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The Latest Headlines From Around the World

    Mexico set a new record for homicides in the first half of the year as the number of murders grew by 5.3% compared to the same period of 2018, fueled partly by cartel and gang violence in several states. Mexico saw 3,080 killings in June, an increase of over 8% from the same month a year ago, according to official figures. The country of almost 125 million now sees as many as 100 killings per day nationwide. The 17,608 killings in the first half of 2019 is the most since comparable records began being kept in 1997, including the peak year of Mexico's drug war in 2011. Officials said 16,714 people were killed in the first half of 2018. In particular, drug cartel turf wars have become increasingly bloody in the northern state of Sonora, where the number of homicides was up by 69% in the first half of the year. But in Sinaloa, where the cartel of convicted drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman is based, homicides declined by 23% so far this year compared to last. Given cutbacks and a widespread reorganization of security forces under President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, it is not clear who, if anyone, is doing the analysis and intelligence work to find out exactly which conflicts are causing the rise in homicides. 'I could give you 10 potential, plausible reasons, but the truth is we don't know, and that is perhaps the biggest problem,' said security analyst Alejandro Hope. 'There is very little systematic research that would allow us to conclude what is really happening.' And other types of crime, like extortion, have become increasingly frequent and violent. As if to underscore that, officials said Monday the five men killed Sunday at a bar in the resort of Acapulco were allegedly part of a gang of extortionists who shook down business owners for protection payments. Guerrero state prosecutor Jorge Zuriel 'we now know that the members of this gang met daily at this bar to coordinate charging extortion payments and to collect the daily take.' One suspect has been arrested in the shootings, which left six people wounded. Zuriel said the killers were members of a rival gang.
  • The Latest on Venezuela's blackout (all times local): 7:35 p.m. Venezuela's socialist government is blaming a nationwide blackout on an 'electromagnetic attack' against the nation's hydroelectric system. Communications Minister Jorge Rodríguez read a statement broadcast on social media Monday in which he said authorities were working to restore service as quickly as possible. He appealed for calm and said contingency plans had been activated so that medical facilities would not be affected. He said security forces were also being deployed to guarantee peoples' safety. Authorities attributed an almost week-long outage across Venezuela in March to a U.S.-sponsored electromagnetic attack on the Guri dam, source of around 80% of the nation's power. But government opponents laid bare years of underinvestment in the nation's grid by corrupt officials who mismanaged an oil bonanza in the nation sitting atop the world's largest crude reserves. __ 6:30 p.m. The lights have gone out across much of Venezuela, snarling traffic in the capital and reviving fears of the blackouts that plunged the country into chaos a few months ago. The power in the capital went out after 4 p.m. (2000 GMT) and immediately backed up traffic as stop lights and the subway stopped working during rush hour. 'This is horrible, a disaster,' Reni Blanco, a 48-year-old teacher, said as she joined a crush of people who flooded into the streets of the capital trying to make it home before nightfall. Authorities have yet to comment and it was unclear the scale of the outage. But there were reports on social media that 19 of 24 Venezuelan states were also affected. Netblocks, a group monitoring internet activity, said network data showed most of Venezuela was knocked offline with national connectivity at just 6% after the latest cuts. The normally non-stop state TV channel, a key way for the government to keep people informed, was also off the air, leaving frustrated Venezuelans to wonder how long they would be left in the dark. Blackouts roiled the country in March, leaving much of the capital without power and water for almost a week. President Nicolás Maduro blamed the outage on a U.S.-sponsored 'electromagnetic attack' against the nation's biggest hydroelectric dam.
  • The lights have gone out across much of Venezuela, snarling traffic in the capital and reviving fears of the blackouts that plunged the country into chaos a few months ago. The power in the capital went out after 4 p.m. (2000 GMT) and immediately backed up traffic as stop lights and the subway stopped working during rush hour. 'This is horrible, a disaster,' Reni Blanco, a 48-year-old teacher, said as she joined a crush of people who flooded into the streets of the capital trying to make it home before nightfall. Authorities have yet to comment and it was unclear the scale of the outage. But there were reports on social media that 19 of 24 Venezuelan states were also affected. Netblocks, a group monitoring internet activity, said network data showed most of Venezuela was knocked offline with national connectivity at just 6% after the latest cuts. The normally non-stop state TV channel, a key way for the government to keep people informed, was also off the air, leaving frustrated Venezuelans to wonder how long they would be left in the dark. Blackouts roiled the country in March, leaving much of the capital without power and water for almost a week. President Nicolás Maduro blamed the outage on a U.S.-sponsored 'electromagnetic attack' against the nation's biggest hydroelectric dam. More recently, as power service in the politically crucial capital has improved amid widespread rationing in the interior, officials have even taken to downplaying the outages as similar to recent ones in Argentina and even one that knocked off the power for several thousand residents of Manhattan for a few hours amid the summer heat. But his opponents said the outage laid bare years of underinvestment in the nation's grid by corrupt officials who mismanaged an oil bonanza in the nation sitting atop the world's largest crude reserves. 'They tried to hide the tragedy by rationing supplies across the country, but their failure is evident: they destroyed the system and they don't have answers,' opposition leader Juan Guaidó said on Twitter. Guaidó, who the U.S. and more than 50 other nations recognize as Venezuela's rightful leader, reiterated an earlier call for nationwide protests on Tuesday. 'We Venezuelans won't grow accustomed to this,' he said. Much of the government's focus since the March blackouts has been on repairing transmission lines near the Guri Dam, which provides about 80 percent of Venezuela's electricity. José Aguilar, a power expert who lives in the U.S. but hails from Venezuela, said that alternative power plants running on diesel fuel and gas are unable to make up the difference. 'Venezuela simply doesn't have enough megawatts available,' he said on Twitter. 'Any failure shuts down the entire system.' Despite the risks of another extended collapse, some Venezuelans were taking the blackout in stride. Cristian Sandoval, a 37-year-old owner of a motorcycle repair business, said he is more prepared for a prolonged outage having equipped his home with a water tanks and a generator for his worship. As Venezuela's crisis deepens, the sale of electric generators is one of the few growth industries in a country ravaged by six-digit inflation and cratering public services. 'If the blackout continues we'll have another round of dessert,' he chuckled while sharing a piece of chocolate cake with a friend at a cafeteria growing steadily dark as the night began to fall. 'But it's very difficult for the people,' he conceded. 'This creates a lot of discomfort.
  • British Airways pilots voted overwhelmingly to take strike action amid a long-running dispute over pay, their union said Monday. The British Airlines Pilots Association accused the airline of making massive profits on the back of sacrifices made during hard times. No potential dates have been set for industrial action, and the union said it remained hopeful the dispute could be resolved. The association says pilots backed industrial action by more than 9-1 on a turnout of 90%. 'We do not wish to inconvenience our customers, which is why we have tried to resolve this matter through negotiation starting last November - it is BA who has regrettably chosen to drag this out into the summer months,' union leader Brian Strutton said. The airline is seeking an injunction Tuesday in the High Court to halt industrial action. It said its offer was worth 11.5% over three years. 'We are very disappointed that BALPA, the pilots' union, has chosen to threaten the travel plans of thousands of our customers, over the summer holidays, with possible strike action,' the airline said in a statement.? 'We remain open to working with BALPA to reach an agreement.
  • Pope Francis has sent Syrian President Bashar Assad a letter expressing his 'profound concern' for the humanitarian situation in Syria and in particular the plight of civilians in Idlib province. The Vatican said Cardinal Peter Turkson, one of Francis' top advisers, hand-delivered the letter to Assad during a meeting Monday in Damascus attended by the Vatican's ambassador to Syria. It was an unusual, hands-on gesture meant to show Francis' concern about the situation. Assad's office said in a statement the talks focused on political efforts to end the crisis, with Syria's president blaming regional and Western countries for supporting insurgents. Francis has frequently called for an end to the conflict and decried the plight of Syrian civilians. He has also condemned weapons manufacturers in the U.S. and Europe for fueling wars in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. The Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said the letter asked for civilian lives and key infrastructure to be protected, such as schools and hospitals. The letter urged Assad to take concrete steps for reconciliation and to release political prisoners, the Vatican said. Syria's conflict, which began in 2011, has killed more than 400,000 people.
  • Kosovo's prime minister has formally handed in his resignation after being summoned for questioning by a Hague-based court investigating crimes against ethnic Serbs during and after the country's 1998-99 war. Ramush Haradinaj, 51, said Monday that he had submitted his resignation letter and urged the country's president to call an early parliamentary election. He added that the outgoing Cabinet would act in a caretaker role. Haradinaj, a former parliamentary speaker, a president's adviser and other unnamed former top war commanders have been summoned by the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and are expected to be questioned this week. The Kosovo Specialist Chambers and a separate Specialist Prosecutor's Office were established in 2015 based on war crimes allegations against the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army.
  • The European Central Bank could take action including a possible rate cut at its policy meeting on Thursday, as central banks around the globe rev up stimulus to support the world economy through a period of heightened uncertainty from trade wars and Brexit. The ECB, which sets interest rates for the 19 European Union member countries that use the euro, is expected by many analysts to at least tweak its promise to keep interest rates at rock-bottom levels into next year. The new wording would emphasize that the next move down the road could be a cut. But a rate cut Thursday is not out of the question either — even though one of the rate benchmarks is already below zero. That would see the ECB moving ahead of an expected rate reduction from the U.S. Federal Reserve, which has an outsized role due to the size of the U.S. economy and the dollar's status as an international currency for borrowing and trade. Fed officials have signaled they may cut rates at their July 30-31 meeting, from the current benchmark federal funds rate of 2.25-2.5 percent. Central banks in South Korea, Indonesia and South Africa have already cut rates in recent days. Analysts at bank Morgan Stanley predict the ECB will cut its deposit rate from minus 0.4% to minus 0.5% at the bank's Sept. 12 meeting or before and 'wouldn't be surprised if this was to happen already' at Thursday's meeting. The negative rate means banks pay to keep cash overnight at the ECB, a penalty aimed at pushing them to lend the money. 'The main question is whether the ECB can afford to wait six more weeks before delivering new monetary stimulus or whether it should surprise financial markets by frontloading new measures,' Carsten Brzeski, chief economist for Germany at bank ING, wrote in a note to investors. The shift in policy comes even though the global economy continues to grow - including in Europe and the U.S. - and unemployment has fallen. The central banks would be moving to pre-empt the economic impact from risks including slowing trade and investment due to the U.S.-China trade dispute. For the ECB, there's also Britain's impending departure from the European Union, which is set to happen by Oct. 31 and could result in disruption to trade if it occurs without a negotiated exit agreement. Central banks like the Fed and the ECB had earlier been in the process of withdrawing a decade of monetary stimulus deployed in the wake of the Great Recession and financial crisis of 2008-09. The Fed had raised rates and the ECB only in December halted a 2.6 trillion euro ($2.9 trillion), four-year bond purchase stimulus that pumped newly created money into the economy. With rates already low and those 2.6 trillion newly printed euros still in the financial system it's an open question how much additional stimulus would result from the ECB's moves. Yet consumers, investors, businesses and governments are all likely to be affected by the shift. For one, savers may see an even longer period of paltry interest returns on bank deposits and other low-risk holdings. On the other hand, stimulus measures tend to buoy stocks and real estate, cheering markets in the short term but raising questions about whether some assets might rise too far and then fall painfully. Low rates also mean less pressure on Europe's indebted governments such as Italy. Low rates make it easier for businesses to borrow but raise the prospect that cheap money is keeping alive inefficient 'zombie firms' that would otherwise go bust and permit the economy to shift investment to more productive use. Companies have taken on more debt, an ominous sign for some economists. The ECB's minimum tweak Thursday could be adding the word 'or lower' to its promise to keep rates unchanged at least through mid-2020. Beyond a possible interest rate cut, many analysts think the bank could re-start the bond purchases later this year if things do not start looking up. Brzeski said that waiting until September would mean the bank could gather more data and use new quarterly staff projections to support any move. He cautioned that 'Draghi's track record of over-delivering and trying to be ahead of the curve, however, could bring new ECB action at the July ECB meeting. It's a very close call.
  • President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump are hosting an official visit and state dinner in September for the prime minister of Australia, a conservative, who like Trump, defied public opinion polls and won his first full term in office last May. It's only the second state dinner Trump has held since he became president. The first was for French President Emmanuel Macron in April 2018. The White House announced Monday that Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his wife, Jenny, have been invited to the Sept. 20 dinner. Morrison was only installed the previous August by government colleagues who had lost confidence in his predecessor Malcolm Turnbull. His tenure was expected to be a short one, but his conservative coalition won a surprise victory. Trump and Morrison had dinner last month when the two attended a Group of 20 summit in Japan. They spoke briefly with reporters. Morrison said Trump had a standing invitation to visit his country when a U.S. and international golf team competed for the 2019 President's Cup. Trump declared that Morrison's victory didn't surprise him. 'They called it an upset, but I don't call it an upset,' Trump told him. 'It's a fantastic thing you did.' A White House state dinner is a glamorous affair that showcases global power and influence, typically featuring hundreds of guests and an exchange of toasts between the two leaders. The White House said the visit will celebrate the two countries' close friendship and shared history, and reaffirm a common vision for global peace and prosperity.
  • Congo's Health Minister Oly Ilunga resigned from his post Monday to protest the president's decision to take over management of the response to the Ebola outbreak.  'Following the president's decision to manage the Ebola epidemic at his level, I handed in my resignation as Minister for Health,' Ilunga wrote in a tweet.  Ilunga, who had been health minister for two years, said his resignation was in reaction to the announcement Saturday by President Felix Tshisekedi that he would take over direct supervision of the response to the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo, which has lasted for nearly a year and has killed more than 1,600 people. Tshisekedi also appointed Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe as coordinator of the nation's Ebola technical committee.  In his resignation Ilunga deplored the lack of cooperation between him, the president and the prime minister on response to the ebola outbreak. 'I regret that this technical secretariat of the multi-sectoral Ebola response committee was set up by an order from the Prime Minister, backdated and countersigned without my knowledge,' he wrote.
  • Greece's new conservative government said it wants to ease tough budget restrictions set by bailout lenders two years ahead of schedule, as lawmakers on Monday formally confirmed the new administration. Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said Athens will seek negotiations with creditors next year to lower targets for Greece's primary surplus, the annual budget balance before debt costs. 'We are determined to boost confidence in the economy by proceeding swiftly with real reforms under our ownership,' he told parliament. 'In 2020, we will request from our partners the reduction of primary surpluses to more realistic levels.' Petsas spoke before lawmakers voted 158-142 to confirm Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' government formed after July 7 general elections. Greece pledged under the previous government to maintain primary surpluses worth 3.5% of gross domestic product through 2022. Lenders say that level is key to keeping Greece's high national debt sustainable and have appeared cool to the idea of renegotiating the targets. The issue was discussed in Athens last week at meetings between the senior representatives of creditor institutions and ministers from the new government. Lawmakers voted following a three-day debate, during which Mitsotakis and his ministers outlined major upcoming legislative initiatives. Mitsotakis, 51, promised to introduce tax cut legislation and to scrap longstanding rules that limit police access to university campuses. The government also plans to speed up privatizations plans, clear regulations blocking major investments, and toughen detention and deportation policies for migrants whose asylum applications are rejected. The general election was held nearly a year after Greece's three successive bailout programs ended. 'It is our obligation to send a message of optimism — a message that, at last, something will change,' Mitsotakis said. New governments in Greece must be confirmed by a vote of confidence after lawmakers are seated in the new session of parliament. Mitsotakis' New Democracy party has 158 seats in the 300-member parliament. ___ Follow Gatopoulos at https://twitter.com/dgatopoulos

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • Oviedo Mayor Dominic Persampiere announced that he will not seek reelection today, after more than 20 years in city government. Persampiere said the decision is because he wants to spend more time with his family, and work on growing his business. Previously, he had served as an Oviedo city councilman before running for mayor. He’s been serving as Mayor since 2011.  Two months ago, Persampiere was involved in a dispute with a neighbor that led to police involvement, but a judge dismissed an injunction filed against him.
  • Disney World is hiring part-time workers to operate it's Disney Skyliner, set to debut in late September. The new transportation system will connect Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios and four nearby resort hotels.  Skyliner workers will be responsible for greeting guests, loading and unloading the gondolas, as well as, monitoring the gondola system and providing audience control, according to a job posting.  The starting pay will be $12 an hour according to the posting, but Skyliner workers will be eligible for Disney's new starting rate of $13 as of September 29, 2019  Click here to apply
  • Aaron Carreto was enjoying his 10th birthday, playing outside his Compton home on July 6 when two neighbors tossed a lit, homemade firework at him, his family said. The boy reflexively grabbed the illegal firework, which exploded in his left hand, destroying four fingers and most of his palm, the Los Angeles Times reported. Aaron also lost a finger on his right hand and suffered burns on both hands, his face and his torso. One of the neighbors, Walter David Revolorio, 27, was arrested and charged with felony child cruelty and possession of a destructive device, the Times reported. The investigation is ongoing, but no charges had been filed against a second neighbor as of Monday. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials had no immediate comment on the status of the investigation. Aaron told Fox 11 in Los Angeles he was playing outside in his neighborhood when he walked over to the neighbors to say hello. At one point, the men called out his name. “They said my name, and then I turned and my hand flipped over, so that’s when they handed the firework to me,” Aaron said. “I was about to throw it and it exploded in my hand.” The explosion was so great, it rocked nearby cars, Fox 11 reported. >> Read more trending news The Times reported that Aaron was immediately taken to Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, where he underwent a series of emergency surgeries. Doctors at UC Irvine Medical Center attached his left arm to his stomach to hopefully preserve nerve and skin tissue they can use to reconstruct his hand. Aaron’s older sister, Adriana Carreto, said doctors also reattached the finger her brother lost on his right hand. Carreto wrote on a GoFundMe page set up to help with Aaron’s medical expenses that he has a long recovery ahead, including at least two additional surgeries. Photos and video of the boy on the fundraising page, as well as on social media, show him with burns on his face and his left arm hidden under a hospital gown. Pain is etched on the boy’s face. “This incident changed his life, (his) way of living, but not his spirits,” Carreto wrote. “Everyone knows him as a social butterfly, always friendly to his teammates on the soccer team. He’s very caring and aware of other people’s needs.” Carreto wrote that her brother loves riding his bike with neighborhood friends and playing the popular online video game 'Fortnite' with classmates over their summer break. “Now with his new disability, he’ll find it difficult to adjust to his day to day lifestyle,” Carreto wrote. As of Monday afternoon, donors had raised more than $47,000 of the page's $50,000 goal to help Aaron and his family. Carreto said along with the physical pain her brother is in, he is also psychologically scarred. “He tells his family how he feels betrayed by those people around us and wants to start a new life far away from where he grew up,” Carreto wrote on the GoFundMe page. As of Monday, Aaron had been released from the hospital to continue his recovery at home. “I been reading all the positive and kind words to Aaron from his donors and he said he appreciates all the help and support,” Carreto wrote. “He said he feels happy with each and every one of you guys.” The distraught sister told ABC 7 she, however, is angry. “I’m angry because those two guys are adults and one of them has kids,” Carreto told the news station. “I’m pretty sure if it was his kid, he wouldn’t have let that happen.” Aaron told KTLA he wants to see both men punished for what they did to him. “Those guys who did this, I don’t want to see them no more,” Aaron told the news station. “I just wish that they could be in jail.” Revolorio remained Monday at the Los Angeles County Jail, where records show he is being held in lieu of $630,000 bond. The second neighbor accused in the incident has not been publicly identified.
  • President Trump continues his public criticism of House democrats Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar. He tweets, “The “Squad” is a very Racist group of troublemakers who are young, inexperienced, and not very smart. They are pulling the once great Democrat Party far left, and were against humanitarian aid at the Border...And are now against ICE and Homeland Security. So bad for our Country!” These comments come after President Trump last week said those four freshman House Democrats should 'go back to the crime infested places' from which they came. This also comes after a crowd at a Trump campaign rally in North Carolina chanted 'send her back.
  • A California woman and her boyfriend have been charged in connection with their newborn son’s death after investigators learned they strangled the boy at the hospital shortly after he was born, authorities said. Andrea Torralba, 20, and David Villa, 21, both of Oxnard, are being held in the Ventura County Jail on suspicion of felony assault on a child causing death, Oxnard Police Department officials said. Jail records show Villa, who is described as a field worker, is being held in lieu of $5 million. ABC 7 in Los Angeles reported that Torralba’s bail was set at $1 million. >> Read more trending news  Oxnard police investigators said officers were called just before 8 a.m. Friday to St. John’s Medical Center, where they learned a newborn boy was in critical condition with serious injuries. The boy was found unresponsive and despite all medical efforts, he died of his injuries. Detectives from the department’s Family Protection Unit learned that Torralba and Villa strangled the newborn until he lost consciousness, police officials said. Oxnard police Sgt. Brandon Ordelheide told ABC 7 that the couple, when questioned by detectives, admitted they did not want the baby. Both were arrested and charged in the boy’s death.

Washington Insider

  • In a dramatic expansion of a process known as 'expedited removal' of illegal immigrants in the United States, the Trump Administration will start applying that everywhere in the United States - to anyone who has been in the U.S. illegally for less than two years - as critics quickly said they would challenge the change in federal court. 'The effect of that change will be to enhance national security and public safety,' the Department of Homeland Security states in a new rule set to go into effect on Tuesday, which the notice says will allow 'DHS to address more effectively and efficiently the large volume of aliens who are present in the United States unlawfully.' Up until this change, expedited removal was only used for illegal immigrants who were detained within 100 miles of the border - now it can be enforced anywhere in the U.S. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Trump Administration argues the Acting Homeland Security Secretary has the 'sole and unreviewable discretion' to change 'the scope of the expedited removal designation,' shifting it from the 100 mile policy to one that applies nationwide. Critics denounced the immigration policy change, with some vowing to challenge the move in court. 'One of the major problems with expedited removal is that the immigration officer making the decision virtually has unchecked authority,' said the American Immigration Council, as the process does not involve an immigration judge or any type of court hearing. 'We will sue to end this policy quickly,' said Omar Jadwat of the American Civil Liberties Union, who charged that deportations could occur with 'less due process than people get in traffic court.' 'This is a massive and dangerous change,' said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick of the American Immigration Council, which is joining in the ACLU legal challenge to the new policy. The announcement marked the second straight week that the Trump Administration had rolled out a new immigration policy - last Monday, the feds announced a new plan to restrict asylum claims by migrants from Central America. Those plans are also facing a legal challenge from the ACLU and other groups.