Lasers Reveal a Maya Civilization So Dense It Blew Experts’ Minds




Tikal, home to temples and palaces, is one of the best known Maya sites in northern Guatemala.CreditJustin Lane for The New York Times

They were hidden there, all this time, under the cover of tree canopies in the jungles of northern Guatemala: tens of thousands of structures built by the Maya over a millennium ago.

Not far from the sites tourists already know, like the towering temples of the ancient city of Tikal, laser technology has uncovered about 60,000 homes, palaces, tombs and even highways in the humid lowlands.

The findings suggested an ancient society of such density and interconnectedness that even the most experienced archaeologists were surprised.

“Everywhere that we looked, there was more settlement than we expected,” said Thomas Garrison, a National Geographic explorer and an archaeologist at Ithaca University. “We knew there was going to be more, but the scale of it really blew our minds.”

Researchers found the structures by shooting lasers down from planes to pierce the thick foliage and paint a 3-D picture of the ground below. The technology is called Light Detection and Ranging, or lidar.


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The method has been used elsewhere, including around the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia. But this lidar project is the largest ever undertaken. More than 800 square miles of the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala’s Petén region have been mapped, according to an exclusive report by National Geographic, which is airing a Feb. 6 television special about the project.

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“This world, which was lost to this jungle, is all of a sudden revealed in the data,” said Albert Yu-Min Lin, an engineer and National Geographic explorer who worked on the television special. “And what you thought was this massively understood, studied civilization is all of a sudden brand new again.”

The lasers are only the first step, he added, noting that he and archaeologists still had to trek through jungles to verify the data while contending with thick undergrowth, poisonous snakes, swarms of killer bees and the odd scorpion.


Lidar data highlighted about 60,000 structures that had been hidden in the jungle for hundreds of years.CreditWild Blue Media/National Geographic

The project was started by Pacunam, a Guatemalan nonprofit organization, and carried out with help from the National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping, which is based at the University of Houston. The lidar technology essentially allows researchers to spot bumps in the landscape. Most of the ruins look like rocky mounds — even in person, and to the naked eye — but experts can often identify a collapsed quarry, palace or street.

The Maya culture was known for its sophisticated approach to agriculture, arts and astronomy. The peak era for the civilization, which some archaeologists refer to as the Classic Period, is generally considered to have lasted from around A.D. 250 to 900.

The total population at that time was once estimated to be a few million, said Diane Davies, an archaeologist and Maya specialist based in the United Kingdom. But in light of the new lidar data, she said it could now be closer to 10 million.

Dr. Davies was not involved in the lidar project but considered it “really big, sensational news.” She said the data should encourage people not only to re-evaluate Maya civilization, but also to learn from it.

“To have such a large number of people living at such a high level for such a long period of time, it really proves the fact that these people were highly developed, and also quite environmentally conscientious,” she said.

Among the structures uncovered were roads, built wide and raised high above the wetlands to connect fields to farmers and markets to metropolises. There were also small dwellings, quarries and intricate irrigation systems. “We’re seeing the spaces in between, and that’s where really interesting stuff was happening,” Dr. Garrison said.

He added that in addition to changing people’s perception of the Maya culture, lidar represented “a sea change” in the field of archaeology.

“I don’t think you see a lot of discoveries happening across the sciences right now that sort of turn a discipline on its head,” he said. “It’s exciting to know that it can still happen.”

700 Million People Live South Of U.S. Border: Are They But Toilet Paper?


By now almost all of us have heard of Donald Trumps recent comments about how the people of some countries south of the U.S. Border and in Africa are part of ‘shit-hole’ countries. Trump admits himself that he has not been to most of these countries yet he dumps on them and their people. I myself have also been to none of these countries but I have known people who were from some of them, this does not make me an expert on the countries or their people. Mr. Trump has proven himself to not be an expert or even basically intelligent on any subject that I have ever heard him open his mouth and talk about, quite the opposite. If a person wishes to learn stats about a country they can Google the ‘CIA Fact book’ for things like population, GDP, average age, religion etc. Personally I do not believe that Mr. Trump has ever done even this as he feels that he is the world expert on all things plus the fact that he doesn’t trust the CIA’s basic intelligence or trustworthiness.


Back in 2016 during the Republican Presidential Debates Mr. Trump when speaking of Africa once said ‘I love Africa, many of my friends have gone there to get rich’. Think about that statement for a moment please, ‘many of my friends have gone there to get rich (er)’. Not, I have friends who have gone there to help bring up the standard of living for the people there. You see, people like Mr. Trump go to places like Africa to rape the people there of any and all financial elements the people of a country may have. Why do you think that the countries in Africa who have great mineral wealth whether it be diamonds, gold, oil or anything else still have such starvation rates? Why do you think that the people of these countries are living without clean water or electricity? The reason is that large out of country corporations and banks set up brutal Dictators who they buy off as they and these crooked Leaders funnel billions of dollars out of the countries and into their own personal bank accounts all around the world. They do this as the people starve and are enslaved or imprisoned or just plain murdered. Then pious asses like Mr. Trump slams the people for being poor as they rob them of their wealth and financial dignity.


Now I wish to turn my attention to the countries south of the U.S. border. First I am going to speak of Mexico which Mr. Trump has constantly slammed. Just this week the U.S. State Department put out travel warnings for 5 of the States in Mexico as ‘no go’ States. They say these States are to dangerous for people to visit. There are several issues that the Mexican government must fix within their own borders just like several other Nations to their south must fix. The first single thing that must be fixed is the security issues for the people who live in these areas. The second biggest issues that must be fixed is the economies of the places the citizens live. Mr. Trump doesn’t want these ‘poor’ people flooding across the U.S. border so to do this we must work with, not against these people.


The first thing I am going to write about is the totally failed and totally dangerous U.S. War On Drugs Policy. The easiest first policy would be to totally legalize recreational Marijuana and tax it like it was beer or wine. This would take the profit away from the Drug Cartels and would save thousands of lives each year. Even though I am not a fan of any of the manufactured chemical drugs they should then be treated the same way, mostly. If the laws were different here in the U.S. in regards to drugs like Cocaine and Heroin we could also take all of the profit out of the Drug Cartels also saving many thousands of lives each year. Here is what I am getting at, if I could buy Heroin or Cocaine legally just like beer and wine all of the revenue for the Cartels is gone, now the people who live in the ‘Cartel’ areas would then be able to live in a more peaceful situation. Before you decide that I am totally crazy about making these drugs legal, there is more to my plan.


Here are some of my conditions about having legal chemical drugs. Just like you can get a ticket for being under the influence of a legal prescription medication if that medication messed up your physical ability to drive, expand this to the following. Right now here in the States you can get a ticket and go to jail for driving ‘under the influence’ of a drug like Morphine even if you have a script for it and you can be sued if you caused a wreck and you can go to prison. The same laws hold true if you were driving under the influence of Morphine in your system, but you did not have a script for it. Where we would have to tweak the existing laws is this: If you have a non-script chemical drug in your system ‘like Cocaine or Morphine’ and you get in an accident whether it be in a vehicle or on a job site you must receive Federal Prison time. Also, you personally must pay for all damages. No Insurance Company pays for any damages to you or your personal property. Any and all of your personal property will be attached and sold until all damages are paid in full. If you have an accident at work and you have a drug like Cocaine in your system the Company’s Work Comp carrier is not liable for any of your medical bills and you will not be eligible for payments from the Insurance company while you are unable to work. There would also have to be one other requirement which would be pointed straight at Companies. Just like a famous Soda Pop Company used to add Cocaine to their drink to make it more addictive there would have to be mandatory Federal Prison sentences for any and all company executives who were adding any of these drugs into their products as well as selling off of all of their personal property to help pay for the damages to people.


Most all of the people that I have spoken with who are here in the U.S. who are from ‘Southern Countries’ have told me that they would much rather be in their home Country but there is no work there, no way to feed their families, that this is why they are here in the U.S., for work. These ‘Southern Countries’ must put all of their efforts into creating livable wage jobs within their own borders. These Countries Leaders must not allow companies from other countries to come in and financially rape them of their assets whether it be mineral or human. Mr. Trump would not have to build his 18 billion dollar border wall if the Countries to our south had their own stable economies. One of the things that is obvious about Mr. Trump is that he hates poor people, it seems that if you do not have a personal net worth of at least several hundred million dollars he considers you as nothing more than a used piece of used toilet paper. The true reality of these “shit-hole” Countries is that it is people like Mr. Trump, the mega rich, who come in and steal everything these poorer Countries and their people have, for their own personal gain, who are the true pieces of human feces, not the people they steal from.

US ambassador resigns, saying he can no longer work with Trump



US ambassador resigns, saying he can no longer work with Trump


  • Feeley was a career diplomat who was sworn in as ambassador in January 2016
  • Deputy Chief of Mission Roxanne Cabral will step in until a new ambassador is nominated

Washington (CNN)The US ambassador to Panama has resigned over differences with the Trump administration.

A State Department spokesperson told CNN that Ambassador John Feeley “has informed the White House, the Department of State and the Government of Panama of his decision to retire for personal reasons, as of March 9 of this year.”
According to an excerpt of his resignation letter that was read to CNN, Feeley’s decision was clearly prompted by differences with the Trump administration but was made well before Thursday’s reporting about President Donald Trump’s “shithole” comments.
“As a junior foreign service officer, I signed an oath to serve faithfully the President and his administration in an apolitical fashion, even when I might not agree with certain policies. My instructors made clear that if I believed I could not do that, I would be honor bound to resign. That time has come,” Feeley wrote.
The letter goes on to say that he leaves the embassy “in good hands” and the US relationship with Panama is “strong.”
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Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Steven Goldstein told CNN that Feeley had submitted his resignation letter to the White House in late December.
“Everyone has a line that they don’t want to cross and we respect that,” Goldstein said. “We are sorry to see him go.”
Feeley was a career diplomat who was sworn in as ambassador in January 2016.
The spokesperson said Deputy Chief of Mission Roxanne Cabral will step in until a new ambassador is confirmed.
Panama will join the dozens of countries that do not currently have Senate-confirmed US ambassadors in place, including key US allies like South Korea, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
While senior acting officials hold the reins in these important jobs, they are not permanent appointees and are limited in how long they can hold the roles.
Federal law allows these temporary officeholders to stay in the open jobs for, at most, 300 days. But 320 days have elapsed since the start of the Trump administration and acting officials in the State Department are starting to hit that limit, making presidential nominations more important than ever.

These ‘Shithole Countries’ Have a Message for President Trump





Updated: January 12, 2018 11:45 AM ET

President Donald Trump reportedly singled out Haiti, El Salvador and parts of Africa as “shithole countries” during a rant about immigration Thursday. Those places aren’t happy

Trump’s comments came during a meeting with lawmakers at the White House held to reach a bipartisan immigration deal, according to the Washington Postwhich broke the news. Sources familiar with the meeting told the Post that the president was amenable to more immigrants from Norway and Asia, whom he says help the country economically, but wondered aloud “why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

According to the Post, Trump also said, “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.”

On Friday morning Trump posted a series of tweets about the immigration deal in which he appeared to deny he said “shithole countries.”

“The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!” he wrote.

In a second tweet, sent around two hours after the first, Trump said that he “never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country” and that he never uttered the phrase “take them out.”

Trump also claimed that the accusation was “made up” by members of the Democratic Party. “I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians,” he added. “Probably should record future meetings – unfortunately, no trust!”

However, the White House on Thursday did not deny the Post’s report about Trump’s language.

A spokesman for the United Nations said Friday that Trump’s reported words were racist.

“There is no other word one can use but ‘racist’… This isn’t just a story about vulgar language, it’s about opening the door to humanity’s worst side, about validating and encouraging racism and xenophobia,” United Nations human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said. “You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”

Here’s how Trump’s alleged “shithole countries” are responding to the remarks:


CBS News reports that the Haitian government promptly summoned charge d’affairs Robin Diallo, the top U.S. diplomat in the country, to respond to the comments.

Former Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe tweeted, “SHAME ON TRUMP! The world is witnessing a new low today with this #ShitholeNations remark! totally unacceptable! uncalled for moreover it shows a lack a respect and IGNORANCE never seen before in the recent history of the US by any President! Enough is enough!!”

The Haitian government said in a statement “these insulting and reprehensible statements in no way reflect the virtues of wisdom, restraint and discernment that must be cultivated by any high political authority,” according to the Associated Press, adding that the comment “reflects a totally erroneous and racist view of the Haitian community and its contribution to the United States.”

Other Haitians took to social media to share pictures of their nation’s beautiful beaches to make a point about the president’s alleged remarks.

El Salvador

Hugo Martinez, El Salvador’s foreign minister, tweeted calling on the U.S. government to confirm or deny Trump’s statements. In subsequent tweets, he noted that a number of individuals who helped rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina were from El Salvador and saying that he “feels proud to be Salvadoran.”

Jean Manes, the U.S. envoy to El Salvador, tweeted that the United States “values the friendship and the relationship with the Salvadoran people.” Manes added that she has had “the privilege to travel around this beautiful country and meet thousands of Salvadorans,” and that it is “an honor” to live and work there.”

African Union

The African Union responded to the reported remarks by pointing out many Africans arrived in the U.S. as slaves.

“Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice,” Ebba Kalondo, a spokesperson for the 55-nation African Union, told the Associated Press. “This is particularly surprising as the United States of America remains a global example of how migration gave birth to a nation built on strong values of diversity and opportunity.”

Leanne Manas, a news anchor for the South African Broadcasting Corporation, tweeted Friday morning, “Good morning from the greatest most beautiful “shithole country” in the world!!!”

Somali information minister Abdirahman Omar Osman told CNN, “If it’s real, it doesn’t need a response. Those comments do not deserve a response.”

Mmusi Maimane, the leader of South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance party, described Trump’s comments as “abhorrent” on Twitter. His tweet continued: “He confirms a patronizing view of Africa and promotes a racist agenda. Africa/U.S. relations will take strain from this, with a leader who has failed to reconcile humanity. The hatred of Obama’s roots now extends to an entire continent.”


Guatemala announces it will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem



Guatemala announces it will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

Last Updated Dec 25, 2017 10:55 AM EST

GUATEMALA CITY — Guatemala’s president announced on Christmas Eve that the Central American country will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, becoming the first nation to follow the lead of U.S. President Donald Trump in ordering the change.

Guatemala was one of nine nations that voted with the United States and Israel on Thursday when the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a non-binding resolution denouncing Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Trump didn’t set any timetable for moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and neither did Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales.

In a post on his official Facebook account Sunday, Morales said that after talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he decided to instruct Guatemala’s foreign ministry to move the embassy.

Guatemala and Israel have long had close ties, especially in security matters and Israeli arms sales to Guatemala.

No other country has their embassy for Israel in Jerusalem, though the Czech Republic has said it is considering such a move.

Trump upended decades of U.S. policy with his Dec. 6 announcement that he was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Though Trump said he was merely recognizing reality and not prejudging negotiations on the future borders of the city, Palestinians saw the move as siding with Israel on the most sensitive issue in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Mr. Trump said in his announcement.

For more than two decades, Mr. Trump said that previous presidents had signed a waiver to delay moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but said that “we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.”

“While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver,” he said. “Today, I am delivering.”

Mr. Trump said that he also directed the State Department to begin the process of moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but he will sign a waiver that will delay the move in order to avoid significant funding cuts. Officials said that it was not possible to move the embassy to Jerusalem immediately, however, and it could take “a matter of some years.”

Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim the city’s eastern sector, which was captured by Israel in 1967 and is home to sensitive religious Jewish, Muslim and Christian sites. Many governments have long said that the fate of Jerusalem must be resolved through negotiations.

Trump’s announcement has set off weeks of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces that have left 12 Palestinians dead.

Netanyahu has predicted others would follow the U.S. lead. He has made great efforts to reach out to Latin America in recent years as part of a campaign to counter longstanding support for the Palestinians at the United Nations.

In remarks at his weekly meeting of the Likud party faction in the Knessert, Netanyahu thanked Guatemala’s president.

“God bless you, my friend, President Jimmy Morales, God bless both our countries, Israel and Guatemala,” Netanyahu said.

The resolution passed by the General Assembly declared the U.S. action on Jerusalem “null and void.” The 128-9 vote was a victory for Palestinians, but fell short of the total they had predicted. Thirty-five nations abstained and 21 stayed away from the vote.

Palestinians’ foreign ministry blasted Guatemala’s move, calling the action “shameful,” according to Agence France-Presse.

“It’s a shameful and illegal act that goes totally against the wishes of church leaders in Jerusalem,” the ministry said in a statement.

Jordan’s minister of foreign affairs also said on Twitter that his country rejects the move.

We reject  decision to move embassy to & condemn it as absurd provocation, violation of international law. Occupied Jerusalem is capital of  state which must be established on June 4 1967 lines on basis of 2-state solution as only path to peace

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    The FBI prepared a secret 20-page analysis of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. a month before he was assassinated

It Is Time To Totally Rebuild Puerto Rico’s Infrastructure Right Now

It Is Time To Rebuild Puerto Rico’s Infrastructure Right Now


Okay America, Okay politicians in D.C. it is time to step up and do the right thing for a group of 3.3 million poor American citizens who happen to call the Island of Puerto Rico home. If you check into the rebuild in the much more affluent rich folks playground of the American Virgin Islands you will notice they are well ahead in the cleanup efforts being conducted in Puerto Rico.


One of the issues that Donald Trump ran for President on was that he was going to invest in and fix Americas crumbling infrastructure. Fixing our nationally crumbling infrastructure is a great way to create good paying jobs plus gives the people a more viable secure living condition. Right now, President Trump needs to live up to his campaign promises on this issue. Now is not the time to put in some straggled patch work projects in Puerto Rico, now is the time to rebuild it into a quality place for human beings to work and live within. Hurricane Maria plowed the fields of the old, it is now, right now, time to invest the 95 Billion or so odd dollars that the ‘professionals’ say it will take to fix what is broken. So, Mr. Trump, stop Tweeting, shut the hell up and just do your job. Fix what has been broken under your watch. You campaigned on infrastructure rebuilding, you did not say you only wanted to rebuild the neighborhoods of your personal friends on the American tax payers dime. But then again we the people have become quite accustomed to you being an habitual liar. Just like the other trash in your personal swamp.

A Maltese Journalist Who Reported on the Panama Papers Has Been Killed by a Car Bomb



A Maltese Journalist Who Reported on the Panama Papers Has Been Killed by a Car Bomb

Oct 16, 2017

(VALLETTA, Malta) — A Maltese investigative journalist who exposed the island nation’s links to offshore tax havens through the leaked Panama Papers was killed Monday when a bomb exploded in her car, the prime minister said.

Daphne Caruana Galizia, 53, had just driven away from her home in Mosta, a large town on Malta’s main island, when the bomb went off, sending the vehicle’s wreckage spiraling over a wall and into a field, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.

Caruana Galizia’s death resulted from a “barbaric attack” that also amounted to an assault on freedom of expression, Muscat said. He described her as “was one of my harshest critics, on a political and personal level” as he denounced her slaying.

One of the topics the veteran reporter examined was what the documents from the 2016 leak said about Malta. She wrote that Muscat’s wife, the country’s energy minister and the government’s chief-of-staff had offshore holdings in Panama to receive money from Azerbaijan.

Muscat and his wife, Michelle, denied they had companies in Panama.

Caruana Galizia filed a police report two weeks ago saying she was receiving threats, law enforcement officials told Malta news outlets on Monday.

The slain journalist had been a regular columnist for The Malta Independent, writing twice weekly for the newspaper since 1996. She also wrote a blog called “Running Commentary,” which was followed by in Malta.

A half hour before she was killed, she posted to her web site an item about a libel claim the prime minister’s chief of staff had brought against a former opposition over comments the latter made about corruption.

Caruana Galizia herself had been sued for libel over articles she wrote for her blog. Opposition leader Adrian Delia sued her over a series of stories linking him to a prostitution racket in London. Economy Minister Chris Cardona claimed libel when she wrote that he visited a brothel while in Germany on government business.

Monday evening’s Parliament session was scrapped, except for briefings about the bombing given by Muscat and Delia, who called the reporter’s slaying a “political murder.”

Muscat said he has asked the U.S. government and the FBI for help investigating the car bombing.

Caruana Galizia is survived by her husband and three sons. One son, Matthew, was on the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists team that won the Pulitzer Prize for its work on the Panama Papers scandal.

The leak exposed the identities of rich and powerful people around the world who allegedly had offshore holdings in Panama.

Caruana Galizia’s family has asked the Courts of Malta to have the magistrate assigned to conduct the inquiry into the journalist’s death replaced.

The family said the magistrate, Consuelo Scerri Herrera, “in her personal capacity, had launched judicial procedures against (Caruana Galizia) regarding comments she had written.”

Caruana Galizia for many years was a harsh critic of Malta’s Labor party and government. More recently she had expanded her criticism to include the opposition Nationalist Party.

Her slaying drew swift denunciations in the tiny EU nation.

“Daphne played a vitally important role in unearthing serious allegations of money laundering and corruption in Malta, including those involving senior figures in the Maltese government,” said Sven Giegold, a Greens member in the European Parliament.

Italian newsweekly L’Espresso, which has also written about alleged corruption linked to Malta, said the reporter’s murder demonstrated that a well-documented expose’ “is perceived as a danger by the powerful and by organized crime.”

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani in a tweet called the development a “tragic example of a journalist who sacrificed her life to search for the truth.”

Argentinian Hunter Trampled And Killed By Elephant In Namibia



Argentinian Hunter Trampled And Killed By Elephant In Namibia

An Argentinian man in Namibia was trampled and killed by an elephant Saturday, according to the Namibia Press Agency Monday. Jose Monzalvez, 46, was hunting in a group Saturday afternoon when he was trampled by an elephant in a private wildlife area 70 kilometers (43 miles) from the town of Kalkfeld.

He and four others were following a group of elephants on the farm. One of the elephants charged at the group before they could assemble to shoot it. Monzalvez, who worked for an oil company, was with three Namibians and another Argentine when he was killed, according to Otjozondjupa regional police spokesperson warrant officer Maureen Mbeha. Monzalvez had a hunting permit with him at the time of his death. All five members of the group were professional trophy hunters.

Monzalvez’s family was later informed of his death.

In May, a South African hunter was trampled and killed by an elephant another member of his hunting group shot. According to Netwerk24, someone in the group shot the elephant. As it fell, it crushed Theunis Botha. The 51-year-old Johannesburg man was a well-known trophy hunter. His death sparked support from his friends and fellow hunters but also led to backlash from critics of big game hunting.

According to ‘Elephant Rage,’ a 2005 National Geographic documentary, about 500 people are killed by elephants a year. Attacks increase each year.

“I do think that elephants are becoming more aggressive towards humans in very compressed areas where they are being shot at and harassed,” Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell, a biologist at Stanford University, said to National Geographic in a June 2005 phone interview. “It is a difficult dilemma in areas where elephant habitat is shrinking and the human population is increasing such that poor farmers have little choice but to expand their farms to make ends meet.”

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reported 1.3 million African elephants in 1970 but said that number shrank to 600,000 by 1989. Some areas of Africa took measures to preserve the elephant population, while other areas reduce elephant numbers with controlled hunts and other methods.

WWF listed Asian elephants as endangered and as requiring extreme preservation measures to control their population. WWF listed African elephants as being overall vulnerable, which is one step above being endangered. However, some African elephant populations are still endangered because of the now-illegal ivory trade, for which hunters would cut the tusks off elephants. National Geographic reported on its website the current population trend of African elephants as increasing.

african elephantAn African bush elephant at Masai Mara National Park in Kenya. Jose Monzalvez, the 46-year-old Argentinian trophy hunter, was trampled and killed by an elephant Saturday. He was hunting with four other trophy hunters when the elephant charged them before they could shoot it. Photo: Buena Vista Images

U.S. sanctions Venezuelan officials, one killed in anti-Maduro strike



JULY 26, 2017 / 1:07 AM / 8 MINUTES AGO

U.S. sanctions Venezuelan officials, one killed in anti-Maduro strike

A demonstrator throws a petrol bomb at a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas, Venezuela July 26, 2017. Ueslei Marcelino

WASHINGTON/CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) – The Trump administration imposed sanctions on 13 senior Venezuelan officials as the country’s opposition launched a two-day strike on Wednesday, heaping pressure on unpopular President Nicolas Maduro to scrap plans for a controversial new congress.

With clashes breaking out in some areas, a 30-year-old man was killed during a protest in the mountainous state of Merida, authorities said.

Venezuela’s long-time ideological foe the United States opted to sanction the country’s army and police chiefs, the national director of elections, and a vice president of the state oil company for alleged corruption and rights abuses.

But U.S. President Donald Trump spared Venezuela for now from broader sanctions against its vital oil industry, although such actions were still under consideration.

U.S. officials said the individual sanctions aimed to show Maduro that Washington would make good on a threat of “strong and swift economic actions” if he goes ahead with a vote on Sunday that critics have said would cement dictatorship in the OPEC country.

The leftist leader was also feeling the heat at home, where neighbors gathered from dawn across Venezuela to block roads with rubbish, stones and tape, while many stores remained shut.

“It’s the only way to show we are not with Maduro. They are few, but they have the weapons and the money,” said decorator Cletsi Xavier, 45, helping block the entrance to a freeway in upscale east Caracas with rope and iron metal sheets.

Overall, however, fewer people appeared to be heeding the shutdown than the millions who participated in a 24-hour strike last week when five people died in clashes.

State enterprises, including oil company Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) stayed open and some working-class neighborhoods were still buzzing with activity.

But hooded youth were clashing with soldiers firing tear gas in various places including Caracas, where opposition lawmakers reported several injuries.

In western Merida state, Rafael Vergara was shot dead when National Guard soldiers and armed civilians confronted protesters, local opposition lawmaker Lawrence Castro told Reuters.

Maduro Defiant

Maduro has vowed to push ahead with Sunday’s vote for a Constituent Assembly, which will have power to rewrite the constitution and override the current opposition-led legislature.

The successor of late leader Hugo Chavez says the new superbody is the only way to bring peace back to Venezuela after four months of violent anti-government protests that have led to over 100 deaths.

Demonstrators clash with riot security forces at a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas, Venezuela July 26, 2017.Ueslei Marcelino

The opposition has said that Sunday’s vote, which it is boycotting, is a sham designed to give Maduro dictatorial powers.

One of the U.S. officials warned the sanctions were just an initial round and the administration was readying tougher measures. The most serious option is financial sanctions that would halt dollar payments for the country’s oil and starve the government of hard currency, or a total ban on oil imports to the United States, a top cash-paying client.

But the decision to hold back for now on hitting Venezuela’s oil sector reflected a continuing internal debate that has weighed the risks of inflicting further suffering on Venezuelans, raising U.S. domestic gasoline prices, and causing problems for PDVSA’s U.S. refining subsidiary Citgo.

Even some of Maduro’s opponents have cautioned that he could rally his supporters under a nationalist banner if the United States goes too far on sanctions, as Venezuelans suffer a brutal economic crisis with food and medicine shortages.

Slideshow (17 Images)

Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the sanctions. In the past, Maduro’s administration has denied charges from Washington, calling them a pretext to try to topple socialism in Latin America and win control of Venezuela’s oil sector.

Among those sanctioned on Wednesday were: national elections director Tibisay Lucena, PDVSA finance vice president Simon Zerpa and former PDVSA executive Erik Malpica, as well as prominent former ministers Iris Varela and Elias Jaua.

Elections boss Lucena is scorned by opposition activists, who have said that she has delayed regional elections and blocked a recall referendum against Maduro at the behest of an autocratic government. The opposition has also long accused PDVSA of being a nest of corruption.

‘Bad Actors’

The U.S. officials, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the individuals targeted for sanctions were accused of supporting Maduro’s crackdown, harming democratic institutions or victimizing Venezuelans through corruption, and that additional “bad actors” could be sanctioned later.

Punitive measures include freezing U.S. assets, banning travel to the United States and prohibiting Americans from doing business with them.

“What the United States is doing is bringing to light corruption in the Venezuelan government,” opposition lawmaker Franklin Duarte told Reuters. “This is the second list and we expect another one on Friday.”

Sanctions were imposed on the chief judge and seven other members of Venezuela’s pro-Maduro Supreme Court in May in response to their decision to annul the opposition-led Congress earlier this year.

That followed similar U.S. sanctions in February against Venezuela’s influential Vice President Tareck El Aissami for alleged links to drug trafficking.

Assets in the United States and elsewhere tied to El Aissami and an alleged associate and frozen by U.S. order now total hundreds of millions of dollars, far more than was expected, one of the U.S. officials told Reuters.

Additional reporting by Diego Ore, Andrew Cawthorne, Andreina Aponte, Anggy Polanco, and Fabian Cambero in Caracas, Francisco Aguilar in Barinas, Maria Ramirez in Puerto Ordaz, Mircely Guanipa in Punto Fijo, Isaac Urrutia in Maracaibo, Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, Tom Brown, Toni Reinhold

Mexico president calls for probe into alleged government spying


Mexico president calls for probe into alleged government spying

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto asked the attorney general’s office on Thursday to investigate charges the government spied on private citizens, saying he wanted to get to the bottom of the accusations that he called “false.”

Activists, human rights lawyers and journalists in Mexico filed a criminal complaint on Monday following a report that their smartphones had been infected with spying software sold to the government to fight criminals and terrorists.

“Here and now I want to categorically state this is a democratic government, this is a government that respects and tolerates critical voices,” Pena Nieto said at a televised event.

The complaint presented to the attorney general’s office by nine people followed a New York Times report that some of them had been spied on with software known as Pegasus, which Israeli company NSO Group sold to Mexico’s government.

“All of the equipment and technology that the government … has acquired is used to uphold the country’s domestic security. It’s used to fight against organized crime,” said Pena Nieto.

He said there was no room for “illegal” spying on the private lives of citizens and that the investigation would focus on determining if the charges were backed by evidence and uncovering the source of the accusations.

During his speech, Pena Nieto appeared to suggest the probe would target both the allegations and the accusers, saying he would use the full force of the law “against those who have hurled these false accusations against the government.”

A presidential aide told Reuters that Pena Nieto misspoke and meant to say the charges would be investigated and that anybody found to have engaged in “illegal” spying would be prosecuted.

(Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Peter Cooney)


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