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Judi Lynn

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Archaeologists recreate ancient Roman gladiator school found in Austria

Archaeologists recreate ancient Roman gladiator school found in Austria
By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, February 26, 2014 14:00 EST

A team of archaeologists said Wednesday they have discovered the almost complete remains of a Roman school of gladiators on the banks of the Danube in Austria and virtually recreated the site using sophisticated techniques.

The so-called ludus “is on a scale to rival the famous ludus magnus, the gladiatorial school behind the Coliseum in Rome,” the archaeologists said in a statement.

The team, announcing their findings in the journal Antiquity, said the “spectacular” find at Carnuntum was mapped and virtually reconstructed using non-invasive techniques such as aerial surveys, electromagnetic induction and ground-penetrating radar.

“The resulting archaeological maps and plans of individual buildings, streets and Roman infrastructure allow the virtual reconstruction of the city layout and the development of ancient land- and townscapes in two and three dimensions,” they said.


Venezuela’s revolutionary government has millions of fans despite deadly protests

Venezuela’s revolutionary government has millions of fans despite deadly protests

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, the late Chavez’s anointed successor, declared this week the government he inherited has built a total of 600,000 new housing units for the poor. A grateful Maria Castillo is one of them -- and one of millions of supporters of the revolutionary government.

By: Oakland Ross Feature Writer, Published on Wed Feb 26 2014

CARACAS—Maria Castillo felt as if her life was literally slipping away beneath her feet — because, literally, it was.

“The land was sliding away,” she recalls now. “Our houses were falling down.”

That was three years ago, when the impoverished hillside barrio of Antimano la Piedrera began its irresistible descent toward oblivion, the result of heavy rains and gravity.

One of countless precarious shanty towns clustered upon the steep hills surrounding this raucous South American capital, Antimano la Piedrera was home to more than 100 families whose lives, like their houses, were slowly breaking apart.


As US Media Mangles Venezuela, Maduro Calls for 'Peace Conference'

Published on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 by Common Dreams

As US Media Mangles Venezuela, Maduro Calls for 'Peace Conference'

As violence continues to threaten Latin American country, US media continues to replace nuance with familiar anti-Chavista narrative

- Jon Queally, staff writer

As street protests continued in Venezuela this week, President Nicolas Maduro has called for a "peace conference" on Wednesday in order to defuse the violence, though it remains unclear which, if any, representatives of his opposition will agree to attend.

Maduro has said that he supports the right of his opponents to take their message wherever they like, but said the accompanying violence—especially given repeated efforts to undermine the democratically-elected Chavista government from within, including a U.S.-backed coup attempt in 2002—would not be tolerated.

“I guarantee you the liberty to do it,” Maduro said. “But if you’re going to go out and burn and destroy, I won’t permit that."

Provincial Governor Henrique Capriles, who lost to Maduro in last year's presidential election and remains a key member of the opposition, has yet to declare whether he will accept the invitation to join talks. On Monday, however, Capriles refused to attend a larger meeting where Maduro met with the nation's other governors to discuss the ongoing political crisis.


Fraudulent registration in Colombia’s electoral process

Fraudulent registration in Colombia’s electoral process
Feb 23, 2014 posted by Nathalie Brichard

“In Colombia, elections are stolen,” said the Director of Colombia’s National Registrar’s Office, Carlos Ariel Sanchez Torres, in 2007.

Colombia indeed suffers from several problems in its democracy that increase electoral fraud and disturb the electoral process, affecting the outcome of elections. The Electoral Observation Mission (MOE) documents more than 50 types of electoral fraud, such as the “pregnant ballot box” — a practice that involves extra ballots being inserted for one candidate or party — some of which can be prevented or reduced if people are present to check and control the electoral process. On Election Day in Colombia, witnesses from the various political parties, official vote counters, and oversight commissions are all expected to be present at each voting station throughout the country. Additionally, the MOE trains volunteer observers in matters pertaining to the Colombian electoral system and electoral crime, including methods and techniques to track irregularities in the electoral process.

Observers alone, however, cannot track and denounce all electoral fraud, and need the support of the legal authorities. One of the major problems in Colombia is identity fraud, and dealing with this requires first that there be an updated population and electoral census. In previous years, the database has been dramatically out of date, leading to situations, publicized in the news media, in which dead Colombian citizens voted and participated in local or national elections.

In 2005, the National Registrar’s Office, in charge of the national civil registry and the technical setup of the electoral process, started to bring Colombia’s electoral database up to date, and since 2010, electoral authorities assure that it is impossible to use a dead citizen’s identity to vote. More than 6 million names were removed from the voter registry between 2005 and 2013, including the recently deceased and people whose names had been double-registered. The new automatic system also ensures that Colombians are added to the list as soon as they turn 18, the legal voting age in the country.


Attempted assassination on leftist Colombian presidential candidate widely condemned

Attempted assassination on leftist Colombian presidential candidate widely condemned
Feb 24, 2014 posted by Luke Horswell

Sunday’s assassination attempt on Aida Avella has been condemned by various sectors of the political community.
Avella is the candidate for left-wing party Patriotic Union (Union Patriotica – UP) and was attacked by gunmen while on her campaign trail in the northeastern department of Arauca.

Since the attack Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos has pledged “all that is necessary” to protect the leftist leader along with a promise to to investigate the attempted assassination.

Santos’ sentiments were echoed by candidate for the Democratic Center Party (Centro Democratico) Ivan Zuluaga who called for “all measures and safeguards to prevent this from happening,” reported El Espectador.

The FARC’s peace delegation in Cuba said in a published statement that the assassination attempt on presidential candidate Aida Avella was “effectively attacking the credibility of the peace process.” The FARC also called for the government to open “an investigation with immediate results” to show that they can provide political guarantees for opposition parties.


Rainbow Tide Rising: How Latin America Became a Gay Rights Haven

Rainbow Tide Rising: How Latin America Became a Gay Rights Haven

The rise of the Latin American left has coincided with a wide array of successful LGBT activism on the continent.

February 13, 2014 |

The New York Times recently declared Latin America “ahead of the U.S. and Western Europe” on gay rights, smashing stereotypes of a region not known for its social progressivism. The advances have roughly coincided with the ascendance of Latin America’s “Pink Tide” of left-leaning governments in the last decade.

Uruguay approved civil unions in 2008, and Ecuador did the same the next year. In 2009, Uruguay legalized adoption for gay couples and gender changes on official documents. In 2010, Argentina legalized gay marriage. Last year, Brazil’s National Council of Justice declared gay marriage legal nationwide, and Uruguay approved same-sex marriage. Sex reassignment surgery is covered by health insurance in Cuba and Argentina. Left-leaning governments have also approved a host of smaller measures, including anti-discrimination laws in Cuba, Bolivia, and Venezuela, and the decriminalization of homosexuality in Nicaragua and Panama.

Fewer advances have come under conservative governance, though to be fair the region hasn’t had much conservative governance lately. In 2007, Colombia’s Constitutional Court legalized civil unions, gay marriage is legal in Mexico City and two other states, and Mexican law requires that the marriages be recognized nationwide. Chile under conservative billionaire Sebastián Piñera passed a robust anti-discrimination law.

In each country, the changes have taken place despite the vigorous resistance of the Catholic Church and often without widespread social acceptance of homosexuality.


Towards another coup in Venezuela?

Towards another coup in Venezuela?

Protests are initiated by ultra-right factions of the opposition in the hope of an eventual systemic overhaul.

Last updated: 19 Feb 2014 08:50

Five days after violent anti-government incitement in Venezuela led to the deaths of three people, the US State Department issued a press statement declaring: "The allegations [by President Nicolas Maduro] that the United States is helping to organise protestors… is baseless and false. We support human rights and fundamental freedoms - including freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly - in Venezuela as we do in countries around the world."

Of course, US commitment to such freedoms is called into question by its own operating procedures, which have included police beatings of peaceful protesters and the incarceration and torture of whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

Maduro might - meanwhile - be forgiven for associating the US with efforts to overthrow the Venezuelan government given said country's intimate involvement in the 2002 coup d'etat against Maduro's predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez - not to mention its general history of fomenting opposition to less-than-obsequious Latin American regimes.

George Ciccariello-Maher, a professor at Drexel University and the author of "We Created Chavez: A People's History of the Venezuelan Revolution", remarked to me yesterday that, although "there's no reason to think that the US is directly involved in organising or calling these protests… we need to bear in mind that it continues to fund the very same opposition groups that have participated in violent, anti-democratic actions before and that continue to do so".


CBO report: Minimum wage hikes would kill 500,000 jobs but lift 900,000 out of poverty

Source: Reuters

CBO report: Minimum wage hikes would kill 500,000 jobs but lift 900,000 out of poverty
By Reuters
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 17:08 EST
By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Raising the U.S. minimum wage would lead to the loss of about half a million jobs by late 2016 while lifting almost a million Americans out of poverty, the Congressional Budget Office forecast in a report on Tuesday that reignited debate over one of President Barack Obama’s top priorities this year.

Buoyed by polls showing three-quarters of Americans in favor of a minimum wage hike, Obama and his fellow Democrats advocate raising the minimum hourly wage to $10.10 from the current $7.25 in a move to boost the stagnant wages of millions of low income workers.

In the long term, Democrats also want to tie future minimum wage increases to inflation, avoiding the legislative fights over wages for lower-paying jobs.

Republicans in Congress and allies in the business community have long argued that any such hike would encourage employers to shed workers to help offset higher salaries, and have vowed to fight it ahead of the congressional elections in November.

Read more: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/02/18/cbo-report-minimum-wage-hikes-would-kill-500000-jobs-but-lift-900000-out-of-poverty/

US support for regime change in Venezuela is a mistake

US support for regime change in Venezuela is a mistake

The US push to topple the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro once again pits Washington against South America

Mark Weisbrot
theguardian.com, Tuesday 18 February 2014 07.30 EST

When is it considered legitimate to try and overthrow a democratically-elected government? In Washington, the answer has always been simple: when the US government says it is. Not surprisingly, that's not the way Latin American governments generally see it.

On Sunday, the Mercosur governments (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela) released a statement on the past week's demonstrations in Venezuela. They described "the recent violent acts" in Venezuela as "attempts to destabilize the democratic order". They made it abundantly clear where they stood.

The governments stated:

their firm commitment to the full observance of democratic institutions and, in this context, [they] reject the criminal actions of violent groups that want to spread intolerance and hatred in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela as a political tool.

We may recall that when much larger demonstrations rocked Brazil last year, there were no statements from Mercosur or neighboring governments. That's not because they didn't love President Dilma Rousseff; it's because these demonstrations did not seek to topple Brazil's democratically-elected government.


Sabaneta to Miraflores: Afterlives of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela

Sabaneta to Miraflores: Afterlives of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela
Written by Jeffrey R. Webber and Susan Spronk
Wednesday, 12 February 2014 18:15

The inner-city parish of La Vega sits in the lush mountain terrain of Western Caracas. Roughly 130,000 poor residents are cordoned off sociologically from nearby El Paraíso, a wealthy neighborhood that supplies the clients for the upscale shopping center that separates the two communities. In La Vega, the bottom 20 percent of households live on US$125 per month, while the average family income is $US409. Well over a third of households are led by a single mother. Proletarians of mixed African, indigenous, and European ancestries populate the barrio’s informal economies.[1]

In Venezuela, one of the most urbanized countries in Latin America, these households constitute a key demographic base of chavismo. Six years ago, the journalist Jacobo Rivero asked a 50-year-old black woman from La Vega what would happen if Chávez died. The Bolivarian process “is irreversible,” she told him, its roots are too deep to be easily torn asunder in the absence of el comandante. In the years since Chávez’s rise to the presidency in 1999—an interval of unprecedented popular political participation and education for the poor—the woman had learned, for the first time, the history of African slavery and the stories of her ancestors. The historical roots of injustice were being demystified, their causes sorted out. Dignity was being restored in inner-city communities, and their political confidence was on the rise. There had been motive, it now seemed to her, behind the manufactured ignorance of the dispossessed.[2] The “Venezuelan people stood up,” political theorist George Ciccariello-Maher observes, “and it is difficult if not impossible to tell a people on their feet to get back down on their knees.”[3]

The residents of La Vega, Petare, San Agustín, and 23 de Enero, among the other poor urban barrios of Caracas, entered an extended period of public commiseration, of shared mourning, on March 5, 2012, when Vice President Nicolás Maduro announced on television that Hugo Chávez had passed away at the age of 58, after 14 years as president, the last two years of which he struggled with cancer.[4] Identification with this improbable president runs in the veins of the popular classes of contemporary Venezuela.

Raised in poverty by his grandmother—”Mamá Rosa”—in Sabaneta, the capital of the state of Barinas, young Chávez dreamt of being a professional baseball player, like his hero Isaías Látigo Chávez. Indeed, this was one compelling reason for him to join the army, where he was able to rise through the ranks of their baseball league. The complicated climb to the presidential palace in Miraflores began with entrance into the Military Academy in Caracas in 1971. Chávez graduated as a sub-lieutenant in 1975 with a degree in engineering, and a diploma in counterinsurgency.


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