Development partnership conference: what did we learn?

April 23, 2014

globe north south americaThe Guardian, 04/23/14

The first High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (GPEDC) drew to a conclusion last week in Mexico. Many coming into the meeting were somewhat confused about how it would play out. The chairman of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) development assistance committee, Erik Solheim, a leading progressive voice in official development circles for some years, admitted in his closing speech that he, too, had been nervous about the meeting.

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Seven Houstonians convicted in plan to send assault rifles into Mexico

April 22, 2014

Guns by Flickr user barjackHouston Chronicle, 4/21/14

Seven Houstonians have been convicted in a federal court of conspiring to traffic dozens of AK-47 variant rifles into Mexico, federal attorneys and ATF officials announced Monday.
Abel Lopez, 34, Arturo Garcia, 30, Roberto Santana Mears, 22, Mary Bel Deanda, 39, Martha Gonzales, 41, Angel Aquino-Pineda, 27, and Javier Resendez, 29, have all pleaded guilty in connection with the operation.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Hugo R. Martinez and Jeffery D. Preston prosecuted the case in Corpus Christi. A 2013 traffic stop in Kingsville by the Kingsville Specialized Crimes and Narcotics Task Force uncovered 35 AK-47 variant rifles and $26,000 concealed cash inside a truck driven by Aquino-Pineda.

He told investigators he was transporting the weapons from Houston to McAllen with their final destination intended for Mexico. The serial numbers on seven of the rifles found in his possession had been removed.  ATF investigators were then able to trace the rifles back to Houston and a straw purchasing scheme involving Deanda, Garcia, Gonzales and Mears who were buying the rifles for Resendez and Lopez.

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Mexico City’s Plan Verde

April 22, 2014

environment - child hugging treeGreen Cities

Previously known as one of the world’s most polluted cities, Mexico City is cleaning up its act, starting with Plan Verde (Green Plan). This 15-year initiative began in 2007, and is backed by the United Nations and the World Bank. Plan Verde aims to set aside approximately 8% of the city’s annual budget for implementing extensive and ambitious initiatives to make the city more environmentally friendly. These initiatives cover many topics of sustainability, but the main focus is on improving air quality and reducing traffic. Environmental awareness has been expanding throughout Mexico as efforts are made to preserve water supply, increase renewable energy production, and protect endangered species. Mexico City is leading the country in its environmental endeavors.

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Immigration reform: If Obama moves on his own, how big a political risk?

April 22, 2014

Adcocates rally for immigrant rights in Dallas

Christian Science Monitor, 4/21/14

President Obama has long insisted he does not have the power to waive deportations of illegal immigrants on his own.  Put under pressure from political allies, Mr. Obama may be headed for some changes of immigration policy via the Department of Homeland Security. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson is considering limiting deportations of undocumented immigrants who do not have serious criminal records, the Associated Press reported Monday.

Obama set the stage for the reported recommendations last month, when he ordered Secretary Johnson to review how current immigration law is implemented, with an eye toward conducting enforcement “more humanely,” as the White House put it.

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U.S. Plans to Sell Mexico 18 Black Hawks to Tackle Drug Trade

April 22, 2014

800px-US_Marine_Corps_UH-1N_Huey_helicopterThe Wall Street Journal, 4/21/14

The U.S. approved plans to sell Mexico as many as 18 Black Hawk helicopters in a $680 million deal aimed at bolstering efforts to combat drug trafficking.

The State Department approved the potential sale of 18 UH-60M Black Hawks made by Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in an announcement that comes ahead of a planned visit to Mexico this week by U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

In its efforts to tackle the drug trade, Mexico has acquired maritime patrol planes, smaller helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles and surveillance equipment. Its military budget has tripled over the past decade to 100 billion Mexican pesos ($7.68 billion) last year, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a think tank.

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Mexico food labeling rules draw fire on sugar

April 22, 2014

Obese manThe Washington Post, 4/21/14

Mexico’s new food labeling rules were supposed to help fight an obesity epidemic, but activists and experts said Monday they may actually encourage the public to consume high levels of sugar. The debate over sugar has grown bitter, in a country with one of the highest obesity rates in the Western Hemisphere.

The new label rules unveiled last week list the amount of sugar and other contents as a percent of recommended daily intakes. The new labels will no longer list the weights of the ingredients, instead simply listing them as calories and percentages of recommended daily intake.

But the labels assume that an average acceptable daily consumption of sugar is about 360 calories, equivalent to about 90 grams of sugar. The World Health Organization has proposed a sugar intake of as little as 100 calories or about 25 grams per day.

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US Rules Against Mexico, Turkey in Steel Dispute

April 22, 2014

sparks while workingABC News, 4/21/14

President Barack Obama’s administration on Monday sided with American steel producers in a politically charged international trade dispute, ruling that imported steel reinforcing bar from Mexico and Turkey unfairly undercuts U.S. prices.

The preliminary decision by the U.S. Department of Commerce means companies in Mexico and Turkey will be subject to immediate duties. Within a week, the U.S. government will stop distribution at the nation’s borders of the imported steel reinforcing bar, which is known as steel rebar and is used to reinforce concrete, until a cash bond or deposit is posted in the amount of the newly imposed duties. U.S. Customs and Border Protection may impose retroactive duties for up to 90 days before the ruling due to the seriousness of the violations, Commerce said.

The amount of duties ranges from 10 percent to 66 percent for Mexican companies. For Turkish companies, the duties were roughly 2 percent.

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