Journalist murdered in eastern Mexico

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The body of a kidnapped journalist was found n the eastern Mexican state of Veracruz, where nine members of the media have been murdered in the past 18 months, state officials said.

Victor Baez, a police reporter for the Milenio Xalapa newspaper and partner in the reporterospoliciacos Web site, was abducted on Wednesday night and his body was found hours later in a busy street in downtown Xalapa, the state capital.

Nine journalists have been murdered in Veracruz since December 2010, when Javier Duarte, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, became governor.

The federal government launched "Operation Safe Veracruz" last October in an effort to stem the wave of drug-related violence in the Gulf state, where a turf war between rival drug cartels has sent the murder rate skyrocketing.

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Spanish gov't appeals for calm amid market turmoil

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Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos appealed for calm amid continued volatility in financial markets, attributing the tensions to the impending Greek parliamentary elections.

De Guindos made his remarks after meeting with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and top economic officials on another dark day for Spain's benchmark bond, whose yield soared to nearly 6.92 percent at the close of trading, the highest level since Spain joined the euro in 1999.

Spain's risk premium, the extra return investors demand on the country's 10-year bond compared with equivalent safe-haven German debt, also widened Thursday to 543 basis points at the market close.

De Guindos acknowledged that that level of borrowing costs is unsustainable for the Iberian nation. Bond yields jumped due to Moody's decision Wednesday to downgrade the country's sovereign credit rating by three notches to Baa3, the lowest investment-grade rating, and to the possibility that both Italy and Spain might require a sovereign bailout by the European Union, Saxo Bank analysts said.

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Mexico approves Televisa-Iusacell tie-up

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Mexico's Federal Competition Commission, or CFC, said it approved dominant TV broadcaster Televisa's bid for about half of the country's No. 3 wireless operator, Iusacell.

In a statement, the CFC said it imposed certain conditions on the deal to avert the risk of collusion between Grupo Televisa and Grupo Salinas, the parent company of both No. 2 TV broadcaster TV Azteca and Iusacell.

Those conditions include non-discrimination in the sale of advertising to telecommunications firms; the separation of Iusacell's management from that of the broadcast and pay TV businesses of Televisa and Grupo Salinas; and a requirement that broadcast and pay TV content be sold separately.

The CFC accepted the appeal filed by Televisa and Iusacell against its earlier ruling on Jan. 24, when it rejected Televisa's bid to take a roughly 50 percent interest in the mobile phone company.

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Cave paintings in northern Spain oldest ever found in Europe

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Scientists estimate paintings found in three caves in northern Spain to be between 30,000 and 40,800 years, which would make them the oldest ever discovered in Europe.

The discovery, made using a dating method known as uranium-thorium, will be published Friday by Science magazine.

The study was carried out at 11 caves featuring outstanding examples of pre-historic art, but the most significant results were obtained from Altamira, El Castillo and Tito Bustillo.

The results raise the possibility that Neanderthals could have been the artists of the oldest paintings and that therefore the capacity to create was not the exclusive domain of homo sapiens.

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Pollsters see race tight finish, polarization in Mexico election

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Pollsters said during a conference organized by the Federal Electoral Institute, or IFE, that they expected Mexico's presidential election next month to get tight in the home stretch amid polarization.

Representatives of several polling firms said the gap between frontrunner Enrique Peña Nieto and his closest rival, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, would narrow as election day gets closer.

Nearly all the polls conducted so far have shown Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, in the lead, but Lopez Obrador, the candidate of a leftist coalition, has been gaining ground and the election could produce a photo-finish as in 2006.

In the 2006 race, "the campaign started with a nine-point advantage for Lopez Obrador and ended practically tied," with Felipe Calderon eventually edging out the former Mexico City mayor, Consulta Mitofsky chief Roy Campos said.

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2 Die in crash of drug plane in eastern Honduras

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The two people aboard a small plane that crashed in Olancho, a province in eastern Honduras, while transporting 40 kilos of cocaine were killed, a military spokesman said.

The plane crashed on Wednesday "in a mountainous area," armed forces spokesman Jeremias Arevalo said.

The aircraft was "detected by radar" in the early morning hours of Wednesday and went down between the cities of Gualaco and San Esteban, both located in Olancho, Arevalo said.

The aircraft was coming from a South American country, media reports said. But Arevalo said it was not the aircraft stolen on Sunday in Colombia and flown to Gracias a Dios, a province on the Caribbean coast of Honduras.

EFE