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In brief: Nicaragua’s president enters his third term

Managua, Nicaragua – Daniel Ortega was sworn in Tuesday for his third 5-year term as president of Nicaragua, shrugging off opposition complaints his re-election was illegal and vowing to govern with moderation.

Presidents from all other Central American nations attended the inauguration, but the most notable visitor was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is touring the region to bolster his country’s alliances at a moment of sharp disputes with Washington.

Ahmadinejad said both Iran and Nicaragua are “on the road to fight for the establishment of security and justice” and referred to Ortega as “my brother president.”

Ortega’s closest and most financially supportive ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, attended the ceremony after playing host to Ahmadinejad in Caracas.

Ortega is still a firm ally of Chavez and Cuba’s communist government, but he has worked to maintain ties with Washington. He signed the Central American Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. and has cultivated relations with the Roman Catholic Church and Nicaragua’s business sector.

Quake near Indonesia avoids big damage

Banda Aceh, Indonesia – A powerful earthquake hit off the coast of western Indonesia early today, prompting officials to briefly issue a tsunami warning. Panicked residents ran from their homes, some fleeing to high ground by car or motorcycle, but there were no reports of injuries or serious damage.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude-7.3 quake struck 260 miles off the coast of Aceh province just after midnight. Nearly two hours after the quake, the local geological agency lifted its tsunami warning.

U.S. puts sanctions on Guzman’s alleged support

Mexico City – The U.S. Treasury Department called fugitive Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman “the world’s most powerful drug trafficker” Tuesday.

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City issued a statement saying three of Guzman’s alleged associates had been hit with sanctions under the drug Kingpin Act, which prohibits people in the U.S. from conducting businesses with them and freezes their U.S. assets. The two Mexican men and a Colombian allegedly aided Guzman’s trafficking operations.

Guzman, who escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001 and has a $7 million bounty on his head, has long been recognized as Mexico’s most powerful drug capo. Authorities say his Sinaloa cartel has recently been expanding abroad, building operations in Central and South America and the Pacific.

Guzman was included this year on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people, with an estimated fortune of $1 billion.


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Explosion rocks Wisconsin refinery, forcing evacuations

UPDATED: 1:41 p.m.

updated  A tank containing crude oil or asphalt exploded at a large refinery in Wisconsin on Thursday, injuring several people and prompting fire officials to urge people living near the still-burning plant to evacuate their homes.