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Venezuela Boosts Oil Production in Orinoco Belt, Finalises Agreement with Aruba

Venezuela’s Petroleum and Mining Minister Eluogio del Pino announced on June 11 that crude oil...
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United Nations Elects Fiji’s Permanent Representative as New President

The United Nations General Assembly elected its new president on Monday through a rare secret...
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President Raul Castro Sends Condolences Following Massacre in the United States

Cuban President Raul Castro gave his condolences to the United States following a massacre in...
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Venezuela Boosts Oil Production in Orinoco Belt, Finalises Agreement with Aruba

Venezuela Boosts Oil Production in Orinoco Belt, Finalises Agreement with Aruba

Venezuela’s Petroleum and Mining Minister Eluogio del Pino announced on June 11 that crude oil production in the Orinoco Belt jumped from 20,000 to 30,000 barrels per day. The increased production greatly benefits the region, which is facing challenges amidst falling oil prices.

The announcement comes just one day after the minister attended an agreement signing between Venezuela and Aruba. The agreements, which were ratified in front of Aruba Prime Minister Mike Eman, initiate the revival of an old oil refinery and other joint development projects.

Authorities from both governments gathered in Caracas to sign the agreements, which will reopen a 209,000 BPD refinery in San Nicolas, Aruba.

Nicolas Maduro, president of Venezuela, was in attendance as was the energy and petroleum minister and the CEO of CITGO Petroleum Corporation.

The meeting follows several months of negotiations between CITGO Aruba and the Aruban government. The agreement will reactivate operations at the refinery, which had been idle since 2012, through a lease agreement lasting 15 years. A 10-year extension option is available.

CITGO Aruba will be operating the facility, and CITGO Petroleum Corporation will provide the group with services.

The project will transform the refinery into an upgrader for Venezuela’s extra-heavy crude within the next 18-24 months. The project will require an investment of $450-$650 million, which will be secured through external lenders.

Once the refinery has been transformed, the facility will upgrade the extra-heavy crude sourced from the Orinoco Oil Belt into intermediate crude. From here, the oil will be sent to CITGO’s refining network in the U.S. to be further processed. Meanwhile, PDVSA will purchase naphtha to dilute its extra-heavy crude.

The strategic partnership is believed to benefit Venezuela, Aruba, CITGO Aruba and PDVSA.

A complementary project is also being considered that would allow for natural gas in Venezuela’s Paraguana region to be used. Natural gas would not only lower costs, but also reduce refinery emissions.

United Nations Elects Fiji’s Permanent Representative as New President

United Nations Elects Fiji’s Permanent Representative as New President

The United Nations General Assembly elected its new president on Monday through a rare secret ballot vote. The assembly chose Peter Thomson, the Permanent Representative of Fiji, to serve as President of its 71st session.

Thomson will replace Mogens Lykketoft, current President of the General Assembly, in September at the start of the 71st General Assembly session.

The Permanent Representative of Fiji beat Cyprus representative Andreas Mavroyiannis 94 to 90 in a secret ballot vote.

The General Assembly selects a president using a geographical rotation system. Regional groups put forward a candidate every year. If the group cannot come to an agreement on a nominee, a secret ballot vote is held.

This is the first time a representative of a small island developing State in the Pacific has been elected as Assembly President. Mr. Thomson said he plans to be vocal on climate change issues. He also noted that the 71st Assembly session will focus on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). Mr. Thomson plans to bring a spirit of commitment and loyalty to the common good.

Mr. Lykketoft, current Assembly President, acknowledged Mr. Thomson’s experience in rural development matters and international affairs. He expressed his support for Mr. Thomson, but noted that there is still much work to be done in the current session, including the large movement of migrants and refugees in September.

Mr. Thomson served as Chair of the Executive Board of the UN Population Fund, the UN Development Programme, and the UN Office for Project Services. He also served as Vice President of the General Assembly from 2010 through 2011.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated Mr. Thomson on his achievement and said he believes the President-elect will help the UN carry out its 2030 Agenda and reach its goals for the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The UN General Assembly is comprised of 193 Member States and meets in regular sessions that run from September through December of each year.

President Raul Castro Sends Condolences Following Massacre in the United States

President Raul Castro Sends Condolences Following Massacre in the United States

Cuban President Raul Castro gave his condolences to the United States following a massacre in Orlando, Florida on Sunday. A statement was provided to a news channel that operates on Cuban State Television.

The statement read, “I reiterate that Cuba rejects and condemns all acts of terrorism.”

Cuban and United States relations have been in turmoil since 1962 when United States President Kennedy signed into law a Cuban embargo. The embargo effectively cut the country of Cuba from the United States.

Efforts to end the embargo reached its heights on March 21, 2016 when United States President Barack Obama and Cuba’s Raul Castro shook hands in Havana. Obama requested that the United States Congress lift the embargo on Cuba after being in place for over 50 years.

Castro’s condolences come at a time when both countries continue to cooperate with each other after over 50 years of strife.

The Orlando, Florida massacre left 49 people dead and over 50 people injured following a shooting at the LGBT nightclub Pulse. The attack came early on Sunday morning before the club was closing for the night.

The attacker, Omar Mateen, was a 29-year old male who was born in New York and grew up in Long Island. The shooter reportedly called 911 before the shooting to pledge his allegiance to the extremist group ISIS. The massacre ended with Mateen exchanging gunfire with officers and members of the SWAT team.

Mateen was of Muslim faith and pledged his alliance to many extremist groups. The shooter reportedly visited the LGBT nightclub often and was considered a regular. Mateen was married with a child. Recent findings point to the shooter using gay dating apps and sending private pictures to men.

Castro’s statement gave condolences to the United States government and the people following the attacks, but he emphasized his condolences to the friends and family of the victims.

New Drug Aims to Treat Aggressive Form of Breast Cancer

New Drug Aims to Treat Aggressive Form of Breast Cancer

Researchers at Nottingham and Oxford Universities have found a promising method to slow the growth of one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer.

The team of researchers used a new drug that can attack cancer tumors in deeper regions than conventional treatments, like radiotherapy and chemotherapy, can reach.

The drug, known as JQ1, was tested on mice with human cancer tumors. JQ1 alters a cancer cell’s response to hypoxia (low oxygen), which is found in triple negative cancer, a form of the disease that is the most difficult to treat.

During a trial, scientists found that JQ1 was able to slow cancerous tumor growth by about one third each day.

When combined with conventional therapies, the researchers say the drug may offer added benefits to patients with triple negative breast cancer. Triple negative patients account for roughly 15% of the 50,000 women who are diagnosed with breast cancer every year.

The triple negative variation of breast cancer is difficult to beat because the cancer cells have adapted to the low oxygen environment, which makes them more resistant to radiotherapy and chemotherapy. It also lacks the receptors for progesterone, oestrogen and the protein HER2. The most successful treatments for breast cancer use these receptors to target the disease.

When oxygen levels are low, tumor cells activate certain genes that send signals for blood vessels to supply them with more oxygen. This response gives the cells the nutrients they need to continue growing.

JQ1, a BET inhibitor, addresses this issue on the molecular level.

Triple negative breast cancer is difficult to treat because of its aggressiveness, but the disease is typically responsive to chemotherapy.

Dr. Alan McIntyre, the study’s co-author, says the drug can mean added benefits for patients and may play an important role in the treatment of aggressive breast cancers.

Cuba, Vietnam Ministries Boost Transportation Cooperation

Cuba, Vietnam Ministries Boost Transportation Cooperation

Cuba’s construction minister and Vietnam’s transport minister met in Hanoi on June 13 to discuss cooperation on transportation and ways to improve cooperation in the future.

Truong Quang Nghia, Vietnam’s Transport Minister, said that while his country faces economic challenges, it views infrastructure development as a top priority. The country is encouraging investment from all sources, including foreign and private investors, through a public-private partnership or build-operate-transfer arrangement.

Vietnam is in the midst of changing certain mechanisms and participating in multilateral free trade agreements to help attract foreign investment.

Mr. Nghia said the supervisors and advisors of the Dinvai Company, part of Cuba’s ministry, worked well with other projects in Vietnam. However, he noted that the company can improve its performance by updating its understanding of local laws and its professional knowledge.

Cuba’s Construction Minister Rene Mesa Villafana says the Communist Party’s 7th national congress resolution in April calls for more resources to develop infrastructure. The resolution requires the improvement of inter-provincial roads and the building of expressways.

The Construction Minister said Cuba is learning from other countries’ experiences, including Vietnam.

Mr. Villafana expressed Cuba’s wishes to extend its cooperation with Vietnam in transport infrastructure construction, especially now that several Cuban companies are participating in the Southeast Asian country’s transport projects.

During their meeting, both sides agreed to move forward with transport agreements, including those in the aviation and navigation sectors.

Vietnam’s Minister of Construction Pham Hong Ha encouraged Cuba to facilitate a joint venture between the Cuban Geicons Group and the Vietnam Glass and Ceramics for Construction Corporation, or Viglacera.

Mr. Ha called on Mr. Villafana to extend his support of exporting materials from Viglacera to his country. The Minister also expressed his hope that Cuba will initiate cooperation between the two nations. Vietnam is also willing to share its experience with Cuba in the development and management of urban areas, housing, material production and technology.

Laser Weapon System Developed by the United States

Laser Weapon System Developed by the United States

A laser weapon may sound like something out of a science fiction novel, but the U.S. has developed a directed-energy weapon that brings the future to present day. No, this is nothing like your dinky little at home laser hair removal device. This is a serious weapon, and its precision is stunning.

Known as the AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System, or XN-1 LaWS for short, this weapon was developed in 2010 by the United States Navy. In 2014, it was installed on the USS Ponce to carry out field tests. In December of that year, the U.S. Navy announced that laser weapon system worked perfectly, and the Ponce’s commander was authorized to use the XN-1 LaWS as a defensive weapon.

The XN-1 LaWS was designed to be a ship-defense system, and thus far, it has only publicly engaged in simulated attacks from a small boat and a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) drone.

The LaWS features scalable power levels. On low power, it can be used to dazzle a person’s eyes, causing them to turn away from a threatening posture. On high power (30 thousand watts), the laser has the power to burn out motors, fry sensors and even detonate explosive materials.

XN-1 LaWS laser weapon

Against a helicopter, this laser can burn through vital components, causing it to fall and crash.

Kratos Defense & Security Solutions won the $11 million contract to develop the system in 2010 as part of a U.S. Navy program. The Navy spent $40 million on the research, development and testing of this system over six years.

If testing goes well, the Navy may deploy a laser weapon with a one-mile range sometime between 2017 and 2021.

Directed-energy weapons are highly sought due to their economic benefits. An LaWS can be fired for little more than a dollar per shot, whereas conventional projectiles can cost thousands of dollars each.

Panama Welcomes Visit from Cuban Foreign Trade Minister

Panama Welcomes Visit from Cuban Foreign Trade Minister

Cuba’s Foreign Trade Minister, Rodrigo Malmierca, visited Panama on Sunday in a joint meeting. The meeting was welcomed by Panama. Panama’s CCIAP, a committee of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture met with Mr. Malmierca.

Miguel Antonio Pardo, Cuban Ambassador to Panama, announced on Monday that Mr. Malmierca is slated to have meetings through Tuesday with personalities and businessmen in Panama.

Panama and Cuba reinforced their relations last year following a visit to Cuba from Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela. The visit in 2015 was part of a stimulus effort to jumpstart a commercial exchange between the two countries.

Officials in Panama and Cuba have stated that the cooperation between the two countries will be beneficial and generate opportunities.

Commercial operations between the two countries requires opportunities to expand and diversify in an effort to improve the juridical safety and environment of commercial opportunities.

Panama and Cuba trade primarily in non-original goods. Trades are made through the Free Area of Colon. The two countries aim to boost trade and their potential to increase exports among both countries, according to sources close to the matter.

The signed Protocol allowed for new tariff preferences of Panama goods in Cuba. The new tariff laws include 73 lines, with some items reaching 100%, including butter and palm oil. There is an 80 to 30 percent agreement for goods, such as toilet paper, t-shirts, fiber and other items.

Cuba’s embargo with the United States came to an end this year, allowing the country to extend trade with numerous countries. High debt levels in the country have been used by rich countries as a way to enter into the Cuban market. The United States and Cuba must learn and work together, according to a new report from Mr. Malmierca, which was released earlier in the month.

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