Central & South America

25 primate species in Africa, Asia reported on brink of extinction from deforestation, hunting

25 primate species in Africa, Asia reported on brink of extinction from deforestation, hunting

WP — Twenty-five species of monkeys, langurs, lemurs and gorillas are on the brink of extinction and need global action to protect them from increasing deforestation and illegal trafficking, researchers said Monday. Six of the severely threatened species live in the island nation of Madagascar, off southeast Africa. Five more from mainland Africa, five from South America and nine species in Asia are among those listed as most threatened. Read article

Global Economy Distress 3.0 Looms as Emerging Markets Falter

Bloomberg – The global economy is facing its third major brake on expansion in five years as emerging markets slow from China to Brazil, provoking debate about how much policy makers should respond. Three years after industrializing nations led the world out of the U.S. mortgage meltdown-induced recession, the reliability of the power source is waning as Europe’s debt crisis persists. The International Monetary Fund sees them growing an average 5.8 percent in the half-decade through 2016, almost two percentage points less than the five years before the 2009 slump. Read Article

Brazil has found a top aide of the former Brazilian president guilty of corruption.

BBC – Jose Dirceu, Lula’s chief of staff from 2003 to 2005, was convicted of running a scheme that used public funds to buy support from opposition parties in congress. He denies the scheme ever existed and says the allegations are political. Lula, who remains hugely popular in Brazil, was not implicated in the case. Read article

IMF calls for action as euro zone crisis festers

Reuters – The IMF prodded the world’s rich countries for swifter action on Thursday as Europe’s debt crisis drags on while the United States and Japan show scant progress handling their budget deficits. Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said political wrangling added to economic uncertainty, slowing growth in both advanced and emerging economies. The IMF cut its global growth forecast this week for the second time since April. Read Article

Supreme Court denies Chevron $19bn Ecuador appeal

BBC – The US Supreme Court has declined to block a judgement from an Ecuadorean court that a US oil firm pay billions in damages for pollution in the Amazon. Chevron was fighting a ruling that it must pay $18.2bn (£11.4bn) in damages, a sum increased to $19bn in July. a href=”http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-19892561″ target=”_blank”>Read article

Brazilian former presidential aide found guilty of corruption

Guardian – The one-time right-hand man of the Brazilian former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been found guilty of corruption over a cash-for-votes scheme that came to light seven years ago. A majority of supreme court justices found José Dirceu guilty of “active corruption” by organising the scheme to buy congressional support for Silva’s policies. The case is known in Brazil as mensalão, or big monthly allowance, for the sums of up to $10,000 handed over to politicians. Read Article

Organized Crime Is Responsible For Up To 90 Percent Of Tropical Deforestation, U.N. Report Indicates

Huffington Post – With more than 80 percent of Earth’s forests already destroyed, saving the planet’s natural forests has become a prime environmental issue with activists seeking out the main sources of deforestation. The United Nations Environment Program recently released an alarming report indicating organized crime is responsible for 50 to 90 percent of illegal logging in tropical countries in the Amazon basin, Central Africa and South East Asia. Read article

Deforestation in snowy regions causes more floods

PhysOrg.com – Trees in snowy, mountainous areas, such as these near Cotton Creek in the Columbia Mountains, help keep floods under control. A new study shows that deforestation makes large floods more frequent. Credit: Kimberly Green New research suggests that cutting down swaths of forest in snowy regions at least doubles – and potentially quadruples – the number of large floods that occur along the rivers and streams passing through those forests. Read article

Peru rebels burn down helicopters at jungle airfield

BBC – Left-wing Shining Path rebels in Peru have burned three helicopters used by a private gas consortium, officials say. The rebels carried out the attack in the central region of Cusco – the same area where they kidnapped a group of gas workers in April. The Shining Path has been severely weakened since it started its insurgency in the 1980s. However remnants continue to be active in parts of the country and have allied themselves with drug traffickers. Read Article

US hedge fund seizes Argentine naval ship

New Statesman – An American hedge fund has seized a ship owned by the Argentine navy from a Ghanaian port, as part of an attempt to collect on bonds purchased after Buenos Aires defaulted in 2001. The fund, Elliott Capital Management, has been engaged in a long-running legal battle with the Argentine government. It specialises in what is euphemistically termed “distressed debt” – it buys up bonds held by countries which are extremely likely to default, or which have already defaulted. As a result, it gets them for a pittance, around one fifth of face value. Read Article

Lula’s ex-aide ran congressional vote-buying : Brazil judge

France24 – Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s chief of staff masterminded a vote-buying scheme by the ruling Workers Party in Brazil’s Congress, a Supreme Court justice said Wednesday. The former chief of staff, Jose Dirceu, is among 37 former ministers, lawmakers, businessmen and bankers on trial before the Supreme Court over the scheme known as “Mensalao” (big monthly payments) that ran from 2002 to 2005 during Lula’s first term. It is the biggest corruption scandal in Brazil in 20 years. Read article

US use of truth drug revealed

Sydney Morning Herald – New evidence has emerged that all Guantanamo Bay detainees, including David Hicks, were drugged involuntarily with a substance that has a long history as a truth serum. Recently declassified US documents revealing medical procedures have shown that scopolamine was administered to all detainees taken to the Cuban detention centre. Read Article

QE3 triggers fear of new currency wars

CNN – Fear has crept into the foreign exchange markets: fear of central banks. Currency traders are rapidly shifting assets to countries seen as less likely to try to weaken their currencies, amid concern that the fresh round of US monetary easing could trigger another clash in the “currency wars”. Fund managers are rethinking their portfolios in the belief that “QE3″ — the Federal Reserve’s third round of quantitative easing — will weaken the dollar and trigger sharp gains in emerging market currencies. Read Article

Bolivia’s new mining policy ignites turf war

Aljazeera – Independent miners set up blockades to prevent government-backed rivals from taking over mining region. A growing conflict between rival mining groups has started to take on national significance in Bolivia. Private- and public-sector miners have been fighting for the right to control part of a recently nationalised mine. Read Article

In Brazil, Attacking the Forest to Save It

Scientific American – The following is an excerpt from Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures In the World’s Most Polluted Places, by Andrew Blackwell (Rodale, 2012). The highway in the dark as the kilometers ticked by. We were driving south from Santarém on BR-163, one of the few highways to cut across the Brazilian Amazon. My friend Adam and I were headed for a turnoff somewhere in the low 70s. There, we would meet some people who spent their days ripping trees out of a protected rainforest. … Somehow, it was all legal. Read article

Venezuela and China agree to team up to develop large gold mine

Washington Post – Chinese and Venezuelan officials signed an agreement Friday to jointly develop one of the world’s largest gold mines. The agreement to develop Las Cristinas gold mine was signed by officials of the Venezuelan government and the Chinese company China International Trust and Investment Corp., or Citic. The mine in southern Bolivar state has been estimated to hold about 17 million ounces of gold. Read Article

Alabama first state to scan fingerprints of prison visitors

USA Today – The Alabama Department of Corrections has enacted a first-in-the-nation policy requiring visitors at the state’s prisons to have their fingerprint scanned before they are allowed to enter the facilities. No other state prison system in the country has a similar requirement, a USA TODAY check of other corrections departments showed. Read Article

Police begin enforcing controversial Arizona immigration measure

Reuters – Arizona police on Wednesday began enforcing a controversial “show-your-papers” provision of a state law targeting illegal immigration as civil rights groups prepared to document allegations of racial profiling. Police in the border state with Mexico are now authorized to begin conducting immigration status checks of anyone they stop for any reason and suspect of being in the country illegally after a federal judge on Tuesday lifted an injunction against the provision requiring such checks. Read Article

Poor smokers in NY spend quarter of income on cigarettes: study

Reuters – Poor smokers in New York State spend about a quarter of their entire income on cigarettes, nearly twice as much as the national average for low-income smokers, according to a new study. The study, conducted by the non-profit research group RTI on behalf of the state’s health department, found there was no statistically significant decline in the prevalence of smoking among poorer New Yorkers between 2003 and 2010, even as the habit declined by about 20 percent among all income groups. Read Article

Chilean court confirms Allende suicide

CNN – A Chilean court has settled the question of how then-President Salvador Allende died, confirming that the leader took his own life in 1973 amid a coup. Questions over how Allende’s life ended culminated in his body being exhumed last year for forensic tests.

Bolivia sees fall in coca production, says UN report

BBC – The United Nations says the production of coca leaves – the raw ingredient for cocaine – in Bolivia has dropped significantly over the last year. The area used for cultivation of coca in the South American country is down by 12%, according to a report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Read Article

IMF to Put Argentina on Path to Censure Over Inflation Data

Bloomberg – Argentina is on track to be the first country ever censured by the International Monetary Fund for not sharing accurate data about inflation and the economy. The IMF’s board of directors, meeting yesterday in Washington, gave the country until Dec. 17 to respond to concerns about the quality of its official data, it said today in an e-mailed statement. If the deadline is missed, the board can issue a declaration of censure, a warning that has never been used and which means sanctions may be applied if the concerns aren’t addressed. Read Article

Volcanic activity diminishes in Guatemala

CNN – The eruption of a volcano in Guatemala was diminishing Friday, emergency officials said, though a heightened alert for the communities near the Volcan de Fuego remained in place. “For the moment, all that are seen are weak and moderate explosions as well as flows of lava that also diminished in length,” the government said on its website, citing the National Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology. Read article