By Gabriel Stargardter ACAPULCO, Mexico (Reuters) - Gangland violence and looming bankruptcy had already all but obliterated the glitter of Acapulco before catastrophic flooding last month drove crocodiles onto the streets of the Mexican beach resort and turned much of it into a mud bath. Once a playground for the rich and famous, by 2012 Acapulco had become the murder capital of Mexico, mired in a cycle of brutal slayings, kidnappings and extortion as drug gangs fought for control of the former pirate cove. Acapulco was still battling to contain the violence when in September it was hit hard by the worst storm damage ever in Mexico. The rains swamped the city's airport, stranding thousands of tourists who are crucial to the health of the local economy. Roads to Acapulco closed, and the average hotel occupancy rate fell to under 20 percent in the weeks after the disaster. The road is open again and much of the mess has been cleaned up, but that rates has yet to recover. Last week it hovered at less than half the 2012 average of 49 percent - a record low. Weeks later, Acapulco's hotels have bought up ads in national newspapers offering two-for-one deals. The message is simple: Even more than sending food parcels, the best way to help is to come spend money. Tourism makes up more than two-thirds of the surrounding state of Guerrero's income, and with many hotel rooms empty, the city's finances in tatters and drug violence widespread, the resort faces a hard slog to recover its reputation. During the rains, hotels served as emergency shelters. Two weeks later, when Reuters paid a midweek visit, water was still off or rationed at many landmark establishments. At the 180-room Hotel El Cano, only about 20 rooms were occupied. "Let's hope this is as bad as it gets," said El Cano's manager, Pedro Haces. "We've never had occupation rates like these." It relies now on national tourism and still gets visitors because it's the closest beach resort to the capital, a four-hour drive instead of an expensive flight to others spots like Cancun. The rains brought by tropical storms Manuel and Ingrid have pole-axed Guerrero's economy, with Governor Angel Aguirre saying total damages would exceed 18 billion pesos ($1.4 billion) - equivalent to 9 percent of the state's annual economic output. That huge bill has dug a bigger hole for the city, which Mayor Luis Walton declared bankrupt last year. "The city of Acapulco doesn't have the economic means to sort this out," Walton said of the devastation. "We can't." Acapulco's misfortune has now become so commonplace that signs dotting the highway out of town read "No hables mal de Aca," or "don't speak badly of here," a play on the Spanish word "aca" (here) and the first three letters of the city's name. FAST-BUCK DEVELOPERS? When the rains began on the night of September 15, many in Miramar II, an estate of small second homes near some of the most expensive hotels in the city, were settling down to watch Mexican boxing hero Saul Alvarez take on world champion Floyd Mayweather. By dawn, Alvarez's hopes had been crushed and Miramar II was underwater, with dozens of residents including 43-year-old biologist Arturo Sanchez forced to escape the flooding by perching on neighbors' roofs as the waters below swept away their cars. Lying next to a diverted river, Miramar II sprouted in an area many had warned was at risk of flooding. Residents like Sanchez lost everything, and angry locals have accused developers of having colluded with public officials to make a fast buck by putting up dream getaways without proper planning. President Enrique Pena Nieto has promised to investigate allegations of building permits issued illegally in areas like Miramar II, which have become a symbol of Acapulco's graft. When Mayor Walton took over the resort in late 2012, he announced Acapulco was bust, unable to pay debts of $170 million owing to a crippling legacy of mismanagement and cronyism. Walton, a leftist, claims the situation is improving - but says the city of around 800,000 still has 3,000 more unionized employees on its payroll than it requires. Catapulted to fame by guests such as President John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, Acapulco urbanized rapidly from the 1960s with ramshackle settlements known as colonias cropping up in the steep hills behind the beach front. Demand from tourists and the port's handy location for smugglers moving cocaine from South America into Mexico and on to the United States helped turn the city into a lucrative hub for drug cartels. When the local gangs began to fragment during the military offensive launched by former President Felipe Calderon, chaos descended as rival groups fought for control. The demise of the Beltran Leyva cartel in 2009 was a turning point. Within three years a wave of violence had given the city the highest murder rate in Mexico. In 2012, there were some 1,063 murders. That gave it a homicide rate of 135 per 100,000 people - over 50 percent higher than Honduras, the world's most murderous country. "Acapulco looked like Chicago in a 1930s gangster film," said Javier Morlet, the head of a national group called Dialogue for Peace, whose daughter was kidnapped and murdered in 2010. "The city was almost abandoned. There was terror." EXTORTION UP, CRUISE SHIPS DOWN The government sent hundreds of marines and federal police into the city to try to curb the violence. It appears to have yielded some results, in line with moderate improvements across Mexico. Since Pena Nieto took office in December, the number of murders has fallen. But with roughly 1,000 drug-related killings taking place across Mexico a month, gangland violence still remains a fact of life. Acapulco is no exception. In the first nine months of 2013, there were 536 murders in Acapulco, official data show. That is a third lower than the same period last year but still very high, and other crimes are on the rise. With 150 reported cases, there have already been more kidnappings in Guerrero in the first eight months of this year than in any year since current records began in 1997. Extortion in the state is also on track to reach a record level in 2013. Morlet estimated 80 percent of Acapulco's small businesses now pay protection payments ranging from about 5,000 pesos ($380) to 80,000 pesos ($6,000) a month. Acapulco's newly installed police chief, Jesus Cortes, who used to run the antidrug assault team for the federal police, said he inherited a bloated force, aging and poorly trained. "When I was a federal police officer, I didn't trust local police. Now I'm head of the local police and I'm working on it, but I still don't have 100 percent faith in them," he said. The violence also spoiled a once-lucrative cruise industry. An average of 140, 1,800-passenger cruise ships used to arrive in Acapulco annually in the years preceding 2011, port director Octavio Gonzalez told Reuters. By the end of this year, he expects just 13, 600-passenger boats to have stopped off. "Acapulco was where the jet-set was, but that's no more," said Mayor Walton. "Of course I'm worried there are no cruise ships. Of course I'm worried there are no tourists." With international tourism dwindling, the city has become ever more reliant on visitors from Mexico City. Many of the newcomers used a government mortgage credit to snap up second homes, such as those in Miramar II. Wading through the ankle-high waters that sloshed through their sludge-coated home, 44-year-old Mexico City carpenter Victor Garcia and his wife, Maria Luisa, came to see what had become of their 360,000 peso dream getaway. "It was really lovely here," the 45-year-old Maria Luisa said with tears in her eyes. "It was great." Nearby, soldiers carved thick slabs of clay from caked cars. Despite the flooding, the crime and the setbacks to tourism, hoteliers insist business will pick up again. A stoic resilience in the sun-soaked Pacific haven is widespread. "They say they're going to relocate us 30 km away," said biologist Sanchez. "No. This is my only home." ($1 = 12.9820 Mexican pesos) (Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Dave Graham, Kieran Murray and Prudence Crowther)
Australia's Fortescue Metals Group has apologised to an Aboriginal group for clearing land on a heritage site while flouting a government condition for representatives of the community to be present when the damage took place. It is the week's second such incident, despite pressure on Australian iron ore miners to show they have improved practices to manage important sites after Rio Tinto destroyed two sacred rock shelters for a mine expansion last May. Fortescue had state government permission to clear the land in the Weelamurra Creek area registered as sacred to the Wintawari Guruma people, on condition that community elders were present to perform salvage and cultural rites, four documents reviewed by Reuters showed.
- Associated Press
Nasser Banyameen speaks about his hometown of Qaraqosh in the historical heartland of Iraqi Christianity with nostalgia. Before the militants shattered his sense of peace. Iraq’s Christian communities in the area were dealt a severe blow when they were scattered by the IS onslaught in 2014, further shrinking the country's already dwindling Christian population.
- Associated Press
Malaysian lawmakers and rights groups on Wednesday demanded that the government explain why it violated a court stay order and deported 1,086 Myanmar migrants, saying it put their lives in danger following Myanmar's military coup. A high court on Tuesday ordered a stay of the repatriation of 1,200 Myanmar nationals pending an appeal by Amnesty International Malaysia and Asylum Access Malaysia, which said there were refugees, asylum-seekers and minors among the group.
- Business Insider
J&J's coronavirus shot could dramatically accelerate the US vaccine rollout. Here's your new vaccination timeline.
The nation could now distribute 500 million doses by the end of June - enough to vaccinate all of its adult population.
- Business Insider
Pelosi mocks McConnell for criticizing commission on the Capitol insurrection: GOP Sen. 'Ron Johnson seems to be taking the lead'
Pelosi also accidentally called the Wisconsin senator "Don" Johnson. "Not Miami Vice or anything like that?" she said, referencing a TV actor.
- The Daily Beast
Erin Schaff/ReutersThe acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police just came with the receipts.Testifying before a House Appropriations subcommittee about the catastrophic breakdown that allowed thousands of MAGA rioters to breach the Capitol, Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman revealed that her predecessor called the House sergeant-at-arms, Paul Irving, at 12:58 p.m. to request the National Guard as rioters breaching the building and forced lawmakers into hiding.Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned after the riot, called Irving again seven minutes later, according to phone records pulled by Pittman—and then called him at least three more times until 1:45 p.m.“When there’s a breakdown you look for those commanders with boots on the ground to provide that instruction,” Pittman said. “That did not happen, primarily because those operational commanders at the time were so overwhelmed, they started to participate and assist the officers… versus providing that guidance and direction.”First Capitol Riot Hearing Only Raised More Questions About Jan. 6The receipts–which support the narrative that a series of unanswered calls, withheld information, and conflicting orders led to complete malfunction—directly contradicted Irving’s testimony.On Tuesday, Sund testified that he asked for National Guard backup just after 1 p.m. But Irving insisted that was wrong. He said he did not remember the conversation with Sund and claimed he didn’t get an official request until “shortly before 1:30 p.m.” Troops were not approved to help overwhelmed officers at the Capitol until 2:10 p.m.“Mr. Irving stated that he was concerned about the ‘optics’ of having the National Guard present and didn’t feel that the intelligence supported it,” Sund said Tuesday. Irving, who resigned in the wake of the riot, said that was “categorically false.”On Tuesday, Irving said that if Sund, Senate sergeant-at-arms Michael Stenger, or any other leaders concluded ahead of Jan. 6 that unarmed National Guardsmen were needed, he “would not have hesitated” to ensure the reinforcement was ready.Pittman’s testimony—and her insistence that Capitol Police did everything possible to contain the insurrection—was just the latest twist in a series of finger-pointing between the top law enforcers in charge of securing the Capitol. During hearings before lawmakers this week, officials have blamed one another for the widespread failures.One failure, Pittman conceded on Thursday, was that nobody in law enforcement knew the mob would be so violent.She told lawmakers that they were prepared for militia groups, white supremacists, and other extremists to be present, but the small organization was not prepared for thousands of “everyday” Americans “who took on a mob mentality.” (Acting D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee revealed on Tuesday that the FBI intel consisted merely of an email sent on Jan. 5.)Officials believe over 10,000 demonstrators were at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and that 800 breached the building. About 1,200 police officers responded, Pittman said.She also made the stunning admission that since Jan. 6, Capitol Police have maintained heightened security because they learned that militia groups have chatted about plans to “blow up the Capitol and kill as many members as possible” in connection with the State of the Union, which has no scheduled date yet. “We know that the insurrectionists that attacked the Capitol weren’t only interested in attacking members of Congress and officers. They wanted to send a symbolic message to the nation as [to] who was in charge of that legislative process,” Pittman said. On Tuesday, Irving insisted that Capitol Police were privy to intelligence provided by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security that “did not support” the likelihood of a coordinated assault at the Capitol.An NYPD Cop’s Road From Terror ‘Victim’ to Capitol Rioter“The department was not ignorant of intelligence indicating an attack of the size and scale we encountered on the sixth. There was no such intelligence,” Pittman said Thursday. “Although we knew the likelihood for violence by extremists, no credible threat indicated that tens of thousands would attack the U.S. Capitol. Nor did the intelligence received from the FBI or any other law enforcement partner indicate such a threat.”Pittman added that because officers at the Capitol were not prepared for a violent mob, lockdown procedure was not properly executed. She added that some officers were also not sure when to use lethal force, and that radio communications between law enforcers were not robust.Five individuals died during the violent riots. Four were pro-Trump protesters, including Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt, who was shot and killed by a police officer after attempting to break into the Speaker’s Lobby. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died after allegedly clashing with rioters. In the days after the siege, at least two officers died by suicide.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- Business Insider
Coinbase says the entire crypto market could be destabilized if Bitcoin's anonymous creator is ever revealed or sells their $30 billion stake
Satoshi Nakamoto owns about 5% of the bitcoin market. If their 1.1 million cache was transferred, bitcoin prices could plummet, Coinbase said.
TikTokers are freaking out after learning that Imagine Dragons made demos for disastrous Spider-Man musical
Multiple viral TikToks circulated about Imagine Dragons working on the Spider-Man musical, with many commenting on the 2012 hit song "Radioactive."
People online are celebrating Emma Watson's best acting roles after her agent says her career is 'dormant'
The "Harry Potter" star's agent said she's "not taking on new commitments," which led fans to believe that she's retiring from acting (she isn't).
Acting U.S. Capitol Police chief Yogananda Pittman testified on Thursday that cellphone records show former USCP chief Steven Sund requested National Guard support from the House sergeant-at-arms as early as 12:58pm on Jan. 6, but he did not receive approval until over an hour later.Why it matters: Sund and former House sergeant-at-arms Paul Irving clashed at a Senate hearing on Tuesday over a dispute in the timeline for when Capitol Police requested the National Guard during the Capitol insurrection.Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with Axios Markets. Subscribe for freeIrving insisted that he has no recollection of receiving the request until after 2pm. Lawmakers are looking for accountability over that hour of lost time, when pro-Trump rioters were able to breach and ransack the Capitol."I did not get a request at 1:09 that I can remember," Irving, who resigned after the insurrection, testified. "The first conversation I had with chief Sund in that timeframe was 1:28, 1:30. In that conversation, he indicated that conditions were deteriorating and he might be looking for National Guard approval."Details: Pittman testified to a House subcommittee that Sund's phone records show the former chief first reached out for National Guard support to Irving at 12:58pm.Sund then spoke to former Senate sergeant-at-arms Michael Stenger to make the same request at 1:05pm, per Pittman.Pittman says Sund repeated his request to Irving at 1:28pm, then spoke to him again at 1:34pm, 1:39pm and 1:45pm.Go deeper: Pittman testifies officers were unsure of lethal force rules on Jan. 6Like this article? Get more from Axios and subscribe to Axios Markets for free.
The Manhattan district attorney is now in possession of millions of pages of former President Trump's tax and financial records, CNN first reported, following a Supreme Court ruling that allowed prosecutors to enforce a subpoena after a lengthy legal battle.Why it matters: Trump fought for years to keep his tax returns out of the public eye and away from prosecutors in New York, who are examining his business in a criminal investigation that was first sparked by hush-money payments made by Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen during the 2016 election.Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with Axios Markets. Subscribe for freeThe New York Times reports that the investigation has intensified in recent months and that prosecutors are now examining potential tax and bank-related fraud.Trump has denied any wrongdoing, attacking the investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance as a political "witch hunt."Go deeper: Here’s What’s Next in the Trump Taxes Investigation (N.Y. Times)Like this article? Get more from Axios and subscribe to Axios Markets for free.
- Yahoo News
Marjorie Taylor Greene escalates LGBTQ rights debate with attack on colleague's transgender daughter
A debate on the House floor over a bill that would extend civil rights protections to the LGBTQ community spilled over into the halls of Congress on Wednesday.
A Texas border patrol officer was charged after she used a coworker's login to bring her children's nanny into the US from Mexico
Prosecutors allege that Rhonda Lee Walker, 40, used her coworker's computer to scan in a Mexican immigrant's paperwork to become her live-in nanny.
- The Daily Beast
REUTERSDr. Rachel Levine, the first transgender person to be nominated for a Senate-confirmed position in the federal government, had been seated in her confirmation hearing to become the nation’s assistant secretary of health for a little less than an hour when she was grilled about “genital mutilation” of minor children by a Republican committee member.“American culture is down normalizing the idea that minors can be given hormones,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said on Thursday, likening standards of care for transgender minors to castration and female circumcision and blaming increasing rates of trans-identified youth on “the social pressure to conform and do what others do.”“Do you believe minors are capable of making such a life changing decision of changing one's sex?” Paul asked Levine,In response, Levine thanked Paul for his “interest” in the question of transgender medicine, calling it “a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care that have been developed” by pediatricians.“If I’m fortunate enough to be confirmed, I will look forward to working with you and your office and coming to your office to discuss the particulars of the standards of care for transgender medicine,” Levine said. Levine, who currently serves as Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, is a pediatrician and former state physician general whose handling of the coronavirus pandemic in Pennsylvania has drawn widespread praise, did not address the substance of the question, or attempt to correct Paul’s apparent misunderstanding of medical transition for transgender youth.Paul, a former self-certified ophthalmologist, repeated his question of whether Levine supported access to hormone blockers and “reconstruction of genitalia” for minors, before relaying the story of Keira Bell, a British citizen who was assigned female at birth before taking puberty blockers and supplemental testosterone as a teenager. Bell, who later de-transitioned when she was an adult, led a court case that effectively blocked transgender children under 16 from medical transition in the United Kingdom. It is not standard medical practice to perform gender confirmation surgery on minors in the United States, and Bell’s surgery was not performed until she was 20.“I’m alarmed that you’re not saying they should be prevented from making decisions to amputate their breasts or genitalia,” Paul said. “We have always said that minors do not have full rights—will you make a more firm decision on whether or not minors should be involved in these decisions?”Levine reiterated that transgender medicine is “a very complex and nuanced field,” as well as her offer to talk with Paul and his staff about the issue, upon which Paul asked the record to show that she refused to answer his question and likened trans men being given testosterone to hydroxychloroquine being used to treat COVID-19.Rachel Levine Picked by Biden for Assistant Health Secretary, Would Be First Ever Transgender Senate Confirmee“We should be outraged that someone is talking to a three-year-old about changing their sex,” Paul said.Levine was later defended by other members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, who called Paul’s line of questioning inappropriate and uninformed.“It is really critical to me that our nominees be treated with respect and that our questions focus on their qualifications,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) said, “rather than ideological and harmful misrepresentations.”The LGBTQ Victory Institute, which works to elevate LGBTQ people in politics and government, called Paul’s remarks deeply offensive.“His remarks echo the talking points of the same organizations who said gay men deserved AIDS and that LGBTQ people should be criminalized,” Ruben Gonzales, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “He explicitly attacked vulnerable trans youth for his own perceived political gain and it was a disgrace.”Levine has been the subject of repeated misgendering by Republican lawmakers and staff since her nomination, particularly as the leadup to the Equality Act—set to be passed by the House of Representatives later on Thursday—has prompted opponents to fixate on trans children in school sports as a reason to defeat the legislation.Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), for example, hung an anti-transgender sign in the hallway outside her office on Wednesday in response to another lawmaker’s display of the transgender pride flag. That lawmaker, Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL), has a transgender daughter.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- Business Insider
Stephen Miller, the architect of Trump's migrant-family-separation scheme, called Biden's immigration policies 'cruel' and 'inhumane'
The family-separation policy made Miller one of the most controversial Trump officials. He even put conservatives on edge.
- Business Insider
Experts say Dominion and Smartmatic could win their defamation lawsuits, but MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell says they have 'zero' chance
The Trump backers Rudy Giuliani, Sydney Powell, and Mike Lindell face defamation lawsuits from Dominion and Smartmatic that may succeed, experts say.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office enforced a subpoena on Trump’s accounting firm within hours of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday.
- Associated Press
Caster Semenya is going to the European Court of Human Rights to challenge “discriminatory” rules that prohibit her from competing in certain track events because of her high natural testosterone, her lawyers said Thursday. The two-time Olympic champion in the 800 meters has already lost two legal appeals against World Athletics' regulations that force her to medically lower her natural testosterone level if she wants to run in women's races from 400 meters to one mile. Although she has never publicly released details of her condition, World Athletics has controversially referred to her as “biologically male” in previous legal proceedings, a description that angered Semenya.
Tiger Woods should be able to walk and even return to pro golf, a pro golfer turned orthopedic surgeon says
"I think Tiger can walk again. I think Tiger can play golf again and return to the Tour," the golf pro turned surgeon Dr. Bill Mallon told us.
- NBC News
The release will mark a new chapter in U.S.-Saudi relations and a clear break from Trump's policy of equivocating about the Saudi state's role in the brutal murder.