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Judi Lynn

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Member since: 2002
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America’s war to start all wars: How the invasion of Panama birthed the quagmire in Iraq

Saturday, Dec 27, 2014 02:00 PM CST

America’s war to start all wars: How the invasion of Panama birthed the quagmire in Iraq

Twenty-five years ago this month, George H.W. Bush gave the U.S. a model for unilateral, preemptory "regime change"
Greg Grandin, TomDispatch.com

As we end another year of endless war in Washington, it might be the perfect time to reflect on the War That Started All Wars — or at least the war that started all of Washington’s post-Cold War wars: the invasion of Panama.

Twenty-five years ago this month, early on the morning of December 20, 1989, President George H.W. Bush launched Operation Just Cause, sending tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of aircraft into Panama to execute a warrant of arrest against its leader, Manuel Noriega, on charges of drug trafficking. Those troops quickly secured all important strategic installations, including the main airport in Panama City, various military bases, and ports. Noriega went into hiding before surrendering on January 3rd and was then officially extradited to the United States to stand trial. Soon after, most of the U.S. invaders withdrew from the country.

In and out. Fast and simple. An entrance plan and an exit strategy all wrapped in one. And it worked, making Operation Just Cause one of the most successful military actions in U.S. history. At least in tactical terms.

There were casualties. More than 20 U.S. soldiers were killed and 300-500 Panamanian combatants died as well. Disagreement exists over how many civilians perished. Washington claimed that few died. In the “low hundreds,” the Pentagon’s Southern Command said. But others charged that U.S. officials didn’t bother to count the dead in El Chorrillo, a poor Panama Citybarrio that U.S. planes indiscriminately bombed because it was thought to be a bastion of support for Noriega. Grassroots human-rights organizations claimed thousands of civilians were killed and tens of thousands displaced.


Spense Havlick: Guatemala, the ripples of poverty

Spense Havlick: Guatemala, the ripples of poverty

By Spense Havlick
Posted: 12/27/2014 06:18:24 PM MST | Updated: 119 min. ago

Have you ever wondered why people from Guatemala and other Central American countries try to find a better life in the United States? Recently I found part of the answer and it is heart-breaking.

About a dozen service workers from Boulder (sponsored by Kansas City-based Transformational Journeys) were tasked with building fuel-efficient stoves for poverty-stricken Mayan families that pick coffee as their main livelihood. The stoves are made from concrete blocks, scored and chiseled with machetes. A concrete pipe takes the smoke from a small, efficient firebox through the roof out of the home.

Typical rural dwellings in the Guatemalan highlands consist of one room with a three-stone fire on a dirt floor. A sheet of metal is placed on the stones to heat water and cook tortillas. The smoke fills the room and coats the walls and ceiling with black creosote. Damage to eyes and lungs from the constant smoke has serious health impacts.

In the last two years a fungus or botanical rust has destroyed up to forty percent of the coffee harvest in this region that has coffee as a singular crop. This has an economic impact on families who are no longer able to afford sending their children to school. Chronic poverty due to crop failure, lack of education and inadequate housing help to motivate people from Guatemala and other Central American countries to try to enter the United States.


US-Cuba relations: Pope Francis proves his mettle in international diplomacy

US-Cuba relations: Pope Francis proves his mettle in international diplomacy
By Shobhan Saxena, ET Bureau | 28 Dec, 2014, 05.46AM IST

SAO PAULO: In the afterglow of the Cuban revolution, so goes the joke, Che Guevara once asked Fidel Castro: "Do you think the Americans will ever lift their embargo against us?" Staring at somewhere in distance, Castro said: "Forget it, Che. The chances of the sanctions ending are as good as a black man becoming American president or an Argentine going to the Vatican as Pope."

This week, as the US and Cuba sealed a deal that may end the trade boycott of the Communist country, this old joke went viral on social media across Latin America. It would have remained a joke, had the Argentine seer not mandated three top Vatican officials to push for a breakthrough after his meeting with Barack Obama in March.


He may be new to international diplomacy, but Pope Francis is an old Cuban hand. In 1998, after Bergoglio accompanied Pope John Paul II on his historic visit to Havana, he wrote a book called Dialogues between John Paul II and Fidel Castro. In the book, he explained how John Paul sought more space for the church and Castro kept talking about the similarities between Marxism and Christianity. "But they both had to listen to each other," he wrote, emphasising on the "importance of dialogue".

Coming from South America, the 78-year-old Jesuit has been a witness to dictatorships, their dirty wars against their own people. At the height of the Cold War, almost all South American countries — from Argentina to Brazil to Chile — were in the grip of US-backed army rulers who didn't even spare the church, especially the leftist priests, for standing up for the people.


Another Torture Report and Still No Prosecutions

Weekend Edition December 26-28, 2014

When Crimes of State Go Unpunished

Another Torture Report and Still No Prosecutions


It’s common knowledge that torture never produces good information. No one needed the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the Cheney torture program to learn that lesson. The revulsion and outrage caused by torture is so universal that the community of nations has adopted the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war.

But Messrs. Cheney and Bush didn’t institute torture to garner information. They did it because the publicized use of torture weakens political opposition. Torture instills such terror and fear in the populace that its use works to keep large numbers of potential government critics quiet, scared, and too intimidated to risk acting or even speaking out against the state. So Cheney is deceptively correct in claiming his torturing “worked” in that even Obama is too afraid to appoint a Special Prosecutor.

The Senate’s torture report has raised awareness of the grisly crimes committed by the Bush/Cheney Administration, and the CIA can’t escape looking like a gang of coldblooded psychopaths. But it is only the latest of dozens of studies, reports and books on the U.S. torture program. It adds little to the 560-page report of 2013 by the bi-partisan Constitution Project, titled “Detainee Treatment.” That study found that U.S. military and CIA abuse of prisoners “violate[s] U.S. laws and international treaties” and that the “information” extracted under torture was useless, unreliable and insignificant.

Ten years ago a report by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba revealed the illegal abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and documented “numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses … inflicted on several detainees” by the 800th Military Police Brigade. Gen. Taguba reported: the rape of a female prisoner by a male MP; the use of military dogs without muzzles to terrorize detainees and, at least once, to bite and severely injure a prisoner; the breaking of chemical lights and pouring of the phosphoric liquid on prisoners; death threats against detainees with loaded pistols; beating of prisoners with a broom handle and a chair; threats of rape; and the anal rape of a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick.


Spanish Government Strips Away Protesting Rights

Spanish Government Strips Away Protesting Rights
Tuesday, 23 December 2014 10:39
By Kevin Mathews, Care2 | Report

What’s a government to do when the people take to the street to protest the way the country is being run? A sensible government would change policies to appease the people it is committed to serving. Alternately, a government could take Spain’s current approach, which is to start fining and arresting people for protesting in the first place. Yes, that will solve the problem!

Spain is showing signs of fascism with its new anti-protest legislation nicknamed the “Gag Law.” This past week, Spain’s lower parliament okayed the law, pushing it much closer to reality. Among the restrictions cemented by the law, punishable by a $700-37,000 fine:

•Holding a protest without obtaining a permit from the government first.
•Protesting the day before an election.
•Insulting a police officer.
•Burning a flag.
•Photographing/filming police officers and sharing said photos/videos.
•Protesting at a bank.
•Blocking a home foreclosure
•Assembling near a legislative building
•Wearing hoods or masks, as they prevent authorities from identifying you.

That’s not all. Even peaceful protests can be shut down if police fear that the protest could at some point “turn disorderly”ť (left to the police’s discretion, obviously.) Oh, and don’t even think about appealing these fines in court. People who appeal these fines will be made to pay the court costs.


Behind Obama's Change of Cuba Policy

Behind Obama's Change of Cuba Policy
Friday, 26 December 2014 13:33
By Jack A. Smith, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

"The United States seems destined to plague us with miseries in the name of liberty."-Simon Bolivar, the Liberator of Latin America

"Once the United States is in Cuba, who will get it out?"-José Martí, Cuban national hero.

Fair minded people and governments around the world have praised the US decision to finally ease up on Cuba after 55 years of unmitigated hostility. The final agreement, which included a prisoner swap, was hammered out in nine meetings over 18 months of secret talks in Canada between representatives of Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro, with the Vatican acting as intermediary.

But what is the true meaning of President Obama's historic announcement Dec. 17 about establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba and eliminating some — though hardly all — the diverse punishments imposed upon this small socialist society a stone's throw away from the vengeful Yankee Colossus?

It means that efforts to destroy the communist government of Cuba — from a CIA invasion to the imposition of seemingly endless draconian economic and political sanctions — have failed. In this David-Goliath contest, David was seriously wounded, but won. However, there is a second round to this competition that will likewise test David's powers.

Obama's policy change does not signify Washington accepts the existence of socialist or communist governments in Latin America and the Caribbean. They remain forbidden in the hemisphere presided over by the world's richest and most militarily powerful capitalist state. Washington's continual effort to undermine Venezuela's momentum toward socialism is one more evidence of this fact.


Honduran militarization breaks peace agreements

Honduran militarization breaks peace agreements
By Staff Writers, teleSUR
Friday, Dec 26, 2014

From January 2015, Honduras will have an active military general as security minister, breaking the historical regional peace agreement that security and intelligence would always be carried out by civil authorities in order to avoid the abuses of the military dictatorships of the past.

In August 1897, Central American countries signed an agreement called Esquipulas 2. It was the beginning of the peaceful resolution of several armed conflicts in the region. One of the main aims was to prevent the return of military dictatorships, by separating defense and security responsibilities and powers.

The announcement that general Julian Pacheco will be the Honduran security minister will put an end to more than twenty years of civilian security control.

In 2012, Honduras begun a process that gave the armed forces police duties. Several police officers had been accused of corruption, while crime has seen Honduras become one of the world´s most dangerous countries. Violence was a direct consequence of impunity, and less than 5 percent of crime is investigated due to a precarious justice system.

On June 28, 2009, the military took President Manuel Zelaya forcibly out of power and sent him out of the country. Then the armed forces gave control to the National Congress in order to avoid been categorized as a military coup. Two years later, the Truth Commission created to reveal the details of the coup affirmed that it was indeed a coup and the military were directly responsible.


Rene Gonzalez, First Freed Member of Cuban Five, Speaks Out From Havana

Rene Gonzalez, First Freed Member of Cuban Five, Speaks Out From Havana
Friday, 26 December 2014 12:04
By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! | Video Interview


Earlier this month the United States released the remaining members of the Cuban Five — Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labańino — as part of a deal to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba. We rebroadcast a 2013 interview with the first freed member of the Cuban Five, René González. The five Cuban intelligence agents were arrested in the United States in 1998 and convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage. They say they were not spying on the United States, but rather trying to monitor violent right-wing Cuban exile groups responsible for attacks inside Cuba.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report_. I’m Amy Goodman, as we turn now to René González, the first freed member of the Cuban Five. The last three were released earlier this month as part of a deal with the United States and Cuba in beginning normalizing relations. René González was released in October 2011 after being jailed in the United States for 13 years. In October of 20135, just over a year ago, I spoke to René González in Havana via Democracy Now! video stream. I began by asking him why he came to the United States to investigate militant Cuban exile groups.

RENÉ GONZÁLEZ: Well, for my generation Cubans, it was part of our development or common experience to have seen people coming from Miami raiding our shores, shooting at hotels, killing people here in Cuba, blowing up airplanes. So, we were really familiar with the terrorist activities that the Cuban people had been suffering for almost four years back then. So it wasn’t hard for me to accept the mission of going there and monitor the activities of some of those people, who had been trained by the CIA in the '60s. Some of them had participated in Bay of Pigs. Some of them had gone then—after that, had gone to South America as part of the Operation Condor. And if you look at the history of those people, you can see their link to the worst actions of the U.S. government, be they Iran-Contras—even the Kennedy assassination plot was linked to them. So, it wasn't hard for me to accept the mission and to go there to protect the Cuban people’s lives, and that’s what I did.

AMY GOODMAN: What were some of the groups that you and your colleagues came to infiltrate? What were their names, and what specifically did you know they were doing in Miami?

RENÉ GONZÁLEZ: Well, if we are talking about that, we should start by Luis Posada Carriles, who’s still in Miami. He’s living there under the protection of the U.S. government. Posada Carriles has a long story of terrorism against not only Cuba, but also even in the United States. He was responsible for the blowing up of the Cubana airliner in 1976 in Venezuela. And later on, when we were in Miami, he was also organizing the bombs which were placed on the hotels in Havana. But it’s not only him. I mean, he doesn’t work alone. The sad part is that he was being paid for by the Cuban American National Foundation, which is a legal organization linked to the Washington establishment, an organization which has a lobby in Washington, which has paid for the election campaigns of guys like Ileana Ros or Lincoln Diaz-Balart. And those people were paying these terrorists—that terrorist to put bombs in Havana in 1997. So that’s an example of the whole scheme that we were facing there.

And, of course, there were some other people, like José Basulto, who founded Brothers to the Rescue, but before that he had a long history of terrorism against Cuba. We had Orlando Bosch, who together with Luis Posada Carriles, was involved in the plot in Venezuela to blow up the Cubana airliner. And we have, for example, the Novo Sampoll brothers, who were linked to the assassination of Orlando Letelier in Washington with a car bomb. So the list is long, but those are the—those were the people we were watching on, and that was our mission there.


Cuba signals that extradition of US fugitives off the table

Cuba signals that extradition of US fugitives off the table

Says there are some people living in Cuba to whom it has legitimately granted political asylum
Published: 12:37 December 25, 2014

HAVANA: Cuba’s point person on US relations says anything is up for discussion as the two countries move to re-establish diplomatic ties, from anti-drug cooperation to joint environmental agreements.

But there’s at least one area where Cuba appears unwilling to budge: Asylum for fugitives whom the US has long sought to extradite from the communist-run country.

“Every nation has sovereign and legitimate rights to grant political asylum to people it considers to have been persecuted,” the Cuban Foreign Ministry’s head of North American affairs, Josefina Vidal, told AP.

“We’ve explained to the US government in the past that there are some people living in Cuba to whom Cuba has legitimately granted political asylum,” Vidal said, noting also that the two countries have no extradition treaty in effect.


Belize's Famous 'Blue Hole' Reveals Clues to the Maya's Demise

Belize's Famous 'Blue Hole' Reveals Clues to the Maya's Demise

by Tia Ghose, Staff Writer | December 24, 2014 11:03am ET

SAN FRANCISCO — The ancient Mayan civilization collapsed due to a century-long drought, new research suggests.

Minerals taken from Belize's famous underwater cave, known as the Blue Hole, as well as lagoons nearby, show that an extreme drought occurred between A.D. 800 and A.D. 900, right when the Mayan civilization disintegrated. After the rains returned, the Mayans moved north — but they disappeared again a few centuries later, and that disappearance occurred at the same time as another dry spell, the sediments reveal. [In Photos: Stunning Sinkholes]

Although the findings aren't the first to tie a drought to the Mayan culture's demise, the new results strengthen the case that dry periods were indeed the culprit. That's because the data come from several spots in a region central to the Mayan heartland, said study co-author André Droxler, an Earth scientist at Rice University.

- video -

Rise and decline

From A.D. 300 to A.D. 700, the Mayan civilization flourished in the Yucatan peninsula. These ancient Mesoamericans built stunning pyramids, mastered astronomy, and developed both a hieroglyphic writing system and a calendar system, which is famous for allegedly predicting that the world would end in 2012.

But in the centuries after A.D. 700, the civilization's building activities slowed and the culture descended into warfare and anarchy. Historians have speculatively linked that decline with everything from the ancient society's fear of malevolent spirits to deforestation completed to make way for cropland to the loss of favored foods, such as the Tikal deer.

The evidence for a drought has been growing in recent years: Since at least 1995, scientists have been looking more closely at the effects of drought. A 2012 study in the journal Science analyzed a 2,000-year-old stalagmite from a cave in southern Belize and found that sharp decreases in rainfall coincided with periods of decline in the culture. But that data came from just one cave, which meant it was difficult to make predictions for the area as a whole, Droxler said.

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