Judi LynnJudi Lynn's Journal
The dump that holds the secrets of the disappeared
29 December 2014 Last updated at 21:32 ET
By Linda Pressly
Once the murder capital of the world, the Colombian city of Medellin, has been transformed into an attractive and vibrant city. But on the outskirts there is a dump where people say the truth lies buried - the bodies of dozens of people who were "disappeared" in years of bloody civil conflict.
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For many years, Comuna 13 was under the sway of left-wing guerrilla groups. The state had little influence here, but Operation Orion - launched just before Carol Vanesa disappeared - would change that.
They came in indiscriminately on the pretext of getting rid of the guerrillas
"The state decided it had to take back control of Comuna 13," says Jenny Pearce, professor of Latin American politics at the University of Bradford.
"But the way they did it seems to have been in alliance with paramilitary groups. And the paramilitaries subsequently went in and 'disappeared' at least 200-300 people from the area. So the bodies at la escombrera are the victims of what can only be called a state crime."
Locals remember the operation and its aftermath as a period of "absolute terror".
"There were more than 1,000 men from the state's forces, two helicopters and more than 800 paramilitaries," says Jeihhco, the founder of a cultural centre in Comuna 13. "They came in indiscriminately on the pretext of getting rid of the guerrillas."
Underground medieval palace revealed by surface survey
The layout of a medieval city underground at the site of Old Sarum has been revealed through the use of non-invasive digital mapping technologies.
by Michelle Starr
/8 December 2014 1:07 am GMT
Old Sarum in Salisbury, the UK, is rich with history, dating back 5,000 years. During the Iron Age, it became the site of a hill fort, during the Roman occupation of Britain hundreds of years later, it became a military outpost and, during the Middle Ages, the site of a bustling city.
Although much of these ruins have been excavated over the years, there are sections that remained underground: the Inner and Outer Baileys of the ancient hillfort, where a city arose in the 11th Century, complete with a castle and cathedral -- and stood for over 300 years, declining in the 13th century when New Sarum -- Salisbury -- rose, and the city relocated.
Although the existence of this city was known, its layout was not -- and now a number of surveys have revealed the network of buildings -- including what was probably one of the largest royal palaces of the time.
"Archaeologists and historians have known for centuries that there was a medieval city at Old Sarum, but until now there has been no proper plan of the site," said Kristian Strutt, Experimental Officer and Director of Archaeological Prospection Services at the University of Southampton.
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Archaeologists discover lost medieval city undisturbed underground for more than 700 years
Dec 03, 2014 00:00
By Richard Smith
Team of academics used state-of-the-art scanning techniques to uncover the site of Old Sarum, near Salisbury
Archaeologists have unearthed an almost complete medieval city without the need for any Digging. For the first time the
plan of a network of buildings in a once thriving medieval city at the historic site of Old Sarum, near Salisbury, Wiltshire
A long-lost medieval city has been discovered by experts without using spades to dig up any earth.
Latest X-ray scanning techniques were used to map out a network of 11th century buildings at the famous Old Sarum archaeological site.
The city has lay undisturbed beneath grass for more than 700 years.
But university researchers found a series of massive structures - believed to be large defensive buildings - along the southern edge of the outer bailey wall.
Large Underground City Discovered in Turkey
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
NEVŞEHIR, TURKEYAn underground city estimated to be 5,000 years old has been discovered in Turkeys Central Anatolian province, surrounding Nevşehir fortress, which sits on a conical-shaped hill. The area was being prepared by the Housing Development Administration ( TOKİ ) for an urban transformation project. It is not a known underground city. Tunnel passages of seven kilometers are being discussed. We stopped the construction we were planning to do on these areas when an underground city was discovered, TOKİ Head Mehmet Ergün Turan told Hurriet Daily News. This city is thought to be much larger than other underground cities in the region. We believe that people, who were engaged in agriculture, were using the tunnels to carry agricultural products to the city. We also estimate that one of the tunnels passes under Nevşehir and reaches a faraway water source, said Özcan Çakir of 18 March University.
(Short article, no more at link.)
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Massive ancient underground city unearthed in Turkey could be world's biggest
Archaeologists discover giant underground city in Nevşehir dating to 5,000 years old
By Hannah Osborne
December 30, 2014 15:51 GMT
massive underground city that dates back 5,000 years has been discovered in Turkey's Central Anatolian province.
The city, unearthed by archaeologists, is believed to be the world's biggest underground city ever to be found.
According to Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News, the researchers unearthed tunnels and passages during work on an urban transformation project.
Around 1,500 buildings in the area were destroyed to make way for new homes. While moving earth to begin construction, the giant city was discovered.
Mehmet Ergün Turan, head of Turkey's Housing Development Administration's ( TOKİ ), said the area was immediately announced as an area of preservation: "It is not a known underground city. Tunnel passages of seven kilometers are being discussed. We stopped the construction we were planning to do on these areas when an underground city was discovered."
Beyond Ayotzinapa: How U.S. Intervention in Colombia Paved the Way for Mexicos Human Rights Crisis
Written by Julia Duranti and Maggie Ervin
Thursday, 18 December 2014 10:57
Until two weeks ago, there were 43 disappeared students in Guerrero, Mexico. Now there are 42. Despite tens of thousands of Mexican protesters chanting, You took them alive! We want them back alive, one of the students was officially pronounced dead on Saturday, December 6. Alexander Mora Venancio was just 19 years old. The identification of his remains was a transnational effort: Mexican officials found them, Austrian scientists tested them, and Argentine forensics verified them. But there are other countries with key roles in this story that have remained largely silent: the U.S. and its closest South American ally, Colombia. While the Mexican government scrambled to present the Ayotzinapa student massacre as a case of low-level corruption that can be solved by shuffling police units and criminalizing the protests that brought international scrutiny, a new report emerged claiming that federal police also participated in the torture and disappearance of the students. U.S. intervention in Colombia shows why the state violence evident in Ayotzinapa is anything but an isolated incident.
Colombia is rarely in the U.S. news these days, despite an ongoing armed conflict well over half a century old. Unlike the Middle East, Colombias guerrilla insurgents, while on the State Department Terrorist List, do not haunt U.S. imaginations as an imminent threat; unlike Central America, Colombias internally displaced personsover 6 million at last countrarely make it to U.S. borders. This lack of coverage masks over 50 years of U.S. involvement. In line with the Cold War doctrine of containing communism at any cost, U.S. military officials under the Kennedy administration created paramilitary self-defense groups, called Plan Laso, to work in tandem with the Colombian state to crush leftist resistance in 1962two years before the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerilla insurgencies were formally constituted. Soon after,Colombian drug cartels emerged to meet U.S. demand for cocaine in the 1970s and 1980s. That ended with the assassination of Medellin cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar in 1993, carried out with U.S. support. The Cali Cartel was defeated just a few years later, opening a vacuum in international cocaine distribution that loose criminal syndicates in Colombia and, notably, ascending cartels in Mexico were happy to fill. The fragmentation of the illicit drug trade in Colombia roughly correlated with market liberalization of the legal economy under President Cesar Gaviria with the slogan, Welcome to the Future, along with the Mexican financial crisis and passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. Throughout the 1990s, the Colombian guerillas gained territory and soldiers, with the FARCs ranks swelling to nearly 20,000 by 2001. This led to several key developments. The first was the 1997 consolidation of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a 30,000-strong paramilitary structure that collaborated with the Colombian military to commit some of the worst human rights violations in the countrys history before undergoing an incomplete demobilization process that left thousands of paramilitary descendants still active across the country. The second was a U.S. counternarcotics and counterinsurgency aid package known as Plan Colombia.
Plan Colombia, Plan Mexico
Soldier in ColombiaPlan Colombia initially consisted of $1.3 billion in supply-side drug interdiction assistance, including a controversial and unique aerial herbicide fumigations program of coca crops, as well as weapons, equipment, technical assistance and training for Colombian military and police. It was signed by U.S. President Bill Clinton and Colombian President Andrés Pastrana in 2000, both of whom were succeeded by conservative presidents with tough counterterrorism ideologies (George W. Bush and Alvaro Uribe, respectively) that kept up support for Plan Colombia through 2007, when the name and strategy shifted to a Consolidation Plan. Presidents Bush and Uribe found a willing ally for the Wars on Drugs and Terror in right-wing Mexican President Felipe Calderoón, elected in 2006 after Mexican drug cartels had risen to prominence. Shortly thereafter, the Mérida Initiativealso known as Plan Mexicowas approved to fight organized crime and associated violence. Since that time, nearly $3 billion in U.S. military aid to Mexico have contributed to the massive militarization of the country: Blackhawk helicopters (at $20 million apiece), thousands of U.S. weapons, extensive training of police and military, increased surveillance of the border and ports, and even U.S. Marshals dressing as Mexican marines to carry out special operations on Mexican soil. The toll on Mexico has been devastating: more than 100,000 dead and more than 26,000 disappeared since 2006.
Photo: Colombia's military is a top recipient of U.S. funding and
training, even as it has committed human rights abuses and
collaborated with paramilitary groups--themselves descendants
of U.S.-designed Plan Laso. With U.S. encouragement, Colombia
is now a major security exporter to Mexico, where similar
patterns of extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances have
developed. Credit: Melissa Cox / Human Pictures
Meanwhile, the U.S. has provided over $8 billion in aid to Colombia, making it one of the top recipients of U.S. military aid in the world. Yet Colombia is still a top supplier of heroin and cocaine to the U.S. The number of victims in Colombias conflict now tops 7 million , including 6 million internally displaced persons, more than 150,000 forced disappearances and more than 930,000 homicides. But a staggering 5.9 million of these human rights violations have occurred just since 2000, when U.S. funding began to bolster public security forces already known for human rights atrocities. Then in 2006 the false positives scandal broke, in which it was revealed that Colombian security forces some trained on U.S. soil at the polemic Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation/School of the Americas (WHINSEC/SOA)systematically murdered at least 5,000 innocent civilians and then dressed them up in guerrilla fatigues, presenting them as enemy kills in order to gain rewards like bonuses and extra vacation time. This practice was developed as part of the body count mentality promoted in U.S. training and occurred on the watch of then-Defense Minister and current President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos. Later that year, the parapolitics scandal broke, implicating politicians at all levels in narco-paramilitary structures. These groups, now referred to by the Colombian government as criminal bands (BACRIM), continue to enjoy close relationships with both licit and illicit business interests and politicians in Colombia, and pose the greatest threat to citizen expression and social movements: Plan Lasos legacy continuing to pay dividends.
Colombia: Security Exporter
U.S. officials stubbornly defend their investment in Colombias military might and its applicability to Mexico. One U.S. Embassy official in Bogotá said, In 2000 Colombia was on the brink of becoming a failed narcostate. Plan Colombia helped prevent that now, Colombia is a security exporter. Now the Colombians are training the Mexicans in security. In a visit to Colombia just last week Secretary of State John Kerry echoed that sentiment. Indeed, direct aid to Colombia has declined since 2008 and proportionately increased for the Merida Initiative, and even more recently to the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI). Along with increasing military and counternarcotics aid to these countries ,the U.S. has made a conscious move to use Colombia as a security proxy, providing the U.S. with plausible deniability in the case of human rights abuses committed by their trainees. U.S. General John Kelly got himself into hot water last May by admitting as much. The use of security proxies and continued certification from the U.S. government that Colombia and Mexico are meeting human rights requirements for military aid skirt the spirit of the Leahy Law, which is intended to prevent U.S. funding of militaries that have committed gross human rights abuses.
Given this close relationship, the reasons behind Mexicos violence become clearer. When President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in 2012, he tried to shift the countrys attention to the economy and moving Mexico forward. But torture, arbitrary detentions, kidnappings and disappearances have escalated throughout his two years in office. Although the 43 students made international news, 5,098 Mexicans have been disappeared in 2014 alone.
Obama's Very Sly Cuban Move
Alan Gross is freed from a Cuban jailand this leads to a historic shift in Washington-Havana relations.
By David Corn
| Wed Dec. 17, 2014 11:40 AM EST
For years, President Barack Obama faced a tough problem: what to do about Alan Gross, the US subcontractor imprisoned in Cuba? And this dilemma encapsulated the larger puzzle of how to change US-Cuba relations, which have been frozen in a Cold War narrative.
The Cubans arrested Gross in 2009 and threw him in jail for distributing internet communications equipment under a program funded by the US Agency for International Development. The Cubans claimed he was a spy helping dissidents set up a secret communications system; the Obama administration insisted he was no such thing and was merely promoting free expression within Cuba's Jewish community. After Gross, who was in poor health, was sentenced to 15 years in prison, the Cubans offered the Americans a deal: They would free Gross if the United States released the Cuban Five, five Cubans arrested for spying in 1998 in Florida and later convicted and given long prison sentences. (One of the five was paroled in 2011; another comes up for parole in February.)
The Obama White House balked at the deal, in part because it seemed to equate Gross' activity with espionage. For years, Gross and his family and his advocates slammed the administration for not doing enough to secure his freedom. Some privately complained bitterly about White House inaction. Gross, they noted, had been sent to Cuba on a mission for the United Stateswhich might indeed have crossed a linebut was left to rot on his own. A year ago, Gross sent Obama a letter and said he feared he had been "abandoned." He called on the president to intervene personally to win his freedom.
But White House officials, insisting that Gross was not an intelligence asset, felt they could not accept the Cuban terms. There would be no spy swap. And the political uproar that accompanied the trade of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban commanders earlier this year hardly encouraged the administration to reconsider.
There was a deadlock. Yet someone on the Cuban or American side came up with an ingenious workaround. It turns out that a US intelligence assetwho provided intelligence that helped the United States apprehend the Cuban Fivehad been held in a Cuban prison for years. This person could be the other end of the swap. Consequently, Obama agreed to trade the remaining Cuban Five for this personwhich isn't a bad deal. And at the same timecoincidentally?the Cubans released Gross on "humanitarian" grounds. Presto! On Wednesday morning, Gross boarded a US government plane and began the short flight back to the United States.
Detente with US has Cubans worried about special immigration privileges
Widespread jubilation over historic US-Cuba detente soured by fear that warming relations will end Cubans unique fast track to legal American residency
Associated Press in Havana
Thursday 25 December 2014 14.48 EST
Cubans arriving at a US border or airport automatically receive permission to stay in the United States under policies
stemming from 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act. Photograph: Ramon Espinosa/AP
Like tens of thousands of Cubans, Gerardo Luis wants to get to the United States and hes suddenly worried that time may be running out.
Across an island where migrating north is an obsession, the widespread jubilation over last weeks historic US-Cuba detente is soured by fear that warming relations will eventually end Cubans unique fast track to legal American residency.
For nearly a half-century, the Cuban Adjustment Act has given Cubans who arrive in the US a virtually guaranteed path to legal residency and eventual citizenship. The knowledge that they will be shielded from deportation has drawn hundreds of thousands of Cubans on perilous raft trips to Florida and land journeys through Central America and Mexico.
If they take away the adjustment law, it would mean Cubans would end up just like all the other Hispanics who want to enter the United States, said Luis, a 36-year-old construction worker who said he may try to reach Mexico and walk across the border if he doesnt get a visa soon.
Climate Change Threatens Quechua and Their Crops in Perus Andes
By Fabiola Ortiz
PISAC, Peru , Dec 29 2014 (IPS) - In this town in Perus highlands over 3,000 metres above sea level, in the mountains surrounding the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the Quechua Indians who have lived here since time immemorial are worried about threats to their potato crops from alterations in rainfall patterns and temperatures.
The families food security is definitely at risk, agricultural technician Lino Loayza told IPS. The rainy season started in September, and the fields should be green, but it has only rained two or three days, and were really worried about the effects of the heat. If the drought stretches on, as expected, we wont have a good harvest next year, said Loayza, who is head of the Parque de la Papa or Potato Park, a biocultural conservation unit created to safeguard native crops in the rural municipality of Pisac in the southeastern department or region of Cuzco.
In the Parque de la Papa, which is at an altitude of up to 4,500 metres and covers 9,200 hectares, 6,000 indigenous villagers from five communities Amaru, Chawaytire, Pampallaqta, Paru Paru and Sacaca are preserving potatoes and biodiversity, along with their spiritual rites and traditional farming techniques.
The Parque de la Papa, a mosaic of fields that hold the greatest diversity of potatoes in the world, 1,460 varieties, was created in 2002 with the support of the Asociación Andes.This protected area in the Sacred Valley of the Incas is surrounded by lofty peaks known as Apus or divine guardians of life, which until recently were snow-capped year-round.
People are finally waking up to the problem of climate change. Theyre starting to think about the future of life, the future of the family. What will the weather be like? Will we have food? 50-year-old community leader Lino Mamani, one of the papa arariwa potato guardians, in Quechua told IPS.
What Free Trade Has Done to Central America
Warnings about the human and environmental costs of free trade went unheeded. Now the most vulnerable Central Americans are paying the price.
By Manuel Perez-Rocha and Julia Paley, November 21, 2014.
This article is a joint publication of Foreign Policy In Focus and TheNation.com.
With Republicans winning big in the midterm elections, the debate over so-called free-trade agreements could again take center stage in Washington.
President Barack Obama has been angling for fast-track authority that would enable him to push the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPPa massive free-trade agreement between the United States and a host of Pacific Rim countriesthrough Congress with limited debate and no opportunity for amendments.
From the outset, the politicians who support the agreement have overplayed its benefits and underplayed its costs. They seldom note, for example, that the pact would allow corporations to sue governments whose regulations threaten their profits in cases brought before secretive and unaccountable foreign tribunals.
So lets look closely at the real impact trade agreements have on people and the environment.
A prime example is the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement, or DR-CAFTA. Brokered by the George W. Bush administration and a handful of hemispheric allies, the pact has had a devastating effect on poverty, dislocation, and environmental contamination in the region.
And perhaps even worse, its diminished the ability of Central American countries to protect their citizens from corporate abuse.
December 19, 2014, 06:00 am
One step forward, one step back in US-Latin America policy
By Alexander Main, contributor
plaudits from around the world. In a short but historic speech, Obama announced a breathtaking series of measures including the reestablishing of full diplomatic relations with Cuba and the significant easing of restrictions on travel to the island nation. He also made a plea to Congress to undo the 54-year-old embargo against Cuba.
But at the same time, Obama has supported a significant hardening of policy toward one of Cuba's closest allies in the region.
Venezuela has just joined Cuba as one of only two countries in the Western Hemisphere subject to U.S. sanctions. Legislation mandating sanctions against Venezuelan officials was approved by voice vote in the Senate on Dec. 8 and then sailed through the House on Dec. 10. On Dec. 18, just one day after his speech on a "new course" on Cuba, Obama signed the sanctions bill into law. Cuban-American Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who authored the legislation, called it "a victory for the Venezuelan people."
The trouble is, the people of Venezuela don't seem to agree with Menendez. A survey carried out by independent pollster Datanalisis showed that nearly three quarters of Venezuelans oppose U.S. sanctions. The Caracas-based human rights organization PROVEA a frequent critic of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro also vigorously rejects the measure. Other Latin American governments oppose the sanctions as well. At a May summit, South America's heads of state strongly voiced their opposition to the Senate bill and its House companion, authored by Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
The stated purpose of the bill is "to impose targeted sanctions on persons responsible for violations of human rights of antigovernment protesters" that took to the streets between February and April of this year demanding Maduro's departure. The bill's promoters mention that over 40 people died during the protests but don't acknowledge that a large number of these deaths included state security forces and pro-government activists and were caused by the protesters themselves. Moreover, as human rights organizations have noted, Venezuelan authorities have carried out investigations of abuses and apprehended at least 17 security agents allegedly implicated in violent acts against demonstrators.
December 29, 2014
The Mysterious Operations of CAII
The Company that Almost Ruined Cuban Hip Hop is a Profitable Global Operation
by CARMELO RUIZ-MARRERO
Shortly before the US and Cuba reestablished diplomatic relations on December 2014, Associated Press exposed a cartoonish caper by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) (1). Apparently running out of ideas for undermining the Cuban revolution, the agency turned to funding hip hop rappers. This bizarre scheme, denounced by US Senator Patrick Leahy as reckless and stupid, was contracted out to Creative Associates International Inc. (CAII), a little known private company that happens to be one of USAIDs largest contractors. This is the same company that earlier in 2014 had been caught in another USAID scheme to ensnare Cuban youth, this one involving Twitter.
CAII deserves a closer look. In the last three decades this company has popped up in the middle of major political, diplomatic, military and intelligence operations of the US government worldwide.
Creative Associates International provides outstanding, on-the-ground development services and forges partnerships to deliver sustainable solutions to global challenges, explains the company web site. Its experts focus on building inclusive educational systems, transitioning communities from conflict to peace engaging youth and more. Creative is recognized for its ability to quickly adapt and excel in conflict and post-conflict environments.
From its unusual originsit was started in 1977 by four women from diverse ethnic backgroundsit has expanded into a global profit-making operation, with a current presence in 20 countries and over 1,000 employees. The Companys portfolio has grown considerably and now includes economic growth, stabilizing communities, enhancing good governance, promoting transparent elections and more, boasts CAIIs web site. Its current work includes school dropout prevention programs in Tajikistan, East Timor, Cambodia and India, a crime and violence prevention project in El Salvador, an education crisis response program in Nigeria, support for education reform in Jordan, support for livelihoods of Tibetans in China, education and community development programs in Yemen, and literacy promotion in Pakistan. CAII has also done work in Central and South America, Angola, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, the former Yugoslavia, Lebanon and Uzbekistan, among many other countries.
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