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Posts tagged ‘Mexico’

Finance Minister Okonjo-Iweala 2015 would be brutal for economy.


 

ABUJA—THE Coordinating Minister for the economy and Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo –Iweala, yesterday disclosed that with the country’s election looming, the 2015 would be a tough and brutal year in maintaining a strong macroeconomic performance the country has recorded in recent times.
Okonjo–Iweala, however, assured that she is determined to ensure that the country’s strong macroeconomic performance of recent years and reform agenda do not slip.

The finance minister who realises that she will be targeted by opposition politicians jostling for power ahead of elections in February 2015

and keen to denounce the government’s economic policies said, “It will be brutal,” she tells The Banker in Abuja, “We’re going to see extreme bashing. Somebody has to be the scapegoat,” she added.

According to her, “Nigeria’s strong macroeconomic performance in the past five years has seen its standing abroad rise considerably. Many frontier and emerging market investors crave exposure to the oil-rich West African country’s rapidly growing economy and population of 170 million, by far the largest in Africa.

Jim O’Neill, the influential former Goldman Sachs chief economist, has dubbed it, alongside Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey, a MINT – a group whose global significance he believes will only increase.”

Yet for all the hype,  Okonjo-Iweala knows that investors will be watching Nigeria closely to see that its reforms and its fiscal and monetary record do not unravel in the run up to voting.

To help ensure that does not happen, she has proposed a largely conservative budget for 2014. It forecasts a small deficit of 1.9 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and is based on a real growth rate of 6.75per cent , which is slightly below the International Monetary Fund’s estimate. Total spending will be reduced by 7 per cent from 2013 to N4640billion ($28.5billion).

BY PETER EGWUATU

Source: Radio Biafra.

Jeb Bush May Be GOP’s Best Hope for President.


Image: Jeb Bush May Be GOP's Best Hope for President

By Melanie Batley

All eyes are set on former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to see whether he might throw his hat into the ring for the 2016 presidential campaign, a prospect many in the GOP believe could give the party its strongest rival to Hillary Clinton.

People close to the Republican say he is considering a bid more seriously than ever before, and believe his record and personality could be just the right combination to give him star appeal across the country, according to The Hill.

“I’ve never seen him so seriously considering a run for higher office,” Slater Bayliss, a Florida GOP lobbyist and former Bush aide, told The Hill. “He’s legitimately going through a very methodical, thoughtful process to come to a decision.”

The Hill reports that many party strategists believe Bush could transform the electoral map, “turning blue states purple and purple states red.”

On the other hand, the paper says, a third Bush in the White House could strike voters as too “dynastic,” an obstacle that Bush has recently acknowledged.

Nevertheless, Bush appears capable of leading on the key issues expected to define the 2016 campaign, including immigration and education reform. His multicultural family could also be an asset; his wife is from Mexico, and he speaks Spanish fluently, two things that could help the GOP capture the crucial Latino vote, according to The Hill.

Meanwhile, polls are showing that other potential establishment front-runners, such as N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, have seen their star power fade to the possible benefit of Bush.

In the last few months, Bush has been careful to say he has decided whether to run. He has said he is deferring a decision until later in the year and would only consider running if he could do so “joyfully” and in an environment without much acrimony.

Allies are hoping he will make the decision in favor of jumping in, and do so soon, according to The Hill.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Brian Terry’s Final Moments Detailed in Court Papers.


A slain federal agent’s last moments alive after a face-off with bandits in a dry, desert creek in southern Arizona have come to light as federal prosecutors prepare to sentence one of the Mexican nationals at the scene.

Border Patrol agent Brian Terry died in a shoot-out with drug cartel gunmen in December 2010 in a case tied to a flawed bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives gun-running operation known as “Fast and Furious” that embarrassed the Obama administration and strained relations with Mexico.

Documents filed by prosecutors in U.S. District Court on Monday paint the clearest picture yet of Terry’s final moments and his death’s links to “Fast and Furious,” which allowed some 2,000 weapons to slip into Mexico from the United States.

“I’m hit!” Terry yelled after being struck, according to a declaration filed by fellow Border Patrol agent William Castano.

Castano said in the declaration that Terry did not know where he had been struck but said: “I can’t feel my legs. I’m paralyzed!”

“Agent Terry soon lost consciousness and died at the scene,” Castano said in the declaration, adding that he rushed to render first aid but to no avail.

The bungled operation, triggered by gun purchases made in the Phoenix area, was envisioned as a way to track weapons from the buyers to senior drug cartel members.

Federal agents who ran the operation focused on building cases against the leaders of a trafficking ring, and did not pursue low-level buyers of those firearms.

Two of those guns were discovered at Terry’s murder scene, but it was not clear if the fatal bullets came from the weapons. The court documents offer no answer.

Prosecutors revealed a glimpse into what happened that night north of Nogales, Ariz., some 11 miles north of the U.S.-Mexican border, as part of the case against Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in October 2012 in exchange for prosecutors not seeking the death penalty.

Osorio-Arellanes is scheduled to be sentenced on Monday. Prosecutors are asking that he receive 30 years in prison. His attorney could not be reached for comment.

Four other men have been charged in the slain border agent’s death. Two have been arrested and await extradition, two others remain at large.

In court papers, prosecutors said that Terry and three other agents were stationed atop a small hill above a dry creek, in an area well-known for so-called “rip crews” who steal drug loads and rob illegal entrants. A ground sensor was tripped.

Soon the agents could see multiple people coming at them, some toting weapons in the “ready” position, documents showed. The two sides exchanged fire as the border bandits passed through the area and agents announced their presence.

“A single bullet fired by the co-defendants struck Agent Terry,” prosecutors wrote.

Osorio-Arellanes was struck in the torso, while the others fled back to Mexico. An assault rifle was found next to Osorio-Arellanes, who has consistently denied firing any shots.

He said another member of the group fired the fatal shots.

The encounter came less than an hour before the agents were to be relieved for the night, said Castano, in documents filed along with the other two agents at the scene.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Arise O Selfless Generation By M.B.O Owolowo.


“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nigeria is about to witness a generational awakening. The youth have a pivotal role to play in re-shaping the future of our great nation. When the Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka referred to his generation as wasted, he stated: “I coined the term ‘wasted generation’ because of the scale of our ambition as young people; we were the renaissance people.”

What Soyinka’s generation wasted was an opportunity for a rebirth of the nation, a chance to set the nation on a path to global success.

Unfortunately, they can only rehearse in regret, and dream of what could have been. No doubt some in that generation played significant roles in nation building, as some played an equally significant role in nation damaging – an impact which is still being felt today.

Among the wasted generation are those who lost hope in the system and those who gave up the task of nation building, they became overwhelmed by the throes of personal survival. Such anomalies of inconsideration for fellow citizens, further entrenched the selfish ideology in our milieu – with selflessness becoming a rarity.

Following the wasted generation, emerged what has been referred to as the wasteful generation. The wasteful generation has learnt from the wasted generation – mostly in terms of perfecting the act of misgovernance. The wasteful generation is on a squandering spree, rather than be the reparative generation: repairing a polity damaged by decades of successive maladministration and characteristic malfeasance, they have worsened the situation.

Undoubtedly, whatever actions preceding generations take have a lasting impact on future generations, be it negative or positive, the hope is the negative impacts aren’t permanently irreparable. In Nigeria’s case, we have had a series of sequential regimes dominated by a special clique within a particular generation deciding the fate of the majority. With their corruption ethos, this aforementioned generation have been able to effectively infect other generations with their profligate lifestyle, and perpetuating malfeasance to a level where it has unfortunately been misconstrued as norm.

This generational mixture is characterised by wasting of opportunities, and failure to channel revenues from our abundant natural resources via the proper mechanisms for economic growth and infrastructural development. What pervades our polity is the entitlement mindset, dearth of public servitude and preservation of the corruption culture. A disheartening metamorphosis into some sort of mutative generation – where the goal is to out do one another in self-aggrandizement.
By all ramifications, they are certainly setting new records in achieving great larcenous feats. Back then, the late Fela Kuti sang against the corruption in the ruling class, in his 1980′s hit, Army Arrangement, he sang “2.8 Billion Naira Oil money is still missing”. Fast-forward to 2014, sadly, the same ‘oil money is still missing’. With the figure discrepancies being bandied around – from $48 Billion to $12 Billion to $10 Billion, to the latest $20 Billion – one can only weep! But that is if you have a conscience and truly care about the future of the nation.

The thieving forefathers and looting godfathers will definitely be proud of their successors, because they are surpassing them in every level of administrative sleaze and setting outrageous embezzlement records. Apparently, the wasted generation are competing with the wasteful generation in ravaging what’s left of our common wealth, like deranged scavengers.

It is truly disgusting that people see governance as a way of enriching themselves. Looting the public treasury and stealing our common wealth has become norm. What happened to dignity and shame? A shameless lot masquerading as leaders!
Some theorists posit the decadence has sunk to such a debauching level, those that often emerge for positions of authority are manifestations of our depraved society. Some of those at the helm of affairs, well over 3 decades ago, are till jostling for key government positions – even in their 80′s. These are the same set that called the younger generation, ‘leaders of tomorrow’. Unsurprisingly, some of the younger generation are hoping the tomorrow referred to isn’t the afterlife, as that tomorrow is yet to come to fruition. The reality is, the tomorrow has actually come, and it’s up to the younger generation to take charge of their collective destiny.

Since I was a child, we have been informed of Nigeria’s potentials. From the Jim O’Neil MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Turkey) economic prediction to whatever economic indices our huge potential is posited, we know, and have always known Nigeria has huge potentials.
Whilst those at the helm of affairs are busy ravaging the proverbial ‘spoils’, they have forgotten the laws of nature, karma and diminishing returns. They forget the consequences of their economic improvidence has impoverished an entire generation. They forget Nigeria has evolved rapidly from the era where those who siphon our common wealth get away unscathed. They forget that by the laws of evolution a new generation is emerging and woe betide any amongst this younger generation planning to perpetuate corruption in governance.

This emerging generation has to rise up to the challenge, change the status quo, stymie the societal putrescence and be ready to sacrifice for a better nation. This generation would be the selfless generation. The selfless generation are those willing to sacrifice their comfort and luxury for a better tomorrow; those who know the detrimental effects of insatiable greed; those who have felt the consequences of selfish rulers, and the aftermath of public servants generally disconnected from those they are supposed to serve.

The youth are in the majority, constituting about 70% of the nation’s population. The youth from all geopolitical zones must get involved in the political process and speak with one voice. The youth must be sincere and dedicated to the cause of change.

This emerging generation must be the selfless generation we urgently require to salvage the nation from its current abyss.

Change is very possible. Change is not utopian or some elusive dream. Change is a reality. Once the youth realise the power of their multitude, it can be positively harnessed to the benefit of society. The time is now and failure is not an option.

Arise, O Selfless Generation and Save The Nation!

- M.B.O 2013©
m.b.o.owolowo@gmail.com

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

Ex-NSA Chief Hayden: Snowden Always Intended to ‘Scrape’ Data.


Image: Ex-NSA Chief Hayden: Snowden Always Intended to 'Scrape' Data

By Bill Hoffmann

Michael Hayden, former director of both the CIA and the NSA, says that in no way can Edward Snowden be considered a whistleblower on the National Security Agency’s surveillance policies.

“I really do think he had evil intent. This is not an innocent who went to work under one set of expectations and then was just shocked and appalled by what he found at work and was driven to some sort of action,” Hayden, a retired four-star general, told “The Steve Malzberg Show.”

Latest: Is Snowden a Hero or Traitor – Vote in Urgent Poll 

“This is somebody who sought the job he had in order to scrape information off of NSA’s systems. I’m fond of saying he was a hunter, not a gatherer. He went there with a plan and malice aforethought.”

Snowden has been baring classified information about the NSA’s spying programs since he fled the United States for Hong Kong and then Russia, where he has been given asylum.

“When you look at the totality of Snowden’s actions, certainly one hypothesis that jumps out at you, that seems to explain his ability to do all these things, is that he had help, and had help from somebody who was very competent in these matters,” Hayden said.

Hayden said he thinks President Barack Obama wants to keep the NSA’s spying programs going, despite saying last week that new restrictions were necessary to protect privacy.

“In his heart, I’m now convinced that he wants to keep it, and he’s willing to give up a few things from operational capacity, perhaps, at the margins, a little more oversight, a slower approach to it so that he’s got more checks and balances,” Hayden said.

“But, fundamentally, he wants to keep it. And that might be the cause of some of the confusion that folks who listened to the speech had.”

In a 45-minute speech at the Justice Department, Obama unveiled new guidelines and reforms for the NSA.

He placed restrictions on the agency’s access to domestic phone records, but noted that the collection of personal data from billions of people around the world, Americans and foreigners, will continue.

“We cannot prevent terrorist attacks or cyberthreats without some capability to penetrate digital communications, whether it’s to unravel a terrorist plot, to intercept malware that targets a stock exchange, to make sure air traffic control systems are not compromised or to ensure that hackers do not empty your bank accounts,” the president said.

“We are expected to protect the American people. That requires us to have capabilities in this field.”

Latest: Is Snowden a Hero or Traitor – Vote in Urgent Poll
See the “Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV each weekday live by clicking here now.
© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

High-Ranking NSA Official Admits That America Has Become A Police State.


Last year, high-ranking NSA official Bill Binney said, “We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.” Now, Binney says that the U.S. has already become a full-blown police state.

Binney told Washington’s Blog on Wednesday that:

“The main use of the collection from these [NSA spying] programs is for law enforcement. [See the 2 slides below].”

nsa-spying-slides-law-enforcement-police-state

“These slides give the policy of the DOJ/FBI/DEA etc. on how to use the NSA data. In fact, they instruct that none of the NSA data is referred to in courts – cause it has been acquired without a warrant.”

nsa-spying-slides-law-enforcement-police-state-1984

“So, they have to do a ‘Parallel Construction’ and not tell the courts or prosecution or defense the original data used to arrest people. This I call: a ‘planned programed perjury policy’ directed by US law enforcement.”

“And, as the last line on one slide says, this also applies to ‘Foreign Counterparts.’” “This is a total corruption of the justice system not only in our country but around the world. The source of the info is at the bottom of each slide. This is a totalitarian process – means we are now in a police state.”

Binney, a 32-year veteran of the agency, was instrumental in the creation of the NSA’s surveillance program for digital information. He also served as the NSA’s senior technical director.

As a result, he’s been sought after by a multitude of media outlets, like CBSABCCNNNew York TimesUSA TodayFox News, and PBS. Concerning the collection of data by federal agencies mentioned by Binney, Washington’s Blog added that:

“By way of background, the government is spying on virtually everything we do.”

All of the information gained by the NSA through spying is then shared with federal, state and local agencies, and they are using that information to prosecute petty crimes such as drugs and taxes. The agencies are instructed to intentionally “launder” the information gained through spying, i.e. to pretend that they got the information in a more legitimate way … and to hide that from defense attorneys and judges.”source – CNS News.

by NTEB News Desk.

Nigeria’s New “MINTed” Hope By Okey Ndibe.


 

Columnist:

Okey Ndibe

During a brief trip to London last week, I was intrigued to realize that part of the news buzz pertained to Nigeria’s inclusion in a list of countries with prospects of becoming four of the world’s biggest emergent economies. The so-called MINT countries are Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey. Jim O’Neill, an economist at the international investment firm, Goldman Sachs, popularized the acronym. He earlier coined the term BRICS countries, denoting Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which he rated a few years ago as some of the globe’s emerging economic giants.
On Thursday, Peter Okwoche of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) ended a short interview on my new novel, Foreign Gods, Inc., by asking what I thought about Mr. O’Neill’s rosy prediction for Nigeria.

Lacking the time to offer a detailed and nuanced response, I stated that Nigeria is endowed with extremely bright people, that the country is full of energetic and industrious men and women. By contrast, I added, the country has never been lucky in the department of leadership. To sum up, I invoked Chinua Achebe’s dire—but hardly contestable—conclusion that Nigeria has an amazing facility for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Nigeria’s economic policy makers are understandably giddy about Mr. O’Neill’s flattering prognosis. I’d caution the infusion of a high dose of chastening realism into the premature celebration. A sense of history demands nothing less than a sober—and sobering—confrontation of the facts. Achebe was no economist, but the central fact of Nigeria’s journey, as far as economic development is concerned, bears out the late writer’s dim take on his country. In a sense, we could say that Achebe was the sounder economist and Mr. O’Neill, in inflating Nigeria’s odds, the fiction-maker.

This is not the first time Nigeria has been mentioned enthusiastically in prognoses of dramatic economic growth. Again and again, experts, foreign and homebred, had foretold that Nigeria was on the cusp of becoming a stupendous economic miracle. Each new prediction or declaration would trigger its own surge of elation. Nigeria’s policy makers and their sometimes over-pampered partners in the private sector would go into a spree of premature celebration, as if the word potential was interchangeable with reality, as if promise were the equal of performance. Each time, in the end, the outcome was embarrassing. Rather than rise to its potential, Nigeria always somehow found a way to stay stuck in the mud of failure and mediocrity, continuing to romance its worst nightmares.

Nigerians are all-too aware of their country’s missed opportunities. Many years have been lost to wasteful, visionless squander mania. Rampant, unchecked corruption has smothered many a promising grand idea. For many discerning people, Nigeria has become a huge graveyard: a cemetery littered with betrayed dreams, dashed hopes, and asphyxiated aspirations. We’re all too familiar with many dud promissory notes that came with such flamboyant names or phrases as “Green Revolution,” “Consolidating the Gains of SAP,” “Vision 2020-10,” “NEEDS,” “Dividends of Democracy,” and “Transformational Leadership.”

Read Nigerian newspapers or watch any Nigerian television station and you’re bound to realize that there’s zero discussion of the things that matter. It’s all about one empty-headed politician decamping from one political party to another; one squabble or another between two politicians or two political parties; one hireling or another warning that presidential power must stay where it is, or must be transferred to a person from a different geo-ethnic sector, or it’s hell-in-Nigeria; some pastor or imam declaiming that God whispered into his/her ears that Nigerians must fast and pray more (even though most of the populace is already on poverty-enforced fasting). Much of Nigeria’s public discourse is taken up by a tizzy of political rants and faux piety.

Greatness never comes by accident, nor is it imposed by divinity on an unwilling people. A country, like a person, must prepare—be prepared—for greatness. It starts with dreaming greatness, imagining it, contemplating what it must take, and deciding that the venture is worth the risk, that we’re willing to invest the time, intellect and material resources to translate the dreamed into reality.

Do Nigerians dream big? In words, they do, but not in deed. In the 1960s through the 1980s, Nigerian “leaders” used to speak of “this great nation of ours.” But even they have abandoned that species of bad joke! Now, they speak of “moving the nation forward” or “delivering the dividends of democracy.” But the rickety molue they claim to be moving forward is in reverse gear, headed, any moment, for a jagged gorge. Ask any Nigerian official what “dividends” they have delivered and you’re bound to hear such fatuous lines as, “I purchased 100 tractors to mechanize agriculture,” “I don’t owe civil servants any arrears of salaries,” “I bought chalks for all elementary schools in my state,” “I have commissioned 500 water boreholes,” etc, etc.

It’s the 21st century, but very little of the language of those who run (that is, ruin) Nigeria suggests that they are aware of what time it is. They’re conscious of the world, of course, but only in a slavish, opportunistic way. They, their relatives and cronies are at their best when they travel in style to the world’s most dazzling cities: New York, Paris, Dubai, Tokyo, Hong Kong, London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Beijing, etc. Once in these cities, they unleash their rank consumerist impulse, eager to bask in the most garish of each city’s sensual offerings. But it never occurs to them that the goods that make them swoon, the services they lust after are products of other thinking people’s imagination and work.

Meanwhile, back home, the masses are steeped in grim lives, trapped by ignorance and disease. Last week in London, a friend showed me a Youtube video of a brackish lake in Nigeria swarmed by thousands of sick, desperate Nigerians who believe that the stagnant body of water has healing powers. I was incensed by the spectacle, the hysteria of ignorance. Then it dawned on me: this is what can happen—what happens—in a country bereft of any healthcare system.

I’d like to hear Mr. O’Neill stipulate a recipe for Nigeria’s emergence into economic greatness. Nigeria has a high supply of thinkers, of experts in every field, including economic policy. But the hordes of unthinking, grub-obsessed politicians who dominate the political sphere are consistently threatened by expertise.

I don’t know of any country that rose to economic powers via fasting and prayers. And yet that’s the formula most treasured by Nigerian politicians who exhort their victims to fast and pray. Luck can only carry a person or a nation so far. And Nigeria has long exhausted its stock of luck, even if it somehow keeps borrowing some more.

The “N” in Mr. O’Neill’s MINT will become yet another mirage unless Nigerians find a way to reverse the toxic culture that validates corruption and venerates mediocrity.

Please follow me on twitter @ okeyndibe

(okeyndibe@gmail.com)

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

Vigilantes, Drug Cartels Fight Heated Battle in Western Mexico.


Image: Vigilantes, Drug Cartels Fight Heated Battle in Western MexicoMembers of the citizens’ Self-Protection Police patrol Nueva Italia on Jan. 12.

NUEVA ITALIA, Mexico — Gunfire erupted Sunday in western Mexico as hundreds of vigilantes pressed their fight over territory with a drug cartel, and Mexico’s top security officials prepared to make yet another effort to try to stop the violence.

Members of so-called self-defense groups entered the town of Nueva Italia on a campaign they say is designed to liberate towns from the control of the Knights Templar cartel.

Opponents and critics say the vigilantes are backed by a rival cartel, something the groups vehemently deny.

Michoacan state Gov. Fausto Vallejo gave a brief statement Sunday saying he has formally asked the federal government for more help to quell the violence, and announced a meeting on Monday in the state capital to lay out a strategy to reclaim the peace.

Hundreds of vigilantes arrived in Nueva Italia late Sunday morning in a caravan of large trucks, surrounding the City Hall and disarming local police. An Associated Press journalist on the scene witnessed citizens initially welcoming them.

But firefights broke out almost immediately in and around the center square. Only one injury was reported by mid-day.

Gunfire could be heard around the city as the Mexican military stayed outside, guarding the road into town.

There were no federal police or uniformed authorities inside the town, though violence between vigilantes and alleged cartel members has racked Michoacan for almost a year, and President Enrique Pena Nieto’s government already has sent thousands of units to the state.

Vallejo said he formally asked Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong on Friday for more federal forces, “given insufficient state and municipal police.”

The self-defense groups claim that local and state police are in the employ of the Knights Templar.

Violence in the state has flared in the last several days as vigilantes have been on a march, taking over the towns of Paracuaro and Antunez and advancing toward the farming hub of Apatzingan, said to be the cartel’s central command.

The federal government has said the civilian groups are operating on the margins of the law, and they carry high-caliber weapons that Mexico only allows for military use. But government forces have not moved against them and in some cases appear to be working in concert with them.

Rumors circulate that some self-defense groups have been infiltrated by the New Generation cartel, which is reportedly fighting a turf war with the Knights Templar in the rich farming state that is a major exporter of limes, avocados and mangos.

Some in the region say members of the Knights Templar have also tried to use self-defense groups as cover for illegal activities.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

US Spy Court: NSA to Keep Collecting Phone Records.


Image: US Spy Court: NSA to Keep Collecting Phone Records

A secretive U.S. spy court has ruled again that the National Security Agency can keep collecting every American’s telephone records every day, in the midst of dueling decisions in two civilian federal courts about whether the surveillance program is constitutional.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on Friday renewed the NSA phone collection program, said Shawn Turner, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Such periodic requests are somewhat formulaic but required since the program started in 2006.

The latest approval was the first since two conflicting court decisions about whether the program is lawful and since a presidential advisory panel recommended that the NSA no longer be allowed to collect and store the phone records and search them without obtaining separate court approval for each search.

In a statement, Turner said that 15 judges on the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on 36 occasions over the past seven years have approved the NSA’s collection of U.S. phone records as lawful.

Also Friday, government lawyers turned to U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to block one federal judge’s decision that threatens the NSA phone records program.

The opposing lawyer who spearheaded the effort that led to the ruling said he hopes to take the issue directly to the Supreme Court.

The Justice Department filed a one-page notice of appeal asking the appeals court to overturn U.S. District Judge Richard Leon’s ruling last month that the program was likely unconstitutional. The government’s move had been expected.

Larry Klayman, who filed the class-action suit against President Barack Obama and top administration national security officials, said he intends to petition the federal appeals court next week to send the case directly to the Supreme Court. Klayman said the move was justified because the NSA case was a matter of great public importance.

“There are exigent circumstances here,” Klayman said. “We can’t allow this situation to continue. The NSA’s continuing to spy on everybody.”

Turner said U.S. intelligence agencies would be willing to modify the phone records surveillance program to provide additional privacy and civil liberties protections as long as it was still operationally beneficial. He said the Obama administration was carefully evaluating the advisory panel’s recent recommendations.

Judges sitting on the secretive spy court have repeatedly approved the program for 90-day periods. They also have repeatedly upheld the constitutionality of the program — a judicial bulwark that held strong until Leon’s surprise decision last month.

Leon said the NSA’s program was “almost Orwellian,” a reference to writer George Orwell’s futuristic novel “1984,” and that there was little evidence the operation had prevented terrorist attacks. He ruled against the government but agreed to postpone shutting down the program until the government could appeal.

In a separate case involving the same NSA phone records program, a district judge in New York last month upheld the government’s data collection as lawful. The American Civil Liberties Union, which lost that case, said this week it will appeal to a federal appeals court in New York.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Mexican Drug Cartels Make Money Exporting Iron Ore to China.


MEXICO CITYMexican drug cartels looking to diversify their businesses long ago moved into oil theft, pirated goods, extortion, and kidnapping, consuming an ever larger swath of the country’s economy. This month, federal officials confirmed the cartels have even entered the country’s lucrative mining industry, exporting iron ore to Chinese mills.

Such large-scale illegal mining operations were long thought to be wild rumor, but federal officials confirmed they had known about the cartels’ involvement in mining since 2010, and that the Nov. 4 military takeover of Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico‘s second-largest port, was aimed at cutting off the cartels’ export trade.

That news served as a wake-up call to Mexicans that drug traffickers have penetrated the country’s economy at unheard-of levels, becoming true Mafia-style organizations.

The Knights Templar cartel and its predecessor, the La Familia drug gang, have been stealing or extorting shipments of iron ore, or illegally extracting the mineral themselves and selling it through Pacific coast ports, said Michoacan residents, mining companies, and current and former federal officials.

The cartel had already imposed demands for “protection payments” on many in the state, including shopkeepers, ranchers, and farmers.

But so deeply entrenched was the cartel connection to mines, mills, ports, export firms and land holders that it took authorities three years to confront the phenomenon head-on. Federal officials said they are looking to crack down on other ports where drug gangs are operating.

“This is the terrible thing about this process of [the cartel's] taking control of and reconfiguring the state,” said Guillermo Valdes Castellanos, the former head of the country’s top domestic intelligence agency. “They managed to impose a Mafia-style control of organized crime, and the different social groups like port authorities, transnational companies and local landowners, had to get in line.”

Valdez Castellanos said that even back in 2010, the La Familia cartel would take ore from areas that were under concession to private mining companies, sometimes with the aid or complicity of local farmers and land owners, then sell the ore to processors, distributors and even, apparently, foreign firms.

Mexico’s Economy Department said the problem was so severe that it prompted the government to quietly toughen rules on exporters in 2011 and 2012 and make them prove they received their ore from established, recognized sources.

Many exporters couldn’t. In 2012, the department denied export applications from 13 companies, because they didn’t meet the new rules. And the problem wasn’t just limited to Michoacan, or the Knights Templar cartel.

“Since 2010, evidence surfaced of irregular mining of iron in the states of Jalisco, Michoacan and Colima,” the department said in a statement to The Associated Press.

“That illegal activity was encouraged by the great demand for iron by countries such as China, to develop their industries,” according to the department. “Many trading companies began to build up big stockpiles of legally and illegally obtained iron [ore], that was later shipped out for export.”

A Mexican federal official, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said the cartels would use a combination of threats and outright theft to get the ore from mines. He said the nexus between the cartels and export companies was key.

“They extort the merchandise from mining companies and then export it through legal companies, or they rob trucks full [of ore] that later turn up in a legal manner, through a distributor, and export it,” said the official. “The incredible thing is that they export it, these guys are exporting to South America and Asia.”

Ofelia Alcala, a resident of the Michoacan mining village of Aquila, said that since 2012, the Knights Templar cartel demanded residents hand over part of the royalty payments from a local iron ore mine operated by Ternium, a Luxembourg-based consortium.

Alcala, a member of a self-defense group that rose up in arms in Aquila this summer to kick the cartel out, said the cartel also had been hiring people to extract the ore without permits, and then exporting it through another Pacific coast port, Manzanillo.

“They weren’t content with getting our money and robbing our trucks, so they began secretly extracting our minerals,” Alcala said.

Ternium said in a statement that it has received reports of irregular mining near its operations in Aquila.

“Those have been passed on to the appropriate authorities,” the company said in a statement.

Government figures show the amount of iron ore being exported to China quadrupled between 2008 and the first half of 2013, rising to 4.6 million tons per year, precisely during the period the La Familia cartel and later the Knights Templar cemented their control over Michoacan.

In 2008, Lazaro Cardenas handled only 1.5 percent of Mexico’s iron ore exports to China; by mid-2013, the seaport was shipping out nearly half.

In 2010, the attorney general’s office estimated the cartels shipped 1.1 million tons of illegally extracted iron ore abroad that year.

Officials said the export scheme may have involved other sea ports, and that more military takeovers may be necessary.

The cartel mining issue also resurfaced last year in the coal-mining state of Coahuila bordering Texas. The former governor, Humberto Moreira, called a press conference to claim that Heriberto Lazcano, leader of the Zetas cartel, was running illegal coal mining ventures and partnering with legitimate ones. So far, none of the accusations have been proven.

The only known arrests related to cartel mining operations occurred in Michoacan in 2010, when Ignacio Lopez Medina, an alleged member of La Familia, was accused of selling ore illegally to China, the federal Attorney General’s Office said at the time.

But the arrest apparently came to little; the Attorney General’s Office could not say whether Lopez Medina had been tried or convicted of that crime, nor could The Associated Press determine if he is represented by a lawyer or is still in custody.

The Chinese Chamber of Commerce did not immediately respond to requests for information on companies that have been involved in buying ore from cartels, knowingly or otherwise.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry declined to comment on whether China had any measures in place to ensure the legal provenance of such imports.

The iron ore, meanwhile, has both swelled the cartels’ bankrolls, giving them more money to buy guns and bribe officials, and fed the hunger of Asian steel mills.

And it may be a two-way trade: Precursor chemicals the cartel uses to make methamphetamines often arrive from China at both the Lazaro Cardenas and Manzanillo ports.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

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