U.S. presents plan against industrial cyber-espionage


The U.S. government presented a comprehensive strategy to fight industrial cyber-espionage and hacker attacks against the country that infringe on property rights and compromise company secrets.

Attorney General Eric Holder introduced the Trade Secret Protection Strategy at a White House press conference.

He said that there are foreign countries and entities who want to take advantage of the United States' high level of innovation and noted that a "hacker in China can acquire source code from a software company in Virginia without leaving his or her desk."

Washington's new approach will reinforce diplomatic action so as to give "clear" signals to other nations that preventing the theft of secrets is the priority of the United States, Robert Hormats, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, said during the White House event.




U.S. lawmakers meet in Cuba with Alan Gross


Two members of a U.S. congressional delegation visiting Cuba met with compatriot Alan Gross at the Havana military hospital where the American contractor is serving a 15-year sentence for subversion.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, told reporters here Wednesday that he had a long conversation with the 63-year-old prisoner.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat who represents a district in Gross's home state of Maryland, was also present, sources at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana told Efe.

The entire delegation was received later Tuesday by Cuban President Raul Castro.

Those talks centered on "the continuing obstacles and the need to improve relations ... in the interest of both countries," Leahy said.




China to tax carbon emissions


China will impose a new tax on carbon-dioxide emissions as part of policies aimed at protecting the environment and improving air quality, the Finance Ministry said.

In an article on its Web site, the ministry did not go into specifics nor provide a timetable but it said municipal authorities would be responsible for collecting the tax.

Coal-fired power producers have paid pollution-discharge fees for their sulfur-dioxide emissions for the past decade, but carbon dioxide thus far has not been taxed.

In 2010, the Finance Ministry proposed that a tax of 10 yuan ($1.60) per ton of carbon dioxide be imposed starting in 2012 and increased to 50 yuan by 2020, but no such levy has yet been introduced.




Moguls launch $3 mn science prizes


Eleven scientists will each pocket $3 million - almost triple the stipend accompanying the Nobel Prize - as the inaugural recipients of the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, announced by the Milner Foundation.

The winners are Cornelia I. Bargmann, David Botstein, Lewis C. Cantley, Hans Clevers, Napoleone Ferrara, Titia de Lange, Eric S. Lander, Charles L. Sawyers, Bert Vogelstein, Robert A. Weinberg and Shinya Yamanaka.

Starting in 2014, the work of 5 scientists will be recognized.

The moving force behind these prizes is Russian Yuri Milner, who created the Mail.ru Group in 1999 and is an investor in Internet companies.

The initiative also has the economic backing of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, as well as Google's Sergey Brin and his spouse, 23andMe creator Anne Wojcicki.




Brazil, Russia aim to double bilateral trade


Brazil and Russia signed a series of agreements aimed at increasing annual trade flows between two of the world's largest emerging economies from $5.9 billion to at least $10 billion in the coming years.

The accords were signed during the visit of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who met here with President Dilma Rousseff and other top officials.

Some of the agreements facilitate Brazilian imports of Russian wheat and exports of Brazilian soybean meal and pork to Russia, while another covers the potential acquisition of five Russian anti-aircraft missile batteries by Brazil's armed forces.




Guatemala moves up ex-dictator's genocide trial


A Guatemalan court has moved up by five months the trial of former strongman Gen. Efrain Rios Montt and one of his closest collaborators for genocide and crimes against humanity, a lawyer involved in the case told Efe.

"Today at around 11:00 in the morning the court official notified us by telephone that the start of the trial has been rescheduled for March 19," plaintiffs' attorney Hector Reyes said.

The court initially set a date of Aug. 14 for the trial of Rios Montt and retired Gen. Jose Mauricio Rodriguez.

Judge Miguel Angel Galvez ruled late last month that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute the men for the killings of 1,771 Ixil Indians between March 1982 and August 1983.

Rios Montt, 86, is accused of masterminding the bloodbath, while the 67-year-old Rodriguez is charged with carrying out the mass killings as a part of a "scorched earth" campaign during Guatemala's 1960-1996 civil war.




Olympic officials confident Rio will be ready to host 2016 Games


The members of a delegation from the International Olympic Committee expressed their satisfaction with Rio de Janeiro's preparations to host the 2016 Games and said they were confident that Brazil will meet the relevant deadlines.

The commission on Wednesday ended a three-day visit to the city, where delegation members were able to visit some of the future facilities.

The members saw "solid advances" in the preparations and said they felt satisfied with the progress so far but added that Brazilian authorities need "to remain vigilant and continue working hard so that the timetables are respected," delegation head Nawal El Moutawakel told a press conference.




3 Young sisters raped, killed in India


Three sisters ages 6, 9 and 11 were raped, murdered and their bodies thrown into a well last week in the western Indian state of Maharastra, a senior police officer told Efe.

The girls disappeared on Feb. 14 after leaving school and their bodies were found two days later in a well half a kilometer (a third of a mile) from their house in the town of Murmadi, police superintendent Arti Singh said.

Murmadi residents complained that authorities tried to categorize the case as an accident and that only after street protests did police began investigating the deaths.




Ecuadorian capital's new airport has LatAm's longest runway


The new $630 million airport in the Ecuadorian capital has the longest runway in Latin America, officials said.

The inauguration of the new Quito airport on Tuesday marked the end for the old airport, which was built in 1960, ended up being surrounded by the city and will now become a park.

The new aiport, located at 2,400 meters (7,868 feet) above sea level, has a 4,100-meter (13,442-foot) runway, allowing it to offer direct flights to Madrid, Amsterdam, Sao Paulo and New York.




Spain's budget deficit was less than 7 pct of GDP in '12, P.M. says


Spain's budget deficit came in below 7 percent of the gross domestic product last year, while the target agreed to with the European Commission was 6.3 percent, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said.

The deficit was cut by more than 21 billion euros (nearly $28.1 billion), or approximately 2.1 percent of GDP, well above the target of 16.5 billion euros ($22 billion) set when the government took office in December 2011, Rajoy said.

The public sector deficit totaled 8.9 percent of GDP in 2011 and came in at around 6.9 percent in 2012, the prime minister said.

"The reduction should have been bigger, but the commitment was kept," Rajoy said, adding that increased revenues and cuts in public spending helped get the deficit to the lower level.