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Judi Lynn

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Member since: 2002
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Cyclists brave the world’s most dangerous road in Bolivia

Cyclists brave the world’s most dangerous road in Bolivia

High, scenic and varied terrain on Yungas road makes for a white-knuckled ride, as a guide reveals stories of what’s also known as death road.

By Tamara HinsonSpecial to the Star

Sat., Aug. 20, 2016

LA PAZ, BOLIVIA — No doubt the guide is trying to be reassuring when he says he’s undergone rope rescue training, but it’s a timely reminder that the road we’re about to cycle down has claimed hundreds of lives.

Regarded as the world’s highest capital (Sucre is Bolivia’s official one, but La Paz has more government buildings and is regarded as the de facto capital), La Paz is a city crammed into an enormous bowl, 3,640 metres above sea level. It’s also home to the world’s most dangerous road.

In 1998, New Zealand mountain biker Alistair Matthew came to La Paz. At the time, access to the city had been via the Yungas road, a crumbling dirt track carved into a mountainside. Vehicles regularly toppled off. Matthew heard about the road, saw its potential as the ultimate adrenaline-fuelled adventure for cyclists and founded Gravity Bolivia, starting out with just three bikes.

The road quickly became a rite of passage for backpackers. Today, 20 operators offer excursions along the death road — named not because of fatalities, but because many of the prisoners of war who built it died during construction in the 1930s, during the Chaco War.

A shiny new road opened in 2006 and now only a few foolhardy drivers brave the route. Accidents involving drivers and cyclists still happen with alarming regularity, although one particular incident helped reduced these fatalities. After British cyclist Theo Dreyfus died in a 2009 accident, his father Dominic founded a memorial fund to pay for a permanent ambulance on the road.


(More photos at link.)

Nicaragua’s Right-Wing: Ideology and Wishful Thinking

Nicaragua’s Right-Wing: Ideology and Wishful Thinking

By: Tortilla con Sal

Among the wreckage of Nicaragua’s right-wing political opposition to Nicaragua’s Sandinista government, it is hard to make out anything resembling a coherent political and economic program independent of clearly bankrupt U.S. imperialist ideology. The academic and former Nicaraguan ambassador to the U.S. and Canada, Arturo Cruz, tried to dignify that failure with some vestige of intellectual rigor back in 2013 in an essay whose title translates to “Political reform in Central America: Is Democratic institutional rule at risk?” Recently, Cruz has revived his arguments in a series of lectures whose overall title translates as “Government's petty cash in trouble.”

In a nutshell, Cruz' argument explains the widely acknowledged success of the Sandinista Government as a result of its ability to combine sound macro-economic free market policies with the capacity to satisfy the ever growing demands of both the Sandinista grassroots as well as the demands of many Nicaraguans who previously supported the liberal right-wing parties, in a scheme Cruz labels “responsible populism.” However, Cruz argues, with the virtual collapse of Venezuelan aid due to the economic crisis and the fall of oil prices, the Sandinista government today lacks the “petty cash” needed to make the system work which may herald a period where its hold on political power will be put to test. Cruz has to make mighty omissions to make this case. He might better have called his series of lectures “Whistling in the dark.”

Cruz’s argument serves as an apology for Nicaragua’s capitalist class and its political right-wing expression in a historical period during which the impoverished and excluded popular classes have emerged as economic as well as political and ideological subjects. In 200 years of independent history, Central America’s capitalist elites have been incapable of formulating a sovereign political project of their own, depending mostly on imperial networks of political and economic influence. Now Nicaragua’s political right-wing needs arguments against the emergence of Nicaragua as a sovereign revolutionary society. Cruz’s arguments offer an unconvincing alibi for that historic political and intellectual failure. His view of Nicaragua’s impoverished majority is elitist, a mass of “clients” with little sense of citizenship and no strategic consciousness of their needs. This is part of what Cruz wrote back in 2013:

“Today, Nicaraguans' consumption expectations are undoubtedly low (which should facilitate the task of distributing scarce goods), but they are also immediate, anchored in the present, with little attention to the future, unable to reach a minimum of abstraction. The client – as opposed to the citizen, who expects a lot from government, except from what he can afford with his family income – is focused on the most basic, such as a pound of beans or a galvanized roofing sheet, convinced that the government's main role is to serve him as a crutch.” Clear? It’s hardly important that impoverished families live in dehumanizing immiseration, the important thing is that they look beyond their hunger and their leaking roofs and behave like true citizens. Cruz’s argument goes a long way to explaining why support for right-wing political parties in Nicaragua’s has collapse.


“People’s Tribunal” Launched in Haiti to Commemorate 101 Years of U.S. Occupation

“People’s Tribunal” Launched in Haiti to Commemorate 101 Years of U.S. Occupation

by Mark Schuller

Vol 10 # 4 Du 3 au 9 Août 2016

Thu., Jul. 28, when Hillary Rodham Clinton took to the stage to accept the Democratic nomination to be the first female candidate of a major political party for president, was also the 101st anniversary of the U.S. military occupation of Haiti that lasted 19 years.

. . .

These contemporary struggles underscore the stakes in the efforts to re-unify the Haitian left. And they also underscore the need for a historical analysis and reparations. Without naming them all, here are six contemporary legacies of the first 1915-1934 U.S. Occupation:

1/ Creating a new constitution that gave foreigners the rights to land in Haiti. Today, land rights – intimately linked with food sovereignty – remains one of the biggest struggles. International projects – free trade zones, export-oriented agriculture like Agritrans, high-end tourist development such as that at Île-à-Vache, or mining – threatens this right.

2/ Creating an army – which had devastating consequences of human rights violations and massacres, not to mention setting the stage for the Duvalier dictatorship.

3/ Appropriating wealth – the U.S. stole $500,000 in gold reserves on Dec. 17, 1914, right before the Occupation. During the occupation, National City Bank took control of Haiti’s central bank. Since this time, Haiti’s financial management remains under international agencies’ rule.

4/ Centralizing political and economic power in Port-au-Prince. Regional economies were undermined as nearly all wealth and all industries were developed in the capital. Political power was also centralized. These factors contributed to the hyper-urbanization, and certainly after the killing of the Haitian pig population in the early 1980s. The 2010 earthquake exposed the consequences of this centralization in the “Republic of Port-au-Prince.”

5/ Fanning the conflict with other neighboring countries, certainly the Dominican Republic – it is not coincidence that the Dominican state chose the date of 1929, wherein if someone was born after this date their citizenship status was revoked in 2013. The U.S. occupied both sides of the island for several years, triggering a migration of Haitian laborers to cut Dominican sugar cane. Since Jun. 18 of last year – where tens of thousands were either expelled or left ‘voluntary’ fearing mob violence – this situation has become a crisis and massive human rights violation.

6/ Submitting the country under international agencies’ tutelage – many in Haiti argue that the Occupation that began 101 years ago has never stopped. The 1915 military occupation prepared the ground for foreign control of development and fiscal policies. Haitian sovereignty has been eroded ever since. The debt claimed by international agencies was the opening for what used to be called “Structural Adjustment” programs, where international agencies forced the country to be open to foreign products, especially U.S. rice. In effect, Haiti was turned into a dumping ground for the U.S. and neighboring countries. In addition to this direct control, the 1915 Occupation prepared the country for what Sauveur Pierre Etienne called an “invasion of NGOs.” After the earthquake, Haiti was often called a “republic of NGOs” undermining state capacity and authority. This “humanitarian occupation” is accompanied by a U.N. invasion. These troops, who have brought cholera to the country with several documented cases of rape and sexual assault, have immunity.


Review: Malaysia’s Original People: Past, Present and Future of the Orang Asli

Review: Malaysia’s Original People: Past, Present and Future of the Orang Asli

August 16, 2016 Book Reviews, Books, Culture

By subashini navaratnam

Malaysia’s Original People: Past, Present And Future Of The Orang Asli is a dense, far-reaching compendium of essays edited by Kirk Endicott, a professor with the Department of Anthropology at Dartmouth College in the United States. The essays run the gamut – from pieces on Orang Asli religion, language, and culture to the legal battles and political situation that renders them displaced and marginalised within the Malaysian nationalist framework.

The book is systematically divided into several sections under the categories mentioned above. As the contributors are mostly academics and researchers, each essay is packed with information from several angles; an essay on Orang Asli animism and cosmology, for instance, is also rife with facts about the history of oppression they’ve faced on the Malay Peninsula, starting from Malay and Indonesian slave raiders of the 18th and 19th centuries.

There is no beating around the bush here in an attempt to neutralise or even erase colonial British and Malaysian government complicity in the systematic displacement and marginalisation of the Orang Asli. From start to finish, these essays excavate the devastating impact of capitalism via the oil palm plantation and logging industries, for example, and the bureaucratic nature of the capitalist democracies like Malaysia whose state interests are, with greater intensity and frequency, tied to the profits of corporations.

Because it’s written by academics, some essays tend to read as though they were written for other academics, an insider’s conversation that might leave the non-specialist reader confused. While the essays on Orang Asli belief systems, for example, are fascinating, they are complex and verbose; whole pages were sometimes indecipherable to me because it throws together a string of words in Orang Asli languages couched between linguistic concepts, terms and phrases. Despite this, these essays demonstrate that Orang Asli beliefs about animism and interconnectedness between humans and non-humans are the key to how they manage the land and resources. It’s not that the Orang Asli abstain from eating meat or clearing land; it’s that they do it within a belief system that says they shouldn’t take more than they should, and that for what is taken, something should be done on the part of humans to restore the balance.

An interesting concept among most Orang Asli groups is the taboo about mocking or insulting non-human life. This is an idea that is almost alien to the money-obsessed, work-driven, middle-class urban professionals. To me, it demonstrates something beautiful; the value of words and ideas, and the effect it has on one’s own wellbeing and one’s community and family. This interconnectedness makes it hard to close one eye and sanction widespread ecological destruction through various excuses, such as “We need to modernise” or “The technology helps us in the end”.


Colombia: In the Final Stage Before Peace

Colombia: In the Final Stage Before Peace

August 12, 2016
by Manuel E. Yepe


In any conflict between two, it is logical that the conclusion should produce a winner and a loser. Only three forms of postwar peace have always existed: the one imposed by the victor, humiliating for the vanquished; Pyrrhic peace in which to reach victory the winner has suffered many or more losses than the defeated; and peace determined by the inability of either party to achieve success after extreme suffering for both sides. The latter is the one that seems closer to become a reality in Colombia.

All humanity has received with joy the promise of peace in Colombia that was sealed with the agreements on ceasefire, deposition of weapons, security guarantees and other aspects signed on June 23 in Havana by the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, and Commander Timoleon Jimenez, Chief of Staff of the Colombian FARC-EP.

The senior leader of the guerrilla organization was adamant in his speech at the document signing ceremony saying that “neither the FARC nor the Colombian State are defeated forces and therefore the agreement cannot be understood by anyone as a result of any imposition of one party to the other.

“We have discussed at length and even got to alleys that seemed to be dead-ends. These could only be overcome thanks to the generous and effective intervention of the guarantor countries, Cuba and Norway, and the opportunities and wise formulas suggested by the creativity of the spokespersons of both parties and their diligent advisers,” Jimenez said.


Cause to celebrate: Australia's Indigenous population is on the rise

Cause to celebrate: Australia's Indigenous population is on the rise

Paul Daley

Monday 8 August 2016 23.42 EDT Last modified on Monday 8 August 2016 23.57 EDT

There was a time, far more recently than many Australians would care to admit, that this country’s policymakers and anthropologists believed they were witnessing the vanishment of the continent’s Indigenous people.

The Tasmanian Aboriginal people had already (wrongly) been declared extinct with the passing of Truganini in 1876.

To describe as unedifying what happened elsewhere in the early to mid-20th century in the haste to document the assumed “passing of the race”, is a dramatic understatement.

Anthropologists from Australia and elsewhere embarked on a race to document those that autodidact researcher, Charles Mountford, called the “last of the stone age men”. Little was off limits: the sexual habits of Indigenous people were charted in painstaking detail; hair and blood samples, and facial moulds, taken; their art – its value becoming apparent on the international market – was “traded” for pennies’ worth of tobacco while ancestral human remains were stolen by the crate-load and shipped to institutions here and abroad; secret and sacred rituals were intruded and trampled upon.


No thanks to the dirtballs who nearly destroyed them, and stole their country.

Trashing Nicaragua’s Success

Trashing Nicaragua’s Success
August 8, 2016

by John Grant

The New York Times is the best old-style, broad-sheet newspaper in America; it still covers the world with resourceful and enterprising reporters and commentators. But, then, there’s the other New York Times, the imperial rag that prints editorials like the one on August 5 titled “ ‘Dynasty,’ the Nicaraguan Version.” It’s not that Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is a saint or even a model democrat; it’s that the editorial department and the writer who penned this sloppy embarrassment are still playing a version of the Reagan Cold War game of the 1980s. Those days are over; one hopes for something a bit more worldly.

After listing a number of negatives — the popular President Ortega has appointed judges favorable to his rule and has been able to assure a legislature filled with his allies — the editorial tells us how well the Nicaraguan economy is doing, how well the Ortega administration works with investors and international business and how safe the place is compared to its three closest neighbors. This safety is, we’re told, due to a sinister “vast police force.” Reading this, one might forget here in the US we have our own “vast” police and criminal justice problems.

Let’s consider for a moment the interesting fact that Nicaragua is notably “safer” than Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. First off, during the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan the United States of America directly supported, and in some cases actually directed, cruel and bloody wars against armed guerrillas (and the poor in whose name they fought) in these three small, poor nations. It was the Cold War, so these wars were couched in East-West (communist-capitalist) terms, when they arguably were more accurately described as North-South struggles: ie. they were about powerlessness versus power, poverty versus wealth.

In the case of Nicaragua, the US Contra War was a proxy war against a sovereign nation. In 1979, the Sandinista rebels had overthrown a dictatorship run by Anastasio Somoza, junior, whose father Anastasio, senior, had been a US ally. Franklin Roosevelt famously said of Somoza, senior, “Somoza’s a son-of-a-bitch, but he’s our son-of-a-bitch.” In 1956, the father was shot dead eating dinner in a Leon restaurant by a patriotic poet working as a busboy. (Many Nicaraguans aspire to be poets.) Anastasio, junior, took over the family business and ruled as a US ally until 1979, when he fled to Paraguay, where in 1980 his Mercedes was blown apart by an RPG as the climax of a seven-member Sandinista plot called “Operation Reptile.” His unidentifiable remains were buried in Miami following a big funeral of fellow tyrants and right-wing fat cats.


Police Violence: Peace Isn’t The Priority

Police Violence: Peace Isn’t The Priority
August 8, 2016
by Thomas Knapp

Precisely how did Korryn Gaines die? We don’t know, and probably never will.

The Baltimore County, Maryland Police Department admits that one of its officers shot her dead on August 1. In fact, the department admits that the officer shot first and that Gaines then returned fire in self-defense and defense of her five-year-old son (no, the department does not use those terms) before being gunned down.

The police also admit that before forcing their way into Gaines’s apartment and killing her, they went out of their way to ensure their actions would be hidden from public view. The department contacted two social media services, Facebook and Instagram, asking that Gaines’s accounts be disabled so as to cut off her photo and video streams of what was happening. To their everlasting shame, the two firms complied with the request.

So we don’t know what happened. But we have a pretty good idea what happens next: The Baltimore County Police Department will “investigate” itself and announce that it has cleared itself and the unidentified officer who killed Gaines (he or she is currently on paid vacation, aka “administrative leave,” until the “investigation” is over) of any wrongdoing.


Negma Coy writes a poetic story to "relearn" the Maya culture

Negma Coy writes a poetic story to "relearn" the Maya culture

Published August 04, 2016/

Guatemala City – The wingbeats of an owl, the sacred symbol of the link to Mother Earth, provides the title for the book "XXXK'," by Kakchikel artist , a poetic story about the geography of Maya consciousness in Guatemala.

"The traditions are being lost," and this book "is one kernel of corn in getting people to see that we can write in our Mayan languages," said Coy in an interview with EFE.

Although in recent years there have been more and more artists who have begun working in their original languages, there are still "very few" who write in the Maya languages, Coy said. Therefore, names like hers and that of Kakchikel singer Sara Curruchich have become reference points: they are the voices of the indigenous resistance.

Small works of art like "XXXK'" - a book of poems that speaks about grandparents, traditions, the land and death, serve to bring the Maya culture and languages closer to young people.


(This article originated with Spain's E.F.E. and was reprinted by Fox "News."


Negma Coy

Sara Curruchich - Mayan language singer [/center]

Brazilians hit streets in pro- and anti-Rousseff demonstrations before Rio Games

Brazilians hit streets in pro- and anti-Rousseff demonstrations before Rio Games

Many demonstrators were promising protests on Friday as the Olympic Games in Rio begin.

By Mauricio Savarese
The Associated Press

Sun., July 31, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO—Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Brazil on Sunday, some calling for the permanent ouster of suspended President Dilma Rousseff and others demanding her return to office.

Rousseff was impeached and suspended in May for allegedly violating budget laws. A Senate trial on permanently removing her is expected in late August.

A few hundred people gathered on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach Sunday to push for Rousseff’s permanent removal. It was one of 20 states to see anti-Rousseff protests.

Meanwhile, demonstrators in 15 states were protesting against acting President Michel Temer. Rousseff’s allies are also promising protests on Friday as the Olympic Games open.

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