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Actress, 12 other parents to plead guilty in college scheme

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BOSTON, USA (AP) — Actress Felicity Huffman and a dozen other prominent parents have agreed to plead guilty in the sweeping college admissions cheating scam that has ensnared wealthy families and athletic coaches at some of the nation’s most selective universities, federal authorities said yesterday.

The Desperate Housewives star and the other parents will admit to charges in the scheme, which authorities say involved rigging standardised test scores and bribing coaches at such prestigious schools as Yale and Georgetown.

Huffman, 56, was accused of paying a consultant US$15,000, disguised as a charitable donation, to boost her daughter’s SAT score. Authorities say the actress also discussed going through with the same plan for her younger daughter, but she ultimately decided not to.

Other parents charged in the scheme include prominent figures in law, finance, fashion, the food and beverage industry and other fields.

It’s the biggest college admissions case ever prosecuted by the Justice Department. The scandal embroiled elite universities across the country and laid bare the lengths to which status-seeking parents will go to secure their children a coveted spot.

The consultant, Rick Singer, met with Huffman and her husband, 69-year-old actor William H Macy, at their Los Angeles home and explained to them he “controlled” a testing centre and could have somebody secretly change their daughter’s answers, authorities say. Singer told investigators Huffman and her husband agreed to the plan.

Macy was not charged but authorities have not said why.

Huffman will plead guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest-services mail fraud, according to court documents.

In her first public comments since her arrest last month, she apologised and said she accepts full responsibility for her actions and “will accept the consequences”.

Huffman said in a statement that her daughter did not know about her actions. She said her desire to help her daughter was “no excuse to break the law”.

Michael Center, the former men’s tennis coach at the University of Texas at Austin, has also agreed to plead guilty, prosecutors said yesterday. Center was accused of accepting nearly US$100,000 to help a non-tennis playing applicant get admitted as a recruit.

California real estate developer Bruce Isackson and his wife, Davina Isackson, who are pleading guilty to participating in both the athletic recruitment and exam-rigging schemes, are cooperating with prosecutors for a chance at a lighter sentence.

“We have worked cooperatively with the prosecutors and will continue to do so as we take full responsibility for our bad judgment,” they said in a statement.

Fellow actress Lori Loughlin, who played Aunt Becky on the sitcom Full House, and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, are charged with paying US$500,000 in bribes to get their two daughters admitted to the University of Southern California as crew recruits, even though neither participated in the sport. They were not among those who agreed to plead guilty, and they have not publicly addressed the allegations.

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Bolivia’s new leaders break ties with Venezuela

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Bolivia’s new leaders break ties with Venezuela

Saturday, November 16, 2019

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LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Bolivia’s interim leadership says it has broken diplomatic ties with the Government of Venezuelan President Nicols Maduro and ordered Cuban medical teams to leave Bolivia.

The announcement yesterday represents a turnaround in Bolivia’s foreign policy following the resignation of Evo Morales, a socialist who quit after a disputed election that sparked massive protests.

Karen Longaric, the foreign minister of Bolivia’s interim Government, also said the country is leaving the Union of South American Nations, known by its Spanish acronym UNASUR. The group was set up in 2008 by Venezuela’s Hugo Chvez and other leftists to support regional integration efforts and counter US influence in South America.

Longaric also says Bolivia is no longer a part of ALBA, a regional group that espouses socialist ideology.

In the meantime, Bolivia’s interim leader says Evo Morales will have to “answer to justice for electoral fraud” if he returns home.

Jeanine ez made the comment during a news conference yesterday, a day after Morales insisted from asylum in Mexico that he remains the country’s legitimate president because his resignation was forced by the military and wasn’t formally accepted by Congress.

Aez was the top-ranking Senate opposition official when Morales resigned Sunday and says that the resignation of everyone else in the chain of succession left her with the presidency.

Morales left following massive demonstrations across the country alleging fraud in the October 20 presidential election — irregularities certified by a team of auditors from the Organization of American States. Morales had claimed victory in his bid for a fourth term in office.

ez said Morales “left on his own. Nobody threw him out.”

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Cuba medical programme becomes source of controversy

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Cuba medical programme becomes source of controversy

Saturday, November 16, 2019

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HAVANA, Cuba (AP) — A much-lauded overseas medical programme has become the focus of accusations that it serves as cover for fomenting protests against governments opposed by Cuba.

Cuba said yesterday that it’s pulling 700 members of its medical mission to Bolivia after the arrest of four members of the programme, which began under now-exiled President Evo Morales. The four were accused of fomenting protests against the Government that took over from Morales, a Cuban ally.

The end of Cuba’s 400-person medical mission to Ecuador was also announced this week, along with the accusation by Ecuador’s interior minister that Cuba misused official passports to bring in 250 Cubans during protests against President Lenin Moreno, whom Cuba also opposes.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro ended his county’s Cuban medical programme after taking office last year.

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Opposition leader tells public servants to accept salary increases

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Opposition leader tells public servants to accept salary increases

Saturday, November 16, 2019

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) – Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo is urging public servants to accept the salary increases announced by the coalition Government earlier this week, saying the payment had already been budgeted for by the David Granger Administration in the last fiscal package.

“I say to the public servants collect their monies, it was budgeted since last year. This is nothing new; they should get their money,” Jagdeo told reporters.

The Government Wednesday announced a new GUY$70,000 minimum wage for public servants.

“In three and a half years, the minimum wage has gone up by over 75 per cent. I think by any stroke of circumstance, that is a significant development and I know that the workers are going to be happy. And I know that they are happier still because in 2018 I first brought in tax-free back pay. I [sought permission from the] Cabinet, they agreed and I continue this year,” said Finance Minister Winston Jordan, adding that the public servants would, this year, will receive a tax-free retroactive salary increase.

Along with their retroactive salaries, the public servants will also receive a minimum wage of GUY$70,000, a nine per cent increase on the current GUY$64,200. He said it represents more than a 77 per cent increase since 2015.

Public servants earning between GUY$100,000 to GUY$999,000 per month will enjoy an 8.5 per cent increase and those earning more than a million dollars per month will get a three per cent hike. All of the increases will be retroactive to January 2019.

Jagdeo told reporters that the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) was now more interested in the contracts the Government has been signing, given the fact that it is in a “holding” position after the Trinidad and Tobago-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruled earlier this year that the motion of no-confidence against the Granger Administration passed in the National Assembly last December, is valid.

The CCJ said that in keeping with the Guyana Constitution fresh regional and general elections should be held and President Granger has since announced March 2, 2020 as the date for the polls.

Jagdeo told reporters “It is the contracts that they (the government) are issuing now to their cronies that I warn against”.

He said that while all public servants will benefit from the new salaries, police, soldiers, firefghters, and prison officers are worse off as a result of the decision to cut off the one-month, tax-free salary given to them at the end of the year as a bonus.

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