Category Archives: News

worldwide news

Starbucks Signs Licensing Agreement With Brazil Investment Firm

Sao Paulo investment firm SouthRock Capital has signed an agreement with Starbucks that gives it the right to develop and operate branches of the Seattle-based chain in Brazil, the companies said late on Monday.

With the agreement, whose value was not disclosed, all of Starbucks’ retail operations in Latin America are now wholly licensed rather than directly managed, the companies said.

SouthRock founder Ken Pope said in a statement the fund would eye expansion opportunities in new and existing markets.

Starbucks now has 113 stores across the populous states of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

“With Starbucks, we see continued opportunities for growth in existing markets … as well as new markets like Brasilia and the South,” he said.

SouthRock, founded in 2015, also owns Brazil Airport Restaurants, which operates in the country’s biggest airports.

Shares in Starbucks opened up 0.5 percent but closed down 0.58 percent. The S&P 500 Index fell 0.64 percent.

Starbucks Signs Licensing Agreement With Brazil Investment Firm

Sao Paulo investment firm SouthRock Capital has signed an agreement with Starbucks that gives it the right to develop and operate branches of the Seattle-based chain in Brazil, the companies said late on Monday.

With the agreement, whose value was not disclosed, all of Starbucks’ retail operations in Latin America are now wholly licensed rather than directly managed, the companies said.

SouthRock founder Ken Pope said in a statement the fund would eye expansion opportunities in new and existing markets.

Starbucks now has 113 stores across the populous states of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

“With Starbucks, we see continued opportunities for growth in existing markets … as well as new markets like Brasilia and the South,” he said.

SouthRock, founded in 2015, also owns Brazil Airport Restaurants, which operates in the country’s biggest airports.

Shares in Starbucks opened up 0.5 percent but closed down 0.58 percent. The S&P 500 Index fell 0.64 percent.

Google Brings Free WiFi to Mexico, First Stop in Latin America




Alphabet’s Google said on Tuesday that it will launch a network of free Wi-Fi hotspots across Mexico, part of the search giant’s effort to improve connectivity in emerging markets and put its products in the hands of more users.

Google Station, an ad-supported network of Wi-Fi hotspots in high-traffic locations, is launching in Mexico with 56 hotspots and others planned, the company said.

Mexico will be Google Station’s third market following India and Indonesia, and the first in Latin America.

Mexico has made great strides in connectivity since a 2013-14 telecom reform intended to loosen the grip of billionaire Carlos Slim’s America Movil, which has long dominated the market.

From 2013 to 2016, the number of people accessing the Internet in Mexico rose by 20 million, according to a report last fall by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Still, the country lags behind other OECD nations in terms of internet access, the report said.

“We are finding that public Wi-Fi remains still a very important way to get online,” Anjali Joshi, a vice president for product management at Google, told reporters.

She added that Google saw Mexico as a good entrypoint for the product in Latin America. Mexico-based SitWifi provided equipment for the hotspots.

Google’s initial batch of Wi-Fi zones is scattered across the country, from the Ciudad Juarez airport at the U.S. border to posh shopping centers in Mexico City.

Google Station now counts roughly 8 million users a month in India, where the program began in 2016.

‘I Pray Every Day,’ Says Rio Slum ‘Warrior’ Leading 15-year Land Title Fight

“Dona Edir, Dona Edir” — the call is heard frequently in the narrow lanes of Canaa, a slum on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.

It is for Edir Dariux Teixeira, who is well known among the residents, having spent more than a third of her life trying to improve infrastructure and basic services in the ramshackle settlement.

At the heart of that fight are legal property titles to the residents’ homes — or, more accurately, the lack of them.

“Without these documents we have no rights,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, sitting close to a fan to alleviate the near-40C (104°F) heat funneling from her asbestos roof.

Debates on how to manage property rights in the world’s informal settlements are becoming ever more pressing, as millions of people move into cities from rural areas every year and many end up in fast-growing slums.

Rio has about 1,000 slums, known locally as favelas. They are home to nearly one in four of the city’s population and typically lack a range of infrastructure and services, experts say.

In Canaa, having title would bring certainty of tenure, and also help to get services provided: sewerage, basic sanitation, and tarred streets, said Teixeira.

“I am anxious. I pray every day [for land titles],” the 59-year-old said.

When she moved to the area 22 years ago, there was a lack of all basic infrastructure in Canaa, including clean water, pavements and lighting.

Teixeira realized change had to be driven by the residents’ themselves and took the lead in trying to improve the area.

“There was nothing here. It was all jungle,” said housewife Glaucia Milani, who has been living in the favela for 25 years. “Now things are getting better because of Dona Edir’s help.”

Milani said apart from helping residents to get legal title to their land, Teixeira has been organising food and clothes donations for the favela and its 300 families.

“Dona Edir is a great mother to us. Anything she can help us, she helps… Dona Edir solves everything for us,” Milani, 31, said. “Dona Edir is a warrior.”

Complex situation

Getting land titles for the residents is no easy task, Teixeira said, not least because some residents have bought land from private owners, while others are squatting.

Her own plot of land was donated by an uncle of her ex-husband but neither Teixeira nor the other residents have official proof of ownership.

ITERJ, the government body in charge of managing land in the state of Rio de Janeiro and responsible for Teixeira’s request to get titles for Canaa’s residents, did not respond to requests for comment.

Most of the favela’s streets got temporary pavements about five years ago but Teixeira said it happened only after she asked a politician for help because taxis were refusing to enter Canaa because the roads were full of potholes.

Despite Teixeira’s efforts, the residents in the favela about 65 kilometers (40 miles) from Rio’s city center are still waiting for the streets to be fully paved, sidewalks to be built and manholes to be constructed.

Teixeira has asked the city to fully pave the streets, provide sewerage infrastructure and a health post for the favela.

In emailed comments to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Rio’s city hall said the favela was “urbanized” four years ago but did not immediately respond to requests for details about which services were provided to the area.

Fighting for justice

A “very shocking scene” at school when Teixeira was eight years old prompted her decision to dedicate her life to fighting justice, she said.

While she and a boy were having a snack during a school break, another girl asked the boy to give her a piece.

“The boy said: only if you spread your legs,” she said. “Then she immediately spread her legs and … he gave her a bite. That broke my heart.”

At 15, Teixeira was raped and later witnessed the rape of a friend, experiences she said strengthened her resolve to help women.

Teixeira has been working for many years as a volunteer at a charity that distributes food in Rio’s poor neighborhoods, including Canaa.

She was honored for her work with a prize from the Federação de Mulheres Fluminenses, a Rio-based women’s federation.

Meanwhile, Teixeira, who survives on her father’s pension and cleans houses to make money, spends whatever she can of her income — equivalent to $300 a month — on building a school in the patio of her house.

“I do the construction works myself. When there is any money left I pay a professional to do the harder things,” she said.

Beyond literacy, her school will offer a range of classes: cooking, sewing, handicrafts and theater.

“That is my dream. … My dream is to take the kids off the street … because they have nothing to do [here],” she said in tears.

“There are lots of volunteers. What is missing is money to finish the school.”

Teixeira hopes the city will officially recognize Canaa as the favela’s name — it is the Portuguese version of Canaan and was chosen by her in reference to a passage from the Bible of a land promised by God to chosen people.

“We have to have faith. The faith in God is what keeps me standing. And the victories make me keep going,” said Teixeira.

A New Method for Extracting CO2 from Seawater

Scientists are always on the lookout for affordable and efficient methods for capturing carbon dioxide, responsible for global warming and the rising acidity of seawater. A new procedure, developed at the University of York in Britain, promises to extract large amounts of CO2 from seawater and store it safely, and recycle millions of tons of aluminum waste at the same time. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Amid Trump Visit, it’s Business As Usual for Border Towns

The daily commute from Mexico to California farms is the same as it was before Donald Trump became president. Hundreds of Mexicans cross the border and line the sidewalks of Calexico’s tiny downtown by 4 a.m., napping on cardboard sheets and blankets or sipping coffee from a 24-hour doughnut shop until buses leave for the fields.

For decades, cross-border commuters have picked lettuce, carrots, broccoli, onions, cauliflower and other vegetables that make California’s Imperial Valley “America’s Salad Bowl” from December through March. As Trump visits the border Tuesday, the harvest is a reminder of how little has changed despite heated immigration rhetoric in Washington.

Trump will inspect eight prototypes for a future 30-foot border wall that were built in San Diego last fall. He made a “big, beautiful wall” a centerpiece of his campaign and said Mexico would pay for it.

But border barriers extend the same 654 miles (1,046 kilometers) they did under President Barack Obama and so far Trump hasn’t gotten Mexico or Congress to pay for a new wall.

Trump also pledged to expand the Border Patrol by 5,000 agents, but staffing fell during his first year in office farther below a congressional mandate because the government has been unable to keep pace with attrition and retirements. There were 19,437 agents at the end of September, down from 19,828 a year earlier.

In Tijuana, tens of thousands of commuters still line up weekday mornings for San Diego at the nation’s busiest border crossing, some for jobs in landscaping, housekeeping, hotel maids and shipyard maintenance. The vast majority are U.S. citizens and legal residents or holders of “border crossing cards” that are given to millions of Mexicans in border areas for short visits. The border crossing cards do not include work authorization but some break the rules.

Even concern about Trump’s threat to end the North American Free Trade Agreement is tempered by awareness that border economies have been integrated for decades. Mexican “maquiladora” plants, which assemble duty-free raw materials for export to the U.S., have made televisions, medical supplies and other goods since the 1960s.

“How do you separate twins that are joined at the hip?” said Paola Avila, chairwoman of the Border Trade Alliance, a group that includes local governments and business chambers. “Our business relationships will continue to grow regardless of what happens with NAFTA.”

Workers in the Mexicali area rise about 1 a.m., carpool to the border crossing and wait about an hour to reach Calexico’s portico-covered sidewalks by 4 a.m. Some beat the border bottleneck by crossing at midnight to sleep in their cars in Calexico, a city of 40,000 about 120 miles (192 kilometers) east of San Diego. 

Fewer workers make the trek now than 20 and 30 years ago. But not because of Trump. 

Steve Scaroni, one of Imperial Valley’s largest labor contractors, blames the drop on lack of interest among younger Mexicans, which has forced him to rely increasingly on short-term farmworker visas known as H-2As. 

“We have a saying that no one is raising their kids to be farmworkers,” said Scaroni, 55, a third-generation grower and one of Imperial Valley’s largest labor contractors. Last week, he had two or three buses of workers leaving Calexico before dawn, compared to 15 to 20 buses during the 1980s and 1990s.

Crop pickers at Scaroni’s Fresh Harvest Inc. make $13.18 an hour but H-2As bring his cost to $20 to $30 an hour because he must pay for round-trip transportation, sometimes to southern Mexico, and housing. The daily border commuters from Mexicali cost only $16 to $18 after overhead.

Scaroni’s main objective is to expand the H-2A visa program, which covered about 165,000 workers in 2016. On his annual visit to Washington in February to meet members of Congress and other officials, he decided within two hours that nothing changed under Trump. 

“Washington is not going to fix anything,” he said. “You’ve got too many people – lobbyists, politicians, attorneys – who make money off the dysfunction. They make money off of not solving problems. They just keep talking about it.”

Jose Angel Valenzuela, who owns a house in Mexicali and is working his second harvest in Imperial Valley, earns more picking cabbage in an hour than he did in a day at a factory in Mexico. He doesn’t pay much attention to news and isn’t following developments on the border wall.

“We’re doing very well,” he said as workers passed around beef tacos during a break. “We haven’t seen any noticeable change.”

Jack Vessey, whose family farms about 10,000 acres in Imperial Valley, relies on border commuters for about half of his workforce. Imperial has only 175,000 people and Mexicali has about 1 million, making Mexico an obvious labor pool.

Vessey, 42, said he has seen no change on the border and doesn’t expect much. He figures 10 percent of Congress embraces open immigration policies, another 10 percent oppose them and the other 80 percent don’t want to touch it because their voters are too divided.

“It’s like banging your head against the wall,” he said. 

Trump’s Strong Words on Guns Give Way to Political Reality

Not two weeks ago, President Donald Trump wagged his finger at a Republican senator and scolded him for being “afraid of the NRA,” declaring that he would stand up to the powerful gun lobby and finally get results on quelling gun violence following last month’s Florida school shooting.

On Monday, Trump struck a very different tone as he backpedaled from his earlier demands for sweeping reforms and bowed to Washington reality. The president, who recently advocated increasing the minimum age to purchase an assault weapon to 21, tweeted that he’s “watching court cases and rulings” on the issue, adding that there is “not much political support (to put it mildly).”

Over the weekend, the White House released a limited plan to combat school shootings that leaves the question of arming teachers to states and local communities and sends the age issue to a commission for review. Just two days earlier, Trump had mocked commissions as something of a dead end while talking about the opioid epidemic. “We can’t just keep setting up blue-ribbon committees,” he said, adding that all they do is “talk, talk, talk.”

Seventeen people were killed in last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, prompting a national conversation about gun laws, fierce advocacy for stronger gun control from surviving students and, initially, a move from Trump to buck his allies at the National Rifle Association.

In a televised meeting with lawmakers on Feb. 28, Trump praised members of the gun lobby as “great patriots” but declared “that doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. It doesn’t make sense that I have to wait until I’m 21 to get a handgun, but I can get this weapon at 18.”

He then turned toward Senator Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, and questioned why previous gun control legislation did not include that provision.

“You know why?” said Trump, answering his own question. “Because you’re afraid of the NRA, right? Ha ha.”

Toomey had a ready response after the president’s tweet Monday: “It’s quite obvious that I’m the guy that stood up to the NRA,” he said. Asked if Trump was afraid of the NRA, Toomey said, “I don’t know what’s driving his decision.”

His words rattled some Republicans in Congress and sparked hope among some gun control advocates that, unlike after so many previous mass shootings, meaningful regulations would be enacted. But Trump appeared to foreshadow his change of heart with a tweet the very next night.

“Good (Great) meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA!” the president wrote.

Following ‘process’

White House aides said Monday the president was focusing on achievable options, after facing significant opposition from lawmakers on a more comprehensive approach. Trump will back two modest pieces of legislation, and the administration pledged to help states pay for firearms training for teachers.

Seemingly on the defensive after his about-face, Trump tweeted Monday of the age limit that “States are making this decision. Things are moving rapidly on this, but not much political support (to put it mildly).”

The White House insisted that Trump remained committed to more significant changes even if they are delayed.

“We can’t just write things down and make them law. We actually have to follow a process,” said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “Right now the president’s primary focus is pushing through things we know that have broad bipartisan support.”

She placed blame for the inaction on Capitol Hill. But Trump has made little effort to marshal the support of congressional Republicans or use his popularity with NRA voters to provide cover for his party during a contentious vote.

Democrats and gun control advocates were quick to pounce on the president’s retreat from previous demands, with Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, tweeting that Trump “couldn’t even summon the political courage to propose raising the age limit on firearm purchases – despite repeated promises to support such a step at a meeting with lawmakers.”

Television personality Geraldo Rivera — who had urged the president to consider tougher age limits during a dinner at Trump’s Florida club — tweeted that Trump had “blinked in face of ferocious opposition from #NRA.”

Bipartisan support

Still, Trump argued that this was progress.

“Very strong improvement and strengthening of background checks will be fully backed by White House,” he tweeted. He added that an effort to bar bump stock devices was coming and that “Highly trained expert teachers will be allowed to conceal carry, subject to State Law. Armed guards OK, deterrent!”

Without strong advocacy from the White House, an ambitious gun package was unlikely to even get off the ground, given most Republicans’ opposition to any new restrictions. The two measures backed by Trump — an effort to strengthen the federal background check system and an anti-school violence grant program — both enjoy bipartisan support, though some Republicans object and many Democrats say they are insufficient.

Trump drew some Republican backing, with Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, who wrote the school safety bill, tweeting he was “grateful” for the White House backing and calling the measure “the best first step we can take” to make students safer.

No deadline was set for recommendations from Trump’s planned commission, but officials expected them within a year.

Trump’s Strong Words on Guns Give Way to Political Reality

Not two weeks ago, President Donald Trump wagged his finger at a Republican senator and scolded him for being “afraid of the NRA,” declaring that he would stand up to the powerful gun lobby and finally get results on quelling gun violence following last month’s Florida school shooting.

On Monday, Trump struck a very different tone as he backpedaled from his earlier demands for sweeping reforms and bowed to Washington reality. The president, who recently advocated increasing the minimum age to purchase an assault weapon to 21, tweeted that he’s “watching court cases and rulings” on the issue, adding that there is “not much political support (to put it mildly).”

Over the weekend, the White House released a limited plan to combat school shootings that leaves the question of arming teachers to states and local communities and sends the age issue to a commission for review. Just two days earlier, Trump had mocked commissions as something of a dead end while talking about the opioid epidemic. “We can’t just keep setting up blue-ribbon committees,” he said, adding that all they do is “talk, talk, talk.”

Seventeen people were killed in last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, prompting a national conversation about gun laws, fierce advocacy for stronger gun control from surviving students and, initially, a move from Trump to buck his allies at the National Rifle Association.

In a televised meeting with lawmakers on Feb. 28, Trump praised members of the gun lobby as “great patriots” but declared “that doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. It doesn’t make sense that I have to wait until I’m 21 to get a handgun, but I can get this weapon at 18.”

He then turned toward Senator Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, and questioned why previous gun control legislation did not include that provision.

“You know why?” said Trump, answering his own question. “Because you’re afraid of the NRA, right? Ha ha.”

Toomey had a ready response after the president’s tweet Monday: “It’s quite obvious that I’m the guy that stood up to the NRA,” he said. Asked if Trump was afraid of the NRA, Toomey said, “I don’t know what’s driving his decision.”

His words rattled some Republicans in Congress and sparked hope among some gun control advocates that, unlike after so many previous mass shootings, meaningful regulations would be enacted. But Trump appeared to foreshadow his change of heart with a tweet the very next night.

“Good (Great) meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA!” the president wrote.

Following ‘process’

White House aides said Monday the president was focusing on achievable options, after facing significant opposition from lawmakers on a more comprehensive approach. Trump will back two modest pieces of legislation, and the administration pledged to help states pay for firearms training for teachers.

Seemingly on the defensive after his about-face, Trump tweeted Monday of the age limit that “States are making this decision. Things are moving rapidly on this, but not much political support (to put it mildly).”

The White House insisted that Trump remained committed to more significant changes even if they are delayed.

“We can’t just write things down and make them law. We actually have to follow a process,” said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “Right now the president’s primary focus is pushing through things we know that have broad bipartisan support.”

She placed blame for the inaction on Capitol Hill. But Trump has made little effort to marshal the support of congressional Republicans or use his popularity with NRA voters to provide cover for his party during a contentious vote.

Democrats and gun control advocates were quick to pounce on the president’s retreat from previous demands, with Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, tweeting that Trump “couldn’t even summon the political courage to propose raising the age limit on firearm purchases – despite repeated promises to support such a step at a meeting with lawmakers.”

Television personality Geraldo Rivera — who had urged the president to consider tougher age limits during a dinner at Trump’s Florida club — tweeted that Trump had “blinked in face of ferocious opposition from #NRA.”

Bipartisan support

Still, Trump argued that this was progress.

“Very strong improvement and strengthening of background checks will be fully backed by White House,” he tweeted. He added that an effort to bar bump stock devices was coming and that “Highly trained expert teachers will be allowed to conceal carry, subject to State Law. Armed guards OK, deterrent!”

Without strong advocacy from the White House, an ambitious gun package was unlikely to even get off the ground, given most Republicans’ opposition to any new restrictions. The two measures backed by Trump — an effort to strengthen the federal background check system and an anti-school violence grant program — both enjoy bipartisan support, though some Republicans object and many Democrats say they are insufficient.

Trump drew some Republican backing, with Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, who wrote the school safety bill, tweeting he was “grateful” for the White House backing and calling the measure “the best first step we can take” to make students safer.

No deadline was set for recommendations from Trump’s planned commission, but officials expected them within a year.

Chilean Financial Minister: Pinera to Impose Austerity But Not ‘Mega-adjustments’

Chile’s new government is preparing belt-tightening measures after inheriting a larger-than-anticipated fiscal deficit from its predecessor, but the measures will stop short of “mega-adjustments,” Finance Minister Felipe Larrain said on Monday.

Conservative billionaire Sebastian Pinera took office on Sunday vowing to combat economic “stagnation” and calling for a return to “fiscal equilibrium” as he seeks to transform Chile into a developed nation within a decade.

“We’re in a period of tight budgets, with levels of public debt that have doubled, which means we must begin with austerity measures, followed by a reassigning resources, in order to finance the president’s program,” Larrain told reporters as he entered the finance ministry for his first day on the job.

Shortly before leaving office, outgoing President Michelle Bachelet’s government reported it had left a fiscal deficit of 2.1 percent of gross domestic product, instead of 1.7 percent as targeted.

Chile’s Congress this year authorized an increase in public spending of 3.9 percent, which Pinera had previously criticized as “high.”

“These austerity measures, and the wise use of resources, are always welcome and are necessary. But we’re not talking about mega-adjustments, we’re talking about austerity measures,” Larrain said.

During his campaign, Pinera, who also governed from 2010 to 2014, said he hoped to guide the country to fiscal equilibrium within six to eight years.