La Señal Informativa de América Latina <![CDATA[Disgraced South Korean ex-President Park Goes on Trial]]> Tue, 23 May 2017 05:51:00 -0400 South Korea's embattled former president, Park Guen-hye, faced the court today.

South Korean Ex-President Park Geun-Hye Formally Indicted

The ex-head of state, who was impeached, attended the first formal hearing for the corruption charges that has been brought against her. Park is South Korea's the first democratically elected president to be removed from office.

Park was brought to the Seoul Central District Court in handcuffs. And camera flashes went off as the disgraced politician emerged in a dark-coloured jacket with her inmate number attached to it. She sat before a three-judge panel which included Judge Kim Se-yun, who asked Park, "What is your occupation?" to which she replied: "I don't have any occupation."

Park held her head straight as prosecutors read out the charges. "The accused Park Geun-Hye, in collusion with her friend Choi Soon-Sil...abused power and pressured business companies to provide bribes, thus taking private gains," senior prosecutor Lee Won-Seok informed the court.

Prosecutors told the court that last year Park and Choi colluded in receiving seven billion won ($6m) from Shin Dong-Bin, the chairman of retail giant Lotte. Park is also accused of letting Choi, who has no title or security clearance, handle a wide range of state affairs including senior nominations.

Park faces 18 charges including extortion, bribery and abuse of power – all of which she denies.

If convicted, Park could be sentenced to life in prison.

Al Jazeera reported that about 250 people, mostly older South Koreans, gathered outside the court to decry the charges against Park. Some even expressed that they believe the former president has been framed. While others, who support the process, say it is important for South Korean democracy that this process goes ahead.

<![CDATA[Supreme Court Strikes down N. Carolina's Racial Gerrymander]]> Tue, 23 May 2017 03:29:00 -0400 Yesterday the Supreme Court struck down North Carolina's congressional map.

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The court found the that the Republican legislature was unconstitutional when it used race to draw the district lines, which reduced the voting power of minorities in the state.

Ultra-conservative Justice Clarence Thomas sided with four liberal justices in the 5-3 majority decision. The court ruled that legislators packed African American voters into two districts, in violation of the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. Justice Neil Gorsuch, who joined the court in April, did not participate in the ruling.

Election law expert Rick Hasen wrote on his blog: "This decision by Justice [Elena] Kagan is a major victory for voting rights plaintiffs, who have succeeded in turning the racial gerrymandering cause of action into an effective tool to go after partisan gerrymanders in southern states. That Justice Kagan got Justice Thomas not only to vote this way but to sign onto the opinion (giving it precedential value) is a really big deal."

The Republican majority in North Carolina's legislature drew the congressional district map in 2011. It added more African Americans to two districts that had significant black populations and had consistently elected the Democratic representatives since the 1990s.

Voters in those districts sued, claiming that the lawmakers had intentionally reduced African American voter turnout in other parts of North Carolina. States are generally not allowed to use race as the predominant factor in drawing district lines.

To justify their changes to one of those districts, the 1st Congressional District (CD1), Republican lawmakers claimed they were complying with the mandate of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA), which states that minority voters must be able to elect representatives of their choosing. In a brief to the Supreme Court, the legal team defending the Republican map argued that past voting behavior in CD1 could not predict future voting, particularly since the 2011 map added nearly 100,000 people to the district. In February of last year, a federal district court disagreed and ruled that the use of race in drawing the CD1 was unconstitutional.

"Although States enjoy leeway to take race-based actions reasonably judged necessary under a proper interpretation of the VRA, that latitude cannot rescue District 1," Kagan wrote. "Neither will we approve a racial gerrymander whose necessity is supported by no evidence and whose raison d’être is a legal mistake."

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Specifically, the Supreme Court found that the state's argument that the VRA could be used to pack black voters into a district was not supported by the law.

Despite the Supreme Court's decision, the 2011 map has served Republicans well over the years in North Carolina, even as it has made its way through state and federal court.

In 2012 and 2014, when the statewide vote was closely divided, Republicans won 10 of the 13 House seats. Last year, Republicans managed to retain that 10-3 advantage, even though U.S. President Donald Trump won the state by the slimmest of margins, with Democrat Rory Cooper winning the governorship.

<![CDATA[Over 58,000 Haitians Facing Deportation in US Get Extension]]> Tue, 23 May 2017 02:37:00 -0400 Nearly 60,000 Haitians were yesterday given a reprieve and will be allowed to stay in the U.S, for now.

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The Haitians have had the special protected status since the catastrophic 7.0-magnitude earthquake, which destroyed a large portion of Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010. On Monday the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stated that they will be allowed to stay in the U.S. for another six months. Officials from the DHS said there are about 58,700 Haitians living in the US under the temporary protected status.

The Haitians were facing orders to return home starting July 23, had the department did not renew the Temporary Protected Status (TPS). 

The advocacy group Haitian Women of Miami, said it was disappointed that the extension was only six months rather than 18. "As we have stated numerous times, Haiti is in no position to safely absorb an additional 50,000 persons, nor to make up for the remittances that would be curtailed," it said in a statement. "Haitian immigrants will continue to live in fear and will be further pushed in the shadows," it added. Tens of thousand of people lost their lives and more than one million people were displaced during the earthquake. And since the disaster, Haiti has struggled against hurricane, political turmoil and a cholera epidemic.

The TPS allows the Haitians to remain in the United States past the expiration of their visas and work legally.

The extension expires in January and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly will decide whether to grant another one or terminate it altogether. "I believe there are indications that Haiti – if its recovery from the 2010 earthquake continues at pace – may not warrant further TPS extension past January 2018," Kelly said in the statement. "TPS as enacted in law is inherently temporary in nature, and beneficiaries should plan accordingly that this status may finally end after the extension announced today."

The U.S. Government has been deporting Haitians who do not have temporary protected status, as part of its crackdown on illegal immigration.

<![CDATA[Iconic Cuban Rumba Group 'Los Muñequitos' Celebrates 65 Years]]> Tue, 23 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400 The Latin Grammy Award-winning Cuban musical group, "Los Muñequitos de Matanzas", is celebrating its 65th-anniversary with 65 performances in several cities in the Caribbean country until October, the Rafael Somavilla Provincial Center of Music told Prensa Latina Monday.

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The group was initially called "Guaguanco Matancero" and their lead singers Esteban Lantri and Hortensio Alfonso were protagonists of one of the most famous Cuban rumba duets, recalled the spokesman of CPMRS, Luis Ortega.

Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, one of the most recognized rumba groups in Cuba — with all the flavor and irresistible cadence of the musical expression of the island — began the performances in April, Prensa Latina reported.

According to Ortega, the 65 "Rumbones" of Los Muñequitos de Matanzas will perform for hospitals, nursing homes, orphanages, schools and other centers. "In June they will visit Germany, and in September Japan," Ortega told Prensa Latina.

Cuban Rumba was included in the representative list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in November.

<![CDATA[Haitians Workers Fight for Higher Minimum Wage Suppressed by Clinton's State Department]]> Mon, 22 May 2017 23:16:00 -0400 Clothing factories in an industrial park in Haiti's capital were closed Friday and have remained shut for three days as thousands of garment workers have taken to the streets demanding a raise in the minimum wage.

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Nearly 18,000 factory workers are employed in factories in Caracol Industrial Park and are also fighting for social benefits like subsidies for food, transport, and construction of social housing apart from the increase in wages.

Amid a depreciating currency and a rising cost of living, the Haitian workers said that with their current wages, they were unable to support their families. A Friday protest which first shuttered the factories occurred days after a significant increase in the price of gasoline.

According to memos obtained by Wikileaks in 2008 and 2009, the U.S. State Department blocked a proposal for minimum wage increase in Haiti.
"In 2009, while Bill Clinton was setting up one of the family’s shell companies in New York, in that same year Hillary Clinton was at the State Department working with U.S. corporations to pressure Haiti not to raise the minimum wage to 61 cents an hour from 24 cents," Lee Camp, an activist of RT’s Redacted Tonight told PolitiFact.

The memos show that U.S. embassy officials in Haiti opposed the wage hike and met multiple times with factory owners who directly lobbied against it to the Haitian president.

"It's gotten to the point where I can't take care of my son. I don't see any future in this," said Esperancia Mernavil, a garment worker who belongs to the Gosttra union, told the AP.

Workers are demanding 800 Haitian gourdes per eight-hour work day, that roughly amounts to US$12.47 per day. They now earn 300 gourdes, or US$4.67.

According to AP, the industrialists and government officials met in the Port-au-Prince park, amid heavy police presence. The Social Affairs and Work Minister, Roosevelt Bellevue said Monday that the government will sit down with all sides but "we can't put up the minimum salary that much," AP reported.

"We have to be competitive with other places," Bellevuea added, saying that he expected the factories to reopen Tuesday.

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The workers fought back for years to move the wage to US$5 per day or 61 cents per hour. But still, no matter how many hours Haitian women work at the sweatshops in Haiti, they cannot survive to pay for shelter, transportation, food and their children's schooling, with the high inflation and high price of gas and cost of living.

In 2008, when the Haitian Parliament started discussing doubling or tripling the daily minimum wage of 70 Haitian gourdes to keep up with inflation, roughly amounting to US$1.75 a day or about 22 cents per hour, the Wikileaks cables show that the U.S. Embassy officials started monitoring the minimum wage issue during the same period.

In 2009, lawmakers voted to more than double Haiti's minimum wage for the workers in the country's apparel factories, from about US$1.75 a day to roughly US$3.75 a day. In 2014, Haiti raised its minimum wage to US$5.11.

During 2008 and 2009, the U.S. embassy officials told Washington that a hike would hurt the economy and undermine U.S. trade preference legislation, known as the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act of 2006. According to the HOPE legislation, the garments manufactured on the island will have duty-free access to the U.S. markets. HOPE benefits corporate giants such as Levi Strauss, Haneswear, Nautica, and Dockers.

In 2011, nearly 2000 Wikileaks cables made available to the Nation and Haiti Liberte, a weekly newspaper in Port-au-Prince, also concluded that the "U.S. Embassy in Haiti worked closely with factory owners contracted by Levi’s, Hanes, and Fruit of the Loom to aggressively block a paltry minimum wage increase."

<![CDATA[ChocQuibTown Shows Solidarity With Colombia Buenaventura Strike]]> Mon, 22 May 2017 23:11:00 -0400 Afro-Colombians give full support to the civic strike in Buenaventura, a major port in the southern Colombian Pacific coast, in the department of the Valle del Coca, the singer of internationally renowned band ChocQuibTown, Tostao, affirmed Monday.

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“The strike in Colombian Pacific is legitimate, we don't understand how can the (Colombia's special anti-riot police force) ESMAD attack protesters when the mobilization is just,” he said in an interview with Prensa Latina.

On Saturday — the fourth day of a general strike in the Colombian state of Choco — clashes between the ESMAD and strikers broke out on the Pinal Bridge and in the local community of La Delfina.

Several people were injured by tear gas inhalation, including two children who were transferred to a local clinic.

“We express our solidarity and support to the brothers and sisters that are rising now to denounce structural racism and demand fundamental rights like access to water, health, employment and dignity,” he added.

ChocQuibTown received international recognition with the hit “De Donde Vengo Yo” (“From Where I Come”), which the Latin Grammy jury selected as the best alternative song of 2010. The single was a strong statement against racism and discrimination directed toward Afro-Colombians.

The civic strike organizers, composed of 177 groups in Buenaventura, are waiting for government representatives to outline a negotiation agenda. They also solicited a commission including the U.N. Human Rights representative in Colombia, Todd Howland, and Cali's Archbishop Jesus Monsalve Mejia.

A spokesperson for the Afro-Colombian community in Bogota, Juan de Dios Mosquera recalled that the day of African identity (Sunday) was not for celebrating but resisting.

“The tambores are now resonating in order to resist, and to remind us that no one gave us freedom,” he explained.

The Afro-Colombians living in Popayan, in the southern province of Cauca, also called for mobilizations, “with the firm objective to support our sisters and brothers of Buenaventura, Choco, and in general in the Pacific.”

Choco, Colombia’s Poorest Region, Calls for Civil Strike

Two weeks ago, residents of Colombia's Choco department vowed to continue a civic strike against the government's negligence in the face of poverty and violence in northern Colombia.

Organizers argued that the government of President Juan Manuel Santos hasn't met 2 percent of the commitments made to Choco residents following a similar strike last year. These commitments included improvements in the areas of health, education, safety and transportation.

Choco, home to large Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities, is currently the poorest department in the country. Some 65.9 percent of Choco’s population now live below the poverty line, according to Colombia Reports. Apart from economic and social crises, many also face evictions, displacement or targeted kidnappings, death threats and homicides as paramilitary violence continues in the area despite a historic peace agreement signed by the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in late 2016.

According to a 2014 report, 36 percent of the children in Choco do not have a healthy size and weight for their age. The report also found that child mortality was higher than the average rate in the rest of the South American country.

<![CDATA[Venezuela Arrests Financier of Violent Opposition Protests]]> Mon, 22 May 2017 22:28:00 -0400 The spokesperson of far-right party Voluntad Popular was arrested Monday on allegations of organizing and funding violent groups in the capital, reported Venezuela's Vice President Tareck El Aissami.

Majority Killed in Venezuela Opposition Protests Not Protesters

Jorge Machado Jimenez was accused of leading the hot spots, in charge of recruiting people and organizing actions, said El Aissami. Jimenez is also suspected of being responsible for money laundering in order to fund the actions in Caracas.

Earlier Monday morning, the police arrested 16 people in Los Altos Mirandinos at a site that authorities identified as an “armed cell” that was “besieging the communities living in the area.”

In another site that is suspected of providing logistical support, three people were arrested, while material estimated at about US$250,000, including detonators and chemicals for arson, a shotgun, and 20,000 notes of different currencies, were seized.

Two other suspects were arrested and accused of setting fire to 53 buses belonging to the TransBolivar company in the state of Bolivar.

<![CDATA[India Awards Army Officer Who Used Human Shield in Kashmir]]> Mon, 22 May 2017 19:38:00 -0400 Just last month, video footage of a young man tied to the front of an army vehicle being paraded in villages located in central Kashmir's Budgam district went viral. On Monday, Major Leetul Gogoi, who tied the young man to the front of the vehicle was awarded the army chief’s commendation card.

Indian Army Uses Protester as Human Shield in Kashmir

Colonel Aman Anand, an army spokesperson, said in a statement, the officer was awarded for “sustained efforts in CI (counter-insurgency) operations," which many saw as recognition for using a human shield to set an example to other protesters who will meet a similar fate.

The army officials defended the inhumane act as a measure to save its personnel from protesters' stone-pelting. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said in a statement that Major Gogoi was sent to help by officials at a polling booth that was allegedly surrounded by hundreds of stone-pelters.

“The poll booth is symbolic of democracy. He should not be criticized. The army should be applauded. They are guarding our northern and north-eastern frontiers admirably,” Rohatgi said.

Taking the army's side, the Indian government said the officer-in-charge “did a smart thing and defused a nasty situation," the Hindustan Times reported.

The video has further intensified the animosity between the army and the civilians in the militant valley, triggering a series of protests in Kashmir amid ongoing anti-Indian government rallies and protests. The separatists deemed it “expected lines from an oppressor."

The longstanding conflict is taking a new turn as sections of the 70-year-old Kashmir separatist movement seem to be aligning with the ideals of al-Qaida.

Zakir Musa, the commander of Kashmir's s largest anti-India militia has explicitly distanced himself from the movement in the valley as well as from elements who wish to merge with Pakistan. According to the Guardian, Musa has declared his fight as “exclusively for Islam, so that Sharia (Islamic law) is established here."

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An audio statement made public through social media in the past weeks showed the growing ideological rift between Kashmir’s old guard of separatist leaders and a new, social-media savvy generation of rebels heavily influenced by radical Islam.

The militant went on to praise the Taliban “because (it) wants an Islamic system in Pakistan”, adding, “We do love Pakistan because that country was created in the name of Islam. But there is no Islam at present, so we are unhappy with it. We have to do jihad with Pakistan as well.”

In response, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an alliance of Kashmiri separatist groups comprising of the traditional leaders of the movement, distanced itself from the new wave of militants' comments, the Guardian reported.

“Terrorism and freedom movement are poles apart,” it said. “Our movement has nothing to do with these world level groups and practically they are non-existent in our state,” it said in a statement.

<![CDATA[Majority Killed in Venezuela Opposition Protests Not Protesters]]> Mon, 22 May 2017 19:14:00 -0400 The majority of the people killed in violent opposition protests in Venezuela that have sought to oust President Nicolas Maduro over the past two months were not demonstrating, found a Public Ministry's report presented by the Bolivarian government Monday.

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The report — monitoring the 51 days of opposition protests, was presented by Communication Minister Ernesto Villegas, Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez and the head of the Human Rights National Council, Larry Devoe at a press conference, citing a death toll nearing 60 victims.

Countering the narrative spread by the opposition and the international media, Villegas insisted that the state was not responsible for the great majority of the victims, taking into account that every life was important and that the government's priority is to ensure no more people die in the protests.

The report listed 15 people who were killed while protesting, including eight who died after being electrocuted in a community-run bakery while people were looting the El Valle district in Caracas.

Six people were killed by barricades erected at violent opposition protests, while a total of 13 people died outside of the areas of protests, including a child shot by criminals whose mother testified in a video presented at the press conference, where she also blamed opposition leaders for trying to use her son's death for political ends.

In total, seven Chavistas have been killed, four of which are believed to have been targeted assassinations, while four police officers have been killed, according to the report.

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Family members of another seven victims have declared that their loved ones were not demonstrating when they were killed in an effort to clarify contradictory reports, while another four victims were killed by unconventional weapons such as metal objects not used by police forces.

Nevertheless, the minister did not deny the existence of deaths during demonstrations; he emphasized that investigations were ongoing, and no impunity will be tolerated. However, the great majority of police officers have fulfilled their duty in an “admirable” way, he added, considering the conditions, including opposition protesters throwing their excrement in dangerous glass bottles at them constantly.

He urged the extreme right-wing sectors of the opposition to end their violence, “Political factions that have given up on politics must stop calling for violence that attempts to violently impose their agenda on the country, which is outside of the constitution,” he told reporters.

He recalled that Maduro has prohibited the use of plastic bullets by all security forces, to avoid “a potentially even greater tragedy. If any police officer is caught using any type of weapon, he or she will be prosecuted," he warned.

The situation is dangerously reminiscent of the 2002 failed coup against late President Hugo Chavez when opposition sectors deliberately tried to blame several murders on the government, he warned.

<![CDATA[Fatalities in Manchester Arena Blast at Ariana Grande Concert]]> Mon, 22 May 2017 18:52:00 -0400 A blast Monday night at a concert in the northern English city of Manchester where U.S. singer Ariana Grande had been performing left at least 22 dead and 59 injured, police said.

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The British Transport police said one explosion was reported to have hit the foyer of the building at about 10:30 p.m. Multiple witnesses said they heard an explosion, with one telling the Guardian the blast shook the building.

"We were making our way out and when we were right by the door there was a massive explosion and everybody was screaming," concert-goer Catherine Macfarlane told Reuters.

"It was a huge explosion — you could feel it in your chest. It was chaotic. Everybody was running and screaming and just trying to get out."

According to one fan, the loud bangs reverberated even as people fled the arena. People were reportedly seen fleeing covered in blood.

British Prime Minister, Theresa May said in a statement, "We are working to establish the full details. All our thoughts are with the victims and the families of those who have been affected."

So far, the police have not discovered any evidence that ties the fatal incident to terrorist activity.

"We can confirm there was an incident as people were leaving the Ariana Grande show last night. The incident took place outside the venue in a public space," Manchester Arena said in a statement.

Manchester Arena, the largest indoor arena in Europe, opened in 1995 and has a capacity for 21,000 people, according to its website. It is a popular concert and sporting venue.

Buses have been pressed into service to ferry people out of the area, while some local taxi companies are also offering free rides for those affected. Rail services next to Manchester Arena are closed. #RoomForManchester is emerging on social media to help those affected and offer spaces to stay the night for those who were at the concert who can’t easily get home since transport away from the area will be difficult.

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A spokesman for Ariana Grande's record label said that the singer was "okay." A video posted on Twitter showed fans screaming and running out of the venue.

Another 16-year-old eye-witness told the Guardian, that he and his two friends had come from Lincoln for this evening’s show. They were sat next to the stage when they heard explosions as the performance came to an end.

“A lot of people are saying that there were two explosions, but we all heard three,” he says.

“It sounded like a gunshot. At first, we thought it as a balloon, but then we felt the vibrations and stuff so we realized it wasn’t a balloon. Our parents heard the explosion from (their) hotel.”

A 15-year-old girl told the Guardian, “There were people falling over the chairs trying to get away and when we were running out we saw blood up the walls.”

The Greater Manchester police also warned people not to be alarmed as officers will carry out a controlled explosion.

<![CDATA[Bolivia Closer to Legalizing Abortion in Case of Rape, Poverty]]> Mon, 22 May 2017 17:30:00 -0400 The Constitutional Commission of Bolivia's lower chamber passed the article of a bill meant to ease access to abortion Saturday, with eight votes in favor out of 10 legislators.

Bolivia Eyes Legalizing Abortion for Women in Extreme Poverty

Article 152 would modify the penal code to decriminalize abortion in the first eight weeks of pregnancy, easing restrictions for when the mother is in extreme poverty or doesn't have sufficient resources to support a child; when she already has three or more children; or if she is still studying.

The bill in its entirety would authorize the practice of abortion at any stage of the pregnancy to prevent a future risk for the mother's life; in the case of fetal deformities; when the pregnancy is a consequence of a rape or incest; or when the pregnant woman is a girl or a teenager. The bill also indicates that the attending doctors can't deny the termination of pregnancy and must maintain professional secrecy.

If passed, women requesting an abortion would only have to complete "a document of informed consent for the woman and indicate the causes and circumstances of her decision, without the need for any other requirement of any nature" to access the procedure.

The debate was short, and the legislators rejected a proposal by opposition representative Mayra Paz to postpone the vote for another time when a national debate could be held. Conservative representative Wilson Santamaria, surprisingly voted in favor of the article, while Eleuterio Huallpa, of the governing Movement for Socialism, voted against.

In 2015 the Women's Hospital of La Paz reported that every day, at least 10 women arrive in critical condition as a result of clandestine, incomplete or poorly performed abortions. The Bolivian Medical Association announced that 115 illegal abortions were performed daily in 2016 and warned of the increase in these procedures in the country.

<![CDATA[Possible Leak Being Investigated at US Nuclear Site ]]> Mon, 22 May 2017 15:48:00 -0400 The site that helped build the first U.S. nuclear arsenal 70 years ago has suffered a possible leak.

Tunnel Collapses at Washington Nuclear Waste Plant

An investigation has begun at a U.S. nuclear facility after radioactive material was found on a worker’s clothing. A contractor with Washington River Protection Solutions also noticed a spike in radiation levels on a device called a "crawler" that had been taken out of a nuclear waste tank.

"Established decontamination procedures were followed, which involves removing the contaminated clothing. Further surveying the worker showed no contamination remained. No other workers were affected, and all members of the crew were cleared for normal duty," said WRPS spokesman Peter Bengtson, reported The Independent.

At the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hanford site, is the Double-Shell Tank AZ-101, which contains 800,000 gallons of nuclear waste, according to the Washington Department of Ecology, which oversees it.

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Washington governor Jay Inslee called it a “serious situation,” and a message was sent to workers telling them to “secure ventilation in your building” and to “refrain from eating or drinking."

Just last week, workers were told to “take cover” after a tunnel in the nuclear finishing plant collapsed. It did not leak or spill radioactive materials but still caused an uproar.

Spokesperson Shaylyn Hynes told media that the U.S. Department of Energy is continuing to monitor the situation.

<![CDATA[Bolivia's Evo Morales Slams Trump, Almagro for Hostility Toward Latin America's Left]]> Mon, 22 May 2017 15:35:00 -0400 Bolivian President Evo Morales shared strong words on his Twitter account Monday directed at both U.S. President Donald Trump and Organization of American States chief Luis Almagro, slamming attempts at foreign intervention and arguing that instead of dwelling on Venezuela, attention should now turn to the deepening political scandal rocking Brazil.

OAS Chief Luis Almagro's Twitter Warfare Reveals Obsession with Venezuela

“Instead of obsessing over Venezuela, Almagro should look more at Brazil, which is living a political crisis provoked by corrupt coup-backers,” Morales wrote on his Twitter account.

The comments come amid opposition protests in Venezuela, ongoing for more than 50 days and increasingly spilling over into violence, as well as a new political bombshell in Brazil after a wiretap released last week provided evidence that unelected President Michel Temer had endorsed bribes to ensure the silence of a powerful witness in government corruption cases.

Morales and other progressive leaders in Latin America slammed the installation of Temer’s government last year through the removal of his predecessor Dilma Rousseff as a parliamentary coup. The witness who Temer is accused of being involved in paying off to keep quiet, former speaker of the lower house of Congress Eduardo Cunha, was the chief architect behind Rousseff’s ouster.

Although the ill-footed impeachment process attracted widespread national and international criticism, Almagro and the OAS have repeatedly turned a blind eye to the incident and the political crisis it continues to give rise to in the South American country. Meanwhile, Almagro has kept his sights firmly set on Venezuela, promoting sanctions against Caracas within the OAS.

The Bolivian leader known for taking a stand against imperialism isn’t backing down as the OAS continues to attack on Venezuela.

Bolivia’s Evo Morales Slams Luis Almagro and OAS Hypocrisy on Venezuela

Meanwhile, Morales also criticized U.S. President Donald Trump, accusing him of violating human rights and promoting foreign intervention in the wake of hostile comments from Washington toward Cuba.

“The only depot in the world is Trump for discriminating against migrants and women and imposing aggression and intervention on the peoples of the world. Ridiculous,” tweeted Morales Monday.

Trump slung insults at Cuba Saturday in a speech marking the anniversary of the founding of the Cuban republic, accusing President Raul Castro of overseeing “cruel despotism” on the socialist island. Cuba fired back by slamming Trump as “ill-advised” and his comments as “ridiculous” and “clumsy.”

Trump has demonstrated hostility toward Cuba and rejected the thawing of U.S.-Cuba ties, claiming that the normalization process should be scrapped unless Havana agrees to a better “deal,” while Raul Castro has reaffirmed that despite the changes the socialist country will never head toward capitalism.

<![CDATA[US: Members of Nazi-Reminiscent 'Alt-Reich' Group Murder Black Student]]> Mon, 22 May 2017 14:44:00 -0400 It started with a noose found in the school’s fraternity house. Next was the poster plastered all over campus that claimed: “America is a white nation.”

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Then, on Saturday May 20, 23-year-old Richard W. Collins II was stabbed and murdered. His crime? Being Black.

Collins’ murderer, 22-year-old white supremacist Sean Urbanski, was a member of a local Facebook group at the University of Maryland called “Alt-Reich: Nation.” The page contains crass, crude posts that are sexist and racist.

On that Saturday, while Collins, a student at Bowie State University visiting the UMD campus, was waiting for an Uber, he was approached and stabbed by Urbanski “totally unprovoked” with a pocketknife. Urbanski fled the scene but was detained soon after by police.

Collins was set to graduate Tuesday and had been commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army last Thursday, according to his family.

Urbanski has been charged with first and second-degree murder and first-degree assault. Given the overwhelming evidence, FBI special agent said Sunday the agency is investigating whether the attack was a hate crime.

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“When I look at the information that’s contained on that website, suffice it to say that it’s despicable, it shows extreme bias against women, Latinos, persons of Jewish faith and especially African-Americans,” said University Police Chief David Mitchell, referring to the Alt-Reich page, reported Think Progress.

“We want to get to the heart of this matter,” the university's President Wallace D. Loh added Sunday.

The Alt-Reich group is a reference to the concept of "The Fourth Reich," which was the hypothetical future German empire drummed up by Nazis that would have been the successor to Nazi Germany.

<![CDATA[Argentine Communities Doubt Court Will Hold Polluting Canadian Mining Giant Responsible for Cyanide Spills]]> Mon, 22 May 2017 14:31:00 -0400 Nearly two years after the largest mining disaster in Argentina’s history, local affected communities have little hope that that courts will hold the Canadian mining giant behind the devastating spill of 1 million liters of cyanide cocktail accountable as the company continues to rack up a record of toxic mishaps with little recourse.

Canada Mining Companies Working in Latin America Have Blood on Their Hands

An Argentine judge recently told Reuters that the world’s largest gold mining corporation, Barrick Gold, failed to complete mandated improvements to the Veladero mine in the South American country’s western San Juan province. The upgrades could have prevented the third cyanide-laced spill in less than two years, according to the judge, prompting likely sanctions against the company.

"If they had changed pipes as ordered, the decoupling (of pipes) would not have occurred," Pablo Oritja, a judge in the affected town of Jachal, told Reuters on May 5, adding that the situation "will eventually end in sanctions against the company.”

But community members in Jachal, fighting for Veladero to be shut down once and for all in the face of a proven destructive environmental history, aren’t convinced that the court will take adequate action against Barrick.

“We don’t believe that the local judge, Oritja, will seriously sanction the company given what has happened — three spills and (the court) didn’t order the closure of the mine and immediate remediation,” Gisela Carrizo, a member of the local assembly fighting against Barrick called Jachal No Se Toca, told teleSUR. “We assume that it will be the same as always — an administrative fine and nothing more.”

And while even such basic penalties for the mine’s actions remain pending, environmental activists believe it would be too little too late.

“We don’t think that sanctions will be able to remedy the damage that this company is causing to the environment,” Carrizo argued.

Canadian Mining Undermines Democracy in Central America

Barrick spewed over 280,000 gallons — 1 million liters or the equivalent of at least 40 percent of an Olympic-sized swimming pool — of cyanide solution at the Veladero mine on Sept. 12, 2015, contaminating five rivers in what experts have described as the worst mining disaster in Argentina’s history. Since then, Veladero has seen two more smaller spills, putting Barrick on the hook to potentially face a fine of more than US$9.8 million, according to San Juan’s Mining Minister Alberto Hensel.

The company vastly downplayed the severity of the 2015 spill, originally reporting the leak at just a fifth of its actual size. Repeated attempts by the company to sweep the disaster — and the corporate negligence surrounding it — under the rug have prompted serious skepticism from activists, who don’t trust the Toronto-based gold miner will clean up its act. Instead, they argue the Veladero mine should be shut down for the well-being of the environment — including fragile glaciers — and local communities.

“Barrick has continuously downplayed the environmental impacts and size of their spills, and delayed making necessary fixes to their operations to prevent future spills,” Sakura Saunders, a Toronto-based mining justice activist and founder of the organization Protest Barrick, told teleSUR. “The community no longer trusts this company and it seems that this mistrust has spread to the judiciary as well.”

Environmentalists, including Greenpeace Argentina, have long called for Veladero’s closure, pointing to the fact that the San Juan area where the mine is located is home to a UNESCO-designated biological reserve and is protected by country’s national glaciers law.

Affected community members agree that Barrick can’t be trusted to operate the open-pit cyanide-leaching gold mine — one of Argentina’s largest — in a safe way.

The Veladero case is one in a host of environmental and human rights abuses suffered in Latin America at the hands of Canadian mining corporations.

According to the mining justice organization Protest Barrick, the global mining giant has a reputation for manipulating weak regulatory structures to “rob Indigenous people of their lands, destroy sensitive ecosystems and agricultural land, support brutal police and security operations, and sue anyone who tries to report on it.”

<![CDATA[Puerto Rico Pension, Highway Agency Join Govt in Bankruptcy]]> Mon, 22 May 2017 13:44:00 -0400 Puerto Rico's federal oversight board has sought bankruptcy protection for the island's highway authority and largest public pension, making them the latest entities to turn to a court to work out debt.

Raul Castro Extends Warm Cuba Invitation to Oscar Lopez Rivera

The board filed the cases late on Sunday in U.S. District Court in San Juan, under a process akin to U.S. bankruptcy, known as Title III, that was created by the U.S Congress last year under the controversial law known as PROMESA.

Puerto Rico's central government, as well as its COFINA sales tax authority, are already in Title III bankruptcy, and a lawyer for the oversight board said last week other agencies would follow "soon."

The latest filings could set the stage for an unconventional fight between retirees and the very lenders whose money was supposed to sustain them, an indication of just how complex PuertoRico's debt structure is.

The island has nearly US$73 billion in public debt, a 45 percent poverty rate and unemployment more than twice the U.S. average.

Its pensions owe another US$50 billion to retirees who may face benefit cuts as part of PuertoRico's restructuring.

Highway authority HTA owes some US$6 billion in debt — including more than US$46 million to PuertoRico's power utility, PREPA, according to the court filing.

<![CDATA[Facebook Leaked Documents Show Content It Allows: Guardian]]> Mon, 22 May 2017 13:12:00 -0400 Leaked Facebook Inc documents show how the social media company moderates issues such as hate speech, terrorism, pornography and self-harm on its platform, the Guardian reported, citing internal guidelines seen by the newspaper.

New challenges such as "revenge porn" have overwhelmed Facebook's moderators who often have just ten seconds to make a decision, the Guardian said. The social media company reviews more than 6.5 million reports of potentially fake accounts a week, the newspaper added.

Many of the company's content moderators have concerns about the inconsistency and peculiar nature of some of the policies. Those on sexual content, for example, are said to be the most complex and confusing, the Guardian said.

Facebook confirmed that it was using software to intercept graphic content before it went on the website, but it was still in its early stages.

The leaked documents included internal training manuals, spreadsheets and flowcharts, the Guardian said.

The newspaper gave the example of Facebook policy that allowed people to live-stream attempts to self-harm because it “doesn’t want to censor or punish people in distress."

<![CDATA[Ahead of Exxon's Annual Meeting, Climate Activists Gain Ground]]> Mon, 22 May 2017 13:00:00 -0400 Shareholder activists focused on climate issues are gaining traction in their push to have large energy companies and utilities take account of the impact rising global temperatures could have on their businesses.

Proponents ranging from giant New York and California state pension funds to Wespath Investment Management of Illinois scored a number of victories this month.

Those include a resolution at PPL Corp approved by 57 percent of votes cast calling for the utility holding company to publicly report how it could be affected by policies and technologies aimed at limiting global warming.

The PPL result comes on the heels of a vote at Occidental Petroleum Corp on a similar resolution. Also, top proxy advisers recommended votes in favor of a third such resolution set for Exxon Mobil Corp's annual meeting on May 31.

Activists say the developments suggest they are at an inflection point after years of seeking support from big institutional investors like BlackRock Inc.

The reports the activists have sought through the advisory shareholder resolutions are sometimes known as "2 degree scenario analysis" reports after the goal of the 2015 Paris climate accord to limit global temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels by phasing out fossil fuels.

<![CDATA[Turkish NBA Star Calls Erdogan 'Hitler of Our Century']]> Mon, 22 May 2017 12:47:00 -0400 Enes Kanter, the NBA star whose home country, Turkey, revoked his passport over the weekend, lashed out at President Tayyip Erdogan at a news conference on Monday, calling him "the Hitler of our century" and describing himself as the victim of political retaliation.

Kanter, an outspoken Erdogan critic who plays for the National Basketball Association's Oklahoma City Thunder, returned to the United States on Sunday after being detained in Romania when authorities learned his passport had been revoked.

The 6-foot-11-inch center, whose team was eliminated from the NBA playoffs, was traveling on a charity and promotional tour.

"The reason behind it was, whoever is going to try to go against the president, he’s going to try to shut him down," Kanter said at the press conference in New York.

Kanter said he has received daily death threats, mostly over social media, including two on Monday.

He contends that Turkey revoked his travel document in retaliation for his long-time support of Fethullah Gulen, a dissident cleric who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999.

Kanter said last year he had severed ties with his family and pledged allegiance to Gulen after Turkish media published a letter signed by Kanter's father, disowning his son.

<![CDATA[Trump Visits Israel, Fortifies Imperial Bonds with Netanyahu]]> Mon, 22 May 2017 12:45:00 -0400 Hot on the heels of a meeting with Saudi King Salman Sunday, where the two fearmongered about the "threat" of Iran, U.S. President Donald Trump arrived in Israel for the second leg of his first foreign tour, meeting Monday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Palestinians Call for 'Day of Rage' During Trump Visit

Air Force One landed at Ben Gurion airport, where Trump was greeted by Netanyahu and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. The U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, was also in attendance.

In joint statements, Trump and Netanyahu both referred to hopes for a wider peace deal in the region, keeping pace with a decades-long imperial alliance between the two countries that deftly ignores the demands from oppressed peoples living in occupied Palestine.

Netanyahu glorified Trump's fearmongering speech that he delivered in Saudi Arabia, saying he agreed that the need to “drive out terrorists and extremists” was imperative.

The Israeli prime minister also stated that “Israel’s hand is extended in peace to all our neighbors, including the Palestinians. The peace we seek is a genuine one, in which the Jewish state is recognized, security remains in Israel’s hands, and the conflict ends once and for all.”

Trump, in turn, mirrored that reverence, saying that the apartheid state of Israel has “built one of the great civilizations: a strong, resilient, determined nation” that he said was “forged in the commitment that we can never allow the horrors and atrocities of the last century to be repeated.”

He continued, saying, “We have before us a rare opportunity to bring security and stability and peace to this region and to its people. But we can only get there working together. There is no other way.”

Trump also flew to Jerusalem for his first official engagement with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who welcomed him by saying, "Mr. President, we are happy to see that America is back in the area ... America is back again."

He praised the U.S.' bombing of Syria while marveling at Trump's "priority" of "defeating ISIS."

Trump then traveled to the Old City for private visits to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall — long claimed by Israel, despite its location in Jerusalem. Palestinians regard Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, while Israel proclaims the entire city as its capital.

Jewish Nation-State Bill: Israel’s Precarious Identity Is Palestine’s Nightmare

Trump has continually insisted that he will be able to bring a solution to the so-called Israeli-Palestinian "conflict." On the eve of his arrival, Israeli ministers approved measures aimed at "improving the Palestinian economy." Meanwhile, Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike and their supporters demonstrating in solidarity have faced weeks of crackdowns.

But, Trump has sent mixed signals about how he will approach the "peace process." He previously cast uncertainty on a two-state option, which is rejected by the majority of Palestinians, when he met with Netanyahu at the White House in February.

In the wake of his arrival in Israel, Palestinians in the West Bank observed a general strike in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners in Israeli jails. Protesters blocked roads in the West Bank as the hunger strike entered its 36th day.

Following this visit, the U.S. president will head to the Vatican as well as Brussels and Italy for NATO and G-7 meetings.