Palestinian Unemployment At 30 Percent

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 24 (UPI) — Despite economic gains last year, the occupied Palestinian territory still has an unemployment rate of 30 percent, the United Nations said Wednesday.

The territory’s economy grew by 9.3 percent, with Gaza’s increasing 15 percent and the West Bank’s rising 7.6 percent, the U.N. Conference of Trade and Development said in a report.

The Palestinian per capita gross domestic product was 7 percent below the 1999 level, the report said.

The report noted Palestinian imports from Israel are not taxed but said much of these imports are produced elsewhere in the world and re-exported to the Palestinian territory, with import revenues going to the Israeli treasury.

A recent Bank of Israel study found about 58 percent of what’s officially reported as Israeli exports to the territory comes to Israel from abroad. Thus, customs revenue doesn’t go to the Palestinian Authority, costing it $480 million a year, or 25 percent of its public revenue, the report said.

Were that money available to the territory, the U.N. report said, its GDP could expand another 10 percent, or $500 million a year, and employment would grow 4 percent, adding 30,000 to 40,000 jobs a year.

The report found about 26 percent of Palestinians in the territory live in poverty, with rates as high as 38 percent in Gaza and at 18 percent in Gaza.

Brazil’s War On Corruption Causes Disarray

BRASILIA, Brazil, Aug. 24 (UPI) — Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s war on corruption — right up to the ministerial and congressional level — has caused unexpected disarray in the Latin American country’s political life as her initiatives threaten to spin out of control.

Rousseff launched a campaign to clean her administration, prompting several high-profile resignations. However, the well-intentioned operation is no longer hers.

Instead, the media and mushrooming number of whistle-blowers have swept in with an avalanche of revelations that, although mostly unsubstantiated, aren’t what the president hoped for.

Rousseff’s hopes of orchestrating a carefully choreographed and centrally managed anti-corruption drive are in tatters, pushing Rousseff to appeal for inter-party unity in her fractious coalition.

Brazil has been beset with recurrent corruption scandals, including several that tainted the administration of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

A developing crisis over the corruption scandals now threatens to derail Rousseff’s plan to steer Brazil toward economic prosperity and regional pre-eminence.

Brazilian media and foreign news coverage of Brazil until recently were dominated by rising foreign investment inflows, huge public and private sector spending on development and defense and preparations for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

Now Brazilians are greeted each day with news of fresh corruption scandals involving personalities in politics, business, sports and the celebrity culture.

Addressing loyalist members of coalition partners Workers Party and the Brazilian Democratic Movement, both coalition partners, Rousseff indicated she looked to the two parties as the pillars of “stability and trust” in the government.

Rousseff so far has lost four ministers, a fifth is under investigation in Congress and the media are busy making new allegations of corruption or unethical conduct by other members of her Cabinet.

Vice President Michel Temer hinted the government saw itself as stronger as ever with support from coalition partner Brazilian Democratic Movement even though the party lost Agriculture Minister Wagner Rossi last week, a close ally of his. Rousseff, like Lula before her, represents the Workers Party.

Rossi alleged foul play in his resignation letter, claiming he was the target of false accusations, including charges a lobbyist paid bribes and influenced public tenders in the Agriculture Ministry. Rossi’s senior aide Milton Ortolan, executive secretary at the ministry, resigned earlier.

Brazilian media reports suggested the scandal revelations could be harder to predict and prove dangerous for Rousseff.

At least a part of the spiraling corruption revelations was seen linked to spiteful action by politicians and others upset over budgetary cuts introduced by Rousseff to reduce public sector waste.

After she took over from Lula on Jan. 1, Rousseff announced $30 billion cuts in the national budget, a large part of the reductions hitting hard legislators and their pet projects.

Rousseff also hoped to regulate Brazil’s economic growth — estimated to exceed 7.5 percent — amid huge foreign cash infusions that overvalued the real, Brazil’s national currency, increased inflation and threatened the country’s export potential.

Critics say the cutbacks threaten to slow Brazil’s growth and cause widespread damage to fragile political and economic structures now under attack from the torrent of corruption scandals.

7-magnitude Quake Hits Peru

LIMA, Aug. 24 (UPI) — A 7-magnitude earthquake shook northern Peru Wednesday, U.S. seismologists said.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake, registered at 12:45 p.m. local time, occurred at a depth of 90.2 miles. Its epicenter was 50 miles north of Pucllpa, Peru, 130 miles west of Cruzeiro do Sul, Brazil, 195 miles northeast of Huanuco, Peru, and 352 miles north-northeast of Peru’s capital, Lima.

Voice of America said there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage as a result of the temblor, which was centered in a jungle region near the Brazil border.

The network noted that in 2007 an 8-magnitude quake along Peru’s central coast killed at least 540 people. The South American country is situated near two tectonic plates, making it susceptible to earthquakes.

Bank Shutting Out Marijuana Dispensaries

DENVER, Aug. 24 (UPI) — Colorado Springs State Bank, the last bank in the state willing to do business openly with medical marijuana suppliers, has asked them to close their accounts.

Senior Vice President John Whitten said the bank’s parent company, Herring Bank, does business in Oklahoma and Texas, both states where medical marijuana is not legal, The (Boulder) Daily Camera reported.

“There are unresolved issues with regulations, law enforcement and other agencies that need to get resolved before the industry can progress and become bankable,” Whitten said.

A letter last week to operators of medical marijuana dispensaries asked them to shut down their accounts by the end of September, Whitten said.

Diane Czarkowski, one of the owners of Boulder Kind Care, said the dispensary, which now has an account at Colorado Springs State, has been through six other banks since it opened in October 2009. She said Kind Care is now talking to a local bank.

“I think a lot of people will be in a really bad position,” she said. “They will be forced to do things under the radar, which is not helpful to the industry.”

Ship Owners: Foreign Ships Carry U.S. Oil

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 (UPI) — U.S. ship owners complain the Obama administration has routinely let oil from federal stockpiles be shipped on foreign-owned vessels, sidestepping federal law.

As it rushed to transport millions of barrels to stabilize world oil prices earlier this summer, the administration has waived the 90-year-old Jones Act 46 times, The New York Times reported.

The law requires that entirely domestic cargo be carried aboard U.S.-flagged ships except in extraordinary circumstances.

The Times says American barges carried oil from the reserve just once this summer, while 30 million barrels transported within U.S. borders moved on ships, with foreign crews, from the Marshall Islands, Panama and other countries.

That translated to lower costs and saved time for oil buyers, but took potential work from more than 30 U.S. cargo vessels and as many as 400 crew, U.S. ship owners said.

“The idea was to create American jobs and help the economy,” said Christopher Coakley, vice president for legislative affairs at the American Waterways Operators. “But all the profit from the sale of the oil has gone to traders and oil companies and all the profit from movement of the oil has gone to foreign shippers and crewmen, and that’s galling.”

The administration said the oil was sold in quantities of at least 500,000 barrels and most U.S.-owned coastal barges hold 150,00 barrels or less.

New Sentencing Ordered For Pa. Politician

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 24 (UPI) — A federal appeals court says the 55-month sentence given former Pennsylvania state Sen. Vincent Fumo of Philadelphia does not reflect the damage he did.

In a ruling handed down Tuesday, the appellate court said U.S. District Judge Ronald Buckwalter did not do the right arithmetic when calculating the financial loss Fumo caused and ordered a new sentencing, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Buckwalter imposed a sentence far below the 21 years prosecutors requested.

Buckwalter put the financial damage at $2.5 million, but the appeals court found it to be $4 million.

Fumo, once one of the most powerful Democratic politicians in Philadelphia, is now in a federal prison in Kentucky. He has already served about two years.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Pease said Fumo will almost certainly get a longer sentence.

“We’re back up in the neighborhood of 20 years,” Pease said.

Fumo’s lawyer, Dennis J. Cogan, said the appeals panel did not actually order Buckwalter to get his client more time.

Teen To Be Tried As Juvenile For Killing

NEW CASTLE, Pa., Aug. 24 (UPI) — A Pennsylvania teenager charged with shooting his father’s fiancee when he was 11, killing her and her unborn child, will be tried as a juvenile, a judge said.

Common Pleas Judge Dominick Motto reversed a decision he made last year that Jordan Brown, now 13, should be tried as an adult, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. An appellate panel ruled this year a juvenile cannot be forced into an adult trial simply for not admitting the crime.

Jordan will now go before a judge instead of a jury. If convicted, he can be sentenced only to a juvenile facility and must be released at 21, while an adult conviction for murder would have carried a sentence of life with no parole.

Kenzie Houk, 26, of New Beaver, was killed with a 20-guage shotgun. Prosecutors argued Jordan planned the crime with a certain amount of sophistication, while defense lawyers pointed to his lack of a violent history as a sign he could be rehabilitated.

Defense lawyer Dennis Elisco called the decision “a relief.”

“It’s long overdue and clearly the correct result,” he said.

North Korea May Return To 6-party Talks

MOSCOW, Aug. 24 (UPI) — North Korea is willing to return to the six-party talks and to consider a moratorium on nuclear testing, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday.

Medvedev and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il met in Sosnovy Bor, a garrison town in the Russian Republic of Buryatia in South Siberia, RIA Novosti reported.

Natalia Timakova, a spokeswoman for Medvedev, said Kim was prepared to resume nuclear talks without any preconditions. The talks were suspended two years ago, and Russia and China have said they are prepared to return to the table immediately while the United States, Japan and South Korea want North Korea to show good faith first.

Kim also agreed to allow Gazprom, the state-owned Russian natural gas company, to build a pipeline to South Korea through his country. The two leaders also discussed North Korea’s outstanding debt to the former Soviet Union and possible food aid from Russia.

RIA Novosti said some reports estimate the project could bring about $100 million a year in much-needed hard currency to Pyongyang.

“We’ve ordered our government bodies to establish a special commission … to outline the details of bilateral cooperation on gas transit through the territory of North Korea and the joining of South Korea to the project,” Medvedev was quoted as saying.

The Russian leader said technical work on the pipeline would start soon.

South Korea is one of the largest buyers of natural gas, with imports of liquefied natural gas from Russia alone totaling 1.5 million tons last year, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported. The report said North Korea reacted favorably to the project during the visit of Gazprom officials.

Salvadoran Wanted In Priest Slayings Held

BOSTON, Aug. 24 (UPI) — A former Salvadoran military colonel accused in the 1989 killing of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador has been arrested in Massachusetts, authorities said.

Inocente Orlando Montano, 69, who had been living in an apartment in Everett, Mass., for two decades under his own name, was arrested Tuesday by federal agents and charged with lying about his past so he could stay in the United States, The Boston Globe reported.

A federal judge ordered Montano held Tuesday night.

Prosecutors said he had tried to flee to El Salvador last week after the Globe reported he had been living in the Boston suburb.

Montano and 19 other former Salvadoran government officials and military members were indicted in May by a Spanish court in the slayings of the priests, their housekeeper and her teenage daughter, who were taken from their beds at night on the campus of Central American University in San Salvador.

In 1993, a U.N. commission identified Montano as a top leader at a meeting to plan the assassination of the Rev. Ignacio Ellacuria, the university’s rector, suspected by the government of supporting leftist rebels. The unit was told to leave no witnesses.

It remained unclear whether Montano would be extradited to Spain to be tried in the slayings, and a State Department spokesman could not be reached, the Globe said.

Montano was charged Tuesday with making false statements on an immigration form.

The Center for Justice and Accountability, a San Francisco-based human rights organization, discovered Montano was living in Massachusetts.

“This arrest gives Spanish authorities an opportunity to formally request Montano’s extradition, which, if the U.S. observes, would once and for all result in a trial and justice for this terrible crime,” Almudena Bernabeu, a lawyer for the center, said in a statement.

Bounty Offered For Gadhafi, Dead Or Alive

TRIPOLI, Libya, Aug. 24 (UPI) — Rebels said businessmen had offered a $1.67 million bounty for Moammar Gadhafi Wednesday while one of his sons sought a cease-fire to end the Libyan civil war.

Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the rebels’ Transitional National Council, said he supported the offer by Libyan businessmen to pay 2 million Libyan dinars to anyone who can produce Colonel Gadhafi “dead or alive,” The Daily Telegraph reported.

Jalil said the rebels, on the verge of completing their takeover of the country with Gadhafi routed from his compound in Tripoli, were offering amnesty to “members of [Gadhafi's] close circle who kill him or capture him.”

“Businessmen in Benghazi have set-up an award of 2 million Libyan dinars for anyone who captures Gadhafi and from another hand, the National Transitional Council announces that anyone from his inner circle who kills Gadhafi or captures him, shall receive amnesty from the community,” the British newspaper said Jalil told reporters at a news conference in Benghazi.

“Gadhafi has not requested a peaceful exit until this moment and we do not object to his departure after he announces his relinquishing of power, and we do not object to his departure as long as any country will accept to take him because then it would fall under international law.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department renewed its warning to U.S. citizens against travel to Libya, and recommendation that U.S. citizens in the African nation depart immediately because the fighting there continues.

The Hungarian government, acting through its Embassy in Tripoli, serves as the protecting power for U.S. interests in Libya, the State Department said.

Saadi Gadhafi, a son of the elusive Libyan leader, wrote in an e-mail to CNN that “I have authority” to negotiate a cease-fire. CNN said the communication appeared authentic and resembled previous correspondence.

Pro-Gadhafi forces hit back at Libyan rebels in several volatile pockets across Tripoli earlier Wednesday, including near the city’s international airport.

While rebels control the hotly contested Tripoli International Airport, fierce fighting took place in an area east of it, raising speculation loyalist forces might be protecting a high-profile figure in the vicinity, CNN reported.

Rebel leaders said they plan to move key ministries to Tripoli as Gadhafi, whose exact whereabouts remained unknown, called on Libyans to “eliminate the criminals.”

Rebel leaders claimed they control about 90 percent of the country and were close to a “new Libya,” but Gadhafi forces still control some areas, CNN said.

Gadhafi, in an audio message that could not be authenticated, called on Libyans “to clear the city of Tripoli and eliminate the criminals, traitors and rats.”

“They are hiding between the families and inside the civilian houses,” the message said. “It’s your duty to enter these houses and take them out.”

Gadhafi also purportedly said he had “been out a bit in Tripoli discreetly, without being seen. It did not feel like Tripoli had fallen or someone had marched into it.”

Besides deaths among rebel and government forces, civilians have been wounded, “which is quite a concern for us,” said Robin Waudo, spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Tripoli. He said he could not release a casualty toll.

Also, some health workers in Tripoli were staying away from work because of the security situation, Waudo said.

Rebel leaders also spent Wednesday explaining why they had reported Saif Gadhafi’s capture earlier after he had appeared on Libyan television, mocking them, The New York Times reported. Rebel leaders said there was a misunderstanding during their discussions with the International Criminal Court, which has issued arrest warrants for Saif Gadhafi and his father, along with the regime’s intelligence minister, alleging the trio committed crimes against humanity.

A growing number of countries are recognizing the rebels’ National Transitional Council as Libya’s rightful government and have announced they would unfreeze seized Gadhafi assets, CNN said. However, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he only would recognize a Libyan regime led by his ally, Gadhafi.

Shammam said release of money frozen in international banks is critical to the rebels’ success.

“We need to provide ourselves with a lot of necessities and we cannot do this without money,” he said.

The French government said President Nicolas Sarkozy would meet rebel Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril Wednesday in Paris, the Times reported.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, whose country opposed NATO airstrikes, was said to be calling for negotiations because Gadhafi retained influence and power. But he did say he will consider establishing relations with the rebels if they can demonstrate enough strength to put Libya on a democratic footing, Interfax said.