New York restauranteur pleads guilty to conspiring to smuggle endangered sea life from Mexico

New York restauranteur pleads guilty to conspiring to smuggle endangered sea life from Mexico

Sep 30, 2017

The owner of two Chinese restaurants in New York pleaded guilty Friday in San Diego federal court to conspiring to smuggle 250 pounds of black abalone and sea cucumber, both protected species, through the San Ysidro Port of Entry. Alan Ren, 48, of Northport, N.Y., admitted to driving a minivan from Mexico to the port of entry in February 2016 with the seafood hidden in three suitcases and a black plastic bag, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. He said the 83 pounds of black abalone and 172 pounds of sea cucumber were to be delivered to others in the U.S. Three months later, he produced two receipts from a vendor in Ensenada that falsely claimed to be the invoices for the seafood. After an investigation, an indictment was filed in April. Black abalone is found off the shores of California and Baja California. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Attorney’s Office) Black abalone is an endangered species found off California and Baja California, and it is illegal to harvest in California. The species was hard-hit by a disease called Withering Syndrome in the mid-1980s, reducing the population by more than 80 percent, authorities said. The form of sea cucumber in the conspiracy — Isostichopus fuscus, the only type of sea cucumber found in Mexico — is protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, and requires a permit to export into the United States. Ren admitted he did not have the proper permits to import or export the seafood, or to act as a commercial importer of fish or wildlife, prosecutors said. As part of his plea agreement, Ren agreed to pay $16,600 restitution to Mexico for the exported goods. Ren’s alleged passenger, Wei Wei Wang, 37, of Taiwan, is awaiting trial. Ren has stated that he hired Wang to handle the finances of his seafood business. During an interview with federal special agents at the port, Wang said Ren was her boyfriend and wanted to buy the sea cucumber as gifts for the Chinese New Year for friends and family in Los Angeles and New York, according to a transcript. Wang was arrested in New York in April at an airport...

Baja California farmers condemn water sale to US

Baja California farmers condemn water sale to US

Sep 30, 2017

Boundary commission offices occupied in Mexicali. Dozens of farmers from the state of Baja California set up camp yesterday in the car park of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) in the capital of Mexicali to protest against a federal government plan to sell water to the United States. The farmers say they were not consulted about a plan that would see 300 million cubic meters of water head across the border.  The government says that the money it receives from the sale of the water will be spent on agricultural infrastructure, but the farmers remain opposed. When Mexicali IBWC representative Francisco Bernal arrived to speak with the latter, they urged him not to sign the agreement but no agreement was reached. Farmers’ leader Rigoberto Campos said the amount of water the government is planning to send north will have a significant impact on agriculture in the Mexicali Valley. The amount available for irrigation will be reduced, he said, claiming as well that the way in which the deal was made was unfair. He described it as a water sale from Mexico to the U.S. that for the first time was going to change the 1944 water treaty. Campos also said the U.S. was likely to profit from the sale. “They are offering US $137.50 per acre-foot of water when they will resell it to San Diego, California, probably for commercial use, at US $1,500 per acre-foot.” Another farmer who participated in the occupation of the IBWC facilities said the amount of water he received had already been reduced in 2003 by 15 liters per hectare and now they wanted to take another five. “I’m here because my alfalfa is drying out. They’re not giving me water because there isn’t any,” Sergio Chávez said. He added that the proposed infrastructure to be funded by the water sale would be worthless if there wasn’t enough water. “I ask them, where’s the...

Amid uncertainty, San Diego-Tijuana group touts NAFTA’s benefits

Amid uncertainty, San Diego-Tijuana group touts NAFTA’s benefits

Sep 30, 2017

An anxious delegation of business leaders and elected officials from San Diego and Baja California gathered in the nation’s capital this week, seeking answers on the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement as negotiations for the treaty’s update have entered a third round. The annual lobbying trip led by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, which started Monday and ended Wednesday, brought pro-NAFTA members of the delegation face-to-face with key policy-makers—from Congressional representatives to high-ranking members of the Trump administration. Participants also received a briefing from Mexico’s ambassador to the United States about the treaty and another issue of growing local concern: renegade flows of sewage-contaminated water from Tijuana to San Diego. Amid uncertainty over NAFTA’s future, there were many questions, and few easy answers. President Donald Trump has repeatedly assailed the treaty, saying it has cost U.S. manufacturing jobs and created a trade deficit with Mexico. But its proponents say it has brought benefits to the United States, Canada and Mexico. They argue for NAFTA’S extension, albeit with updates to reflect changes such as the evolution of practices such as e-commerce. “We would like to see something that does no harm but is better than it is now,” said Jerry Sanders the chamber’s president and leader of the 160-member delegation. Among the U.S. elected officials in attendance were California Assembly member Todd Gloria (D-San Diego), San Diego County supervisors Greg Cox and Ron Roberts, Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina, and San Diego City Council members David Alvarez and Georgette Gomez. The treaty’s future was the subject of a private briefing by a high-ranking U.S. Department of Commerce official overseeing the negotiations. The official offered reassurance “that an agreement would be reached…and emphasized the difficulty in reaching that,” said Paola Avila, the chamber’s vice president of international business affairs. The subject of NAFTA brought a standing-room-only crowd to a meeting room in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill. Addressing the group were Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), Scott Peters, (D-San Diego) and three congressmen from outside the region: Democrat Henry Cuellar and Republican Will Hurd, both from Texas, and William Pascrell, a Democrat from New Jersey. “I do not know of any Democrat that has asked that we get rid of...

U.S. government issues travel warning against Cuba

U.S. government issues travel warning against Cuba

Sep 30, 2017

In the latest blow to the already shaky relationship between the United States and Cuba, the government is warning Americans against traveling to the Caribbean nation and is ordering 60% of the U.S. embassy personnel to leave the island. The measures are being taken in the wake of a series of mysterious “sonic attacks” against the embassy in the past year, which have left at least 21 people hurt. The perpetrators and the cause of the attacks remain unknown, despite an in-depth investigation by the FBI. (Other experts have argued that the “attacks” might have been accidental, due to some faulty surveillance devices or sonic weapons.) Those affected suffered significant injuries, ranging from dizziness and hearing loss to cognitive issues. The State Department is asking all “non-essential” personnel and their respective families to leave the island for the time being. Since only emergency staff will remain in the country, routine visa functions for Cubans seeking to travel to the United States will no longer be conducted on the island. Instead, Cuban nationals will need to apply for visas at embassies in other countries. The department is also extending an advisory warning to American citizens who travel to Cuba because some of the incidents took place in hotels where U.S. staff were temporarily staying. No tourist has been harmed yet, so the warning is a preventative measure. “We have no reports that private U.S. citizens have been affected, but the attacks are known to have occurred in U.S. diplomatic residences and hotels frequented by U.S. citizens,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement. “The Department does not have definitive answers on the cause or source of the attacks and is unable to recommend a means to mitigate exposure.” The Cuban government has denied being involved in the incidents, and it’s unclear how pulling back the embassy staff and issuing the travel warning might affect its delicate relationship with the U.S. Back in June, Trump reversed many of the Obama administration’s policies on Cuba, restoring some travel and economic restrictions that had been lifted by his predecessor as part of diplomatic re-engagement between the two countries. “America has rejected the Cuban people’s oppressors,” Trump said at the time. “They are rejected officially...

New Mexican Software will help in the rescue of people

New Mexican Software will help in the rescue of people

Sep 29, 2017

According to El Universal locating and rescuing people in disaster areas could be more effective thanks to the “Solity” software developed by Mexican scientist Israel Reyes Gomez. In its website, the software is described as a platform that “supports disaster, data breach, and general incident response plans as well as business continuity planning.” Therefore, “Solity” would allow authorities to know the number of people who were actually inside a building before, during and after it collapses during an earthquake, hurricane or terrorist attack. Reyes Gomez said that according to the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Risk Report, the world could witness further natural disasters as well as terrorist attacks in the near future. The Mexican scientist explained that this software works with mobile devices allowing to detect the precise location of a person in a building via Global Positioning System (GPS). In addition, the software sends a “safe and sound” alert to the authorities so they can carry out contingency and rescue plans in real time. With this technology, already applied in New Zealand, it could be observed to which area the population heads for, at the exact moment of a tremor or a hurricane. Scientist Israel Reyes Gomez said that at the moment he is improving “Solity” software with the help of students of the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN), in addition to that, they also hold talks with the Federal Government for its implementation in Mexico. The Mexican Scientist is nominated for the 2017 National Science Award as a result of the “Solity” development. For more information visit: solity.co.nz...