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Judi Lynn

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Member since: 2002
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Chilean astronomical site becomes world’s first international dark sky sanctuary

Chilean astronomical site becomes world’s first international dark sky sanctuary
Posted on 12 August 2015 by Astronomy Now

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Moonrise over the telescope domes on Cerro Tololo, with the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds visible and the Galactic Centre rising. Image credit: Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy.
A sanctuary is a place that invites deep contemplation in a safe and stable environment. Few places in the world provide a better opportunity to enjoy and contemplate the starry heavens than the Andean mountains of northern Chile. But even in this astronomy mecca lights can intrude to ruin the view, and thoughtful protection is needed as the nearby towns and cities grow in size.

At the International Astronomical Union meeting yesterday, the International Dark-Sky Association announced that the site of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) Observatory in the Elqui Valley of northern Chile has been recognized and designated as the first International Dark Sky Sanctuary in the world. The site will be known as the “Gabriela Mistral Dark Sky Sanctuary” after the famed Chilean poet.

“The Gabriela Mistral Dark Sky Sanctuary will serve as an example of how collaboration among governmental and non-governmental stakeholders can preserve one of the most special places on the planet”, said IDA Executive Director J. Scott Feierabend.

The new IDA designation category reflects the need for special protections for the world’s darkest places where nighttime conditions are exceptionally threatened. In certain cases, the public may be excluded from these sites in order to further important conservation priorities.



The stars from the valley of Elqui[/center]

Behind the Numbers: Race and Ethnicity in Latin America

Behind the Numbers: Race and Ethnicity in Latin America

BY Judith A. Morrison
From issue: ,

Understanding the needs of Afro-descendant and Indigenous peoples starts with asking the right questions.

Throughout Latin America, race and ethnicity continue to be among the most important determinants of access to opportunity and economic advancement. Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples in Latin America represent 40 percent of the total population—a sizeable share—yet they remain a disproportionate segment of the poorest of the poor. While a priority for social inclusion measures, they have not seen the sharp reductions in poverty experienced by the overall population and are still more likely than the general population to live in extreme poverty. In countries such as Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and Paraguay, for example, over 60 percent of Indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants are poor. Americas Quarterly’s Social Inclusion Index is especially useful in highlighting these discrepancies.

In Panama, for example, 90 percent of Indigenous peoples live below the poverty line and 69.5 percent live in extreme poverty, compared to just 30 percent of the non-Indigenous population. In Peru, 34 percent of Afro-descendants live below the poverty line, compared to only 23 percent of mestizos. In Brazil, per capita monthly incomes for Brazilians of European descent are more than double those of Afro-descendants. Similar poverty and income gaps can be found in countries throughout the region.

Access to Education and Employment

Indicators related to education, health, labor markets, and access to basic infrastructure depict a similar phenomenon throughout the region. Access to labor markets and economic opportunities represent a particularly sticky problem for both Afro-descendant and Indigenous populations. Despite some advances, there continue to be serious hurdles limiting Afro-descendants’ access to primary and secondary education in countries such as Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama. There are also serious concerns related to gaps in quality and access to higher education. For example, Afro-descendants obtain a university degree at half the rate of the national average in Colombia and Costa Rica, despite relative parity in primary and secondary education attainment rates.

But the gaps persist beyond education. A 2010 Ethos Institute study of 105 large businesses in Brazil found that only 5.3 percent of executives were Afro-descendants—a mere 0.5 percent were women—and that only 28 percent of those businesses had policies in place to improve Afro-descendant representation in leadership positions. Just 3 percent of the corporations studied had specific goals related to increasing the number of Afro-descendant executives. In Panama, formal sector labor market participation of Indigenous peoples is more than 30 percentage points lower than that of the non-Indigenous population. And in Colombia, a small survey of the labor market suggests that being an Afro-descendant applicant lowers the chance of receiving an initial contact for an interview by approximately 8 percent, while being white increases it by 3 percent.


Colombia unearths landfill looking for scores of disappeared

Source: Associated Press

Colombia unearths landfill looking for scores of disappeared

A project is set to remove 31,000 cubic yards of rubble from La Escombrera, a landfill that might contain the remains of 300 people.

Posted: Saturday, August 8, 2015 12:00 am
Associated Press |

MEDELLIN, Colombia -- The last contact Margarita Restrepo had with her daughter was a hurried phone call on Oct. 25, 2002. The school day was over and 17-year-old Carol Vanesa was going to meet friends at a metro stop near the sprawling Comuna 13 hillside slum.

Restrepo and her children had fled the violent Medellin neighborhood a few days earlier, right before it was taken over by thousands of Colombian soldiers trying to ferret out leftist rebels. She begged the girl not to risk returning there, but the teen went anyway. Neither she nor her two friends have been seen again and, to this day, nobody knows who is responsible for their disappearance.

Thirteen years later, Restrepo and dozens of others who have missing loved ones are closer than ever to closure thanks to a project to remove 31,000 cubic yards of rubble from La Escombrera, a debris landfill on Medellin's outskirts where the remains of as many as 300 people are believed to have been dumped during one of the darkest chapters of Colombia's long-running civil conflict.

At a ceremony July 27 to remember the missing and kick off the search effort, officials joined more than 100 women who dressed in white and carried black, plastic silhouettes to represent their loved ones. After years of silence on the part of the government and much of society, supporters of the families welcomed the start of the work.

Read more: http://www.thonline.com/news/national_world/article_5ad89165-11d3-5253-92c9-c2d7c92dc8c3.html

Touring Cuba

August 6, 2015
Touring Cuba

by R. G. Davis

When I visited Cuba recently in April I wondered what our tour called “Environmental Justice” would mean in Cuba. I thought they were already engaged in socialist justice, not just social justice, which is to say providing their own citizens, with basics low cost food, low or no rents, free education, free health care and social services. Was that not environmental justice or were we touristas from the US supposed to discover black communities that lived midst polluting factories and cite the Cubans for not being environmentally pure?

It didn’t make sense to me to use a particular negative aspect of capitalism as the way to tour this small country. It was evident we were in general looking at Cuba with the mind of Norte Americanos who were filled with disinformation, distortions, general prejudices against socialists and communists. Not having much direct experience with how they operate, while coming from the “Great Refrigerator,” we were not taught how to observe another system.

There is so much anti-communism embedded in US culture, advertisements, literary works, films, the media, it’s only revealed when you return to the US. The clever distortions start with a few open-minded remarks: a bit of flattery then end up with slights, distortions disinformation and complete lies. In my experience it makes those who are liberals filled with fear and loathing, while the socialists are confused and the communists often become cheerleaders and defenders against all critique in face of the constant distorted disinformation campaign.

In a tourist book I recently picked up in the SF Public library there was an image of one of the old 50s US cars all repaired photographed in front of a dilapidated large building. Just in case you thought they had advanced the caption mentioned the decaying building. Upon looking closer at the photo there were no window frames or doors present – it looked like it might be in the process of repair.


Jemera Rone, Investigator Who Bared Human Rights Abuses, Dies at 71

Source: New York Times

Jemera Rone, Investigator Who Bared Human Rights Abuses, Dies at 71
AUG. 6, 2015

Jemera Rone, who abandoned a legal career on Wall Street in her 40s because she was bored with corporate takeovers and focused instead on exposing and redressing human rights violations in El Salvador and Sudan, died on July 29 in Washington. She was 71.

. . .

As counsel for Human Rights Watch from 1985 to 2006, Ms. Rone opened the organization’s first foreign field office, in El Salvador, and was among the first investigators to document violations of international humanitarian law.

She lived in El Salvador full time during the country’s civil war, challenging Washington’s version of events in Latin America.

In 1985, reporting on the civil war in Nicaragua for Americas Watch, Ms. Rone said that while the Marxist Sandinistas were indeed guilty of human rights abuses and censorship, “around that core of fact, however, U.S. officials have built an edifice of innuendo and exaggeration” to justify Washington’s support for rebels fighting the Sandinistas’ revolutionary government.

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/07/world/jemera-rone-investigator-who-uncovered-human-rights-abuses-dies-at-71.html?_r=0

Mexico: the graphic tale of Lucha Castro's struggle to defend women's rights

Mexico: the graphic tale of Lucha Castro's struggle to defend women's rights

The celebrated Mexican human rights campaigner’s brave battle against horrific gender violence in Chihuahua state has become the subject of a graphic novel

Jo Tuckman in Mexico City
Wednesday 5 August 2015 07.30 EDT

Sometimes Lucha Castro finds herself overwhelmed by the horror stories she hears almost every day. The human rights campaigner in the notoriously violent state of Chihuahua, northern Mexico, was struck by that feeling recently, as she listened to an indigenous woman tell of being displaced from her village by organised criminal violence fuelled by corruption and negligence.

“I had to leave the meeting and go outside so I could have a cry without anybody seeing me,” said Castro, in a telephone interview from her home in the state capital, also called Chihuahua. “The truth is that sometimes I do get tired. There is so much suffering, and then you get indignant when you listen to the officials who are so incompetent, intolerant and frivolous.”

But, Castro added, those same stories also spur her on, despite the numerous death threats she has received over the years. “The victims are my teachers, women who have decided to say enough is enough and transform their personal pain into a struggle for their rights,” she said. “I think of the victims who aren’t here anymore, and I know that I have to be their voice.”

A new non-fiction graphic novel, La Lucha: The Story of Lucha Castro and Human Rights in Mexico, seeks to capture some of that daily reality. The book, the first in a series of non-fiction graphic novels conceived by the Irish group Front Line Defenders and published in collaboration with Verso, depicts Castro’s life, interwoven with those of six other human rights defenders.


10 Months On, Families March Across Mexico in Search of Missing Ayotzinapa Students

10 Months On, Families March Across Mexico in Search of Missing Ayotzinapa Students

Translation posted 5 August 2015 0:43 GMT

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Relatives and classmates of the 43 march once again, 10 months since the disappearance of the teaching students of Ayotzinapa.
Photo: Francisco Cañedo, SinEmbargo.
This article by Sergio Rincón was originally published on Sin Embargo and is reproduced here under a partnership agreement.

Relatives, students and activists announced two caravans will travel across Mexico from the north and south starting July 31 with the goal of joining forces and calling on more Mexicans to join the search for the 43 missing students of the Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos (Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College) in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.

The students disappeared on September 26 of last year in Iguala, presumably at the hands of municipal police.

Since then, national and international human rights organizations have investigated and requested that the Attorney General of Mexico widen the investigation into the missing students and open new lines of investigation, including calling in military personnel to testify.

Families and advocacy groups maintain allegations of the presence of military personnel during the disappearance should be investigated, but the Mexican Army refuses to allow Ayotzinapa parent-investigators onto military bases. Prosecutors maintain that there is a lack of evidence of military involvement for them to pursue that line of investigation.


US Aid To El Salvador Came With Strings Attached: Monsanto Seeds Required

US Aid To El Salvador Came With Strings Attached: Monsanto Seeds Required

El Salvador previously took steps toward banning glyphosate, the potential carcinogen found in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.

By MintPress News Desk | July 13, 2015

[font size=1]
A protestor demonstrates against Monsanto in the annual world March Against Monsanto.
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — Farmers and activists for natural agriculture in El Salvador successfully resisted efforts by the U.S. government to tie foreign aid to the use of GMO seeds, in the latest attempt to link relief money with profits for Monsanto, the controversial multinational agribusiness giant.

In 2013, the U.S. offered El Salvador $277 million in aid through the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a foreign aid agency established under President George W. Bush. Then, in 2014, Dahr Jamail reports for Truthout, U.S. officials started putting increased pressure on the Central American country to make “economic and environmental policy changes” in return for receiving the next phase of the aid package. A key part of the disagreement involved programs to provide locally produced seeds to poor farmers, which officials argued violated the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement by favoring local products over those produced by multinational corporations.

For his 2014 article, Jamail interviewed Nathan Weller, policy director for the NGO EcoViva, who argued that when Salvadoran farmers are allowed to grow traditional crops, they outproduce modern GMO alternatives. “Domestic producers have proven their ability to cultivate a quality product to government standards, offered at a significantly lower price than what the government had historically paid for conventional seed supplied, by-in-large, by a singular Monsanto affiliate,” Weller explained. Efforts to encourage use indigenous corn seeds locally put millions into the local economy and produced record corn yields in 2013, he also noted.

Armed with evidence of the effectiveness of traditional agriculture when supported by the government, El Salvador successfully pushed back against the U.S. government, allowing it to continue to provide non-GMO seed to subsistence farmers while still receiving the valuable aid. According to Jamail’s latest report, published last week, the most recent round of contracts to provide seeds for farm aid programs relies exclusively on these local producers.


Ritual music from the silence of nature: The transcendent music of Lulacruza

Ritual music from the silence of nature: The transcendent music of Lulacruza
August 2, 2015
3:49 PM MST

Lulacruza is made up of percussionist and electronic musician Luis Maurette and singer/songwriter Alejandra Ortiz. The duo doesn’t set out to create something that is “cool” or even unique, yet, the music they create is indeed that. Interlacing the silence that comes from nature and the potent effects of “ritual music” with their backgrounds in the myriad rhythms and timbres of their native Ecuador and Columbia, Lulacruza creates a very profound impact on their audiences. Visits to places like Ecuador, Mexico, and Chile, along with their time together at Boston’s Berklee College of Music has also added to the original electronic folk compositions the two carry.

The “electronic folk” label doesn’t quite seem to describe what Lulacruza does. It is, however, a quick synthesis for those who had been asking for a description from the duo. It was challenging for them to sum up a project that incorporated electronic elements, folk music and folklore, but the label seemed to stick.

“From Jagadera from Argentina to Samba from Brazil, all of these different styles, they influence us,” relates Luis Maurette in an exclusive interview with Examiner.com. He describes Lulacruza’s music as a fusion of all the influences they have touched; the rhythms, the people, and even vibration itself. “We don’t try to copy a style or genre when we set out to do a song,” he says, “but we kind of listen to the essential elements of that music and take from that.”

What was the genesis of the band? How did Alejandra and yourself come together?

Alejandra spent all of her childhood in Columbia and really traveled and spent time with indigenous cultures in Columbia. I kind of traveled around; my family was a little bit more nomadic. I spent time as a kid in Ecuador, Mexico, and Chile. I got a sense of different cultures, different ways of being, and also things that are the same no matter where you are. Then, we both came to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston and that’s where we met. Really, what clicked for us was that we both had a really strong interest in ritual music.


Mexican journalist found slain with signs of torture

Source: Associated Press

Mexican journalist found slain with signs of torture
August 2, 2015, 4:04 PM

MEXICO CITY - A photojournalist who was found slain in Mexico City after he fled harassment in his home state appears to have been tortured before he was shot to death, the head of a free press advocacy group said Sunday.

Ruben Espinosa sustained severe injuries to his face before he was killed, said Dario Ramirez, director of the Article 19 group.

Espinosa was found dead late Friday in an apartment in Mexico City. Three women who lived in the apartment and their housekeeper also were killed. They, too, appeared to have been tortured and sexually assaulted before being shot, Ramirez said.

Espinosa worked for the investigative magazine, Proceso, and other media. He had fled to the capital in June after being harassed in his home state of Veracruz.

Read more: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/mexican-journalist-ruben-espinosa-found-slain-signs-of-torture/
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