Monday, June 30, 2014

México/España: Banco Sabadell to Begin Operating in Capital, Funding Projects in Pesos, Dollars

According to The Latin American Tribune, Spain’s Banco Sabadell said on Monday (June 30) that it has it started operating in México via its new Sabadell Capital unit, a subsidiary created to finance different projects in Mexican pesos and US dollars.

The projects are in the energy, infrastructure, tourism, foreign trade and government sectors, Banco Sabadell said in a statement.

Spanish and Mexican regulators have already granted the necessary authorizations to start operations in México, the bank said.

COMMENT: Sabadell Capital is planning to invest 1.5 billion euros ($2.05 billion) in 2016 in México, a market that Banco Sabadell CEO Jaime Guardiola has touted for its potential.
The launch of Sabadell Capital is the initial step toward obtaining a banking license in México to begin operating as a commercial bank next year, Guardiola said.

Sabadell Capital has a 21-person team under the management of Francesc Noguera and is headquartered in Mexico City.

Banco Sabadell has had a representative office in Mexico City since 1991 and has operated indirectly in México for 15 years via its 20% stake in Banco del Bajio.

Fernando Pérez Hickman, head of operations in the Americas for Banco Sabadell, will run Sabadell Capital.

España: 2010 Rapist of French Tourist Arrested After Contacting Victim on Social Media...Three Years Later

It was then that one of the men attacked the French tourist and raped her.

COMMENT: When she took the matter to the police, they were unable to find the rapist as the victim was only able to provide them his first name, the local daily EL DIARIO DE MALLORCA reported on Monday (June 30). 

Three years later, the woman strangely received a friend request from her rapist on a social media site.

This time, she promptly contacted Spanish police immediately, who were able to match the physical description she had initially offered with his profile photos on the social media site.

Majorca police then contacted INTERPOL after determining that her assailant was a Slovakian citizen.

INTERPOL in turn reached out to the Slovakian police, who were able to confirm the suspect’s family had actually traveled to Majorca at the time of the rape.

The rapist is now in custody.

México/US: PPG Industries to Acquire Comex, México's Largest Paint Manufacturer

According to The Latin American Tribune, Mexican paint company Comex said on Monday (June 30) that it was being acquired by US-based PPG Industries for $2.3 billion.

Mexican regulators rejected an attempt last year by US-based Sherwin-Williams to buy Consorcio Comex, S.A. de C.V. on the grounds that the deal would harm competition in the market.

The agreement with PPG Industries is subject to regulatory approval, Comex said.

“We are excited to proudly join the PPG team, a company with over 130 years of experience that admires and respects Comex’s achievements over more than 60 years. Being part of PPG gives us new opportunities and synergies that will allow us to continue to significantly grow in our markets,” Comex CEO Marcos Achar Levy said.
COMMENT: “In these times of globalization and highly competitive markets, strategic alliances allow the development of companies and its individuals,” the Comex CEO said.

PPG Industries Chairman and CEO Charles Bunch, said the acquisition of Comex would bolster his Pittsburgh, PA-based company’s presence in México and Latin America, “a region where we have negligible architectural coatings presence.”

“Comex is a high-quality, well-managed business with a long heritage of excellent customer service and leading, well-recognized regional brands,” Bunch said.

Comex, which was founded in 1952, is México’s largest paint manufacturer.

The company has more than 3,000 paint stores across México operated by franchisees, who sell paint for construction and industrial uses.

PPG Industries, which was founded in 1883, has operations in nearly 70 countries.

Israel: Remains of Three Israeli Teens Found, PM: "Hamas is Responsible...Hamas Will Pay"

According to NBC News, a search for three Jewish teens kidnapped in the West Bank ended Monday evening with the discovery of three bodies in a shallow grave and a vow of retribution from the Israeli government. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "all signs" indicate the remains belong to Israeli-born US citizen Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Eyal Yifrach, 16, and Gilad Shaar, 19,  who vanished on June 12. 

"They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by human animals," Netanyahu said at the start of a security cabinet meeting called to address the situation. "Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay." 

COMMENT: The families of the abducted yeshiva students were notified while forensic teams worked to confirm their identification. 

A volunteer on the search team that found the bodies told Israeli army radio that while they were combing a semi-mountainous area northwest of Hebron they spotted something suspicious and cleared away bushes and rock to uncover the remains in a shallow grave. 

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.

France: Assailants Use Surveillance,Tear Gas to Steal US$245,614 Ring from US Couple at Hotel

According to and the French magazine, Le Point, a wealthy US couple were victimized at the five-star Ferme Saint-Siméon property in Normandy on Saturday night (June 28) after using wire cutters to quickly remove the €180,000 (US$245,614) ring from the terrified woman's finger.

After interrupting commercial electricity to the high-end hotel, at least three masked robbers burst into the couple's darkened guest-room, where the wealthy US couple were staying and sprayed them with tear gas, Le Point emphasized.

One of the assailants then used wire cutters to snip the ring off the woman's finger. They reportedly left as quickly as they had arrived.

Moments later, the assailants escaped from the hotel, leaving the retired couple shaken, with their eyes stinging, but otherwise not seriously injured.

COMMENT: As most of our regular readers know, I strongly encourage all travelers to learn how to recognize indicators that they are being followed by criminals, as increasingly, thieves use creative strategies to relieve their victims of their property. 

Police believe that the assailants had been following the couple from the nearby chic Normandy resort of Deauville, which gave them the time to meticulously plan the theft. The robbery happened after the couple had returned to Ferme Saint-Siméon from dinner in a restaurant. 

This robbery occurred after the government had announced new efforts to keep tourists safe.

France has been plagued by a series of high-profile crimes in recent years. Crooks have pulled off some amazing jewelry heists in the south of France and pickpockets have became so frequent that workers at the Louvre went on strike. 

Most recently, a busload of Chinese tourists who had just arrived in Paris were relieved of their cash and valuables en-mass, within hours after arriving in the capital.

Somalia: China Sends Reactivation of Diplomacy Delegation, UK First EU Nation to Open Embassy

According to The Associated Press, China said Monday (June 30) it will re-open its embassy in Somalia 23 years after evacuating its diplomats after the East African nation plunged into civil war.

The decision came after Somalia established its first government and parliament in 21 years, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said. He said Beijing would send a delegation to Somalia on Tuesday (July 1).

Chinese diplomats left Somalia in January 1991 after a longtime dictator was overthrown and warlords turned on each other, plunging the impoverished country into chaos.

COMMENT: The United States announced earlier in June that it would appoint an ambassador to Somalia, but said it had no immediate plans to re-open its embassy in the capital of Mogadishu, which has been beset by violence and deadly bombings spurred by the terror group, al-Shabaab.

Few non-African countries maintain embassies in Somalia. The UK last year opened its mission there for the first time since 1991, becoming the first country within the European Union (EU) to do so.

China has a large presence on the African continent, with Chinese companies building roads, airports and other infrastructure. Beijing has opened more embassies and commercial offices in recent years. Last year, China-Africa trade reached $210 billion, according to official figures.

Tip of the Day: A Warning to All US Federal Employees, Contractors & Military Personnel

As a result of the controversial and recent prisoner exchange for US Army soldier Bowe Bergdahl, 28, who deserted his post in 2009 and sought out the Taliban in Afghanistan, the below links demonstrates that the US Government definitely got the "short-straw" in a five-for-one (five four-star level Taliban leaders at Guantanamo Bay for one US deserter), a prisoner-exchange deal touted by the Obama Administration that was so urgent that the US Congress simply couldn't be notified.

What is completely unknown to is whether the Obama Administration ever attempted to negotiate with the Taliban or whether they simply "caved-in" as to whatever the terrorists demanded, which appears to one of the worst prisoner exchanges in American history.

Yet, when President Obama was inaugurated in 2009, he went to great lengths to emphasize numerous times that his Administration would be "the "most transparent executive branch of government in US history," yet somehow such an assertion has never been established as fact.

Before explaining this further, it is essential that all of our readers understand that USAID public safety advisor Dan A. Mitrione, who was assigned to the US Embassy in Montevideo in 1970, and later kidnapped and executed in Uruguay by the Tupamaros, was the foundation case for clarifying that the US Government henceforth would never aid and abet terrorists and kidnappers in any form, leaving negotiations of all US hostages in the hands of host governments abroad:

COMMENT: The lead-off paragraph in this posting could not be clearer.

Now that President Obama has reversed 44 years of federal contemporary counter-terrorism policy, which was proven to be incredibly successful for so many years, my greatest fear is that any terror group that craves notoriety will intentionally abduct or kidnap US government hostages, knowing that the President's action may have "opened the flood-gates."

Unfortunately, all federal agencies will NOW potentially have to embark on a very costly training program to instruct all federally-employed personnel sent into "Harm's Way" OUTSIDE of the US, depending upon their prevailing rules of engagement.

Prior to May 2014, such training was moot as all potential US government hostages were fully cognizant that their government would NOT negotiate for their release.

After Dan Mitrione's burial ceremony in 1970, and 44 years after the fact, President Barack Obama became the first US President to abolish a successful, effective and enlightened counter-terrorism policy that refused to aid and abet all US Government hostages be they direct-hire or contractors or US military personnel.

It was a "given" that particularly in cases where US governmental hostages were abroad that "no rock" would remain unturned in their rescue or recovery.

After Dan Mitrione's kidnapping and execution in 1970, the US Government was prohibited from facilitating any and all actions designed to rescue and/or recover US hostages abroad, regardless of the causation.

Specifically, the US Government prohibited negotiating directly or indirectly with criminals and terrorists who kidnap US citizens outside of the US, including family members, to include the following: paying ransom, releasing prisoners, providing weapons or facilitating the escape of hostage takers.

Another key ingredient in the policy was that the US Government leave the negotiation to the host nation in the country when the abduction of the governmental US hostage took place.

Now, for the sticky part: Considering that the US Government has no control over the policies and conduct of private sector organizations, corporations and international organizations that assign US citizens abroad.

Consequently, the federal government has little to no influence over non-US governmental organizations who choose to afford their employees operating in high-risk nations with what is known as "kidnap, ransom and extortion" insurance which often can result in ransom payments of six and seven figures.

Ironically, this inconsistency has worked for organizations that refuse to pay ransom. In looking back on the three decades in which Colombia had led the world in ransom kidnappings, only one US government official has been abducted, compared to 99 kidnappings of Americans without government association.

It should be noted that the US policy regarding the abduction of US Government abroad occurred during the administration of President Richard Nixon when Uruguayan Tupamaros kidnapped USAID officer Dan Mitrione in July 1970, while he was working as a police advisor in Montevideo. 

At the time, the USAID Office of Public Safety program had drawn criticism for not promoting democratic police tactics in Latin America, which, was facing an upsurge in leftist terrorism. The terrorist group demanded that the Uruguayan and US governments release 150 Tupamaros prisoners. 

When the United States urged the Uruguayan government not to give in to the demand, the Tupamaros executed Mitrione and dumped his body in the back of an abandoned car. 

The Mitrione case subsequently led to the formulation of the “no negotiations, no concessions” policy regarding the hostage-taking of US Government personnel abroad, which sadly no longer exists.

Dominican Republic: NY State Assemblywoman, 47, Pleads Guilty for Marriage Fraud, Resigns Position, Faces Prison Time

According to The Latin American Tribune, Dominican-born New York State Assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa, 47, pleaded guilty to committing fraud by arranging marriage to obtain US citizenship and of making a false statement to a US bankruptcy court, judicial sources said.
Rosa, the first Dominican woman to hold a seat in the New York State Assembly, admitted before a federal judge that she was guilty of the two charges against her in a plea agreement that requires her to resign from her position.

In the sentencing date scheduled for October 3, she faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for both crimes, but could see her sentence reduced to between a year and 18 months if she testifies not to commit further offenses.

“Gabriela Rosa’s crimes cut to the heart of her legal qualification to serve the people of the State of New York as a New York State Assemblywoman. She gained the ability to run for that office only as a result of a years-long immigration fraud, and then she compounded her lack of fitness to serve by defrauding a federal bankruptcy court,” Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said.

COMMENT: “Now she faces losing her position and prison time for her actions,” Bharara emphasized.
Rosa admitted before the judge that she paid a US citizen $8,000 to marry her in 1996 so she could obtain permanent residency, and divorced him three years later, all the while maintaining a relationship with the man who would later become her second husband.

She also declared herself guilty Saturday (June 28) of fraud for lying to a federal US bankruptcy court.

In September 2009 she went to court to liquidate debts of more than $30,000 accumulated credit card debt and other personal loans, but failed to mention either the Manhattan apartment she owned, the extra income she obtained as a political consultant or her husband’s income.

Louisiana: Update--Gunfight in Big Easy Leaves 9 Injured, 2 Critically, Safety Risks Flagged

According to, a Bourbon Street shooting in New Orleans early on Sunday morning (June 29) left nine people injured--two critically--in the latest incident of New Orleans gun violence. 

New Orleans Superintendent of Police Ronal Serpas said that "two cowardly young men" were responsible for the carnage, which sent bystanders diving into bustling bars and nightclubs for cover, and others crawling into open storefronts as they bled in the street.

Police confirmed that some of the victims were tourists, wounded in the 700 block of Bourbon Street when two men got into an exchange of gunfire at approximately 0245 hours.

COMMENT: No arrests have been made.

For the benefit of our readers, if you hear what appears to be gunshots, DO NOT GO TO THE AREA FROM WHICH THE SHOOTING IS OCCURRING. STAY INDOORS AND TAKE COVER.

Although "concealed-carry" laws for private citizens are valid in all 50 states, particularly given the fact that alcohol and firearms have never mixed particularly well, consideration should be given to the establishment of a "firearms-free zone" in designated sectors of the city.

Another approach would be to install walk-through metal detectors in all high-risk establishments in order to exclude persons carrying concealed firearms to reduce the risk of alcohol-induced shootings.

First of all, please see the below link for an indication of  the threat of violent crime and property crime in New Orleans:

Quick facts:

Population: 362,874

Number of visitors to New Orleans annually: 9 million.

New Orleans is ONLY safer than 10% of cities in the US

Potential for violent crime in New Orleans: 1 in 123

Potential for property crime in New Orleans: 1 in 26 
As an indicator of the manpower shortages that NOPD has been experiencing in recent years see:  

Since March, there have been two daylight shootings downtown on Canal Street that include: a woman exiting a St. Charles Avenue street-car who was shot in the hip last week and last Wednesday a man was fatally wounded in a drive-by shooting near some of the city's most popular live-music venues.

Another incident since March involved a man who shot himself in the foot inside the  Bourbon Heat nightclub after a security guard spotted a gun inside his pocket and lost control of it in the ensuing scuffle.

Amid Halloween 2011 revelry on Bourbon Street, a 25-year-old man was killed and seven others injured, including a tourist from France, when men opened fire on one another, hitting others in a chaotic crossfire.

Two people--the most seriously injured--remain in critical condition at Interim LSU Hospital, Communications Officer Siona LaFrance said.

South Africa: Psychiatrists: No Evidence of Mental Illness, Impairment to Understand Right from Wrong

According to Reuters, Oscar Pistorius, 27, the South African track star on trial for murder for shooting his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, was not suffering from a mental condition that would have impaired his ability to distinguish between right and wrong at the time she was killed, a psychiatric report said on Monday (June 30).

Pistorius, an Olympic and Paralympic sprinter, has admitted to shooting dead his model girlfriend, but maintains he mistook her for an intruder hiding in his toilet in an upscale Pretoria suburb.

The trial, which began in March 2014, took a month-long break to allow the 27-year-old to undergo a mental evaluation at Pretoria's Weskoppies Hospital after a forensic psychologist brought by the defense testified that Pistorius had an anxiety disorder.

Judge Thokozile Masipa said it was important to find out whether or not the condition affected his criminal responsibility. 

COMMENT: As I have said from the outset of the homicide, my concern all along has surrounded the fact that some firearms owners are responsible, safe and comprehend when NOT to shoot, while others will always be UNSAFE and unpredictable.

"At the time of the alleged offenses, the accused did not suffer from a mental disorder or mental defect that affected his ability to distinguish between the rightful or wrongful nature of his deeds," Prosecutor Gerrie Nel read from a report submitted to the court. 

Both Nel and defense lawyer Barry Roux accepted the findings of a panel of psychiatrists and psychologists after 30 days of evaluation.

During the trial, prosecutors have tried to paint a picture of a self-obsessed Pistorius who knowingly killed his law graduate girlfriend as she cowered behind a locked bathroom door.

Pistorius could face a life sentence if found guilty of the shooting on Valentine's Day last year.

Bolivia: France's Total, Russia's Gazprom, Argentina's Tecpetrol to Share in Gas Fields

According to The Latin American Tribune, France’s Total has sealed a deal to give Russia’s Gazprom 20% of its rights to operate gas fields in southeastern Bolivia, state-owned oil company YPFB said.

The gas deal was reached in 2010, signed in 2012 and approved by Bolivian lawmakers last year.

COMMENT: Total will now own 60% of the Aquio and Ipati areas, while Argentina’s Tecpetrol and Gazprom will each own 20% stakes, YPFB, which has controlled Bolivia’s oil and gas industry since 2006, said.

The contracts were confirmed by YPFB CEO Carlos Villegas, Gazprom’s general manager in Bolivia, Vladimir Burdakov, and Total’s top executive in Bolivia, José Ignacio Sanz.

The Aquio area, located between Santa Cruz and Chuquisaca provinces, covers 25,400 hectares (62,716 acres), while the adjacent Ipati area covers 61,375 hectares (151,543 acres).

Total has several operating contracts in Bolivia and Gazprom signed a $130 million investment agreement with the French energy giant in August 2013 to explore 700,000 hectares (1.72 million acres) in the Andean nation.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Libya/US: Update--Khatallah, 43, Pleads Not Guility in the Murders of 4 Brave Americans After WH Refuses to Rescue Them

According to Reuters and CNN, the Libyan militia leader, Ahmed Abu Khatallah, 43, accused of being part of the deadly September 11, 2012 attack on the US diplomatic compound at the US Consulate in Benghazi, has been "compliant, but hardly cooperative," say US interrogators, according to US Representative Mike Rogers (R-MI) said on Sunday (June 29).

As is well known, Ahmed Abu Khatallah, captured in Libya earlier this month by US special operators and held for nearly two weeks aboard a US Navy vessel, was transferred to federal custody on Saturday (June 28). 

Khatallah pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges in the attack that killed Christopher Stevens, US ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans who gave up their lives when The White House failed to rescue them. 

Rogers, a Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN's "State of the Union" program that Khatallah was being held in the metropolitan Washington, DC area after his arraignment and plea. 

COMMENT: What is most unsettling from the senior levels of the Obama Administration is that while the US goes out of its way to ensure that all due process elements of US jurisprudence  are provided to the accused, what justice do the victims receive? Very few from my perspective.

Khatallah denied in a Reuters interview in October 2012 that he was a leader of Ansar al-Sharia, an Islamist group Washington accuses of carrying out the assault on the consulate.

The Benghazi attack on September 11, 2012, has been a long-running political issue, with Republicans contending that the Obama Administration initially misrepresented the circumstances and did far too little to ensure the safety of  US personnel. 

Although then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did virtually nothing to protect four Americans from death and failed to dispatch a team to rescue them, will no doubt face sharp criticism if she decides to run in the 2016 presidential race.

Rogers, echoing criticism by other Republicans since Khatallah's capture, said it would have been preferable to treat him as an enemy combatant, hold him at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay and put him before a military tribunal rather than try him as a criminal through the civilian justice system, where is accorded due process, which he hardly deserves.

Germany: NSA Whistleblower Thomas Drake to Address German Parliament on July 3

According to, AP and AFP, Germany reportedly became US National Security Agency (NSA) "number one" spying center after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, according to  former NSA whistle-blower Thomas Drake, 57, who has told Der Spiegel.

At the time, the US position was that Germany, following the 2001 terror attacks, could no longer rely on Berlin as a trusted ally.

Drake, a NSA senior executive-turned whistle-blower, said National Security Agency (NSA) wanted to punish Germany to some extent for failing to notice that an al-Qaeda terrorist cell had planned the attack series from Hamburg. 

The al-Qaeda cell, led by the late Mohammed Atta who orchestrated several of lethal attacks on September 11 that killed nearly 3,000 people. 

Drake, who is scheduled to testify next Thursday (July 3) to the German Parliament's NSA inquiry committee, said the spy agency decided it could "no longer" trust Germany because the cell had "lived, trained and communicated" unnoticed by the German intelligence authorities. 

COMMENT: Political relationships between governments, particularly those of intelligence services, are largely "driven" on a quid pro quo basis which means that such relationships are based upon how helpful trusted allies can actually become over decades.

Even nation-to-nation relationships require very focused nurturing and reinforcement to be successful, so such relationships depend exclusively on the frequent sharing of "take-aways" during exchanges.
Perhaps Germany was viewed by Washington as country that it could be conveniently blamed for the events of September 11, yet, as the 9/11 Commission said so eloquently: The terror attacks were the end result of a "lack of imagination" not the fault of trusted allies too convenient to blame.

The moment that Barack Obama eavesdropped on Angela Merkel's mobile phone, the German Chancellor promptly realized  that she could no longer trust the US President. 

The US, at least during the George W Bush years, was considered a role model for all nations, yet, tragically, under what can only be described as President Obama's regime, the US has become much less statesman-like who routinely tramples over the authority granted him by the Constitution.

 Worse, the President has become much better known as the street-fighter from Chicago who repeatedly has found himself "mouse-trapped" by his frequently stated untruths, influenced heavily by his own world view and ideology that rarely place the best interests of US citizens FIRST.

Following the 2001 terror attacks, the German intelligence service, BND, CIA subsequently made it a priority to liaison with the BND, yet, the relationship was seemingly not based on genuine information-sharing, but rather to determine what the German service knew and what they were unaware of.  Such relationships based upon an agenda unknown to ALL parties rarely succeeds. 

Although US President Barack Obama had seemingly reassured German Chancellor Merkel that the spy agency was no longer was eavesdropping on her mobile phone, all Germans continued to be viewed as potential suspects. 

Drake said Germany's ties date back to the Cold War, with the NSA remaining the "master" in "this often unequal relationship" that often resembled a one-way street.

Given Washington's unprecedented capacity for eavesdropping, albeit an addiction, the US couldn't resist the temptation of going well beyond its authorized charter of "counter-terrorism," and venturing to the illegal world of "economic espionage," which minimally was unethical and at worst, illegal. 

US lawyer Jesselyn Radack, who has represented a number of whistle-blowers, told DER SPIEGEL that Germany's federal prosecutions service should summon NSA officials responsible for surveillance who just happen to be resident in Germany.

Radack claimed the true intention of the NSA's mass data gathering was to exercise broad unilateral control, not to principally avert terrorist attacks by finding the proverbial "needle in the haystack."

After 2001, Drake used official channels within the NSA to air his breach of citizens' privacy before going public from 2006. Serious charges later were dropped, but in 2011 he was convicted of a misdemeanor.

Israel/West Bank: Update--EU Cautions Tel Aviv in Its Search for Three Kidnapped Teens

According to The Jerusalem Post, the European Union (EU) on Saturday (June 28) issued its second condemnation of the June 12 kidnapping of three Israeli teens from a hitchhiking post in Gush Etzion in the West Bank.

The EU also urged Israel to restrain its activities against the Palestinians in the West Bank as it continues to search for the teens.

The EU was initially hesitant to condemn the kidnapping and did so five days after the event, as well as the US, Canada, Great Britain, Spain, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Israel has accused Hamas with abducting the the three teens and targeted the terrorist group as it undergoes a massive search for the teens in the West Bank, specifically in the Hebrón area.

Late Friday night and early Saturday morning (June 27-28), the IDF arrested 18 Palestinians, of which 12 were confirmed as Hamas members.

COMMENT: The IDF has said that it has searched 2,000 West Bank homes during the search for the teens.

In its statement on Saturday (June 28), the EU also commended Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for “his unequivocal condemnation of the abduction and welcomes the cooperation of the Palestinian security services in the search for the abductees.”

On Friday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke by telephone with the parents of Gil-Ad Shaer, 16, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19. “Our working assumption is that the boys are alive, until there is proof to the contrary." 

On Sunday evening, the One Family organization plans to hold a rally in support of the kidnapped teens at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv at 1930 hours. The mothers of the three teens--Rachel Fraenkel, Bat-Galim Shaer and Iris Yifrah--are expected to speak. Well-known Israeli singers Rami Kleinstein, Tzvika Pik, Dudu Fisher and Yonatan Razael will also perform. President-elect Reuven Rivlin will address the audience.

Somalia/Kenya: Update--Al-Shabaab Plans to Step Up Attacks During Ramadan

According to AFP, al-Qaeda-linked al-Shebaab militants have warned they will step up attacks in the Somalian capital of Mogadishu during the holy month of Ramadan, which started on Sunday (June 29).
In an audio message released on the al-Shebaab station, Radio Andalus, and also on an Islamist website, the group's commander in charge of Mogadishu operations, Sheik Ali Mohamed Hussein, said the time had come when violence will be at its peak.
COMMENT: Somalia president Hassan Sheik Mohamud, who appeared on national television to mark the beginning of Ramadan, said his government will do whatever it takes to neutralize the threats posed by al-Shabaab during the holy month.
Somalia police spokesman Kasim Ahmed Roble said the Lido Beach, a public space where Mogadishu residents frequently gather, will be closed during Ramadan.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Jobs at Philips 66: Number 16 on the Global 500

According to the below link, Philips 66 is listed as #16 on the Global 500, with 13,500 employees and financial assets amounting to US$51 billion.

Turkey: Update--Homeless Man, 47, Sentenced to Life for Murder of US Tourist Sarai Sierra, 33

According to, a Turkish homeless person who admitted to killing US tourist Sarai Sierra, 33, last year in Istanbul, who said that she had resisted his kiss, was found guilty of murder on Tuesday  (June 24) and sentenced to life in prison.

The defendant, Ziya Tasali, 47, a homeless collector of scrap paper, had confessed to killing Sarai Sierra, 33, a mother of two who was on her first solo trip abroad to pursue her interest in photography when she encountered her assailant during a walk across the Old City walls of Istanbul in January 2013.

Sierra disappeared a day before she was to return home, prompting a search by Turkish and US authorities that lasted nearly two weeks. 

Sierra's husband, Steven D. Sierra, from whom Sierra was estranged during her trip abroad, would eventually join in the search which ended when the police found the victim's bludgeoned body hidden behind the ancient walls in Istanbul’s Fatih district.

Mr. Sierra identified his wife in an Istanbul morgue. 

COMMENT: As I have said so often in the past, it is never a positive development when one or both partners of a marital union chooses to travel abroad solo, thinking it will solve the discourse that one or both partners is experiencing.

Just as I have said so often that traveling abroad  together never successfully addresses marital challenges a couple is encountering. 

What is almost always warranted is reputable and competent counselors experienced in the dysfunction of marriages whatever the cause. At least for Sarai, the availability of counseling is what she most needed, yet it was blatantly unavailable and out of reach.

As a retired US Senior Regional Security Officer (SRSO), all marriages between spouses who do not have access to professional counselors abroad who speak their language as a native tongue, almost always result in marital alienation, physical and emotional abuse, infidelity, sexual misconduct and related crimes which eventually results in the ending of a marriage that might well have been salvagable.

In the majority of cases, traveling abroad solo usually ends up further complicating the dynamics transpiring between a couple to the point that one or both parties ends up violating their marriage vows.

According to Mr. Sierra, he believes his wife, Sarai, compromised her marriage vows before her homicide at the hands of Ziya Tasali in January 2013.

Mr. Sierra, reached by telephone in New York City, said that he did not know how he felt about the verdict but that he wished Mr. Tasali well. 

In court on Tuesday, Tasali denied raping Ms. Sierra. The Istanbul Fifth High Criminal Court handed down an additional seven-year sentence for assault and theft.

In an earlier statement provided to the court, Tasali said he had been sniffing paint thinner and was under the influence of its fumes when he first saw Ms. Sierra. 

According to the statement, he attempted to kiss her at which point she resisted him, resulting in a struggle between the two of them eventually resulting in her death.

Cyprus: British-Swedish Couple Ends Tragically; Motorcycle Accident with Bus Kills Briton, Fiancée Fights for Life

According to the below link, British photographer James Haggerty, 20, who was killed in a motorcycle accident in Ayia Napa earlier this week are asking friends and family to help repatriate James' remains home:

Mr. Haggerty, from Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, died on Tuesday morning (June 24) after the motorcycle he was driving with Ariel was hit by a bus on the Ayia Napa to Paralimni Road, near Kavo Greco.

His fiancée and tandem passenger, Swedish national Mariel Tamblay, 24, was also injured in the crash and is currently fighting for her life at Nicosia General Hospital.

Speaking to the British media, James’ eldest brother, Gareth Haggerty, 31, said that to add to the family's heartache, James' family just discovered that James had no medical insurance nor had he arranged for coverage that would have enabled his remains to be repatriated home in the event of his death.

COMMENT: As most of our readers know all too well, I am constantly advocating that all foreign travelers subscribe to international medical treatment and evacuation coverage before they leave home that should include the repatriation of their remains if they die while abroad.

The one detail that most young adults NEVER consider is that they might die prematurely while abroad, yet it does much more frequently than any of us would care to acknowledge. 

Having been young once, I recall the powerful emotion of love, yet all travelers must be cognizant of the huge medical and repatriation bills that we leave behind for the living, who must now appeal for donations to pay for medical costs and repatriation.

Worse, medical efforts to save James' life have amounted to €13,000 (US$17,393) not to mention the cost of repatriating the Briton's remains back home to the UK.

Now, Ariel continues to fight for her life, knowing that similar debt will arise for her family to address.

Gareth's comments could not be clearer: “It’s all the little costs they just keep mounting up. This goes to show all those young people going to festivals and going away you that [travelers] must have insurance.”

Mariel had just flown to Cyprus to be with James 24 hours before the crash occurred. 

The youngest of five with two brothers and two sisters, James was popular among fellow students from Salford University and friends he grew up with.

His family is now asking friends, relatives and those wanting to help to raise funds to return James home. More information on how to make a donation can be found on the Facebook page "Bring James Haggerty Home."

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.

Argentina: Update--Vice President Charged with Corruption, Illegal Ownership of Ciccone Calcografica

According to Reuters, Argentina's Vice President Amado Boudou was charged on Friday (June 27) with corruption in his dealings with a company that printed the country's currency while he was economy minister in 2010.

The vice president will remain free while awaiting trial in the case along with five other defendants, according to a statement from Argentina's federal court system.

COMMENT: Boudou is accused of secretly purchasing Ciccone Calcografica, a company contracted to print Argentina's peso currency, while serving as the country's top economic policymaker. He denies the charge along with any wrongdoing.

If it can be proven that the Vice President covertly owned Ciccone Calcografica while serving as economy minister in 2010, it will become very difficult for President Fernández to protect him from the Argentine courts. 

Boudou has fulfilled minimal public functions in recent months as the investigation came to light. 

The accusation comes at a sensitive time for Argentina, as the government battles the federal court system in the United States against "holdout" creditors who want full repayment of bonds left over from the country's massive sovereign default in 2002. 

Denounced by Argentina as “vulture funds,” NML and other entities acquired risky Argentine bonds at high interest rates when Buenos Aires defaulted on roughly $100 billion in debt in December 2001, the largest sovereign default in world history, amid a financial meltdown and economic depression. 

Argentina says those potential claims would bring the total owed to the holdouts to some $15 billion, equivalent to half of Argentina’s foreign-exchange reserves, and push the entire nation into a technical  default, which could mean the country's inability to use the US financial system.

Venezuela: Commercial Electricity Lost in 14 of 23 States Until Nightfall on Friday

According to The Associated Press, a power plant failure neutralized a huge section of the country, officials have not said what percentage, on Friday (June 27), forcing a suspension of subway and train service across the country. Even a nationally televised presidential ceremony was shut down.

What is known is that electrical service in fourteen of the country's 23 states were darkened with most businesses and homes directly effected.

A power plant that supplies electricity to Venezuela's central and western regions failed on Friday afternoon, Electricity Minister Jesse Chacón said. 

Electricity was mostly restored in Caracas by nightfall, but remained out in other parts of the country, where power failures are a frequent occurrence.

COMMENT: Venezuela is one of the least transparent nations around the world, so it is never known as to whether such a large percentage of the loss of electricity is attributed to sabotage, incompetence, "brown-outs" or a failure of the government to pay its bills.

The outage disrupted a televised celebration of journalists that President Nicolás Maduro was holding in the governmental palace in Caracas. 

While some middle class neighborhoods were without power for the afternoon and evening, Caracas' experienced only intermittent outages.

The last time Caracas lost power, in March 2014, electricity was not fully restored for over 12 hours.

United States: Mexican Government Helicopter Fires Upon US Border Patrol Agents in Arizona

According to The Latin American Tribune, an unidentified Mexican government helicopter reportedly fired upon US Border Patrol agents from the air some eight miles south of the Arizona town of San Miguel on Thursday (June 27), although no one was reportedly injured.

According to the Customs and Border Protection Service, a component of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the unprovoked attack from the air is under investigation.

The shooting occurred at 0545 hours over the Tohono O’odham Indian reservation.

COMMENT: At a time when US Border Patrol agents are subject to armed attack at any time, the Ministry of Defense's verbal notification can only be described as complacent, non-responsive and a lack of a sense of urgency on the part of the Mexican government.

Mexican officials contacted their US counterparts to apologize for the incident, the leader of the Tucson Sector unit of the Border Patrol agents union, Art Del Cueto, said.
Despite the shooting upon US Border Patrol agents, México's Milenio television station denied any incursion into US airspace.

The press office at México's Ministry of Defense said it was working to gather information on the armed attack before issuing a statement.

Pakistan: Religious Barbarism Leads to Murder of Couple Who Failed to Obtain Families' Approval

According to Reuters,  a 17-year-old girl and a 31-year-old man in the Punjabi village of Satrah married each other on June 18 without their families' approval.

On June 27 the girl's mother and father lured the couple to their home that their marriage would receive a family blessing, said local police official Rana Zashid.

When the couple reached the girl's home they were tied up and their summarily throats slit.

Police subsequently arrested the girl's parents who said they had been embarrassed by the marriage of their daughter, Muafia Hussein, to a man from a less important tribe.

COMMENT: Immodest behavior that sparked recent killings included singing, looking out of the window or talking to a man who is not a relative. 

For a woman to marry a man of her own choice is considered an unacceptable insult by many families.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said 869 so-called "honor killings" were reported in the media in 2013--several a day. Yet, the true figure is probably much higher since many such homicides are never reported.

Many families simply nominate a member to do the killing, then formally forgive the killer.

The couple's lawyer, Zia Kiyyani, said the two had appealed for police protection after their marriage, but such protection was withheld. 

México: Franco-Japanese Renault-Nissan, Germany's Daimler Join Forces to Split Profits in Aguascalientes

According to The Latin American Tribune, the Franco-Japanese alliance Renault-Nissan and Germany’s Daimler on Friday (June 27)  announced plans to expand their four-year cooperation partnership with a new plant in the central Mexican state of Aguascalientes.

The two partners will share equally in the estimated 1-billion-euro ($1.4-billion) investment cost of the project, which will kick off in 2015.

Production of Infiniti models is scheduled to begin in 2017, with Mercedes-Benz vehicles to start rolling off the assembly line the following year.

The companies will add some 5,700 jobs by the time the plant reaches full annual capacity of 300,000 next-generation compact vehicles in around 2021.

The new Aguascalientes plant represents the partners’ biggest joint project to date, Renault-Nissan Alliance Chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn and Daimler Chairman Dieter Zetsche said via videoconference from Paris and Stuttgart, respectively.

COMMENT: The cooperation encompasses research, design and production, but the Infiniti and Mercedes vehicles manufactured at the jointly-run plant are to each preserve their unique brand identities and characteristics.

The industrial cooperation partnership between Daimler and Renault-Nissan began in April 2010 with a focus on Europe and has grown to include roughly a dozen projects.

“Just over four years after the cooperation was founded, the decision for the new plant in México is a major milestone,” Zetsche said, while Ghosn said the new project shows that the collaboration between Renault-Nissan and Daimler “has become global in scope.”

The two partners will benefit from Nissan’s experience in Aguascalientes, where its presence dates back to 1992 and it launched the first phase of a $2 billion manufacturing complex last November.

México also is an important market for Daimler, which makes trucks and transport vehicles in the Latin American country.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Kenya/UK: Row Arises Over UK's Possible Hope That Odinga Had Won Election, Travel Warnings

According to the UK-based The Telegraph, an estimated 700 British soldiers are reportedly stranded in Kenya after Nairobi held up diplomatic permits for troops, in a dispute with Great Britain over UK travel advice for Kenya appeared to escalate. 

Soldiers have been stuck in the country for several days after completing infantry training because the Kenyan government has delayed “diplomatic clearance.”

Sources said Nairobi was delaying clearance for troops from the 2nd Battalion, Parachute Regiment, to fly into the country, in what diplomats believe is a rebuke for Britain tightening travel advice to the East African nation. 

The delay means troops from the 3rd Battalion, The Rifles, who have finished their  training and are due to leave Kenya, have been politically stranded. 

Diplomatic relations between London and Nairobi have been tested since Uhuru Kenyatta, the president, came to power alleging that Britain had backed his rival, Raila Odinga.  

COMMENT: If the British Foreign Office had actually preferred Odinga over Kenyatta, they should have classified such information so it could have effectively been protected from leaking, media speculation and rumors.

British troops have for many years participated in a bi-lateral agreement whereby UK soldiers cycle through Kenya for infantry training. A regular agreement between the two countries on the arrangement is not due for renewal for another two years, but has become contentious of late in some Kenyan political circles. 

Nationalist elements of President Kenyatta’s party criticized his government for failing to withdraw the permission for the training as a reprimand for Britain’s perceived favoritism toward the opposition coalition. 

One Ministry of Defense source said Britain may now have to charter commercial flights to get their stranded troops back from the UK’s training base in the central Kenyan town of Nanyuki. 

British military cooperation with Kenya is worth £58 million (US$98,618,000) a year, most of which flows directly into the local economy, largely in Nanyuki, Christian Turner, British High Commissioner, said at a speech on the Queen’s Birthday in Nairobi last week.