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Judi Lynn

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Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 141,747

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Colombia seeks to end justice system investigating paramilitary crimes: report

by Adriaan Alsema July 23, 2020

Colombia’s prosecution reportedly wants to end the justice system that has revealed the involvement of politicians, military commanders and businessmen in paramilitary war crimes.

According to newspaper El Espectador, multiple sources from the office of the prosecution confirmed that Prosecutor General Francisco Barbosa is looking into ways to end the so-called “Justice and Peace” transitional justice system.

. . .

Businessmen accused of being involved in or even ordering paramilitary war crimes for profit, a practice called “para-economics,” have however enjoyed almost absolute impunity.

Many of these alleged war criminals have been aligned with the far-right Democratic Center party of President Ivan Duque, Barbosa’s long-time friend.


US House threatens to cut aid for Colombia over failing peace policies, human rights violations

by Adriaan Alsema July 22, 2020

The United States House of Representative threatened to cut US support for Colombia over human rights violations and President Ivan Duque‘s failure to implement peace policies.

The House also demanded that the State Department guarantee Colombian officials involved in the illegal use of US spying equipment for criminal purposes would be brought to justice.

The House, which is controlled by the Democratic Party, also wants to suspend the disbursement of 20% of the Department of the Defense’s counternarcotics budget to Colombia until the South American Country’s Constitutional Court certifies Duque is complying with the peace process.

The Representatives additionally want verification Bogota is in compliance with agreements in the 2016 peace deal over the protection of ethnic minorities who have claimed to be the victim of extermination.

. . .

Democrats’ slap in Duque’s face

The conditions are a slap in the face for Duque whose political patron, former President Alvaro Uribe, is being investigated over illegal spying by the National Army.


Colombia exceeds 9 million victims as country sinks deeper into armed conflict

by Adriaan Alsema July 19, 2020

The ongoing killing of demobilized members of the FARC and the AUC, the systematic assassination of Colombia’s social leaders and a thriving drug trade are sinking the country back into war.

Only a few FARC guerrillas have forgotten how their 1985 attempt to join politics and the demobilization of the AUC ended up in mass exterminations and a resurgence of armed conflict.

Prison: a good reason to oppose peace
President Ivan Duque and his far-right political party may be losing electoral force, but the Democratic Center party and its leader, former President Alvaro Uribe, are inciting violence more than ever and for good reason.

The demobilization of the AUC threw many dozens of Uribe’s allies in prison. The peace process with the FARC and ongoing criminal investigations into the former president’s drug ties and alleged war crimes leave the impression it is going to be their turn to go to jail next.

Drug trafficking and pandemic adding fuel to fire
At the same time, record cocaine production is providing more revenue than ever to arm illegal armed groups and submit Colombia to the same terror the country suffered in the worst years of the armed conflict.


Businessman wins Dominican presidency in virus-marked vote

MartÍn JosÉ Adames AlcÁntara, Associated Press
Updated 7:45 am CDT, Monday, July 6, 2020

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — A businessman who has never held elected office has won the presidency of the Dominican Republic, according to results Monday, ending a 16-year run in power by a center-left party.

Luis Rodolfo Abinader had won about 53 percent of Sunday's vote with most of the polling places reporting, topping Gonzalo Castillo of the Dominican Liberation Party, which has governed since 2004. Trailing far behind was three-time President Leonel Fernandez.

Castillo acknowledged “an irreversable tendency” in favor of Abinader and congratulated him, as did outgoing President Daniel Medina, who was barred by term limits from seeking a third four-year term.

The elections took place as the new coronavirus pandemic was sweeping across the Caribbean nation of some 10.5 million people. Abinader himself spent most of the past month in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19 and the vote itself had been postponed from May due to the disease.


~ ~ ~

Amid Ukraine swirl, Giuliani’s work for candidate in Dominican Republic caused unease

Rudolph W. Giuliani, right, greets Dominican presidential candidate Luis Abinader during a news conference in Santo Domingo in February 2016. (Erika Santelices/AFP/Getty Images)
Joshua Partlow and
Josh Dawsey
Feb. 20, 2020 at 8:20 a.m. CST

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — The politics of this Caribbean island nation do not frequently capture the attention of the stewards of America's foreign policy, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo phoned down last summer with a clear message.

Dominican President Danilo Medina’s supporters were pushing to change the country’s constitution to allow him to run for an unprecedented third term. In a call with the president, Pompeo emphasized the importance of “adherence to rule of law and the constitution,” according to a State Department readout.

That message was echoed a week later in person by President Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani.
“If you want to change the constitution, change it for the future,” Giuliani told reporters during a July 2019 visit to Santo Domingo. “Don’t make it look like you’re changing it for you. Don’t change it for this election.”

Giuliani was not in the Dominican Republic as Trump’s representative. He was speaking as a paid consultant to an opposition presidential candidate, Luis Abinader, a businessman who had been protesting the possibility of a constitutional change allowing the incumbent to run again.

. . .

Giuliani’s presence in Santo Domingo annoyed rival Dominican presidential candidates who felt Abinader was trying to buy his campaign an American seal of approval, according to candidates and their advisers. And it concerned officials in the presidential palace who scrutinized Giuliani’s comments for signs he was speaking for Trump, according to a person familiar with the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal talks.

. . .

“Why in the world would you care about my work in the DR except to once again try to suggest falsely that there is some question about it?” he asked in a text message. “Don’t you have anything better to do? Whatever I did in DR was perfectly lawful and appropriate.”


Soft Power: Americans in Its Grip at Home Must Face the Mischief It Wields

JULY 14, 2020


I suspect most Americans would approve of what they understand to be this nation’s global cultural reach as expressed through its ‘soft power’. A term coined by an American political scientist, soft power “involves shaping the preferences of others through appeal and attraction”. Contrasted with coercive measures, it’s achieved largely through cultural means, although nevertheless a feature of foreign policy. Probably as old as politics itself.

Soft power politics are long-term, sociable and gentle. (Certainly nothing dangerous!) To say that they’re ideologically driven would be guileless. Some definitions are less circumspect, describing soft power as “using positive attraction and persuasion to achieve foreign policy objectives”. When at work domestically, it may be akin to kneeling-softly-on-the-neck, persuading Americans how this is a land of equality and unparalleled freedom.

U.S. citizens may even consider America’s soft power abroad with pride: “This is how we’re helping others– securing democratic principles, sharing advanced (sic) intellectual, medical and cultural resources. American films, so popular (and lucrative) globally, augmented by satellite-enabled news and entertainment channels are, I would argue, among the most effective examples of this power. Music and literature cannot be excluded too.

Boosting commercially-driven exports are government-funded programs like Peace Corps, high school scholarships, youth exchanges, anthropological research and conferences. All proceed at an undiminished pace, whichever party rules. These programs also carry that ‘cold light of reason’ imparted to foreign peoples held to be short on ‘objectivity’ or ‘reason’. Implicit in this largesse is an intellectual and aesthetic superiority on the part of the donor.


The blinding of Gustavo Gatica and the return to unrestrained police state violence in Chile

By Mauricio Saavedra
15 July 2020

Eight months after university student Gustavo Gatica was blinded by riot police, not one officer has been arrested. In the case of factory worker Fabiola Callimpai, who was nearly killed by the impact to the head of a teargas canister, the Carabineros have not made public which officers were involved. These two cases are representative of thousands of human rights abuses committed in Chile since the eruption of massive demonstrations against social inequality last year. They reveal a level of impunity not seen since the 17-year military dictatorship, when thousands were arrested, tortured, killed and disappeared.

On July 6, the Investigations Police (PDI) made a perfunctory promise to the Human Rights Commission of the lower house of Congress that investigations into the two cases would be concluded in the “following days.” The PDI has been promising this undertaking since prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus in March, but continues to drag its feet as human rights groups and investigative journalists publish further damning evidence. The PDI works in coordination with the civilian Public Prosecutor’s Office, a toothless body when it comes to prosecuting Carabineros.

“The police have an obligation to communicate the results in order to lower the perception of impunity,” PDI director general Héctor Espinosa told the parliamentary deputies. “We are committed to the truth … I have absolute confidence that my institution will rise to the occasion in these two cases, because the country needs to know what happened.”

Lt. Col. Crespo pointing gun at a firefighter in Plaza Dignidad. (Credit: @frentefotografico)

Espinosa seemingly convinced the parliamentary human rights commission and its president Emilia Nuyado (Socialist Party), who openly praised the institution.

No class-conscious worker, youth or student—those who have borne the brunt of escalating human rights abuses—has any expectation that the thoroughly corrupt and brutal state repressive apparatus, which acts in the service of corporate and financial ruling elites, will be brought to justice. The Carabineros are an autonomous military unit barely answerable to civilian bodies and have from the outset lied, obfuscated and withheld information in these cases, as in so many others before and after them.


Why Cuban cigars are so expensive

Andy Ash Jul 12, 2020, 5:00 AM

- see video at link -

Below is a transcript of the video:

Narrator: Cuban cigars hold a reputation as the world's most opulent tobacco product. A box of good-quality Habanos can cost thousands of dollars. Every hand-rolled Cuban cigar goes through about 500 manual tasks from seed to cigar. But over the last 25 years, cigars made in other countries in the Caribbean and Central America have become comparable in quality, consistency, and cost. Worse still for American smokers, your Cuban cigar could be fake. Some experts suggest that up to 95% of all Cuban cigars in the US are actually counterfeit. So why are Cuban cigars so desirable? And is that why they're so expensive? For more than 200 years, the culture of cigar making in Cuba hasn't changed. In a process that takes about a year, tobacco leaves are grown, harvested, and hung in drying houses called secaderos before a slow fermentation occurs, which enhances flavor, aroma, and burning characteristics. Each leaf is inspected for its type, appearance, and quality and handed to a torcedor, a highly skilled cigar roller, greatly respected in Cuban society.

José Castelar Cairo: "My name is José Castelar Cairo. I work here in La Triada. I have been a cigar maker for 61 years. To make cigars here in Cuba, we depend on five types of leaves: a leaf that is called ligero, which is the one that gives strength in the cigar; another leaf that is called seco, the one with the aroma; another leaf is called volado, which is in charge of the combustion inside the cigar. It is followed by the binder that wraps the ligero, seco, and volado. And the last leaf is the wrapper, which is what I am doing, is the one that dresses the cigar, and the wrapper gives presence to the cigar."

Narrator: The heartland of Cuban cigar production is in Pinar del Río, the westernmost province of the island, where 70% of premium cigar tobacco used by state-run cigar companies is grown. Cuban tobacco growers claim that the fundamental influence on quality is the region's terroir, the unique environmental factors that affect a crop.

Richey Morin Rico: "The first thing to be considered as the best cigar in the world is that four factors make it unique. It is the soil where it is grown, the climate of the region where it is grown, the manual labor, and the variety of black tobacco used. I know that they have tried to take the strain many times, have tried to take the seed, and have tried to take the workmanship. Still, in all the places where they have put it with similar conditions, it has not been achieved in the same way."


~ ~ ~

It was charming learning about this habit which has evolved in Cuba in the places which make cigars. I had to go find an article on the readers to add to this article:

Page last updated at 17:57 GMT, Thursday, 10 December 2009
Reading while rolling Cuba's famous cigars

How cigars are produced in Cuba

Despite a slump in sales due to the recession, Cuba continues to be the world's largest producer of cigars. Could its success be due to cigar factory readers? BBC correspondent in Havana, Michael Voss, finds out.

The air in H Upmann's cigar factory in Havana's Vedado district is thick with the sweet pungent smell of tobacco.

It's hot and humid. There is no air conditioning because that would dry out the precious leaves.

In the long main galley, row upon row of workers sit side by side on long wooden benches - dozens of men and women all rolling cigar after cigar.

Producing Cuba's famous handmade cigars is a highly skilled but monotonous job which demands concentration.

There's no time for chatting to workmates - quotas must be met.

At the front of the room there's a raised platform where a lone figure sits in front of a microphone, reading out loud the official state newspaper Granma.

Instead of canned music, many cigar factories in Cuba still rely on the ancient tradition of employing a reader to help workers pass away the day.

Gricel Valdes-Lombillo, a matronly former school teacher, has been this factory's official reader for the past 20 years.

In the morning she goes through the state-run newspaper Granma cover to cover.

Later in the day she returns to the platform to read a book.


Photos of readers, from google images:


Hummingbirds Learn to Count to Find Their Favorite Flowers

Researchers found that wild rufous hummingbirds could remember which flower in a sequence held nectar

A Rufous Hummingbird sips on the nectar from an Orange Justicia plant in California (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times via Getty Image)

By Theresa Machemer
JULY 10, 2020

New research suggests that wild hummingbirds can keep count as they forage and use their counts to keep track of the sweetest flowers.

The new paper, published on July 8 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that male rufous hummingbirds can learn which fake flower in a sequence holds a nectar-like syrup. Only one flower in ten held syrup. But even when the researchers moved the location of the artificial flowers and the distances between them, scientists observed the birds returning to the syrup-filled flower.

“They would never lose their car in the car park,” says biologist Susan Healy of the University of St. Andrews to Cathleen O’Grady at Science magazine.

Hummingbirds join a growing club of animals that can understand sequences, which includes rats, guppies and monkeys. Last year, researchers showed that Emory University showed that dogs use a brain region for number processing that’s analogous to the region used by humans, Katherine Wu wrote for Smithsonian last December.

The new research is unique because it focuses on counting ability in the wild, rather than in a lab.


Che Guevara's birth home is up for sale in Argentina

By Kelly Murray, CNN

Updated 1746 GMT (0146 HKT) July 12, 2020

View of a bedroom in the apartment where Argentinian revolutionary legend Ernesto "Che" Guevara was born in Rosario, Argentina.

(CNN)For around $400,000, you can own the home where controversial Marxist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara was born, according to official Argentine news agency, Télam.

View of a bedroom in the apartment where Argentinian revolutionary legend Ernesto "Che" Guevara was born in Rosario, Argentina.

Situated 186 miles north of Buenos Aires in the city of Rosario, Argentina, the 2,150-square-foot apartment has been uninhabited since 2011, according to Agencia Télam.

Photos of Ernesto "Che" Guevara hang in the apartment he was born.


~ ~ ~

Celia de la Serna y Llosa with her baby son Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, in late 1928. Picture: AFP

Family of architect Ernesto Guevara Lynch (1900 - 1987) and Celia De La Serna.

Guevara with his second wife, Aleida March, on their wedding day in
Havana, on June 2, 1959. Picture: AFP

Raul Castro (right) with Guevara in Havana. Picture: AFP

Guevara wears Cuban revolutionary Commander Camilo Cienfuegos' hat after he exchanged it for his beret during a rally in Havana in 1959. Picture: AFP

Camille Cienfuegos, wearing his
own damned hat!

What Chocolate-Drinking Jars Tell Indigenous Potters Now

July 7th, 2020, 11:49AM / BY Abigail Eisenstadt

The Chaco Canyon chocolate-drinking jars have a distinct shape, with connections to similarly shaped Mayan vessels. After testing distinguishable jar fragments from an excavated trash pile in in the canyon, archaeologists determined all of the drinking jars were used to consume cacao. (A336494, A336499, A336493, James Di Loreto, Smithsonian)

When an archaeologist found traces of cacao residue in Puebloan cylinder drinking jars a decade ago, the implications were huge. Her discovery of chocolate proved that Southwestern desert dwellers in Chaco Canyon had been trading with tropical Mesoamerican cacao-harvesters, like the Maya, as far back as 900 CE.

But the drinking vessels are as significant as the chocolate hidden inside them. They are living proof of a dynamic pottery-making tradition that continues in descendant tribes of the Chaco Canyon Puebloans today.

In the early 1900s, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History joined an archaeological expedition that collected some of the cylinder vessels from Chaco Canyon. Two of them are now on display at the museum’s “Objects of Wonder” exhibit. The jars’ acquisition is a reminder of the museum’s colonial past, but nowadays the museum’s anthropologists have a new purpose for the jars and other pottery: to connect them with indigenous people who are spearheading cultural revitalization in their communities.

For example, the museum’s Recovering Voices program works with indigenous communities like the Hopi descendants of the Chaco Puebloans to better understand pottery-making traditions. It also brings established potters to the collection so that they can study it for the next generation.


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