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Judi Lynn

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Member since: 2002
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Colombia: Prospering economy overshadows thousands of political prisoners

Colombia: Prospering economy overshadows thousands of political prisoners
Posted Jul 8, 2014, 2:36 pm

Hannah Matthews

Colombia, once a byword for crime, violence and instability, is opening its doors to foreign investment, tourism and an influx of international attention.

Recently re-elected president Juan Manuel Santos' has a strong record of growing Colombia's economy by engaging with new trading partners and signing agreements. Last month, following through on campaign promises to continue the upward trajectory and push for a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the president signed a trade agreement with the European Union.

The move was applauded and the country heralded as a strong emerging market with many major international companies setting up offices in what they call the up-and-coming business capital of Latin America. Colombia has already seen an influx of $622.5 million — the largest inflow into an emerging market-economy this year.

A group of leading Colombian businessmen including heads of major banks, architects and several members of the financial sector openly expressed their support of the re-elected president in a letter stating, "Your government is responsible for unprecedented economic results, including a rise in employment, a rise in foreign investment and excellent international relations."

But behind the veneer of a quickly modernizing country, a hidden world of gross human rights violations continues to exist with at least 4,000 alleged political prisoners – though some estimates are as high as 9,500 — currently incarcerated in prisons across Colombia, with little to no media attention at the local or international levels.

Political prisoners are civilians jailed for their political beliefs and their democratic opposition to the policies of the Colombian government, and include numerous trade unionists, students and community leaders, human rights activists, indigenous people, academics and other activists and campaigners.


Who Shot Argentina?

Who Shot Argentina?

The Supreme Court's refusal to hear a case about Argentina's debt is a big deal for international finance.

By Mark Weisbrot
June 24, 2014 | 2:45 p.m. EDT

When Cristina Kirchner first ran for president of Argentina in 2007, she had a campaign commercial with adorable young children answering the question, “What is the IMF (International Monetary Fund)?” They offered cute little ridiculous answers like “The IMF is a place where there are many animals,” and the punch line from the narrator was: “We have succeeded in making it so that your children and grandchildren won’t know what the IMF is.”

To this day, there is no love lost between the IMF and Argentina, since the fund presided over Argentina’s terrible economic collapse of 1998-2002, as well as numerous failed policies in the years prior. But when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in favor of vulture funds trying to collect the full value of Argentine debt that they had bought for 20 cents on the dollar, even the IMF was against the decision.

So it surprised many observers last Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to even review the appellate court’s ruling. The court only needs four justices to grant a petition for “certiorari,” or review, and this was an extremely important case. Most experts agree that it has serious implications for the international financial system. Perhaps most importantly, the appellate court ruled that Argentina must pay the vulture funds if it is going to pay the more than 90 percent of bondholders who accepted a restructuring agreement in 2005 and 2010.

What does this mean? In the midst of a deep recession and unable to finance huge debt payments, Argentina defaulted on its debt at the end of 2001. The default was the right move; the Argentine economy began a robust recovery just three months later. But it was not until 2005 that 76 percent of the bondholders agreed to accept a restructuring that included a “haircut” of about two-thirds of the value of their bonds. By 2010, more than 90 percent of the bondholders had joined, accepting new bonds in place of the defaulted ones.


Another winner from your author, Boris Muñoz:

Newsweek Takes a Page from the Weekly World News in Venezuela Commentary
Written by Dan Beeton
Thursday, 04 October 2012 15:03

Newsweek has a commentary piece this week by Venezuelan journalist Boris Muñoz which cites anonymous sources as suggesting that Hugo Chávez’s cancer is but a cleverly designed conspiracy meant to distract Venezuelans from the country’s problems:

As someone very close to Chávez told me (anonymously as he feared falling out of favor with the supreme commander), it was a welcome distraction from the wear and tear of years of failed policies. Chávez “has drawn attention away from the big problems of his administration such as its incompetence, corruption, and bureaucracy, and the nation’s criminal violence,” the source said. “He has created this dramatic scenario to ... seduce the masses because he knows that, terminally ill or not, this is his last chance.”

Indeed, even some members of his inner circle suspect that Chávez’s long battle with cancer is really an elaborate charade masterfully orchestrated in complicity with the government of Havana— and one that might win him yet another term, perpetuating his presidency for another six years.

Never mind for a minute the idea that someone “very close to Chávez” describes his administration as “incompetent” and “corrupt” – “members of his inner circle” suggest Chávez never had cancer at all! With the help of those ingenious Cubans, he successfully duped the Venezuelan people – and so many naïve journalists, including Dan Rather – into believing he was in a life and death struggle against illness, even appearing take on a more plaid complexion, and have his hair fall out! In publishing this article, Newsweek has moved into Weekly World News territory, ala stories such as “Dick Cheney is a Robot” or the harder to believe “Hillary Clinton Adopts Alien Baby.”


Clearly, once you start including bizarre trash propaganda, it takes all kinds.

The Fifth Anniversary of the Bagua Massacre in Alternative Media and Art

The Fifth Anniversary of the Bagua Massacre in Alternative Media and Art
Constanza Ontaneda
NACLA-CLACS Student Blog
July 2, 2014

June 5 marked five years since the bloodshed in Bagua, in the Amazon of Peru. Five years ago, indigenous groups such as the Awajun and Wampis staged numerous protests after the Peruvian government negotiated a Free Trade Agreement with the United States that gave mining corporations special rights to access the Amazon for oil. Then-President Alan García declared a state of emergency and sent in the Peruvian National Police to stop the protests. At least 33 people were killed, including members of both the police and indigenous groups. Although some politicians resigned their posts, like the Prime Minister Yehude Simon, no politicians have been prosecuted for being the intellectual executors of the crime.

Many Peruvians now view both the police and the Awajun and Wampis peoples as victims of a game in which the players cared and continue to care much more for the benefit of transnationals and their own pockets than the lives of “second class citizens,” as Alan García defined them.

This year on June 7, different organizations and the general public gathered at the Plaza San Martín in the evening to execute an asalto cultural, or cultural assault. Street art and paintings featured the faces of indigenous protestors and politicians seen as perpetrators of these crimes, highlighting the bond between human rights activists and artists. While witnessing this colorful and charged event, I had a conversation with William Soberón, an investigative journalist who travelled to Bagua right after the events to carry out a 21-day investigation. Soberón quoted Noam Chomsky when he spoke to me emphatically about the importance of alternative media in grassroots organizing, such as these cultural assaults, in breaking the cerco mediático, or mediatic fence, put up by powerful media corporations through the use of such outlets as Facebook, YouTube, blogs, and AM radio programs.

As we walked through the filled Plaza, Soberón and I began talking about television and the popular media that manipulate people into a state of ignorant numbness. He mentioned meeting young people who are disoriented, who want information. “Here is where they find it, in the alternative media.”


The U.S. Re-militarization of Central America and Mexico

The U.S. Re-militarization of Central America and Mexico
Jul 3 2014
Alexander Main

During his brief visit to Costa Rica in May 2013, President Obama appeared eager to downplay the U.S. regional security agenda, emphasizing instead trade relations, energy cooperation, and youth programs. “So much of the focus ends up being on security,” he complained during a joint press conference with his Costa Rican counterpart Laura Chinchilla. “But we also have to recognize that problems like narco-trafficking arise in part when a country is vulnerable because of poverty, because of institutions that are not working for the people, because young people don’t see a brighter future ahead.” Asked by a journalist about the potential use of U.S. warships to counter drug-trafficking, Obama was adamant: “I’m not interested in militarizing the struggle against drug trafficking.”

Human rights organizations from Central America, Mexico, and the United States see the administration’s regional security policy very differently. In a letter sent to Obama and the region’s other presidents last year, over 145 civil society organizations called out U.S. policies that “promote militarization to address organized crime.” These policies, the letter states, have only resulted in a “dramatic surge in violent crime, often reportedly perpetrated by security forces themselves. Human rights abuses against our families and communities are, in many cases, directly attributable to failed and counterproductive security policies that have militarized our societies in the name of the ‘war on drugs.’”

The latest round in the ramping up of U.S. security assistance to Mexico and Central America began during President George W. Bush’s second term in office. Funding allocated to the region’s police and military forces climbed steadily upward to levels unseen since the U.S.-backed “dirty wars” of the 1980s. As narco-trafficking operations shifted increasingly from the Caribbean to the Central American corridor, the United States worked with regional governments to stage a heavily militarized war on drugs in an area that had yet to fully recover from nearly two decades of war.

In 2008 the Bush Administration launched the Mérida Initiative, a cooperation agreement that provides training, equipment, and intelligence to Mexican and Central American security forces. A key model for these agreements is Plan Colombia, an $8 billion program launched in 1999 that saw the mass deployment of military troops and militarized police forces to both interdict illegal drugs and counter left-wing guerrilla groups. Plan Colombia is frequently touted as a glowing success by U.S. officials who point to statistics indicating that drug production and violence has dropped while rebel groups’ size and territorial reach have significantly receded. Human rights groups, however, have documented the program’s widespread “collateral damage,” which includes the forced displacement of an estimated 5.7 million Colombians, thousands of extrajudicial killings, and continued attacks and killings targeting community activists, labor leaders, and journalists.


The New York Times Dishes More Ukraine Propaganda

The New York Times Dishes More Ukraine Propaganda
Monday, 07 July 2014 10:41
By Robert Parry, Consortium News | Report

As you read or watch the mainstream U.S. media’s accounts of the Ukrainian government’s military offensive against ethnic Russians in East Ukraine, it’s worth remembering that these MSM outlets have been feeding Americans a highly biased narrative of the crisis non-stop from the beginning.

For instance, New York Times correspondent David M. Herszenhorn included in a largely celebratory account of the Ukrainian blitzkrieg that overwhelmed ethnic Russian positions in the town of Slovyansk on Saturday this summary of the conflict’s background:

“The separatist rebellion is the latest, bloodiest chapter in a crisis that began in November after Viktor F. Yanukovych, then Ukraine’s president, rejected a trade accord he had promised to sign with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia. Protesters took to the streets of Kiev, eventually driving Mr. Yanukovych from office. Within a week, Russia invaded Crimea, then annexed the peninsula.”

Herszenhorn, like nearly all his MSM colleagues, simply can’t find it within himself to display the journalistic integrity needed to present an evenhanded and unbiased explication of how this crisis unfolded. Instead, it’s all about blaming Ukraine’s elected President Yanukovych and Russian President Vladimir Putin for everything.


Unite, Britain’s largest union, Supports Maduro & Venezuela

Unite, Britain’s largest union, Supports Maduro & Venezuela
By Venezuela Solidarity Campaign
Source: Venezuelanalysis.com
July 7, 2014

Unite the Union, the largest union in Britain and Europe, this week unanimously passed a motion to support the government of President Nicolas Maduro and re-affirming their support for the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign. The motion was presented during Unite’s Annual Conference, which this year was held in Liverpool. The text of the motion and notes of the two speeches proposing and seconding the motion can be found in full below.

Commenting on moves towards US sanctions on Venezuela in recent weeks, the mover of the motion explained that, “One can only conclude that some in the US share the Venezuela opposition’s aim to oust the Maduro government,” adding that whilst “perhaps that’s not surprising as Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world… it should not be tolerated” and that “Venezuelans have the right to choose their own government free from outside interference.”

Additionally, its seconder added that, “Venezuela does however, have many friends, especially ourselves in the trade union movement, and we can be confident that in the future our solidarity can help our Venezuelan comrades build further on our advances in workers’ rights and social inclusion.”

The motion “expresses its full support for the PSUV government of Nicolás Maduro and the CBST trade union confederation in the struggle against the extreme right wing attempting a new coup d’état in Venezuela” and adds, ” The spectre of coup d’état is a clear and present threat to much of progressive Latin America.”

A fringe meeting on Cuba and Venezuela was also held as part of the conference, with the participation of Esther Armenteros, Cuban Ambassador in London, Álvaro Sánchez, Venezuela’s Charge d’affaires, who thanked Unite for their “tremendous support” for Venezuela and the VSC< Bernie Wentworth of Thompson’s solicitors and Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite the Union. Opening and chairing the fringe Unite Assistant General Secretary Steve Turner noted the need to rebut media myths and representations of Venezuela, and oppose proposed US sanctions.


‘Cuban TV Airplane’ Report Reveals $36M US Boondoggle

Source: ABC News

‘Cuban TV Airplane’ Report Reveals $36M US Boondoggle
Jul 7, 2014 8:06pm
By Ali Weinberg

Remember “Cuban Twitter,” the ill-fated US test program that would have tried to get Cubans to text each other with subversive anti-government messages?

Well, then this is “Cuban Television Airplane” – except it was an actual US-funded project, and existed for almost a decade, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, before it was quietly canned in April 2014, a State Department Office of Inspector General report revealed today.

Called Aero Martí and purchased in 2006, the program included a single 1960s turboprop plane that tried to transmit US government broadcast signals to Cuba – except for the fact that the Cuban government easily jammed its signal every day so it never really worked.

For several years, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees all US government media abroad (VOA, Radio Free Europe), called for Congress to end the program but vocal anti-Cuba members of Congress refused to cut funding.

Then the plane became the victim of budget sequestration, so it was grounded in 2013 but its storage and maintenance was still paid for, to the tune of $79,524 per year – “just enough money to do nothing,” the Washington Post wrote last year.

Read more: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/07/cuban-tv-airplane-report-reveals-36m-us-boondoggle/

More Colombians trafficked for forced labour than sex work -report

More Colombians trafficked for forced labour than sex work -report
Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Mon, 7 Jul 2014 16:36 GMT
Author: Anastasia Moloney

BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When Colombian Jhon Freddy got a job in Argentina as a manager with a multinational company earning $7,000 a month, he thought it was a dream come true.

But his dream soon turned into a nightmare. After applying for the job online, Freddy, a computer engineer, was flown to Buenos Aires where he was exploited by a trafficking ring, Colombia's El Tiempo newspaper reported.

For more than a year, Freddy was forced to work 16-hour days with no pay, picking grapes, looking after animals and doing menial chores on a vineyard near the Argentinian capital. He was also forbidden from contacting his family, the report said.

Freddy, who was rescued by the Argentinian authorities last year, is one of a growing number of Colombians trapped in slavery in countries across Latin America, most notably Argentina, Ecuador and Paraguay, El Tiempo said.


Mysterious Earthen Rings Predate Amazon Rainforest

Mysterious Earthen Rings Predate Amazon Rainforest

Jul 7, 2014 05:00 PM ET // by Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience

[font size=1]
Shown here, a ring ditch next to Laguna Granja in the Amazon of northeastern Bolivia.
Heiko Prumers [/font]

A series of square, straight and ringlike ditches scattered throughout the Bolivian and Brazilian Amazon were there before the rainforest existed, a new study finds.

These human-made structures remain a mystery: They may have been used for defense, drainage, or perhaps ceremonial or religious reasons. But the new research addresses another burning question: whether and how much prehistoric people altered the landscape in the Amazon before the arrival of Europeans.

"People have been affecting the global climate system through land use for not just the past 200 to 300 years, but for thousands of years," said study author John Francis Carson, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. (See Images of the Ancient Amazonian Earthworks)

For many years, archaeologists thought that the indigenous people who lived in the Amazon before Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas in 1492 moved across the area while making barely a dent in the landscape. Since the 1980s, however, deforestation has revealed massive earthworks in the form of ditches up to 16 feet (5 meters) deep, and often just as wide.

These discoveries have caused a controversy between those who believe Amazonians were still mostly gentle on the landscape, altering very little of the rainforest, and those who believe these pre-Columbian people conducted major slash-and-burn operations, which were later swallowed by the forest after the European invasion caused the population to collapse.

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