community of education and outreach professionals to promote NASA science. IGES also works with the Women@NASA initiative annually to promote women in Earth science careers during Female Geoscientists Day.

To learn more about NASA’s broader education program, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/education

Read more by HS News Staff →

Cuban Singer Silvio Rodriguez Touring in Bolivia, Costa Roca, Peru

Cuban Singer Silvio Rodriguez Touring in Bolivia, Costa Roca, Peru

Photo: Cuban Singer Silvio Rodriguez Touring in Bolivia, Costa Roca, Peru

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Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez will go on tour to Costa Rica, Bolivia and Peru next month, the island’s official media said.

Rodriguez, 66, will give a single concert in each of the three countries backed by flutist and clarinet player Niurka Gonzalez and drummer Oliver Valdes, the government Web site Cubadebate said.

The first performance by the Cuban “trovador” singer will be on April 12 at the Ricardo Saprissa Stadium in San Jose, Costa Rica.

On April 15, Rodriguez has a concert scheduled at City Park in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and will close the tour with a show onstage at Monumental Stadium in Lima on April 19.

Rodriguez is the founder of Cuba’s “Nueva Trova” movement and in his almost 50-year artistic career has composed hundreds of songs and music for films, and has recorded more than 20 albums.

The composer of “Ojala” (I Hope So), “Unicornio” and “Playa Giron” (Giron Beach) made appearances in other Latin American countries last year including Uruguay and Chile, where he starred in a massive concert in Santiago to celebrate the centennial of the Chilean Communist Party.

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Carlos Slim Foundation Supports Campaign to Improve Digital Literacy

Carlos Slim Foundation Supports Campaign to Improve Digital Literacy

Photo: Carlos Slim Foundation Supports Campaign to Improve Digital Literacy

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Eligible Households Will be Able to Access Discounted High-Speed Internet and Low-Cost Computers

Carlos Slim Foundation Supports Connect2Compete’s National Campaign Launch to Increase Digital Literacy, Internet Access to Latino Households

Following last year’s announcement to support Connect2Compete‘s efforts to extend broadband access to 100 million “Offline” Americans, earlier this month, the Carlos Slim Foundation joined in launching the national “EveryoneOn,” public awareness campaign designed to help all Americans access free digital literacy training in their communities.  Additionally, starting today, Connect2Compete will offer unconnected families access to programs providing discounted high-speed Internet and low-cost computers.

“Connect2Compete’s efforts are helping close the disproportionate divide that exists amongst Hispanic and minority households in America.  Almost half of the “offline” population in the United States is Latino,” Carlos Slim Domit, the eldest son of Carlos Slim Helú, said. “We are pleased to bring our experience in Latin America to the work of connecting Latino families in the United States.  Connectivity helps us achieve better education, create jobs, promote development and increase access to health care.  Issues that cross international borders.

Americans can visit www.Connect2Compete.org to access the programs.

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Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir’s Performance Based on Octavio Paz Poem (VIDEO)

Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir’s Performance Based on Octavio Paz Poem (VIDEO)

Photo: Eric Whitacre's 'Virtual Choir' Performance Based on Octavio Paz Poem

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Composer and conductor Eric Whitacre has inspired millions by bringing together “virtual choirs,” singers from many countries spliced together on video. Now, for the first time ever, he creates the experience in real time, as 32 singers from around the world Skype in to join an onstage choir (assembled from three local colleges) for an epic performance of Whitacre’s “Cloudburst,” based on a poem by Octavio Paz.

Paz was a Mexican writer, poet, and diplomat, and the winner of the 1982 Neustadt International Prize for Literature and the 1990 Nobel Prize for Literature.

After creating and conducting a worldwide virtual choir on YouTube, Eric Whitacre is now touring with an astonishing live choir.

Watch the amazing performance.

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Christina Aguilera, Pitbull Pump Up Crowd at Kids’ Choice Awards (VIDEO)

Christina Aguilera, Pitbull Pump Up Crowd at Kids’ Choice Awards (VIDEO)

Photo: Christina Aguilera, Pitbull Pump Up Crowd at Kids' Choice Awards

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Pitbull and Christina Aguilera got the crowd pumped up for during the 2013 Kids’ Choice Awards on Saturday.

Singing their hit “Feel This Moment,” Pitbull and Aguilera were joined on stage by 10 mini-Christinas in blonde wigs and black fedoras, and 10 mini-Pitbulls donning bald caps and dark sunglasses.

And keeping with tradition, Pitbull ended the performance by getting slimed. the rapper seemed to love it and the crowd cheered.

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LATINO BLOTTER: Former US Air Force Sergeant Gets 80 Months for Child Porn

A federal judge Thursday sentenced a former U.S. Air Force sergeant to 80 months in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release for his child pornography conviction.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) investigated this case.

Christopher Garcia, 34, of Clovis, N.M., must also register as a sex offender after he completes his prison sentence.

Garcia was indicted in July 2012 and charged with three counts of receiving, and three counts of possessing child pornography. According to the indictment, Garcia received and possessed child pornography between Dec. 12, 2011 and Jan. 17, 2012 in Curry County, N.M. At the time, Garcia was a sergeant with the U.S. Air Force assigned to the 16th Special Operations Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base.

On Nov. 16, 2012, Garcia pleaded guilty to receiving a visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. During his plea hearing, Garcia acknowledged he was charged as the result of an undercover investigation that began in January 2012, and targeted individuals who possess, receive and distribute child pornography.

As a result of this investigation, a search warrant to seize computers and computer media was executed at Garcia’s residence Jan. 17, 2012. While the search warrant was executed, Garcia voluntarily participated in a recorded interview during which he admitted he had been downloading and viewing child pornography for about two years. Garcia also acknowledged that a forensic examination of his computers and computer media identified thousands of images and videos consistent with child pornography.

This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.

Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.

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Costa Rican Hotels Focused on Offering Guests ‘Green’ Experience

Costa Rican Hotels Focused on Offering Guests ‘Green’ Experience

Photo: Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge - Costa Rica

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Hoteliers in Costa Rica are no longer satisfied with offering visitors clear waters and endless green forests, and are increasingly focusing on operating environmentally sustainable properties that offer guests a green experience.

New hotels are being built with certified wood, systems that recycle all waste, solar panels to generate electricity cleanly and highly energy efficient lighting and appliances.

Some properties grow some of the food consumed by guests, use completely biodegradable products and dry linen in the sun in Central America’s most-visited country.

Costa Rican officials support the hospitality industry’s sustainability strategy and created the Sustainable Tourism Certificate, or CST, program to rate the environmental and social contributions of tourism businesses.

The CST measures the environmental friendliness of a company, awarding a rating of 1 to 5, but granting leaves instead of the traditional stars used in the hospitality industry.

Currently, 29 hotels have received “five-leaf” ratings in Costa Rica for their sustainability programs, meaning that their operations have nearly no environmental impact and are socially responsible.

One of the hotels earning the highest rating is the Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge on the country’s south Pacific coast.

The lodge is located on the calm waters of Dulce Gulf amid a lush tropical forest.

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Mayor of Mexican City in Oaxaca Ambushed and Killed

Mayor of Mexican City in Oaxaca Ambushed and Killed

Photo: Mayor Feliciano Bautista Martinez Assasinated

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The mayor of the city of San Juan Mixtepec and a municipal police officer were ambushed and murdered over the weekend in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, state officials said.

Feliciano Martinez Bautista and officer Policarpo Remigio Rojas were driving through the city when they were attacked and killed around 2:30 a.m. Sunday, the Oaxaca state government said.

The mayor was shot in the head and the officer was hit in the chest, officials said, adding that the vehicle rolled over after the attack.

The bodies were taken to the morgue in Santiago Juxtlahuaca, where autopsies will be conducted.

The investigation is being handled by Victor Alonso Altamirano, the prosecutor responsible for the Mixteca region, the state government said.

At least 30 mayors and more than 1,200 other municipal officials were murdered by organized crime groups during the administration of former President Felipe Calderon, the National Federation of Mexican Cities said.

The war on drugs launched by Calderon, who was in office from 2006 to 2012, left about 70,000 people dead in Mexico, officials say.

Calderon deployed thousands of soldiers and Federal Police officers across the country to fight drug cartels, which infiltrated many state and municipal police departments.

Mexican press tallies estimated that about 12,000 people died in violent incidents linked to organized crime groups in 2012.

A total of 1,104 people died in violent incidents in Mexico in January, the government said.

Some 914 drug-related murders occurred in Mexico in February, the government said in a recent report.

More than 3,100 people have been killed in drug-related violence since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office on Dec. 1.

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Financial Crisis Averted: Cyprus Gets $13BN European Bailout

Financial Crisis Averted: Cyprus Gets $13BN European Bailout

Photo: Cyprus Gets European Bailout

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Cyprus on Monday reached a bailout agreement with its Eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund that protects small bank depositors while penalizing holders of large accounts and shrinking the banking system.

The agreement, which was reached less than 24 hours before the deadline imposed by the European Central Bank, or ECB, for cutting liquidity to the island’s financial institutions, “puts an end to the uncertainty that has affected Cyprus and the rest of the Eurozone in the past few days,” Dutch Finance Minister and Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem said.

Cyprus, whose banks have been battered by their heavy exposure to Greek government debt, is the eurozone’s smallest economy.

“We have an agreement that is in the interests of the Cypriot people and of the European Union,” Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said.

“It’s a good agreement and conclusive,” Spanish Economy Minister Luis De Guindos said, adding that “it is good for Cyprus and good for the whole (monetary) union.”

Laiki Bank, the second-largest financial institution in Cyprus, will be liquidated “immediately” with the “full contribution of shareholders, bondholders (junior and senior) and uninsured depositors” over 100,000 euros (about $129,470) under the terms of legislation passed last Friday by the Cypriot Parliament.

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Spanish Designer Custo Barcelona Styles Disney Villainess

Spanish Designer Custo Barcelona Styles Disney Villainess

Photo: Designs by Custo Barcelona

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Eight European designers dressed characters at Disneyland Paris in their creations over the weekend to mark the attraction’s anniversary.

Minnie Mouse hosted the event, which featured Disney characters walking the runway in outfits designed by large international fashion houses.

The hostess wore a dress specially made for her by Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz.

Sleeping Beauty wore a creation by Italian designer Luisa Beccaria, while Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs sported outfits by Belgian designer Jean-Paul Knott.

Irish designer Philip Treacy, German fashion house MICHALSKY, Russian designer Alexander Terekhov, Dutch designer Olcay Gulsen and British fashion house SISTER by SIBLING were among the others creating outfits for the Disney characters.

Spanish designer Custo Barcelona made a dress for Maleficent, the villainess in Sleeping Beauty.

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Sergio Garcia Makes Golf a Bit More Exciting with Tree Shot (VIDEO)

Sergio Garcia Makes Golf a Bit More Exciting with Tree Shot (VIDEO)

Photo: Sergio Garcia Makes Golf a Bit More Exciting with Tree Shot

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There’s something you don’t see every day.

On Sunday, Spanish golfer Sergio Garcia (Fernandez), 33, hit a ball into a tree at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Wanting to avoid a 1-stroke penalty to drop the ball to the ground, Garcia climbed the tree, and from more than 10 feet in the air, played the ball and got it back onto the fairway with a backwards, one-handed stroke.

Check out the bizarre event here.

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Robbery Attempt in Ecuador of Visiting Argentine Vice President Thwarted

Robbery Attempt in Ecuador of Visiting Argentine Vice President Thwarted

Photo: Argentine Vice President Amado Boudou

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The Ecuadorian Joint Armed Forces Command on the weekend announced that Ecuadorian troops averted an attempt to rob the Argentine vice president, Amado Boudou, who is on an official visit to the Andean nation.

The incident occurred on Friday night when several individuals tried to attack the vehicle in which the vice president was riding in Quito.

The criminals “did not imagine that the automobile was being watched by the intelligence personnel assigned to the security of the vice president” and his party, a source with the Joint Command told Efe.

“This was a criminal act” that had no other consequences, the source added, going on to say that the attackers were arrested and turned over to the appropriate judicial authorities.

In a communique, the institution said Sunday that on Friday night “personnel of the Joint Military Intelligence Command, while they were performing their tasks of security and protection of the vice president of the Republic of Argentina ... repelled an attack perpetrated against (his) motorized caravan.”

“The Military Intelligence personnel assigned to this mission acted and reacted effectively and in an opportune manner, neutralizing the attack and capturing the alleged criminals, later placing them at the disposition of the proper authorities,” said the communique.

Boudou, in addition to making an official visit to Ecuador, is participating in the 128th Interparliamentary Union Assembly, which is meeting in Quito until Wednesday.

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Peruvian Drug Enforcement Agents Allegedly Shipped Drugs to Mexican Police

Ten Peruvian Drug Enforcement Agency, or Dirandro, agents assigned to the international airport in Lima are being charged by prosecutors for allegedly shipping cocaine to Mexican police officers on the payroll of the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel, the La Republica newspaper reported Sunday.

Three Federal Police officers died in a June 25, 2012, shootout with fellow officers after discovering a package of cocaine that arrived on a flight from Lima at the Mexico City international airport.

“The killers were part of a gang of officers on the payroll of the Sinaloa cartel that worked at the airport in the Mexican federal capital and allowed drugs arriving from Peru to pass through. They knew which flight the cocaine was arriving on because the criminal organization also included Peruvian drug enforcement agents assigned to the international terminal” at the airport in Lima, the newspaper said.

Mexican officials notified the Peruvian government after the incident and the Dirandro launched an operation in August 2012 to identify the agents allegedly working for the Sinaloa cartel.

The cartel’s leader is Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman, the world’s most-wanted drug trafficker, who has been on the list of U.S. drug kingpins since June 1, 2001.

The Sinaloa organization, sometimes referred to by Mexican officials as the Pacific cartel, is the oldest drug cartel in Mexico and has an extensive drug distribution network in the United States.

Guzman, who was arrested in Guatemala in 1993 and pulled off a Hollywood-style jailbreak when he escaped from the Puente Grande maximum-security prison in the western state of Jalisco on Jan. 19, 2001, is considered the most powerful drug trafficker in the world.

Chapo Guzman tops the list of Mexico’s most-wanted criminals and is on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people.

The Sinaloa cartel, according to intelligence agencies, is a transnational business empire that operates in the United States, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the Americas and Asia.

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Girl, 9, Braves Darkness, Wildlife to Get Help for Father After Car Crash

Girl, 9, Braves Darkness, Wildlife to Get Help for Father After Car Crash

Photo: Girl Braves Darkness, Wildlife to Get Help for Father After Car Crash

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At around 1 a.m. Sunday morning a young girl and her father were driving home on a Southern California highway when the father lost control of the vehicle around a steep curve and it plunged off the side of the highway.

The Ford Escape rolled over a number of times, but 9-year-old Celia Renteria was able to free herself from the vehicle. She later told police that she smelled gas and turned off the engine.

Unable to get her unconscious father, Alejandro Renteria, 35, out of the vehicle, the girl walked about 1,000 feet to a nearby home. When she arrived at the home however, no one answered the door.

Celia then went back to the car to check on her father, but knowing they needed up, she hiked the 200-foot embankment up to the highway, hoping to make it to the nearby train station. Once she got back to the road, she was able to flag down a motorist who then called police.

Though the little girl did everything she could to save her father, by the time police were able to get to the vehicle, it was too late. Renteria had died.

Celia’s injuries were minor, only cuts and bruises, but officials say she was in definite danger even after she freed herself from the wreckage.

California Highway Patrol Sgt. Tom Lackey told CNN affiliate KABC, “She walked quite a distance in a very, very threatening environment. It’s very black out here, very dark. It’s very steep and it’s brushy and there’s also coyotes.”

Renteria and his daughter had just left a friend’s party and police believe alcohol may have been in a factor in the crash.

The girl will remain in the hospital under observation until Tuesday, her family said.

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MondayMarch 25, 2013