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Judi Lynn

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Member since: 2002
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Witnesses Against Death Row Grandmother Admit they Lied Following Threats from Prosecutors

Monday, February 16, 2015 - 3:30pm

Witnesses Against Death Row Grandmother Admit they Lied Following Threats from Prosecutors

WASHINGTON - Key witnesses against a British grandmother on death row in Texas have said that prosecutors in her 2002 trial threatened or ‘blackmailed’ them into testifying against her.

Among them is the only person who claimed to have seen Linda Carty (56) carry out the murder of Joanna Rodriguez, who has now admitted that Texan District Attorneys (DAs) “threatened me and intimidated me” into identifying Ms Carty as the culprit. Christopher Robinson, who was the key to the prosecution case, admits that he never saw Ms Carty kill anyone and his testimony to this extent at trial was a lie.

Mr Robinson has signed an affidavit, filed in September 2014, in which he testifies that prosecutors “told me I had to testify at Linda’s trial to avoid the death penalty, and they made it clear what it was I had to say.” Mr Robinson adds that they “[told] me I would get the death penalty myself if Linda Carty did not get the death penalty.”

Several other witnesses at Ms Carty’s trial have also admitted they were “blackmailed” by Texan prosecutors, and lied or omitted evidence as a result.


Colombia, Canada and the fake guerrillas

Colombia, Canada and the fake guerrillas

In Colombia, the rebel demobilization was a government PR coup. But the rebel group never existed, and the man behind the scheme has fled to Canada.

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The Cacica Gaitana Front demobilization in 2006, was a PR coup for Colombian peace commissioner
Luis Carlos Restrepo, right. But the rebels were later revealed to be fakes.

By: James Bargent Special to the Star, Published on Mon Feb 16 2015

MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA—In March 2006, 62 fighters from the Cacica Gaitana Front of Colombia’s FARC guerrillas handed in their weapons in the largest rebel demobilization in 50 years of war, and a major publicity coup for the government of then-President Alvaro Uribe. There was just one problem: the Cacica Gaitana Front never existed.

The “demobilization” was initially heralded as proof that the strongman president — who, during his two terms between 2002 and 2010, drove back Colombia’s Marxist insurgencies with a military offensive — could deliver peace as well as war. But what has emerged since is instead a bizarre tale of fake guerrillas, corruption and deceit that has led investigators to the door of Uribe’s high commissioner for peace, Luis Carlos Restrepo.

Nine years on from the events of 2006, and while the government of Uribe’s successor, President Juan Manuel Santos, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are currently edging toward a historic peace agreement, Restrepo has fled Colombia and reportedly been granted political asylum in Canada. Canadian officials wouldn’t confirm or deny this, but an unofficial source with knowledge of these matters confirmed to the Star that he did get asylum.

Doubts about the veracity of the Cacica Gaitana demobilization surfaced almost immediately due to the “guerrillas” clean new uniforms, and the old and broken weapons they turned over to the authorities. However, details about the scam did not emerge until 2011, when radio news channel La FM obtained witness testimonies from an investigation by the attorney general’s office.

According to the witnesses, most of those who took part in the ceremony were not fighters but specially recruited homeless and unemployed people. They claimed the recruits were taken to a month-long training camp, where ex-guerrillas schooled them in weapons handling, marching formations and how to talk, act and even sing like a FARC guerrilla. The fake guerrillas were paid approximately $250 and told they would have access to the benefits Colombia offers demobilizing fighters.


Re-Militarizing Honduras: Obama’s Latin American Legacy

Weekend Edition February 13-15, 2015

Re-Militarizing Honduras

Obama’s Latin American Legacy


Nearly a decade ago, a keen observer of Honduras produced a damning analysis of the country. “In a very real sense, Honduras is a captured state,” he began. “Elite manipulation of the public sector, particularly the weak legal system, has turned it into a tool to protect the powerful,” and “voters choose mainly between the two major entrenched political parties, both beholden to the interests of individuals from the same economic elite.” The situation required a “strategy that will give people the means to influence public policy,” the report concluded.

Its author was James Williard, the U.S. chargé d’affaires in Honduras in 2005. In the following years, Manuel Zelaya, the Honduran president from 2006-2009, formulated a strategy like the one Williard mentioned. The country’s rulers reacted by toppling Zelaya in June 2009, manipulating the feeble legal system to justify his overthrow. Washington feigned outrage, but then recognized the marred November 2009 national election, its 2013 follow-up—and heaped supplies on the military. About “half of all U.S. arms exports for the entire Western Hemisphere” went to Honduras in 2011, Martha Mendoza disclosed, referring to the $1.3 billion in military electronics that “neither the State Department nor the Pentagon” would explain.

Zelaya had planned to conduct a poll the day of the coup, to see whether the public desired a referendum on constitutional reform that November. “Critics said it was part of an illegal attempt by Mr. Zelaya to defy the Constitution’s limit of a single four-year term for the president,” New York Times reporter Elisabeth Malkin wrote immediately after the ouster.

That was the official line. But U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens had a different take. “The fact is we have no hard intelligence suggesting any consideration”—let alone effort—“by Zelaya or any members of his government to usurp democracy and suspend constitutional rule,” he wrote five days before the coup. Zelaya’s “public support” then was somewhere “in the 55 percent range,” with the poll’s as high as 75%. These figures signaled the nightmare. “Zelaya and his allies advocate radical reform of the political system and replacement of ‘representative democracy’ with a ‘participatory’ version modeled on President Correa’s model in Ecuador,” Llorens panicked.

He need not have. Repression crushed the hope of reform, and today’s Honduras recalls its 1980s death-squad heyday. The Constitution Zelaya allegedly violated dates from that era, and “contained perverse elements such as military autonomy from civilian control,” Michelle M. Taylor-Robinson explains, adding that “during the 1980s the military chief negotiated defense policy directly with the U.S. government and then informed the Honduran president of what was decided.”


Oil War in the Americas

Weekend Edition February 13-15, 2015

Sheikhs, Shale, and Socialism

Oil War in the Americas


When Vice President Joe Biden convened the Caribbean Energy Security Summit in Washington on January 26, the Caribbean emerged from its diplomatic slumber as an area of United States’ strategic interest. In light of oil prices that dropped by more than 50 percent from a high watermark of US$115 per barrel in June 2014, the summit of CARICOM members nations was described by Biden as an effort to flag regional dependence on a “single, increasingly unreliable, supplier,” and ensure that “no country should be able to use natural resources as a tool of coercion against any other country.”

The thinly veiled effort to undermine Petrocaribe, the brainchild of the late Venezuelan statesman Hugo Chavez and the marquee regional program of the Bolivarian Republic, demonstrates the uneven geopolitics of cheap oil. Under the terms of Petrocaribe, Caribbean and Central American member states are permitted to purchase Venezuelan oil at preferential rates, with the remaining balance covered by low-interest loans repayable over a period up to 25 years. Cheap oil, often understood as a boon to consumers and net energy importers, poses a decided threat to Petrocaribe and the vulnerable national economies of the Caribbean.

Thus, when President Obama acknowledged the decline in oil prices as one facet of efforts to thwart the Russian economy, it confirmed the suspicions of many that the boom in domestic shale oil and gas production was not merely an avenue of energy independence, but diplomatic warfare. In turn, on the heels of announced sanctions against Venezuelan officials, current President Nicolas Maduro declared the plummeting crude prices a harbinger of “oil war” through which the United States sought to undermine its political adversaries through deliberate manipulation of the market.

With this in mind, a longer view of the Caribbean in the current geopolitical skirmish brings the global stakes of the latest energy crisis into sharper relief. While business analysts diagnose the dip in prices as a standoff between Saudi Arabian crude and American shale oil for global market share, the reentry of the Caribbean into U.S. diplomatic efforts and the burgeoning oil war lends further evidence to cheap oil as an effort to maintain American liberal democracy as a normative condition of world affairs.

Long neglected as an area of American strategic and diplomatic interest since the successful overthrow of Grenada Revolution by Operation Urgent Fury in 1983, the Caribbean has found renewed interest from U.S. officials alongside destabilization efforts in Venezuela that threaten Petrocaribe as an option to satisfy the energy demands of the region and provide momentary relief from international debt. The energy market, in this respect, is far from a neutral force in the international arena. Rather, cheap oil holds the potential to subvert existing circuits of south-south solidarity and, in turn, transform the political geography of the infant 21st Century.


The women suffering for your Valentine's Day flowers

The women suffering for your Valentine's Day flowers

Behind the millions of imported flowers we buy every year is a mostly female workforce subjected to low pay and poor conditions

Oliver Balch
Thursday 12 February 2015 12.51 EST

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Colombia is currently the second largest producer of flowers in the world.
Lydia López González’s day typically starts at 3:30am. That gives the 47-year-old single mother from Facatativá, central Colombia time to make breakfast and lunch for her daughter before leaving for the flower fields at 5am.

“I don’t like leaving her, but what else can I do? Anyway, I’m usually back by 5pm. Many of the other women don’t get home until midnight”, she says.

González is one of tens of thousands of workers in Colombia’s Savanna de Bogotá region working to produce the carnations, roses and other flowers hitting UK shelves this Valentine’s Day. Behind the beautiful bouquets, however, lie worrying reports of poor pay, long hours and other systemic labour abuses.

In recent years, Colombia has emerged as the world’s second largest flower exporter, with plane-loads of freshly-cut flowers leaving for the US, UK, Japan and other markets every day. Exports increased by 4.4% between 2013-2014, according to the Cactus Corporation, a Bogotá-based campaign group, which claims the industry’s US$1.3bn (2012) annual sale revenues are being bought at the cost of workers’ rights.


Venezuelan Guarimbas: 11 Things the Media Didn't Tell You

Venezuelan Guarimbas: 11 Things the Media Didn't Tell You
By Tamara Pearson, Ryan Mallett-Outtrim, teleSUR
Thursday, Feb 12, 2015

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Destroying a Metro Bus station - Photo: Alba Ciudad
At one year since the violence opposition barricades in Venezuela that aimed to bring down the democratically elected government, teleSUR reviews 11 things the media kept secret.

One year ago, three people were killed in unrest in Caracas, sparking international interest in a wave of violence that had gripped Venezuela. Across the country on February 12, 2014, anti-government groups took to the streets to roll out a carefully prepared campaign for “la salida” – “the exit” from the elected government of President Nicolas Maduro. While the international media relied heavily on opposition-aligned private Venezuelan media outlets and anti-government groups for information on the rapidly changing situation, we - Ryan and Tamara - were on the ground everyday watching the unrest evolve, speaking to ordinary Venezuelans and getting the real story from the streets. While the international media described a spontaneous, peaceful protest movement that was quashed by repressive security forces, we saw something completely different. We drew conclusions based on what we could see on the ground, and burned the midnight oil researching our way through the fog of war to get to the tangible truth. Looking back on the unrest a year later, this is what “la salida” really was, what the media doesn't want you to know.

1. Despite constant harassment and attacks, the national guard were peaceful

(Ryan) As the unrest heated up in February, international human rights groups decried what they claimed was mass repression against peaceful protesters. On social media, photographs were proffered as evidence of widespread abuses. Most of the photos later turned out to be lifted from protests elsewhere in the world, such as Egypt, Ukraine and Yemen. While the government has acknowledged numerous cases of misconduct by police and the national guard (GNB) and arrested those allegedly responsible, the majority of security forces that did their jobs well were largely ignored. The hundreds of GNB personnel that spent weeks guarding social missions and media outlets while enduring verbal abuse and physical attacks from guarimberos, or violent barricaders, went largely ignored. This wasn’t an accident, as activist Luigino Bracci explained in February 2014. In an article published online he said he regularly saw guarimberos in Caracas using a time tested tactic of goading GNB troops for hours on end, filming their targets in a “coordinated effort.”

“If the guard makes a mistake and represses someone who is insulting him, in just minutes the video is doing the rounds of Youtube, it will be seen by millions of people and will form part of multimedia material that arrives at international chains such as CNN, NTN24 Caracol and others,” he explained.

Yet these brief snippets aren't representative of the general conduct of the GNB. For example, in the second week of March 2014, El Nacional newspaper and opposition politicians spread a story of how the GNB supposedly repressed a peaceful protest in Lara state's National Poli-technical Experimental University. Luckily for the GNB involved, a local independent journalist filmed the entire confrontation. The video shows the GNB negotiating with guarimberos, before giving them a short workshop on human rights and releasing them.


One Peruvian Woman Is Standing Up To A Gold-Mining Goliath

One Peruvian Woman Is Standing Up To A Gold-Mining Goliath
Posted: 02/12/2015 2:12 pm EST Updated: 44 minutes ago

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Máxima Acuña (in middle) outside a market in Cajamarca in 2014. Acuña is fighting Newmont Mining Corp.,
one of the biggest gold mining companies in the world, for control of land she claims she owns. | Ben Hallman
This story was reported with Roxana Olivera, a Toronto-based investigative journalist living in Peru.

SOROCHUCO, Peru -- On a remote farm deep in the Peruvian Andes, in a region where sheep outnumber people by a comfortable margin, a very small woman is foiling the plans of one of the biggest mining companies in the world.

Máxima Acuña, who stands just over 5 feet tall -- if one includes in the measurement the traditional wide-brimmed hat she almost always wears -- has withstood threats, beatings and legal challenges in her improbable bid to hang on to what she declares is her property: 67 acres of windswept grass framed by rolling hills and several high mountain lakes.

Last week, dozens of private security officers working for Minera Yanacocha, a Peruvian company that is majority owned by Newmont Mining Corp. of Denver, ripped apart the foundation of a new home the family was building as Acuña stood nearby, crying.

The cause of the conflict is the same that has haunted Peru since Spanish conquistadors first landed on its shores 500 years ago. There is gold on Acuña’s land. Or, more accurately, under it: at least 6 million ounces, here and on adjacent property, according to Newmont.


Cuba Is Good for Your Health

Cuba Is Good for Your Health
By davidswanson - Posted on 11 February 2015

"It's behind us," Fernando Gonzales of the Cuban Five said with a smile when I told him just a few moments ago that I was sorry for the U.S. government having locked him in a cage for 15 years. It was nice of the New York Times to editorialize in favor of negotiations to release the remaining three, he said, especially since that paper had never reported on the story at all.

Gonzales said there is no ground for the United States keeping Cuba on its terrorist list. That there are Basques in Cuba is through an agreement with Spain, he said. The idea that Cuba is fighting wars in Central America is false, he added, noting that Colombian peace talks are underway here in Havana. "The President of the United States knows this," Gonzales said, "which is why he asked for the list to be reviewed."

Medea Benjamin recalled coming to Cuba back in an age when the United States was apparently trying to kill not only Cubans but also tourists who dared to come to Cuba. This, she said, is what the Cuban Five were trying to stop. So we're glad, she told Gonzales, that we can come here now without worrying about Obama putting a bomb in the lobby. A crazy worry? It wasn't always.

Earlier today we visited the Latin American School of Medicine, which is now misnamed as it educates doctors from all over the world, not just Latin America. It began in 1998 by converting a former navy school into a medical school at which to give free education to students from Central America. From 2005 to 2014, the school has seen 24,486 students graduate.

Their education is totally free and begins with a 20-week course in the Spanish language. This is a world-standard medical school surrounded by palm trees and sports fields on the very edge of the Caribbean, and students who are qualified for pre-med school -- which means two years of U.S. college -- can come here and become doctors without paying a dime, and without going hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt. The students do not then have to practice medicine in Cuba or do anything for Cuba, but rather are expected to return to their own countries and practice medicine where it is most needed.

Thus far 112 U.S. students have graduated, and 99 are currently enrolled. Some of them went with an aid "brigade" to Haiti. All of them, after graduating, have passed their U.S. exams back home. I spoke with Olive Albanese, a medical student from Madison, Wisconsin. I asked what she would do upon graduation. "We have a moral obligation," she replied, "to work where it's most needed." She said she would go to a rural or Native American area that has no doctors and work there. She said that the U.S. government should be offering this same service to anyone who wants it, and that people who graduate with student debt will not serve those most in need.


Over 900 greyhounds have been killed at the 21 remaining greyhound race tracks since 2008

Tue Feb 10, 2015 at 02:04 PM PST.

Over 900 greyhounds have been killed at the 21 remaining greyhound race tracks since 2008

Walter Einenkel

A truly disturbing story via Al Jazeera America:

More than 900 racing greyhounds have died and more than 11,000 have been injured on the track since 2008, according to what is billed as the first-ever national report on greyhound racing.

The humane groups Grey2K USA and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) compiled the 80-page report, and are mailing it to lawmakers in an effort to pass greyhound protection legislation and bring an end to the sport, which remains legal and operational in seven states.

Those seven states are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Texas and West Virginia.

Citing more than 600 sources, including state racing commission reports and records, veterinary journal articles, necropsy reports, National Greyhound Association documents, books and newspaper stories, the national report on greyhounds said at least 909 greyhound deaths have been documented. In Florida, a racing greyhound dies every three days, according to state records.

The report also documented 11,722 greyhound injuries, including fractured skulls, broken necks and electrocutions, and 27 cases of animal cruelty, including dogs starved to death and denied veterinary care.


The Revolutionary Gospel:The Martydom of Archbishop Oscar Romero

February 10, 2015
The Revolutionary Gospel

The Martydom of Archbishop Oscar Romero


Nowadays an authentic Christian conversion must lead to an unmasking of the social mechanisms that turn the worker and the peasant into marginalized persons. Why do the rural poor become part of society only in the coffee-and-cotton-picking seasons?”

—– Archbishop Oscar Romero

“In concrete terms capitalism is in fact what is most unjust and unchristian about our own society.”

—–Archbishop Oscar Romero

The dammed blood burst, a scarlet torrent cascaded through his skull, down into his mouth, then gushed onto his purple-and-white vestments as he slumped to the floor at the foot of the large crucifix behind the altar. Opening his arms to offer the Eucharist, Archbishop Oscar Romero was shot in the heart, the most forgiving heart in San Salvador. The unforgiving bullet scattered fragments through his chest, triggering massive internal hemorrhage.

While friends dashed to his side and flipped him on his back, the killer, escorted to the mass by two police patrols, escaped into the street. Then a photographer shot Romero again with flashes.

Unconscious, gasping, lifeblood ebbing away, Romero was carried from the chapel to a small truck and driven to the hospital, where he was laid out on a table in the emergency room. A nurse probed for a vein in his arm, but all had collapsed.

He strangled to death in his own blood.

Stunned by the news blaring from every radio, Salvadoreans poured into the streets as twilight fell. Sadly chimed the church bells of the Cathedral of San Martin, quickly followed by those of Palmar and San Francisco. In Santa Ana all the bells rang in unison, while back in San Salvador enormous crowds wandered the streets aimlessly, staring in disbelief.

Mourners swarmed into the capital for days, standing in line for hours to catch a glimpse of the man whose belief in their humanity cost him his life. Dozens of foreign bishops and church dignitaries flew in to pay their last respects.

Six days after the assassination, one hundred thousand people jammed the cathedral square for the funeral. A sudden burst of machine-gun fire from the second floor of the National Palace interrupted the proceedings. Bullets ripped into the grieving crowd, killing forty people. The Salvadorean government issued a press release denying troops were in the area.

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