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 71 
 on: Nov 21, 2014, 02:14 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Katherine
Hi Rad,
Thanks for your list. Do you know of any breathing techniques to induce meditation or regression?
And Skywalker,
I really appreciate the wording or your question, if there are
any natural herbs or remedies for PTSD and anxiety, something that can help one look at the causes of the traumas from a relaxed and thus more detached place. I was thinking something like Valerian root?

In reference to marijuana, Rad posted something a while back: http://schoolofevolutionaryastrology.com/forum/index.php?topic=268.msg15626;topicseen#msg15626
So, I thought you both might be interested in the recent research on the effects of non-psychoactive Cannabidiol aka CBD vs. psychoactive Tetrahydrocannabinol aka THC.
Briefly, THC has been shown to have negative i.e. aggravating effects for those living with autism, schizophrenia, bi-polar and other mood imbalances. Recently, CBD has been indicated for those disorders specifically, plus epilepsy, anxiety and stress, and has a universal effect i.e. across all ages and study groups to have a calming and relaxing effect on the mind-body. So, it seems currently, that for those who don't have 'issues' THC offers all its beneficial qualities (and good times) but for those who do, it makes their experiences worse.  For CBD, it seems to accommodate all and is alleviating to those with neurological conditions.

But, I guess my questions regard the emotional body? Does CBD actually help PTSD move toward cohesion and integration, or is it numbing and a furtherance of disassociation? What would be the most effective means of administration: before, during, or after therapy?
(Everybody in the pool!)

Here are some links:
http://www.truthonpot.com/2014/09/24/5-differences-between-cbd-vs-thc/
http://bipolarnews.org/?tag=cbd
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=cannabidiol+psychosis
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24854329
http://www.plosone.org/search/simple?searchName=&weekly=&monthly=&startPage=0&pageSize=15&filterKeyword=&resultView=&query=cannabidiol&x=0&y=0&sort=Relevance&filterStartDate=&filterEndDate=&filterJournals=PLoSONE

God bless,

Katherine

 72 
 on: Nov 20, 2014, 08:50 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Humans and mice are both more similar — and different — than previously thought

Newsweek
20 Nov 2014 at 07:21 ET 

Scientists publish hundreds of studies every day on mice, giving the rodents an antidepressant here or tweaking the animal’s immune system there.

But it’s not because we actually care that much about mouse biology; we’re really after a better understanding of ourselves. One of the most vexing questions in science has long been how well results in mice translate to humans.

A team of more than 130 scientists has collaborated over the course of seven years to lay the groundwork required to answer this question, by mapping genetic “control centers” mice use to regulate their own genes, said study co-author Michael Beer of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The results of their labors were published today in Nature. 

Both the human and mouse genomes have already been sequenced, but this project takes the next step, identifying the pathways mice use to produce proteins, Beer tells Newsweek. (Protein creation is, after all, the raison d’être of DNA.)

The results, as you might imagine, are complicated, since these genetic pathways govern every aspect of biology. Scientists found that in some ways, mice are more similar to humans than previously thought, and in other ways are more different.

For example, a mouse liver cell is more similar to a mouse brain cell than it is to a human liver cell (at least in terms of protein type and quantity), Beer notes. And mouse immune systems are even more distinctive than previously thought, he says, which could have implications for scientists looking to apply immunological mouse research to humans.

But in other ways, especially in the genetic mechanisms within a cell’s nuclei, we are very similar.

“There is a lot of conservation of genes between mice and humans,” so it does make sense to continue using mice and other “animal systems to understand human biology,” says Joseph Eckert, a researcher at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, who wasn’t directly involved in these studies. 

The upshot of the research is that now that we can delve deeper into the similarities and differences between mice and men, so to speak, hopefully we’ll be able to learn how to better test human medicine in mice.

 73 
 on: Nov 20, 2014, 08:10 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
USA

Cops have a new scanner that decodes DNA in 90 minutes — and they can’t wait to use it on you

Travis Gettys
20 Nov 2014 at 07:41 ET     

A California tech company has developed a relatively small device that can scan DNA in a little more than an hour.

The RapidHIT 200 is a dramatic advancement over current methods, reported Mother Jones, which take at least two days to generate a DNA profile from a sample in a forensics lab.

The desktop printer-sized machine developed by Pleasanton-based IntegenX takes samples gathered from cheek swabs, cigarette butts, or fabric and generates a DNA profile in about 90 minutes that can be entered into a database and checked against other profiles to find a match.

The machine costs $250,000, and it’s already in use in several states and Australia, China, Russia, and other countries in Africa and Europe.

Initial research for the RapidHIT 200 was funded by the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and the Justice Department, and the website reported the company has spent about $70,000 over the past two years lobbying for its expanded use by local police departments.

The U.S. hopes to test the device in refugee camps in Turkey and Thailand to determine whether families seeking asylum here are actually related, the website reported.

The rapid DNA testing will be voluntary, said a spokesman for Homeland Security’s biometrics program – but asylum applications could be rejected without the test results.

Immigration officials are also interested in using the RapidHIT 200 to ensure children entering the U.S. are related to the adults with them, which they hope will curb human trafficking.

Homeland Security documents suggest that intelligence agencies and the military hope to use rapid DNA testing to identify factors such as sex and race that aren’t currently revealed by other machines.

IntegenX claims the device will prevent false arrests and wrongful convictions and cut deeply into the backlog of untested rape kits around the nation — although a spokesman admits the RapidHIT 200 cannot distinguish between individual DNA in mixed bodily fluids.

Privacy advocates fear the device could be used during arrests for even minor infractions – particularly once the price comes down and the RapidHIT 200 could be deployed in squad cars.

At least 28 states now maintain DNA profiles for anyone arrested for certain felonies, even if they’re not convicted.

The FBI database contains more than 11 million offender profiles and an additional 2 million for individuals who were arrested but not necessarily convicted of any crime.

No other federal agencies currently are permitted to maintain a national DNA database, but the FBI’s website shows federal investigators hope Congress expands the potential use of rapid DNA testing.

A spokesman for IntegenX said the FBI was working with lawmakers on a bill that would put “tens of thousands” of rapid DNA testing devices in police stations that would be linked to the national database.

Homeland Security insists it will not keep DNA records for refugees tested, but they have said there may be a legal case for mandating collection of DNA records for anyone granted legal immigration status under potential amnesty.

*************

These seven corporations make billions in profit — and have tax rate of negative 2.5 percent

Travis Gettys
19 Nov 2014 at 11:43 ET   

Seven of the 30 largest U.S. corporations paid their CEOs more last year than they paid in federal income taxes, according to a new report.

The study found that those seven companies — Boeing Co, Ford Motor Co, Chevron Corp, Citigroup Inc, Verizon Communications Inc, JPMorgan Chase & Co and General Motors Co. — reported a tax rate of -2.5 percent despite claiming more than $74 billion in combined pre-tax profits.

They paid their chief executives an average of $17.3 million, according to the study by two Washington think tanks — the Institute for Policy Studies and the Center for Effective Government.

The number of American companies that pay their chief executives more than they pay Uncle Sam is growing, researchers found.

The recently released report, “Fleecing Uncle Sam,” found that 29 of the 100 highest-paid CEOs were paid more in 2013 than the corporations they oversee paid in federal income tax.

That’s up from 25 of the top 100 in 2010 and 2011 surveys.

“Our corporate tax system is so broken that large, profitable firms can get away without paying their fair share and instead funnel massive funds into the pockets of top executives,” said Scott Klinger, co-author of the study.

Those 29 corporations operated 237 subsidiaries in tax havens, and only 12 of those corporations reported U.S. losses last year.

CEO pay at those unprofitable firms averaged $36.6 million — more than three times the national average for CEOs of large companies.

Representatives for the corporations cited in the report told Reuters they abided by all tax laws, but they claimed some tax obligations were deferred due to refunds, developmental investments or carry-forwards from heavy losses several years ago.

They also stressed the corporations paid taxes worldwide.

“Corporations are quick to complain that the U.S. tax rate – 35 percent – is the highest among industrialized nations, but they neglect to mention that the average large corporation paid only slightly more than half that rate – just 19.9 percent – between 2008-2012,” the researchers found.

The study’s authors found that job creation remained anemic, with more than 9 million Americans still out of work, while corporations were repurchasing their own stock at record levels and buying out competitors through mergers.

Citigroup — which exists only because of a taxpayer bailout during the financial meltdown — received the largest tax refund.

The firm paid its CEO, Michael Corbat, $18 million last year while claiming $260 million in IRS refunds, the report found.

*************

Obama’s Immigration Plan Could Shield Four Million

By MICHAEL D. SHEAR and ROBERT PEAR
NOV. 19, 2014
NYT

WASHINGTON — Up to four million undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for at least five years can apply for a program that protects them from deportation and allows those with no criminal record to work legally in the country, President Obama is to announce on Thursday, according to people briefed on his plans.

An additional one million people will get protection from deportation through other parts of the president’s plan to overhaul the nation’s immigration enforcement system, including the expansion of an existing program for “Dreamers,” young immigrants who came to the United States as children. There will no longer be a limit on the age of the people who qualify.

But farm workers will not receive specific protection from deportation, nor will the Dreamers’ parents. And none of the five million immigrants over all who will be given new legal protections will get government subsidies for health care under the Affordable Care Act.

These new details about the broad reach of Mr. Obama’s planned executive action on immigration emerged as he prepared to speak to the nation in a prime-time address on Thursday night. On Friday, the president is to travel to Las Vegas to rally public support for his plan in a state where Hispanics are a growing and politically powerful constituency.

Republicans on Capitol Hill sharply rebuked the president for his executive actions even before the speech on Thursday, accusing him of vastly exceeding the authority of his office. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, in an opinion article Tuesday on the Politico website, assailed the president for embracing “the tactics of a monarch.”

At the same time, immigration advocates rallied behind Mr. Obama’s actions, describing them as a much-delayed victory for millions of people.

Administration officials have said the president’s actions were designed to be “legally unassailable,” which activists said led the White House to make some tough choices.

Farm workers, for example, will not be singled out for protections because of concerns that it was difficult to justify legally treating them differently from undocumented workers in other jobs, like hotel clerks, day laborers and construction workers.

The White House decision to deny health benefits also underscores how far the president’s expected actions will fall short of providing the kind of full membership in American society that activists have spent decades fighting for. The immigrants covered by Mr. Obama’s actions are also unlikely to receive public benefits like food stamps, Medicaid coverage or other need-based federal programs offered to citizens and some legal residents.

The health care restriction may be the most immediate concern for many immigrants and for activists who have urged Mr. Obama to act to prevent deportations. Advocates for immigrant rights were infuriated in 2012 when the White House ruled that Dreamers would not get subsidized insurance coverage.

But the restriction reflects the political sensitivities involved when two of the most contentious issues in Washington, health care and immigration, collide. It also suggests that the White House has decided not to risk angering conservative lawmakers who have long opposed providing government health care to illegal immigrants and who fought to deny immigrants coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Some advocates said this week that they saw a paradox in the president’s policy. On one hand, they said, Mr. Obama plans to provide relief to millions of undocumented immigrants so that they can come out of the shadows and be better integrated into American society. On the other hand, they said, the administration is shutting them out of the health care system that would help them become productive members of society.

“We would all benefit if more people had access to health care services,” said Angel Padilla, a health policy analyst at the National Immigration Law Center, an advocacy group for low-income immigrants.

Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell, said he believed the president had the legal authority to decide whether the immigrants included in his executive actions qualified for health benefits.

“Just as the president has broad discretion to decide whether to allow undocumented individuals to get a temporary reprieve from deportation,” Mr. Yale-Loehr said, “he also has broad authority to decide whether to grant them work authorization and health benefits.”

“In this case, it appears he is willing to grant the former,” he added, “but not the latter.”

Senator Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican who has vehemently opposed giving benefits to undocumented immigrants, disagreed with that assessment.

“It is plain that President Obama has no authority to grant lawful status to those declared unlawful by the duly passed laws of the United States,” he said. “Nor does the president have any authority to declare such individuals eligible to receive health benefits that have been restricted to lawful residents.”

The White House decision on health benefits may be intended to undercut one line of attack by Mr. Sessions and other Republicans. In recent days, as it became clear that Mr. Obama was preparing to announce an executive order, conservative commentators and radio hosts suggested that the president wanted to give health coverage to millions of immigrants who would be given legal status.

The question of whether illegal immigrants should have access to health care benefits has long been a central part of the immigration debate. Legislation passed in the Senate in 2013 would also have denied undocumented immigrants access to federal health benefits, including the Affordable Care Act, for as long as 13 years. But in that legislation, immigrants could eventually qualify for full legal status and for federal benefits.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of health and human services, was asked about health care coverage in a webcast with Latina bloggers last week.

She confirmed to the bloggers that immigrants who were covered by Mr. Obama’s 2012 executive actions could not receive subsidies from the HealthCare.gov marketplace. She called that decision “more than a health care issue” and said it had to be resolved in the context of immigration laws.

“I think everyone probably knows that this administration feels incredibly strongly about the fact that we need to fix that,” Ms. Burwell said. “We need to reform the system and make the changes that we need. It will lead to benefits in everything from health care to economics.”

However, she said that federal aid, including health care benefits, could be available to children who are United States citizens but living with parents who are illegal immigrants. Such so-called mixed families “should not be scared,” she said, because they may be eligible for coverage and financial assistance.

**************

Immigration Has Republican Governors Seething and Facing Practical Challenges

By MICHAEL BARBARO
NOV. 19, 2014
NYT

BOCA RATON, Fla. — President Obama’s impending executive action on immigration is unleashing the fury of Republican governors who now control a clear majority of the nation’s statehouses — and not entirely for the reasons that partisans might expect.

The new legal protections that the president is poised to bestow on five million illegal immigrants Thursday will immediately thrust the issue back to the states, forcing dozens of governors who vigorously oppose the move to contemplate a raft of vexing new legal questions of their own, like whether to issue driver’s licenses or grant in-state college tuition to such people.

For Republican governors, the resentment is now as much operational as it is ideological.

The rapidly unfolding issue quickly overtook what was supposed to be a three-day victory lap here at a pink flamingo-colored resort where they have gathered for the annual meeting of the Republican Governors Association.

Instead of crowing about their electoral romp in the midterms, in which they captured 31 statehouses — the most since 1998 — the governors on Wednesday were bombarded by inquiries about how they would grapple with the practical and political repercussions of Mr. Obama’s action.

Many of them seethed visibly over the issue. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas accused the president of “sticking his finger into the eye of the American people” after an election that gave Republicans control over both houses of Congress.

Several governors threatened legal action to block the measure. “I would go to the courts,” said Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. “This is illegal.”

Mr. Perry called a lawsuit against the Obama administration “a very real possibility.”

But amid the promises of retaliation and obstruction, many of the governors began to confront the sheer complexity of the new legal landscape for millions of their residents.

Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas said that his Republican-controlled State Legislature would never stomach the concept of issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, even after Mr. Obama had given them worker permits and shielded them from deportation.

“That would be very difficult in our state,” he said.

For some of the governors, the issue took on a strikingly personal dimension. Gov. Paul R. LePage of Maine recalled the difficulty that he and his wife had encountered obtaining a green card for the Jamaican teenager they have taken into their home.

“It took us nearly 11 years,” he said. “Why should everybody just get one tomorrow?”

Asked if he would embrace greater legal standing for immigrants in Maine, such as worker permits, after Mr. Obama issues his measure, Mr. LePage swatted away the idea as “unacceptable.”

He then added, “I am fighting it, not helping it.”

For those weighing a presidential run in 2016, responding to Mr. Obama’s action requires some nimbleness: They must appeal to those conservatives who loathe Mr. Obama’s unilateral move without alienating Latino voters who crave a path to citizenship for people in the country illegally.

But here in Florida, before a crowd of devoted Republican donors and activists, the governors offered few of the compassionate overtures to Latino voters that have characterized their campaigns back at home or detailed alternatives to replace Mr. Obama’s action.

A number of those likely to run for president simply avoided offering direct or firm answers.

At one point, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana was asked if he supported deporting illegal immigrants. He demurred, saying that “we will deal with people here illegally compassionately and fairly” before calling for greater security at America’s borders, a message echoed by most of his colleagues.

As he has in the past, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey refused to specify a plan for dealing with illegal immigration, saying he would not articulate a plan until he had decided whether to run for president.

Going perhaps the furthest of any potential presidential candidate, Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio, when pressed on citizenship for undocumented people, said, “I’m open to it, I will tell you that.”

He added, “We have to think about what’s going to bring about healing.”

Both Mr. Jindal and Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana suggested that Congress could use its budget authority to deprive the president of the money required to carry out his immigration action.

Mr. Pence, a former House member, encouraged Congress to “use the power of the purse to work the will of the American people.”

Normally restrained, Mr. Pence could barely contain his frustration.

“Every major change in the life of our nation has been done with the consent of our government,” he said. “I think it would be a profound mistake.”

***************

The Meltdown Begins: Boehner Responds To Immigration Action By Calling Obama a Lawless Emperor

By: Jason Easley
PoliticusUSA
Wednesday, November, 19th, 2014, 2:53 pm   

The Republican meltdown is off and running. Speaker of the House John Boehner’s office responded to the news that President Obama will announce his executive actions on immigration by calling the president a lawless emperor.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel responded to the news that Obama will make his immigration announcement in Dallas on Thursday night by saying, “If ‘Emperor Obama’ ignores the American people and announces an amnesty plan that he himself has said over and over again exceeds his Constitutional authority, he will cement his legacy of lawlessness and ruin the chances for Congressional action on this issue — and many others.”

Who do Republicans think they are kidding? Boehner and McConnell were never planning on cooperating with the president on anything. Mitch McConnell ran for reelection on the promise that if Republicans won a Senate majority, he would break Obama and force him to do the GOP’s bidding.

The whole idea that Republicans were ready cooperate, but Obama ruined it was a myth. Republicans thought that by winning the midterm election; they could force the president to sign off on their agenda. They have been shocked by the fact that the president has moved to the left. Instead of giving Republicans everything that they wanted, the president and Democrats have geared up for a fight.

President Obama’s speech on Thursday night will be a mushroom cloud that swallows up the Republican Party. Republicans have tried for years to avoid the immigration issues, but the party is deeply divided and being government by an incredibly unpopular position on the issue.

Obama’s executive action, which is well within his constitutional powers, is already triggering an epic meltdown. The Republican camps that are calling for a government shutdown or impeachment are reaching an uncontrollable boiling point.

John Boehner sat on the Senate passed immigration reform bill and refused to allow a vote. The gridlock and obstruction chickens are coming home to roost, and the Republican Party is going to collectively lose its mind tomorrow night.

Obama is still playing chess while congressional Republicans can’t get out their checkerboards.

************

White House Says Emboldened Obama Wears Republican Criticism As A Badge Of Honor

By: Jason Easley
PoliticusUSA
Wednesday, November, 19th, 2014, 7:33 pm      

According to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, President Obama wears Republican claims that he is lawless as a badge of honor.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest responded to Republican cries that Obama is behaving like a lawless emperor by saying, “We’ve heard this kind of rhetoric about lawlessness from the House Republicans for some time. I think their most recent statement referred to Emperor Obama. You know the fact of the matter is the president is somebody who is willing to examine the law, review the law and use every element of that law to make progress for the American people. If that is something that Republicans are critical of, then that’s, you know, maybe a criticism that the president wears with a badge of honor.”

The White House is taking the fight to congressional Republicans in a way that they never expected after their midterm election victory. One of the strategies that Republicans are kicking around as a potential way to stop the president’s immigration executive orders is to split the bill to fund the government into two parts. The first would fund the government, and the second would deny funding for the executive orders.

The administration’s position has been consistent. They aren’t going to back down. The government shutdown last year was caused by a Republican refusal to pass a clean funding bill. If Republicans try the same stunt again, Obama will likely veto the government funding bill, and Republicans will be left with a choice to either pass a clean funding bill or shutdown the government.

In other words, the country is zooming towards another government shutdown standoff. The president is being forced to take action on his own because John Boehner refuses to bring the bipartisan Senate passed immigration bill to the floor for a vote. Boehner could defuse the entire situation by allowing a vote.

Boehner and McConnell are swearing that they don’t want a government shutdown, but they are getting themselves into a battle with the president that they won’t win. Obama isn’t intimidated by the incoming Republican majority. In fact, the president seems emboldened by it.

If a president doing his job is “lawless,” Obama should wear the Republican howls of lawlessness as a badge of honor.

************

Liberal Democrats Form A Hell No Caucus To Block Republicans In The Senate

By: Jason Easley
PoliticusUSA
Wednesday, November, 19th, 2014, 11:46 am   

Liberal Democrats flexed their muscles by coming together to block approval of the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Last night’s vote was the first move by a group of Democrats that are set to give Senate Republicans major headaches over the next two years.

Politico reported,

    The defeat of the Keystone XL pipeline in the Senate marked a major show of muscle for next year’s new hell-no caucus: liberals.   

    It was a remarkable move for a group that has stood behind Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) over the years, as he sought to protect vulnerable moderates, like Landrieu and some of her now-ousted colleagues, from taking tough votes on divisive environmental, health care and social issues.   

    But red-state Democrats like Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska are on their way out, and liberals like Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders and Sheldon Whitehouse — with Elizabeth Warren leading the way on messaging — may cause as many headaches for Senate Republicans as tea partyers caused Democrats in the past four years.

The good news that comes from being in the Senate minority is that the Democrats who are still there are much more liberal and will play a bigger role in the caucus. Bernie Sanders, who is an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats, Elizabeth Warren, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Jeff Merkley are just four of the members of the Democratic caucus will play a larger role in shaping policy. The Democrats no longer have to protect and cater to red state Democrats.

For every Keystone XL that will pass with the support of oil and gas state Democrats, there are three Republican bills that won’t. The Hell No caucus isn’t going to obstruct everything, but they are going stand up for the principles and values of the left.

For example, Senate Republican attacks on regulations that protect the environment are going to be in trouble. Anything that tries to expand Citizens United will likely die, tax reform disguised as a gift to the wealthy will not go very far.

The rules of the Senate make it impossible for Mitch McConnell to do what John Boehner is doing in the House. In the Senate, the minority has power and rights. Republicans abused this power to stop the Senate from functioning. The liberals are promising not to do the same, but life is about to get very difficult for Mitch McConnell and company.

The rise of the Senate liberals in combination with President Obama’s leftward shift may result in the Republican congressional majority being boxed in.

Senate liberals are leading the fight towards 2016, and yesterday’s rejection of Keystone XL was a warning shot designed to let Republicans know that there is a new day coming.

*** Note: The Hell No caucus isn’t an official Senate group, but a collection of liberals who have a set of common ideas that will more often than not vote together.

 74 
 on: Nov 20, 2014, 07:50 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
 SPIEGEL ONLINE
11/20/2014 11:37 AM

Teeth and Bones: Mass Abduction Reveals a Decaying Mexican State

By Marian Blasberg and Jens Glüsing

Most murders don't even make the front page in Mexico anymore. But the recent abduction of 43 students has infuriated the country. The story has exposed the tight relationship between politics, law enforcement and organized crime. And it shows how weak the state has become.

The close-up images show a handful of black teeth sifted out of leftover ash, and bits of charred bone picked from a landfill not far from Iguala. There are also shots of plastic bag scraps that washed up on the banks of Río San Juan. The murderers allegedly threw them into the river to dispose of the remains of the incinerated corpses.

Cristóforo García is familiar with the pictures, of course. They were broadcast all over the country on the day that Mexico's attorney general appeared before the media following weeks of uncertainty. The monstrous riddle that has gripped Mexico this fall, he said, had apparently been solved.

The case got its start on the evening of Sept. 26 when police in Iguala, a city 180 kilometers (112 miles) southwest of Mexico City in the state of Guerrero, opened fire on three buses full of students who were on their way to a demonstration. Six people were killed and 43 others have been missing ever since. Evidence seems to indicate that the police turned them over to the contract killers of a drug cartel.

The message conveyed by the images is clear: There is no hope of finding the students alive. But García has a hard time believing it. "A couple of shreds of plastic," he says. "Pieces of bone and charred teeth that even the attorney general doesn't believe will be enough to identify a person. That is supposed to be it?"

García, a short, thickset man, is the head of a civilian militia. He is standing on the large square in the center of Iguala on the morning after the attorney general's announcement and he looks exhausted. For weeks, he has been searching for the 43 disappeared students, having set out with others who, like himself, come from villages in the area where the students are from. They have combed through remote mountain settlements, churches, shacks and forests. Along the way, they have found 26 mass graves -- but they found no trace of those they were looking for.

García removes his cap as sweat drips down his forehead. "Yesterday we went back to the landfill," he said, "to take a look around ourselves, but there was nothing left aside from the bones of a cow."

Final Resting Place

There are no bodies and there is no evidence. That's how he sees it. He will only believe more, he says, once Austrian forensic experts, who have been examining the DNA of the remains in Innsbruck on behalf of the Mexican authorities, confirm it.

García's group is made up of three dozen men, including farmers like himself but also merchants, teachers and others. They all decided to act on their own because they have lost faith in their government. They established their headquarters in the Iguala city hall, but the building now stands in ruins following an attack by enraged locals. García calls the burned-out rooms on the ground floor "our hotel" because it is where they roll out their sleeping bags to rest. Outside, in front of the council hall, young women are preparing tortillas on a grill. A couple of steps away, a number of paving stones are missing. Flowers have been placed at the site along with a sign saying that it is the final resting place of the Mexican constitution.

A mixture of anger, desperation, defiance and impotence drives García and his people to remain on the square in front of a charred city hall that seems like a symbol of a state in decline. How can it be, they wonder, that a mayor apparently issued an order to eliminate a group of peaceful demonstrators just because they allegedly sought to disrupt a charity event organized by his wife? Why did nobody intervene when local police turned them over to the murderous drug-cartel thugs?

It remains to be seen how deeply the crime has penetrated the psyche of the populace, not just in Iguala but across the country. Mexico is a country that has become used to violence, horrific crimes and monstrous statistics. More than 100,000 people have been killed in the ongoing drug war since 2006 with upwards of 25,000 more listed as missing. The bloodletting, the mass graves, the beheadings and the arrests of drug bosses have become so normal that they hardly manage to make it onto the front pages anymore.

But this time, after Iguala, things seem to be different. When officials seized the fleeing mayor and his wife a few days after the crime, newspapers quickly rushed out afternoon special editions. On the day after the attorney general's appearance, demonstrators in Mexico City sought to storm the National Palace. In Chilpancingo, the capital of the state of Guerrero, protestors last week set fire to the regional headquarters of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

Incinerated at a Trash Dump

The anger, in short, is widespread. The public is enraged that, according to the latest theory, 43 young men, all teachers-in-training, were executed and then incinerated at a trash dump. Their families, meanwhile, are furious at the uncertainty and at the seemingly endless string of new, unproven explanations for the fates of their sons. Forty-three young men. Gone. It is a case that is incomprehensible even in Mexico -- one that has incensed the population and plunged President Enrique Peña Nieto into his first significant crisis.

The president was unprepared for the crime in Iguala. He entered office in December 2012 promising to proceed differently than his predecessor Felipe Calderón, who spent years battling the drug cartels with tens of thousands of soldiers. Peña Nieto reduced the number of troops deployed against the cartels and promoted Mexico abroad as the "Aztec tiger." He was betting that fewer deaths would translate into increased foreign investment -- and it seemed to work. Now, though, the 43 disappeared students reminded the world that Mexico's improving security was nothing but an illusion.

While Peña Nieto was traveling around the world, the cartels regrouped, diversifying their business portfolios and grabbing for political power themselves. In the state of Guerrero alone, it is thought that 15 mayors belong to organized crime syndicates.

The group that stealthily tightened its grip on power in Iguala and the rest of the state in recent years is called Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors). It is one of more than 100 splinter groups that have formed across the country in the wake of the dismantling of the large cartels. Increasingly, they have turned to kidnappings and protection money as a way of generating revenue.

From the perspective of drug bosses, Iguala is a place of strategic importance. The city is nestled in the hilly hinterlands away from the Pacific coast, but it sits astride an important transportation route for cocaine. It is also a growing commercial center offering plenty of opportunities for money laundering. All one needs to carry out important transactions is control over the security apparatus and a close relationship with city hall.

Guerreros Unidos sought to make that relationship as close as possible and simply put up its own candidate in mayoral elections.

His name was José Luis Abarca, a married man whose wife's brothers were high-ranking members of Guerreros Unidos and fixtures on the government's most-wanted list -- before they died in a hail of bullets. Abarca's mother-in-law is thought to have been a bookkeeper for Beltrán Leyva, the large cartel that was dismantled in 2011 and which ultimately gave rise to Guerreros Unidos.

Raised Eyebrows

Abarca himself was wealthy, despite his modest beginnings as the son of a sombrero salesman. He initially sold bridal fashion before moving on to gold. Ultimately, he owned several jewelry stores and 18 other properties including, as investigators recently discovered, an apartment in Australia. It was the kind of ascent that raised eyebrows in Iguala, but in Mexico, wealth is seen as a positive attribute for politicians. Rich people, voters hope, don't need to steal money from public coffers. And even if they come from nowhere, they know how to create prosperity. Abarca was a kind of Mexican Berlusconi.

A photo of Abarca, a lanky man wearing a violet, silk shirt under a dark suit, still hangs on a wall in Iguala's burned-out city hall. He looks like a Latino night-club singer on a cruise ship.

Not far away, a plaque on a stairwell landing clearly shows the criteria Abarca used when choosing appointees for key positions in his government. The budget, economy and property portfolios all went to relatives of his wife. He named his own cousin, Felipe Flores, as head of security.

During his first year in office, Abarca had the biggest shopping mall in the city built, complete with foreign fast-food restaurants and a cinema. At the edge of town, a public swimming pool with a large water slide opened for business. His wife, who moved into the office next to his in city hall, led the city's largest charity operation.

Nobody wondered out loud where the money for Abarca's projects came from, but there were clues. The black SUV he used for trips through town was the same model favored by drug bosses and the villa he lived in was surrounded by high walls topped with barbed wire, as though he had something to hide. And there were plenty of rumors. A journalist who dared to speculate openly about the mayor's connections says that Abarca's wife threatened him at a ball, saying she would cut off one of his ears. It was not, the journalist says, meant metaphorically.

Most stories told by people in Iguala, though, tend to focus on the case of Arturo Hernández Cardona, a leader of local farmers who was shot in the head in May following a heated debate in a city council meeting. Cardona had demanded the fertilizer Abarca had promised him during the campaign and publicly called him a liar and a Mafioso. On the way back home to his village, Cardona disappeared along with six other farmers. Their driver later reappeared and provided testimony, but the case has never been investigated.

Law Enforcement's Weakest Link
The Cardona case, the arbitrary violence that could strike anybody at any time, was likely one of the reasons the students wanted to protest on Sept. 26. They were traveling to Iguala from Ayotzinapa, a village located three hours away by car that is home to a teachers college with a reputation for rebelliousness. Survivors of the group say that they had intended to travel onwards to a demonstration in Mexico City following a stop in Iguala. They were unaware that Maria de los Angeles Pineda, the mayor's wife, intended that evening to announce her plans to run for mayor as her husband's successor.

Iguala is everywhere, say those who are now protesting across the country. They are marching through cities that have become foreign to them, governed by politicians they no longer trust because it is no longer clear if they are carrying weapons under their suits. They feel unprotected in the streets because even the uniforms worn by the police say little about their true intentions.

When investigators from the attorney general's office discovered a weapons depot two weeks ago, they discovered local police uniforms in addition to several Kalashnikovs and an anti-aircraft weapon. After dark, people in uniform walk the streets wearing masks. Who are they? What do they want? Who is prepared to file a criminal complaint when a potential accomplice will be sitting across from them at the police station?

In the courtyard of the Iguala town hall, workers have begun carting away the rubble. They carry desks and files out to the street, past a group of suspended local police officers who are waiting to be given something to do.

Noel de la Cruz Domínguez is one of them, a 34-year-old man wearing jeans and a T-shirt. He had to surrender his uniform on Sept. 26 after federal police, considered to be less corrupt, took over in Iguala. Twenty-two of Noel's colleagues were arrested after the students' bus was fired on while the remaining 298, who are presumed not to have been involved, were sent to a post in the mountains where they received additional training. Noel said there were lessons in human rights and that he was interviewed by a psychologist. More than anything, though, the idea was to make it look as though something was being done.

After a week, Noel and 20 others were sent back ahead of schedule. "My heart," he says, "can't take the altitude in the mountains." Now they are undergoing a kind of occupational therapy.

'A Good, Secure Job'

On this morning, Noel is given a pile of fliers that he is to disseminate to motorcyclists around the city. Avoid penalties, wear a helmet, they read. Noel walks across the city hall square where Cristóforo García's people are currently setting up 43 empty chairs, but he doesn't look over. Noel has been a police officer for 13 years and would like to remain on the force, but he doesn't know if he will be retained after all that has happened.

"It is a good, secure job," Noel says, better than the one he had in Cancún, where he worked as a hotel security guard. He has colleagues who used to work in taco joints or who bagged groceries in supermarkets. It is not difficult to become a police officer in Mexico. Noel only had to submit an application and pass a lie-detector test before he went through an eight-week training program to learn how to pat down suspects and to use a nightstick. Then he was given a uniform and a sidearm and sent out on patrol. Periodically, he says, he was even part of the mayor's security detail.

There are more than 1,600 police units in Mexico with local police such as Noel toward the bottom of the chain of command. They are also the weakest link, earning just 7,000 pesos, around €414, per month. It is enough to make ends meet, but not enough to be able to afford a car or a smartphone. "Of course that makes people susceptible," Noel says. Then he puts his finger on his lips as though he has said too much. You never know, he says. Everywhere there are people hiding in entryways ready to report suspicious movements.

It is said that 60 percent of the police force in Iguala worked for the drug cartels. For their services, they allegedly received cash from the mayor who reputedly handed out some 300,000 pesos per month. He officially declared the expenditures as being "disbursements for snacks." In exchange, the cops would look the other way when drug couriers passed through Iguala or they would inform mafia bosses of imminent raids. "Local police are people who don't ask twice when given an order," Noel says. "They carry it out."

On the night of Sept. 26, as the students made their way into the city in three rented buses, Noel's colleagues on duty received orders, allegedly from the mayor's office, to get rid of them.

Tires and Gasoline

They requested backup from the neighboring town of Cocula before the bus was then fired on. Some students were able to flee into the nearby hills while 43 were rounded up by the police. And it is perhaps not a coincidence that they then turned over their prisoners to deputy police chief César Nava, a suspected gangster who had been in charge of the Cocula precinct for a few months.

To agree on how to proceed, Nava is alleged to have called the leader of the crime syndicate Guerreros Unidos. During interrogation following his arrest, he admitted that he gave the order to hand over the prisoners to Guerreros Unidos hitmen. He told investigators that he thought the students were members of a different gang and that territorial defense was at stake.

State prosecutors say that, after being handed over, the students were driven to the landfill, a place where Nava frequently went for shooting practice together with other gang members who he had brought into the police force. Three hitmen from the local cartel -- Patricio Reyes Landa, Jonathan Osorio Gómez and Agustín García Reyes -- have since testified that they killed the 43 students and incinerated their corpses using tires and gasoline.

But maybe that isn't how things played out. Perhaps they are still alive. Family members continue to believe as much, as does Cristóforo García, the leader of the search team. It is all too common in Mexico for officials to present false confessions in order to produce quick results. And why should a state that has been extensively infiltrated by the mafia be believed?

Recently, Cristóforo García and his group headed out again for yet another search, 30 men, most of whom travel standing in the beds of white pick-ups. García leads the way as they slowly roll out of the city on the road to Cocula. They drive past the landfill and past the public pool with the big water slide. Eventually, they turn into a street that slowly winds its way into the hills. As the undergrowth becomes thicker, García says: "They could be anywhere."

'We Don't Have a Government'

After more than an hour, they reach a remote village where a roadblock brings the convoy to a halt. A dozen armed men approach and indicate that they should get out of their vehicles.

García turns off the engine and he and his group suddenly find themselves standing at an intersection surrounded by men with a distrustful look in their eyes. And once again, nobody knows who is behind the masks worn by the others.

"What do you want here?" demands an older man in a sombrero who appears to be their leader.

García explains that they are looking for the disappeared students but the man doesn't believe him. Just a few minutes ago, the man says, a military convoy rolled through the village and points to a helicopter circling overhead. It looks as though they are carrying out an operation nearby. Perhaps they are once again looking for mass graves.

"What do you have to do with them?" the leader demands.

"With this government?" García asks. "Nothing. We don't have a government. Do you?"

The man in the sombrero shakes his head. His village is called Tianquizolco and is home to a couple hundred indigenous farmers. As in other villages in Guerrero, they have founded their own police force. Someone has to protect us, the man in the sombrero says, adding that people disappear from here all too often as well.

Then, suddenly, the situation changes. The distrust between the two groups vanishes at the moment that the military convoy tries to pass through the village a second time. Together, the two groups block the way and stop the vehicles. The entire village is now in an uproar. The man in the sombrero demands that the military present identification, but they don't have any documents with them.

Of course it makes no sense to ask the military for ID, but the gesture is what matters -- and the result is that nothing happens for an hour. The heavily armed soldiers sit up on their vehicles while García's people and the self-proclaimed village police force with their hunting rifles stand on the ground around them. It is a perfect image of Mexico in November 2014. Everyone is armed, but it is totally unclear who has control.

 75 
 on: Nov 20, 2014, 07:47 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Colombian Government and FARC in Deal to Free General

by Naharnet Newsdesk
20 November 2014, 06:57

The Colombian government and the FARC struck a deal Wednesday to free "as soon as possible" a general and several others the guerrillas are holding captive, suggesting the faltering peace process is back on track.

Some 1,500 troops, 10 helicopters and planes, as well as boats and land vehicles, have been scouring the Choco region for General Ruben Alzate, the highest-ranking military officer to be kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in five decades of conflict.

Alzate, 55, went missing Sunday with Corporal Jorge Rodriguez and army adviser Gloria Urrego as they traveled by boat to visit a civilian energy project in Choco, where the general heads a task force responsible for fighting the rebels and where drug gangs are rife.

The kidnapping caused Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to suspend peace talks with the FARC -- the most promising effort yet to end Colombia's 50-year conflict.

But his government and the FARC appeared to have reached a deal Wednesday -- the two-year anniversary of the talks.

"The parties have agreed the conditions needed to set free" Alzate and four others, said Cuban diplomat Rodolfo Benitez and Norwegian counterpart Rita Sandberg, whose countries are among the guarantors of the talks in the Cuban capital Havana.

"The parties have agreed on the conditions for the release of the following persons: General Ruben Dario Alzate, soldier Jorge Rodriguez, soldier Cesar Rivera, soldier Jonathan Diaz and Gloria Urrego," Benitez said.

Santos, who has staked his presidency on the peace process, had earlier voiced optimism that the wider talks would be salvaged.

"No matter the obstacles or the enemies, we will achieve peace," he said at a ceremony to mark the two-year anniversary of the negotiations, as the crowd, dressed in white, waved paper cutouts of doves.

- 'Suspend the war' -

In the capital Bogota, about 200 people held a rally earlier in the day to show support for the peace talks and call for a ceasefire.

"Suspend the war, not the peace process!" they shouted.

Santos has so far rejected FARC demands for a ceasefire, saying it would strengthen the rebels' hand.

In a statement, the Santos government thanked Cuba and Norway "for their commitment and collaboration to facilitate the release" of the five captives and stressed it would "give full cooperation to ensure" their return home.

The FARC's second-in-command, Ivan Marquez, who heads the rebel delegation at the suspended talks, blamed the lack of a ceasefire for the crisis sparked by Alzate's capture.

"Someone who declares a merciless war can't turn around and ask us not to touch his soldiers and generals," he said.

The FARC fighters who claimed responsibility for capturing Alzate, the Ivan Rios unit, have said they will respect their commanders' orders on what to do with their hostages.

- Crisis 'can be overcome' -

"It's a deep crisis but not one that's intrinsic to the peace process. It can easily be overcome in a matter of days," political analyst Ariel Avila told AFP prior to news of the deal to free the general.

The FARC is the largest of the guerrilla groups active in Colombia, with about 8,000 fighters.

The conflict, which has at various times drawn in drug traffickers and right-wing paramilitaries, has killed more than 220,000 people and caused more than five million to flee their homes.

Santos, who won re-election in June in a vote widely seen as a referendum on the peace process, has also announced plans to enter talks with the second-largest guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN).

Source: Agence France Presse

 76 
 on: Nov 20, 2014, 07:46 AM 
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Miss Honduras Shot Dead 'after Fleeing Sister's Boyfriend'

by Naharnet Newsdesk
20 November 2014, 07:03

Miss Honduras was fatally shot as she tried to escape her sister's jealous boyfriend, police and reports said Wednesday, hours after the siblings were found dead beside a river.

Maria Jose Alvarado, 19, who had been due to fly to London to compete in the Miss World beauty pageant, disappeared with her sister Sofia Trinidad six days ago after a party, sparking an exhaustive search.

La Prensa newspaper reported that police were investigating whether Trinidad's boyfriend, Plutarco Ruiz, shot Trinidad in the head after he became jealous when he saw her dancing with another man. He then reportedly shot Alvarado twice in the back as she tried to flee.

Chief detective Leandro Osorio said the bodies of the beauty queen and her 23-year-old sister had been found buried along the banks of the Aguagual River in the town of Arada, in violence-plagued Honduras's northwest.

"We are 100 percent sure that it's them," Osorio said.

Police arrested Ruiz and his alleged accomplice on Tuesday, seizing a Colt-45 pistol and two vehicles.

Security Minister Arturo Corrales said there was "no doubt" that Ruiz was behind the crime and that he had been helped by another man, Aris Maldonado Mejia.

"We think that Plutarco led the crime, materially and intellectually," Corrales said.

Police are investigating additional suspects who they believe tried to help cover up the shooting, including by cleaning and repainting a pick-up used in the crime.

Organizers of the Miss World pageant, which begins Saturday, sent their condolences and announced a tribute this weekend in honor of the slain sisters.

"We are devastated by this terrible loss of two young women, who were so full of life," Julia Morley, the pageant's chairwoman, said in a statement.

"We will be holding a special service with all of the Miss World contestants on Sunday, where we will be honoring the lives of Maria Jose Alvarado and Sofia Trinidad, and say prayers for them and their family."

Miss World organizers said they also planned to donate money to a children's home in Honduras in the two women's memory.

Alvarado, who turned heads with her gleaming smile and wavy chestnut hair, was in her last year of university at the Northern Polytechnic Institute, where she studied computer science.

She had participated in beauty contests since she was a young girl.

She was also known in Honduras for her work as a model on popular TV game show "X-0."

She and Trinidad disappeared outside the northwestern city of Santa Barbara after attending a birthday party for the accused Ruiz at a local resort.

The riverbank where their bodies were discovered was located about 20 kilometers (12 miles) away.

- World homicide crown -

The sisters were last seen leaving the party in a champagne-colored car.

Their mother, Teresa Munoz, says the same vehicle was at her home earlier that day to pick up Alvarado, who had just arrived from the capital Tegucigalpa, about 200 kilometers away.

Munoz had made a tearful plea for the safe return of her daughters after their disappearance.

Residents of Santa Barbara held a demonstration demanding their release Tuesday, when hope still lingered that they were alive. Wearing white T-shirts with the girls' pictures on them, they marched with a banner reading "May God protect them."

Honduras, a poor Central American country of eight million people, has the world's highest homicide rate, at 90.4 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2012.

The United Nations' special rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, warned in July that violence against women was on the rise in Honduras, with a 263.4-percent increase in the number of females killed violently between 2005 and 2013.

Source: Agence France Presse

 77 
 on: Nov 20, 2014, 07:39 AM 
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Thousands Protest in Ecuador against President

by Naharnet Newsdesk
20 November 2014, 07:12

Thousands of people marched Wednesday in Ecuador against the leftist government of President Rafael Correa, denouncing a move that would allow him to extend his rule beyond 2017.

Union members, students, teachers and indigenous peoples gathered in the capital Quito and other cities for the second march in two months in opposition to the Socialist leader.

In office since 2007, Correa was re-elected in February 2013 to a four-year term, the last he is currently allowed under the law.

However, in late October, Ecuador's Constitutional Court gave lawmakers the green light to set new rules on term limits that would allow Correa to extend his rule beyond 2017.

Around 3,000 protesters marched under police surveillance in Quito, following a September anti-government rally in which 34 officers were injured and 53 people taken into custody.

"Fear has gone and people are mobilized," signs read Wednesday.

"If Ecuador wants unlimited re-elections, it has to be done through a constituent assembly," Mesias Tatamuez, president of an association of unions, told Agence France Presse.

However, Correa has remained popular in many parts of Ecuador thanks in part to social and infrastructure programs financed by the country's vast oil sector.

The demonstrators also protested a package of labor reforms introduced by Correa on Saturday, such as the elimination of short-term work contracts and trimming the wage gap between employers and workers.

Source: Agence France Presse

 78 
 on: Nov 20, 2014, 07:38 AM 
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Boko Haram Steps Up Attacks in Cameroon

by Naharnet Newsdesk
20 November 2014, 07:19

Nigerian Islamist extremists Boko Haram are intensifying attacks in neighboring Cameroon, targeting new villages with increasingly sophisticated weapons, as the army fears more violence in the approaching dry season.

"We're convinced that the establishment of a 'caliphate' (by Boko Haram) is aimed not only at Nigeria but also at Cameroon," Leopold Nlate Ebale, commander for an elite battalion in the border zone, told Agence France Presse.

Boko Haram's leader, Abubakar Shekau, has said he wants to set up a Nigerian caliphate -- recalling the actions of the Islamic State militant group which has taken over parts of Iraq and Syria.

Until recently, Boko Haram had focused its attacks on several Cameroonian border posts across from towns it controls in the Nigerian state of Borno.

It has also been using Cameroon as a place to rest and stock up with arms and food.

But its attacks are now spreading further south into the country.

Members of the group have slit the throats of market-goers in broad daylight near the northern city of Mokolo, according to Cameroon's army.

Meanwhile, rivers between the west African nations are evaporating as the dry season approaches.

Dry weather "will increase Boko Haram's capacity for harm," said colonel Jacob Kodji, a regional army chief in northern Cameroon.

"They will no longer have to cross over bridges. They will be able to cross anywhere over the border, at any time, by any means."

- Troops trained by Israelis -

The Islamists have taken some 20 towns in Nigeria and amassed a weapons stockpile seized from Nigerian army bases.

They now use armoured vehicles and landmines as well as kalashnikovs and rocket launchers.

Cameroon's military is increasingly concerned as Boko Haram fighters approach major cities like Maroua, the capital of the Far North region, which the group is suspected of infiltrating.

Cameroon has deployed around 2,000 soldiers in the northern region and registered 32 deaths since the start of the operation.

Despite the losses, the government says its soldiers are beating back the Islamists.

The authorities regularly announce the killing of hundreds of Islamists during skirmishes, though it is impossible to verify the figures.

Cameroon has some 4,000 elite soldiers, trained by Israeli soldiers, but observers are sceptical about the capabilities of the regular army, particularly in the face of bigger attacks.

"Until now, the military presence has endured major skirmishes. But if Boko Haram decided to launch a major offensive, they could break through Cameroon's lines without too much difficulty," said a source close to the country's intelligence services, requesting anonymity.

The army's successes up to now were partly due to the fact that the insurgents were sending young, inexperienced recruits to Cameroon, rather than hardened fighters from Nigeria, he said.

"The Boko Haram fighters we're dealing with are trained in three weeks: the first week they're given money and drugs, the second week they learn to put together and strip down a kalashnikov, and the third, they're sent to the frontline," said a Cameroonian officer, declining to be named.

The army, initially criticised for its inaction, also feels increasingly isolated in its fight against the Islamist group.

Hundreds of Nigerian soldiers have fled to Cameroon on several occasions in response to Boko Haram attacks, yet the two countries "share information but nothing more", according to Cameroon's defence ministry.

A regional force -- with 700 soldiers each from Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria -- is due to be deployed by the end of November, but will mainly concentrate on the area around Lake Chad, in the far north of both countries.

Source: Agence France Presse

 79 
 on: Nov 20, 2014, 07:36 AM 
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Teargas Fired inside Nigeria Parliament before Key Vote

by Naharnet Newsdesk
20 November 2014, 14:08

Nigerian security forces fired teargas on Thursday inside the parliament complex as opposition lawmakers, including the speaker of the lower house, arrived for a key vote on emergency rule in the northeast.

The leader of the Senate, David Mark, later ordered the immediate closure of both chambers until next week over the incident.

Multiple reports, including from eye witnesses, indicated that security agents tried to block House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, who defected to the opposition last month, from entering the building.

The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has tried to remove Tambuwal from the speaker's chair since his defection and stripped him of his security detail.

Lawmakers had been scheduled to vote Thursday on President Goodluck Jonathan's request to extend the state of emergency in the northeast region hit hardest by Boko Haram.

Members of Tambuwal's All Progressives Congress (APC) party have described the state of emergency first imposed in May last year as a failure because of escalating violence and have argued it should not be renewed.

A witness who works at parliament but requested anonymity said police first fired teargas as Tambuwal and other APC lawmakers tried to enter the gate outside the parliament buildings.

The lawmakers managed to enter the gate and headed toward the main lobby of the parliament building, he said, adding: "Police fired teargas again."

An AFP reporter said the lobby was still filled with teargas several minutes after Tambuwal's arrival.

Police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu denied that police officers were involved.

Senate president Mark said: "Because of the very unfortunate incident that has happened in the National Assembly this morning, I have decided that I will shut down the National Assembly until Tuesday next week."

Mark, who is a PDP stalwart, said there would no vote Thursday on Jonathan's request to extend emergency rule.

Source: Agence France Presse

 80 
 on: Nov 20, 2014, 07:34 AM 
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African presidents ‘use China aid for patronage politics’

Most of the $80bn of development funds sent to Africa went to areas where national leaders were born rather than the most needy, says AidData report

Mark Anderson   
theguardian.com, Wednesday 19 November 2014 16.04 GMT

African leaders are almost three times more likely to spend Chinese development aid in areas where they have ethnic ties, casting doubt on the humanitarian effectiveness of Beijing’s strict “hands-off” policy in the continent.

China says it spends more than half of its foreign aid in 51 African countries, sending $80bn between 2000 and 2012. But most of that aid went to areas where national leaders were born, indicating a strong political bias, according to a geotagged database of aid contracts published by AidData, an open-source data centre.

“As soon as [a region] becomes the birthplace of an African president this region gets 270% more development assistance (from China) than it would get if it were not the birth region of the president,” said Roland Hodler, professor of economics at the University of St Gallen in Switzerland and co-author of a report, Aid on Demand: African Leaders and the Geography of China’s Foreign Assistance, published in conjunction with the database.

Ghana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia received the most Chinese development assistance over the reporting period, the study showed.

China is sending development funds to African governments with the aim of buying long-term political alliances, Hodler said. Sierra Leone’s president, Ernest Bai Koroma, recently used Chinese aid to build a school in Yoni, his hometown, according to the report.

“To us, this suggests that the Chinese principle of non-interference in domestic affairs allows African presidents to use Chinese aid for patronage politics. I am sure the Chinese are aware of this, and I would argue that they accept it because they care more about having a president who is sympathetic to them than about the poor,” said Hodler.

But the study also noted that, contrary to popular belief, Chinese aid to Africa is not strongly tied to countries that host Beijing’s oil and mining operations. “We do not find a strong pattern that Chinese aid only goes to regions where there’s a lot of natural resources. The picture that they only go after natural resources is not really confirmed by our sub-national level analysis,” Hodler said.

Deborah Brautigam, director of the China Africa Research Initiative at John Hopkins University, said: “Most Chinese finance in Africa is not official aid, but business-related export credits borrowed by governments to finance infrastructure projects of various kinds. If these governments want to channel projects to their home town, Chinese banks would have no objection.

“For official aid, which is heavily diplomatic, the Chinese government looks beyond any sitting African leader to all the leaders to come, and to public opinion more generally. This is why they use their official aid for big, visible projects like stadiums, ministry buildings, and airports that can be seen and used by many people - in the capital city - and not tucked away in a rural hamlet.”

Researchers took data that China published on its foreign assistance and mapped where development projects were located. “The Chinese tend to send more aid to countries that are somewhat poorer but within these countries they go for the relatively rich regions,” said Hodler.

China maintains that it sends aid to African governments with the aim of furthering their development agendas.

The Chinese government said in July: “When providing foreign assistance, China adheres to the principles of not imposing any political conditions, not interfering in the internal affairs of the recipient countries and fully respecting their right to independently choosing their own paths and models of development. The basic principles China upholds in providing foreign assistance are mutual respect, equality, keeping promise, mutual benefits and win-win.”

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