Security Guard Set Fire To Nursery School: 4 Children 1 Teacher Dead

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM AND THE BBC)

 

Four Children and a Teacher Killed After a Security Guard Sets Fire to Brazil Nursery School

Oct 05, 2017

Four young children and a teacher have been killed in what is believed to be an arson attack at a nursery school in Brazil.

Authorities said the suspect is a security guard who allegedly set fire to the daycare center, in Janauba, a town in southeastern Minas Gerais state, the BBC reports.

A further 25 people — mostly children aged between four and five — were hospitalized with burns, with some requiring specialist care at a burns unit in the state capital.

One parent whose son died in the attack told local media that the family was about to move to another neighborhood, according to the BBC.

“I woke up early to drop him at the nursery,” Jane Kelly da Silva Soares told the local O Globo newspaper. “When I saw him again he was already dead in hospital.”

The guard, identified by authorities as 50-year-old Damiao dos Santos, set himself alight at the scene and later died of his injuries in hospital. Police are still looking into the causes of the attack.

Local media reports that dos Santos was sacked from his post in September, upon returning from his annual leave reportedly with a health condition.

President Michael Temer tweeted: “I’m very sorry about this tragedy involving children in Janauba. I want to express my sympathy to the families.”

Janauba’s mayor has declared a seven-day mourning period.

[BBC]

Guinea Sells Its Soul And Freedom To China For 20 Billion Dollars: They Just Don’t Know It Yet

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

A 20 Billion Dollar Trade Agreement Between China and Guinea Raises Concerns

Meeting between President Xi Jinping and the Guinean delegation, via CGTN Africa.

Leaders of BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) gathered in Xiamen, China as the five rising emerging economies for the ninth annual summit held from 3-5 September 2017. Alongside this conference, Ibrahim Kassory Fofana, Guinean Minister of State in charge of public-private partnerships, announced a framework trade agreement between China and Guinea.

This 20 billion dollar agreement will finance significant infrastructure projects over a 20 year period from 2017 until 2036. The deal constitutes an agreement through which Chinese investment will be repaid in exchange for allowing Chinese companies to undertake mining projects in Guinea, raising concerns among Guineans about its terms.

The Office of the President in Guinea has published a press release in an attempt to clarify the terms of the agreement; however, as noted by Diallo Boubacar on the site Africaguinee.com, details have not yet been made known. Several opposition leaders, including François Bourouno voiced their concern:

The trade deal (worth 20 billion USD) signed last Tuesday between Guinea and China has raised some concerns. Although it is anticipated that this deal will, for the most part, finance infrastructure projects in exchange for mining resources over a 20 year period, we, in the opposition party, have our doubts.

“We understand it is a mixed agreement, consisting of loans and gifts. However what we don’t know is what the loans will entail, such as the repayment rates, the terms and conditions, as well as the compensation details. Nor do we know how the gifts will be defined. As such, there are many questions we need to ask.”

In 2016, the mining sector accounted for 98.97% of Guinea’s exports (compared to 84.12% in 2015). Trains carrying ore can comprise up to 120 cars, emitting an infernal noise as well as dust clouds stretching from the extraction site all the way to the port.

Nevertheless, Guineans hope this sector will bring improvements to their living conditions, unlike the farming sector, which has been almost totally neglected. While Guinea has vast agricultural potential due to its varied climate and many rivers, the country is known as a “geological scandal” due to the disparity between the wealth of untapped resources and the poverty of its citizens.

Guinean blogger Jeanne Fofana from kababachir.com has raised doubts regarding additional debt representing more than 50% of the national debt, which already constitutes 48% of the gross domestic product (GDP). She concludes:

Guineans want to see a marked improvement in their living conditions. Simply providing billions of dollars and extolling the virtues of Alpha Condé [The Guinean President], quite frankly, borders on populism: “when talking about these kinds of amounts of money, the average Guinean remains sceptical, and with good cause! Because for them, this does not translate to an improvement in their daily life. The only way to convert this into bettering their lives is by providing employment.” Guineans are feeling deceived.

In an article by Radio France Internationale, RFI, Amadou Bah from the non-governmental organization (N.G.O.) Action Mine Guinée expresses his concerns:

However there has not been, as of yet, any clarification as to the quantity of the resources allocated.

Will this not just discourage investors from other multinationals from seeking concessions in Guinea? Will this be by mutual agreement? Will the value of the infrastructure be equal to that of the minerals to be exported? At the moment, we are hanging on the government’s every word as they negotiate this without providing many details.

Guinean netizens speak out

Guinean citizens have taken to Facebook to voice their doubts. The first bauxite exploitation in Guinea took place in 1937, but Guineans are still amongst the poorest in West Africa. Siradiou Paraya Bah, a resident of Conakry  joins the debate by posting on the wall of influential Guinean blogger Sidikiba Keita to ask what lessons can be learned from the past:

Can we know exactly what these trade agreements between China and Guinea entail?
What can we learn from previous decades of bauxite exploitation in Guinea?
What lessons can we take away from this?

What concerns Demba Thez Mara, a Guinan netizen in Boké, is the need to process the minerals before exportation:

I would like to see us put in place metallurgical and ore dressing plants so that we can process our unrefined products on site. In terms of the enrichment of AI203 (aluminium), China has the best flotation technologies; therefore in order to better develop our mines, we need on site processing, which will also require sufficient energy production.

Law enforcement officers have clashed with protesters at the centre of the main bauxite extraction site in Boké, Guinea in response to the adverse environmental impact of extraction and lack of economic benefits, particularly in terms of employment. Against this backdrop, blogger Sidikiba Keita responds to active Guinean Facebook user Ibrahim Ghussein’s message and warns Guineans:

1. Let’s not delude ourselves. SMB [Société Minière de Boké, in English: Boké Mining Company]’s current operations are on a small scale compared to what we are expecting, as this should increase tenfold, from 30,000 tons/day (t/d) to 300,000 tons/day. The Chinese have a very clear agenda: an all-out reduction in production costs, from extraction to FOB delivery. The EITI [Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative]’s latest report confirms that the Guinean government expects an average return of $4/t of bauxite, whereas CBG [Cie de Bauxites de Guinée] pay more than double that amount, due to their environmental protection measures. The stripping and blasting phases already create a barely manageable pollution issue. On top of this, the transportation phase will undoubtedly be via lorry, as it is currently. In any case, in light of the traumatic experiences endured by the population who live near to the SMB site, this is simply unsustainable, unless the local population are to be moved out in droves.

2. In any case, in light of the traumatic experiences endured by the population who live near to the SMB site, this is simply unsustainable, unless the local population are to be moved out in droves.

In terms of the environmental impact, Tidiane Sylla highlights the potential consequences of over-exporting, which risks flooding the market and causing the price to fall:

Exporting large quantities of bauxite could cause the price to fall on the international market. In the Boké, Boffa and Télimélé regions, more than ten companies are involved in bauxite production. We need to diversify and innovate so as not to saturate the market.

Guinea’s history of public distrust

A lack of public trust around national mining deals emanates from unfair contracts signed by Guinean Mining Minster Mamoudou Thiam during his term in 2009-10. Thiam has been in prison in the United States (U.S.) since December 2016 after U.S. courts found him guilty of laundering 8.5 million dollars in backhanders.

The Africa Center for Strategic Studies, an academic institution created by the U.S. Department of Defense and financed by Congress to study security issues in Africa, published a study in May 2015 entitled The Anatomy of the Resource Curse: Predatory Investment in in Africa’s Extractive Industries, which analyses problems caused by mineral wealth in certain African countries. In the chapter dedicated to Guinea entitled Exploiting a State on the Brink of Failure: The Case of Guinea, the study details how Mr. Thiam was able to illegally line his pockets while in power.

Gold miners at a bar bragged about slaughtering members of a reclusive Brazilian tribe

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Authorities: Gold miners at a bar bragged about slaughtering members of a reclusive Brazilian tribe

 September 11 at 4:59 PM

(G.Miranda/Funai/Survival International)

The outside world might never have heard about the suspected massacre if not for some barroom boasting by a group of miners fresh from working an illegal gig in the Amazon jungle.

The garimpeiros had bragged that they’d come across members of a reclusive, uncontacted Amazonian tribe near Brazil’s border with Peru and Colombia, authorities say.

The tribe members were greater in number — there were as many as 10 — but the gold miners said they’d gotten the better of them and killed the entire lot, said Carla de Lello Lorenzi, communications officer for Survival International in Brazil.

The miners cut the tribe members’ bodies so that they wouldn’t float, Lorenzi said, then dropped them into the Jandiatuba River.

The miners had collected tools and jewelry from the indigenous dead, corroborating their story.

An unidentified person who overheard the story was disturbed by it, recorded the miners’ conversation and turned the audio over to authorities. They have since launched an investigation into what, if confirmed, would be one of the largest mass murders of uncontacted people in decades.

Advocates for stricter protective measures say the suspected massacre is evidence that the Brazilian government isn’t doing enough to safeguard the more than 100 vulnerable tribes that have never made contact with the outside world — and have no desire to.

“If these reports are confirmed, [Brazilian President Michel Temer] and his government bear a heavy responsibility for this genocidal attack,” said Survival International’s director, Stephen Corry. Corry said the government has slashed funds for an agency that protects the tribes, leaving them “defenseless against thousands of invaders — gold miners, ranchers and loggers — who are desperate to steal and ransack their lands.”

“All these tribes should have had their lands properly recognized and protected years ago — the government’s open support for those who want to open up indigenous territories is utterly shameful, and is setting indigenous rights in Brazil back decades.”

According to the New York Times, the government closed five of the 19 bases it uses to monitor uncontacted tribes and prevent incursions by miners and loggers.

Three of the closed bases were in the Javari Valley, home to more uncontacted tribes than anywhere else on Earth.

For obvious reasons, little is known about the indigenous group involved in the suspected killings.

Locally, Lorenzi said, they’re known as Fleicheros, or “the ones who throw arrows,” but their language and customs — and how they interact with at least two other uncontacted tribes in the immediate area — remain a mystery.

But the tribe members are not the only people in that part of the Amazon, Lorenzi said. It is illegal to mine there, but prospectors have brought earth-moving equipment to the area, leaving giant craters that can be seen from the sky.

They also bring violence, according to the government, which says garimpeiros are responsible for threats, child prostitution and killings.

Even their nonviolent presence in the protected lands can be dangerous to uncontacted tribes, which lack the immunity to fight the diseases that miners and loggers bring.

Any contact can be contentious and even violent, with the uncontacted usually getting the worst of it because, as Lorenzi told The Post, “it’s usually bows and arrows against guns.”

Details about those contacts remain hazy, because they involve two groups of people unlikely to speak to authorities.

Still, tales of the worst violence sometimes get out. Survival International documented the story of Marisa Yanomami and Leida Yanomami, survivors of the Haximu massacre in 1993:

“The gold-miners killed our brothers and sisters and also killed our father with machetes; some of them were killed with guns,” they told the organization. “After the first 10 people died, at the start of the war, we moved to another place to hide and stayed in our shabono(communal house), but the next day, the miners appeared again.”

In a statement on its website, the Brazilian National Indian Foundation, or Funai, said it had prompted the federal public prosecutor’s office to investigate the most recent allegation.

The government has also trumpeted its latest operation against incursions on protected lands. In August, it shut down an illegal mining operation. Soldiers destroyed four dredging machines and fined mining operators $1 million for environmental crimes.

Investigations are tough undertakings. The site of the suspected killing, for example, is a 12-hour trek by boat during the dry season. And it involves a group of people with their own language and a centuries-long wariness of outsiders.

Even the details of the killing are sketchy, Lorenzi said. And the vacuum of information speaks to another fear advocates have: that these types of violent interactions happen a lot more frequently than is reported.

“That’s highly probable, yes, because it’s so difficult to document,” she said. “It’s the uncontacted versus illegal miners who think they can get away with anything.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the time they do.”

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Face It, China Totally Owns The BRICS

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FORBES FOREIGN AFFAIRS)

 

Investing #ForeignAffairs

Face It, China Totally Owns The BRICS

I cover business and investing in emerging markets.  Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Chinese President Xi Jinping walks with Brazilian President Michel Temer in Beijing on Friday, just two days before the opening of the annual BRICS Summit on Sept. 3. China is far and away the most powerful of the five BRICS. (Photo by GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

Is it at all humiliating to the Russians, at least a little bit, that the Chinese are far and away the biggest, baddest BRICS nation? Russia used to be a world superpower. It’s a world oil power. A world nuclear power. But beyond that, China is more relevant to the world economy than the Russians.

Brazil. What about them? For years, the commodity bubble made it seem Brazil was on its way to becoming the runaway leader of Latin America, surpassing Mexico, which is basically a U.S. import market. Brazil was, and is, a more diverse economy than Mexico. They weren’t dependent on any one nation, really. Then the commodity bubble burst and Brazil’s purchasing power has dropped, putting it on par with China’s. GDP per capita is also similar. China’s Happy Meal toy making economy has grown up and is home to more new billionaires than anywhere else. And as leaders from Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa meet in Xiamen on Sept. 3, it is clear to everyone watching that China is the leader.

Russia needs China because it is in a never-ending feud with the West. They have two things in common, generally: commodities supply and demand, and a desire for a multi-polar world, though this is probably more Vladimir Putin’s thing than Xi Jinping’s. China is at least as dependent on the U.S. as Russia is dependent on Europe.

Brazil needs China because that’s where all of its soybeans and iron ore goes. Brazil’s agribusiness is vital to the economic recovery now just two quarters young. In May, China and Brazil launched a joint investment fund to increase productive capacity. The fund has an initial sum of $20 billion and will reportedly go to finance investment projects in Brazil (not in China) that are of interest to both countries. Brazil’s president, Michel Temer, is already in China. He wants to convince them to buy airports and participate in other privatization bids as Brazil tries to trim more fat from its federal government.

Following the recent border skirmish, India can probably do without China. India’s main trading partners are the U.S. and United Arab Emirates. But if you include Hong Kong with China, then China is No. 2. More importantly, India’s imports are heavily dependent on the Chinese. Some $59 billion worth of Chinese imports moved into India in 2015, more than the No. 2 Sweden and No. 3 U.S. combined. Bilateral trade volume between China and India also rose by 21.5% year-on-year to $47.52 billion between January and July 2017, Indian customs data show.

South Africa needs China investment and Chinese buyers for its raw materials. China is its biggest export market, accounting for around $12 billion. That beats South Africa’s No. 2 partner, the U.S., with around $7 billion in exports, both based on 2015 figures.

China is a total beast. South Africa, Russia and Brazil are particularly at its mercy.

See: China-Like Wages Now Part Of U.S. Jobs Boom — Forbes

Rio de Janeiro Is A Complete Mess — Forbes

Trump Already Beat India On H1-B Visa Issue — Forbes

Guess Who Is Growing Sick Of Anti-Russia Sanctions? — Forbes

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping at the BRICS summit in Goa, India last year. India and China have agreed to pull back their troops from a face-off in the high Himalayas where China, India and Bhutan meet, signaling a thaw in the months long standoff. It’s a relationship where China has more Aces up its sleeve than India. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup, File)

Although all five of these countries stand to gain from closer commercial ties, China is the one that will gain the most. China has just about enough money sitting in international reserves to equal the economic output of Brazil ($1.7 trillion)Russia ($1.3 trillion) and South Africa ($295 billion). It’s state owned enterprises have the funding to buy strategic assets abroad, like water and oil and gas infrastructure. And its new billionaires like Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba, has his eyes set on being the Jeff Bezos of emerging markets. He basically already is.

The upcoming BRICS Summit will end on Sept. 5 with the usual rhetorical messaging and memorandums of understanding about how they will all accelerate trade, investment and technological know-how. China’s Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said on Friday that China wants to deepen international cooperation in improving industrial capacity. In convincing their emerging market partners that they need to get more productive, China can sell them their new robotic technologies. All those Chinese workers replaced by automation, can work building the screws and attaching the wires and packaging up new robots to ship to Brazil instead.

A few BRIC country companies have big business in China, too. It is not entirely a one way street. Brazil’s Embraer jet manufacturer has a facility in southern China, and builds planes with their Chinese joint venture partner.

Russian investment bank, VTB Capital, set up shop in Shanghai in 2015.

India’s Tata Group family of companies is in China. IT firm Tata Consultancy Services is there, with the usual tie-up with a Chinese firm.  Tata Steel has two steel mills in China. Tata’s Jaguar Land Rover unit has a JV with Chery Automobile to build the luxury cars in Changshu.

South Africa’s Old Mutual financial services firm used to have a foothold there but are now looking to dump their insurance unit, at least.

Meanwhile, here’s a quick snapshot of what China has accomplished, as outlined on Friday by China Daily:

  • Gezhouba Group announced March 30 that it will spend up to $200 million to acquire 100%  stake of Sistema Produtor Sao Lourenco, a water supply company in Brazil, China Daily first reported.
  • China Investment Corp partnered with Brookfield Asset Management in April to take a 90% percent stake in Nova Transportadora do Sudeste, a natural gas pipeline company owned by Petrobras.
  • Xiaomi enters the Russian smart phone market.
  • Shanghai-listed China Railway Group is building a $2.5 billion high-speed railway in Russia. The deal was announced in June.
  • Alibaba’s Ant Financial Unit opens up Alipay in cahoots with Russia’s VTB Group last month.
  • China Petroleum Engineering & Construction Corp. inked a deal with Russia’s Gazprom in April to build an estimated $15 billion natural gas pipeline into China.
  • Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba, plans to build a data center in Mumbai by the end of next March, the company said on June 9.
  • Oil refiner Sinopec signed an agreement to buy 75% of Chevron South Africa’s assets for $900 million in March.

It is clear who is the big buyer and who is staking claim to turf long term. Brazil is selling; China is buying. South Africa is a seller, too. So when Putin and other leaders meet in China on Sunday, they will all know on many levels, that in terms of global finance and trade, they are no longer equals.

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Buses torched, roads blocked, clashes during Brazil strike

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Buses torched, roads blocked, clashes during Brazil strike

April 28 at 8:53 PM
RIO DE JANEIRO — Protesters lit buses on fire, blocked roads and clashed with police on Friday during a general strike that brought transportation to a halt in many cities across Latin America’s largest nation.The strike was to protest major changes to labor law and the pension system being considered by Congress, but it was also a raw display of anger by many Brazilians fed up with corruption and worried about the future amid a deep recession and rising unemployment.

In Rio de Janeiro, after hours of clashes with police in front of the legislative building, several buses were torched. In Sao Paulo, thousands marched toward the home of President Michel Temer, throwing rocks at police who shot stun grenades when protesters tried to go beyond barriers set up.

Millions stayed home, either in support of the strike or simply because they were unable to get to work. The tens of thousands who took to the street raised questions about whether Temer will be able to push his proposals through Congress, where they had previously looked likely to pass.

Temer’s administration argues that more flexible labor rules will revive a moribund economy and warns the pension system will go bankrupt without changes. Unions and other groups called for the strike, saying the changes before Congress will make workers too vulnerable and strip away too many benefits.

In a statement Friday night, Temer characterized the protesters as “small groups” that blocked the roads and streets. He said his administration was working to help Brazilians workers overcome the country’s economic malaise.

Earlier in the day, most commuter trains and metro lines were stopped in Sao Paulo during the height of morning commute, and all buses stayed off the roads. Buses ran partial service during the morning in Rio but later began returning to normal. The metro was closed for the day in the capital of Brasilia.

Some protesters also set up barricades and started fires in the streets, including on roads heading to the main airports in Sao Paulo. In Rio, protesters created confusion by running through Santos Dumont Airport, and others blocked a major road.

Some plane mechanics joined the strike, according to the National Aeronautic Union, but the impact was minimal, with only a handful of flights canceled or delayed at the two cities’ airports.

“We are demanding our rights, as workers, because the president of the country proposed a law for people to work more and live less, so you will only receive your pension when you die,” said Edgar Fernandes, a dock worker who was protesting in Rio.

The CUT union said around 35 million Brazilians didn’t show up for work on Friday, more than one-third of the working population. But government officials downplayed the strike, insisting that many Brazilians were still at work.

“We don’t have a strike, we have widespread riots,” Justice Minister Osmar Serraglio said on Joven Pam radio.

Brazil’s economy is in a deep recession, and many Brazilians are frustrated with Temer’s government. Temer, whose approval ratings are hovering around 10 percent, has argued the proposed changes will benefit Brazilians in the long run. But with so many out of work, many feel they can ill afford any cuts to their benefits.

Meanwhile, the country is mired in a colossal scandal involving billions of dollars in kickbacks to politicians and other public officials. Over the last three years, dozens of top politicians and businessmen have been jailed in the so-called Car Wash investigation that has produced near daily revelations of wrongdoing.

Scores of sitting politicians, including Temer himself and several of his ministers, have been implicated. Temer denies wrongdoing.

In one the largest demonstrations Friday, thousands of protesters gathered in front Rio de Janeiro’s state assembly in the afternoon and were fighting pitched battles with police who tried to remove them. Police fired tear gas while protesters threw stones and lit small fires in the middle of streets.

In Sao Paulo, police told downtown shopkeepers to close early, apparently out of concern that protesters might head there. Throughout the day, 21 people were arrested in Sao Paulo, according to military police.

Underscoring the economic malaise, the IBGE statistics agency announced on Friday that unemployment had jumped to 13.7 percent in the first quarter of the year, up from 12 percent.

The anger over the proposed changes to benefits shows that Temer’s government has failed to convince the people that the moves are necessary, said Oliver Stuenkel, who teaches international relations at the Fundacao Getulio Vargas university in Sao Paulo. And yet, the proposed laws have been moving fairly easily through Congress, and had been expected to eventually pass.

“This is a peculiar government that has low approval and still gets work done in Congress,” he said. “But lawmakers also think of their re-elections next year. After today, there could be a bigger risk for Temer in getting any meaningful bills passed.”

___

Savarese reported from Sao Paulo.

Zika Virus Can Trigger Epilepsy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CBS NEWS)

Zika virus can trigger epilepsy

Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes can spread the Zika virus. An infected pregnant woman’s newborn can be affected and experience severe neurological birth defects.

CBS NEWS

Beyond its known links to birth defects and other problems, the Zika virus may also trigger cases of epilepsy in infants, warn experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among 48 babies from Brazil with probable congenital Zika infection, “50 percent reportedly had clinical seizures,” said Dr. Daniel Pastula, Dr. Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp and Rosemarie Kobau.

All three have studied Zika at the CDC, and co-wrote an essay on the Zika-epilepsy connection, published online April 17 in JAMA Neurology.

The Zika virus is transmitted via mosquito bites, and its most devastating effects occur when pregnant women are infected. In those cases, Zika can trigger severe neurological birth defects such as microcephaly, where infants are born with underdeveloped skulls and brains. Thousands of such cases have occurred in South America, most notably in Brazil.

And other pediatric defects and illnesses linked to Zika are emerging.

According to the CDC team, besides the group of 48 babies cited above, seven of another group of 13 Zika-exposed babies in Brazil were also diagnosed as having epilepsy.

The finding isn’t overly surprising since the types of brain abnormalities seen in Zika-affected newborns have been linked to seizures and epilepsy in the past, the team noted.

In a prior study, babies exposed to another common virus, called cytomegalovirus, had higher rates of epilepsy as well — and showed brain abnormalities that were similar to those associated with Zika.

All of this points to “the need to examine how and to what extent congenital Zika virus infection and resulting brain abnormalities are associated with seizures and/or epilepsy,” the CDC authors wrote.

Early diagnosis of affected babies is crucial, the researchers added, and may lessen “some adverse outcomes associated with developmental delay.”

Right now, parents and health care professionals may not be aware of the Zika-epilepsy link, the CDC researchers said, so cases “may be misdiagnosed or under-reported.”

The researchers believe that heightened awareness will be key to spotting cases of epilepsy linked to fetal exposure to Zika and helping babies.

In a statement, the CDC said that “better recognition, diagnosis, and reporting of seizures and epilepsy in infants and young children will help guide interventions to make sure families receive the right support and treatment.”

Brazil To Allow 100% Foreign Ownership Of Domestic Airlines

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

Brazil to sign decree for full international ownership in airlines: source

Brazilian President Michel Temer will sign on Tuesday a decree allowing foreign companies to own 100 percent of local airlines, as part of measures aimed at increasing investment in the tourism industry, a government source told Reuters on Monday.

Temer will sign the decree at a ceremony with the Tourism Minister Marx Beltrão, the source said.

Reuters first reported in January that the government was drafting the measure.

Last year, former President Dilma Rousseff issued a decree lifting the limit on foreign ownership of airlines to 49 percent from 20 percent.

As part of the new measures the government will also, according to the source, subsidize airlines to fly to remote areas that are poorly served by flights, such as parts of the Amazon.

(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri)

2,000 Jewish Teens On Spiritual Tour De Force In New York City

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CHABAD.ORG)

2,000 Jewish Teens on Spiritual Tour de Force in New York City

Students are coming in from all over the world, to then bring the spirit of the Shabbaton back home

Teens from around the world, accompanied by Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries, will pour into New York to participate in the ninth annual CTeen International Shabbaton. The official program starts Friday and lasts through Sunday. Pictured from last year is Samuel Tibi from Ra’anana, Israel; this year, his younger brother, Victor Tibi, is attending. (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)
Teens from around the world, accompanied by Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries, will pour into New York to participate in the ninth annual CTeen International Shabbaton. The official program starts Friday and lasts through Sunday. Pictured from last year is Samuel Tibi from Ra’anana, Israel; this year, his younger brother, Victor Tibi, is attending. (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)

“How many people can show up in Times Square and have a mad Jewish party there?” asks Koby Lerner, rhetorically.

The 16-year-old from San Diego will be one of more than 2,000 Jewish teenagers from countries around the world to share in a Havdalah ceremony and spend Saturday night in New York’s iconic neighborhood at Broadway and Seventh Avenue as part of the ninth annual CTeen International Shabbaton, to take place Feb. 24-26. And that’s only a part of a weekend of spirited (and spiritual) celebrations, learning, touring, socializing and more.

Koby recalls the first time he attended the Shabbaton two years ago and his first impression of Crown Heights in Brooklyn, N.Y. “At first, it seemed like we didn’t fit in there because we didn’t have black hats and white shirts,” he says. “But it didn’t matter at all to anybody there: They loved us unconditionally. You could feel the love from these random strangers.”

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These numbers, according to Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, executive director of Merkos 302, “are a testament to the dedicated Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries who have worked tirelessly to bring Jewish teens closer to Yiddishkeit.”

In Germany, getting ready for going abroad. This year will see the largest international group to date, including chapters from Moscow, Monaco and Brazil. (CTeen Photo)
In Germany, getting ready for going abroad. This year will see the largest international group to date, including chapters from Moscow, Monaco and Brazil. (CTeen Photo)

Rabbi Mendy Mottal, Chabad emissary of CTeen Paris, is accompanying 207 participants from throughout France to New York. “Each year, the energy and effort that is poured into making this event is incredible,” he says. “Our teens always have an uplifting and inspiring experience, much of which I attribute to the incredible community feeling that Crown Heights offers us.”

This year, for the first time, CTeen will welcome chapters from Moscow, Monaco and Brazil, making this the largest international group ever. And as many as 75 young Israelis are flying to New York.

Rabbi Aizik Rosenfeld of the Marina Roscha Synagogue and Jewish Community Center in Moscow will be accompanied by 22 teens to the Shabbaton, none of whom have ever been to the United States before. “They’re really pumped up,” says Rosenfeld. “New York is like a dream come true; it’s what America means to them.”

The students will be hosted by local families and experience a traditional Shabbat, similar to what it was like for many of their great-grandparents and forefathers, adds the rabbi.

Rabbi Zalman Marcus, co-director of the Chabad Jewish Center of Mission Viejo, Calif., fields questions from participants and parents about what to expect at the three-day event. (CTeen Photo)
Rabbi Zalman Marcus, co-director of the Chabad Jewish Center of Mission Viejo, Calif., fields questions from participants and parents about what to expect at the three-day event. (CTeen Photo)

“It will be an interesting experience for them, keeping Shabbat from beginning to end,” says Rosenfeld, who moved to Moscow three years ago with his wife, Blumi. He remembers being amazed at “how much liberty there is now, how much openness there is as far as Yiddishkeit in general. Still, the density of Jewish life in Moscow, growing as it is, remains very different from Crown Heights.”

For these young people, he says, every small step—such as putting on tefillinonce a week or observing Shabbat to any extent—is a huge change.

Similar to the Russian students, Rabbi Chai Kohan, head of CTeen Español, adds that “the draw for many arriving from South and Central America is the chance to meet other Jewish teens from around the world. Most of them have never traveled to the United States.”

The worldwide growth of CTeen programs like the Shabbaton is thanks to the Meromim Foundation, spearheaded by Rabbi Bentzi Lipskier. To date, the foundation has sponsored more than 40 CTeen Chabad couples under the “New Shluchim Initiative.”

The Shabbaton comes just days after thousands of women filled Brooklyn as part of the annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Women Emissaries (Kinus Hashluchos).

CTeen Côte S. Luc preps in Montreal, Canada (CTeen Photo)
CTeen Côte S. Luc preps in Montreal, Canada (CTeen Photo)

‘Part of Your Journey’

In New York, teens will get to visit some of the city’s major attractions: the Statue of Liberty, the new One World Trade Center and 9/11 Memorial, Midtown, Uptown, Downtown and more—and will spend Shabbat learning, eating, praying and getting to know one another.

Participants will also get a tour of Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway, and the President Street home and the study of the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. And they will visit the Ohel, the Rebbe’s resting place at the Old Montefiore Cemetery in Queens, N.Y.

Teens get an update in Ashkelon, Israel, about the Shabbaton. As many as 75 young Israelis are flying to New York. (CTeen Photo)
Teens get an update in Ashkelon, Israel, about the Shabbaton. As many as 75 young Israelis are flying to New York. (CTeen Photo)

Victoria Lamport, 17, from Tampa, Fla., sees the recreational parts of the Shabbaton as intrinsically connected to its more religious aspects. “It’s fun to see all your friends, to reconnect and to meet new people,” she says, “but the spiritual side to it is also the fact that you’re around so many people who are as motivated as you are . . . people who want to help, people who want to be a part of your journey, people doing certain mitzvahs for the first time and seeing how it affects them.”

She has seen that transformative energy work in her own family. “What is really awesome,” says the high school senior, “is that as I started to learn more, my family also got more involved. My dad started having the rabbi over every other week to learn. It’s been amazing to see the impact that Chabad has had on our lives.”

She hopes to spend the summer focusing on Jewish studies before starting a pre-med curriculum at college. “When I’m learning is when I really feel; I can almost feel my neshamah [‘soul’]. I don’t really know how to explain it. I just feel it—like I have a purpose in this world.”

Koby relates how exposure to the strong camaraderie that Victoria describes has been “life-changing.” Last summer, the California native went on the “CTeen Xtreme” summer travel camp out West, staying on afterwards for a yeshivah program. “I liked it so much I decided I didn’t want to go home, so I convinced my parents to let me stay.” Now, Koby lives and learns full-time at Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad in Los Angeles.

Koby Lerner of California will join the Shabbaton for a second time. The 16-year-old was also part of “CTeen Xtreme” summer travel camp last year, shown here having a blast. (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)
Koby Lerner of California will join the Shabbaton for a second time. The 16-year-old was also part of “CTeen Xtreme” summer travel camp last year, shown here having a blast. (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)

Youths Into Leaders

For many teens, the inspiration continues long after the Shabbaton is over.

“My daughter, Sydney, was always deathly afraid of getting up to speak, even to our own family,” says Craig Winawer of Dix Hills, N.Y. “Recently, I watched her make a 10-minute speech in front of our of whole shul about CTeen and the Shabbaton. This is a kid who you can barely get to say three words at our Passover seder.”

Ever since Sydney became involved four years ago, her father has watched his shy daughter transform into a real leader. Today, she is member of the CTeen International Board.

A little anxiety, however, isn’t just relegated to teenagers. Brochie Levin of Chabad Lubavitch of Alberta in Calgary, Canada, acknowledges that “as a new shlucha to CTeen, I was nervous about bringing in a group for the Shabbaton. But the amount of advice, prep and work that was put into helping us was incredible. Our teens are so excited—and so are we.”

To learn more about CTeen International and the Shabbaton, click here.

The Havdalah ceremony and celebration in Times Square 2014 (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)
The Havdalah ceremony and celebration in Times Square 2014 (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)
Times Square 2015 (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)
Times Square 2015 (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)
Times Square 2016 (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)
Times Square 2016 (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)
A group on the way from Kiryat Bialik, Israel, for the 2017 Shabbaton (CTeen Photo)
A group on the way from Kiryat Bialik, Israel, for the 2017 Shabbaton (CTeen Photo)

At Least 60 Inmates Killed in Brazil Prison Riot

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME MAGAZINE)

At Least 60 Inmates Killed in Brazil Prison Riot

“This is the biggest prison massacre in our state’s history”

(RIO DE JANEIRO) — At least 60 inmates died during a prison riot in the northern state of Amazonas, including several who were beheaded or dismembered, Brazilian state authorities said Monday.

State public security secretary Sergio Fontes said that in addition to the deaths, some inmates escaped, but he did not say how many. Several prison guards were held hostage.

“This is the biggest prison massacre in our state’s history,” Fontes said during a press conference. The riot began Sunday afternoon and lasted until Monday morning.

Two of the biggest crime gangs of Brazil began fighting last year over control of several prisons and authorities in Amazonas believe that’s the reason behind the first riot of 2017.

Fontes said the inmates made few demands to end the riot, which hints at a killing spree organized by members of a local gang against those of another that is based in Sao Paulo.

The secretary said officers found a hole in a prison wall through which authorities believe weapons entered the building.

Fontes confirmed that many of the dead had been beheaded and Judge Luis Carlos Valois, who negotiated the end of the riot with inmates, said he saw many bodies that were quartered.

“I never saw anything like that in my life. All those bodies, the blood,” Valois wrote on Facebook.

Valois said that during the negotiations, inmates only asked “that we did not transfer them, made sure they were not attacked and kept their visitation.”

The riot ended after the inmates freed the last of the 12 prison staffers they had held hostage, Valois said.

In another prison in Amazonas, 87 inmates escaped in the first hours of Monday, Fonte said.

One of the inmates posted a picture on Facebook as he left the prison.

Greece’s Ambassador To Brazil Murdered By His Wife’s Lover

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) Police contend Greece’s ambassador to Brazil was killed by his wife’s lover — a military police officer — and the widow is being questioned in the crime, Brazil’s state-run Agencia Brasil news agency reported Saturday.

Chief Evaristo Pontes, a police investigator in the Baixada Fluminense state, said Friday that Sergio Gomes Moreira Filho claimed he killed the ambassador in self-defense and then recruited his cousin to help dispose of the body, Agencia Brasil News reported.
Ambassador Kyriakos Amiridis, 59, had been missing since Monday, Pontes said. A burned car with Amiridis’ charred body inside was found in Nova Iguaçu, a town outside Rio de Janeiro, on Thursday, he said.
“He (Moreira) says he got into a physical fight with the ambassador, and he had no choice other than to hit the ambassador and kill him,” Pontes said. “He says he was in desperation and didn’t know what to do, given what had happened, so he asked a cousin for help and they went to make the ambassador’s body disappear.”
Greek ambassador to Brazil Kyriakos Amiridis.

Besides Moreira, the ambassador’s widow, Francoise De Souza Oliveira, and the officer’s cousin, Eduardo Moreira de Melo, are also being questioned, Pontes said.
Pontes said investigators think Oliveira ordered the killing. No charges have been filed.
“She only told us that her lover — let’s call him that — the military policeman, was the author of the crime, executed this crime against her husband,” Pontes said. “She denies taking part.”
Agencia Brasil reported the officer killed Amiridis inside the ambassador’s home in Nova Iguaçu. The officer and his cousin wrapped the body in carpet and put it inside a car, Agencia Brasil reported.
Pontes said the cousin told police Moreira offered “to pay him 80,000 reals (about $24,574) 30 days after the crime, a period after which they thought there wouldn’t be any more problems.”
“All are under temporary arrest for 30 days for the ambassador’s death,” Pontes said. ” As we said before, this was a tragic, cowardly act.”
Amiridis had lived in Brasilia, the capital, since being appointed ambassador in January but usually spent holidays in the house outside Rio, where he was consul-general from 2001 to 2004, Agencia Brasil said.
The news agency said Oliveira was Brazilian.
Speaking to reporters outside the police station, Francisco Oliveira, the widow’s brother, said the couple “did not fight,” reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
“For me it’s like a dream,” said Rosangela Oliveira, her mother. “I’ll wake up and nothing will have happened.”
Brazilian President Michel Temer’s office issued this statement: “In this moment of pain and sorrow, I offer, on behalf of the Brazilians, my condolences and solidarity to the government and people of Greece, in particular to the families and people close to Ambassador Amiridis.”
The statement says Brazilian authorities will investigate the incident thoroughly.
“The Brazilian government reaffirms its willingness to collaborate actively with the Greek side, as it has done from the beginning,” the statement said.
Greece’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing its “deepest sorrow” at the death of Amiridis.
“The late diplomat served at the Permanent Mission of Greece to the EU, at the General Consulates in Rio de Janeiro and Rotterdam and at the Greek Embassy in Belgrade during the first phase of the war in Yugoslavia,” the statement said.

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