Category Archives: News

American Released from Venezuelan Jail After Two Years

Nicolás Maduro Moros, interim President of The Boliviarian Republic of Venezuela following the death of Hugo Chávez. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Joshua Holt, an American citizen who had been held in a Venezuelan jail for the past two years, was freed last week as a result of high-level diplomatic talks. His wife Thamara Caleno, was also released.

“Overwhelmed with gratitude,” Holt was welcomed in Washington, DC by his parents, Laurie and Jason Holt, and a few hours later by President Donald Trump.

“Those two years, they were a very, very, very difficult two years,” said an emotional Holt, sitting beside Trump in the Oval Office. “Not really the great vacation that I was looking for. … I’m just so grateful for what you guys have done.”

Holt, a Utah citizen, went to Venezuela in 2016 to marry Caleno, a woman he had met online but never in person. Soon after arriving in Venezuela and marrying Caleno he was arrested and labeled by the Venezuelan government as the “CIA’s top spy in Latin America.
Holt’s release was orchestrated by Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, who met with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in what was a surprise meeting.

The couple was arrested on June 30, 2016 in a raid on Caleno’s family’s apartment. They were accused of stockpiling an assault rifle and grenades and being linked to other unspecified attempts by the US to weaken Maduro’s rule.

Upon his release the Holt family released the following statement:

“We thank you for your collaboration during this time of anguish. We ask that you allow us to meet with our son and his wife before giving any interviews and statements. We are grateful to all who participated in this miracle.”

Defunct Cambridge Analytica Under Investigation by Justice and CIA

The New York Times is reporting that the FBI and the US Justice Department are investigating the out-of-business political data company Cambridge Analytica. The company was recently implicated in a scandal over how it used the information it mined from Facebook users, bringing into question any ties it may have had with Russian agents engaged in meddling in the US elections.

Prosecutors from the US government have been questioning former employees and banks associated with Cambridge Analytica, said the Times, citing an American official and others familiar with the investigation.

The company already announced its intention to close by the end of this month since it lost many clients and faced growing legal fees as a result of reports that the company had taken personal data about millions of Facebook users without their knowledge, as far back as 2014.

The company is being accused of using the data of about 87 million Facebook users improperly. Cambridge Analytica was hired by the now President Trump’s 2016 election campaign. As a result several investigation were launched in the US and also in Europe.

Shire Selling Oncology Division to French Company Servier for $2.4 billion

Dublin-based Shire pharmaceutical company has come to an agreement with French firm Servier Laboratories to purchase its oncology business for $2.4 billion ((£1.68 billion). The deal comes before a potential takeover bid by Takeda of Japan could be realized.

Shire’s board gave the OK for the agreement, which is expected to be finalized by the second or third quarter this year. The deal does not need approval by shareholders.
The drug-making giant began its search for a buyer for its oncology wing last December, considering potential companies in Europe, the United States and in Japan. The company is considering an option to return the profits from the sale back to investors via a share buyback program when the current offer period expires. During this time Japanese firm Takeda could still launch a bid.

CEO of Shire, Flemming Ornskov said:

“This transaction is a key milestone for Shire, demonstrating the clear value embedded in our portfolio.

“While the oncology business has delivered high growth and profitability, we have concluded that it is not core to Shire’s longer-term strategy.

“We will continue to evaluate our portfolio for opportunities to unlock further value and sharpen our focus on rare disease leadership with selective disposals of non-strategic assets.

“We are confident that Servier will continue to invest in this business and our colleagues who are expected to transfer as part of the transaction in order to meet the needs of cancer patients globally.”

US-Qatar Trade Warming Up After US Mission Visit

In early April, a group of businessmen participated in a US Trade Mission to Qatar, organized by the US-Qatar Business Council. The Council is a US-based non-profit trade organization, and a key player which is improving bilateral understanding, trade and investment between Qatar and the United States.

The mission met for five days. A diverse group of public sector and private sector businesses were represented by executives who spent time meeting with Qatari business leaders and representatives of Qatar government agencies. The goal was to learn about improving US-Qatar business relationships as well as new opportunities for collaboration.

The group met with the Minister of Economy and Commerce; the Finance Ministry; the Qatar Business Chamber; the Development Bank of Qatar, which focuses on fintech and technology in general. They also met with representatives from one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world, Q|A; and the Qatar Foundation, which gives hundreds of millions of dollars to US communities in dire straits, such as New Orleans and cities in Texas that were hit by several natural disasters over a short time.

Included among the delegates were important African American leaders representing real estate development, venture capital interests, private equity and entertainment. The president of the NAACP and CEO Derrick Johnson, and President of Xavier University Dr. C. Reynold Verret participated, as well as people from the National Minority Quality Forum.

“I now have a better understanding of the region and the priorities of the Qatari government and business leaders. I was impressed by their development of Education City, which hosts top U.S. universities including Georgetown, my alma mater, and which graduates more women than men. I was equally impressed by their passion across business growth and on issues around economic inequality — an issue at the heart of what LendUp is looking to solve,” said Sasha Orloff, co-founder and CEO of LendUp, a fintech company which participated in the mission.

“Like the U.S., Qatar has a large workforce population similar to what we call the Emerging Middle Class — the half of Americans without access to traditional financial services,” said Jotaka Eaddy, Vice President of Policy, Strategic Engagement and Impact at LendUp, and a former longtime NAACP executive. “The country’s commitment to new financial technologies and financial inclusion is compelling. I was encouraged by Qatar’s interest in working with business and community leaders in the U.S. focused on bringing impact to financially under served communities, and I look forward to continuing the dialogue and exploring areas of collaboration.”

Amazon Wins Luxembourg Business Award

Photo courtesy
Marco Verch

Mega on-line store Amazon will be the recipient of the coveted Luxembourg-American business award for 2018. The award is given to company’s that are considered to contribute significantly to the European country’s economy.

The award was established in 1999, and every since it has been awarded to manufacturing companies. Amazon is the first service company in the history of the award to be so honored.

Previous winners include Goodyear Rubber & Tire Company, DuPont guardian Industries, Avery Dennison Corporation, and others.

The awards ceremony is scheduled for May 15, 2018 and will take place at the Luxembourg American Chamber of Commerce in New York. Miami University will also be celebrating 50 years of a presence in Luxembourg and will receive an honorary business award for its high standards in its academic, economic and institutional partnerships between Luxembourg and the United States.

It is expected that crown prince Guilaume, crown princess Stéphanie and economy minister Étienne Schneider will be present at the ceremony.