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peppertree's Journal
peppertree's Journal
September 8, 2017

Mexico hit by biggest quake in century, 5 killed

A major earthquake off Mexico's southern coast killed at least five people, with the president saying Friday it was the biggest in a century to hit the country. Houses toppled and the quake produced tsunami waves and sent people running into the streets in panic.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported the earthquake's magnitude as 8.1, but President Enrique Peña Nieto says it was 8.2, making it the largest in Mexico in 100 years. He also said it was bigger than the 8.1 quake in 1985, which killed thousands and devastated large sections of Mexico City.

The death toll could rise as authorities assess the damage.

The president said that 62 aftershocks followed the quake and it's possible that one as strong as 7.2 could strike in the next 24 hours. Peña Nieto also said that serious damage had been caused and that 1 million customers initially had been without power following the quake, but that electricity had been restored to 800,000 of them.

The USGS said the quake struck at 11:49 p.m. Thursday local time and its epicenter was 165 kilometers (102 miles) west of Tapachula in Chiapas, not far from Guatemala. It had a depth of 69.7 kilometers (43.3 miles).

The quake was so strong that it caused buildings to sway violently in Mexico's capital more than 1,000 kilometers (650 miles) away.

At: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/magnitude-earthquake-hits-southern-mexico-felt-capital-49695666

September 7, 2017

Trump education secretary Betsy DeVos tears up Obama's rules on campus sex assault investigations

Source: Daily Mail

Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos tore up Obama's rules on investigating campus sex assault claims Thursday, saying they had been 'weaponized' and had led to people being wrongly accused.

DeVos said there would now be months of consultation on new rules which she said had to offer protection to the 'falsely accused' and respect 'due process'. There were protests outside as she spoke at George Mason University in Arlington, VA, in an indication that her moves are likely to prove controversial.

Dev Vos offered a lengthy critique of how the Obama administration had ordered campuses to enforce Title IX legislation, saying it had failed to offer justice. Speaking at the Atonin Scalia Law School, named for the late conservative Supreme Court justice, she said ''the era of 'rule by letter' is over,'' as she announced plans to review and replace the way colleges and university handle investigations.

The Obama administration guidance was originally delivered in a letter to schools. She says it has failed many students and done a 'disservice to everyone involved.'

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4862570/The-Latest-Waiting-new-guidance-Title-IX-enforcement.html

September 7, 2017

Pope Francis arrives for Colombia's first papal visit since 1986

Pope Francis arrived in Colombia on Wednesday for the first papal visit since 1986, the beginning of an intense, five-day trip in which he will try to bring a sharply divided nation together in the cause of peace.

The pope’s Alitalia jet touched down at a military base next to Bogota’s El Dorado International Airport and was met by President Juan Manuel Santos; his wife, María Clemencia; and Msgr. Ettore Balestrero, the Vatican’s representative in Bogotá.

Santos has focused much of his presidency on a peace agreement finalized in December with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, the largest of several mainly leftist rebel forces that have been at war with the government since the 1960s.

The peace deal ended 52 years of conflict; but its concessions to the rebels have opened sharp divisions in Colombian society, between those willing to forgive the violence of the past and those who insist the agreement’s terms are too generous.

Francis strongly supported the peace initiative without appearing to favor either side or specific deal points. A Vatican spokesman said this week that the pope has long wanted to visit Colombia, with the world’s third-biggest population of Roman Catholics; but wanted to wait until the peace negotiations were completed before making the trip.

At: http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-fg-colombia-pope-20170906-story.html

Pope Francis greets Colombian children upon his arrival at Bogotá today. President Juan Manuel Santos and First Lady María Clemencia Santos accompany him.
September 6, 2017

Cheers to 40 Years! Voyagers 1 and 2 going strong

It's been 40 years to the day since the Voyager mission commenced with the launch of Voyager 1.

This groundbreaking and incredibly ambitious mission touched on practically every aspect of our solar system and planetary neighbors.

Voyager 1 left Earth on September 5, 1977 - preceded by Voyager 2 on August 20th - on a quest to study the outer solar system. Today NASA and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum are celebrating the 40th anniversary of this history-making mission.

Throughout the 1960s, NASA had focused on sending astronauts to the Moon. But by the 1970s, as the Apollo era ended, the agency's focus shifted toward robotic missions to the planets, as well as developing the Space Shuttle program for delivering payloads to Earth orbit.

In 1964, with Apollo 11's landing still a half decade away, Caltech graduate student and Jet Propulsion Laboratory intern Gary Flandro was working to develop feasible trajectories for a mission to the outer planets. He turned his attention to the relatively new idea of gravity assist, whereby a spacecraft passing close by a planet steals some of its orbital speed, accelerating without expending any rocket fuel.

Flandro's pencil-and-paper plots of the outer planets revealed that Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune would align in the late 1970s such that one spacecraft could visit all four in a single mission if it launched by 1977.

The craft would slingshot around each planet in succession, completing a "Grand Tour" in only 10 to 12 years. By comparison, sending a dedicated spacecraft to only Neptune would take 40 years without passing any other planets along the way.

At: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/cheers-to-40-years-voyager-1-and-2-going-strong/

Voyager 1: going strong at 40 years.
September 5, 2017

Brutality returns to Argentina's streets as police moves in on peaceful demonstrators

Police used water canon and batons against peaceful protesters in Buenos Aires as they campaigned to know the whereabouts of ‘disappeared’ human rights activist Santiago Maldonado.

Journalists have called Friday night events an attack on the free press as police arrested reporters covering the protest. Thirty people were detained - including seven reporters - and 23 were wounded, according to the Buenos Aires Press Union (Sipreba).

Maldonado was last seen at an indigenous-rights demonstration in Patagonia on August 1. Police deny arresting him, and there are no official records showing he was detained.

Human rights campaigners, union leaders and left-wing groups gathered under the slogan "Donde está Santiago?" (Where is Santiago) as they called for President Mauricio Macri's government to do more to find him.

Maldonado's disappearance last month has sparked fury and fear among people in Argentina, who have compared it the up to 30,000 'disappeared' under the military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983.

Security Minister Patricia Bullrich faced calls to resign after giving false testimony in Congress last week and later divulging the name of a man, Ariel Garzi, who had been at the site of Maldonado's disappearance and was under witness protection.

Bullrich's top adviser Pablo Nocetti, a former defense attorney for some of the 2,400 officers charged with dictatorship-era abuses, admitted being at the scene of August 1 incident. "The police are not the same as 40 years ago," Bullrich said.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urged Argentina to take "the necessary measures to determine the situation and Maldonado's whereabouts" as well as to report on the investigation of the facts.

The IACHR has also condemned the right-wing Macri administration for its arbitrary detention of indigenous activist Milagro Sala, who was granted house arrest last week after the IACHR verified she had been mistreated in prison and on July 28 ruled she be released.

At: http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/850194/argentina-protest-santiago-maldonado-police-brutality-mauricio-macri

Protesters call on Bullrich to reveal Santiago Maldonado's whereabouts. "One of the officers might have gotten out of hand," she admitted to a congresswoman.
September 5, 2017

Senior journalist Gauri Lankesh shot dead at her residence in Bengaluru, India

Gauri Lankesh, a senior journalist and activist in Bengaluru, was shot dead outside her home in Rajarajeshwari Nagar on Tuesday evening. Police said her body was found on the verandah of her home in West Bengaluru.

"We learnt that the victim was shot dead from close range when she was standing outside her house in Rajarajeswari Nagar (in the suburbs) around 8.00 p.m.," a senior police officer said.

Lankesh had just reached home and was about to enter when unidentified men shot at the 55-year-old journalist seven times from close range; three bullets hit her on the neck and chest. Her body has been taken to the Victoria Hospital for a postmortem.

She ran the weekly Lankesh Patrike, a Kannada tabloid. Like her father, noted Kannada writer P. Lankesh, Gauri Lankesh faced opposition and criticism of her journalism. She was part of a group that worked for communal harmony, and her views were considered Leftist and anti-Hindutva.

In November 2016, she had been found guilty of defamation in a case involving right-wing MP Prahlad Joshi and had been sentenced to six months in jail; she was out on bail.

Lankesh was a vocal opponent of Prime Minister Narendra Mori, whom she slammed for asserting last year that "women don't own anything."

"No one owns me," she said. "I might not have gold; but I have independence, self-respect, and freedom of thought. I guess a man like you could never understand that."

At: http://www.ndtv.com/bangalore-news/senior-journalist-gauri-lankesh-shot-dead-at-her-residence-in-bengaluru-1746480

Gauri Lankesh, 1962-2017.
September 4, 2017

President Bachelet of Chile is the last woman standing in the Americas

For a few years, President Michelle Bachelet of Chile and two other female leaders presided over much of South America, representing more than half of the continent’s population.

Their presidencies — in Argentina, Brazil and Chile — made the region an exemplar of the global push for a more equitable footing for women in politics. But now, with one of her counterparts impeached and the other fighting politically-motivated corruption charges, Ms. Bachelet finds herself in an unsettling position: the last female head of government standing in the Americas.

And in a few months, she will be gone, too. After Ms. Bachelet’s term ends next year, none of the countries in North or South America are expected to have female presidents - a notable turnaround in a region where, until recently, women have been elected to lead influential democracies.

The end of the Bachelet era is raising troubling questions for advocates of women’s rights who had hoped that the region’s recent track record of electing women was a lasting step toward gender equality.

The three powerful female presidents in South America — Ms. Bachelet, Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in Argentina — came to office with the endorsement of popular male incumbents at a time when leftist parties promising to create more equitable societies appealed to voters.

But the standing of the three presidents — and the perception of their parties — suffered as the end of a commodities boom in 2014 hurt regional economies and a series of corruption scandals called into question their integrity and leadership.

Presidents often see their support plunge while in office. But the three female presidents agree that their gender exposed them to particularly virulent backlashes.

“They accused me of being overly tough and harsh, while a man would have been considered firm, strong,” former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said. “Or they would say I was too emotional and fragile, when a man would have been considered sensitive. I was seen as someone too obsessed with work, while a man would have been considered hard-working.”

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, 65, is a pediatrician and single mother who began her government career as an adviser in the Health Ministry, rising quickly to become the nation’s first female health minister in 2000 and then its first female defense minister in 2002.

Bachelet's first presidential election victory in 2006 - widely regarded as the first to be elected on her own merits, without riding the coattails of a politically powerful husband - was a watershed moment inspired women across Latin America.

During her first four-year term, Ms. Bachelet signed legislation curbing workplace discrimination, to protect victims of domestic violence, and to expand health care for women.

During her second term, she created a ministry of women and gender equality, and passed an electoral change requiring that at least 40% of candidates for elected office be women. She recently obtained a partial decriminalizion of abortion - a pressing women's health issue in a country where up to 100,000 illegal abortions are performed annually.

“I always make a soccer analogy,” Ms. Bachelet said. “If, of the 11 players, we only had half in the field, we would never win a game. The country, in order to develop, needs the skills of men and women.”

At: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/24/world/americas/michelle-bachelet-president-of-chile.html?mcubz=3

Argentina's Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Chile's Michelle Bachelet, and Brazil's Dilma Rousseff during Bachelet's 2014 inaugural.

September 3, 2017

Steely Dan's Donald Fagen remembers Walter Becker in thoughtful note

Steely Dan's Donald Fagen shared a thoughtful note following the death of his bandmate Walter Becker.

Becker, who had been suffering from an unspecified illness, passed away Sunday (Sept. 3) at the age of 67.

Walter Becker was my friend, my writing partner and my bandmate since we met as students at Bard College in 1967. We started writing nutty little tunes on an upright piano in a small sitting room in the lobby of Ward Manor, a mouldering old mansion on the Hudson River that the college used as a dorm.

We liked a lot of the same things: jazz (from the twenties through the mid-sixties), W.C. Fields, the Marx Brothers, science fiction, Nabokov, Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Berger, and Robert Altman films come to mind. Also soul music and Chicago blues.

Walter had a very rough childhood - I’ll spare you the details. Luckily, he was smart as a whip, an excellent guitarist and a great songwriter. He was cynical about human nature, including his own, and hysterically funny. Like a lot of kids from fractured families, he had the knack of creative mimicry, reading people’s hidden psychology and transforming what he saw into bubbly, incisive art. He used to write letters (never meant to be sent) in my wife Libby’s singular voice that made the three of us collapse with laughter.

His habits got the best of him by the end of the seventies, and we lost touch for a while. In the eighties, when I was putting together the NY Rock and Soul Review with Libby, we hooked up again, revived the Steely Dan concept and developed another terrific band.

I intend to keep the music we created together alive as long as I can with the Steely Dan band.

At: http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/rock/7950043/steely-dan-donald-fagen-walter-becker-death-statement

September 1, 2017

Argentine political prisoner Milagro Sala transferred to house arrest following IACHR ruling

Argentine indigenous activist Milagro Sala, whose imprisonment without charges 19 months ago has been ruled arbitrary by numerous international bodies, has been transferred to house arrest.

The transfer comes over a month after a July 28 ruling by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) ordering Argentina to comply with a formal UN request to release Sala from prison.

Despite an August 12 deadline, local courts did not order her transfer until August 16.

Jujuy Province Governor Gerardo Morales, who ordered Sala's detention, initially resisted the ruling. He accused the IACHR of being "controlled by leftists" - a charge which drew immediate comparisons to the rhetoric used by Argentina's last dictatorship against a 1979 IACHR fact-finding mission that verified that thousands of disappeared at the hands of the regime.

Half-built house

Sala was not transferred to her home in San Salvador de Jujuy (the provincial capital); but instead to a halfway house in El Carmen, a small town 15 mi to the south.

The house, however, was an abandoned property lacking doors, windows, most basic amenities, or connections to public utilities. Following Governor Morales' refusal to fund improvements, private donations were raised for its refurbishment.

Sala was greeted by her husband, journalist Raúl Noro, who was himself detained for four months without charges last year after leading a protest calling for her release.

She made an appeal for other political prisoners and for Santiago Maldonado, a 28 year-old activist who was detained by federal forces on August 1 and has not been seen since.

The Sala case

Sala, now 53, was ordered arrested on January 16, 2016, by Governor Morales on unsubstantiated charges of “inciting violence” — a charge that was later dropped.

She was charged nearly a year later with embezzlement, extortion, and conspiracy related to government earmarks for housing projects managed by the Túpac Amaru Association and related charges.

Critics note that prosecutors have offered no proof to substantiate charges, relying only on testimony from individuals including an illiterate man who was later awarded a public contract and an ex-convict who was released despite serving a sentence for murder.

Citing lack of evidence and serious irregularities such as the use of bribed witnesses, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled on October 21, 2016, that Sala's detention is in fact arbitrary, and urged President Mauricio Macri (a close ally of Morales) to release her immediately. The IACHR did likewise on December 4.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.diarioregistrado.com%2Fsociedad-%2Ftrasladaron-a-milagro-sala-para-cumplir-la-detencion-domiciliaria_a59a8613a642ff2539677fb40&edit-text=

Milagro Sala being transferred to house arrest. Her 19-month detention has been ruled arbitrary by the UN and the IACHR.

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