T.S. Ernesto blamed for 2 deaths in Mexico

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Tropical Storm Ernesto has caused two deaths in the southeastern Mexican state of Tabasco, authorities said.

One of the fatalities was a fisherman in the town of Centla who fell into a river and drowned while trying to secure his boat, a state emergency services official told Efe.

The Mexican government is maintaining tropical storm warnings from Chilitepec, Tabasco, to the Gulf coast port of Veracruz.

Ernesto made landfall early Thursday afternoon near Coatzacoalcos, a city in Veracruz state, bringing winds of 96 kph (60 mph).

As of 2100 GMT Thursday, the storm was located 85 kilometers (55 miles) west of Coatzacoalcos and moving west at 17 kph (10 mph), with maximum sustained winds of 85 kph (55 mph), the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

While Ernesto's winds are expected to diminish as it continues to move inland, Mexican authorities say the storm's torrential rains pose a risk of mudslides.

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14 Bodies found in van in central Mexico

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A van containing 14 bodies was found on the outskirts of San Luis Potosi, a city in northern Mexico, officials said.

"We have the bodies of 14 males aboard a Mercedes-Benz van that had been reported stolen," San Luis Potosi state Attorney General's Office spokeswoman Gabriela Gonzalez told Efe.

The victims "were apparently kidnapped in Coahuila state," which is also in northern Mexico, and taken to San Luis Potosi.

The van containing the bodies was found at kilometer 12 of the San Luis Potosi-Zacatecas highway.

Investigators have gathered information indicating that the killers "made a stop in the state of Zacatecas" and the victims "were executed" on the drive to San Luis Potosi, the capital of the like-named state, Gonzalez said.

No messages were left with the bodies, as is often the case in hits staged by drug cartels, Gonzalez said, adding that the bodies were taken to the coroner's office.

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4 Women found dead in northern Mexico

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The bodies of four women who had been strangled and tortured were found in a field in Torreon, a city in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila, prosecutors said.

Police and soldiers taking part in "Operation Safe Laguna," which is targeting drug traffickers, found the bodies Wednesday in Metalurgica, a neighborhood in the southern section of Torreon, Coahuila Attorney General's Office spokesmen told Efe.

The victims have not been identified, but investigators estimate that they range in age from 18 to 30, a spokesman for the Laguna bureau of the AG's office said.

A tourniquet fashioned from yellow plastic rope and a piece of wood was apparently used to strangle the women, whose bodies bear signs of torture, the AG's office spokesman said.

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7 Die in shooting in northwest Mexico

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Seven people died in a shooting in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa, state officials told Efe.

The shooting occurred Wednesday night in San Blas, a community outside the city of El Fuerte, where gunmen attacked a group of men at a soccer field, a Sinaloa Attorney General's Office spokesman said.

The gunmen arrived in several vehicles and opened fire on the men, eyewitnesses told investigators.

Five of the men were pronounced dead at the scene and two others died while being transported to a hospital, the AG's office spokesman said.

The victims were from "around San Blas" and earned a living transporting cattle from Chihuahua state to Sinaloa, the AG's office spokesman said.

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Uruguayan gov't sends Congress bill to legalize marijuana

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Uruguay's government has sent Congress a bill to legalize marijuana and regulate the production, distribution and sale of the drug, touting it as a means of combating drug-trafficking and crime.

"The government will assume control and regulation over the activities of importing, producing, acquiring title, storing, selling and distributing marijuana and its derivatives," the proposed legislation says.

Presidential aide Diego Canepa confirmed that the legislation had been introduced and clarified that mention made in the bill regarding importation referred to marijuana seeds.

The measures will be carried out under a policy that is centered on "damage reduction" and which "informs the population about the harmful consequences and effects of marijuana consumption."

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Brazil expecting record grain harvest

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Brazil will reap a record grain harvest of 163.3 million tons this year, a gain of 2 percent over 2011, the IBGE statistics agency said.

The IBGE's latest forecast, based on July data, is 1.6 percent higher than the previous projection.

The upward revision is due mainly to improved prospects for the maize crop, which is now expected to come in at 71.5 million tons, up 27 percent from last year.

Despite weather-related losses in the first half of 2012, the IBGE expects a bumper maize harvest thanks to improving environmental conditions and an expansion of 9.6 percent in land under cultivation.

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Spain takes gold, silver in taekwondo

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Joel Gonzalez delivered a masterful performance to earn Spain's first-ever Olympic gold medal in taekwondo, while compatriot Brigitte Yagüe garnered the silver in her category at the 2012 London Games.

Gonzalez defeated South Korea's Lee Dae-hoon, the 2011 world champion in bantamweight, in Wednesday's final of the men's flyweight (58kg).

Yagüe, meanwhile, lost to China's Wu Jingyu on Wednesday and wound up with the silver in the women's flyweight (49kg) category.

The 31-year-old Spanish athlete, a three-time world champion, finally got her long-awaited Olympic medal after bad luck had cost her in the past. She lost her first bout of the Athens Games in 2004 when there was still no seeding and then was unable to participate in Beijing due to a broken hand.

Wu, who also won gold in Beijing, used her speed and technical skill to score an 8-1 victory in the final.

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EFE