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Judi Lynn

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Member since: 2002
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US relations with Cuba could become a bargaining chip in the healthcare debate

US relations with Cuba could become a bargaining chip in the healthcare debate

Christopher Woody


President Donald Trump took a hardline on thawing US relations with Cuba during the final weeks of his campaign, likely in a move to shore up his support with some segments of the electorate.

In the two months since he took office, though, Trump's Cuba policy — to the extent that it exists — has been far from clear, especially because of Trump's past vacillations on the issue.

A New York Times report about wrangling on Capitol Hill over the Republican healthcare bill indicates that at least one Florida Republican sees the debate as a way to gauge Trump's stance on Cuba.

According to The Times:

As part of the discussions, Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, Republican of Florida, made it clear to White House officials that he wanted assurances that the president would hold to his pledge to consider reversing President Barack Obama’s opening with Cuba, the White House official said. Mr. Diaz-Balart backed the measure in the Budget Committee last week, although the official said there had been no explicit discussion of trading his vote for a promise on Cuba.


Protesters in DC confront Honduran president over Berta Cceres murder

Supporters and family demand independent investigation into activist’s killing after current and former military officers arrested

Lauren Gambino in Washington
Tuesday 21 March 2017 16.27 EDT

Supporters and family members of Berta Cáceres, the Honduran environmental and indigenous rights activist who was assassinated last year, have confronted the country’s president in Washington to demand an independent investigation of her murder.

President Juan Orlando Hernández traveled to Washington to meet with lawmakers on Tuesday and was greeted by protesters carrying signs with photographs of murdered activists and chants of “asesino” – Spanish for murderer.

Cáceres was one of more than 120 land and environmental campaigners murdered since a military-backed coup d’état ousted the democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya in 2009, according to the anti-corruption NGO Global Witness. Eight men have been arrested in connection with her murder, including one serving and two retired military officers.

. . .

The Honduran government has denied any role in Cáceres’s killing, but records obtained by the Guardian show that one of the suspects had been appointed chief of intelligence for elite special forces and that he and another suspect received military training in the US.

During the meeting, Mark Pocan, a Democratic congressman from Wisconsin, raised concerns that some of the suspects in the murder had received US training, according to an aide in the congressman’s office. The congressman asked the president how to ensure that US aid money was not being used to abet human rights violations.


Why paramilitary groups still exist in Colombia

Why paramilitary groups still exist in Colombia
written by Adriaan Alsema March 20, 2017

Colombia’s government denies the existence of paramilitary groups in the country, ignoring the fact that these extreme-right drug trafficking groups have existed (and whose existence has been denied) since the 1980s.

. . .

Both the late “Cuchillo” and the imprisoned “Don Mario,” the respective founders of ERPAC and the AGC, started their clandestine career in the Medellin cartel, before switching to “Los Pepes,” the anti-Escobar paramilitary group that helped Colombian and United States authorities kill Escobar in 1993.

. . .

In spite its unprecedented cruelty, the AUC received active support from both the Colombian military, the private sector and elements within the government, all of whom were unable to counter the increasingly powerful guerrillas.

. . .

Ahead of a 2005 peace deal, the AUC began demobilizing its blocs in 2003, confiding that their long time ideological ally Uribe would cut them a good deal, which he did.


It wasn't just Greece: Archaeologists find early democratic societies in the Americas

Public plazas were scattered through every neighborhood in the republic of Tlaxcallan. Some had modest temples like this one built off to one side.

It wasn't just Greece: Archaeologists find early democratic societies in the Americas
By Lizzie Wade Mar. 15, 2017 , 9:00 AM

The candidate for political office stood in a plaza, naked, bracing himself against the punches and kicks. The crowd roared, pulsing around him like a beating heart. People for whom he had risked his life in war after war hurled blows and insults from all directions. The candidate breathed deeply. Trained as a warrior, he knew he had to stay calm to reach the next phase of his candidacy.

This ordeal, documented by a Spanish priest in the 1500s, was merely the beginning of the long process of joining the government of the Mesoamerican city of Tlaxcallan, built around 1250 C.E. in the hills surrounding the modern city of Tlaxcala, Mexico. After this trial ended, the candidate would enter the temple on the edge of the plaza and stay for up to 2 years, while priests drilled him in Tlaxcallan's moral and legal code. He would be starved, beaten with spiked whips when he fell asleep, and required to cut himself in bloodletting rituals. But when he walked out of the temple, he would be more than a warrior: He would be a member of Tlaxcallan's senate, one of the 100 or so men who made the city's most important military and economic decisions.

"I'd like to see modern politicians do all that, just to prove they can govern," says archaeologist Lane Fargher, standing in the shadow of one of Tlaxcallan's recently restored elevated plazas. Fargher has led surveys and excavations here since 2007, studying the urban plan and material culture of a type of society many archaeologists once believed they'd never find in Mesoamerica: a republic. "Twenty or 25 years ago, no one would have accepted it was organized this way," says Fargher, who works at the research institute Cinvestav in Mérida, Mexico.

Now, thanks in part to work led by Fargher's mentor Richard Blanton, an anthropologist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, Tlaxcallan is one of several premodern societies around the world that archaeologists believe were organized collectively, where rulers shared power and commoners had a say in the government that presided over their lives.accepted it was organized this way," says Fargher, who works at the research institute Cinvestav in Mérida, Mexico.


Balam Ajp: Mayan Hip-Hops Political Agenda

March 19, 2017
Balam Ajpú: Mayan Hip-Hop’s Political Agenda
"When people feel our passion, they offer theirs.”
By Jose Garcia

The first time I saw the members of Balam Ajpú perform together was in 2012, in Guatemala City, for the ZONA M’s closing show. They put on an unforgettable show.

Tzutu, Nativo, and MChe walked onto the stage slowly, like a gentle mist, while shaking their sonajas and blowing incense. People watched silently, as though in a daze. White fog covered the steps. When the smoke cleared, Tzutu was kneeling down, lighting a small fire while reciting Mayan poetry. Soon that spiritual opening turned into a furious hip-hop concert.

Despite the language difference—Tzutu was rapping in Tz’utujil—his fiery, speedy rapping infected the crowd, which began dancing, bobbing their heads, and clapping along. Tzutu howled, screamed, and strained his voice. It was powerful and hypnotizing; larger than life. There were handmade shakers, empty turtle shells, wooden drums, songs in Spanish, Mayan, Tz’utujil. So unlike what we were used to at a rap concert.

All of Balam Ajpú’s shows are that memorable. Far from a typical hip-hop recital, theirs is a ceremony, a rebellious spiritual gathering. Their lyrics are sincere tributes to the Mayan culture, Mother Nature, the forefathers and foremothers, the creators, the Earth, the stars, life. Their music: a fermented rendering of contemporary sounds. Marimbas, sonajas, turtle shells, hand-made drums, and birds chirping meet with acoustic guitars, basses, and violins to form slippery reggaes, smooth cumbias, and explosive Mayan raps.


Balam Ajpu – Maltooj (ofrenda y agradecimiento) con Ta Pedro Cruz

Balam Ajpu

The priest helping women get birth control at US border: 'Lesser of two evils'

For undocumented women making the perilous journey to the US, sexual violence is one among many threats. As a nun explains: ‘Women are a commodity’

Alice Whitwham
Friday 17 March 2017 06.00 EDT

“Unfortunately, the woman who is going to migrate, she knows that she will be violated,” Father Prisciliano Pereza told me. We were standing in a sun-beaten central plaza outside Our Lady of Guadalupe church, in Altar, a languid town in Sonora, Mexico.

Wearing a corduroy jacket, a cowboy hat and a broad smile, Father Prisciliano – or “Prisci”, as he is locally known – is uncharacteristic of Mexican Catholic priests. He adapts Catholic teaching to minister to migrating women during their perilous journeys across the Sonoran desert into the US. Especially shocking to some, he helps them to acquire preventive birth control, because of the risk of sexual assault.

“There are groups that are networks,” he told me, when I asked him who he thought was responsible for the sexual violence. “It’s not just one guide, there are several … From their place of origin until their destination, there are going to be five to eight people guiding the migrants. It makes women more vulnerable.”

He was referring to the guías – local people who are familiar with the routes in different towns and cities – who accompany women on their journeys north. They are organized by coyotes, businessmen who determine the cost of making these connections. The tensions Prisci navigates are political as well as spiritual; he serves the guías who grew up in his church, as well as the women who fear them.


How unaccompanied youth become exploited workers in the U.S.

FRIDAY, MAR 17, 2017 06:29 PM CDT
How unaccompanied youth become exploited workers in the U.S.
Undocumented immigrant youths face horrific work conditions to support their families

The Trump administration has released a series of executive orders targeting immigration at the U.S. southern border. Central American families and children traveling alone represent nearly half of all unauthorized migrants apprehended by Customs and Border Protection. The criminalization of immigrants at the U.S. southern border disproportionately affects Central American children and youth. The Conversation

Nearly 153,000 unaccompanied Mexican and Central American children have been apprehended at the U.S. southern border since 2014. Of those detained by Customs and Border Protection and processed by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, 60 percent have been reunited with a sponsor, typically a parent. The other 40 percent are placed with a nonparent sponsor.

With the guidance of a parent or guardian, these youths might obtain financial, legal, health and social support. Others who enter without detection and remain unaccompanied when they arrive in the U.S. are financially independent and may never gain access to formal resettlement services. Recent orders by the Trump administration that prioritize unaccompanied child migrants for deportation heighten the vulnerability of immigrant children in the U.S.

Since 2012, I have conducted in-depth observations and interviews with undocumented immigrant youth who arrived in Los Angeles, California as unaccompanied minors and have remained without a parent throughout their settlement in the U.S. I use pseudonyms for confidentiality as research participants are migrant youth living and working in the U.S. without authorization.


Southern Command in Costa Rica: US Occupation Disguised as Humanitarian Aid

Southern Command in Costa Rica: US Occupation Disguised as Humanitarian Aid
Saturday, March 18, 2017
By Santiago Navarro F. and Renata Bessi, Truthout | Report

A helicopter of the Southern Command in the Alto Telire, Talamanca, takes part in Operation
Pura Vida. (Photo Courtesy of The Ministry of Public Security of Costa Rica)

From the top of the great Talamaca mountain range in southern Costa Rica, you can see the Caribbean Sea and the houses of the Bribri and Cabécar Indigenous groups. According to their cosmology, their ancestors are in every tree, in every river and in every living being found in this reserve close to the border with Panama: The place is sacred. But to the Costa Rican government and the United States Southern Command, its value lies in its mineral deposits and oil.

Costa Rica hasn't had an official army for the last 68 years. However, in 2013, people in the Talamaca region were surprised by the arrival of a helicopter full of uniformed military personnel, whom they immediately identified as being part of the United States Southern Command. The military personnel were playing the role of missionaries, giving Bibles away. However, simultaneously, they were carrying out various military training activities in the area around Alto Cuen, a Bribri community.

"They said they were missionaries, but no one believed them," Bribri tribe member Leonardo Buitrago Morales told Truthout. "We knew they were looking for something more. The truth is that they want our lands and our forests to make money."

In addition to the locals, the organization Ceiba Amigos de la Tierra, which promotes sustainable societies through social, economic and environmental justice, also spoke out against the arrival of the eight military personnel, who carried sophisticated equipment including GPS, cameras, altitude and topography meters, firearms and other weapons. The non-governmental organization even filed a complaint with the Costa Rican government, but "the Public Ministry never followed up on it. On the contrary, the complaint was dismissed," says Henry Picado of the Costa Rican Biodiversity Network.


The 11-year-old Brazilian boy teaching his mother to read

By Renata Moura
BBC Brasil, Natal
4 March 2017

Damiao has taught his mother Sandra to read

It has only been a year since Sandra Maria de Andrade woke up to the wondrous world of reading.

One afternoon after work, the rubbish picker from north-eastern Brazil was lying exhausted in a hammock when her youngest son, Damiao Sandriano, invited her to take a look at a book.

"Mum, would you like to read with me?" he asked. "It's a story, and it has pictures."

At the time, the 42-year old was unable to write her own name.


Ecuador's presidential candidate accused of corruption

Ecuador's presidential candidate accused of corruption
Source: Xinhua 2017-03-17 06:38:02

QUITO, March 16 (Xinhua) -- Ecuadorian presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso has been accused of using his position as economy minister to enrich himself during the country's worst ever financial crisis, state news agency Andes said on Thursday.

Lasso, an ex-banker and candidate of the conservative opposition, "multiplied his wealth by 3,000 percent" from 1999 to 2000, when he served as economy minister to former President Jamil Mahuad, according to the agency.

"While millions of Ecuadorians lost their assets," Lasso turned his million-dollar fortune into 30 million dollars "thanks to speculating with Reprogrammed Certificates of Deposit (CDRs), a document that was given to depositors for the value of their savings, but that had to be exchanged at the end of a year," the agency explained.

Amid the panic of an unraveling economy, the banks, including Lasso's, then bought the CDRs at deep discounts, only to turn around and cash them for the full amount with the National Financial Corporation (CFN). The nation's publicly-owned bank also went broke.

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