I have now read through the Essence of EA information here. JWG's ideas seem broadly similar to those of Blavatsky, Bailey et al, (hierarchy of soul growth, etc) whose thinking is somewhat removed from the Western Esoteric/Hermetic tradition. As you may know their ideas were shaped by those found more often in the Eastern Tradition, especially Hinduism,
As you may also know Jung was somewhat hostile to this literature and Freud outright dismissive. Although in regards to the concept of reincarnation Jung was interested in the biological transmission of ‘Ancestral Memory’, not so much, if at all, the idea of individual souls continued or contained in different lives.
But it seems to be JWG’s perceptions on the functions of the planets are often antithetical to those of Psychologicical/Psychodynamic Astrologers so it might not be a surprise to see him adopt a more unusual slant on Psychodynamic models
For me it is interesting to look at JWG’s chart and reflect on the Sagittarius /Pisces - Sun./Moon dynamic, and Jupiter rising, and ponder on how JWG may have structured his cosmology from a more religious or ‘spiritual’ neurological basis.
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In the USA...United Surveillance America
NSA Nominee Defends Bulk Data Collection
by Naharnet Newsdesk
12 March 2014, 06:48
The nominee to head the U.S. National Security Agency on Tuesday defended the use of bulk data collection but said he also wants more transparency about the secretive spy service.
Vice Admiral Michael Rogers, nominated by President Barack Obama to head the agency at the center of a public firestorm over surveillance, told lawmakers the NSA needs to be able to access the vast amounts of metadata to thwart terror attacks.
In a written response to questions from a Senate panel for his confirmation hearing, Rogers said he sees a need to maintain the law authorizing bulk collection of phone records, known as Section 215, which has come under fire for trampling on the rights of Americans and others.
"The telephone metadata program under Section 215 was designed to map the communications of terrorists so we can see who they may be in contact with as quickly as possible," Rogers said in his written response.
"I believe that we need to maintain an ability to make queries of phone records in a way that is agile and provides results in a timely fashion. Being able to quickly review phone connections associated with terrorists to assess whether a network exists is critical."
- 'I welcome dialogue' -
But Rogers told the senators in a hearing he believes the public has a right to have better information in view of the revelations in recent months from documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
"I would attempt to be as transparent as possible with the public about what we are doing and why," he said.
"I welcome a dialogue in this topic. I think it's important for our nation."
Rogers said one of his main challenges would be "how do we engage the American people, and by extension, their representatives, in a dialogue in which they have a level of comfort as to what we are doing and why."
Rogers said he is open to Obama's recommendation that the NSA give up the database to a third party or to telecom companies, as long as the agency could gain access as needed.
"I believe, sir, with the right construct, we can make that work," Rogers said in response to a question from Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the panel.
One of his concerns, Rogers added, is "the idea of speed, the ability to query the data... in a timely manner to generate information and insight in a way that enables us to act in a timely way."
CIA director John Brennan offered similar comments on surveillance programs during a Washington forum at the Council on Foreign Relations.
"Privacy, civil liberties, individual freedoms need to be respected," Brennan said.
"We in the intelligence community are trying to get this right. Believe me, we're trying to get it right. And it really is challenging. And some of the laws have not kept up, in fact, with the changes in the private sector."
- Cyberspace 'vulnerable' -
Rogers said that one of his priorities in the dual role heading the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command would be bolstering U.S. capacity in cyberspace.
"Adversaries today seek persistent presences on military, government, and private networks for purposes such as exploitation and potentially disruption," he said.
"We as a military and a nation are not well positioned to deal with such threats. These intruders have to be located, blocked and extracted, sometimes over long periods of time."
Rogers added that the country's cyber infrastructure "is not optimized for defense in its current form, and our communications systems are vulnerable."
Rogers, who trained as an intelligence cryptologist, would succeed General Keith Alexander, who has served in the top job since 2005. He currently heads the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, overseeing the navy's cyber warfare specialists.
An important goal if he is confirmed, said Rogers, is developing a notion of "deterrence" in cyberspace to allow potential adversaries to know they would face consequences for a cyber attack.
"We have effective deterrent strategies in place in the other war-fighting domains, in the form of our demonstrated military might and capability," he said. "Cyber deterrence should evolve in the same way."
Rogers said the U.S. needs to have "both offensive and defensive capabilities" to deter cyber attacks, but that the "Cyber Command" would not use cyber capabilities for offensive purposes without prior approval by the president.
The Religious Right Crusades to Deny Americans Their Constitutional Rights
Tuesday, March, 11th, 2014, 9:34 am
It is beyond comprehension that there are any Americans alive today who doubt the supremacy of the U.S. Constitution as the unchallenged law of the land, and yet there is a rabid movement in America that not only eschews the Constitution as faulty and irrelevant, they actively reject it with alarming frequency. The religious right, teabaggers, and their Republican facilitators claim they love this nation and its founding document more than any other demographic in America, and regularly claim returning to the original intent of the Constitution is their raison d’être. However, for at least a half-a-century one specific demographic has made a concerted effort to abolish the Constitution that so-called “real Americans” have adopted with a clear goal of scrapping the founding document save the 2nd and 10th Amendments.
The primary target of teabaggers (their chosen name) and the religious right is the 1stand 14th Amendments, Article VI, Section 2, and Article III Sections 1 and 2 that defines the Constitution as the supreme law of the land and the judicial branch as the arbiter of the constitutionality of any law. Although the frequency of challenges to the Constitution’s validity as the law of the land have increased since the election of the first African American President, the efforts to reject the Constitution began in earnest well over 75 years ago. The primary argument of those who hate the Constitution is that “the word of God as revealed in the Bible takes priority over all human knowledge,” and it is used today more than in 1927 when theocrats argued the bible should be taught in public schools. Forty-one years later, the Supreme Court ruled in Epperson v. Arkansas that banning the teaching of evolution contravened the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because the theocrats primary purpose in teaching the bible as science is purely religious.
The purpose of this screed is not to argue that the Christian bible is not the law of the land, or that the judicial system has supreme authority to adjudicate what is, and is not constitutional, but rather, that the religious right has rejected the Constitution and Supreme Court rulings for decades with veritable impunity and have no intention of stopping. Recently there was an article decrying the religious right’s attempt to abridge Americans’ civil and human rights according to their claim religious liberty affords them the dog-given authority to abridge other Americans’ Constitutional protections. The premise of the article is beyond dispute; the religious right, teabaggers, and Republicans are on a crusade to deny Americans their Constitutional rights, but it failed to acknowledge the religious right’s campaign is founded on their rejection and hatred of the Constitution they are convinced is subservient to the Christian bible. It is a hatred they have harbored since the founding of this nation as evidenced by their continued attempts over 200 years to impose biblical law on Americans.
It has been forty years since the Supreme Court ruled, in Roe v. Wade, that it is a woman’s Constitutional right to decide when to give birth, and yet Republicans in states and the United States Congress have rejected the High Court’s ruling as illegitimate, and by extension deny the Constitution as law of the land as they continue passing legislation restricting women’s Constitutional rights because it is contrary to evangelical zealots’ Christian bible. Today there are as many attempts to abort the High Court’s ruling as there are evangelicals claiming god’s law supersedes the Constitution.
It has been 46 years since the High Court ruled that teaching the bible creation story as science in public schools is patently unconstitutional. The religious right attempted to re-litigate the High Court’s ruling again in 2005 when they renamed creationism “intelligent design” that was ruled unconstitutional because it was still “teaching religion.” The religious right cannot comport the Constitutional authority of the judicial system to rule that the Establishment and Separation clauses are the law of the land. Republicans are frantically passing unconstitutional legislation inserting creationism as science in public schools and stealing taxpayer dollars for public schools to fund private religious instruction to teach the bible as science.
It has been 52 years since the Supreme Court ruled that prayer in public schools is a violation of the Constitution and the judicial system have been vigilant in forbidding public schools and other government agencies from interfering with Americans’ constitutional right to follow their own consciences when it comes to religion. Republicans and the religious right disagree with the High Courts’ Constitutional authority to rule that official prayer had no place in public education, and with state Republican legislation are using devious means to force America’s children to be indoctrinated into the Christian religion by mandating teacher-led prayers.
The following year the High Court ruled in Abington Township School District v. Schempp, another case dealing with prayer in public schools, that school-sponsored bible reading and recitation of the lord’s prayer was unconstitutional. In fact, in the written opinion Justice Clark wrote, “Once again, we are called upon to consider the scope of the provision of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which declares that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof’.” Even the High Court acknowledged that regardless the U.S. Constitution, and Supreme Court rulings, the religious right cannot, and will not, accept that American law is not the purview of “the word of God as revealed in the Bible,” or that it does not “take priority over all human knowledge” including the Constitution as law of the land.
Some naïve Americans believed that last year’s Supreme Court ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage would put an abrupt end to Republican and the religious right’s biblical prohibition on same-sex marriage, and yet the decision only served to embolden fanatical Christians who are rabid to reject the Constitution and impose the bible as the law of the land. It has been less than a year since the High Court ruled the Constitution affords all Americans 14th Amendment equal rights, but there has been no shortage of Republican legislation in states and Congress to subvert the Constitutional authority of the Supreme Court. Republicans and evangelicals will continue attempting to deny gay Americans’ equal protection under the law despite ruling after decision striking down bans on marriage equality in Republican-controlled states.
Any American that believes the religious right’s attack on human rights, the U.S. Constitution, and other Americans is insignificant, or on the decline and not a threat to democracy, is either incredibly naïve or has not been paying attention to what is happening in this country with increasing frequency. The religious right has about as much respect for the Constitution as they do other Americans’ rights, and they have been engaged in a long-term effort to destroy both in the pursuit of theocracy as America’s government for decades.
Invariably, some Christians object to being lumped in with evangelical fanatics rejecting the Constitutions’ protection from religious imposition and domination. They proclaim loudly that they are opposed to forcing the Christian religion down the throats of Americans or denying other Americans their constitutionally-protected equal rights and it is certainly true. But it is difficult to take “those Christians” seriously while they clutch that bible to their bosoms and “cherry-pick” the “Jesus parts” out of the preponderance of hateful parts. Many, many Americans fail to see any difference between their cherry picking and evangelical extremists choosing passages to subvert the Constitution and Americans’ civil and human rights.
Frankly, few Americans, even Secular Humanists, could not care less how or why any American chooses to follow any religion and have no desire to abridge their right to worship as they see fit. But when they claim Christianity gives them authority to deny other Americans’ their Constitutional rights, and seek to destroy the Constitution and democracy, then maybe it is time to reconsider their right to religious freedom if for no other reason than to defend the Constitution from its greatest threat; Christians who will not accept that the bible is not the law of the land.
A Major Victory for Obama: House Republicans Introduce 3 Bills That Improve Obamacare
By: Jason Easley
Tuesday, March, 11th, 2014, 12:34 pm
In what is a major victory for the president, House Republicans will vote on three bills next week that correct small issues and unintended consequences in the ACA.
Politico (via Slate) has the details:
House Republican leaders are planning to bring up three changes to Obamacare next week — but unlike dozens of prior bills, these are more minor measures that are not expected to be controversial. All three bills essentially fix drafting errors, perceived oversights or unintended consequences in the president’s Affordable Care Act. They have bipartisan support and are scheduled to be considered under a suspension of the rules, which limits debate and requires support from two-thirds of House members — a signal that leaders of both parties do not expect any heated debate.
They hold some political significance, however, because they allow Republicans to push back against the Democrats’ talking point that the GOP is only interested in holding votes to pick at Obamacare’s flaws. They also represent the reality that Obamacare is now fully implemented — and not fixing errors could be more damaging to opponents than being perceived as trying to make Obamacare work better.
What makes this news all the juicier is that Boehner and company introduced these bills last Friday while conservatives were distracted by CPAC. The right wingers were screaming about repeal from across the river the Republican leadership was submitting legislation that improves the law. On at least fifty previous occasions, Republicans tried to pass off attempts to repeal the law as improvements. In this case, Republicans are actually doing their jobs.
The answer to why the House Republicans are trying to improve the ACA can be found the polling. The popularity of repeal has sunk to a record low. The vast majority of Americans say that they want to keep and improve the law.
The biggest problem for Republicans is that their just say no to Obamacare position was destined to erode away. The name Obamacare isn’t popular, but much of what the law contains is. As the ACA is fully implemented, more people are seeing the benefits, the repeal position is becoming unsustainable. House Republicans have finally caught on that should they continue to say no, they will be rejecting some very popular elements of the law.
This move by the House leadership is evidence that repeal movement is all, but, dead. Repeal Obamacare has joined Roe v Wade as nothing more than a conservative campaign slogan that will be used in future elections to encourage the Republican faithful to get out and vote.
Speaker Boehner and the House Republican leadership have a loyal group of a few dozen Republicans, who combined Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats, make up a big enough coalition to pass these bills. Republicans will hypocritically continue to rant and rave publicly about how Obamacare must die while trying to slip legislation under the radar that fixes some of the unintended consequences caused by the law.
House Republican leaders are quietly surrendering on the ACA. There will be plenty more wasteful show votes to repeal Obamacare, but that’s just a bit of theater for the folks back home. Boehner, Cantor, and the gang are throwing up the white flag.
In order for Republicans to take credit for fixing the law, they are doing something that many thought they would never do. They are acknowledging the legitimacy of the ACA.
It’s all but over. These small pieces of legislation mark a major shift, and a big win for President Obama.
As The FBI Investigates Her, Michele Bachmann Calls Obama Lawless
By: Jason Easley
Tuesday, March, 11th, 2014, 6:13 pm
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is back with more hypocrisy. As she stands at the center of at least two federal criminal investigations, Bachmann is claiming that President Obama is a lawless president.
In the same interview where she claimed that gay people are bullying America, Bachmann also said, “Why should they? They’ve used the courts so brilliantly over the years with activist judges. And now they’ve got a president that’s making, he’s a lawless president who’s violating the Constitution with every executive order. Was it just yesterday that he changed Obamacare again for the bajillionth time? And so if I am a businessman and I say to my lawyer, can you tell me how I am in compliance with Obamacare? If I’m the lawyer, I would think do I look at the statute book and, what the law says, or do I have to go and dig up all of Jay Carney’s comments, the president’s press secretary, or the president’s press releases, or the tweets that he does on Obamacare? Because what’s law? What is law? Is it a president’s speech, or is it the law?”
If Bachmann wants to talk about lawlessness, let’s talk about an elected official who is truly lawless. Let’s spend a moment discussing a member of Congress who is being investigated by both the FBI, and the Department of Justice.
Bachmann and her husband Marcus are currently being investigated by the FBI for possible money laundering, mail fraud, and wire fraud. The FBI also found information relating to potential illegal coordination between Bachmann’s 2012 presidential campaign and a super PAC. The FBI turned their information over to the Department of Justice, who launched a second federal investigation into the Bachmanns.
The President Of The United States has never been accused of committing a crime, much less investigated for any wrongdoing. Yet to Michele Bachmann, who is facing numerous criminal investigations, the president is a lawless criminal who is trampling the Constitution.
The investigations have already cost Bachmann her House seat by pushing her into “retirement,” and it takes a hypocrite of the highest degree to call the president lawless while facing potential criminal charges for breaking numerous laws during her presidential campaign.
Some people like to laugh at, or mock Michele Bachmann, but it is the hypocrisy and abuses of power that make her unfit to hold elective office again.
President Obama isn’t a danger to our democracy, but disgraced soon to be a former member of Congress Michele Bachmann definitely is.
New Conservative Meme That Unions Outspend Koch Brothers On Elections Is Patently False
By: Justin Baragona
Tuesday, March, 11th, 2014, 8:47 pm
Recently, a new meme has been making its way around the conservative blogosphere and has been picked up by those in the mainstream media. Basically, conservatives are trying to push the story that the Koch brothers are not overly influential on the political process and that labor unions spend far more in campaign contribuions and donations to political organizations than the reclusive billionaires. They’ve used data from the Center for Responsive Politics to make their case for them.
Last week, Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal picked up on the meme and decided to push it out there for public consumption. She chastised Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for attacking the Koch brothers for their spending and stated that he should go after the real enemy of democracy–the labor unions. She then pointed out, utilizing data from the CRP, that unions have spent greater than $600 million more than Koch Industries over the past 25 years on political campaigns.
Strassel was being obtuse for the purpose of pushing the narrative that union thugs are the real problem in politics and that it is unfair to pick on a couple of rich guys that don’t even spend all that much anyway. The fact is, that all political contributions from labor unions have to be disclosed, even if it goes towards indirect campaigning, like with political action committees (PACs.) Meanwhile, the Kochs have been able to secretly contribute hundreds of millions of dollars by setting up their own SuperPACs, creating shell companies or providing money to other people to then give to a candidate or a PAC supporting that candidate.
The fact is, that the CRP only shows disclosed and direct campaign contributions made by organizations, companies and individuals. On that level, the Kochs only show up as #59 overall for the past 25 years and contributed a total of $4.9 million in the previous election cycle. However, when you take into account all of the ‘dark’ money that the Kochs spent during the 2012 election, that figure balloons to a whopping $412 million. In comparison, the top ten labor unions combined spent a total of $153 million when counting all political contributions.
Jonathan Cohn at the New Republic wrote a piece on Tuesday dedicated to the notion that unions are outspending the Kochs. While he also pointed out that Strassel and other conservatives were obviously discounting the indirect contributions made by the Kochs, and pretending that SuperPACs like Americans for Prosperity were not directly affiliated with the Koch brothers, he made an excellent comparison between unions and the Kochs. Below is the relevant excerpt from his piece:
It’s true that labor unions and their members made far more political contributions than the Koch Brothers and their affiliates did. It’s also a misleading comparison. There are 14.5 million people in the labor movement, according to the latest government statistics. There are exactly two people in the Koch brotherhood—Charles and David Koch—plus another 350 or so self-identified Koch employees who, over that same time period, made direct campaign contributions. Extrapolate from that math, and you’ll see that the donation per Koch Industries affiliate positively dwarfs the donation per union member—by a factor of around 1,000, give or take.
The comparison is not precise, but it’s good enough to get a sense of scale. Using the same basic math—the Koch-affiliated organizations have about 200 supporters, including the Koch brothers, according to Maguire—that works out to about $850,000 of influence per Koch brother and $1.65 per union member. At that level of donation, it would take about 515,000 union members to have the same influence as just one Koch brother or affiliate.
Basically, labor unions represent millions of workers. Per person, their overall influence is far less than that of the Koch brothers and their affiliates. Making the comparison between unions and the Koch brothers is missing the point of the massive amount of influence that just two men are having on the political process of this country. Do unions donate a lot of money to political campaigns? Yes. But, they are doing so on behalf of millions of American workers. Broken down, the money spent per union member is not all that significant.
However, the Kochs have billions of disposable dollars to do with however they wish. Their preference is to pervert the political landscape in order to benefit them and the ultra-rich. Thankfully, despite Citizen United making it extremely easy for them to flood the airwaves and cyberspace with endless political ads, the electorate rejected the conservative message and Barack Obama was reelected President and Democratic gains were seen in the House and Senate. Nonetheless, they are at it again as Americans for Prosperity has already spent $30 million so far and who knows where the ceiling is. Will the American public fall for the constant barrage of dishonest political ads this time around?
Revealed: Chris Christie gave pieces of 9/11 wreckage to his cronies as gifts
By David Ferguson
Tuesday, March 11, 2014 15:29 EDT
Scandal-plagued New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) reportedly gave away pieces of metal salvaged from the wreckage of the World Trade Center as gifts to his political allies. According to the New York Times, the twisted chunks of metal were presented to a group of mayors who endorsed Christie ahead of his bid for re-election in 2013.
An investigation into Christie’s handling of the state’s Port Authority has revealed that the one-time 2016 hopeful was using the transportation nerve center as a “de facto political operation,” handing out political favors to supporters and pursuing vendettas long before the still-unexplained closing of George Washington Bridge in 2013.
The Port Authority was crucial to Christie as a means of winning the endorsement of Democrats and union leaders, said the Times, which Christie used to strip his Democratic gubernatorial challenger Barbara Buono of allies and political capital.
Furthermore, NJSpotlight.com reported on a Senate Legislative Oversight Committee’s findings that Christie inappropriately handled federal funds intended for relief from Hurricane Sandy.
As thousands of New Jersey residents anxiously awaited relief funds to rebuild their lives in the wake of the storm, Christie mishandled more than $25 million, diverting funds to places with no hurricane damage at all, locations that Christie allies had targeted for development.
Locations with desperate flooding issues were left hanging and, as Mayor Dawn Zimmer (D) reported, short-changing the city of Hoboken by $700,000.
Christie has seen his approval ratings in New Jersey plummet. The latest Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll showed the governor’s disapproval ratings overtaking his favorable ratings for the first time. Only 41 percent approve of Christie’s job performance, with 44 percent disapproving. The approval rating is down 20 points from November.
on: Today at 06:52 AM
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New research suggests prehistoric European men and women preferred blondes
By Travis Gettys
Tuesday, March 11, 2014 11:35 EDT
A new study suggests Europeans developed lighter skin, hair, and eyes due to their ancestors’ sexual preferences, and not just natural selection.
Homo sapiens first arose in Africa about 200,000 years ago, and anthropologists assume that those early humans resembled present-day Africans because dark skin carries advantages in that environment.
Higher levels of the skin pigment melanin block out UV light and protect against its damages, including DNA damage that causes skin cancer and the breakdown of vitamin B.
But melanin also blocks out UV light needed to produce vitamin D, so prehistoric humans needed less of the pigment for protection as they move further north of the equator.
Recent DNA analysis of ancient skeletons suggests that human factors, including diet and sexual attraction, may have caused the lightening of Europeans’ skin over the past 5,000 years, in addition to environmental factors.
Anthropologists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and geneticists at University College London, working with archaeologists from Berlin and Kiev, published their findings this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers compared DNA from archaeological skeletons with contemporary Europeans using computer simulations, and they inferred positive selection played a role when genetic changes could not be explained by the randomness of inheritance.
The darker phenotype seems to have been preferred by evolution for hundreds of thousands of years and caused prehistoric Europeans to be consistently darker than their present-day descendants.
But that began changing about 50,000 years ago as prehistoric humans migrated further north, although research suggests Europeans remained mostly dark-skinned until much later.
“Most people of the world make most of their vitamin D in their skin as a result UV exposure,” said Professor Mark Thomas, of University College London. “But at northern latitudes and with dark skin, this would have been less efficient. If people weren’t getting much vitamin D in their diet, then having lighter skin may have been the best option.”
But that evolutionary explanation is less convincing for hair and eye color, the researchers said.
“It may be that lighter hair and eye color functioned as a signal indicating group affiliation, which in turn played a role in the selection of a partner,” said researcher Sandra Wilde, of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGUM).
This sort of sexual selection is common in animals, but the researchers said it may have been one of the driving forces behind human evolution for several thousand years.
While pigmentation genes may have been favored by natural selection to “a surprising degree” over the past 10,000 years, the study’s senior author said their findings should not show that every characteristic selected in the past remains beneficial today.
“The characteristics handed down as a result of sexual selection can be more often explained as the result of preference on the part of individuals or groups rather than adaptation to the environment,” said Joachim Burger, of JGUM.
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Anti-Government Rally Called in Caracas amid New Violence
by Naharnet Newsdesk
12 March 2014, 07:09
Students and opponents of the Venezuelan government have called a new rally for Wednesday to mark a month of protests in Caracas, as the death toll from demo-related violence reached 21.
Students throwing rocks and homemade firebombs clashed late Tuesday with police who tried to disperse them with tear gas and water cannon. No injuries were immediately reported.
The anti-government demonstrations have been fueled by rising discontent over deteriorating living conditions and police crackdowns in the oil-rich OPEC nation.
President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government has outraged many, particularly with shortages of basic goods like toilet paper and food, and amid spiraling violent crime and corruption.
Maduro vowed he would bar the protesters from entering the center of the capital Wednesday, saying they are looking for trouble in an unauthorized rally.
"I am not going to let them in," he said in a radio program. "I know they are coming with plans for violence."
The planned march could cross paths with a pro-government procession called by the education minister.
Political scientist John Magdaleno said anti-government protests would carry on but might start losing steam because they have yielded little.
Maduro, the handpicked leftist successor of the late populist firebrand Hugo Chavez, has denounced the protests as a coup in the making, encouraged by the opposition with the backing of the Unite States.
The death toll climbed to 21 after a student was fatally shot in the city of San Cristobal, authorities said Tuesday. The weeks of violence have left more than 300 people injured.
Daniel Tinoco, 24, was killed Monday night in the western city where nationwide protests against the leftist government of Maduro first ignited February 4.
In Caracas they got under way February 12 and three people were killed in a big rally.
Tinoco died from a gunshot wound to the chest, opposition Mayor Daniel Ceballos told AFP.
Since protests began, opposition leaders and government officials have blamed each other for the deadly violence.
The protests have spread to cities such as Caracas, Merida, Valencia and Maracay.
on: Today at 06:48 AM
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Bachelet Returns to Power in Chile Promising Reform
by Naharnet Newsdesk
11 March 2014, 18:42
Socialist Michelle Bachelet took the oath of office as president of Chile Tuesday, returning to power after four years with a reform agenda to reduce social disparities in this prosperous South American country.
The 62-year-old was sworn in at a solemn ceremony in the Congress, which has its seat in the port of Valparaiso, 120 kilometers (75 miles) west of Santiago.
"Yes, I promise," she said as she took the oath of office from the new Senate president Isabel Allende.
Allende, the daughter of ousted president Salvador Allende who died in a 1973 coup, handed Bachelet the presidential sash.
Gathered for the transfer of power were presidents from around the region as well as US Vice President Joe Biden.
Notably absent was Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, who canceled at the last minute.
Five weeks of unrest in Venezuela, which has left at least 21 dead, including a Chilean woman, was expected to be a major topic of discussion among the leaders here.
Argentina's Cristina Kirchner, Brazil's Dilma Rousseff, Peru's Ollanta Humala, Mexico's Enrique Pena Nieto, Bolivia's Evo Morales, Ecuador's Rafael Correa and Uruguay's Jose Mujica were among the presidents attending.
Bachelet succeeds Sebastian Pinera, who took office in 2010 at the end of her first groundbreaking term as Chile's first female president.
Pinera, barred from running for a second consecutive term, is leaving office at the peak of his popularity.
In this second stint at the helm, Bachelet will have a chance to cement her legacy as a transformative leader who experienced firsthand the horrors of the 1973-1990 Augusto Pinochet military dictatorship.
During that dark period, Bachelet was tortured, fled the country, and then returned years later to work as a pediatrician, eventually entering politics.
Her father died after being tortured for remaining loyal to leftist president Salvador Allende in the 1973 coup that saw Pinochet come to power.
She returned to Chile last year after three years in New York, where she headed U.N. Women, and defeated conservative Evelyn Matthei in December elections with 62 percent of the vote.
During the intense campaign, she promised to launch major reforms of Chile's education system, its taxes and write a new constitution that wipes away vestiges of the Pinochet dictatorship.
She promised free university-level education and to end state subsidies to private, for-profit colleges, which have put higher education out of reach of the poor.
Both reforms were at the center of mass student protests that swept Santiago starting in 2011.
Student leaders have remained skeptical, however, and say the protests will continue.
To finance the educational system, Bachelet has called for an ambitious tax reform that would raise $8.2 billion, or about three percent of GDP.
The new constitution Bachelet envisions would replace one imposed by the military in 1980, and revise the length and limits on presidential terms.
"I don't say the constitution solves everything, but it provides a framework," Bachelet said before her election.
In Congress, she has the majority needed to approve the tax reform, but still must form alliances with the opposition and independents to pass the educational reform and to rewrite the constitution.
Analysts believe she can easily find the votes for education reform, but say overcoming hurdles to changing the constitution will be much tougher.
Internally, Bachelet also must deal with political differences that are already evident in the broad coalition of Christian Democrats, Socialists and Communists that support her.
The crisis in Venezuela has already confronted her with divisions between Christian Democrats, who want to censor the Maduro government, and the communists, who support him.
Bachelet is inheriting an economy that is losing steam after some five years at a five percent growth rate. Growth next year is forecast at between 3.75 and 4.75 percent.
One of her first challenges, therefore, will be to dampen the soaring expectations for quick changes, with Asian demands for Chile's copper diminishing.
Chile is the world's top copper producer and its main client is China, whose appetite for the substance has ebbed.
on: Today at 06:47 AM
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Nigeria 'Atrocities' Forcing Thousands to Flee, Says U.N.
by Naharnet Newsdesk
11 March 2014, 17:43
Thousands of refugees are fleeing harrowing scenes of atrocities and body-strewn streets in northern Nigeria, the U.N. said Tuesday.
The U.N.'s refugee agency said violence in the area had prompted some 2,000 people to flee into neighboring Niger over the past four weeks alone.
UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said refugees arriving in Niger's Differ region, as well as Cameroon and Chad, were speaking of "atrocities", with one woman describing "corpses strewn through houses and floating in the water."
The woman told UNHCR staff that people feared staying even to bury their dead or find missing relatives, Edwards said, adding that others reported kidnappings of women and children.
He said it was not possible to identify the assailants.
However, violence by Boko Haram militants that has raged in northern Nigeria since 2009 is known to have become particularly ferocious in recent weeks, with some 500 people killed in suspected Islamist attacks since the start of the year.
"UNHCR reiterates to all parties to the conflict in northeastern Nigeria the vital importance of protecting civilians from harm," Edwards said.
He pointed out that the insurgency in the three northeastern Nigerian states of Yobe, Adamawa and Borno had already displaced more than 470,000 people inside the country.
"Clearly this is an escalating crisis," he said, pointing out that it was also difficult for aid workers and others to access the displaced.
"The ability of any of the international community to help inside that area is definitely constrained at the moment," he said.
In addition, more than 57,000 people have fled to Cameroon, Chad and especially to Niger, which had taken in a full 40,000.
on: Today at 06:45 AM
|Started by Steve - Last post by Rad|
African Union Opens Probe into South Sudan Atrocities
by Naharnet Newsdesk
12 March 2014, 11:34
The African Union opened a commission of inquiry Wednesday into atrocities carried out in the ongoing conflict in South Sudan.
South Sudan's government has been at war with rebel groups since December 15, when a clash between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to sacked vice president Riek Machar snowballed into full-scale fighting across the world's newest nation.
Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo heads the five-member commission, which was set up to "investigate human rights violations and other abuses during the conflict by all parties".
"Whoever is responsible must not get away with impunity," said Obasanjo, who will later submit the team's recommendations to the AU.
"Africa must not condone impunity of Africans treating Africans as if they are not human beings," he added. "I want to assure you we will leave no stone unturned."
AU commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the team faced a "very important and heavy responsibility".
War crimes have been committed by all sides in the war, Human Rights Watch has said, detailing widespread atrocities in almost three months of carnage.
The two sides signed a ceasefire agreement on January 23, but heavy fighting has continued.
Stalled peace talks in Ethiopia, which have made little progress, are due to resume on March 20.
The trial of four top leaders accused of treason for allegedly attempting to topple Kiir opened on Tuesday.
on: Today at 06:43 AM
|Started by Steve - Last post by Rad|
Syria's unknown victims: the thousands missing or dead in regime custody
Among the more than 100,000 dead in the three years since the Syrian civil war began are at least 11,000 disappeared into the Assad regime's custody. But the true number may be much higher, the Guardian finds in interviews with released prisoners and relatives of the missing
theguardian.com, Tuesday 11 March 2014 14.00 GMT
Syria's three-year civil war has left more than 100,000 dead and uprooted 9 million people from their homes. But perhaps the most chilling statistic of all is the number who are missing, who have disappeared into the intimidating interior of the regime's "security branches", where interrogation and torture are carried out.
Numbers are hard to pin down. Last month, the Guardian reported that 11,000 Syrians had been killed while in the custody of regime security forces. A photographer from the Syrian military police defected with 55,000 images of 11,000 victims. He described a bureaucratic system in which the disappeared were executed, documented and then secretly buried in a rural area.
But many more remain unaccounted for. Relatives describe a heartbreaking, desolate search through some of the most terrifying organs of state power to try to find a trace of loved ones. And those who have been released tell of dismal conditions of detention, of dozens of people crammed into tiny cells, of long days unfed and unwatered, waiting for the next round of interrogation in which subjects are given electric shocks or hung from the walls.
The Guardian has spoken to the mother of a 17-year old boy who is still missing, the nephew of a man who died in captivity and three released prisoners.
Ahmed Safi, 31, from Homs
Ahmed, a father of two, was killed in a regime prison according to his nephew, Abu Muhammed, who tells the story.
My uncle made a living from his clothes store. He was aware of demonstrations against the regime but didn't join in because he lived in a district loyal to the Syrian regime.
Instead, he helped the revolution by promoting a network for financial donations by Syrians in exile and rich businessmen still in the country. As soon as he got the money, Ahmed would purchase clothes or food for needy families in various districts of Homs or pass money to the families, if they needed cash.
It was a hot evening in July. Ahmed was running home with his five-year-old child. He was stopped at a checkpoint: Altarbiyia, one of the most intimidating in Homs. It is common knowledge among locals that men detained at Altarbiyia go missing, and the checkpoint is known in Homs as the 'human slaughterhouse'.
An eyewitness told Ahmed's family the military had arrested him. Ahmed's young son was left abandoned in the van at the checkpoint for two hours. An acquaintance recognised the boy by chance and took him from the van, later telling Ahmed's wife of her husband's detention. Ahmed's nephew, Abu Muhammed, continues:
His family hired a lawyer to locate Ahmed. The lawyer learned that Ahmed was locked up at the military security branch in Homs, accused of acquiring money from foreign agencies and collaborating with terrorists.
The lawyer was able to reach Ahmed in jail but no one in his family was allowed to visit him. The lawyer told Ahmed's wife, who was pregnant with their third child, that Ahmed's health was in decline. He had lost lots of weight, for lack of adequate food, and he had been tortured by electricity in every session of interrogation. Ahmed could hardly stand on his feet.
After 45 days, the lawyer was summoned to the court in regard of Ahmed's case. The family thought that was a sign Ahmed might be released or sentenced; they would be able to see him for once, at least.
When the lawyer arrived at the court, to his surprise he did not see Ahmed: he had been called to the court to obtain Ahmed's death certificate, ID card and the keys to his van. The death certificate recorded the cause of death as natural. A number for his grave was handed over.
Rami Nasir, 30, Damascus
Rami, a father of two daughters, was also detained at a checkpoint and held for seven months. He was eventually released and fled to Jordan with his family.
I was with my wife heading to hospital in Damascus. We had to stop by a military checkpoint before we got to our destination. The checkpoint guard pointed at my student ID, which reads College of Sciences, physics department. He took a list of names out of his pocket. I did not know that my name was in the list.
Immediately after, our mobiles were taken and my wife sent home. The guard blindfolded my eyes and handcuffed my hands to throw me in a car. I was taken to a building that used to be a cultural centre but now is a detention depot, in Jassim city, in the capital. I was held in the centre for one night and shifted to the military security branch in Daraa city.
The cell was 5 metres by 5 metres, full of more than 100 detainees. For food, we got a piece of bread twice a day.
After 10 days, I was interrogated. The guard blindfolded me and handcuffed me. The instructor told me to kneel. He asked me about an activist I had once contacted by phone. I denied any link with him. The interrogator began shouting and beating me with a thick green pipe on my back.
The interrogator told me he would himself confess on my behalf and write down what he wanted. Then I was taken to the air intelligence branch. The moment I stepped into the branch, along with another nine detainees, handcuffed and blindfolded, we were greeted with a wave of kicks, slaps and blows coming from all directions. Some of the blows were from fists, others from pipes.
I was permitted to visit the loo twice a day. The moment you were allowed to go to the lavatory, there were 10 guards standing opposite each other, who would aim all sort of blows at the detainee, with whips and truncheons.
During a second interrogation, I was stripped to my underwear. The interrogator tied my arms to a pipe hung from a hook in the roof. Any officer or guard passing by would hit me with different things. Interrogators stubbed out cigarettes on my chest while I hung there.
I was interrogated four times in that branch. Questions were: who are the rebels that you know? What sort of weapon did you use? What is your association with that mobile number?
The interrogator was asking me questions I had no answers to. When I said, 'I do not know,' I would be hit. The scars are still carved on my body. I thought: it is better to sign whatever he says, just to put an end to the beating.
After a few days, I was called for interrogation again. Same questions, same denials. This time, however, they poured acid on my feet while I was hanging from the wall. The pain was beyond all description. I felt my heart would blow up at that moment.
The third round of interrogation had a new method of torture, which was chaining my arms back to be lifted up. My arms were crushed together for 15 minutes. Breathing was almost impossible. My shoulders were dislocated.
After 23 days, I was moved to a solitary cell. It was 180cm by 130cm but there were 14 detainees with me. A detainee would stand up to allow another to sit. I was sealed up in that cell for 43 days.
Every 48 hours, we would have a piece of bread we couldn't even see. We were shut in, naked except for our underwear. It was January, freezing cold. We were sitting on a floor thickly covered with piss and dirt. I was interrogated only once within these 43 days but I would be beaten twice when I went to the loo.
We were allowed less than 20 seconds: if you took longer, your torture would be atrocious. We would rush back and forth to the loo. I was 95kg (15 stone) before detention, and 60kg when I was released.
Some detainees died in our cell, and others died during interrogation. There was a day I moved four bodies. Some of them died because of starvation, others because of illness or injury from torture.
I was moved two more times before my family bribed an officer with 400,000 Syrian lire to put my name on top of a list of detainees who would be heard by a judge. My health was waning and my family wanted to move me to hospital. The judge decided to release me. I was detained for seven months in all.
I fled to Jordan with my wife and two little girls. One of my daughters was born while I was in prison. I'm still in pain, and am running back and forth to the doctor.
Warda Sulaiman, 31, Damascus
Warda was distributing medicine to wounded rebels and civilians in Damascus when she was snatched from the street by armed men. She was detained for 19 months and tortured.
My husband was pro-regime and was killed because the rebels suspected he was part of the Shabiha military but I wasn't. And when I saw my neighbour's son returning from detention to be shot dead in front of his kids, I found myself running down the street to hail the revolution against Assad.
I embedded with some activists to dispense medicine in edgy areas in Damascus and Homs. I was aware that this path would earn me only imprisonment or martyrdom. I would tour pharmacies in the capital collecting medical supplies and bringing them to wounded rebels and civilians.
I got a phone call from a rebel to bring down some sprays for to help stop a haemorrhage. I was waiting for the guy in the street in the evening when suddenly two big men held my arms firmly and pointed a gun to my head. They instructed me to keep silent and shoved me into a security vehicle.
They told me not to deny being a rebel while possessing these sprays. I was driven to the political security branch and found myself in a corridor where more than 20 detainees were being punched and kicked. A rebel guy was brought to be electrocuted; he was paralysed for 10 minutes, and collapsed in front of me.
Then the officer came to interrogate me, accusing me of killing my Shabiha husband and smuggling weapons to the rebels. He advised me not to deny, smacking my face repeatedly and abusing me verbally. I was kept in the branch until three in the morning. A jailer came to move me, along with few other detainees. I asked him where we were going. He laughed and said: 'To one of God's paradises.'
We arrived at the state security's al-Khatieb branch. I was taken to a dungeon to share a 70cm-by-170cm cell with another female detainee, who was six months pregnant. There were seven solitary cells with two females inside each one. I was told I would be staying there for two days, to be released later. After 10 days, I got a new female mate, who was accused of having dealings with Mossad.
The policy in the branch was to intimidate detainees by making them watch the hideous torture methods exercised inside the branch. We were allowed access to bathroom twice a day, for a single minute. The food was a little rice, rotten bread and black bitter olives with dirty water.
I was taken to interrogation every day for six hours, to reveal the names of rebels I worked with. The jailer brought a thick scourge to whip me all over my body, then handcuffed me, pinning me to the door like a sheep and electrifying me until I fainted. After the torture, I signed eight blank pieces of paper. I was kept in the branch for 45 day. The jailers did their best to avoid causing any wound to my body. They would even spray my skin with stuff to bring down all the bruises.
It was Friday. A jailer came to take me to court. Or so he said. But it turned to be Kefersusa military branch, not a court. The moment I got there, I fainted because of low blood pressure and was taken to a bathroom, where I saw a female detainee from Homs. I kept vomiting and was shivering. They brought me a doctor to continue the interrogation. After two hours, I felt well enough to give the jailer my details. My health was waning. I was taken to a 3-metre-by-4-metre room with a camera. Food was better in this branch. I was kept for 45 days sleeping on the floor. I can't go through what happened to me when I was alone in my cell. It was something brutal and cruel.
The interrogators put me on the pro-regime al-Dunia programme. I was crying and they were laughing. The officer kept hitting me and humiliating me to say what they want me to say. I was forced to say that I had taken part in car bombings in many Alawite districts.
I was dispatched to the military judiciary after the TV interview. We were supposed to see the judge but we did not: instead, we were taken to Adra prison. This was the first time I could have a cup of tea and a cigarette. This prison was much better than the other branches, but after a few months the treatment turned dreadful. The jailers would blame the terrorists for blocking roads. They brought male detainees there to torture them.
There were a couple of rape cases throughout the time of the interrogation. A few female detainees fell pregnant. A few detainees were already pregnant, and had to give birth in the dungeon.
A midwife would be rushed to the cell and all the detainees would be sent out, except for a few who stayed to help. I remember a baby died after five days because of not being checked by a doctor.
After 16 months of imprisonment, my mother told me there was an international initiative to release seven female detainees in exchange for a few Syrian officers taken by the Free Syrian Army. My name was second on the list. But I stayed for 40 days in another detention place before finally being released. After a month, I fled Syria for Turkey, still scared that the Syrian intelligence might break in my room at any moment.
Yousif Issam, 17, Idlib
Yousif is still missing. This is his mother's account of his detention.
Yousif and his friends would always hang out in the internet cafe in the centre of Idlib. But one night, he didn't come home. I rushed to the internet cafe. I was told Yousif had been arrested by the political security branch forces in Idlib. I dashed to the branch and broke down in tears as I was trying to find my way into the building. The guard at the main gateway challenged me. I told him, in a tremulous voice, that my boy had been seized by the branch. Eventually, the receptionist affirmed that the branch had locked Yousif up.
After a week, it appeared the branchfellow had lied, and Yousif was not in there. After about a week, one of his fellow inmates was acquitted and emerged to tell us that Yousif was being held by state security, and there was no way to reach him.
A month later, Yousif turned up at home with papers implying that his main offence was going on anti-regime demonstrations. I was delighted, but he looked odd, and his back was full of bleeding welts.
Yousif's father hurried to get a passport to get him out of Syria, but then our house was surrounded by 15 armed men one evening. They screamed in my husband's face and told him if he did not turn over the weapons, his teeth would be knocked out. They left no stone unturned in the house, and all of a sudden a masked guy shouted: 'This is Yousif. Get hold of him!'
Yousif's father was unable to see him for two months. We had to escape to Turkey because it was too dangerous. I went back to visit but was turned down, along with a few other mothers. The head of the security branch did meet with us. He asked me why I was there. I said my son was being held, that he had done nothing wrong. He told me that every parent told him that. He got Yousif's file and read out the charges: he possessed weapon and was a member of a fighting brigade, and his job had been to relocate rebels by motorbike during the battle for the airport.
I said that by the time the battle for the airport had been in full cry, Yousif was already in detention. So how could he have been with the rebels?
He told me he would grant me a visit to Yousif, but not an acquittal. The jailer steered me to the dungeon of the building, a long corridor where I was startled to observe inmates of different ages who looked like sparrows staring through the apertures of their cells. I could immediately see that Yousif was wearing short trousers and a light shirt, and that his eyes were too red.
Yousif told me he was bleeding from his eyes because of the ruthless beating he received every single day in the branch. I told him to try and bear it; not to confess.
On my second visit, I brought food. He wanted falafel sandwiches, not for himself but for the other detainees, who were all starving. I spent over an hour in a falafel restaurant to get a huge bag of sandwiches, which I handed over to the reception to pass to Yousif.
After a while, I was told he had been moved to the state security in Damascus, Kefersusa branch. I couldn't see him any more. Who would dare to visit the state security branch in Damascus?
I tried many lawyers in Idlib. They took lots of money but they could not get the smallest tipoff about Yousif. It has become a lucrative business for lawyers, with thousands of detainees jailed by the regime. They make use of our desperation, promising information by virtue of connections with Alawite officers.
It has been a year now, and we are dying to know anything about where Yousif is. His father and I spend most of the time looking at Yousif's pictures on the wall and his abandoned copybooks, in sombre silence.
Farouq Al-Habieb, 33, Homs
Farouq was detained at a checkpoint in Homs and tortured after his captors discovered pro-human rights material in his car. He was eventually released and fled to Turkey with his wife and three children.
I always wanted to be a journalist, perhaps working with international media. My passion was rekindled in course of Syrian revolution. I would help foreign journalists working in Homs, and tell them about the rebellion. The Syrian regime made it so difficult for journalists to work in Homs.
I was downloading pictures and videos about Homs during the Syrian army siege. All at once, the power shut off. I had to rush at 8pm to a different area where I could pick up an internet connection. The route was disrupted by countless military checkpoints. I was stopped at one I usually got through easily.
This time, the guard grabbed his mobile to call his comrades. I was held until an armed vehicle arrived to take me in.
The vehicle was full of seven armed military men who pounded me with kicks and punches. I told them I was the director of a bank and a PhD holder, and pleaded with them to ring up the head of the military branch to confirm my identity.
I was rushed to the state security branch, to the checkup room. The guard forced me to take everything off, while his colleagues cursed me. I was put in a solitary cell in a dungeon. I was lucky: other cells were packed. The jailers did not know what I was accused of.
At the end of the corridor, several detainees were hanging by their bound arms to the roof. They were being whipped by a few guards everywhere on their bodies.
I could not shut my eyes for a single minute at night. The place was filled with screams of pain and torture. People were pleading with the guards to disentangle their arms – to be able to stand on their toes and avoid getting dislocated shoulders.
The next day, they checked out my car and found a pamphlet declaring the Syrian people's rights for freedom and democracy. The guards were outraged and dragged me down the stairs, with kicks and blows with their plastic truncheons. Then they blindfolded and handcuffed me, to be handed over.
At the military security branch, I was examined again and left in my underwear, handcuffed and blindfolded. I could not sleep for few nights, thanks to the soreness of my chest. I sensed that one of my ribs was broken. The guard led me to a section where detainees were huddled upon their arrival. It was wildly hot and every detainee was naked, sweating all over their bodies. Some of the detainees were military men accused of intending to defect; others were civilians accused of taking part in protests against the regime.
After three days, I was summoned by the interrogator. I learned that I was accused of operating with foreign journalists. I convinced the interrogator I had nothing to do with the revolution: I was a bank director, and because of my job I had got to know few journalists. The interrogator tricked me into thinking I would be released imminently, and my treatment improved.
But that did not last long, I found out some of the detainees were serving as spies on others to avoid torture, passing on every last bit of gossip. They told the interrogator I was against the regime and provoking detainees against the jailers. I was dragged to the head of the branch who, the moment his eyes fell on me, started to shout: 'Why the hell are you inciting detainees against the regime?'
The next day, a vehicle arrived to take us to Palestine security branch in Damascus. I asked the guard, 'Where are we going?' He laughed and said, 'We are going to dance together.'
All the detainees and protesters in Palestine security branch are considered stooges of Israel by the regime. This branch was supposed to deal with issues relevant to Palestine but the reality was, it was for hounding opponents to the regime. I saw a 14-year-old boy who had been shot in the leg at a protest against the regime. I could see that his wound had not healed. His body was covered with torture scars; burns from cigarettes butts were on his face, chest and tongue.
At night, I and other detainees could listen to shouts of moaning and pain from detainees begging for mercy. The style of torture was almost the same. I was in a cell with 25 detainees. Some died under torture. After 66 days, I was taken back to a military branch in Homs to be referred to a military court. The guards were reading my ID, and found out I worked in a Saudi-French bank. They doubled the dose of beatings, as they considered France and Saudi Arabia as enemies of the regime. They put my head on the floor and began to beat me all over my body with their boots and pistols butts.
At the end, the judge found me innocent and released me to flee with my wife and three children to Turkey five months ago.
on: Today at 06:38 AM
|Started by Steve - Last post by Rad|
Libyan prime minister ousted by parliament
Ali Zeidan removed by vote of no confidence after militia seized port of al-Sidra and tried to sell oil to North Korean tanker
theguardian.com, Tuesday 11 March 2014 23.06 GMT
Libya's parliament has forced out the prime minister in a vote of no confidence, a move prompted by a crisis this week when a militia controlling an eastern port defied Tripoli's authority by trying to sell oil. The chamber named the defence minister as an interim prime minister until a replacement for Ali Zeidan is found.
The vote of confidence followed the standoff between the central government in Tripoli and powerful militias in the east of the country.
A militia holding the key port of al-Sidra sparked a three-day crisis when it attempted to load oil into a North Korean-flagged tanker that had docked without government permission.
The confidence vote raises the potential for armed conflict. Most politicians in Libya are backed by militias with regional or ideological allegiances, who may not accept Zeidan's removal. The parliament started off as a 200-seat chamber, but the number of its members has been reduced to 180 after a series of resignations and dismissals. The no vote won the support of 121 MPs.
Discussion / Evolutionary Astrology Q&A / Re: Pluto in Cap, the climate, ecology and environment topic
on: Today at 06:35 AM
|Started by Steve - Last post by Rad|
Nine Chinese cities suffered more days of severe smog than Beijing
Pollution widespread and affected millions more than previously thought, 2013 data shows
theguardian.com, Wednesday 12 March 2014 11.11 GMT
Photographs of a smog-wreathed Tiananmen Square and the iconic headquarters of China Central Television dominated reports of Chinese pollution last year, but analysis shows nine other Chinese cities suffered more days of severe smog than the capital in 2013.
The worst was Xingtai, a city of more than 7 million people south-west of Beijing, which was hit by 129 days of "unhealthy air" or worse – the threshold at which pollution is considered at emergency levels – and more than twice as many days as the capital experienced.
Beijing suffered 60 days of pollution above emergency levels, sparking reports of an "airpocalypse", a boom in sales of air purifiers and masks and measures to tackle the problem including the destruction of open-air barbecues and a crackdown on fireworks for Chinese new year.
Last week, the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, "declared war" on pollution, saying it was "nature's red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development."
The new analysis by Energy Desk, a site published by Greenpeace, is based on Chinese government data of fine particulates (PM2.5s), that have been linked by studies to increases in lung cancer and heart failure. It ranked cities against the US air quality index, based on how many experienced "very unhealthy" days or worse, roughly equivalent to levels the Chinese government considers an emergency.
Fang Lifeng, Greenpeace east Asia climate and energy campaigner, said: "China's air pollution crisis usually makes the headlines when the smog cloud hits Beijing, but this research shows just how widespread this problem really is. There are now millions of Chinese people living in cities with air pollution above emergency levels for a third of the year, while other urban areas have gone a whole 12-month period with hardly any days of good-quality air."
Most of the cities in the top 10, including Shijiazhuang, Baoding, and Langfang, are in the Hebei province south of Beijing, which is home to a large number of coal-fired power plants and industries including steel and cement that burn coal. Harbin, a city north-east of Beijing, which made headlines in October due to a choking smog that forced schools and the airport to close, comes in below Beijing on the ranking, at number 17.
Beijing only had 13 days considered "good" on the US index last year, with 70 days of moderate air pollution, 64 at unhealthy for sensitive groups, 148 unhealthy days, 45 very unhealthy, 14 deemed hazardous and one day that registered at "beyond index", ie off the scale. Weather conditions in Beijing and the surrounding regions often compound the particulates generated by coal burning, cars and industry, with cold winter air trapping the pollution.
China is not the only country suffering air pollution problems, and far from the worst. Iran is home to four of the world's four most polluted cities, with Quetta and Peshawar in Pakistan also in the top 10 alongside Kanpur and Ludhiana in India, data from the World Health Organisation shows.