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Judi Lynn

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Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 147,041

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Venezuela Takes Control of Its Border as Bogotá and Caracas Bring Their Cases to UNASUR

Venezuela Takes Control of Its Border as Bogotá and Caracas Bring Their Cases to UNASUR

 August 31, 2015 

By: Frederick B. Mills and William Camacaro, Senior Research Fellows at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs

On July 13, 2015, President Nicolas Maduro launched an ambitious campaign to fight organized crime (the Operation to Liberate and Protect the People–OLP) in the most seriously impacted states of the country. Over the past week, as a critical phase of this campaign, Venezuela has moved to take control over its notoriously porous border with Colombia in Táchira State, seriously disrupting the routine but illicit trade in contraband goods coming from Venezuela that has fueled a parallel economy in Colombia. This illicit trade, however, as well as manipulative currency exchange practices in the frontier area, has been generating some of the commodity shortages and the depreciation of the bolívar fuerte suffered by consumers in Venezuela. This is not a new issue. The crime and contraband problem along the border had been brewing for more than a decade. Moreover, a growing public outcry calling for decisive action to address both public security concerns and persistent commodity shortages has become particularly intense over the past two years and now threatens to derail the Bolivarian project ahead of the December 2015 legislative elections. Maduro had to either take decisive action or preside over the demise of the revolution.

This essay argues that there is a direct relationship between a significant part of the shortages of basic goods in Venezuela and the parallel economy in Colombia that is fueled by contraband smuggled out of Venezuela. This relationship, moreover, is unsustainable for the Venezuelan side and is a poor substitute for legitimate employment on the Colombian side. Though recent stepped up interdiction efforts over the past year have been intercepting contraband on a routine basis, the movement of subsidized goods out of Venezuela nevertheless has been unrelenting. Even the current operation, however, is only a temporary fix; it will take cooperation between Bogotá and Caracas on security, economic, and social matters along their common frontier to bring about a satisfactory resolution of this issue.

The Security Front

On the security front, Caracas maintains that the smuggling of contraband out of Venezuela for sale in Colombia is not being suppressed with any vigor on the Colombian side. Some of these operations feed networks in Colombia that are even quasi-legal, and thus some analysts suggest that the continued existence of at least part of the parallel economy informs state policy in Colombia.

To make matters worse, the parallel economy in Colombia has involved, to some degree, paramilitary and other criminal elements who have infiltrated Venezuela through the frontier area over the past decade, as well as sectors of the poor and those displaced by the armed conflict, some of whom form the ranks of lower level operatives of this informal economy. It also has depended upon the collaboration of easily encountered corrupt public officials on the Venezuelan side who have looked the other way for a price or otherwise collaborated with the smuggling networks.


Closing the border was the "only way," Zulia governor says

Closing the border was the "only way," Zulia governor says
Published September 12, 2015/

By Indira Guerrero

Zulia state Gov. Francisco Arias Cardenas said that closing the border in this region was "the only way" left for Venezuelan authorities to combat the problems of paramilitaries and the shipping of contraband to Colombia.

The top authority of Zulia, a state that shares more than 600 kilometers (370 miles) of border with Colombia, said in an interview with EFE that the government is "absolutely convinced that this can be a way, or perhaps the only way we have left, to deal in depth with these problems."

"This seems to us a strong but necessary measure that forces people, as in the game of dominoes, to shuffle the cards and change things," said the governor, who stressed the need to "reestablish the border."

About this oil-rich state, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the border closed for a 200-kilometer (120-mile) stretch from its northernmost limit with Colombia, along which it has become very hard to control the illegal crossings used by smugglers of basic goods and fuel as well as by drug traffickers.

"We have just one established crossing which is at Paraguachon, the only legal one, but the smugglers enter Colombia freely by whatever byway there is," the governor said, adding that in this territory it is not possible to talk about the number of crossings - there's just one and it is 200 kilometers (120 miles) long.


(This article which Fox "News" has distributed, was originally published by Spain's right-wing news, E.F.E.)

Sikh brutally assaulted in US ahead of 9/11 anniversary

Source: Press Trust of India

Sikh brutally assaulted in US ahead of 9/11 anniversary
Updated: September 10, 2015 09:58 IST

An elderly Sikh man was brutally injured and called “terrorist” and “Bin Laden” in an apparent hate crime case in Chicago, just days before the U.S. commemorates the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

Inderjit Singh Mukker was assaulted on Tuesday when the assailant pulled up to his car yelling racial slurs, including, “Terrorist, go back to your country, Bin Laden!”

Mr. Mukker, a U.S. citizen and father of two, was on his way to a grocery store and was repeatedly cut off by a driver. He pulled over to the side of the road to let him pass but the driver instead pulled in front of his car and aggressively approached Mr. Mukker’s vehicle, according to information by the Sikh Coalition, a community-based organisation said.

The assailant then reached into the car and repeatedly punched Mr. Mukker in the face, causing him to lose consciousness, bleed profusely and suffer a fractured cheekbone and a laceration to his cheek.

Read more: http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/sikh-brutally-assaulted-in-us-ahead-of-911-anniversary/article7636042.ece


Giant stars’ birth makes cosmic hourglass

Release Date: Sep 09, 2015
Giant stars’ birth makes cosmic hourglass

The birth throes of high-mass stars have been shrouded in mystery. While penetrating the mystery, astronomers working in Chile discovered a vast cosmic hourglass.

[font size=1]
Artist’s depiction of IRAS 16547-4247. Multiple young, high-mass stars are thought to reside in the center. Gas
pushes outward from these forming stars, creating a huge cosmic hourglass. Also, notice the pair of narrow jets,
found in past observations. Image via Alma Observatory
New observations from Chile with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array – aka ALMA, which, by the way, is Spanish for soul and Arabic for learned or knowledgeable – have revealed multiple (at least two) gas outflows from a newly forming superstar (or maybe two superstars). The researchers have found what they say is a vivid hourglass structure, created by the gas flowing outward from the star-forming region. Such a detailed observation of this region of space is step forward for astronomers, who knew this region previously as a source of infrared radiation – discovered decades ago by the IRAS satellite and known as IRAS 16547-4247. The region is about 9,500 light-years away from Earth in the direction of the constellation Scorpius. It’s exciting because these are very detailed observations of a region where high-mass stars are forming. In the past, the birth throes of high-mass stars have mostly been shrouded in mystery.

We know that stars vary widely in mass, but the study of the formation of high-mass stars has been difficult, partly because these stars are extravagant spenders of the internal nuclear fuel that enables stars to shine. Thus, they don’t live very long, and so there are fewer high-mass stars near us in space. Even the closest known region of high-mass star formation is 1,500 light-years away, in the Orion Nebula.

What’s more, according to a statement from ALMA this week, it’s thought that high-mass stars are born in clusters with multiple stars forming together. So you can imagine high-mass star birth going on in distant and complex regions, shrouded with the gas and dust from which new stars are made.

Located in the Atacama desert of northern Chile, ALMA is relatively new telescope, whose scientific observations began in 2011. These astronomers noted:

… ALMA is the most desirable telescope for this purpose as being capable of observing gas and dust, (the) ingredients of stars, at high sensitivity and high resolution.


Mexico Just Hilariously Trolled US Soccer Fans Thanks to Donald Trump

Mexico Just Hilariously Trolled US Soccer Fans Thanks to Donald Trump

—By Max J. Rosenthal

| Wed Sep. 9, 2015 12:20 PM EDT

- Video -

When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president, he trolled Mexico with his criminals-and-rapists rant. Now Mexico is trolling right back in hilarious fashion.

The United States and Mexico will face off at the Rose Bowl on October 10 to decide which team will go to the 2017 Confederations Cup, a major World Cup warm-up tournament. Every game between the two neighbors is a hatefest, so Azteca Deportes, the Mexican TV channel that's airing the game, used clips from Trump's announcement speech to mock Mexico's US opponents.

"We don't have victories anymore," Trump says as footage rolls of Mexican players scoring goal after goal against the US. "The American dream is dead," he continues, as the Mexican team lifts the North American championship trophy they easily won this summer after the US suffered an embarrassing loss in the semifinals. The ad even reminds Trump who Mexico is actually sending to the US instead of the criminals he claims: The ad shows Cuauhtémoc Blanco, Giovano Dos Santos, and other Mexican soccer stars who have come to play in the US—and often been among the best players in America's own league.

Watch the video, laugh, and then cheer on the US to a win against Mexico on October 10.


Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Bribed Otto Pérez? Drug Lord Allegedly Paid Former Guatemalan President $1

Source: Latin Times

Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Bribed Otto Pérez? Drug Lord Allegedly Paid Former Guatemalan President $1.5 Million
By Cedar Attanasio | Sep 08 2015, 07:29PM EDT

Guatemala’s former president is behind bars on corruption allegations, while Mexico’s most notorious cartel leader is on the loose. Their stories collided in a Guatemalan courtroom on Tuesday as former president Otto Pérez Molina defended himself against fraud, bribery and other charges. To illustrate his incorruptibility, the former general retold a story about coming head-head with Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán-Loera when the alleged Sinaloa Cartel was arrested in Guatemala in 1993.

"I want to mention that in the 1990s I directed an operation that led to the capture of the most wanted narcotrafficker in the work, known as Chapo Guzmán,” said Pérez.

Guatemalan officials handed El Chapo over to Mexican police after Pérez’s team arrested the narcotrafficker, but he soon escaped. Rearrested in February of 2014, the cartel leader escaped again in July of 2015. His whereabouts are unknown.

“You can imagine what he did when we caught him (in 1993): the first thing he did was negotiate,” said Pérez, who said that he rejected a $1.5 million dollar bribe that Guzmán allegedly offered for his freedom.

Read more: http://www.latintimes.com/joaquin-el-chapo-guzman-bribed-otto-perez-drug-lord-allegedly-paid-former-guatemalan-338763

Ayotzinapa: a Historic Lie

September 8, 2015
Ayotzinapa: a Historic Lie

by Matthew Lorenzen

During the night of September 26-27, 2014, a large group of students from the Ayotzinapa rural teacher’s college in the State of Guerrero, Mexico, were attacked by security forces in the city of Iguala as they were trying to commandeer several buses to attend the annual October 2nd protest march in Mexico City, which commemorates the 1968 massacre of hundreds of protesting students by the military. In the recent attacks in Iguala, six people were killed (including three students), around 20 people were injured, and 43 students were forcefully disappeared.

Massive protests soon followed, especially in Guerrero and Mexico City, and smaller protests were held in many Mexican cities and even in other countries, urging the government to do justice, uncover the truth and find the disappeared students. Some of these protests were in turn repressed by security forces, after allegedly being infiltrated by government provocateurs. With this mounting pressure, the Guerrero State governor was forced to resign, although that didn’t quell public anger. In November 2014, internal and international pressure forced the Federal Government to allow an independent investigation organized by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which would begin in March 2015. The group conducting this investigation was named the Grupo Interdisciplinario de Expertos Independientes (GIEI), and was led by five experts on human rights of various nationalities: Carlos Beristáin (Spain), Ángela Buitrago (Colombia), Francisco Cox Vial (Chile), Claudia Paz y Paz (Guatemala), and Alejandro Valencia Villa (Colombia).

For its part, the Federal Government’s investigation was led by then attorney general Jesús Murillo Karam – a veteran of the ruling right-wing PRI party. This investigation pointed to the responsibility of the municipal police and government, in cahoots with the local Guerreros Unidos drug cartel. The Iguala mayor – of the center-left PRD party – and his wife were soon arrested and await prosecution for ordering the attacks. However, the government investigation presented contradictory motives for the attacks. First, it stated that they were ordered by the Iguala mayor and his wife because they feared that the Ayotzinapa students were going to boycott a political event. This motive had to be altered after it was revealed that the political event was already finished when the students had arrived in Iguala. The other motive was that the Guerreros Unidos cartel had confused the students with members of a rival cartel.

As for the whereabouts of the disappeared students, the government investigation explained that they had been abducted by the municipal police, handed over to members of the Guerreros Unidos cartel, killed, and incinerated in a garbage dump. Their remains were then allegedly put into plastic bags and dumped in a river. However, these remains were too badly burnt to be identified by DNA analysis, except for a jawbone fragment of one of the students. On January 27, 2015, the attorney general insisted in a press conference that this was the “historic truth”.


Worried About Refugees? Just Wait Until We Dust-Bowlify Mexico And Central America

Worried About Refugees? Just Wait Until We Dust-Bowlify Mexico And Central America

by Joe Romm Sep 8, 2015 3:43pm

The Syria conflict has triggered the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II,” explains the European Commission. As Climate Progress has been reporting for years, and as a major 2015 study confirmed, “human-caused climate change was a major trigger of Syria’s brutal civil war.”

But the unprecedented multi-year drought that preceded the Syrian civil war is mild compared to the multi-decade megadroughts that unrestricted carbon pollution will make commonplace in the U.S. Southwest, Mexico, and Central America, according to many recent studies.

Given the current political debate over immigration policy, it’s worth asking two questions. First: if the United States, through our role as the greatest cumulative carbon polluter in history, plays a central role in rendering large parts of Mexico and Central America virtually uninhabitable, where will the refugees go? And second: will we have some moral obligation to change our immigration policy?

If we don’t take far stronger action on climate change, then here is what a 2015 NASA study projected the normal climate of North America will look like. The darkest areas have soil moisture comparable to that seen during the 1930s Dust Bowl.


Clinton and the Bungling of Cuba Policy

September 8, 2015
Clinton and the Bungling of Cuba Policy

by Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés

As the United States moves toward some kind of normal relations with Cuba, it faces a problem: normal is currently illegal. In 1996, Congress, with help from President Bill Clinton, created the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Helms-Burton) Act, which makes it illegal to normalize much of anything. What helped bring that about was a seemingly routine act of lawbreaking by a Miami exile group and the Clinton administration’s muddled response to it.

On February 24, 1996, three small surplus US Air Force Cessna Skymasters departed from Opa-locka airport in Miami-Dade County, Florida. The planes were gifts from President George H.W. Bush to Brothers to the Rescue (Hermanos al Rescate).
Brothers to the Rescue was a Miami-based anti-Castro organization run by José Basulto and William Schuss, organized in 1991 during a period of immigration chaos. Their first missions were to locate and lend assistance to balseros, Cuban migrants in the Florida Straits trying to reach the United States in makeshift craft.

Basulto and Schuss had received US military training and later belonged to Operation 40, organized by the CIA to prepare for the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. Basulto later took part in sabotage actions against Cuba along with several well-known anti-Castro terrorists such as Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch. In 2005, he said on a Miami TV channel that in 1962, he had taken part in a raid against Cuba, firing a 22 mm canon from offshore at the Hotel Rosita Hornedo in Havana where Russians were thought to be staying. “So far, no one has come to question me,” he said.


From 2008: "The Clinton-Colombia Connection: It Goes Back a Long Way"

The Clinton-Colombia Connection: It Goes Back a Long Way
Posted: 04/09/2008 7:07 pm EDT Updated: 05/25/2011 12:30 pm EDT

. . .

First came chief strategist Mark Penn's "reassignment" following the embarrassing revelation of his side job advising the Colombian government on how to promote a trade agreement loudly decried by the candidate whose campaign has so far paid him and his firm $10,800,000 for his input. Then came word that Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson also has financial ties to Colombia via his involvement the Glover Park Group, a company founded by Clinton administration alum Joe Lockhart that has also been advising the Colombian government.

And, of course, there is the Whitman sampler of Colombian goodies gobbled up by Bill Clinton, including: $800,000 in speaking fees from a Colombian pro-free trade agreement group; a "Colombia is Passion" award bestowed by Colombia's president Alvaro Uribe (who honored the former president as an "unofficial minister of tourism"; and a sweet Colombian oil field deal for a company Clinton pal Frank Giustra's investment firm had advised. Giustra is the mining magnate who has donated $31 million to Clinton's charitable fund, and whom Bill personally introduced to Colombian President Uribe (Giustra is the same guy Clinton helped land a uranium deal in Kazakhstan, but that's a Clinton story for a different blog post).

The Clinton-Colombia connection doesn't stop there -- and involves much, much more than a spousal disagreement over how free our trade with the Colombians should be. As President, Bill Clinton had initiated Plan Colombia, a $1.3 billion aid package to escalate the war on drugs in Colombia. I wrote a number of columns in 2000 and 2001 outlining the very troubling nature of this Clinton-backed initiative. I'll include the links at end of this post if you want a fuller history, but here is a quick refresher:

At the time, Colombia was in the midst of a four-decades long three-way civil war pitting the Colombian army, which has one of the worst human-rights records in the Western hemisphere, against leftist rebels and right-wing paramilitary groups, both largely funded by the drug trade (a war that continues to this day). Despite the abject failure of America's misguided war on drugs -- with the hundreds of billions spent on it failing to curtail drug use -- Clinton decided that another billion or so directed to Colombia would do the trick. The Colombian military's extensive ties to right wing death squads be damned! In fact, Clinton signed a waiver of human-rights provisions that Congress had imposed on the Colombia drug-war package.

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