This is going to be replacing the news crawl that was at the top of the forum for the last two weeks or so. Since it's more convienient to link to individual posts with, and easier for me and others to handle, it seemed to be a good choice to do so.
If you have any news, please, don't hesitate to post it! However, I would ask that if you want to discuss it, that you make a new thread for it, and maybe just like or quote the post you go it from.
This message was edited by Mishtram on May 29 2006.
Thread Recap (last 10 posts from newest to oldest)
Jul 20, 07 at 8:39am
President Chávez weighs status of constitutional reform
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and the Presidential Committee crew held a meeting on Tuesday night to discuss the progress made in the draft constitutional reform.
"We reviewed our draft. The President is working on it and drafting the final paper, including the articles to be amended, which will be submitted to the National Assembly (AN)," AN chair and the meeting spokeswoman Cilia Flores told official news agency ABN.
She reported on a new meeting to be held next Saturday afternoon in order to continue working on the final version.
"The President has been meeting with his taskforce and ministers. Once the draft constitutional reform is submitted to the National Assembly, we will undertake to make it known to the public and take the query to every corner of the national territory," said Flores.
Mexico said on Wednesday it will investigate whether its federal agents protected a Chinese-Mexican businessman tied to the largest seizure of drug cash in world history, while the businessman's lawyers told a Washington news conference they fear for their client's life if he is returned to Mexico.
Zhenli Ye Gon and his lawyers said about $150 million of the more than $205 million found hidden at Ye Gon's Mexico City mansion in March was actually a political slush fund for the 2006 presidential campaign of President Felipe Calderon, who narrowly won. But they released no evidence to support that claim.
His U.S. lawyer, Martin F. McMahon, said he would ask that Ye Gon be given asylum in the United States and called for U.S. congressional hearings into his client's claims. Ye Gon's lawyers also said that they offered to have him submit to an interview by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration but that U.S. officials haven't responded.
"We're talking about a major political party whose operatives hid $150 million," McMahon told the news conference in Washington. "They failed to disclose that in their election campaign reporting. We're putting out there a very serious charge. If he goes back to Mexico, he's going to be tortured ... we're convinced he faces death."
However, Ye Gon — speaking to the news conference by telephone — said he was convinced Calderon himself knew nothing of the alleged scheme. He claimed that men who identified themselves as linked to Calderon's National Action Party forced him to hold the cash, and "they always told me it was for the political campaign'."
Calderon has called the accusations "pure fiction."
Ye Gon is charged in Mexico with drug trafficking, money laundering and weapons possession for allegedly importing 19 tons of a pseudoephedrine compound used to make methamphetamine — charges he denies.
Although Mexico has requested Ye Gon's extradition, U.S. officials have not detained him.
Also Wednesday, the office of Mexico's attorney general said it was investigating whether Mexican federal agents protected the businessman or extorted money from him — allegations that have been raised in the Mexican media.
Key details in Ye Gon's version of events seem contradictory, unclear or unverifiable, and a senior U.S. anti-drug official told The Associated Press he knew of no evidence that the Calderon administration — which has sent troops into the streets to fight drug cartels — has any links to organized crime.
In the news conference, Ye Gon stood by his claim that a Mexican official, Javier Lozano Alarcon, now Mexico's labor secretary, was the man who forced him to hold the money — an accusation that Lozano has forcefully denied.
Ye Gon also confirmed that during an AP interview about the allegations in May, he was shown two photos, one of which he identified as being the Mexican official.
"I know that he is the labor secretary," Ye Gon said.
Ning Ye, the Ye Gon lawyer who went public with his client's claims this month by releasing a letter to the Mexican government that named the labor secretary, also said he stood by the accusations "because this is the truth."
Brazil's deadliest jetliner crash was an accident foretold. For months, air safety concerns have been aired in congressional hearings, and pilots and traffic controllers have worried for years about the short, slippery runways at Brazil's busiest airport.
Landing on the 6,362-foot-long runway at Sao Paulo's Congonhas airport is so challenging that pilots liken it to an aircraft carrier — if they don't touch down precisely within the tarmac's first 1,000 feet, they're warned to pull up and circle around again. The ungrooved runway becomes even more treacherous in the rain when it turns into a slick landing surface.
The runway appears to have been a key factor in Tuesday's crash, and critics condemned President Luis Inacio da Silva's government Wednesday for failing to invest in safety measures adopted by other urban airports.
None of the 186 people on board survived, TAM Linhas Aereas SA chief executive Marco Antonio Bologna said Wednesday. Three TAM workers on the ground also died and another 11 were hospitalized.
Firefighters pulled at least 171 charred bodies from the site where the Airbus-320 crashed, igniting in a 1,830-degree fireball. The plane slammed into a gas station and a TAM Airlines building after narrowly clearing the airport's perimeter fence and rush-hour traffic on a surrounding highway.
Brig. Jorge Kersul Filho, director of the Air Force's Center for Investigation and Prevention of Air Accidents, said it appeared the pilot had tried to take off again before the crash.
"That he jumped over the avenue was an indication he tried to take off. If he didn't (try to take off) he would have gone nose down at the end of the runway," he said.
Also, video footage of the landing shows TAM Flight 3054 from Porto Alegre coming in much faster than other planes, said Sen. Deonstenes Torres, chief of a Senate commission investigating problems with Brazilian civil aviation.
"On parts of the runway that most planes took 11 seconds to traverse, this plane took three," Torres said.
Torres said the plane's two black boxes would be sent the U.S. for analysis. Meanwhile, French and U.S. safety investigators are assisting the Brazilians in probing the cause of the crash.
International air safety experts have long warned of the danger of just such an accident on the short runway at Sao Paulo's airport, especially in heavy rain. Only the day before, two other planes skidded off the runway's end.
But a top aviation official denied the runway was to blame for the crash.
"I can confirm that there was no possibility of skidding on this runway," said Armando Schneider Filho, director of engineering for the nation's airport authority Infraero.
"Twenty minutes before the accident, Infraero performed a visual inspection of the runway and detected no problems," he added. "It was wet but there was no accumulation of water."
The airport has tried to improve the runway recently by resurfacing it to provide better braking in rainy conditions. However, the new surface hadn't dried enough for the next step, cutting deep grooves into the tarmac.
Schneider said the runway would remain closed for 20 days and grooves would be cut in August or September after the asphalt has hardened sufficiently. He added that few airports in Brazil have the grooves without any major problems.
Like many congested urban airports, Sao Paulo's domestic air travel hub is surrounded by development and has no room for the runway extensions recommended by air safety groups. New York's LaGuardia Airport, by contrast, has a 7,003-foot runway.
But the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations said Wednesday the accident shows the need for the next best thing — braking systems of soft cement beyond the runway, where wheels can sink in and slow the jets to a safe stop.
The soft cement is strong enough to support airport emergency vehicles, but disintegrates into fragments when a heavy aircraft runs over it, thus acting as a brake.
Known as an arrestor bed, the system has prevented several planes from ending up in the bay next to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, said Gideon Ewers, the pilot group's spokesman.
Critics condemned Silva's government for its failure to fix Brazil's air traffic problems in the months since 154 people were killed in the September collision of a Gol Airlines Boeing 737 with a small jet over the Amazon rainforest.
"It's been 10 months since the last worst air accident in Brazilian history and now we've had an accident worse than that," said David Fleischer, a political scientist at the University of Brasilia. "If you look at what's happened since September, the answer is nothing."
"It was a tragedy foretold," said political commentator Lucia Hippolito. "The government has done nothing because of administrative inefficiency and simple incompetence."
Silva has been unable to wrest control of the civil aviation system from the military, which oversees Brazil's air traffic controllers and has filled top positions at the national aviation agency with political appointees with little or no experience.
Defense Minister Waldir Pires warned people not to point fingers.
"It's a moment for caution, and until the results of the investigation are known, it's better to maintain sobriety and avoid quick judgments," Pires said.
The accident is certain to have political ramifications, however, if only because the dead included Rep. Julio Redecker, 51, a leader of the opposition Brazilian Social Democracy Party and vocal critic of Silva's handling of the aviation crisis.
"President Lula needs to act and not speak. Or his term will be marked by the suffering and pain of so many Brazilians that could be still be alive," read a statement from Redecker's party.
Congressional investigations have raised questions about the country's underfunded air traffic control system, deficient radar and lack of investment in infrastructure, even as airlines struggle to cope with a surge in air travel caused by Brazil's booming economy.
Concerned about being made scapegoats, controllers have engaged in strikes and work slowdowns to raise safety concerns, causing months of delays and cancelations. Throughout it all, one of the most glaring problems has been the runway at Congonhas, in the heart of Brazil's biggest city.
In addition to the two planes that skidded off the runway Monday, a Boeing 737-400 overshot it in a heavy rain on March 22, stopping just short of a steep drop-off to the adjacent highway.
In February, a federal court briefly banned three types of large jets from the runway, but was overruled on appeal by a court that said safety concerns weren't sufficient to outweigh the severe economic ramifications. Airbus-320s were not covered under the court's ban.
Most of the 162 passengers and 24 TAM employees on board the domestic flight were Brazilians, but an Argentine man and an Austrian were among the victims, according to their countries' consulates. A Peruvian also was aboard, TAM said.
Outside Sao Paulo's main morgue, dozens of people watched silently as vans carrying the dead bodies arrived.
"We never thought this would happen, but it's not surprising. This is Brazil," said Richard Teofolo, a 30-year-old chauffeur. "There's blame to go all around, but no one's going to take the responsibility in the end."
Guatemalan police rescued a two-month-old boy who had been stolen from his home and arrested four people who were allegedly preparing the baby for illegal adoption, an official said.
The rescue comes amid growing concerns about the Central American country's export of thousands of babies each year to adoptive parents abroad.
It was unclear where the baby was to have been sent, but police detained four people in the house where the baby was rescued and found a false birth certificate for the boy, said Jesus Esquivel, assistant chief of criminal investigations for the police force.
"Our investigations indicate that they were already at the stage of processing the adoption," Esquivel said
However, Guatemala's Attorney General's office, the institution that oversees adoptions, said that so far no application for the baby's adoption, either under his real or false name, had yet been found. The baby could have had another fake birth certificate or the suspects may have not yet filed the application.
The suspects include the owner of the orphanage where the child was found and three employees. The boy was reportedly stolen from his parents' home in June.
Officials provided no details the abduction of the child.
The U.S. State Department, citing rampant problems of fraud and extortion, said in March it no longer recommends that Americans adopt children from Guatemala. U.S. officials have said there were frequent cases of birth mothers pressured to sell their babies and adoptive U.S. parents targeted by extortionists.
Under Guatemalan laws, unregulated notaries act as baby brokers who recruit birth mothers, handle all paperwork and complete adoptions in less than half the time it takes in other countries.
Under that system, more than 4,000 Guatemalan babies were adopted by U.S. parents last year, making Guatemala the second highest source of U.S. adoptions after China.
In May, the Guatemalan Congress ratified Tuesday the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions, which could sharply reduce the number of Guatemalan babies adopted by U.S. citizens each year.
It would be unlikely this stolen baby would have been adopted by an American family due to mandatory DNA testing required by the U.S. embassy to grant the infant a visa.
President Evo Morales' backers in an assembly rewriting Bolivia's constitution have proposed allowing the populist leader to seek re-election for an unlimited number of consecutive terms.
Bolivian law limits presidents to two nonconsecutive five-year terms. But delegates are debating a change to the rule in the Constituent Assembly, convened by Morales last year to write a new framework giving greater political voice to Bolivia's long-suffering indigenous majority.
Delegates from Morales' Movement Toward Socialism party, or MAS, on Friday presented a proposal that would allow Bolivia's president and vice president to be "re-elected consecutively by the will of the people." Local media first reported the proposal Wednesday.
MAS delegate Eduardo Garcia said term limits amount to "the revocation of the presidential mandate."
Morales was elected in 2005, but has said he will call new presidential elections once the new constitution is complete.
Opposition leaders called the proposal an attempt to extend Morales' rule indefinitely.
"MAS insists in their intention of replacing Bolivian democracy with a totalitarian political system," said Jose Antonio Aruquipa, a delegate for the conservative opposition party Podemos.
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, a key Morales ally, has also proposed doing away with presidential term limits as part of constitutional reforms, which would allow him to run again in 2012 and beyond. Chavez has said any changes to Venezuela's constitution would have to be approved in a popular vote.
MAS holds a slim majority in Bolivia's Constituent Assembly, which is scheduled to complete the new constitution in December before putting the draft to a popular vote.
Cuban President Fidel Castro has said recent CIA admissions of illicit Cold War activities disguise the fact the US is using such "brutal" tactics today.
Last week the CIA published documents called the "Family Jewels", revealing spy plots and assassination attempts.
The documents included plans to use Mafia help to kill Fidel Castro.
Mr Castro, still recovering after surgery last year, said in the official media the US was trying to pretend the tactics belonged to another era.
"Everything described in the documents is still being done, only in a more brutal manner around the entire planet, including an increasing number of illegal actions in the very United States," President Castro wrote.
In an editorial called the Killing Machine, he wrote: "Sunday is a good day to read what appears to be science fiction."
Lee Harvey Oswald
One of the key revelations of the documents was that the CIA tried to persuade mobster Johnny Roselli in 1960 to plot the assassination of the Cuban leader.
The plan was for poisoned pills to be put in Mr Castro's food, but it was shelved after the US-sponsored invasion of the Bay of Pigs failed a year later.
Mr Castro has long accused the US, including President George W Bush, of plotting to kill him.
In his editorial, Mr Castro also refers to the assassination of John F Kennedy, saying the US president was the victim of the CIA and anti-Castro Cuban exiles.
Mr Castro says Lee Harvey Oswald could not have acted alone in killing the president.
"You lose the target after every shot even if it is not moving and have to find it again in fractions of a second," Mr Castro, himself an expert marksman, says.
Mr Castro underwent intestinal surgery in July last year but in recent weeks his writings have been appearing more frequently.
The abuses and illicit activities listed in the CIA report date from the 1950s to the 1970s.
On Friday Cuba's parliament passed a resolution stating that: "What the CIA recognises is not old history. It is present-day reality and the facts show it."
The wife of Argentina's President Nestor Kirchner, Cristina, is to run for president in October's election, instead of her husband.
Her official campaign will be launched later this month. Opinion polls suggest a victory in the first round of voting.
Speculation remains as to why this decision has been taken.
Some rumours suggest that Mr Kirchner is ill, while others say a series of defeats in recent local elections have forced a change of emphasis.
It has been the main topic of speculation in Argentina for months: Nestor or Cristina, Mr or Mrs.
Now we know that Nestor Kirchner, who has governed Argentina for the past four years, will step aside to allow his wife to stand for president on 28 October as the ruling party's candidate.
The glamorous and well groomed Cristina presents a very different image from the rather dour Nestor.
She recently toured Europe and South America in what correspondents say was an exercise in preparing the first lady, already a state senator, for higher office.
If elected, she will not be the first woman president of Argentina.
President Juan Domingo Peron's widow, Isabel, led the country briefly in the early 1970s while his second wife, Evita, although never president, formed a formidable ruling partnership with her husband in the late 1940s and early 50s.
And in what is often portrayed as a macho country, women currently hold the finance and defence ministry posts.
Argentina's First Lady Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has often been described as a strong-willed woman, obsessed with her image.
But she is more than that, and has developed into a political figure with influence throughout Argentina.
Now her ability to position herself at the centre of power has seen her become the candidate of the governing party in October's presidential election.
Cristina, as the majority of Argentines call her, is a politician with a long track-record, a record many say has facilitated the political rise of her husband, Argentine President Nestor Kirchner.
She was born 19 February, 1953, in La Plata, the capital of the province of Buenos Aires, where she graduated in law.
She married Mr Kirchner, who she met at university in 1975; a year later, the couple went to live in his home region, the southern province of Santa Cruz.
At the end of the 1980s Cristina Elizabeth Fernandez began her political career, first as a provincial then as a national deputy.
But it was her husband who rose through the Peronist ranks.
In 1991, Mr Kirchner was elected governor of Santa Cruz, a post he won twice more, while Cristina supported him in her capacity as a deputy.
When Mr Kirchner took office as president in 2003 - in the midst of one of the worst economic and social crises in the country - a similar pattern emerged.
By then Cristina Fernandez was a senator herself with her own political weight in Congress, where she actively supported her husband's policies.
Cristina cemented her political position in the congressional elections of 2005.
Taking 46% of the votes, she won in the province of Buenos Aires in a contest dubbed "the wives' duel", beating her main rival, Hilda Gonzalez, the wife of the former President Eduardo Duhalde (2002-2003).
Today there is almost no decision taken by the government in which she does not have a say, with her influence exceeding that of an ordinary lawmaker.
She is also the first senator to have an office within the presidential palace, provoking criticism from the opposition.
The governing party insists that the office is small and is hers by virtue of her position as first lady.
As a legislator, Cristina Fernandez is recognised for her intellectual strength and for her determined campaigning in the fields of human rights and women's issues.
But some members of the opposition - and even her own party - seem daunted by her strong character, accusing her of arrogance.
She is said to be obsessed with her fitness and health, as well as her public image. She drinks mineral water from just one brand and often wears designer labels.
Cristina Fernandez is seen by the government as the key to continuing the political project begun by her husband, who has managed to keep his poll ratings above 50% during four years in office thanks to economic growth of 8% and a reduction in unemployment and poverty.
Analysts say that perhaps her weak spot is her inexperience in office.
But what is certain is that if she wins October's election, she will become the first female president elected by popular vote in Argentina.
The second wife of President Juan Domingo Peron, Evita, formed a formidable ruling partnership with her husband in the late 1940s and early 50s, but never served as president.
And Peron's widow, Isabel, led the country after his death in 1974, only to be deposed by the military in 1976.
Juan Roman Riquelme scored twice as Copa America favourites Argentina beat Colombia 4-2 to reach the quarter-finals - although their win was marred by an injury to striker Hernan Crespo.
Colombia, thrashed 5-0 by Paraguay in their opening match, took a shock lead, thanks to a smart backheel from Edixon Perea.
But the Colombians were furious 10 minutes later when Argentina were awarded a penalty after Lionel Messi went down following what appeared to be a 50-50 challenge.
Chelsea striker Crespo converted the spot-kick - which took his international tally to 35 goals and moved him ahead of Diego Maradona and into second place in the list of Argentina's all-time goalscorers.
But Crespo appeared to strain a muscle as he converted the ball and was substituted immediately.
The forward, who is still 21 goals behind Gabriel Batistuta's total of 56 international goals, said after the match that he doubts he will play again in the tournament.
Riquelme then put Argentina ahead with a nonchalant low header from near the penalty spot after Javier Zanetti's cross in the 34th minute before firing a free-kick into the bottom right-hand corner in first-half injury-time to make the score 3-1.
Jaime Castrillon pulled one back for Colombia with a header on 73 minutes.
But Argentina held out and in injury time, after Colombia midfielder Jorge Vargas was sent off for a second bookable offence, substitute Diego Milito added a fourth goal.