Mexico's incoming government will hold a national public consultation on Nov. 24-25 for residents to voice their opinion on 10 key policy proposals ranging from a new rail line and oil refinery to reforestation and free public internet initiatives.
The new consultation comes on the heels of another informal referendum that called for canceling the construction of a partially-built $13 billion new airport for Mexico City.
President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador used the results of that consultation to say his administration, which takes office on Dec. 1, would halt the airport project. That decision left investors fretting over how he would manage the economy, with the peso currency and stock market reeling.
It was unclear whether the results of the new consultation would be binding.
The incoming administration will set up 1,102 polling stations across the nation where residents will be asked to fill out a form and answer "yes" or "no" on the 10 policy points.
They include whether to guarantee access to healthcare to residents that currently lack those services, offer training and scholarships to 2.6 million youth, and double pensions for citizens over 68 years old.
Residents will vote on the construction of the so-called "Mayan Train", a rail line that will run 1,500 kilometers and connect five southern Mexican states.
Another point on the consultation is the construction of a $2.5 billion refinery in Tabasco state, which the incoming government has said will boost gasoline production and help cut growing fuel imports.
Commander says US military does not view Central American migrants as 'enemies'
The commander of U.S. forces deployed in San Diego to fortify the southern border said he does not view the migrants from a Central American caravan amassing in Mexico as "enemies" after President Donald Trump described them as an "invasion.""I don't consider them a military enemy, nor does the United States military doing this job. They're simply migrants in a caravan moving towards the United States to seek a better way of life and asylum," Army Captain Guster Cunningham III told Reuters on Thursday."The military is not classifying them as the enemy in any way, shape or form," he said.Trump's politically charged decision to send troops to the border with Mexico came ahead of U.S. congressional elections last week. He was seeking to strengthen border security as part of a crackdown on illegal immigration.The number of U.S. troops at the border with Mexico may have peaked at about 5,800, the U.S. commander of the mission told Reuters, noting he would start looking next week at whether to begin sending forces home or perhaps shifting some to new border positions.The Pentagon says there are no plans for U.S. forces to interact with migrants and that they had been carrying out support tasks for U.S. Customs and Border (CBP), such as stringing up concertina wire and building temporary housing for themselves and CBP personnel."As far as us being confronted with migrants, the possibility still remains zero because that's not our job. Our job again is to fortify the fence and enable CBP to do their enforcement job," Cunningham said.Up to 1,000 migrants linked to the caravans have arrived in the Mexican border city of Tijuana in recent days, with a similar number expected to arrive in the next few days. Thousands more could then arrive in border towns as the bulk of the caravans arrive.Many of the migrants in the caravans, which include women and children, say they are fleeing gang violence and poverty. However. Trump suggested, without providing proof, the caravans could be hiding extremists.Asked if "terrorists" might be mixed in with the migrants Cunningham III said: "Of course that possibility always exists.""The likelihood of us coming into contact with any militants at this time based upon what is from higher, Defense Secretary (Jim) Mattis, is that we will not come in contact with any militants," he said.
CIA sought to use 'truth serum' on detainees: report
The CIA explored the use of a "truth serum" on prisoners of suspected terrorism charges in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, according to a newly declassified report.The 90-page report was written by a CIA medical official, whose identity remains classified, and details an initiative, Project Medication, created to find such a serum that would force prisoners to tell the truth during interrogations.The agency noted the preferred drug was Versed, a benzodiazepine which has a desirable side effect of amnesia. Versed, however, did have one drawback for the CIA's interrogation methods.It needed to be administered intravenously by a physician, instead of being injected without the prisoner's knowledge.Price tag for US 'war on terror' pegged at $5.9TCIA had previous attempts to find a truth serum, most notably the MK-ULTRA program in the 1950s and 1960s where it used LSD and other drugs to attempt mind control.Project Medication never got off the ground and was shelved in 2003, however, medical officials in the CIA continued to participate in the agency's torture program."Perhaps the most striking element of the document is the CIA doctors’ willful blindness to the truth of what they were doing," Dror Ladin, staff attorney at ACLU, wrote in an online blog post.US troop levels at Mexico border likely at peak: commanderThe CIA's Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, otherwise known as the CIA Torture Program, caused major controversy in the U.S. since its approval by former President George W. Bush following the 2001 terror attacks.Many groups contend the methods used, including waterboarding, being confined to small spaces and being exposed to extreme temperatures, violated human rights."Over the years, we have learned how lawyers twisted the law and psychologists betrayed their ethical obligations in order to enable the brutal and unlawful torture of prisoners," Ladin added.The report was declassified by a judge and released to the American Civil Liberties Union, as a part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.Death toll from California wildfire reaches 56
Price tag for US 'war on terror' pegged at $5.9T
The U.S. will have spent nearly $6 trillion on various wars and military operations aimed at winning the war on international terrorist groups by October 2019, according to a study released Wednesday.The $5.9 trillion assessment by Brown University's Watson Institute includes costs expected to be accumulated through the fiscal year that runs through September 2019, as well as past expenditures. It includes not just spending from the Defense Department, but all of government resulting as a consequence of the wars.That includes related spending by the State Department and Department of Homeland Security, veterans care spending and interest paid on war debts.US troop levels at Mexico border likely at peak: commanderAs a result, the figure is significantly higher than the Pentagon's $1.5 trillion estimate."If the US continues on its current path, war spending will continue to grow," the report states, noting that even if the wars the U.S. embarked on following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks are ended by 2023 the U.S. would be on track to spend an additional $808 billion."Moreover, the costs of war will likely be greater than this because, unless the US immediately ends its deployments, the number of veterans associated with the post-9/11 wars will also grow," it adds.After Washington embarked on its military campaign against al-Qaeda, the group responsible for the 9/11 attacks, and the Taliban which offered it safe harbor, the U.S. invaded Iraq, and went on a global campaign of less expansive military efforts aimed at eliminating terrorist groups and their leaders.Death toll from California wildfire reaches 56That has included a robust targeted killings program, expanded special operations and a global intelligence collection program.Spending in Afghanistan and Iraq has amounted to nearly $1.8 billion alone, despite a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq that was completed in 2011.But Washington re-entered the fray in Iraq and later Syria, deploying troops in support of partnered forces in the fight against Daesh, which overran large portions of the countries before being rolled back through an expansive American-led air campaign and train and advise mission for local forces.Watson's study of the costs associated with the wars comes as a separate congressionally-mandated report warns the U.S. military "might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia."Authored by the National Defense Strategy Commission, a bipartisan group of former security and military experts, the assessment warned Washington is not addressing the threats posed by Moscow and Beijing quickly enough."DOD and the White House have not yet articulated clear operational concepts for achieving U.S. security objectives in the face of ongoing competition and potential military confrontation with China and Russia," the report said, referring to the Department of Defense.The commission called for a 3-5 percent increase in Defense spending above inflation in order to address the threats."Failing that, it may be necessary to alter the expectations of U.S. defense strategy and our global strategic objectives," it said.
US troop levels at Mexico border likely at peak: commander
The number of U.S. troops at the border with Mexico may have peaked at about 5,800, the U.S. commander of the mission told Reuters, noting he would start looking next week at whether to begin sending forces home or perhaps shifting some to new border positions.The outlook by Lieutenant General Jeffrey Buchanan, while not definitive, suggests that the high-profile military mission could soon achieve its goal of helping harden the border ahead of the expected arrival of caravans of Central American migrants in the coming weeks.The deployment, which critics have called a pre-election political stunt by President Donald Trump, was initially expected to reach more than 7,000 forces, acting in support of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis authorized the mission through Dec. 15 and while Buchanan did not rule out an extension, he did not think one appeared likely at this point, based on the current set of tasks assigned to the military.Death toll from California wildfire reaches 56"It is a hard date. And we have no indications that CBP is going to need us to do our work for longer than that," Buchanan said on Wednesday at Base Camp Donna in Texas, as Mattis toured the site near the Mexico border.He acknowledged that there could be new requests, saying: "If we get an extension, we get an extension. But I’ve got no indications of that so far."Asked whether he thought the troop levels had peaked, Buchanan said: "I do. We might increase by a hundred here or there, but probably not."Trump's politically charged decision to send U.S. troops to the border with Mexico came ahead of U.S. congressional elections last week, as Trump sought to strengthen border security as part of a crackdown on illegal immigration.Galeri: Migrant caravan traveling to US walks by road that links Ciudad Hidalgo with TapachulaTrump's supporters, including Republicans in Congress, have embraced the deployment.But critics have said it was designed to drive Republican voters to the polls. They have scoffed at Trump's comparison of caravans of Central American migrants, including women and children, fleeing poverty and violence, to an "invasion."Mattis defended the deployment on Wednesday, saying the mission was "absolutely legal," justified and was improving military readiness.'RIGHTSIZING'Buchanan also said his mission guidelines were clear - to support CBP personnel. He said his work was apolitical."I'm not being directed to do anything unnatural from above me," said Buchanan, who is commander of U.S. Army North.The Pentagon says there are no plans for U.S. forces to interact with migrants and instead have been carrying out support tasks for CBP, like stringing up concertina wire and building temporary housing for themselves and CBP personnel.In recent days, up to 1,000 migrants linked to the caravans have arrived in the Mexican border city of Tijuana, with a similar number expected to arrive in the next day or so. Thousands more could arrive in border towns over the coming days as the bulk of the caravans arrive.Buchanan estimated that about 5,800 troops were deployed in total, with about 1,500 in California, 1,500 in Arizona and 2,800 in Texas. Buchanan acknowledged he might shift forces east or west along the border if needed.Mattis told reporters earlier on Wednesday that U.S. soldiers were making rapid progress erecting barriers along the border and estimated the first, construction phase of the U.S. military effort could be completed within 10 days.Buchanan suggested troops would go home once they had fulfilled requests by CBP."At some point in time, I'm not going to keep troops here just to keep them here. When the work is done, we’re going to start downsizing some capability," Buchanan said.Buchanan would need to make any recommendations on redeployment of troops to General Terrence O'Shaughnessy, the head of U.S. Northern Command. O'Shaughnessy would then report to Mattis.He suggested a recommendation could be made in the near future."I'm looking as early as next week to start thinking through rightsizing, if we need to change. Or do I need to shift (troops elsewhere on the border)," Buchanan said, without predicting when changes might occur.
Trudeau says Canada to work with China on eventual free trade deal
Canada and China will continue to work together towards an "eventual" free trade deal, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday.This is despite the country being a signatory to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which specifies that if one of its partners enters a free trade deal with a “non-market” country such as China, the others can quit in six months and form their own bilateral trade pact."This clause doesn’t prevent us from doing what we’re already doing which is indeed continuing to negotiate with China on an eventual free trade deal,” Trudeau said in a town hall with students at the National University of Singapore.The clause, which has stirred controversy in Canada, fits in with U.S. President Donald Trump’s efforts to isolate China economically and prevent Chinese companies from using Canada or Mexico as a "back door" to ship products tariff-free to the United States.China commerce ministry says US, China have resumed high-level trade talks"There is an element of transparency. We have to keep our partners informed on how we're doing," Trudeau added.The United States and China are locked in a trade war that has seen them level increasingly severe rounds of tariffs on each other’s imports.Under the clause, the countries in the updated NAFTA, renamed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), must notify the others three months before entering into negotiations that could lead to a trade deal with an outside country.Trudeau said that he and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang spoke about more than just trade deals during their bilateral meeting in Singapore on Wednesday.China sends written response to US trade reform demands“Yes, we talked about deepening trade ties, increasing flows of goods and services between Canada and China for the benefit of citizens and businesses on both sides," Trudeau said."But I also talked about human rights, the situation of the Uighurs, we also talked about things that are difficult to talk about,” he added, without giving details.Beijing has faced an outcry from activists, academics, foreign governments and U.N. rights experts over mass detentions and strict surveillance of the mostly Muslim Uighur minority and other Muslim groups in its western region of Xinjiang.Trudeau's comments come just moments after Reuters reported that Canada is spearheading a group of 15 Western ambassadors in Beijing to seek a meeting with the top official in Xinjiang for an explanation of alleged rights abuses against ethnic Uighurs.