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Mexico, U.S. draw up outlines of new security framework

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Mexico, U.S. draw up outlines of new security framework

MEXICO CITY — High-level delegations from Mexico and the United States on Friday laid out the outlines of a new security framework between the nations that at least conceptually marked a departure from the mindset that steered their cooperation over the past decade.

The so-called U.S.-Mexico Bicentennial Framework for Security, Public Health and Safe Communities seeks to move beyond the 13-year-old Merida Initiative that focused on building Mexico’s crime-fighting capabilities and rule of law projects.

“It’s time for a comprehensive approach to our security cooperation, one that will see us as equal partners in defining our shared priorities, tackle the root drivers of these challenges like inequity, like corruption and focus not only on strengthening law enforcement, but also public health, the rule of law, inclusive economic opportunities,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday.

Mexico Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard put it more succinctly: “Goodbye Merida, welcome Bicentennial agreement.”

“The first substantive difference is that the Merida Initiative was, from the point of view of Mexico, focused on the thesis that the cartel capos had to be captured and that was sufficient,” Ebrard said. Now they see that wasn’t enough, that attention must be paid to expanding opportunities for youth and treating addiction, he said. “The success of this is going to be measured in fewer homicides in Mexico and less drug consumption.”

That shift in emphasis is in line with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s “hugs, not bullets” refrain and his stated uninterest in pursuing the leaders of Mexico’s cartels.

The two governments’ joint declaration devoted considerable space to treating drug addiction — especially opioids — and its societal effects in the public health context, a significant departure from Merida’s emphasis on the criminal justice system.

The U.S. pledged to devote more resources to identify and treat people affected by opioids and Mexico committed to working with the United Nations to launch a program to better manage shipping containers to limit the importation of chemical precursors for synthetic drugs like fentanyl.

Mexico seized an estimated 1.3 tons of the synthetic opioid last year. That same year, the U.S. recorded 93,000 drug overdose deaths.

The governments committed to targeting importers of chemical precursors for fentanyl and methamphetamine, their financial networks and secret labs.

They also said they would work together to reduce the trafficking of guns, a high priority for violence-wracked Mexico, and to provide more opportunities to youth to make it harder for criminal organizations to recruit them.

“We need to deal with the violence, dismantle the transnational criminal organizations and focus on prevention with the goal of creating the conditions for a culture of peace, while we work hand-in-hand to address the fundamental causes of crime,” the joint statement said.

Mexico’s Public Safety Secretary, Rosa Icela Rodríguez Velázquez said, “for many years, the issue of Mexico’s security has been addressed from the point of view that it’s only measured by the use of force, now we are combatting the causes that originate that violence with social programs, intelligence and coordination, listening to men and women in their towns, their municipalities and communities.”

Immigration is expected to be a key topic of the dialogue. López Obrador has been saying for months that Mexico cannot continue to simply detain migrants and try to contain them in the southern part of the country, far from the U.S. border.

He has asked the U.S. government to invest in two of his signature social programs to relieve some of the economic pressure people feel to migrate. The Biden administration needs Mexico’s continued cooperation to manage the flow of migrants to the U.S. border.

The U.S. also must find a way to re-instate the controversial Trump-era policy that made asylum seekers wait out their cases in Mexico. Under the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols, tens of thousands of asylum seekers waited in dangerous Mexican border cities for their cases to advance. Biden had made cancelling the policy one of his first orders of business upon taking office, but the Supreme Court ordered that it be implemented again. Ebrard said that issue was not discussed Friday.

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Suspect arrested after attempted shooting in Encore Casino parking garage

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Suspect arrested after attempted shooting in Encore Casino parking garage

A trip to Encore Casino in Everett ended unluckily for Steven Gonzalez, 33, who was arrested after allegedly firing shots at a group of men after a fight.

A State Police spokesperson said that, on Dec. 1, the State Police Gaming Enforcement Unit and Everett Police officers responded to a report of shots fired in Encore’s garage. When they arrived, the group found ballistic evidence, but no victims, leading them to believe that no one was struck by gunfire.

A later investigation revealed the alleged shooter to be Gonzalez, who police say fired multiple rounds at a group of men following an altercation. After he shot at them, Gonzalez fled on foot and was later picked up by someone in a motor vehicle.

The Malden District Court granted a warrant charging Gonzalez with armed assault with intent to murder, discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building, carrying a firearm without a license and unlawful possession of ammunition.

Although Gonzalez’s last known address was in Peabody, he was not immediately found in the aftermath of the shooting. A team comprising the Massachusetts State Police Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section Troopers, Gaming Enforcement Unit Troopers, members of a U.S. Marshals Task Force and Everett and Salem Officers used intelligence to locate Gonzalez at a Salem apartment. He was arrested there without incident, and transported to the Salem Police Department for booking.

An Encore spokesperson confirmed the incident but declined to comment further pending the ongoing investigation.

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Revolution playmaker Carles Gil named MLS MVP

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Revolution playmaker Carles Gil named MLS MVP

The MLS electorate is diverse by design but it spoke with one voice in favor of New England Revolution midfielder Carles Gil.

The Revs’ star was presented with the Landon Donovan MLS Most Valuable Player Award on Tuesday afternoon during a ceremony inside the Optum Field Lounge at Gillette Stadium.

The event was hosted by former Revolution striker Taylor Twellman, an ESPN soccer analyst who won the award with New England in 2005, and Revolution owner Robert Kraft, team president Brian Bilello and sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena participated in the presentation.

Gil was accompanied by his wife Maria and the proceedings included video highlights of his big plays from the Revolution’s historic 2021 regular season, which saw the team win its first Supporters Shield with an MLS record 73 points.

The Landon Donovan recipient is selected by an electorate of current MLS players, club technical staff members and the media, and Gil won each faction in a landslide. With 37% of the players’ vote, he was the only one to reach double digits. Gil also got 57.6% of the vote from club officials and 61.6% from the media. Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar, Seattle’s Joao Paulo, Sporting Kansas City’s Daniel Salloi and Valentin Castellanos of New York City FC rounded out the top five.

“The award is voted on by really three groups,” said Bilello. “It is the players, sporting staffs from the different clubs and the media that covers soccer in our country and Carles won all three of those votes running away.

“Whether it is Carles’ peers, whether it is his foes or the media which covers the teams, all of them unanimously chose Carles as their MVP for the season.”

Gil had the numbers to win over the undecideds. The 29-year-old Spaniard led MLS in several significant offensive categories including 18 assists, an MLS record 130 chances created, 25 big chances created, 81 chances created in open play and 49 chances created from set pieces.

The Revolution were 10-2-4 when Gil scored a goal, 22-0-7 when he recorded an assist and 5-0-1 when he had a goal and an assist. Great playmakers need finishers and Gil had his choice of three phenomenal international goal scorers in Adam Buksa (Poland), Gustavo Bou (Argentina) and Tajon Buchanan (Canada).

Buksa led the team with 16 goals in the regular season while Bou was tied for fourth in MLS with 24 combined goals and assists. Buchanan had eight goals and five assists in 27 games. Bou and Buchanan were Gil’s targets in open play while Buksa was his header of choice on set pieces.

Buksa and Bou were the goal scorers in the Revs’ 2-2 shootout loss (5-3) to NYCFC in the MLS Cup Eastern Conference semifinal on Nov. 30 at Gillette Stadium.

“It is a pleasure to play with those types of players and all of them really are incredible to me,” said Gil, who showed emotion during his acceptance speech.

“They make my role easier with the guys we have up top. Adam has a great game in the air and can capitalize on those passes and Gustavo and Tajon are incredible players.”

Arena, who was named MLS Coach of the Year, has a unique perspective on the award as he has coached Gil for parts of three seasons and Donovan over seven campaigns (2008-2014) with the LA Galaxy. While Donovan was a finishing forward and Gil creates scoring chances in the midfield and on set pieces, they were both impact players in their own right according to Arena.

“Landon was goal scorer and Carles is a supplier of goals,” said Arena. “They are both outstanding players and obviously their value to their teams were great and are great. They are different players for sure. But they are two outstanding players for sure.”

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Report: Amid COVID, demand for lab space surges, leading to higher rents

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Report: Amid COVID, demand for lab space surges, leading to higher rents

Demand for Boston-area lab space is surging, but the supply is scant, leading to soaring rents, according to a new report.

Demand is far outpacing available space in the Boston area, with a record number of large biotech and drug companies seeking 100,000 square feet amid a global race for new drug development, according to the report from CBRE, a Dallas-based commercial real estate services and investment firm.

“The Boston lab market is expanding at an unprecedented pace,” said Jonathan Varholak, the firm’s vice chairman. “With over $9.3 billion of venture capital funding having flowed into Boston area life science firms in the first three quarters of this year, demand from startups is at an all-time high. We’re seeing record-setting rents and historically low vacancies as a result.”

The vacancy rate for existing lab and research and development space is just 1.1% in the Boston-Cambridge market, as average asking rents soar, jumping 7.5% to $94.62 per square foot in September compared to March 2021.

In Boston and Cambridge, where vacancy is 0.1% and 0.3% respectively, the average asking rents are now $100.00 per square foot in Boston and $112.79 in Cambridge, according to CBRE. The leasing of lab space has been pushed into the suburbs, including Watertown and Route 128 West.

“As we see in housing, space is scarce,” said Joe Boncore, CEO of the industry group MassBio. “But as we add more space to the economy, we expect the price of lab space to level off.”

Ten million square feet of lab space is under construction in the Boston area, which includes 9.3 million square feet of “spec” construction, where developers broke ground with no tenants signed at the time, the report said. Six million square feet is expected to deliver by the end of next year, and 3.2 million square feet is being converted from other uses such as office or warehouse space.

In Boston, life sciences employment has grown faster than the U.S average over the past 15 years, although Boston has only about a sixth of the life sciences employment as Middlesex County, including Cambridge, Waltham, Lexington, among others. Yet Boston has grown more rapidly over the past year: 7.5% vs. 5.2%, according to CBRE.

“Life sciences labs quickly have become a highly sought-after property type for both tenants and investors,” said Ian Anderson, CBRE’s Americas Head of Office Research. “This intense demand for lab space is the natural result of a global push for new medicines begetting strong funding and hiring in the life sciences sector.”

Global demand for vaccines for COVID-19 and viruses like it has led to initial public offerings for life sciences companies in the on pace for a record year, raising roughly $13 billion, according to CBRE.

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