December 16, 2017

USA: Doctors Group Changes “Baby” To “Fetus” in Its “How Your Baby Grows During Pregnancy” Brochure. 😦 This Is So Twisted. 😠

Life News
written by Micaiah Bilger
November 24, 2017

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has been siding with the abortion industry for years.

And a new change to one of its popular patient pregnancy handouts has some doctors concerned about the extent of the organization’s abortion politicking.

ACOG recently changed the word “baby” to “fetus” in its “How Your Baby Grows During Pregnancy” handout for patients, the Quebec Daily Examiner reports. Fetus is a medical term taken from Latin (“offspring”), but the abortion industry uses it as a way to de-humanize the unborn child.

Dr. Greg Marchand, a board certified OBGYN, said the organization made the change subtly in September, but it gained attention after ACOG sent a Nov. 22 email listing new resources available. The title now is “How Your Fetus Grows During Pregnancy.”

“It makes a really big difference,” Marchand said. “There’s some really big political implications here.”

Marchand linked the change to the organization’s pro-abortion political stance. He said the pamphlet often is given to newly expecting mothers during their first obstetrician visit.

“We are talking about the difference between telling a newly pregnant mom that she is pregnant with a baby or pregnant with a fetus,” he said. “This is early in pregnancy, when pregnancy termination is still something many new moms are considering.”

The June 2015 version of the pamphlet still appears in the public section of the website. The new pamphlet is available to members only.

Other than the change from “baby” to “fetus,” there are no other major changes to the pamphlet, according to the report.

The ACOG has been pushing an abortion agenda for years. During its 2015 annual conference, the organization made no secret of its support for the killing of unborn babies. It hosted abortion workshops and promoted Planned Parenthood and its eugenic founder Margaret Sanger during the conference.

It also has attacked conscience rights for those who oppose abortion and misled people about the beginning of life and late-term abortions.

USA: The Museum Of The Bible Opened In Washington D.C.

CBN News
written by Ben Kennedy
November 14, 2017

Washington – Technology inspired by Disney and Pixar is bringing the Museum of the Bible to life, giving visitors a glimpse back to the time of Jesus.

Once inside, visitors' eyes are drawn to an awe-inspiring 140 foot digital canvas.

"The idea is to just set the tone when you walk into the museum," said Jeff Schneider, Museum of the Bible's vice president of information and interactive systems.

Each person will be handed a tablet to customize their visit. It allows guests to set the length of time of a tour, keep track of family, and even translate signs.

"You simply tap a button and it turns on. The camera uses augmented reality which recognizes the sign and then returns the language of the sign into your choice," said Schneider.

The elevators are lined with digital screens that transport visitors to ancient Israel.

At the top floor is the world stage theater which features 3D projection mapping.

"It will project on the ceiling, walls and front screen," said Schneider. "It completely emerges you into the scene."

The Museum of the Bible is already thinking about what's next and plans to open a virtual reality theater next year.

"What we're trying to do is foster engagement with content of the Bible," said Schneider. "We are trying to activate learning, and technology is a great way to do that."

The first museum dedicated solely to God's holy Word opens to the public November 18.

December 14, 2017

HAPPY Thursday Everybody! :)


December 13, 2017

NORWAY/ICELAND: Sea Shepherd Global Took Photos Of Hundreds Of Whales And Dolphins Slaughtered And Dragged Ashore Barely Alive In Horrifying Hunts Off The Faroe Islands. 😦😠

The Sun, UK
written by Paul Harper
Thursday November 9, 2017

THESE horrifying images show hundreds of whales and dolphins being slaughtered and dragged ashore alive in hunts off the Faroe Islands.

Activists from Sea Shepherd Global pictured the horrific scenes on the Danish archipelago halfway between Norway and Iceland.

Fishermen drive herds of pilot whales and Atlantic white-sided dolphins into shallow waters.

They are then killed through a spinal lance that is driven through the animals’ neck to break their spinal cords.

Volunteers, posing as tourists, watched nine hunts from July to September that they claim wiped out 198 dolphins and 436 whales.

One Sea Shepherd volunteer told Fox News: “Witnessing a grind first hand was truly an eye-opening experience.

“As the pilot whales were driven to the shoreline by the small boats the intensity of the thrashing bodies grew.

“Hooks were sunk into the blowholes and the whales were dragged onto the shore in a sadistic game of ‘Tug of War.’

“We witnessed whales seemingly bashing their heads against the stones in a frenzy.”

Another eyewitness also described a hunt at the village of Bour on August 31 where 29 long-finned pilot whales were reportedly killed.

“We recorded children attempting to remove the teeth of several whales with nothing more than a pocket knife as well as removing slices of what appeared to be a tumour on one whale,” the volunteer said.

Fox News reported the island’s government said 1,700 pilot whales and white-sided dolphins (including the aforementioned hunts) have been caught in the Faroe Islands so far this year.

When whales are spotted during their migration, fisherman will head out in boats and surround the herd in a massive convoy driving them to shore at one of 19 designated killing zones.

The “Grindadrap”, the Faroese term for whale killing, happens several times a year.

The government defended the bloody practice, telling Fox News: “Sea Shepherd representatives will go to any lengths to paint a negative picture of the Faroese whale hunt as barbaric and evil with the aim of inciting anger and outrage against the people of the Faroe Islands.

“Catches are shared largely without the exchange of money among the participants in a whale drive and residents of the local district where they are landed.

“Each whale provides the communities with several hundred kilos of meat and blubber – meat that otherwise had to be imported from abroad.”

Officials said the annual catch of pilot whales “represents one per cent of the total estimated stock”.

NORWAY: A Norwegian Reindeer Herder Says That Freight Trains Have Killed 106 Of The Animals During A Three-Day Span. 😦😟

NY Daily News, USA
written by AP staff
Sunday November 26, 2017

STAVANGER, Norway — A Norwegian reindeer herder says that freight trains have killed more than 100 of the animals on the tracks in three days.

Torstein Appfjell, a distraught reindeer herder in Helgeland county, said Sunday that the worst incident happened Saturday when 65 animals were mown down.

Appfjell told The Associated Press by telephone it was "totally tragic" and "unprecedented" for so many reindeer to lose their lives in this way. A total of 106 reindeer were killed since Thursday.

Appfjell represents four families in the area with a total of around 2,000 reindeer. He said that in the worst previous 12-month period, 250 animals were killed in train accidents.

VG newspaper reports that Bane NOR, which operates the trains, has now reduced speeds in the area.

EURO-ARCTIC REGION: Finland and Baltics Gear Up Rail And Arctic Infrastructure Projects to Connect With China, Russia, And EU OBOR Trade. Interesting Read.

HKDTC Research
written by Chris Devonshire-Ellis, the Founding Partner and Chairman of Dezan Shira & Associates
Tuesday December 12, 2017

With both China and Russia gearing up for overseas rail and Arctic shipping potential to Europe, positive moves to accept and accommodate improved rail links are being taken in the Baltics. Russia has recently signaled its desire to extend and redevelop passenger rail services from St. Petersburg to Berlin in a route that sees cross-border travel through Latvia, Lithuania, the Western Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, and through Poland.

Estonia, to the north-east, has also been discussing improvements with Russia concerning both road and rail connectivity, with the Deputy Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation Sergey Aristov stating in April that Estonia and Russia have reached an agreement regarding the re-establishing of their cooperation in transportation. Aristov was reported as saying the discussions were “very positive.” Estonia was represented by Ahti Kuningas, deputy secretary general for transport at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, Priit Rohumaa, chairman of the supervisory board of Estonian Railways, and the Estonian Ambassador to Russia Arti Hilpus. According to Ambassador Hilpas, discussions revolved around the potential for high speed links and Russian/Estonian highway collaborations.

These developments are partially geared to accentuate the increasing amount of Chinese freight trains arriving in Europe via Kazakhstan and Russia, and to allow both Chinese and Russia trade access too and obtain supplies from the Baltics. At present, much of the rail traffic enters the EU into Poland via Belarus, further south, leaving the Baltics and Nordic nations out of the loop. Chinese-European freight is seeing a 100 percent increase this year, compared to 2016, with 1,000 freight trains expected to make the journey during 2017. Such growth rates are only expected to continue. Coming Europe’s way are Chinese electronics, going the other – are valuable and perishable European consumables.

Getting the Baltics configured into this trade, both from the mutual access perspective as well as services provision, is also inspiring some serious infrastructure developments. Both Estonia and Finland are discussing the possibility of connecting to each other via a 90 km, Helsinki-Tallinn undersea tunnel. A one-way journey would take just 30 minutes, as opposed to an effective 3 hour (including airport time) trip to take the 60 minute Turboprop, and the 2 hours by ferry.

Helsinki and Tallinn jointly represent an economic area populated by 1.5 million people, and there is active inter-city movement of people for work and leisure as well as freight traffic. Last year, Tallinn processed 10 million port visitors, with Helsinki reporting 11.5 million marine passengers passing through. Traffic between the two port cities in particular saw major growth last year and tens of thousands embark on work-related trips between the two cities weekly. The EU-funded studies, which are being undertaken by a consortium of interested businesses, are expected to produce initial feasibility results later in the year. These are to include cost-benefit analyses and impact assessments for both the rail and marine options, how the undersea tunnel can be technically implemented, and price tag determinants for construction, maintenance, and rail traffic. It will also sketch out the project’s main features, including location of routes, stations, and rolling stock depots.

These are part of Rail Baltica, a greenfield rail transport infrastructure project intended to integrate the Baltic States in the European rail network. The project includes five European Union countries – Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland. It will connect Helsinki, Tallinn, Pärnu, Riga, Panevežys, Kaunas, Vilnius, and Warsaw, and is expected to be completed by 2026.

Russia is not part of this grouping, as it is not an EU nation. Nonetheless, bilateral discussions between Russian Railways and the same group of nations have been and continue to take place. An example is the Kouvola Rail Forum taking place in Finland this September. The program specifically deals with the Eurasian Land Bridge, China rail, and Finnish-Russian rail connectivity, which has been upgraded in recent years to almost wholly electrified routes.

The Taiwanese electronics business MIPRO recently won a €22.3m contract awarded by the Finnish Transport Agency (Liikennevirasto) for the renewal of signalling systems at Niirala, Kotolahti-Mussalo, and Vainkkala marshalling yards in eastern Finland, which connect directly with Russia and the Russian Railway and highway network, although these require some development on both sides. However, both Finland and Russia recognize this, and are taking steps to integrate technological systems such as the introduction of RFID remote identifier systems. These in particular, offer potential benefits along the entire supply chain – from customers and operators to handlers and border authorities, benefiting China, Russia, and EU customers and smoothing over the entire supply chain.

Finland has also been discussing the potential for a US$3.4 billion “Arctic Corridor” that would connect Northern Europe with Russia, China, and Arctic Ocean deep-water ports. The idea is being pitched by a group of Finnish academics and business leaders, and would connect the city of Rovaniemi in northern Finland with the Norwegian port of Kirkenes on the Barents Sea. Ships could move goods from China as well as oil and gas from Arctic fields in Russia westward along the Northern Sea Route to Kirkenes. Cargo would be offloaded to the railway and sent southward through rail connections to Scandinavia, Helsinki, the Baltic states, and the rest of Europe. The Chinese routes for this are explained in the article “China’s Maritime Arctic Silk Road On Ice”.

“The Arctic Corridor project sees OBOR as very important as it provides an alternative to connect Asia with the Arctic and Europe.” said Timo Lohi, a spokesman for the Arctic Corridor project. Lohi also notes that Kirkenes in Norway is the closest Western port to Asia. Kirkenes Port is also ice-free, allowing the use of larger vessels and saving on ice-breaking costs.

These developments, tucked away into North-Eastern Europe, seem a long way from China when viewed on traditional flat maps. However, this is the top of the world, and distances are actually shorter than they appear. A direct flight from Helsinki to Beijing for example takes just 6 hours.

It should be remembered that Finland is a major gateway into Russia and also offers mutual access to China for electronics, as well as high quality Finnish goods to China. The same applies to the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, with Estonia especially having tied itself to developing China trade services as well as being a viable rail and sea port. While much of this depends upon the acceptance of Russia, and Russian Rail operators in the Baltics, a politically tricky subject at present, should military and security concerns be put to rest, the Baltics region can become a major player in future Chinese and Russian regional trade. Regional manufacturers should be looking at adjusting quality consumer products to Chinese tastes, and especially the sustainable, yet exotic (such as Nordic meats and fish) in addition to high quality clothing and other consumables. The services industries and development funds in particular, in everything related to transportation, warehousing, logistics, and related IT within the region should be keeping an eye on these possibilities. The EU’s next major capital city as concerns OBOR and influence may well be Helsinki.

This article was first published on Silk Road Briefing. Please click to read the full report.

AUSTRALIA: The Government Plans To Develop Its The Whole Northern Territory, Parts Of Queensland And Western Australia Working Out Investment Cooperation With China's Belt And Road Initiative.

Xinhua News, China
written by Xu Haijing
Monday November 20, 2017

CAINS, Australia - A high-level investment forum is being held here on Monday as part of the Australian government's effort to attract more foreign investment to develop the country's comparatively underdeveloped north.

The Northern Australian Investment Forum, the second of its kind, was inaugurated in the tropical city of Cains, where more than 500 delegates from 21 countries and regions gathered for the biannual event.

The first Northern Australian Investment Forum was held in Darwin, Northern Territory, in November 2015.

Ning Jizhe, vice chairman of China's National Development and Reform Commission, said in his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the forum that China's Belt and Road Initiative has received positive response from the international community since it was first proposed in 2013.

So far, China has established capacity and investment cooperation mechanism with 36 countries and set up third country market cooperation mechanism with many countries including Australia.

The Australia government's plan to develop its north and China's Belt and Road Initiative have strong commonality and alignment, providing good opportunities for Sino-Australian investment cooperation, he said.

Northern Australia covers the whole Northern Territory and parts of Queensland and Western Australia. It comprises only 5 percent of Australia's 24 million population yet 40 percent of the land mass of the world's sixth largest country by area.

There are 17 million hectares of arable soil in the north. The resource-rich north also accounts for 90 percent of Australia's gas reserves.

"There is no doubt that there are opportunities from alignment between Australia's initiatives and China's Belt and Road Initiative. The Belt and Road Initiative is going to be for China a game changer. Australia is having its own initiatives that are undertaking. Clearly there are complementarity between for example Northern Australia initiative and China's Belt and Road Initiative," Steven Ciobo, minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, said when answering questions from Xinhua at a press conference during the forum on Monday.

Ning proposed to promote China-Australia investment cooperation further in three areas: catering to the demands of Chinese and Asian market and promoting investment and development of northern Australia; taking into account the economic structural adjustment, upgrading bilateral investment; encouraging businesses to conduct third country market cooperation.

"The Australian government has big agenda in attracting investment in northern Australia. I'm sure there are many opportunities that Australian businesses and government can be partnering with Chinese businesses and the Chinese government in our shared goal of developing northern Australia," said Matt Canawan, minister for Resources and Northern Australia.

"More than 500 delegates being here is a testimony to the attractiveness and opportunities existing here in northern Australia. There is a great degree of interest in partnering with all northern Australians and the Australian government and state and territory government to the level of opportunities existed for northern Australia."

"At the government level, we put aside more than 11 billion Australian dollars (8.3 billion U.S. dollars) to invest in infrastructure, from Bruce Highway to Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility, to other strategic roads right across northern Australia. But we need to multiply that amount to really develop the North," said Canawan.

Ciobo said foreign investment into Australia is critical.

"Yes, we are a rich country. Yes, we have a strong domestic savings pool. But the fact is, if we want to reach our full economic potential, if we are going to drive the Australian economy, if we want to create jobs not only for northern Australia but across Australian economy, we must have foreign investment. That's consistent with our national interest to make sure our country can reach its full potential."

The forum lasts two days and will end on Tuesday.

Canawan said the first forum did lead to the investment in Darwin Port and investment in the Ord River agriculture district in Western Australia.

"We are hopeful we are getting similar outcome from this conference today."
HKTDC Research
written by Saul Eslake, Independent Economist, and Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow, University of Tasmania
November 30, 2017

What does the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ mean for Australia?

As is readily apparent from any of the maps depicting the ‘Belt and Road’, Australia isn’t on it. Nonetheless, as President Xi Jinping said in his address to the Australian Parliament in November 2014, “Oceania is a natural extension of the ancient maritime Silk Road, and China welcomes Australia's participation in the 21st century maritime Silk Road”.

The ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ is thus of considerable potential interest to Australia, from a number of perspectives, including opportunities for Australian businesses arising from infrastructure and other projects in countries which are formally on the ‘Belt’ or the ‘Road’, and Chinese involvement in infrastructure projects in Australia which may complement various aspects of the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative.

Australian firms have considerable expertise in areas such as the design, construction, financing, and management of infrastructure projects and operations for which there are likely to be profitable opportunities arising from ‘Belt and Road’ projects in Asia and Europe. Education and training in the skills required for these areas may be another area of opportunities for Australian institutions and businesses.

Opportunities for Australian firms to participate in ‘Belt and Road’ related projects in China itself should in some cases be enhanced by the market-opening provisions of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. However, both within China and especially in other ‘Belt and Road’ countries where Australian firms do not have any significant established presence, opportunities for Australian firms are more likely to be enhanced by more formal collaboration with Chinese firms.

The other important dimension of the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ from an Australian perspective is the extent to which it may incorporate infrastructure projects within Australia. Australia needs to invest a lot in infrastructure, both to make up for past under-investment, especially in urban transport, or mis-directed investment, especially in energy; to capitalize on emerging new technologies; and to facilitate new opportunities for international trade, including with China.

As a capital-intensive economy with a relatively small population spread across a very large geographical area, Australia has been partially reliant on foreign capital to meet its investment requirements ever since the commencement of European settlement. What has changed over time is the origin of that capital – from Britain and other European countries until the 1960s, then from the United States and Japan, and more recently from other Asian countries, including China, and the Middle East. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Chinese investment into Australia totalled A$87.3bn at the end of 2016, of which almost $42bn was direct investment (as opposed to portfolio investment in shares and bonds)17. Data compiled by KPMG and the University of Sydney puts the cumulative value of Chinese direct investment between 2007 and 2016 into Australia at US$89bn18 – equivalent to almost A$120bn at current exchange rates. An increasing proportion of this investment – 28% in 2016 – has been in infrastructure (in particular, seaports).

Infrastructure investment raises particular political sensitivities in Australia because, although Australia has always been a predominantly capitalist economy, the provision of transport and energy infrastructure has historically been undertaken by government departments or state owned enterprises (as is also the case in China). The movement towards greater involvement of private enterprises and investors, whether Australian or foreign, in the provision and operation of infrastructure assets, has not been without numerous difficulties: many Australians feel, rightly or wrongly, that the result of ‘privatization’ has been higher prices and inferior standards of service, the opposite of what had been promised19. Many Australians resent the fact that investors from countries which don’t permit foreigners to purchase land, businesses or other assets are nonetheless allowed to do so in Australia20. The fact that these differences in foreign investment policy may reflect different political systems, or a polar opposite balance between domestic saving and investment, does not usually persuade Australians who hold these views to a different opinion.

These and other sensitivities have to be borne in mind when evaluating Australia’s response to the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ – just as Australia has had to be mindful of, for example, Chinese sensitivities when pursuing greater access to Chinese markets during negotiations over the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

In particular, Australia’s response should not be influenced by fear – either of China’s purposes in promoting the ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative, or ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO) on business opportunities in China, and Chinese investment in Australia.

There would seem to be little reason for concern if Australia were to sign a ‘memorandum of understanding’ similar to the one agreed between China and New Zealand earlier this year.

That Memorandum provides for both sides to “respect each other’s interests and major concerns to deepen mutual trust”, to “maintain and enhance existing bilateral co-operation and multilateral mechanisms”, and to “promote practical co-operation in areas of mutual concern”.

It provides that China and New Zealand will “carry out senior-level dialogue and promote communication” on macro policies and development strategies”, including as to “how they will best support the Belt and Road Initiative in line with [their] comparative advantages”; it includes a numerical target for the value of two-way trade by 2020 and a commitment to “conduct mutually beneficial co-operation” in a number of fields, including infrastructure, agricultural technologies and clean energy; it provides for “cultural exchanges”, including specifically in film and television”; and it commits both countries to “enhanced cooperation” in various multilateral fora including APEC, the AIIB and the Pacific Islands Forum”. The agreement is effective for five years, and will be renewable automatically every five years thereafter, subject to three months’ notice of termination by either country.

A similar understanding between Australia and China would likely be beneficial for both countries. From the standpoint of Australian businesses, it would serve to indicate that their participation in ‘Belt and Road’ projects has the formal endorsement of the Australian Government, and it would be a signal to Chinese businesses that participation by Australian partners in such projects is welcomed by the Chinese Government. That is likely to be helpful in pursuing business and investment opportunities.

However, more specific commitments – in particular, the designation of any specific projects in Australia as part of the ‘Belt and Road’ – would need to demonstrate ‘win-win’ characteristics that would be readily evident to both sides. They should be negotiated on a case-by-case basis, with sufficient time for the claimed benefits to be properly evaluated and any costs to be assessed.

In that context, it would probably assist in enhancing mutual understanding if Australia were to make clearer the criteria by which decisions regarding foreign investment are made – both in advance, and in explaining the reasons for particular decisions. As an Australian citizen, I am not satisfied by a mere declaration that a particular foreign investment proposal is ‘contrary to the national interest’, without at least some attempt being made to explain why – and I would imagine that foreign investors would feel much the same.

The ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative has the potential to be a major influence on the economic, political, social and cultural evolution of not just Asia, but a large part of the world, over at least the next three decades. Australia should want to be part of it – but for that to be sustainable it needs to be on terms that recognize and advance Australia’s own interests, and which resonate with the Australian people.

Please click to read the full report.

BRAZIL: China's Three Major Oil Giants Have Respectively Won Three Blocks In Brazil's Deepwater Oil Auction Recently; Brazil’s Dreams And Nightmares Are On View at This Super-Port

China Daily News
written by Zheng Xin
November 3, 2017

Deal expected to boost cooperation between China and oil rich South American country

Chinese oil giants are eyeing an expanded presence in Brazil, winning holdings in three blocks awarded in Brazil's deepwater oil auction in a historic opening of the pre-salt play to foreign operators.

Consortiums comprising China's three major oil giants, China National Petroleum Corp, China Petroleum & Chemical Corp and China National Offshore Oil Corp, have respectively won three blocks recently, deepening the energy cooperation between the two countries.

Analysts said Chinese oil and gas companies' participation show the growing interest of China, the world's top crude oil importer, in Brazil, and it is believed the presence of Chinese energy behemoths will further enhance in the future, as both countries are complimentary in resources, technology and capital.

China has the technology, the capital and most important, the demand for crude oil, and Brazil is definitely an ideal partner while also playing a significant role in the Belt and Road Initiative, said Li Li, research director for the energy sector at ICIS China, a consultancy focused on the energy industry.

Brazil put six of the eight blocks on offer in the auction for the rights to pump oil from its coveted pre-salt region, where billions of barrels of oil are trapped below thousands of feet of salt in the country's Atlantic waters.

The three blocks include Peroba, located in the Santos basin and boasting an estimated 5.3 billion barrels of oil, Alto de Cabo Frio West in the Santos basin and Sapinhoa, located in the same region with an estimated 350 million barrels of oil.

President Michel Temer said recently that the development of the blocks would lead to 100 billion reais ($30.84 billion) in investment from the winning companies for Brazil.

Energy cooperation between China and Brazil, a basis for economic and social development, has great potential and China has witnessed a large amount of imported oil from Brazil in recent years, said Zhou Dadi, a senior researcher at the China Energy Research Society.

Many oil majors including Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil Corp and BP also won blocks during the auction, the first in four years to offer up stakes of Brazil's pre-salt, where has over 5 billion in proven oil reserves and nearly 3 billion cubic meters of gas, according to Reuters.

However, Chinese companies should conduct thorough research in another country's economic situation, policy on foreign investment and energy similarities, so as to ensure win-win cooperation, Zhou said.

China imported 281.1 million metric tons of crude in the first eight months of this year, equivalent to 8.44 million barrels per day, according to Customs data, up 12.3 percent from the same period in 2016.

Bloomberg News
written by David Biller and Marie Monteleone
Thursday December 7, 2017

Santos has drugs, slums and a bustling port that just might help the Latin giant stage a turnaround that sticks. Two hundred million people are counting on it.

To take the pulse of Brazil, drive an hour from Sao Paulo to the port at Santos, the busiest in Latin America.

Curving inland from emerald waters and high-living beachfront condos, the harbor in the five-century old city is home to teeming favelas of huts on stilts, terminals loaded with goods fueling an economic rebound and, increasingly, cocaine. The port complex is a 3-square-mile microcosm of a country buffeted by political turmoil, drug-fueled violence and persistent income inequality as it emerges from a grinding recession. Will the turnaround take hold? There are answers, of a sort, in the sprawl of stacked containers and towering cranes.

The port regained the region’s No. 1 status in 2015, surpassing the two that straddle the Panama Canal. That was a marker, but this year holds the big promise: In the first quarter, agricultural sales to foreign customers led Brazil out of its worst slump on record. Rising imports, particularly for car parts and capital goods, provide a glimpse of the rally in domestic demand that’s finally underway. With almost 13 million people unemployed, resurgence can’t come soon enough. Agriculture’s upturn has been feeding into other quarters as the economy plods toward broad-based growth, says Marcelle Chauvet, a University of California, Riverside, economics professor who sits on a committee that tracks Brazil’s economic cycles at the Getulio Vargas Foundation. “One sector’s recovery pulls the other ones up, and then it’s like a domino effect.”

Containers are loaded with coffee, soybeans, corn and more—including cocaine. Santos authorities have seized a record 11.5 tons so far this year, finding it squirreled away in shipments of anything from sacks of sugar to frozen pig heads. Traffickers are always looking for new tricks; recently they’ve been pulling up alongside ships headed out to sea and coordinating with crew members who drop lines to hoist the illicit cargo aboard, said Santos’ federal police chief, Júlio César Baida. Police caught a skiff motoring out of one of the port’s favelas in August and the ensuing shootout left four smugglers dead.

Violent competition over key trafficking routes erupted in late 2016 after Brazil’s two biggest gangs ended a 23-year truce, notes Robert Muggah, research director at Instituto Igarapé. The rise in homicides boosts the appeal of right-wing politicians calling for looser gun control and vigilante justice, he says, while repressive policing and incarceration practices have strengthened the power of organized-crime groups. According to Muggah, “The tough-on-crime approach is actually exacerbating cycles of violence and marginalization.”

Marginalization is on display within the port, which is home to three favelas (Portuguese for slum or shanty town). Recent studies have cast doubt on the extent to which the commodities-led boom of the past decade helped reduce inequality. One from the World Wealth & Income Database, co-directed by the French economist Thomas Piketty, found considerably higher inequality than official estimates suggest—with the top 10 percent of earners accounting for more than half of national income. Rising wealth concentration is a threat to economic growth, Piketty contended in his best-seller, Capital In The Twenty-First Century, and to a functioning democracy.

Santos is at the heart of the last remaining corruption investigation threatening President Michel Temer. The Supreme Court has authorized a probe into alleged bribes paid by executives of terminal operator Rodrimar in exchange for a presidential decree that extended operators’ concessions. Rodrimar denies receiving any favorable treatment, noting that the order didn’t benefit it alone, and Temer has denied wrongdoing. Already Temer has dodged two corruption trials that lawmakers voted down, following three years of sprawling scandal. With presidential elections looming next October, nearly nine of 10 Brazilians say it’s “very important” their candidate have no involvement in corruption cases.

The fact that the federal government controls aspects of Santos, including concessions, underscores its national importance: It accounts for about 30 percent of all trade. But the port authority’s market relations director, Cleveland Sampaio Lofrano, says the single biggest takeaway from a trip he and other executives took to the port in Antwerp in September was that they should be operating with autonomy.

That’s not necessarily in store, though the government is working to reduce bureaucracy that creates bottlenecks for businesses. That includes eliminating some paperwork and instituting online services, such as a foreign-trade portal that’s nearing completion and authorities estimate will reduce export time by at least 40 percent. It’s part of a wider effort to shore up the economy’s incipient recovery, and set a course for long-term growth.

BRAZIL: Brazil Court Blocks Amazon Goverment Mining Decree; Brazil Declares It Won't Abolish Massive Reserve In The Amazon, After All

BBC News, UK
written by Staff
August 30, 2017

A Brazilian court has suspended a government decree that would open up a vast natural reserve in the Amazon to commercial mining.

The area covers 46,000 sq km (17,800 sq miles) and is thought to be rich in gold, manganese and other minerals.

On Monday, following widespread criticism, the government revised the decree, prohibiting mining in conservation or indigenous areas.

The latest decision follows an outcry from activists and celebrities.

The federal court in the capital Brasilia said in a statement it was suspending "possible administrative acts based on the decree" signed by President Michel Temer.

The Renca reserve in the eastern Amazon is home to indigenous tribes and large areas of untouched forest. Its size is larger than Denmark and about 30% of it was to be opened to mining.

Brazilian president Michael Temer says this would boost the country's economy.
But opposition Senator Randolfe Rodrigues denounced the move as "the biggest attack on the Amazon in the last 50 years".

Maurício Voivodic, head of the conservation body WWF in Brazil, warned last month that mining in the area would lead to "demographic explosion, deforestation, the destruction of water resources, the loss of biodiversity and the creation of land conflict".

According to the WWF report, the main area of interest for copper and gold exploration is in one of the protected areas, the Biological Reserve of Maicuru.

There is also said to be gold in the Para State forest, which lies within the area.

The WWF says there is potential for conflict too in two indigenous reserves that are home to various ethnic communities living in relative isolation.

WWF's report said that a "gold rush in the region could create irreversible damage to these cultures".

"If the government insisted on opening up these areas for mining without discussing environmental safeguards it will have to deal with an international outcry."
written by Staff
September 26, 2017

Roughly a month after the Brazilian government said it would open a wide swath of Amazon rain forest to mining interests, it has backpedaled on that controversial decision. In a statement Monday, the country's Ministry of Mines and Energy said President Michel Temer would issue a new decree restoring the original conditions of the nature reserve.

Those conditions, established in 1984 under the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil at the time, protected more than 17,000 square miles of rain forest in northern Brazil — a copper-rich expanse larger than Denmark. The area, known as the National Reserve of Copper and Associates (RENCA), is home to several indigenous tribes and what are believed to be significant troves of gold, iron and other minerals.

In its decree last month abolishing that reserve, the Ministry of Mines and Energy argued that opening the area would enable the government to combat illegal mining operations and attract legal investment.

First, though, the decree attracted immediate criticism from activists and opposition politicians as "the biggest attack on the Amazon of the last 50 years."

"Not even the military dictatorship dared so much," Sen. Randolfe Rodrigues said, according to Brazilian newspaper O Globo. "I never imagined the government had such nerve."

Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen‏ also stoked public indignation, accusing the government of "auctioning off our Amazon!"
Despite a revision limiting miners' access to the region, The Guardian reports, a federal Brazilian court suspended the decree shortly afterward, ruling that Temer had exceeded his authority.

The decision piled just one more legal woe on Temer, who earlier this month was slapped with his second set of charges as part of a massive corruption probe. He escaped the first set several months ago when lawmakers blocked the prosecution from proceeding while he remains in office.

Referring to Temer's reversal on the Amazon reserve, Greenpeace Brazil's Marcio Astrini hailed it as a sign that "there is no leader absolutely immune to public pressures."

"It is a victory of society over those who want to destroy and sell our forest," Astrini said. "Renca is just a battle. The war against the Amazon and its different peoples, promoted by Temer and big agribusiness, is still on."

In its statement Monday, the Ministry of Mines and Energy signaled that the decision to reinstitute the reserve wasn't the end of its push, either.

"The country needs to grow and generate jobs, attract investment to the mining sector, and even tap the economic potential of the region."

COLOMBIA: Police Seized 12 Tons Of Cocaine From Colombia’s Top Crime Gang, The Largest Single Drug Seizure In The History Of The Country. 👏👍

The Telegraph, UK
written by AFP staff
Friday December 8, 2017

President Juan Manuel Santos on Wednesday announced Colombia’s police had seized 12 tons of cocaine, which he said was the largest single drug seizure in the history of the country.

The drugs were discovered stored underground when around 400 anti-narcotics police stormed four farms in a banana-growing area in the northwestern department of Antioquia.

"Never before, since we began more than 40 years ago to fight against drug trafficking, have we made a seizure of this magnitude," Santos told reporters.

Santos said the seizure meant that police hauls of drugs in the year to date, 362 tons, had already surpassed the 317 tons seized in 2016.

Police estimated the value of the haul at around $360 million.

They said the drugs belonged to Colombia’s most-wanted man, Dario Antonio Usuga, alias "Otoniel", who is the chief of the country’s largest drug-trafficking gang, the Gulf Clan.

The Gulf Clan emerged from the remnants of right-wing paramilitary groups that demobilized in 2006.

In September, Otoniel told the government he intended to give himself up to authorities after an intensive two-year police search.
Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany
written by Staff, dpa, AP and AFP
Monday December 11, 2017

Colombian police have seized the largest amount of cocaine ever confiscated in a single operation in the South American country. President Santos said the 12 tons of cocaine would have fetched $360 million in the US.

Almost 400 anti-drug police took part on Wednesday in air and land raids on four estates in the Uraba region in the northeastern department of Antioquia, police chief Jorge Nieto said, adding that the operation was preceded by a year of investigations.

"Never before, since we began more than 40 years ago to fight against drug trafficking, have we made a seizure of this magnitude," Juan Manuel Santos told reporters.

Police detained four people and were searching for Dairo Usuga alias Otoniel, head of the Gulf Clan criminal ring, believed to have stored the illegal drugs, which were discovered in underground caches.

The Gulf Clan

Police said the cocaine belonged to Colombia's most-wanted man, Dario Antonio Usuga, aka "Otoniel," head of the country's largest drug-trafficking gang, the Clan del Golfo, or Gulf Clan, which accounts for 70 percent of Colombia's cocaine production.

The group emerged from the remnants of right-wing paramilitary groups that demobilized in 2006.

The illegal armed group that has sought to take over drug trafficking operations in zones previously occupied by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Santos has said there will be no let-up in his government's campaign against the Gulf Clan, after the capture of 28 members of the gang in an operation by security forces, code-named "Odyssey," in Antioquia in September.

The operation raised to 362 tons the amount of cocaine seized in Colombia so far this year, surpassing 317 tons in 2016.

The UN and the White House said coca and cocaine production surged last year in Colombia.

December 9, 2017

Yay! It's A Wonderful Life Is Going To Be On USA Channel At 8pm On The West Coast. Awe I Love This Feel-Good Movie. Timeless Classic! ❤

w00t! Getting Ready To Watch Saturday Night Fever (1977) On DVD. I Have To Share Tony Manero's Epic Walk and Epic Dance With You. 😊💖

I found this AWESOME video dedicated to Tony Manero and his cool style! I love it. I am one happy camper right now! 😁 This is one of my favorite movies. It brings back such fond memories of my club days. It was always a delight to see my friends and acquaintances. But what I enjoyed most was dancing to amazing music. We sure had pretty magnificent clubs back in the day, and we dressed to impress. ;)

This movie is superb because it highlights growing pains, the love of dance and the desire to become a better person. I can relate to this movie in so many ways. I have no regrets. It was a phase in my life that I grew out of, and now for the time being, I comfortably live the life of a monk who loves disco lol ;) I can reminisce with a smile in my heart and soul.

I wish they included the mirror scene in this vid!

Yaaay... I FOUND IT! I am so happy somebody actually uploaded this scene! This was totally me during my club days. Getting ready and sporting my new outfit was a big deal. Oh and the hair... fuhgeddaboudit! lol Enjoy. :)

This song makes my heart sing. Enjoy these beautiful lyrics...♥

ZIMBABWE: Emmerson Mnangagwa Was Sworn In As President On November 24 After A De Facto Military Coup Ended Mugabe’s 37-Year Rule. Nation Agrees First Post-Mugabe Loan Deal With China.

EWN, Zimbabwe
written by Reuters staff
Thursday December 7, 2017

Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was sworn in as president on 24 November after a de facto military coup ended Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule.

HARARE - Zimbabwe’s new government signed a $153 million loan agreement with China on Wednesday, its first post-Mugabe deal with a foreign government, to expand and refurbish its international airport in Harare as it bids to attract investors and tourists.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was sworn in as president on 24 November after a de facto military coup ended Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule, has vowed to rebuild the country’s ravaged economy and re-engage with the international community.

“This (airport) project) and the budget we are presenting tomorrow will show we are serious about reshaping our economy ... ” Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said after signing the agreement, one of three, with Chinese ambassador Huang Ping.

The deal means “we are back in business to build the capacity to honour our obligations not only to China but also to our international creditors,” Chinamasa said.

The loan for refurbishing the Robert Gabriel Mugabe airport is payable in 20 years with interest rates of 2% per year and a seven-year grace period. The other two agreements are for grants worth 400 million yuan for a new parliament building and for expansion of a computing centre at the University of Zimbabwe.
I hope Emmerson Mnangagwa renames the airport to give Zimbabweans hope of a better, brighter, more prosperous future, for all. It's a new era for Zimbabwe. Mugabe's name needs to go if you want to also attract foreign tourists to bring in additional revenue for the economy where everyone benefits.
(emphasis mine)
Chinamasa, who was re-appointed to the finance ministry post last week, admitted that the country had failed to repay China for previous loans. But he said Beijing was still willing to deal with Zimbabwe.

“The Chinese government understands the economic situation we are going through,” he said. “We’re under sanctions and had no lines of credit coming into the country. This is why we call them ‘all-weather friends’.”

Chinamasa is scheduled to present the 2018 national budget on Thursday.

He had been finance minister since 2013 until he was shifted to the new ministry of cybersecurity in October. During his time in charge, the economy stagnated. A lack of exports caused acute dollar shortages that crippled the financial system and led to long queues outside banks.

The issuance of billions of dollars of domestic debt to pay for a bloated civil service - a key component of the ZANU-PF patronage machine under Mugabe - also triggered a collapse in the value of Zimbabwe’s de facto currency and ignited inflation.

One of Mnangagwa’s most pressing tasks will be to patch up relations with donors and the outside world and work out a deal to clear Zimbabwe’s $1.8 billion of arrears to the World Bank and the African Development Bank.

INDIA: Family Of Baby Wrongly Declared 'Dead' By A Hospital In Delhi Speaks Out About Tragedy. Twins Were Declared Still Born Wrapped In Plastic Uncleaned And Given To Grieving Parents. 😦

International Business Times
written by Suman Varandani
Friday December 8, 2017

The father of a newborn wrongly declared "dead" by a hospital in Delhi, India, spoke out just two days after the baby died for real while receiving treatment. In an interview with BBC, Ashish Kumar remembered the morning of Nov. 30 when Max Hospital handed his twins in a plastic bag saying both the babies were stillborn.

"Max Hospital declared my little boy dead while he was struggling to survive," Kumar said. "He was wrapped in five layers of plastic. Nobody can survive without oxygen for that long."

Kumar said that the news about the death of his twins was "heartbreaking" and a massive shock came when "my father-in-law realized that one of the babies was moving inside the plastic bag."

Kumar's father Kailash, who saw the baby move, said: "They had put the twins together in one basket. They were not even cleaned. I can't stop thinking that my grandson who was alive, was kept for hours with my granddaughter, who was stillborn."

Kumar's mother Meena also spoke to BBC, saying: "He looked so beautiful - exactly like my daughter. I had a faint hope that he would survive. We were planning the traditional ceremonies to celebrate his birth. But he is gone and all I can now see is a void that will never be filled."

Kumar told BBC that a day before the twins were born, the hospital conducted an ultrasound and said that everything was fine, but later the hospital demanded a huge amount of money for keeping the newborns in a special unit for four days. Despite financial trouble, Kumar managed to arrange for the money.

"Any parent would do that to save their babies. But I am heartbroken and Varsha has been completely inconsolable. My entire family was so excited to welcome the children," Kumar said. "But they never came home. We never heard their cries. I have come to hate the silence in my house."

The tragic incident sparked outrage in the country and protests erupted outside the hospital. On Friday, the Delhi government canceled the license of the hospital after finding the medical institution guilty of negligence.

“We have canceled the license of Max Hospital, Shalimar Bagh. The negligence in the newborn death case was unacceptable,” Delhi health minister Satyendra Jain said at a press conference.


Okay, so after reading this article I was left curious as to what kind of health care system India has for the nation. I'm not surprised to find out that India has a Universal Health Care System in place and does offer free health care. They have Obamacare on steroids. As you can see Socialist healthcare ends with very unpleasant results like as we have seen with the US Medicaid system and the US Veterans Administration Hospitals. But, thank goodness President Trump has signed a VA Accountability Act into law in June 2017 that promises better care for our Veterans. I share more detailed information below. (emphasis mine)


Quartz News, India
written by Devjyot Ghoshal
April 18, 2016

Indians are visiting hospitals in higher numbers than at any time in the past—and visiting them more often.

What’s good for their health, though, isn’t necessarily good for their wallets, with healthcare costs rising exponentially in the last decade.

A decade ago, about 31 out of every 1,000 Indians in urban areas were hospitalised (excluding childbirth) every year, according to the National Sample Survey Office’s (NSSO) estimation in 2004.

In 2014, according to the latest NSSO report (pdf), 44 out of every 1,000 Indians end up getting hospitalised in a year.

The trend is similar in rural India, and represents the expansion of healthcare facilities—both public and private—and the population’s increasing ability to access such services.

Up to 42% of rural patients went to public hospitals in 2014, a number that has remained steady since 2004. In urban areas, however, there has been a decided shift towards private establishments.

Most of these hospitalisations are for infections, but a significant number also for treatment for cancer and blood-related diseases.

The increase in access to healthcare has also brought with it a massive spike in costs.

Between 2004 and 2014, for example, the average medical expenditure per hospitalisation for urban patients increased by about 176%. For rural patients, it jumped by a little over 160%.

During the same period, India’s GDP per capita, based on purchasing power parity (current international $), grew by 121%.

There is, however, substantial variation in the cost of healthcare across states, for both rural and urban areas.

Moreover, this ranking hasn’t remained static. The list below consists of the 10 most expensive states for hospitalisation in rural areas in 2004, which have subsequently seen costs grow by anywhere between 83% and 265% over the past 10 years.

Such spikes do no favours to India’s massive, uninsured population. Over 85% of Indians in rural areas and 82% of urban residents have no health expenditure support. “On the whole, the poorer households appear unaware or beyond the reach of such coverage, both in rural and urban areas,” the NSSO explained in its report (pdf).

That’s why the Narendra Modi government’s push for the National Health Protection Scheme, which provides a cover of Rs1 lakh per family, as a possible measure to fix India’s creaking healthcare system, makes sense. But given the incredible rise in costs in the last decade alone, Rs1 lakh for a family of four may not amount to much.


Deutsche Welle (DW)
written by Murali Krishnan, New Delhi
Wednesday November 22, 2017

Social media outrage over the hefty hospital bill charged to the family of a seven-year-old who died of dengue fever near Delhi has once again turned the spotlight on India's poor state of public healthcare infrastructure and private hospitals that slap their patients with excessively high rates.

Following the death of the patient, identified as Adya Singh, in September, the private corporate hospital Fortis Memorial Research Institute in Gurgaon, a Delhi suburb, slapped her family with a bill amounting to around 1.8 million rupees (€23,600, $25,000)

The 20-page itemized bill stoked criticism that the hospital prescribed expensive medicines and overcharged for things like strips that check blood sugar levels.

The father of the deceased patient has demanded a probe into the treatment and billing done by the corporate hospital, while a family friend's tweet expressing anger about the billing sparked social media outrage.

India's Health Minister JP Nadda responded to the incident by tweeting: "We will take all the necessary action."

Malpractices rampant

While this case has been thrust into the public domain, the bigger question is how private healthcare institutions which are known for charging sky-high fees for medical services operate without any accountability in the South Asian nation.

"These five-star hospitals have no transparency and no regulation whatsoever. This is the new reality in India and we need legislation to prevent patients from being treated like a cash cow," Puneet Bedi, a gynecologist from the premier Apollo Hospital, told DW.

Many doctors who spoke to DW on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue and its potential impact on their positions say that three types of malpractices are particularly common in private hospitals: kickbacks for referrals, irrational drug prescribing and unnecessary interventions.

"The decay is deepening with the increasing onslaught of big corporate hospitals, growing pressure from the pharmaceutical industry and the massively expanding clout of medical equipment agencies," said a senior oncologist.

Last year, investigative agencies busted a racket of top doctors, including the CEO of a private hospital, in north India in connection with kidney transplants at big private hospitals in Indian cities. Then, in 2015, the Supreme Court passed a landmark verdict awarding nearly 20 million rupees to a young victim who lost her eyesight owing to the incompetence of doctors in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

The unfortunate aspect, though, is that India lacks appropriate laws to regulate hospitals, diagnostic centers and other healthcare facilities in the private sector. The more reputed the hospital, the more it charges.

The practices of private hospitals was brought into the fore by two doctors Abhay Shukla and Arun Gadre in their book "Dissenting Diagnosis," which gives a chilling insider account of widespread malpractices afflicting the nation's healthcare sector.

The book explains that the nexus between corporate hospitals, pharma companies and doctors has increased the risks and costs of healthcare to such an extent that millions of middle-class Indians slide into poverty when they fall sick.

Low priority

Just last year, a year-long investigation by a web portal called Cobrapost detailed medical practices spanning three mega-cities of Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore and covering 20 major private multi-specialty hospitals. It unearthed a racket of referrals in which these hospitals offer commission ranging between 10 and 30 percent to doctors and smaller hospitals or nursing homes.

In May this year, medical journal Lancet pointed out that India ranks below much poorer nations such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Ghana and even Liberia when it comes to providing healthcare for its masses.

On the basis of data from the Global Burden of Disease report, it said that India ranked 154 out of 195 countries in terms of access to healthcare.

The low priority accorded to health is highlighted by the fact that India spends less than 2 percent of its GDP on healthcare, which is far less than what is required considering the country's huge 1.2-billion-plus population.

In March this year, the long-awaited National Health Policy, unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government, promised to increase public health spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP in a time-bound manner and guarantee healthcare services to all Indians, particularly the underprivileged.

"But that is not the case. We have to do more. I agree there is commercialization of healthcare and there is overcharging, but there needs to be a serious rethink about how to go forward. The poor will suffer otherwise," Dr M C Mishra, former director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, told DW.

"The only way to tackle this situation is by boosting health insurance and educating people. Like financial inclusion we need healthcare inclusion," says Jitendra Kumar Singh of the Indian Medical Association.