Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (C) addresses the
audience during a meeting of the annual Mercosur trade bloc presidential
summit in Mendoza June 29, 2012. (Credit: Reuters/Enrique Marcarian)

Chinese leader woos Latin America with deals

Chinese leader woos Latin America with deals
Chinese President Xi Jinping (4-L, first row) poses with leaders of the CELAC group of Latin American and Caribbean states, in Brasilia, on July 17, 2014 (AFP Photo/Nelson Almeida)
"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."

"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)


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A student holds a sign reading "Don't shoot, listen!!!" during a protest
on June 17, 2013 in Brasilia (AFP, Evaristo)

Brazil's Rousseff claims nation 'ready for greatest World Cup'

Brazil's Rousseff claims nation 'ready for greatest World Cup'
Google: Ready, set, goooaaallll! The WorldCup is finally here.

Paraguay police search S. American football HQ

Paraguay police search S. American football HQ
The Conmebol headquarters in Luque, Paraguay, is seen on January 7, 2016, during a raid within the framework of the FIFA corruption scandal (AFP Photo/Norberto Duarte)

'Panama Papers' law firm under the media's lenses

'Panama Papers' law firm under the media's lenses
The Panama Papers: key facts on the huge journalists' investigation into tax evasion (AFP Photo/Thomas Saint-Cricq, Philippe Mouche)

Mossack Fonseca

Mossack Fonseca

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"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Thursday, March 23, 2017

'When I'm 64': Beatlemania blooms belatedly in Cuba

Yahoo – AFP, Carlos BATISTA, March 23, 2017

A woman puts glasses on a statue of John Lennon, in a park in Havana,
on March 11, 2017 (AFP Photo/YAMIL LAGE)

Havana (AFP) - While their American and European peers twisted and shouted to The Beatles in the 1960s, in Cuba childhood sweethearts Gisela and Hector kept their Beatlemania a naughty secret.

Now, still Beatles-crazy after all these years, but with the communist island's Cold War-era censorship of rock music a thing of the past, they are making up for lost time.

"We are very happy that Cuba is becoming reconciled to the Beatles," says Gisela, 64.

She and Hector, 65, have decorated their home with pictures, posters and souvenirs dedicated to the British band.

Whenever they can, they join crowds of fellow Cubans in their 60s and 70s, singing and dancing at the Yellow Submarine bar -- El Submarino Amarillo -- in downtown Havana.

"This is not nostalgia," says the artistic director of the club, journalist Guillermo Vilar, 65.

"This is about them claiming their right to experience what they could not experience before because of all the contradictions of the time."

A fan of The Beatles shows John Lennon's driver's license at his home in
Havana, on March 12, 2017 (AFP Photo/YAMIL LAGE)

You Can't Do That

Fidel Castro's revolutionary regime banned songs in English, the language of its enemy the United States, for fear such music would spawn ideological deviance.

Gisela Moreno and Hector Ruiz would listen to The Beatles on US radio stations they captured on short-wave radios.

Records lent by the occasional returning traveler were copied in state recording studios, with the complicity of staff, onto low-quality metal discs.

"You put it on the record players we had back then and you just heard noise with the music in the background," Ruiz recalls.

"It was terrible, but hey, at least it was The Beatles."

At their high school, skinny-leg trousers, miniskirts and long hair were also banned.

But times have changed. The Yellow Submarine, opened in 2011, is one of at least six Beatles tribute bars across the island -- all of them run by the culture ministry.

One of them, in the eastern city of Holguin, is said to be an initiative of ruling party leader Miguel Diaz-Canel -- widely touted as the country's possible next president.

A man with his sons sit next to a statue of John Lennon in a park in Havana, 
on March 11, 2017 (AFP Photo/YAMIL LAGE)

I Should Have Known Better

On a bench near the Yellow Submarine sits a bronze statue of late Beatle John Lennon.

Fidel Castro himself inaugurated the statue in 2000. In footage of the ceremony, the late leader can be heard bewailing the former censorship of Beatles songs.

"I greatly regret not having met you sooner," Castro told the statue.

The censorship was not his idea, Castro went on: he delegated cultural policy to underlings while he was busy leading Cuba through the Cold War.

Fidel Castro's death last November marked the end of an era in Cuba. His brother Raul, in charge now for more than a decade, has been gradually opening up the economy and foreign relations.

The bronze Lennon has become an attraction for locals and the growing number of foreign tourists visiting the island.

The statue's spectacles have been stolen several times and a guard has been appointed to take care of them, getting them out for passers-by when they want to take photos.

A man with his dog walks next to The Beatles bar in Varadero, Matanza, 
on March 17, 2017 (AFP Photo/YAMIL LAGE)

From Me To You

Fans trace the rise of Beatlemania in Cuba to 1990, when Vilar organized a tribute concert to mark the 10th anniversary of Lennon's murder.

For many Cubans, that marked the belated birth of rock on the island -- for the old generation and the new.

At the Yellow Submarine, gentlemen's bellies bulge under black Beatles t-shirts and grey ponytails, while the ladies show off their miniskirts and long boots.

On stage, Cuba's top Beatles tribute singer Eddy Escobar, 46, plays the band's hits for scores of ageing revelers.

This ponytailed rocker was not yet born when The Beatles lit up the counter-culture movement before they broke up in 1970.

But he discovered the music, like younger Cubans are doing now.

"Good music will always last as long there is someone who somehow appreciates it, right?" says Escobar.

"The Beatles are here to stay," he says. "I give the bug to anyone I can."

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Mexico threatens to ditch US corn imports

Yahoo – AFP, Yussel GONZALEZ, March 21, 2017

Mexico imports billions of dollars' worth of corn from the US to feed its
livestock (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

Mexico City (AFP) - Mexico has identified a potential weapon in its trade wrangle with US President Donald Trump: lucrative yellow cobs of American corn.

The Latin American nation imports billions of dollars' worth of the yellow grain from the United States to feed its livestock.

But with Trump pushing to shake up the countries' trade ties, Mexico is now threatening to buy from elsewhere.

That is worrying corn growers in some of the very same US states that voted heavily in favor of Trump: Iowa, North Dakota, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

Trump has vowed to restrict free trade with Mexico in order to protect US jobs and industry.

But with Mexico gearing up for a potential trade battle, the effect could be the opposite -- at least when it comes to corn.

"For US corn producers, Mexico is their number one export customer," Thomas Sleight, president of the US Grains Council, told AFP.

"They are concerned about maintaining excellent relationships with long standing customers that they've built over generations."

Leverage for NAFTA talks

Mexico's Agriculture Secretary Jose Calzada said Mexico is in advanced talks with two other corn producers, Brazil and Argentina.

The US grain is cheaper than those countries' corn at $198 a ton, says Juan Carlos Anaya, head of the Agricultural Markets Consulting Group, a Mexican research firm.

Brazilian corn costs $210 a ton and Argentine corn $217, Anaya said.

Buying corn from other countries would drive up the price of certain products in Mexico, he warned.

The US grain is cheaper than Brazil and Argentina's corn, at $198 a ton
(AFP Photo/Justin Sullivan)

But Mexico needs alternative sources of corn to gain leverage in trade negotiations.

Trump has vowed to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada.

He wants new conditions that will help shift manufacturing jobs back to the United States and boost US production and exports.

Talks are expected to start this year.

"We do not know what the United States will propose," said Calzada.

"We have to act first to be sure that when we arrive at that negotiating table we are starting from a position of total strength."

One leftist opposition senator, Armando Rios Piter, has launched a legislative proposal to buy corn from Brazil and Argentina.

US "corn producers may have been fooled by Donald Trump when he said that Mexico was the only one benefiting from NAFTA," Rios told AFP.

"Now that they see what is at stake, they will have to change their minds."

US farmers concerned

Corn is Mexico's fourth-biggest import from the United States, after gasoline, diesel and natural gas.

Mexico imported $2.32 billion worth of corn in 2016 -- 10 percent more than the previous year, according to Mexican government figures.


By comparison, it imported just $17.7 million of corn from Argentina and $10 million from Brazil.

Mexico is also a major importer of US dairy products, pork, rice, wheat and soya.

Sleight said producers in five big corn-exporting US states have been lobbying lawmakers in Washington to stress how important NAFTA is for their business.

On January 23, agriculture industry leaders wrote to Trump saying that US food exports had quadrupled since NAFTA came into force in 1994.

"The sector in the US is struggling under the weight of low prices, reduced land values and rising interest rates, meaning farm profitability has declined", said analysis firm BMI Research.

"US farmers would suffer considerably from trade disruption with Mexico."

Monday, March 20, 2017

Flash floods take dramatic toll in Lima and northern Peru

Yahoo – AFP, Luis Jaime CISNEROS, Carlos MANDUJANO, 18 March 2017

Residents of the Huachipa populous district, east of Lima, are helped on
March 17, 2017, by police and firemen rescue teams to cross over flash floods
hitting their neighbourhood and isolating its residents

Flash floods and landslides hit parts of Lima, leaving some communities cut off from roads Saturday, as others in Peru fled rising rivers, and millions fretted that they won't have drinking water.

The government announced Saturday that so far this year 72 people have died as a result of heavy rains and flash floods around the country.

Peru's geographic extremes help fuel the often deadly force of the mudslides known locally as huaycos, the indigenous Quechua word for flash flood-landslide.

The South American nation of over 30 million has plenty of extremes: its Pacific coastal deserts in the west are interrupted by the soaring Andes, famed for the Inca people and Machu Picchu in the south. Further east, Peru has hot Amazon basin lowlands.

The tremendously steep mountains combine with many rocky and sandy areas that lack the topsoil found in more temperate places, meaning fewer trees are there to stop mudslides.

After weeks of heavy rain swept toward the coast late this week, many riverbeds in coastal areas went from empty to overflowing in no time.

In Lima, some residents on the outskirts of the capital of 10 million awoke Friday to realize their bedrooms were filling with water.

On Thursday and Friday, 10 people died in a landslide in the northern town of Otuzco. Seven of them were in trucks crushed by the huge flow of earth.

Others found themselves cut off by mudslides that blocked portions of the main highway linking Lima to the center of the country.

In one dramatic scene, rescuers used zip lines to help residents of Lima's Huachipa neighborhood escape over the torrent of brown water that was once their street, as it swallowed up cars and trucks.

The floods have been triggered by the weather event known as El Nino, a warming of surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean that wreaks havoc on weather patterns every few years.

Men take a shower with water from a municipal cistern in Lima on March 18, 2017
 after weeks of heavy rain came sweeping toward the Peruvian coast and filled 
many riverbeds in coastal areas that went from empty to overflowing in no time

'A difficult situation'

But this year it has hit Peru particularly hard.

"It's a difficult situation, there's no doubt about it. But we have the resources" to deal with it, said President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.

The government announced it would release 2.5 billion soles ($760 million) in emergency funds to rebuild affected areas.

Over half a million people were getting assistance.

While Peruvians have been dealing with huaycos for centuries, many poor residents of cities and towns build makeshift homes in areas that they may not realize could be flash-flood zones.

At times, authorities tell different groups to move, but they voice frustration that they have nowhere to go. And authorities' presence in the poorest peripheral districts, many perched on mountainsides, can be inconsistent.

The inundation came as the National Emergency Operations Center said at least 72 people have been killed in Peru this year in natural disasters. A total of 72,115 have lost their homes.

Some opposition politicians have called for the president to declare a national state of emergency, instead of local ones.

Among them were a few lawmakers urging Kuczynski to drop a bid for Lima to host the 2019 Pan-American Games so that more funds could be used for recovery efforts.

Residents of a populous district of Lima queue to collect drinking water from
a municipal tank truck on March 17, 2017

Roads become rivers

In metro Lima -- areas such as Huachipa as well as Carapongo -- locals had to form human chains to avoid being swept away to their death.

Police and firefighters also used zip lines to evacuate people from the roofs of their homes.

Frank Luis Limache, a resident of Huachipa, told El Comercio he was trapped with a group of more than 30 people.

"Please. Help us. We are trapped in here and haven't eaten since last night," he said.

The Rimac River in Lima toppled a pedestrian bridge linking El Agustino and San Juan de Lurigancho.

In the Punta Hermosa district south of Lima, a getaway of posh beach flats, the usual upscale quiet was jarred by a huayco that on Wednesday swept a farm woman, 32, far from her farm, leaving her standing awkwardly near the beach with her bloodied cow. Caked in mud, her distraught image has become one of the local symbols of this flash-flood season.

Meanwhile, city authorities slapped tight restrictions on drinking water use due to worries over the cloudiness of local river water.

Those who could afford it, pounced on supermarkets and neighborhood shops to buy drinking water, causing shortages in many areas. In less-well-off areas, people lined up to fill buckets from tanker trucks.

Friday, March 17, 2017

First fluorescent frog found in Argentina

Yahoo – AFP, March 17, 2017

Argentine and Brazilian scientists at the Bernardino Rivadaiva Natural Sciences
Museum discovered the first naturally fluorescent frog almost by accident

The first naturally fluorescent frog was discovered recently in Argentina -- almost by chance, a member of the team of researchers told AFP Thursday.

Argentine and Brazilian scientists at the Bernardino Rivadaiva Natural Sciences Museum made the discovery while studying the metabolic origin of pigments in a tree-frog species common to South America.

Under normal light the frog's translucent skin is a muted yellowish-brown color with red dots, but when the scientists shone an ultraviolet light on it, it turned a celestial green.

According to one of them, Carlos Taboada, the case is "the first scientific record of a fluorescent frog."

"We were very excited," said his fellow researcher Julian Faivovich. "It was quite disconcerting."

He said the discovery "radically modifies what is known about fluorescence in terrestrial environments, allowing the discovery of new fluorescent compounds that may have scientific or technological applications."

It also "generates new questions about visual communication in amphibians," he said.

The team studied some 200 more examples to ensure the phenomenon was not due to the frog's captivity, and detected the fluorescent properties in all the specimens.

Maria Lagorio -- an independent researcher and expert in fluorescence, who the research team contacted after the discovery -- told AFP that the trait is common in aquatic species and seen in some insects, "but has never been scientifically reported in amphibians."

The finding was recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Related Article:


Amazon tribe has lowest heart risk ever seen: study

Yahoo – AFP, March 17, 2017

Most members of the Tsimane community, an indigenous Amazonian tribe, are
active for between four and seven hours a day --  hunting, gathering, fishing and
farming, the study found (AFP Photo/ANTONIO SCORZA)

Paris (AFP) - Researchers said Friday they had found an indigenous Amazonian tribe with the lowest levels of artery hardening -- a portender of heart disease -- ever observed.

And while they hailed the group's "subsistence lifestyle" as a heart-protecting factor, others cautioned against romanticising the community's hand-to-mouth existence.

Known as the Tsimane, the small forager-farmer community in Bolivia was five times less likely to develop coronary atherosclerosis (artery hardening) than people in the United States -- where it is a major killer, scientists wrote in The Lancet medical journal.

They pointed to the community's low-fat, high-fibre diet and non-smoking, physically active lifestyle -- factors which most scientists agree contribute to good health.

The study was an observational one, meaning it merely uncovered a correlation between lifestyle and heart health, and cannot conclude that one causes the other.

Yet, "the loss of subsistence diets and lifestyles could be classed as a new risk factor for vascular (blood vessel) ageing," study co-author Hillard Kaplan of the University of New Mexico concluded.

"We believe that components of this way of life could benefit contemporary sedentary populations."

The Tsimane diet comprises unprocessed, high-fibre carbohydrates such as rice, corn, nuts and fruit, as well as wild game and fish.

The community eats little fat, few smoke, and most are active for between four and seven hours a day -- hunting, gathering, fishing and farming, the study found.

Observers pointed out that while the Tsimane had lower levels of artery calcification and heart disease, the most common age of death was 70, compared with about 80 in most developed countries.

And these were just the ones who survive childhood -- one in five die in the first year of life.

"There may not be many old Tsimane men with heart disease but that's probably because only the fittest and healthiest Tsimane survive to old age," commented Gavin Sandercock, a cardiology expert from the University of Essex.

For Tim Chico, a University of Sheffield cardiologist, it is important "not to romanticise" the Tsimane existence.

"Two-thirds of them suffer intestinal worms and they have a very hard life without fresh water sewerage or electricity," he said.

Rates of diseases other than heart disease were much higher in the Tsimane -- especially of the infectious kind.

"So, would I live like the Tsimane to reduce my risk of heart disease? No way," Chico said via the Science Media Centre in London.

Researchers took CT scans of the hearts of 705 adults aged 40-94 in 85 villages in 2014 and 2015 for the study.

Based on the results, they concluded that almost nine in 10 Tsimane people (85 percent) had no risk of heart disease, 13 percent had a low risk, and only three percent a moderate or high risk.

By comparison, about half of Americans aged 45-84 have a moderate or high risk of heart disease.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Guatemala expels Dutch 'abortion ship'

Yahoo – AFP, February 26, 2017

Members of the Dutch organization Women on Waves can be seen on the group's
 "abortion ship" as it visits the Pez Vela Marina in the port of San Jose, Escuintla
department, 120 km south of Guatemala City, on February 23, 2017 (AFP Photo/
JOHAN ORDONEZ)

Guatemala City (AFP) - Guatemala has expelled a Dutch "abortion ship" carrying activists who had vowed to help women circumvent the country's longstanding prohibition against terminating pregnancies, the army said Sunday.

Activists from the group Women on Waves had been guarded aboard their moored sailboat by a navy vessel, Saul Tobar, commander of Puerto Quetzal on Guatemala's Pacific coast, told reporters.

"Notified of its expulsion from the country's territorial waters for having failed to comply with immigration regulations" late Saturday, the crew requested permission to set sail, he said. The activists saw no patients.

The immigration authorities ordered the expulsion on Friday, saying the group's members lied in their entry declaration papers, claiming to be tourists and not members of a "health organization" that aimed to perform abortions.

Abortion is allowed in Guatemala only in cases in which a mother's life is deemed in danger.

The sailboat Adelaide arrived at the southern port of San Jose on Tuesday carrying 10 activists from Guatemala, as well as from Brazil, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain.

They had planned to offer abortions in international waters off Guatemala's coast over five days, picking up five women at a time by dinghy.

Abortions were to be induced with two pills. Counseling, treatment and aftercare were also to be available for women seeking the group's services.

However, following the Dutch-registered boat's arrival, President Jimmy Morales ordered the government to file a formal complaint with the prosecutor's office.

(L-R) Merrilee Evans, Daniel Evans and Alice Ottz, members of the Dutch 
organization Women on Waves, speak with a private guard at the Pez Vela 
Marina in the port of San Jose, Escuintla department, 120 km south of 
Guatemala City, on February 23, 2017 (AFP Photo/JOHAN ORDONEZ)

Port officials ordered the activists to stay on board their ship, saying they had not declared the motive of their trip and therefore could not go ashore.

Stopping, unsafe illegal abortions

Women on Waves says some 65,000 illegal and unsafe abortions take place in the Central American country every year.

Although the group would use all available legal means to carry out its campaign, it would also respect Guatemalan law, spokeswoman Leticia Zenevich said.

Women on Waves had previously said its sailing ship was illegally "detained" by the military, which it accused of "obstructing a lawful protest against the state's restrictions on the Guatemalan women's right to safe abortion."

Its arrival had prompted protests by conservative as well as religious groups.

"It's very offensive that this group comes here to practice abortion, which is ultimately to practice murder," said Gonzalo de Villa, president of Guatemala's Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Guatemala Evangelical Alliance president Cesar Vasquez, called the NGO's activities "crimes against humanity."

However, some feminist groups supported the campaign.

Set up in 1999, Women on Waves has generated controversy in the past.

It sent the boat to Ireland, Poland, Portugal and Spain in previous years, prompting protests by pro-life groups in each country.

The group had urged the Guatemalan government to "remove abortion from the penal code," saying it is "a regular medical procedure and a human right," and calling for access to contraceptives and free, safe abortions.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Brazilian town embraces universal income experiment

Yahoo – AFP, Louis GENOT, 14 February 2017

Brazilian town embraces universal income experiment

Does being handed money every month -- no strings attached -- sound attractive? The residents of a small town in Brazil are finding out.

Governments and think-tanks around the world are increasingly fascinated by the idea of a universal basic income, where citizens are given cash to spend as they want.

In Marica, a seaside town of about 150,000 people near Rio de Janeiro, the left-wing municipal government has spent the last year finding out how it works.

"We are a laboratory for the Brazilian left," says Washington Quaqua, who introduced the experiment as mayor in December 2015 before stepping down. He was replaced by another candidate from the leftist Workers' Party, Fabiano Horta.

The idea of a universal basic income isn't new, but long-considered as a potential tool for social equality and redistribution of wealth.

The concept has gained traction more recently among high-powered business thinkers, especially in Silicon Valley, as they ponder how society will cope with the ever-expanding role of automation -- a trend some futurists believe may create mass unemployment.

In Marica -- a surviving Workers' Party bastion in increasingly right-leaning Brazil -- the basic income idea fits in well with the leadership's socialist fervor.

Just about every public building is decorated in socialist red and Quaqua's office sports portraits of communist revolutionary Che Guevara, whose name is also soon to be given to a new hospital.

"The world lacks creativity and Marica is giving the example of a town that knows how to redistribute its riches," Quaqua says with pride about his pet project.

Modest reality

Despite his claims, Marica is only taking baby steps.

Inconclusively tried around the world for decades, the experiment is currently getting a high-profile rollout in Finland. The left-wing French presidential candidate Benoit Hamon, backed by the star economist Thomas Piketty, has also made the basic income part of his platform.

However, if Finland is handing out payments of about $590 a month -- and only to a test group of unemployed people for now -- the amount in Marica is a measly 10 reais, or about $3.20. The new mayor hopes to raise the amount to $32 in 2017.

Only the town's 14,000 poorest families are currently being given the income, which is denominated in Mumbucas, a virtual currency created to pay welfare under Quaqua three years ago.

The 10 reais is added to the 85 reais ($27) monthly welfare check for families whose income doesn't top three times the minimum wage. The extra money is also given to poorer people aged between 14 and 29 and pregnant women already receiving other benefits.

There's another limitation: only 131 local businesses -- less than 10 percent of the total -- accept payment in Mumbucas, the mayor's office says.

The currency, which physically exists only on specially issued red magnetic cards, is unpopular with business owners because they must wait more than a month after purchases are completed for the government to convert payments into reals.

Feasible or fantasy?

Opposition politician Filippe Poubel denounces what he calls an attempt to addict the people of Marica to welfare. Handing out an income, he says, will backfire.

"People want to work, they want to earn their income with dignity. They would be a lot happier if the mayor would create jobs and offer them decent hospital care."

Horta dismisses such criticism saying a basic income will in fact create jobs, "stimulating the local economy."

And he says that the town, which draws revenues from offshore oil exploitation, can afford to boost the program "in an exponential way over the next 10 years."

"The rich love it when they get millions in tax breaks," Quaqua says of his project's opponents. "But they are furious when we give a few hundred reais to the poor."




Sunday, February 12, 2017

Thousands of Mexicans protest against Trump

Yahoo – AFP, Yemeli ORTEGA, February 12, 2017

People hold sugns against US President Donald Trump during an anti-Trump
march in Mexico City, on February 12, 2017 (AFP Photo/RONALDO SCHEMIDT)

Mexico City (AFP) - Thousands of Mexicans protested Sunday against US President Donald Trump, hitting back at his anti-Mexican rhetoric and vows to make the country pay for his "big, beautiful" border wall.

"Mexico must be respected, Mr Trump," said a giant banner carried by protesters in Mexico City, who waved a sea of red, white and green Mexican flags as they marched down the capital's main avenue under the watchful eye of thousands of police.

In what is shaping up to be Mexico's biggest anti-Trump protest yet, some 20 cities joined the call to march from a protest movement backed by dozens of universities, business associations and civic organizations.

Protester Julieta Rosas was wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Trump sporting an Adolf Hitler mustache.

"We're here to make Trump see and feel that an entire country, united, is rising up against him and his xenophobic, discriminatory and fascist stupidity," said Rosas, a literature student at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

US-Mexican relations have plunged to their lowest point in decades since Trump took office on January 20.

Trump, who launched his presidential campaign calling Mexican immigrants "criminals" and "rapists," has infuriated the United States' southern neighbor with his plan to stop illegal migration by building a wall on the border and his vows to make Mexico pay for it.

US-Mexico trade in goods since 2006 with breakdown by industry sectors
(AFP Photo/Christopher HUFFAKER, Sophie RAMIS)

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto canceled a January 31 trip to Washington over Trump's insistence that Mexico will fund the wall.

"We are all migrants. We are all one. This is a time to build bridges, not walls," said 73-year-old protester Jose Antonio Sanchez, who was marching with his nine-year-old granddaughter.

Trump has also wrought havoc on the Mexican economy with his threats to terminate the country's privileged trade relationship with the United States, blaming Mexico for the loss of American jobs.

The Mexican peso has taken a beating nearly every time Trump insisted on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), attacked car-makers and other companies that manufacture in Mexico, or vowed to slap steep tariffs on Mexican-made goods.

Mexico sends 80 percent of its exports to the United States -- nearly $300 billion in goods in 2015.

New nationalism

The confrontation has stoked patriotic pride in Mexico, where US companies like Starbucks, Coca-Cola and McDonald's are the targets of boycott campaigns. Many people have taken to putting the Mexican flag in their profile pictures on social media.

Not everyone is on board with Sunday's protests, however.

Some accused Pena Nieto of using the ostensibly non-partisan marches to try to bolster his own popularity -- which has taken a beating over perceptions that he has been too conciliatory toward a bullying neighbor.

People hold sugns against US President Donald Trump during an anti-Trump 
march in Mexico City, on February 12, 2017 (AFP Photo/RONALDO SCHEMIDT)

When the rector of UNAM, the country's largest university, backed the marches, many students and professors voiced outrage. The hashtag "#It'sNotTrumpIt'sPena" is trending on Twitter in Mexico.

The new nationalism appears to be giving a boost to Mexican presidential hopeful Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, whom some political analysts call a "leftist Donald Trump" for his populist, anti-establishment rhetoric.

Lopez Obrador -- widely known by his initials, AMLO -- was the runner-up in the past two presidential elections.

He is leading in opinion polls for presidential elections in 2018 and appears to be benefiting from Trump's anti-Mexican vitriol, which has badly dented not only Pena Nieto -- who is ineligible for re-election -- but also the ruling PRI party.

Ironically, a Lopez Obrador victory next year could work to Trump's disadvantage, giving him a far more hardline counterpart to work with.

As Sunday's protests unfold in Mexico, Lopez Obrador will be visiting the United States to address both Mexicans and Americans in Los Angeles about what he called Trump's "poisonous" rhetoric.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Merkel and Uruguay's Vazquez push to deepen EU-Mercosur ties

Angela Merkel intends to push trade talks between the EU and Mercosur nations. The chancellor has met with Uruguay's president to forge new bonds in the wake of Donald Trump's inauguration in the United States.

Deutsche Welle, 8 February 2017


On Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel said new right-wing administrations in Latin America had improved the chances of an EU trade pact with  Mercosur, the region's primary trading bloc. The German chancellor's search for new trade partners has grown increasingly urgent for EU businesses after the election of US President Donald Trump cast doubt on the future of bilateral trade ties with the United States.

"We, as the European Union, if we perhaps don't advance or advance more slowly with a view to the United States - we will have to see - of course will continue to negotiate other trade agreements quickly," Merkel, who is facing an increasingly tough re-election fight, said on Wednesday. "We are negotiating with Japan, with India, with Australia, and we are negotiating with Mercosur."

Trump has said he will not allow the United States to sign on to the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership during his presidency.

"Before anything, we need to know what the agreement will be with the new US administration," Merkel said on Wednesday. "The topic of free trade will be important at the G20 meeting. We will see then what the priorities of the US administration are."

Founded in 1991, Mercosur entered into its first trade negotiations with the European Union in 1999. The bloc's members are Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil, after Venezuela was suspended in December. Merkel said Uruguay could prove a "motor" toward bringing negotiations to a beneficial end in Brussels.

'To continue pushing'

President Tabare Vazquez seeks to firm overseas bonds as Uruguay's neighbors experience economic hardships. He is headed for Finland next, and his trip will wrap up in Russia. But there may be a good reason why his first stop was Berlin.

"Germany is a fundamental member of the European Union," Vazquez said. "We have committed to keep pressing the negotiations to reach an agreement between Mercosur and the EU."

The president pointed out that Uruguay "has historically advocated for the demolition of barriers and the elimination of obstacles to commerce."

Vazquez also criticized Trump, especially his ban on refugees and travelers and immigrants from seven mostly Muslim countries. He said Uruguay had been built by immigrants from Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. The indigenous population was largely wiped out by disease and colonialist slaughter by the end of the 1830s.

"We do not agree with making walls," Vazquez said on Wednesday. "We want to build bridges between nations. We do not believe that nations should discriminate on ethnic or religious grounds or on the basis of sexual preference." He added: "We believe in the peaceful search for solutions. Because of this, some of the actions of the president of the United States concern us. "

mkg/sms (EFE, Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Jovenel Moise sworn in as Haiti's new president

Yahoo – AFP, Amelie BARON, February 7, 2017

New Haitian President Jovenel Moise arrives at the Te Deum during his inauguration
ceremony at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, on February 7, 2017 (AFP Photo/
HECTOR RETAMAL)

Port-au-Prince (AFP) - Jovenel Moise was sworn in Tuesday as Haiti's 58th president, ending a protracted electoral crisis that had created a power vacuum in the impoverished, disaster-prone Caribbean nation.

Moise, a 48-year-old banana exporter who has never held political office but ran as the candidate of the center-right Tet Kale Party (PHTK), took the oath at a ceremony at the National Assembly.

He was former president Michel Martelly's hand-picked choice to lead the poorest country in the Americas, one still struggling to recover from devastating natural disasters.

"The Haitian people have spoken: it has chosen to entrust the reins of power to a young, dynamic man" who has ideas "to get the country out of the misery and political instability that has been holding back its growth and development for too long," said National Assembly President Youri Latortue.

Haiti is fighting to emerge from the world's most significant cholera outbreak, with an estimated 30,000 cases expected this year, as well as the effects of the January 2010 earthquake, with tens of thousands of people still camping in tents without proper sanitation.

The government and aid officials have said Haiti needs nearly $300 million to provide urgent assistance for its most vulnerable inhabitants, including those affected by Hurricane Matthew last October.

The hurricane caused $2.8 billion in damage, and more than 1.5 million people are still in dire need of humanitarian assistance, said El-Mostafa Benlamlih, Representative of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

Musicians await the arrival of new Haitian President Jovenel Moise at his
 inauguration ceremony at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, on February 7, 
2017 (AFP Photo/HECTOR RETAMAL)

Lengthy political crisis

Moise's election brings to a close a political crisis that began in October 2015 when the results of a first round of voting -- which Moise won -- were annulled because of massive fraud.

In February 2016, with Martelly's five-year term nearing its end and his political succession in limbo, Haiti's parliament elected Jocelerme Privert, president of the Senate at the time, to be interim president.

The presidential election was rescheduled for October and then postponed to November in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.

Haiti's political temperature remains high, with several of Moise's main opponents contesting his first-round victory.

The businessman is also at the center of an unresolved money laundering probe. He denies any wrongdoing.

The investigation was launched in 2013 as a routine bank-regulation procedure. The Central Financial Intelligence Unit (UCREF) forwarded a secret report about the inquiry to prosecutors last summer.

However, the investigating judge took no action until four opposition senators recently demanded information about the findings.

The judge delivered the conclusions to the government prosecutor, who has made no public announcements on the case.

Moise was declared the winner with 55 percent of the votes, but with a dismal turnout of just 21 percent.

People gather outside during the inauguration ceremony of the new President, 
Jovenel Moise on February 7, 2017 in Port-au-Prince (AFP Photo/Pierre Michel Jean)

Austere inauguration

After the swearing-in ceremony, the 2,000-plus guests took seats in the courtyard of the presidential palace to attend a religious ceremony and hear Moise speak.

The event took place on the site of the presidential palace, which was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake.

Austerity has been the motto of the inauguration ceremony, as Haiti is suffering from an economic crisis with more than $2 billion in debt and anemic growth that is not expected to surpass one percent this year.

According to Moise's transition team, the inaugural costs are close to $1 million, a tighter budget than those of predecessors Rene Preval and Martelly, which cost more than $4 million and $2 million, respectively.

While Martelly -- the sole former Haitian president at the ceremony -- is a well-known entertainment figure, Moise remains largely unknown to the broader public.

Moise said he had invited 53 other former presidential candidates to signal his willingness to ease political tensions.

The inauguration "of a democratically elected president allows Haiti to return to democratic and constitutional rule," US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

Canada in turn "reaffirmed its friendship and solidarity with Haiti," and "looks forward to working" with the Moise government, the ministry of international development said in a statement.