Latin Trends

U.S. sent Latino Youth Travelers to Cuba in order to start Rebellion

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It sounds like something you would see on FX’s The Americans or something you’d read in the latest hottest young adult novel series like Divergent by Veronica Roth, but sometimes the absurd can be an item of truth.

Especially when it involves actual Latino youth becoming secret agents for the American government.

Recently, an Associated Press investigation revealed that the United States of America allegedly sent Latino youth from several Latin countries on covert missions into Cuba to stir the fire among Cubans in order to bring forth an anti-government revolt.

According to the Associated Press findings, over the last two years the U.S. Agency for International Development has sent nearly a dozen Latino youths from Venezuela, Costa Rica, and Peru to visit Cuba and were assigned potential targets to get close to in order to incite opposition against Cuba’s communist government currently being manned by Raul Castro.

The U.S. Agency for International Developmenta—or USAID—is an agency that has been tasked with providing economic, development and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States, and has been identified as the main orchestrator of this operation.

The operation started under President Barack Obama’s first term while Hilary Clinton was Secretary of State. The timing was deemed right because it could begin a “new beginning” with Cuba after decades of mistrust and a lack of understanding.

Disguised as a HIV prevention workshop Latino youth travelers where set-up to visit college campuses and made friends with students. What was to be a social conversation on HIV information and prevention, travelers were assigned to identify potential political activist, get close to them, and profile those who could eventually stir a movement against the Cuban government.

Despite the report, the USAID has stated that its main purpose is to be “ committed to balancing the realities of working in closed societies…with our commitment to transparency, and we continuously balance our commitment to transparency with the need for discretion in repressive environments.

However, the Latino youth program is just one incident among others in an effort to infiltrate Cuba.

Back in April, the Associated Press uncovered ZunZuneo which was an alleged U.S. secret Cuban Twitter project. The project was launched by USAID in 2009 and was established as a primitive social media network to be used under the noses of Cuban officials. The project was a way to increase the flow of information discreetly out of the country which is heavily restricted.

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The White House still faces questions on this project. Despite the discovered doings of USAID, the agency still pertains to being helpful rather than mischievous when it comes to their alleged secret undertakings.

USAID and the Obama administration are committed to supporting the Cuban people’s desire to freely determine their own future,” said the USAID, responding to questions written by the Associated Press, “USAID works with independent youth groups in Cuba on community service projects, public health, the arts and other opportunities to engage publicly, consistent with democracy programs worldwide.

Meanwhile, some hard questions are being asked regarding the safety of the Latino youth who took part in this program. Questions which have a ground as to why the operation remain active considering the 2009 arrest of an American contractor and an U.S international development professional, Alan Gross.

Back in December 2009, Gross, 65, was arrested and accused of committing crimes against the Cuban government for bringing in satellite phones and computer equipment without the government’s permission. Gross was also said to be working covertly on behalf of the U.S. government in setting up Internet access in the country.

Showing that they will imprison any foreigner believed to be acting in disinterest of their country, the continuation of the operation in Cuba has placed the USAID and their contractor Creative Associates International under a larger microscope. Documents have also been acquired by the Associated Press which claims that U.S. officials allegedly privately disclosed to their government contractors to consider halting the operation and the sending of Latino youth into Cuba after Gross’s arrests.

They arrested a contractor from another agency. That could be dangerous,” said one of traveler in a Skype message conversation between two Latino youth. “Thank God he’s not one of ours.

The message is said to have been in-relation to the arrest of Gross, and shows the continued activation of the program despite the arrest of contractor-agent and worry of some U.S. officials.

We value your safety,” said one senior USAID official, in an email obtained by the Associated Press to an official . “The guidance applies to ALL travelers to the island, not just American citizens.

But how prepared were these Latino youth who traveled to Cuba?

Out of the numerous participants who were interviewed by the Associated Press, one said that they were given a worthless 30-minute seminar that taught them how they could evade Cuban intelligence had they been suspected of their anti-government activities.

Although there is never total certainty, trust that the authorities will not try to harm you physically, only frighten you,” read a memo that was obtained by the Associated Press said to be given to a Latino youth in-regards to being exposed, “Remember that the Cuban government prefers to avoid negative media reports abroad, so a beaten foreigner is not convenient for them.

In other documents obtained by the Associated Press there appeared to be no safety-net to aide inexperienced travelers had they been exposed as not being true tourists but rebellion-agitators.

Gross has served five years of a 15-year sentence in a prison on the island, and according to his attorney his physical and emotional health continues to deteriorate as he is still in prison.

The Associated Press also found that the travelers program had extensive measures to hide the Latino youth’s activities. The youth were given a set of codes in order to be used under particular situations like: “I have a headache” meant they are being suspected and monitored by Cuban authorities; “Your sister is ill” was a direct order to the Latino youth to cut their trip short.

To further evade Cuban authorities, Latino youth travelers had installed innocent-looking content onto their laptops which were to mask sensitive information that they were carrying. Also, they were required to use encrypted memory sticks to hide their files in-addition to sending out encrypted emails using a system. The encrypted emails, according to the Associated Press, were said to have a strong possibility of drawing suspicion.

In response to the discovery from the Associated Press that there were Latino youth travelers working for the U.S. government, a college student in Cuba

How would you feel if you offered your sincere friendship and received this kind of news?” said Hector Baranda, a college student from Cuba upon learning that he was befriended by a group of young traveling Venezuelans who were working for the U.S. government to do a profile on him.

In the claims made by the Associated Press some of the travelers who took part in this operation were paid about $5.41 an hour, which is an estimation that is way below the U.S. federal minimum wage which stands about $7.25 an hour.

Although the Associated Press has released this investigation on this operation, there are no indications that the Latino America travelers who visited Cuba were able to sway a pro-democracy movement on the island.

The story is still developing.

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Motivate Kids by Teaching Them ‘Life is a Business,’ Says Non-Profit Founder


Welfare may seem like a charitable measure for struggling families. But it’s a self-perpetuating trap when it becomes the only way of life parents know how to teach their children, who then know nothing else to teach their own children, says Virgil Brannon, founder of the non-profit I Am Vision Inc.

“Living on entitlements becomes a way of life for recipients when it’s handed down from one generation to the next because the family loses any tools it might have once had to forge a life based on self-discipline, achievement and challenging,” says Brannon, author of Democratic Coma (www.DemocraticComa.com).

“It’s no different from the child who grow up being given material thing he wants, along with excessive praise that’s not deserved. One child may be from a poor family and the other from an affluent family, but both are at risk for growing up without the skills necessary for success.”

Brannon’s non-profit organization mentors disadvantaged children, helping them develop the values, understanding and knowledge they need to be motivated and equipped to succeed. He has found that coaching children to manage their lives as they would a business helps them not only develop good habits and skills, it also teaches them some essential business lessons:

• Your life is your business: Our business is how we act, speak, the way we dress, how we treat ourselves and how we treat others. Like any other business, it is expected to grow and prosper and to do that, we must invest in it. Part of that is feeding the mind with the information needed to make good choices.

• The people you meet and the friends you make are your clientele: Treat all people with the respect you would any customer or potential customer. Our relationships can elevate us if people feel their treated fairly, honestly and with respect.

• The more you provide or produce, the more you advance: Business involves providing a service or product. Business people do not care about excuses; they care about what you have to offer them. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what color you are, if you have something they need – and a reputation for integrity — they will come to you for it.

• Your appearance means everything: You must look the part to get the part. The secret is to look as though you already have it to obtain what you want.

Parents should teach their children to be business-like and to think like a professional, Brannon says.

“That includes giving them the best education possible, including learning at home about history, civic duty and different cultures,” Brannon says. “In business, people are expected to display good manners and to communicate with others, from a firm handshake to looking others in the eye and speaking clearly and correctly.

“That is the most important investment we can make.”

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Benicio Del Toro set to play Kingpin of the Cuban-American Mafia in ‘The Corporation’!

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Benicio Del Toro is set to play Jose Miguel Battle Sr., the Don of a Cuban-American Mafia, in a soon to be made film.

Del Toro will star in The Corporation which is a book of the same name written by author T.J. English and highlights the Cuban-American underworld.

Paramount Pictures & The Appian Way production company—owned by Actor Leonardo DiCaprio—were the victors in acquiring the rights to the book-to-film adaptation after a bidding war between Hollywood studios & production companies broke out last week. The film has been cited as becoming the “Cuban Version” of the The Godfather & American Gangster.”

The film’s screenplay will be written by David Matthews who has penned scripts for HBO series Boardwalk Empire & Vinyl and will surely capture the book’s “epic story” of the Cuban-American crime syndicate, The Corporation.

Del Toro will portray Jose Miguel Battle Sr. who was the head of the Cuban-American mafia. Prior to becoming the Godfather of the Cuban mafia, Battle Sr. was a former police officer during President Fulgencio Batista’s presidency prior to the Cuban Revolution; in the early 60s, he also assisted the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in training Cuban exiles, and volunteered as a soldier in the Cuban liberation effort of the Bay of Pigs Invasion in April 1961 in-which he was captured. After being released, Battle Sr. moved to Union City, New Jersey were he began The Corporation empire.

This is the first time Del Toro has portrayed an influential figure of the underworld. In Escobar: Paradise Lost, Del Toro played Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar so he is surely able to get into the mindset of what it takes to be the leader of such an organization.

There’s no word yet when the film goes into production, but so far it has Hollywood buzzing.

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Selena Gomez interested in Older Men!

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Selena Gomez has expressed interest in dating older men, however she feels that older men may not feel the same due to her very young appearance.

In a recent interview, Gomez revealed that while she would be interested in dating men who are older she feels that the feeling may not be mutual because she still looks like a teenager.

I feel like I look 16 sometimes, which is a bummer because I would love to date older guys,” the 23-year-old singer/actress revealed.

When it comes to her youthful appearance, the former Disney Channel star has made critical remarks about her teenage appearance. Back in October, while appearing on Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live Gomez made a similar comment to host Andy Cohen when asked if she was dating a fellow celebrity.

Now I know I look 16, but I’m 24,” Gomez told Cohen after he asked if she were romantic tied with David & Victoria Beckham’s 16-year-old son Brooklyn Beckham.

Age in years or appearance aside, in the interview Gomez also revealed that dating and meeting new guys in-general is particularly hard for her because her life has been a source of entertainment gossip which makes dating quite hard.

It’s hard, and I’m weirded out by the idea that a guy has Googled me before we meet, and that has happened,” Gomez describes, “I never intended for my life to become a tabloid story.”

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Latino Population Rising in the South

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America is becoming more Latino these days, but no area is getting more of the Latino settlers than the good ole South.

 

According to data released last week by the Pew Hispanic Trends Project, Alabama was at the very top of the list out of a listing of 10 States with the fastest growing Hispanic Populations from 2000 to 2011.

 

Also, the gathered data showed that not one state amongst the list or research showed a significant decline of their Latino population. However, the data is not up-to-date regarding the time in-between 2011 and to the present.

 

While Alabama may be at the top having the most Latinos living in the state, the state just passed one of its strictest laws some are calling Draconian (Harsh). Aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration, the law follows in the footsteps of Arizona’s SB 1070 bill which permitted law enforcement to “question” any “suspected” illegal citizens.

 

According to the New York Times, the introduction of the law caused an exodus of Latinos residing in the state which may require a re-research on the findings.

 

Despite the immigration laws being passed that is upsetting the livelihood of Latinos, there is a booming growth in the south. The U.S. southwest remains the leading region of Latinos residing with states like New Mexico holding the highest population of 46.7% Latinos. Following after New Mexico is Texas, California, and Arizona.

 

While the data may not include 2012 and 2013, the surveys regarding the Latino population rising in the country since the result of the 2012 election showed Latinos being the powerhouse for votes is steadily coming true.

 

9 Power Questions that Will Help You Build Better Business Relationships

 

Just a few years ago, globalization was in full swing, and the world seemed to be bursting with an infinite supply of business. All this bounty lulled us into taking our customers for granted, maintains Andrew Sobel—until the economy tanked and shattered the illusion of endless prosperity. Suddenly, the old-fashioned “trusted relationship” started to look good again.

“In this post-Madoff era of unpredictability and suspicion, people are looking for deeper, more intimate, and more engaged relationships—the kind that reduce risk,” says Sobel, author (along with coauthor, Jerold Panas) of Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others (Wiley, February 2012, ISBN: 978-11181196-3-1, $22.95) and three other books on long-term business relationships.

“This is true of customers but also vendors, employees, and other business partners,” he adds. “The days of getting in, making money, and moving on to the next guy are over. When times are tough and the future is uncertain, people want to put down roots and partner with people they truly like and trust.”

Bottom line: In today’s markets, the most valuable commodity is the ability to connect with others and rapidly build trust. And that begins by asking the right questions.

“Asking questions and letting people come up with their own answers is far more effective than spouting facts or trying to talk someone into something,” Sobel explains. “Telling creates resistance. Asking creates relationships.”

In his book Sobel explores dozens of questions that light fires under people, challenge their assumptions, help them see problems in productive new ways, and inspire them to bare their souls (which, of course, strengthens the bonds in the relationship).

Here are nine ways questions can transform professional and personal relationships:

  1. • Questions turn one-dimensional, arms-length business relationships into personal relationships that endure for years. “When a relationship is all business and there is no real personal connection, it lacks heart and soul,” says Sobel. “And therefore you are a commodity—a kind of fungible expert-for-hire. A client—or your boss—can trade you out for a new model with no remorse or emotion. But when you’ve connected personally, the situation is transformed because clients stick with people they like. Bosses hold on to team members they feel passionately about. Your expertise and competence get you in the door, but it’s the personal connection that then builds deep loyalty.”Sobel tells the story of a senior partner in a top consulting firm who had to meet with the CEO of a major client. Other consultants were nipping at their heels to get more business from this company. This powerful, confident CEO, who was in his 60s and near retirement, had seen hundreds of consulting reports. At the end of a routine briefing, the senior partner paused and asked the CEO, “Before we break up, can I ask you a question?” The CEO nodded. The partner said, “You’ve had an extraordinary career. You have accomplished so much, starting at the very first rung of the ladder, on the manufacturing floor. As you look ahead—is there something else you’d like to accomplish? Is there a dream you’ve yet to fulfill?”The CEO was nearly stunned. He thought for a moment and replied, “No one has ever asked me that question. No one.” And then he began talking about a deeply held dream he had for his retirement. That question was the turning point in building a long-term, deeply personal relationship with an influential business leader.
  2. • They make the conversation about the other person—not about them. Most of us don’t care what other people think—we want to know first if they care about us. The need to be heard is one of the most powerful motivating forces in human nature. That’s why one of Sobel’s power questions is, What do you think? Another is, Can you tell me more? “There’s an anecdote I love about a woman who has dinner, in the same month, with two great rival British statesmen of the 19th century, Gladstone and Disraeli,” says Sobel. “When asked to compare the two men she says, ‘After my dinner with Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in the world.’ And then she adds, ‘After my dinner with Mr. Disraeli, I felt as though I were the cleverest woman in all of England!’ “When you make the conversation all about you, others may think you are clever,” he adds. “But you will not build their trust. You will not learn about them. You will squander the opportunity to build the foundations for a rich, long-term relationship.”
  3. • They cut through the “blah, blah, blah” and create more authentic conversations. No doubt you can relate to this scenario. A person says, “I want to bounce something off you.” Then, he proceeds to spend ten minutes telling you every detail of a very convoluted situation he is enmeshed in. You do yourself and the other person a favor by getting him to focus on the true kernel of his issue. Simply ask: What is your question? “This is a tough-love question,” admits Sobel. “People will resist it—often strenuously. But you must ask it. It forces them to take the first step toward clarifying what the issue is and what advice they really need from you. You’ll reduce the amount of posturing people do and will move faster toward an authentic conversation.”
  4. • They help people clarify their thinking and “get out of the cave.” The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates said that we perceive reality as if we are chained inside a dark cave. In that cave, we see only the blurred shadows of life outside the cave as they are projected on a dark wall at the back. Our understanding of reality is filtered and distorted. By asking a series of questions, Socrates would engage his students’ minds in the learning process. In this way he uncovered assumptions and slowly but surely got to the heart of the issue. The “Socratic Method” is still used at Harvard Business School—and it can enable you to help others see the true reality instead of shadowy representations of it. Instead of saying, “We need to improve our customer service!” Sobel suggests asking: “How would you assess our customer service levels today?” Or, “How is our service impacting our customer retention?” If someone at work says, “We need more innovation,” ask, “Can you describe what innovation means to you? How would we know if we had more of it?” Or if there is a call for more teamwork, ask, “What do you mean when you say ‘teamwork’?”
  5. • They help you zero in on what matters most to the other person. The next time you’re talking to someone and realize you’ve “lost” her—she’s fidgeting, she’s stopped asking questions, maybe she’s sneaking glances at the clock—ask this question: What is the most important thing we should be discussing today? You will instantly connect with what really matters to her—and the conversation that ensues will help her see you as relevant and valuable. “Even if your agenda doesn’t get met, hers will,” asserts Sobel. “And then she will want to enthusiastically reciprocate. In business it’s critical to be seen as advancing the other person’s agenda of essential priorities and goals. When time is spent together on issues that are truly important to both parties, the relationship deepens and grows.”
  6. • They help others tap into their essential passion for their work. One of the highest-impact power questions you can ask is, Why do you do what you do? It grabs people by the heart and motivates them. When they seriously consider and answer this question, the room will light up with passion. Dull meetings will transform into sessions that pop with energy and generate ideas that vault over bureaucratic hurdles and create real impact. “We do things for many reasons,” writes Sobel. “But when you put ‘should’ in front of those reasons, you can be certain all the pleasure and excitement will soon be drained away. No one gets excited about should. In contrast, when you unveil the true why of someone’s work and actions—when you get them to start sentences with ‘I love to’ or ‘I get excited when’—you will find passion, energy, and motivation.”
  7. • They inspire people to work at a higher level. The late Steve Jobs was notorious for pushing employees. He asked people constantly, Is this the best you can do? It’s a question that infused Apple’s corporate culture from the beginning. It’s one that helped revolutionize the desktop computing, music, and cellular phone industries. And it’s one that you can use too—sparingly and carefully—when you need someone to stretch their limits and do their very best work. “Often, we settle for mediocrity when we need to do our best,” reflects Sobel. “Mediocrity is the enemy of greatness. Asking, Is this the best you can do? helps others achieve things they did not believe possible.”
  8. • They can save you from making a fool of yourself. Before responding to a request or answering someone’s question to you, it’s often wise to get more information about what the other person really wants. When a potential employer says, “Tell me about yourself,” you can bore them to tears by rambling on and on about your life—or you could respond by asking, “What would you like to know about me?” When a prospect asks, “Can you tell me about your firm?” the same dynamic applies. Most people go on and on about their company, but the client is usually interested in one particular aspect of your business, not how many offices you have in Europe. Ever seen someone answer the wrong question? It’s painful to watch. Asking a clarifying question can save you huge embarrassment. “A potential client asked me for the names of three references to call,” Sobel tells us. “Instead of running around and drumming up the names, I pushed back, and asked, ‘What particular information are you seeking? Any references I give you are only going to rave about me!’ It turned out the prospect had no interest in actual references. And in fact, had she called my past clients under that pretense, it could have been potentially embarrassing to me for them to make such a big deal about a small speaking engagement. What she really wanted to understand was how other clients of mine had tackled the organizational resistance she was expecting. This question—and the subsequent conversation—turned a small lead for a keynote speech into a major, year-long project.”
  9. • They can salvage a disastrous conversation. Sobel’s coauthor, Jerry Panas, recalls the time he asked a man named Allan for a million-dollar donation to his alma mater’s College of Engineering. Though he knew better, the author failed to gain rapport and explore Allan’s true motivations before jumping in with the big request. When Allan rebuked him for his presumptuousness, Panas realized he had made a serious error. He apologized, left the room, and twenty seconds later knocked on the door and asked the power question, Do you mind if we start over? Start over they did, and Panas ultimately discovered that Allan might indeed be interested in making a gift—but to the University’s theater program, not its engineering program!

“Things like this happen all the time in business—and at home,” reflects Sobel. “Interactions get off on the wrong foot, and someone gets angry or offended or just shuts down. But people are forgiving. They want to have a great conversation with you. Asking, Do you mind if we start over? will disarm the other person and make him smile. That smile will ease the way to a new beginning.”

One of the greatest benefits of becoming a master questioner is that it takes a lot of pressure off us, notes Sobel. It’s a huge relief to know that you don’t have to be quick, clever, or witty—that you don’t have to have all the answers.

“All business interactions are human interactions,” he says. “And part of being human is acknowledging that you don’t know everything about everything—and that you certainly don’t know everything about the other person and her needs. Questions help you understand these things more deeply.

“The right questions unleash a cascade of innermost feelings and vibrant conversations,” he adds. “They help you bypass what’s irrelevant and get straight to what’s truly meaningful. They make people like you, trust you, and want to work with you—and once you’ve achieved that, the battle is already won.”

Kim Kardashian look-alike leads a cartel killing squad

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When you look at Claudia Ochoa Felix you may think ‘wow, she kinda looks like the Latina version of Kim Kardashian’ and you wouldn’t be alone in that thought. However, when you look at Ochoa Fox would you ever think that she could be the leader of an elite murdering squad used regularly by a Mexican drug cartel?

If you said no, well you’re not alone in that thought either.

With long sleek brown hair, intense eyes, and a curvy body, Ochoa Fox has become somewhat of a media sensation. Apart from being described as the doppelganger of Kim Kardashian, Ochoa Fox recent popularity stems from allegations that she is the new ruler of a known Mexican killing squad known as, Los Ántrax .

Reports have been circulating that Ochoa Fox, aged 27 and mother of three, is now the leader of Los Ántrax which has been reported as being under the employ of the Sinaloa Cartel, a coldblooded drug cartel, in Mexico to do their murderous bidding.

Listed as one of Mexico’s most powerful drug-trafficking organizations in the world, by the U.S. authorities, The Sinaloa Cartel has protected and have hired members of the killer squad Los Ántrax to carry out their assignments and to ensure their reign remains.

Allegedly, Ochoa Fox—also known as La Emperatriz—acquired the leadership of Los Ántrax after her well-known hit-man boyfriend, Jose Rodrigo Arechiga Gamboa was arrested and taken to prison. After Gamboa’s arrest, Ochoa Fox is said to have taken over Los Ántrax despite the Latina vehement denial that she has any affiliation to the cartel.

Photo of Claudia Ochoa Felix, or La Emperatriz, the alleged new leader of Los Ántrax surrounded by armed men.

Photo of Claudia Ochoa Felix, or La Emperatriz, the alleged new leader of Los Ántrax surrounded by armed men.

Despite making claims that she and Gamboa are nothing more than friends, Ochoa Fox’s word has been questioned due to an incident and photos of the Latina.

On her social media accounts, particularly Instagram, Ochoa Fox there are photos of Ochoa Fox posed in ways similar to Kardashian while wielding AKA-47 that has been personalized colored pink. Also, on such sites Ochoa Fox has posted updates discussing her luxurious yet reportedly dangerous lifestyle.

But sites like Facebook and apps like Instagram aren’t the only things linking Ochoa Fox to being the new leader of Los Ántrax. Another reason as to why Ochoa Fox may be connected to Los Ántrax is due to a murder-gone-wrong incident.

Recently, there was an alleged hit made on Ochoa Fox’s life when gunmen grabbed a young woman who looked similar to Ochoa Fox. The young woman hooded gunmen snatched was named, Yuriana Castillo.The woman’s body was later found behind a school body; she had been tortured before her death.

But for Ochoa Fox the claims regarding her link to Gamboa and reports that she is the new leader of Los Ántrax is simply false.

According to Ríodoce, a Mexican newspaper that focuses on the Drug War in Sinaloa, Mexico and based in Sinola’s city of Culiacán, a press conference was held by Ochoa Fox and her attorney in response to the recent attention she has received in the media.

During the press conference, Ochoa Fox and her lawyer stated that Ochoa Fox’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts had been cloned and were being used to defame her.

According to Ochoa Fox, the photos in questions are a discredit to her life since she does not live a life of luxury and does not have armed men surrounding her; the latter statement refers to a photo of Ochoa Fox posed in a chair surrounded by hooded men wearing bulletproof vests. Also, Ochoa Fox has stated that many photos on the cloned accounts are not photos of hers at all.

Since the released statement at the press conference the social media accounts where these photos were once posted have been deleted. Ochoa Fox’s lawyer has also stated in the press conference that Ochoa Fox will be working with Mexican authorities to uncover the true culprit who created the accounts and published the false photos.

Now, in the matter of Yuriana Castillo there are reports that Castillo, much like Ochoa Fox, was a close associate of Gamboa. But the true nature of their relationship is yet unknown.

Whether Ochoa Fox is the new leader of Los Ántrax or merely an innocent Instagram users who likes talking selfies with guns, time will tell since it seems like Ochoa Fox will not be going anywhere any time soon much like her overnight sensation counterpart Kim Kardashian.

Alpo Martinez: Where is the Infamous Harlem Drug Kingpin?

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Alberto “Alpo” Martinez is a name that most will not know, however if you happen to be a New York City resident or are a history enthusiast with a preference on the War on Drugs plight within the United States of America then you may have heard of his name as the legend, the myth, as one of the Drug Kingpins of Harlem.

However, like all popular Drug Kingpins–like El Chapo–who earn themselves a recognizable legacy the empire they’ve built tends to fall as does the legend who sits upon it.

But whatever became of Alpo?

For the last 25 years, Alpo has been believed to have been a resident of ADX Florence which is a federal supermax prison located in Fremont County, Colorado serving a 35-year sentence for 14 counts of homicide. However, according to those who are connected to Alpo that is no longer the case.

It is rumored that for the past few years Alpo has been out of prison, but the last place you may ever see him is back in New York City.

Back in the mid-1980s, during the early days of when the USA began its quest to combat drug-trafficking into the country in what has become known as the War on Drugs13-year-old Puerto Rican boy named Alberto Martinez—Alpo to those on the streets—rose in prominence within Harlem as a Drug Kingpin.

With a drug trade that consisted of transporting hundreds of kilos of crack-cocaine through various parts of New York City, other Northeast cities, and most noticeably Washington D.C.—where he lived during the last few days of his drug empire—Alpo became somewhat a street legend due to his dangerous lifestyle. Alpo’s life was eventually adapted into a 2002 movie entitled Paid in Full that starred rapper Cam’ron as Alpo.

 

 

He brought attention to himself. He was charismatic and outgoing. He had a party always going on around him and people gravitated to him,” remembers Kevin Chiles, a former Harlem drug dealer who knew Alpo, in a recent interview with Vice magazine back in 2015 where he disclosed that Alpo is no longer in prison.

While he was a legend for flashing his millionaire wealth with expensive cars, clothes, and jewelry, Alpo was also widely known for committing several murders during his drug kingpin reign.

In the 1990s, Alpo was involved in several murders that made him notorious. However, there was one murder that would begin the dismantling of both his drug empire and his legacy.

On January 3, 1990, Alpo and an accomplice murdered Rich Porter who was Alpo’s one time friend and actually sold drugs with when teenagers. It was Alpo murdering Porter that led those who once revered him to turn their backs on him.

Rich’s death had a huge impact on Harlem. The timing couldn’t have been worse,” said Chiles, “Richard was in the middle of negotiating the release of his 12-year-old brother, Donnell, who had been kidnapped and was being held for $500,000 ransom. Rich was killed, and then a few days later the body of his little brother was found in the same vicinity.”

While the death of Porter dented Alpo’s reputation, the silver bullet that would destroy his legacy would come after Alpo choose to testify against his former enforcer. Before an open court, Alpo turned on his former Washington D.C. enforcer in order to avoid serving a life sentence for the murders he had been arrested for committing.

After breaking the street law of snitching, Alpo was to serve as reduce sentence of 35 years for 14 counts of murder. However back in September of 2015, according to Don Diva magazine—a magazine developed by Chiles in prison that is devoted to the drug underworld and New York City street life—Alpo has been out of prison for the last few years.

Despite being rumored to being out of prison, the chances of Alpo returning to New York City is very slim.

I am most certain that Alpo won’t come back to New York. He knows he has a bullseye on him. That situation with Rich left Harlem scarred and people have strong feelings about it,” said Chiles, talking about the possibility of Alpo returning to NYC. “I could see a younger dude, on the come-up, try to make a name for themselves by taking Alpo out. They would be instantly infamous. I’m sure these are things he should be considering.”

So, where is Alpo Martinez? That is a question that may not be answered.

Eva Longoria – “Latinos in America Must Unite”

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What do Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Ecuadorians, Colombians, and Peruvians all have in common?

The answer is simple: they are all Latino. The only thing that truly makes anyone from the above group different from each other is the cultural background associated to each group. For those who aren’t Latino may not think we are different and few Latinos as being a united group.

However, that idea is not exactly true.

While there is a strong sense of Latino pride for many Latinos, when it comes to being or feeling a sense of unity to others who are not of the same national background it seems non-existent. It is this sense of division among Latinos which has some Latino stars are suggesting that if we remove, Latinos could only benefit and progress forward as a united people.

Since becoming a superstar in her own right, Eva Longoria has used her fame earned by her stint as a Housewife on ABC’s Desperate Housewives into becoming a philanthropist to aid the Latino community within the country. And one way that Longoria has aided Latinos is through her very own foundation.

Since its establishment back in 2010, the intention of the Eva Longoria Foundation is to encourage and help Latinas across the country succeed through either educational and/or entrepreneurial pursuits. According to Longoria, the foundations mostly focuses on Latinas because she sees the growing demographic of Latinos in this country and believes that women in the community need more of a push because they “make the world go round.”

I grew up with a family of strong, accomplished, and educated women. I believe, as they say, that you can’t be what you don’t see, and since I saw a lot of smart women in my life, education being at the center, I just mimicked that behavior. There was never a question that I’d go to college. In fact, I was the last person in my family to get a master’s degree, so that tells you I’m actually the underachiever!

Although her foundation may be devoted to aiding the growth of Latinas, Longoria strongly feels that both women and men could both benefit in progressing upward if only we as a community come together to help one another out.

We have to support and lift each other up. Latinos have not historically been a culture that unites easily. We’re very factioned—you have your Mexican Americans, your Puerto Ricans, your Cuban Americans, your Central Americans—and sometimes we focus on the differences more than the commonalities.

And Longoria is not alone in this ideology. At the recent PaleyFest held this weekend, Gina Rodriguez the star of Jane The Virgin took part of a panel that discussed Latinos on Television and the actress gave advice to other Latino actors.

We need to unite,” said Rodriguez, suggesting one way to do so is by Latino actors opting to portray characters of different Latino nationalities beside their own to show this unity. “They see us as one community—we need to be one community. Let’s do that, use our power as Latinos, whatever culture you identify with and celebrate.

Being of Latino origin I have experienced, and seen, that there are fractions that exist within the Latino community. There are some Latinos, mostly Latinos of South America, who are being stereotyped or persecuted for being immigrants due to the country’s heated debate regarding how immigration—for some—harms the country or—for others—betters it. With this issue and others that are race-related and plagues the Latino community, the unifying of Latinos could aid in eliminating this issue.

Colombia Brazil & Dominican Republic Leading in Vanity Tourism

 

The universal idea of beauty has been definitely changed. Now, the most beautiful and most desired women are curvy. For many, the ideal woman is a combination of Jennifer Lopez, Sofia Vergara and Beyonce 


A new interest for female appearance places Latinas among the most attractive and desired women on the planet, which in turn fuels the existing cult of beauty and the women’s obsession with looking beautiful, young and fabulous.

It is no coincidence that countries such as Brazil, The Dominican Republic and Colombia have become the preferred destination for the so-called “beauty-tourism,” a new and innovative trend that has people traveling to other countries a part of promotional packages that include accommodation, medical expenses and cosmetic surgery ranging from breast augmentation to chin liposuction for a fraction of the cost they would have in the U.S.

The business of vanity or plastic surgery is a growing billion-dollar industry in Latin America, where professional success and social acceptance largely depend on physical appearance. This, despite the myriad of terrifying cases of deaths during surgery and of procedures performed in clinics operated by unscrupulous doctors or by people lacking proper credentials.

Back in the homelands, the social pressure some Latinas feel regarding their beauty drives even the ones with the most limited resources to resort to desperate methods that may include a subtle form of prostitution called “chapeo.”

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the most popular types of surgery are buttock augmentation, liposuction and breast augmentation. Botox continues to top the list of most common non-invasive cosmetic procedures worldwide.

A CULTURAL MATTER

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Latinas habitually worry about their appearance and the perception others may have of them, including their financial and social status. Looking good is equated to wellness and to doing well financially. We Latinas were raised admiring and wanting to be “just like” the leading actresses in telenovelas.

For most, going under the knife is considered more as psychological healing than a physical change. It boosts the self-esteem of women who were raised to be beautiful, even if that idea of beauty -which follows a European standard – fails to match the features of most of our countries’ population. It only takes a quick look at the most popular Hispanic TV networks or the famous Mexican telenovelas to see this.

From an early age, girls seem to covet having a full behind, voluptuous hips and stroke-inducing breasts, disregarding the effort required or even considering the risk of ending up being part of the terrifying statistics.

It is an emotional and physical balance. It is an mental attitude. It takes strongly believing that you accept yourself and love yourself exactly the way you are, and no letting advertising affect you and make no pursue and artificial idea of perfection.

We Latinas are more than our beauty. We are warriors who have fought for generations for the right to pursue our dreams in our countries of origin and in this new nation that opened its doors to us. And, of course, we also have curves.

 (Originally published in Latin Trends magazine)

New York’s Mom & Pop Businesses are Being Replaced by BIG Corporations

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Hey! Want to grab a bite to eat at the original 2nd Avenue Deli in the East Village?

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How about we grab some lunch at Manatus restaurant on Bleecker Street?

Then maybe grab something from Ralph’s Discount City up in TriBeca?

And why not stop by the great home of punk rock CBGB in the East Village, yeah?

Well, you kind of can’t anymore since these notable New York City landmarks are no longer around.

Considered local fixtures in the neighborhoods, familiar and popular mom-and-pop stores, diners, restaurants, and shops are slowly becoming extinct in the evolving city due to staggering rent hikes and a lackluster economy. Unable to withstand the hardship, many of these familiar shops are being replaced by big name corporations like Subway or Dunkin Donunts or banks like Chase and Capital One.

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In their photo book Store Front – The Disappearing Face of New York, photographers James T. and Karla L. Murray take readers on a visual tour of some of the familiar and irreplaceable store fronts that line street after street of New York City.

Choosing places that “look like they’ve been around forever” the duo has in a way allowed such locales to exist forever in photographic form. Organized by borough and then subdivided into neighborhoods, the photographic book poses as an encyclopedia of sorts that manages to preserves the now extinct shops that have become replaced by commercial businesses.

“The purpose of the photos in the before and after project is to clearly spell out and provide documentation of not only what storefronts have been lost but also what is often lacking in what replaces them,” said the photographers.

The book depicts the dramatic alteration in the appearance of many familiar local spots in New York City. From 2001 to 2007, the book contains a good decade of how scathing rental prices are forcing out mom-and-pop shops which are being replaced with chain stores belonging to commercial businesses.

The shop-owners frequently acknowledged that they were at the mercy of their landlords and the ever-increasing rents they charged,” and if the shop-owners could not meet the increasing rent, “big rent hikes meant that many small businesses closed to be replaced by chain stores or banks, which could afford the higher rent.

According to the book, Max Fish, a bar located on the Lower East Side is an example of being a victim to rising rent costs. The bar opened in 1989 and its rent was a mere $2,000 a month, however after a series of rent increases and being opened for a good 24 years the bar closed with a reported $16,000 rent cost. The rent was due to increase again if the bar remained opened.

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Until you place them side-by-side and really look at the two photos, you cannot get the true sense of loss,” explained the Murrays, discussing how powerful the images taken are when you show what was beside the what is.

The two also add, “the trend we noticed very early on while photographing the original stores was that if the shop-owner did not own the entire building, their business was already in jeopardy.

Mom-and-pop shops are not the only familiar local spots being replaced by commercial businesses. Late last year, 5 Pointz–5 Pointz: The Institute of Higher Burnin’ or the 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center–was an outdoor graffiti haven considered an art cultural center to many was white-washed—the numerous art pieces that were spray-painted on its wall was marked out with white paint—by the builders owners.

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The white-washing came after 5 Pointz owner and supporters lost am ongoing battle to remaining standing. The building is scheduled to be torn down and make way for new condos and business shops in its place.

While the book can be a bit grim showcasing the demise of familiar shops, shops that are either replaced by corporations or gutted to the group, the book also contains some hope.

Among some of the photos taken, the Murrays have included side-by-side photos of old shops being replaced not by large corporations but fellow and new mom-and-pop shops. These images show some hope that not all is being taken over by large commercial businesses but there are still regular folk with businesses of their own trying to make it in this ever changing world.

She Combines Entrepreneurship and her Love of Cuban History to Start a Blog in Havana

Digital Newspaper‘Follow your passion’ is a phrase that may be just overused these days whether it is to get a job or to get ahead in your career. Generally speaking, when someone follows their passion, they seem happier about themselves and have a better outlook on life. It is risky to even say that a passion can turn into entrepreneurship.

Some people may be able to find their passion early on in life, others later on in life and some never find it, or never recognize it.

For Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, she took her interest in Cuban history and has launched her own independent digital newspaper, ‘14ymedio’. ‘14ymedio’ tells about Cuba from inside Cuba and overall, inform the people.

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It was not only her interest in Cuba that led her to start a digital newspaper, she has become a critical voice recognized outside of the island because of Generation Y.

A challenge that Sanchez faces is that all mass media are controlled by the state. Furthermore, only independent publications that circulate on the island belong to the Catholic Church. What’s more important is that the internet has become a way for people to express their ideas and share what they care about to keep everyone informed.