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 on: Dec 19, 2014, 02:39 PM 
Started by Linda - Last post by Linda

Hi Linda,

I know what you mean, there is no one final dispositor but in my understanding, which can of course be incorrect, they do have a special significance and relationship since they are at the end of the "circuit" as you said, thus ACT as final dispositors or in a similar way, but together via the mutual reception.

All the best


I completely agree, Skywalker, they certainly DO have a special significance and act in a similar way to a Final Dispositor, that's why I included the EA question:

What is the evolutionary necessity of

Sign Dispositorship - SUN / MERCURY - occurring at the end of the circuit   Huh

House Dispositorship - VENUS 7th / PLUTO 8th - occurring at the end of the circuit

However, the term "Final Dispositor" in conventional astrology, means something very specific - and does not relate to the above hierarchical trees.

It's just a matter of getting the terms right.



 on: Dec 19, 2014, 02:29 PM 
Started by Linda - Last post by Skywalker

Hi Linda,

I know what you mean, there is no one final dispositor but in my understanding, which can of course be incorrect, they do have a special significance and relationship since they are at the end of the "circuit" as you said, thus ACT as final dispositors or in a similar way, but together via the mutual reception.

All the best

 on: Dec 19, 2014, 02:15 PM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Skywalker
Hi Rad,

Thank you for your detailed answer. It´s interesting you mention carbon as I am currently getting to know a stone called Shungite which can be up to 98% carbon. Some say it´s over 2 billion years old and has been there in Russia since life formed on Earth. Others say it came from outer space. Apparently it is very healing, protective against EMF, anti bacterial, antioxidant and has fullerenes, which are molecules of carbon. So it makes sense that they call it the stone of life.

 Maybe you or others would be interested in it, if you like stones and crystals. From experience it seems to be very good at helping with pain and also to release negative energy/tension from the chakras/body.

Anyway I was really under the impression Neptune ruled over gases of all kinds.

Is it correct to see Mars as the flame, fuelled by Pluto the gas then? And crude oil correlates to Neptune or Pluto?

Thank you

All the best

 on: Dec 19, 2014, 02:07 PM 
Started by Linda - Last post by Linda

I´m not sure I understand what you are asking. There is the final dispositor of the sign and also of the house. In order to be the dispositor of the house, the planet needs to be in its own natural house, like Pluto in the 8th, and the same goes for the sign, where the planet needs to be in the sign it rules, like Venus in Libra.

The graph I posted shows how one planet leads to another by its natural house rulership. Like how Jen´s Moon in Scorpio in the Ninth house, is disposited by Jupiter because Jupiter is the natural ruler of the Ninth house. This is by house, by sign her Moon in Scorpio is disposited by Pluto in Libra, which is disposited by Venus in Virgo, which then points to Mercury in Leo and finally to the Sun in Virgo which is in a mutual reception with Mercury and, there is no one final dispositor. Both the Sun and Mercury act as final dispositors by sign in this chart, through the mutual reception, in my understanding.

Hi Skywalker and Simon,


Your statement above in blue was how I also understood final dispositor, but it is incorrect.

If there is a mutual reception, then there can be no final dispositor.

The final dispositor of the entire chart is a planet in its own sign (eg Moon in Cancer, Mars in Aries, Jupiter in Sagittarius) that all the rest of the planets in the chart can be traced back to.  

Since Mercury in Leo and Sun in Virgo are not in their own signs, then there is no final dispositor in Jen's chart.  However, they are in mutual reception at the end of each dispositor circuit or rulership tree.

I think the confusion lies in the terms "FINAL dispositor" -v- "dispositor."  Dispositor is what we term the RULER (of a planet, sign or house).  Final dispositor specifically relates to a planet in its own sign that the rest of the planets in the chart can be traced back to.

So, I've changed the heading of this post to Dispositorship (rather than final dispositor).

According to the Astrodienst diagram, we will be asking the EA question, What is the evolutionary necessity of:

Sign Dispositor Hierarchy:  SUN / MERCURY

House Dispositor Hierarchy:  VENUS 7th / PLUTO 8th



 on: Dec 19, 2014, 01:37 PM 
Started by Linda - Last post by Skywalker

Hi Simon,

I´m not sure I understand what you are asking. There is the final dispositor of the sign and also of the house. In order to be the dispositor of the house, the planet needs to be in its own natural house, like Pluto in the 8th, and the same goes for the sign, where the planet needs to be in the sign it rules, like Venus in Libra.

The graph I posted shows how one planet leads to another by its natural house rulership. Like how Jen´s Moon in Scorpio in the Ninth house, is disposited by Jupiter because Jupiter is the natural ruler of the Ninth house. This is by house, by sign her Moon in Scorpio is disposited by Pluto in Libra, which is disposited by Venus in Virgo, which then points to Mercury in Leo and finally to the Sun in Virgo which is in a mutual reception with Mercury and, there is no one final dispositor. Both the Sun and Mercury act as final dispositors by sign in this chart, through the mutual reception, in my understanding.

Hope that cleared it up.

All the best

 on: Dec 19, 2014, 09:55 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

A ‘Brave’ Move by Obama Removes a Wedge in Relations With Latin America

DEC. 18, 2014

BUENOS AIRES — President Obama has been lambasted for spying in Brazil, accused of being a warmonger by Bolivia, dismissed as a “lost opportunity” by Argentina, and taunted in Nicaragua by calls for Latin America to draw up its own list of state sponsors of terrorism — with the United States in the No. 1 spot.

But now Latin American leaders have a new kind of vocabulary to describe him: They are calling him “brave,” “extraordinary” and “intelligent.”

After years of watching his influence in Latin America slip away, Mr. Obama suddenly turned the tables this week by declaring a sweeping détente with Cuba, opening the way for a major repositioning of the United States in the region.

Washington’s isolation of Cuba has long been a defining fixture of Latin American politics, something that has united governments across the region, regardless of their ideologies. Even some of Washington’s close allies in the Americas have rallied to Cuba’s side.

Now, Mr. Obama’s restoration of diplomatic ties with Cuba is snatching a major cudgel from his critics and potentially restoring some of Washington’s influence in a region where rivals like China have long chipped away at America’s primacy.

“We never thought we would see this moment,” said Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, a former Marxist guerrilla who chided the Obama administration last year over the National Security Agency’s surveillance of her and her top aides. She called the deal with Cuba “a moment which marks a change in civilization.”

The change in tone was perhaps starkest from President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, Cuba’s main financial patron. He has called Mr. Obama the “big boss of the devils,” a puppet and a sad “hostage” of American imperialism. More recently, he lashed out at Mr. Obama over a bill calling for sanctions against Venezuelan officials deemed responsible for human rights abuses.

But on Wednesday, when Mr. Obama announced the Cuba deal, Mr. Maduro was almost effusive.

“We have to recognize the gesture of President Barack Obama, a brave gesture and historically necessary, perhaps the most important step of his presidency,” Mr. Maduro said.

Daniel Ortega, the Nicaraguan president and former Sandinista rebel, was chastising Mr. Obama just days ago, saying the United States deserved the top spot in a new list of state sponsors of terrorism. Then, on Wednesday, he saluted the “brave decisions” of the American president.

“Our previous Cuba policy was clearly an irritant and a drag on our policy in the region,” said Roberta S. Jacobson, the American assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, adding that it had caused friction even with countries friendly to Washington. She said that countries “with whom we have significant differences are going to be, let’s say, thrown off their stride by a move like this.”

“It removes an excuse for blaming the United States for things,” she added.

The thaw comes just a few months before the Summit of the Americas, a gathering of hemispheric leaders in Panama under the Organization of American States, the Washington-based group from which Cuba was suspended in 1962.

The Panamanian hosts confirmed earlier this month that Cuba would attend the summit for the first time, making for a potentially awkward meeting for American officials.

“They asked themselves, do you really want to show up and have every reasonable president of the region say, ‘Is this how you really want to engage with Latin America?' ” said Eric Hershberg, the director of the American University Center for Latin American and Latino Studies.

One senior Obama administration official said that pressure from the region on Washington’s Cuba policy had crept into and impeded other discussions.

“In the last Summit of the Americas, instead of talking about things we wanted to focus on — exports, counternarcotics — we spent a lot of time talking about U.S.-Cuba policy,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly. “A key factor with any bilateral meeting is, ‘When are you going to change your Cuba policy?' ”

As for Cuba, experts said a significant factor pushing it to favor better relations with the United States was the economic trouble in Venezuela, whose leftist government has propped up Cuba for years with shipments of oil, much as the Soviet Union once did.

Venezuela ships about 100,000 barrels of oil a day to Cuba, in exchange for Cuban doctors, nurses, athletic trainers and military advisers. The relationship is worth billions of dollars a year to Cuba.

Mr. Maduro has pledged to continue supporting Cuba, but Venezuela is in the throes of a deep economic crisis that is being made worse by a drastic drop in the price of oil, Venezuela’s main export.

“That’s been an ongoing problem for the Cuban government for some time now, trying to figure out how they can diversify their economic relationship so they weren’t so dependent on Venezuela,” said Ted Piccone, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a research organization. “When they looked at their options, they realized that better relations with the United States were critical to their economic strategy.”

Mr. Obama’s shift on Cuba could have tangible effects. In Brazil, it may deprive critics of an easy target and ease the way for Ms. Rousseff, a leftist with skeptics of her leadership in her own Workers Party, to mend ties with the United States.

In Colombia, the top ally of the United States in South America, the new policy could spur peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, to end the region’s longest-running guerrilla war.

Cuba, which long supported FARC, has played a central role in the talks by helping to bring the two sides to the table for negotiations, which are taking place in Havana. Many analysts thought that Cuba’s role was part of a broader strategy to soften its profile and convince Washington that it could play a constructive role in the hemisphere, where it had once sought to stir violent revolution.

Given the long history of skepticism over Washington’s policies in Latin America, some in the streets of the region’s cities greeted the shift warily.

“I’m always suspicious of the United States,” said Rubén Grimaldi, 65, a retired owner of a toy store in Buenos Aires. “They must have a knife somewhere under their poncho.”

But while sharp differences persist on many issues, other major Washington policy shifts have recently been applauded in the region, including Mr. Obama’s immigration plan and the resettlement in Uruguay of six detainees from Guantánamo Bay.

“These measures will not eliminate suspicions and resentments, but they will give Washington enhanced credibility on a range of other issues,” said Michael Shifter, the president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington policy group, speaking from Havana.

The first test of the impact of the shift over Cuba could come swiftly in Venezuela, where Mr. Maduro must determine how to respond to the new American sanctions, which Mr. Obama signed into law Thursday.

Given that he had called a rally against the United States and thundered against the “insolent Yankee imperialists” on Monday, Mr. Maduro’s response to the new law was muted.

“President Obama has taken a false step against our country today,” he said in a series of posts on his Twitter account. “On the one hand, he recognizes the failure of the policy of aggression and embargo” against Cuba, “and on the other hand, he starts the escalation of a new stage of aggression” toward Venezuela.

Before the thaw with Cuba, Mr. Maduro had hinted that he was considering kicking out American diplomats, something he has done before. But now that Cuba has opened its doors to American diplomats, Mr. Maduro must consider how it would look for him to be once again showing the door to American envoys.

“There will be radical and fundamental change,” said Andrés Pastrana, a former president of Colombia. “I think that to a large extent the anti-imperialist discourse that we have had in the region has ended. The Cold War is over.”
Correction: December 19, 2014

An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of a retired toy store owner in Buenos Aires who said he was suspicious of the United States. He is Rubén Grimaldi, not Grimaldo.


How Obama’s Undercover Statecraft Secured Three Major Accords

DEC. 18, 2014

WASHINGTON — One aide slipped off a Hillary Rodham Clinton trip in Paris and flew to the Persian Gulf. Two others ducked out of the White House periodically to catch commercial flights to Ottawa or Toronto. A top adviser vanished from the West Wing during the waning weeks of the midterm election campaign to travel to Beijing.

Three of President Obama’s top diplomatic achievements — the reopening of ties with Cuba, announced this week; the interim nuclear agreement with Iran; and the climate-change pact with China — resulted from secret negotiations. Some were conducted in exotic locales like the Vatican and the Arab sultanate of Oman; others in less exotic places like Boston.

Not since Henry Kissinger’s secret trip to China in 1971 has a president embraced undercover diplomacy with the enthusiasm of Mr. Obama. For an administration that likes to promote its transparency, this White House has concluded that some deals are best pursued with all the openness of a drone strike against distant terrorists.

What the Cuba, Iran and China talks have in common — aside from their cloak-and-dagger allure — are a small team of negotiators, strict discipline and tight control by the White House. They also attest to Mr. Obama’s willingness to entrust historic projects to close aides, some of whom are young and have little experience in diplomacy.

In the case of Cuba, the entire American delegation consisted of two White House officials, one of whom, Benjamin J. Rhodes, is a 37-year-old speechwriter who has worked for Mr. Obama since his 2008 campaign and has become an influential voice in the administration. The Iran and China negotiations were also led by trusted Obama aides.

Using non-diplomats helps preserve the veil of secrecy, a senior official said, because such people are less likely to arouse suspicion among colleagues or the press. The three countries with which they were negotiating, the official said, were also able to keep a secret.

“Negotiations are like mushrooms: They grow in the dark,” said Martin S. Indyk, the director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. “That’s especially true of negotiations between longtime adversaries, where the domestic politics on both sides make it impossible to reach a deal if the negotiations are conducted in public.”

Mr. Indyk knows firsthand the hazards of conducting diplomacy in open view. As the administration’s special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, he struggled to bring together distrustful parties under a white-hot media glare. While the details of the talks were kept under wraps, the very public nature of the process made it vulnerable to scrutiny from all sides.

The last time Washington had a vigorous debate over the need for secrecy in diplomacy was in 2010 when WikiLeaks released 250,000 confidential State Department cables, forcing the Obama administration to mend fences with foreign leaders and others who had been slighted in the reports that diplomats sent in from the field. The damage from the WikiLeaks disclosures proved less severe or long-lasting than many people in the government predicted. But it did nothing to dissuade the Obama administration that fledgling initiatives needed to be shielded from the public and the press.

In plotting its Cuba overture, the administration drew on the success of its secret back-channel talks with Iran. The United States had taken part in multiparty talks with Iran over its nuclear program. But with those talks frozen in late 2011, Mrs. Clinton, then secretary of state, authorized one of her aides, Jake Sullivan, to make direct contact with Iranian officials.

In July 2012, Mr. Sullivan met with Iranian representatives in Oman, where Sultan Qaboos bin Said had taken on the role of middleman between two longtime enemies. Mr. Sullivan, 38, and a colleague crashed on a couch in a house belonging to the American Embassy. The effort proceeded in fits and starts, but suddenly became serious with the election of Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s president in June 2013.

Mr. Sullivan, now joined by a more seasoned deputy secretary of state, William J. Burns, continued to meet secretly with Iran in Oman, at the United Nations, and in Geneva. By the time the other Western powers arrived in Geneva for decisive talks with Iran in November 2013, they discovered that much of the deal had already been sown up.

Mr. Rhodes worked closely with Mr. Sullivan when he was at the State Department and recruited him to the White House after Mrs. Clinton stepped down. The two teamed up to support another diplomatic opening — to the military rulers of Myanmar — and they shared a conviction that a thaw with Cuba was long overdue.

This time, Mr. Rhodes volunteered to lead the effort. He was joined by Ricardo Zuniga, a 44-year-old Cuba expert who served in the United States Interests Section in Havana, and was chosen to fill the Western Hemisphere post at the National Security Council because the White House planned an overture to Cuba in Mr. Obama’s second term.

The administration’s agreement with China on greenhouse gas emissions was less dramatic. It was quietly negotiated over months by the State Department’s climate negotiator, Todd D. Stern, and the White House’s adviser on climate issues, John Podesta, who went to Beijing a week before Mr. Obama to try to nail down the details.

But it, too, had its made-for-the-memoir moments. In October, Secretary of State John Kerry played host in Boston to China’s top foreign policy official, Yang Jiechi. Over lunch at a Legal Sea Foods restaurant, Mr. Kerry pointed to Boston Harbor, saying it had been cleaned up by environmental regulations.

The visit evidently made an impression on Mr. Yang: A month later, Mr. Obama and President Xi Jinping stood together in the Great Hall of the People to announce they had reached a landmark deal.

The pact was less of a bolt-from-the-blue than either the Cuba agreement or the Iran talks. But even the day before, White House officials said they were unsure whether the Chinese were ready to go public. Mr. Obama’s aides were plainly impressed by their opacity.


Obama will sign Russia sanctions bill without imposing new penalties: White House

18 Dec 2014 at 13:45 ET                   

U.S. President Barack Obama will sign a Russian sanctions bill passed by the U.S. Congress but will not yet use the legislation to impose new penalties on Moscow, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Thursday.

Earnest, briefing reporters, reiterated that the United States is prepared to roll back U.S. sanctions already imposed against Russia if it takes steps to ease tensions over its aggression against Ukraine.


Fact-checkers tear apart Dick Cheney’s pro-torture interviews

David Ferguson
18 Dec 2014 at 12:12 ET     

Former Vice President Dick Cheney (R) did a short press junket earlier this month to defend his administration’s actions regarding the CIA’s “Enhanced Interrogation” programs, which a Senate report characterized as torture.

On Thursday, Mediaite reported that multiple fact-checking organizations have now pored over Cheney’s statements to Fox News’ Brett Baier and MSNBC’s Chuck Todd and found several instances where Cheney — a former Nixon aide and millionaire corporate executive — and the truth parted ways.

Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a detailed report about abuse of detainees in U.S. custody by CIA contractors and other officials. What Bush administration lawyers and press advisers called “enhanced interrogation” largely amounted to institutionalized torture programs that yielded bad intelligence and maimed and killed innocent civilians.

Cheney dismissed the committee’s report as “awful” and “full of crap.”

In his interview with Baier, Cheney claimed that U.S. detainees captured in the “War on Terror” are “not covered by the Geneva Convention.”

“They were unlawful combatants,” said Cheney. “And under those circumstances, they were not entitled to the normal kinds of courtesies and treatment.”

PolitiFact, the nonpartisan fact-checking agency based at the Tampa Bay Tribune, said that allegation is Mostly False.

“It’s misleading for him to say that such combatants are ‘not covered by the Geneva Convention,’” wrote PolitiFact’s Louis Jacobson. “While detainees who do not have POW status don’t get the top level of protection, they do get more basic protections from the Geneva Conventions.”

Even under these low-level protections, PolitiFact noted, certain actions are “prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever” to military and government personnel. These include “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture,” in addition to “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.”

Another contention of Cheney’s, that deceased Iraqi President Saddam Hussein enjoyed a more than ten-year relationship with the terror group al-Qaeda, PolitiFact’s sister group PunditFact also rated as False, giving it a rating just shy of the site’s “Pants-on-Fire,” status, reserved for the most brazen and outrageous of lies.

“Cheney said Hussein had a 10-year relationship with al-Qaida. Two comprehensive, high-level government reports largely refute that statement. That includes one Pentagon study that relied on a trove of secret Iraqi government documents that fell into American hands after the invasion,” wrote PunditFact’s Jon Greenberg.

In Cheney’s Sunday Meet the Press interview, Chuck Todd asked the former Vice President why the U.S. prosecuted Japanese soldiers for waterboarding U.S. soldiers during World War II if waterboarding is not a crime.

Cheney countered that those Japanese officers were punished for other, much worse crimes than waterboarding, a claim that the Washington Post‘s Glenn Kessler awarded three out of four “Pinocchios,” the newspaper’s rating scale for lies told by public figures.

“At the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), which lasted from April 29, 1946 to Nov. 12, 1948, there were indeed Japanese war criminals who were tried and ultimately executed for some of the events mentioned by Cheney,” Kessler wrote.

Kessler cited “Drop by Drop: Forgetting the History of Water Torture in U.S. Courts,” a 2007 article in the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, by Judge Evan Wallach that described a Japanese torture technique called the “water treatment,” in which “the victim was bound or otherwise secured in a prone position; and water was forced through his mouth and nostrils into his lungs and stomach until he lost consciousness.”

A number of Japanese officers were found guilty and prosecuted for war crimes as a result of their use of the “water treatment” on U.S. soldiers. Furthermore, Kessler noted, a U.S. soldier was court-martialed during the Vietnam war for waterboarding a North Vietnamese detainee.

“Cheney dismissed too cavalierly Todd’s question about the prosecution of Japanese soldiers for waterboarding,” said Kessler. “(S)uch techniques in different circumstances have been the subject of U.S. military prosecutions in the past. Thus the former vice president earns Three Pinocchios.”

 on: Dec 19, 2014, 09:50 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
The Revolution Fidel Castro Began Evolves Under His Brother

DEC. 18, 2014

HAVANA — The college students of a surprised Cuba sang karaoke on Thursday afternoon beside a dark green tank memorializing the Cuban revolution. They played dominoes in the shade of the University of Havana law school, where Fidel Castro found his footing as a leader with a pistol at his side.

When asked about the historic shift by the United States to ease its trade embargo and pursue normalized relations with Cuba, they spoke first of what it meant for the Cuban people, then of what it said about President Obama, and finally, a few mentioned the boldness of President Raúl Castro.

They said nothing of Fidel.   

At a moment described by many as an equivalent to the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the absence of Fidel Castro — he has said nothing about it, and has not appeared in public for months — spoke volumes. For many Cubans, it confirmed that Fidel, perhaps by his own design, is slipping further into the past, into history, at a time when his approach to the United States seems to be fading as well.

“It’s a break with the past, and a transition,” said Jorge Luis Rivero González, 26, a master’s student in information technology. “What we have now is hope for a new path. We don’t know what’s coming, but it better be good.”

Fidel is still an imposing figure in the Cuban consciousness, a leader so venerable and fiercely protected that many avoid talking about him at all. Few here or in Washington, where the name Fidel is often shorthand for communist revolution itself, suggested that détente with the United States could have happened without his approval.

Some of the former leader’s most loyal followers here have even described Mr. Obama’s recognition of Cuba with a Castro still in power as a final triumph for Fidel — a formal nod of respect that the old guerrillero has demanded since 1959.

There was even some Fidel-like braggadocio in the speech by his brother Raúl, who celebrated the return on Wednesday of Cuba’s three convicted spies from the United States with a rare flair for theatrics. After years of appearing mostly in a suit, Raúl was careful to wear his military uniform, linking the prisoners’ release to “Comrade Fidel” and his promise years ago to bring the men home.

Some experts argued that it was yet another sign that on big, geopolitical questions, the Castro brothers largely remain in sync.

“Raúl and Fidel have no daylight between them on things like this,” said Julia Sweig, a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations who studies Cuba. “They have been in complete lock step on Cuban foreign policy.”

And yet the new Cuba that Raúl is fashioning from the old is a far cry from Fidel’s youthful revolution. Today’s Cuba seems less concerned with ideals than dollars. It is a hatchery of private enterprise and nascent inequality, where property can be bought and sold, along with cars and filet mignon. It is a proud country, tired of struggling, where the poor can see the rich rising along the way to Raúl’s stated goals: economic growth and stability.

“Raúl is a pragmatist; he is not a mindless idealist,” said Brian Latell, a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst who has written books on the Castros. “Fidel has always been the heavy anchor on change and reform.”

Perhaps the difference is that now, with Cuba’s economy still on the edge of collapse, that weight seems to be lifting as Fidel fades further from view.

Young Cubans like Honey Hernan, 14, who was walking home from school on Thursday past the Museum of the Revolution, can hardly remember a time when Fidel was a recognizable presence. “He’s never really on TV,” she said. “It’s really just Raúl.”

Little of the gated, heavily guarded compound where Fidel lives in west Havana is even visible from the street. Much of what is known of it comes from the pictures and videotapes of buildings and landscaped gardens that associates of the family have leaked over the years.

Some older Cubans, like Prospero Gamboa, 68, who was discussing the new era with friends on a street corner in Old Havana, noted that the deal with the United States had been set in motion with the economic changes that Raúl established starting in 2006, when he first stepped in for an ailing Fidel.

“This has been building,” Mr. Gamboa said. “There’s been a change in the mentality.”

This waning of Fidel is the norm even in some of the places where he defined his destiny. In the lobby of the University of Havana Law School, a poster offered students a chance to study his famous defense after being arrested for storming the Moncada barracks in 1953, when he said, “History will absolve me.” But the poster was only one of many offerings, with others promoting live music or posting final grades and student election results.

If anything, the university and a half-dozen other stops across Havana on Thursday seemed to demonstrate what many Cubans describe as the new reality: Fidel Castro is increasingly a figure of the Cold War, to be celebrated, scrutinized, reviled — but almost never experienced.

It is not the principles that have changed, many students emphasized. Equality and sovereignty are among the most cited virtues by young, passionate Cubans following in Fidel’s academic footsteps. But to many of them, the relentless campaign against the ever-present enemy of the United States — Fidel’s lifelong mission — seems as dated as the tanks that dot the campus and countless public spaces all over Havana.

Cubans of all ages now say that there are simply too many relatives in the United States who come back to visit regularly to justify the idea of perpetual conflict.

“It’s the same revolution in a totally different phase,” said Anabel Bollet, 22, a fifth-year law student. The changes announced this week, she said, amount to a historic but subtle “adjustment.” It is not peace. Rather, she added, “it’s a way to resolve the conflict without guns.”

To some degree, many Cubans argued, the openness of Mr. Obama and Raúl to normalized political relations amounts to a classic case of government catching up with the people.

Ever since Mr. Obama opened unlimited travel and remittances to Cuban-Americans in 2009, followed by Raúl’s easing of limits on travel for Cubans, a steady flow of Cubans and dollars has strengthened the filial bonds that were severed during the revolution between Cubans on opposite sides of the Florida straits.

This is the United States-Cuba relationship that a growing number of Cubans know, understand and cherish, no matter where they are. The distrust and defiance that their leaders are only now addressing is more of a backdrop.

It was no coincidence that on Thursday, when asked who would benefit most from the new thaw, many Cubans answered “the Cuban people,” even before they were asked to choose between Raúl Castro and Mr. Obama.

That was true for loyal Fidelistas and for stiff-backed critics of Fidel’s government.

Nor was it a surprise that there was only one person outside the United States Interests Section on Thursday morning: a woman with a broom who was sweeping up outside a monument painted in large block letters with the Cuban government’s message declaring “patria o muerte” (fatherland or death”) and “venceremos” (we will overcome).

A block away, hundreds of Cubans of all ages gathered in a small park, carefully holding folders of documents, waiting to be told where to stand to get an American tourist visa to visit their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, or fathers and mothers in Miami and beyond.

 on: Dec 19, 2014, 09:46 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
African migrants speak out about life in Israel's detention centres

In September the supreme court ruled that Holot detention centre should close within 90 days. Still open as the deadline looms, a new short film captures the lives of Sudanese and Eritrean refugees sent to this centre deep in the Negev desert

Matthew Kay and Jasper Kain
Friday 19 December 2014 09.50 GMT
The Guardian 

The stark reality of Israel’s immigration policy is embodied in Holot, a detention centre situated in the middle of the Negev desert in southern Israel. It is a place which indefinitely holds Sudanese and Eritreans migrants, many of whom have fled bloodshed and persecution in their home countries.

Holot is the final stop in Israel’s immigration agenda. Once there, trapped and in limbo, the asylum seekers are unlawfully offered a token repatriation fee to encourage them into accepting so-called “voluntary departure packages” and relocate to third-party African countries.

The law which forces them there came into effect in January 2012, allowing the government to put long-term illegal immigrants in desert detention centres for up to a year, and offer repatriation grants of $3,500 (£2,100).

But in September 2014, the supreme court ordered the closure of Holot within 90 days. Justice Fogelman explained that Holot infringes on the right to human dignity: “infiltrators do not lose one ounce of their right to human dignity just because they reached the country in this way or another.”

More than 50,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Israel in the last decade, entering through the border with Egypt. But tensions around the presence of African migrants have always been high: in 2012 the Israel prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned that “illegal infiltrators flooding the country” threatened the security and identity of the Jewish state.

In a speech in early December the Interior and Environment Chair Miri Regev vowed that the centre will not close on the 22 of December, as ruled by the supreme court.

“This law will have teeth, and it won’t be up to judges to determine our immigration policy, rather the elected government”, Regev has said.

In the making of this short film we heard fresh accounts of many former Holot detainees having decided to return to East Africa out of despair only to be arrested by state authorities upon their arrival. They are then either imprisoned for treason or disloyalty for initially fleeing the country, or simply disappear without trace.

All of the detainees have lived in Israel for at least five years. Many own businesses and speak fluent Hebrew; some are orphans who have just graduated from Israeli high school. Their visible frustration at finding themselves in this situation is understandable.

Shortly after we visited more than 800 men marched out of Holot and through the desert in the searing heat towards the Egyptian border. They demanded to be recognised as refugees released from the facility, issuing the following statement: “We have made a commitment to keep on struggling for our basic rights and we will never give up, justice and equality will last forever.”

Click to watch:

 on: Dec 19, 2014, 09:38 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Islamist Militants in Nigeria Kidnap 185 in a Deadly Attack on a Village

DEC. 18, 2014

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — Islamist militants on Sunday killed 35 people and kidnapped about 185 others, primarily women and young girls, in a small village in northeastern Nigeria, survivors of the attack and local officials said Thursday.

The attack took place in the remote farming village of Gumsuri, and it took days for word to reach government officials here in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, Boko Haram, the extremist group that operates widely in the volatile northeastern part of the country, is suspected of being responsible.

Gumsuri is less than 15 miles from the village of Chibok, where Boko Haram fighters kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in April and fled with them into the bush. More than 200 of the girls are still missing.

The gunmen, who stormed Gumsuri from two directions, initially killed 32 residents, an official in the Department of State Security said. Three other people died later in hospitals.

“The terrorists were armed to the teeth,” said Babagana Abbaram, 33, a village resident who survived the attack. “They had AK-47 rifles and other weapons. They also had petrol bombs, which they used in setting the village ablaze.”

“Youths in Gumsuri also killed some of the militants,” Mr. Abbaram said. Officials said that perhaps a dozen of the militants had died in the fighting.

Villagers had repelled several previous attacks, Mr. Abbaram said. “In fact, it was as if they were on a vengeance mission,” he said. “This time around, they overwhelmed us, because we only had den guns, bows and arrows.”

Although most of the missing are young girls and married women, a few men were also abducted, Mr. Abbaram said, adding, “Our fear is that they may indoctrinate them.”

Saadatu Musa, another resident of the village, said that two of her teenage children were missing. “It took me three days to get to Maiduguri, but I have lost all my belongings,” she said. “More than half of our village has been destroyed by the attackers.”

Reuters reported that a government spokesman, Mike Omeri, said in a statement: “The government is outraged and deeply saddened by this deplorable act. Boko Haram continues to choose, ever cowardly, to target civilian populations to spread their brand of terror.”

 on: Dec 19, 2014, 09:37 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Malnutrition Hits Millions of Children in Yemen

DEC. 18, 2014

MILAH, Yemen — A doctor in a bare, rural clinic here decided to extend his working week to five days from two, to cope with the rush of hollow-eyed children who kept showing up in the mornings.

Already this year, two severely malnourished local boys had been so withered that they were beyond saving. The doctor, Abdu Ali Saad, kept pictures of the boys, ages 2 and 4, on his phone: a reminder of the dangers facing children in Yemen’s long-neglected countryside, more forsaken these days than ever.

“This is every day,” Dr. Saad said, motioning to the parents waiting on a recent day, some who had walked hours on dusty roads to reach the clinic, and who looked hardly better off than their children.

“Malnutrition,” he added, “is an emergency.”

Yemen is the most impoverished country in the Middle East, and among its grim distinctions is having one of the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world. Political turmoil since the 2011 uprising against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh has left an already feeble government even less able to care for its indigent citizens. Chronic challenges have become emergencies as the state’s presence in much of Yemen has started to dissolve.

One million children younger than 5, roughly a third of the age group in Yemen, are suffering from life-threatening malnourishment, according to Daniela D’urso, the head of the European Commission’s humanitarian aid office in Yemen. About two million children are chronically malnourished. Nearly 60 percent of Yemeni children suffer from stunted growth, according to public health workers, who in the past few months have noticed other worrying trends, including cases of malnutrition giving rise to other maladies like tuberculosis.

The crisis is “unprecedented,” Ms. D’urso said.

Yemen’s power struggles have bled the country. The latest one started with the rise of the Houthis, a rebel group from northern Yemen that made its way to the capital this fall, seizing power and crippling the government’s authority.

Yemen has become “a weak state that is unable to provide both security to its citizens and social services,” said Jamal Benomar, the United Nations envoy to the country, who has spent more than two years trying to shepherd a transitional plan backed by Persian Gulf countries that appears more and more imperiled by the day.

Yemen’s humanitarian crises were “largely the result of failure of governance and mismanagement,” Mr. Benomar said.

“Getting out of the crisis,” he added, “is what would help.”

With no end in sight to the political standoff, the desperation was evident on a recent visit to several parts of southern and central Yemen. The trip was arranged by the International Medical Corps, a nonprofit organization that supports dozens of health facilities and trains community volunteers who travel to distant villages, beyond the reach of the clinics.

On the road from the southern port city of Aden to Dr. Saad’s clinic in the Milah district, desert dunes creep over a section of the highway, threatening lush farmlands. Barefoot boys cluster at military checkpoints selling bags of guavas, trying to tempt drivers. Farther north, where sections of road that were washed away by rain have not been repaired, men use sputtering diesel pumps and hoses to siphon water out of a dirty creek and try to wash cars that never seem to stop.

As the city retreats even farther in the distance, families in ratty lean-tos on the side of the highway make halfhearted efforts to beg. Many of them are migrants from even more desperate places, like Somalia.

The villages provide no comfort. Among the scattered brick homes in Raqqa, a bumpy half-hour drive from Dr. Saad’s clinic, everything was too precious to throw away: a tire turned into a bucket, cans fashioned into bird feeders or a boy’s ragtag toy. Most men were at home on a recent day, jobless and with no prospects. The wealthiest man in the village, a soldier, made $200 a month.

While many men were idle, or spending chunks of the household income on khat, a popular stimulant, their wives were out working in corn fields, wearisome work that paid no salary except compensation in bundles of corn husks. In lumbering processions, the women hauled the husks back to the village every afternoon to feed to the sheep.

“The whole day, we are between the fields or at the shops or working at home,” said one woman, Munira Nasser.

There was little time to think about nutrition for themselves or their families. “Sometimes, I don’t have time to breast-feed,” Ms. Nasser said.

From an early age, the children are fed a steady diet of bread, rice and even tea, she said. Meat or fish is a once-a-month luxury. Vegetables are only slightly more affordable, and purchased once a week.

“There are no jobs,” Ms. Nasser said. “Everything is tired, tired, tired.”

Things may soon grow even worse. The country is facing financial ruin, with diplomats and officials saying the government may not have enough money to pay its civil servants next month. A currency devaluation may also be imminent. That would raise the prices of basic goods, including food, that Yemen imports.

The country has been hobbled by shocks beyond its control, including a decision last year by neighboring Saudi Arabia to deport hundreds of thousands of Yemeni expatriate workers, curbing a critical source of remittances and adding to the country’s unemployment rate of roughly 50 percent.

The Saudis have also reportedly begun cutting off billions of dollars of aid to Yemen, in a sign of their consternation with the Houthis, whom they view as clients of Iran, the Saudi monarchy’s regional rival.

This month, the Saudi government announced it was providing $54 million in food aid to Yemen to support 45,000 families. But in a place where half the country lives below the poverty line, it seemed a meager sum. And it was unclear whether that aid would be distributed in the northern province of Saada, the Houthis’ seat of power, where nearly 70 percent of families cannot afford to eat without aid, according to the World Food Program.

The scale of the crisis was apparent in the cramped home of Huda bin Nasser, a young mother in the village of Sheikhain, outside Taiz, in central Yemen. The family received its staples — eggs and milk — from a cow and a chicken that lived in the kitchen, but other types of food were a struggle. All of Ms. bin Nasser’s four children were malnourished, with her youngest, Hadiya, suffering severely and receiving treatment from the International Medical Corps volunteers.

East of Milah, in a valley in the district of Al Maqatirah, where 50,000 people live, the villages climb up the mountains, largely inaccessible except on foot. Symbols painted on many houses represented Yemen’s political parties, now in disarray. The paintings were signs of loyalty pledged by the residents here, with favors seldom returned.

In a clinic in the valley, Nada Abdullah, 22, watched as a doctor weighed her skinny 2-year-old boy, Abdul Rahman, whom she took to the clinic after he stopped eating. It had taken them five hours to get there.

Abdul Rahman was malnourished, hovering somewhere down the line toward a life-threatening condition. Ms. Abdullah said she knew what to feed the boy — her mother had taught her about a balanced diet that included fruits and vegetables — but her generation seemed somehow less able to care for its children than the last.

She recited a familiar list of luxuries, like chicken and fish, affordable once a week. During religious holidays, she said, they sometimes even bought red meat.

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