Mexican Congress approves school overhaul


Mexican lawmakers approved an educational overhaul that President Enrique Peña Nieto says will improve the quality of schooling in this nation of 113 million people.

Because the new arrangement involves changes to the constitution, the legislation must be ratified by at least 17 of Mexico's 32 states to become law.

The plan calls for measures to objectively evaluate teachers' performance and the creation of a professional teaching force without interference from unions or other groups.

Analysts see the changes as designed to take control of hiring away from the powerful SNTE teachers union, which initially greeted the president's proposal with praise only to subsequently denounce it.




2 Killed, scores arrested amid looting in Argentina


Two people were killed and more than 200 arrested amid an outbreak of looting in cities across Argentina, authorities said.

The trouble began Thursday in the resort city of Bariloche, 1,563 kilometers (971 miles) southwest of Buenos Aires, where a mob of around 100 people assaulted two supermarkets, stealing clothes and appliances. Eighteen police officers were injured.

Similar incidents unfolded late Thursday in six other cities, including Rosario, a major inland port northwest of the Argentine capital.

Rosario saw the worst of the violence, with two dead, two injured and 137 people arrested. Police also seized guns and vehicles packed with merchandise looted from supermarkets.




World Bank arbitration body to hear Repsol complaint against Argentina


The World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes has agreed to hear a complaint filed by Spanish oil major Repsol against Argentina's move to expropriate a controlling stake in oil firm YPF, Repsol said.

The Spanish company filed the suit on Dec. 3, six months after notifying Argentina that it planned to take the dispute to international arbitration unless it received fair compensation for the 51 percent stake seized in its former Argentine unit.

The complaint will be heard by a three-arbitrator panel: one named by Repsol, one by Argentina and a third by mutual agreement of the two parties. If there is no consensus, the third arbitrator will be named by the ICSID.

The court's arbitral proceedings include a pre-hearing written phase and a hearing on the merits and typically last between three and six years.




Former rebel hostage gets court to ban film in Colombia


A politician and attorney who spent six years as a hostage of FARC guerrillas has convinced a court to prohibit the marketing in Colombia of "Operacion E" (Operation E), a film inspired by the story of a peasant who cared for a son she bore in captivity.

The film, directed by Michel Courtois and starring Spanish actor Luis Tosar, premiered in Spain on Dec. 5 and was scheduled to hit theaters in Colombia in March.

But the film's producers - Tormenta Films, ZircoZine and AJOZ - said in a statement Friday that Clara Rojas secured a court injunction prohibiting the film from being screened, distributed or marketed in Colombia.

That ruling was issued without the judge having even seen the movie, does not take into account the filmmakers' point of view and is based solely on the allegations of the one-time vice presidential candidate, the statement said.




Russia's lower house passes bill to ban U.S. adoptions


The lower house of Russia's Parliament approved a bill that would prohibit the adoption of Russian children by U.S. families and the entry into the country of U.S. citizens suspected of human rights violations.

The legislation is widely seen as retaliation for a U.S. law known as the Magnitsky Act, which President Barack Obama signed a week ago, that bars Russian officials facing human rights charges from entering the United States.

The Russian bill, which was passed by a vote of 420-7 with one abstention and will now go to the Federation Council, suspends a bilateral adoptions accord that Russia ratified in July.

The legislation also prohibits the entry into Russia of U.S. citizens who are suspected of crimes against Russian citizens abroad or of issuing unjust sentences against Russian citizens, according to the Interfax news agency.




At least 8 dead in Brazil wall collapse


At least eight people died when the wall of an old factory undergoing restoration work collapsed in the southeastern Brazilian city of Sorocaba, officials said.

An undetermined number of people also may be trapped under the rubble of the structure, according to police and firefighters cited by the G1 news portal.

Police spokespersons contacted by Efe confirmed the collapse and said rescue teams had been dispatched to the scene, but they did not specify the number of victims.

The wall, part of a 100-year-old factory being restored as part a shopping center construction project, collapsed Thursday for reasons under investigation in a downtown area used by pedestrians and motorists.