Friday, March 19, 2010

Anunnaki secret history on earth

Colombian court rules against extraditing warlord to U.S.

The Colombian Supreme Court has ruled against extraditing drug lord and rightist militia chief Daniel Rendon Herrera to the United States.

In Wednesday's ruling, the court said Rendon should stand trial in Colombia for charges of crimes against humanity – both those currently pending and others that may be brought in the future.

The U.S. embassy in Bogota had filed a request for the extradition of Herrera, alias “Don Mario,” on July 21, 2009, on terrorism and drug trafficking charges.

U.S. federal prosecutors accuse him of providing material support to a terrorist organization – the now-defunct AUC militia federation – and of conspiring to import, manufacture, possess and distribute cocaine in the United States.

Don Mario, captured in April of last year, was a member of the Elmer Cardenas Bloc of the AUC, which was dismantled in mid-2006 after more than 31,000 paramilitary fighters handed in their weapons.

More than 3,000 homicides and other crimes, including forced displacement and disappearance, have been attributed to the Elmer Cardenas Bloc and specifically to Don Mario and brother Freddy Rendon Herrera, who are being held in maximum-security prisons.

Both are cooperating with prosecutors from a special unit of the Attorney General's Office created to investigate and prosecute demobilized AUC fighters.

Don Mario must first appear before Colombian judicial authorities and make reparations to victims of his paramilitary activity, the Supreme Court said.

If he were to be extradited to the United States, “that would undermine the Colombian government's obligations in the fight against impunity for crimes against humanity,” the high court said.

It “would also gravely damage the rights of the victims and Colombian society, who would not have the chance to know the truth and obtain reparations for the crimes committed” by the AUC.

Rendon went underground after the AUC demobilized between the end of 2003 and mid-2006 as part of the peace process with President Alvaro Uribe's administration.

He seized control of the smuggling routes and markets of other drug warlords, including Salvatore Mancuso, Diego Fernando Murillo Bejarano and Ramiro Vanoy Murillo, all of whom were extradited by the Colombian government to the United States on May 13, 2008, to face drug and money-laundering charges.

Uribe said at the time they were extradited after violating the terms of the peace accords they had signed with his government.

The AUC encompassed most of the rightist rural security organizations created in the 1980s to fight leftist guerrillas.

Over the years, however, those groups turned into drug-running death squads.

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Interfaith dialogue ends with vow to uphold human rights, diversity

Reiterating their commitment to protect and promote human rights and freedom of expression, member-states including those with bleak human rights records concluded Thursday the special ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) on interfaith dialogues.

The two-day conference ended with ministers and representatives of 118 member-states adopting the Manila Declaration and Program of Action. The document states that inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue is a “productive tool to promote economic and social development, peace and security, and human rights and the rule of law."

Under the declaration, NAM states agree to ensure that people fully enjoy the right to freedom of expression while preventing abuses and incitement to religious hatred “as provided for in the international human rights instruments to which states are parties."

Member-states reiterated the need for international cooperation in building inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue at the national and regional levels towards conflict prevention and nuclear disarmament.

They likewise emphasized the need to promote respect for the diversity of religions, beliefs, cultures and societies, and for prophets, religious symbols and personalities.

They also noted the value of spiritual practices as an aid to promoting peace and resolving conflict.

Dismal human rights records

Human rights situations in NAM states, however, have not been very encouraging in the past years.

The non-aligned movement counts among its 118 member-states the junta-ruled Myanmar, North Korea, Iran and even the Philippines, where rampant human rights violations have been scored by international rights watchdogs, including United Nations bodies.

Of special concern is Myanmar's passage of a law that would ban opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from participating in the national elections expected to be held this year. Suu Kyi has been in and out of detention for a total of 14 years since she was elected Prime Minister in the country's 1990 elections.

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Human rights being trampled in Australia, says former WA premier Geoff Gallop

Basic human rights are being trampled on by "authoritarian" governments in Australia in the absence of a federal bill of rights, former West Australian premier Geoff Gallop says.

Mr Gallop, in a speech to a Human Rights Arts and Film Festival forum in Perth today, said recent state laws - including confiscation of assets and unexplained wealth legislation - had "crossed the line" on people's rights.

Australia was the only democratic country without a bill or charter of human rights, leaving its citizens at the mercy of bureaucracies, Mr Gallop said.

"What's missing in Australia, compared to a lot of other countries, is a consciousness that human rights are important," he said.

"There are very few human rights enshrined in law in Australia - we're very light on human rights."

Mr Gallop said recent legislation in Australia, including WA's tough anti-hoon laws that have led to the impounding cars belonging to innocent parties, and asset-freezing laws that undermine the presumption of innocence, had gone "too far".

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"Some of those laws come very close, if not cross the line, on human rights and we need to expose that so we have a proper debate," he said.

"I think a charter of rights is designed to put a spotlight on those things, which is exactly what we need."

Mr Gallop said state governments had been put under pressure in recent times to get tough on crime, but had to be careful not to go too far.

"All governments are under pressure sometimes to push the executive power in the interests of the public," he said.

"(But) I think governments get too authoritarian.

"I really think, having been in government, you do need to have people question what you're doing, examining what you're doing - you need second opinions on things.

Mr Gallop told the forum at the University of WA that Australia still had "significant pockets of racism", "crude and nasty" populism and nationalism.

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Pig farts spark Australia gas scare

AFP - A flatulent pig sparked a gas emergency in southern Australia when a farmer mistook its odours for a leaking pipe, according to officials.

Fifteen firefighters and two trucks were called to a property at Axedale in central Victoria state after reports of a gas leak, the Country Fire Service said.

"When we got there, as we drove up the driveway, there was this huge sow, about a 120-odd kilo (265-pound) sow, and it was very obvious where the gas was coming from," said fire captain Peter Harkins.

"We could not only smell it, but we heard it and it was quite funny."

Harkins said the pig's owner was "a little bit embarrassed to say the least," and it took fire crews a little while to compose themselves.

"It was fairly obvious what it was. I think we dealt with it fairly professionally and had a bit of a giggle when we got back to the station," he told public broadcaster ABC.

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Airline crew face jail over sexy texts

DUBAI (Reuters) – Two Emirates airlines cabin crew have been ordered jailed for three months in Dubai over sexually explicit text messages, the latest in a string of indecency cases against foreigners, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

The pair, an Indian flight attendant and her cabin services supervisor, were convicted of "coercion to commit sin" over the messages and initially sentenced to six months in jail, The National newspaper said on its website, citing court documents.

The sentence was reduced on appeal last week to three months and deportation orders against the pair were lifted, it added. It did not reveal the content of the messages.

Dubai's foreign population has expanded rapidly in recent years as expatriates flocked to the Gulf Arab trade and tourism hub for its tax-free earnings and year-round sunshine.

The changes have challenged the Emirati population, which is now vastly outnumbered by foreigners, raising concern that their emirate's rapid pace of growth is a threat to their social and religious identity in what remains a deeply conservative region.

An Emirates spokeswoman declined to comment on the case as it was still ongoing.

The paper said the case emerged after the flight attendant's husband filed a lawsuit against his wife a year ago accusing her of being in an illicit relationship with her supervisor. It said the couple had been embroiled in a divorce battle since 2007.

The case is the latest decency case against foreigners accused of not respecting local mores.

In a separate case, a British pair caught kissing in public in Dubai is appealing a month-long jail sentence handed down after an Emirati mother complained her child had seen their indiscretion.

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Arms merchants rake in the Moolah

There are few things that make my blood boil more than reports issued by a certain group.

The organization, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, is actually a favorite of mine, and the work it does on tracking global arms spending is extremely important. But reading its research gets me all upset.

Its latest study is having the same effect. In a report issued this week, the think tank reveals that weapons peddlers were merrily unaffected by the Great Recession. Quite to the contrary. While governments around the world were cutting essential services to their people by offering up the economic crisis as an excuse, they were simultaneously gobbling up arms on the international bazaar. The result: At a time when people have been hurting everywhere, weapons purchases increased globally by a whopping 22 percent in the past five years (2005-2009) as compared to the previous five-year period.

The United States is the biggest merchant of death, accounting for almost one-third of the sales, with Russia close behind, having nearly one-fourth of the total.

“The USA delivered weapons to seventy countries and to NATO in the period 2005–2009, more than any other supplier,” says the report. “Asia and Oceania accounted for most U.S. deliveries (39 per cent), followed by the Middle East (36 percent) and Europe (18 per cent). Combat aircraft and associated weapons and components accounted for 48 per cent of the volume of U.S. deliveries of major conventional weapons during this period.”

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For example, see Indian helicopter deal saves 4,000 Westland jobs

North Korea said to execute official over currency

North Korea reportedly executed former finance official Pak Nam-gi, who was held responsible for the failed currency reform late last year amid growing public unrest over the faltering economy.

The former director of financial planning under the Workers' Party was executed by a firing squad in Pyongyang last week on charges of treason for "intentionally ruining the national economy," but most North Koreans believed he was made a scapegoat, Yonhap News said citing multiple sources.

South Korea's Unification Ministry said it was unable to officially confirm the report. Seoul customarily refrains from confirming anything concerning the Pyongyang government unless the North makes an official announcement.

"The failure of the currency reform caused social unrest and had a negative impact on Kim Jong-il regime's father-to-son succession, so Pyongyang blamed it all on Pak," an unnamed source was quoted as saying by Yonhap News.

"Pak's case is reminiscent of Suh Gwan-hui, former Workers' Party secretary of agriculture, who was executed during the severe famine in the 1990s."

The North charged him of espionage and had him shot to death in front of tens of thousands of people in 1997 when the nation was suffering a murderous famine often referred to as the "arduous march."

The North reportedly described Pak as "a landlord's son who snuck into the revolutionary ranks to intentionally wreck the economy."

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Sex-crazed bugs unleashed in Israel

One of the great challenges of modern agriculture is how to use technology to mass produce crops while sparing consumers from the harmful chemicals and byproducts of the agricultural process. Though meant to kill harmful insects, pesticides carry a very serious risk to the environment.

While studies have shown that mankind is developing cancer and other diseases at a higher rate due to exposure to pesticides, the crop-killing vermin are only becoming more immune to its effects. At the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, researchers have discovered a way to safely eliminate insects without the need for harmful chemicals.

Professor Boaz Yuval at the university’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Food, Agriculture and the Environment believes that sex is the key.

If you can sterilize male insects before they copulate with females, these females will be unable to lay eggs. The problem, however, is that males who are sterilized also lose their sex drive, leaving the females to mate with male insects who are not sterilized.

Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have created a special, high protein, bacteria-enhanced “breakfast of champions” to sterilize males. By greatly increasing their sex drive and sexual performance, females spend all of their time with these Casanova sex-crazed males and never are able to lay eggs of their own.

While original applications of this research will be for plant and animal pests, many are looking to see how this work can be applied to stop the spread of organisms carrying human diseases.

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Book of the week: Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism into Philosophy

...So why step forward into this old controversy - now seemingly settled - Emmanuel Faye, professor at the University of Rouen? Particularly as within France, Heidegger is not only "understood" but much cherished, and the reading of his thoughts obligatory for all high school students as part of the baccalaureate. Over the decades that followed the war, if elsewhere Heidegger's critics kept nibbling away, in France the likes of Sartre, Foucault, Ricoeur, Levinas and so on kept admiring the philosophy. In a newspaper interview in 1987, Jacques Derrida threw down the gauntlet to Heidegger's critics, demanding that they either show substantial links between Heidegger's texts and "the reality of all the Nazisms" or shut up. It is this challenge, in effect, that Faye's book, first published in France in 2005, takes up.

Despite its provocative subtitle, Faye's work was probably destined to be one of those books filed on the second shelf up from the floor in the basement room stack. But now along comes this excellent translation to support a professor who wants to dispute the philosophical merit of Heidegger's oeuvre, and instead trace it back, phrase by phrase, idea by idea, to tawdry Nazi party politics: racial purity, lebensraum, the special role of the Fuhrer, the virtuous necessity of war - the lot!

For Faye is a man with a mission. Not here will we find a search for two sides to every question. He intends to throw light on unpublished Heidegger texts that are "every bit as racist and virulently National Socialist as those of the official 'philosophers' of Nazism". Faye believes that "the diffusion of Heidegger's works after the war slowly descends like ashes after the explosion - a grey cloud slowly suffocating and extinguishing minds", and that the vast literature on Heidegger continues to spread "the fundamental tenets of Nazism on a worldwide scale".

And so he offers extensive quotation from unpublished material in the spirit of "what legal scholars have called our right to history", to show that the philosophical task to which Heidegger dedicated himself was the introduction of the ideas of the Fuhrer into philosophy.

Where philosophers have been content to note that Heidegger was "inspired" by Aristotle to attack Edmund Husserl's neo-Kantian thesis, Faye works patiently and carefully through the documents to show the connections. For example, Heidegger writes that to be neo-Kantian is to go "hand in hand with liberalism" and betray "man in his historical enrootedness and his tradition derived from the people and from blood and soil". That was in a letter warning against a Jewish colleague. In 1942, the year of the Final Solution, Heidegger is to be found working on an idea in a poem by Friedrich Holderlin. Faye notes that philosophers are ignorant of the significance of Holderlin - but that the answer is very easily obtained by perusal of Nazi texts.

Heidegger uses Holderlin as part of a theory explaining how the historic mission of Ancient Greece was passed to the German volk. Heidegger thinks that the Germans and the Greeks sprang from a shared root somewhere in the East. "The name Heraclitus is not the title of a philosophy of the Greeks long run dry, no more than it is the formula for universal humanity as such. In truth, it is the name of an original power of Occidental-Germanic historical existence."

Heidegger's development of Holderlin is to add a kind of swastika symbol, as he outlines a new philosophical justification for racial purity based on passing via distress to light...

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Bohlen-Pierce - the alternative musical scale

From Symphony in J flat

The golden touch - Banker J. P. Morgan rescued the dollar and bailed out the nation

...With the government running big surpluses in the prosperous late 1880s and early 1890s, the effect of this monetary policy was masked. But when the crash of 1893 rolled in, bringing deep depression, the trickle of gold out of the Treasury became a flood. By early 1895 bets were being taken on Wall Street as to exactly when the Treasury would run out of gold and default. Two bond issues were sold to replenish the Treasury's gold supply, but the gold just cycled out again. Congress, with many free-coinage-of-silver members, refused to authorize another issue. That's when the deeply alarmed Morgan traveled to Washington in early February.

President Grover Cleveland at first refused to see him, but Morgan replied, in his best imperial manner, “I have come down to see the president, and I am going to stay here until I see him.” Cleveland saw him the next morning.

Cleveland, his attorney general, and the secretary of the Treasury all still hoped that they could persuade Congress to float another bond issue and thus avoid the embarrassment of having the gold standard rescued by the very symbol of Wall Street. A telephone call from New York informed them that the New York Subtreasury had only $9 million worth of gold left in its vaults. Morgan informed them that he knew of $12 million in drafts that might be presented at any moment. Cleveland's back was up against the wall.

“What suggestions have you to make, Mr. Morgan?” he asked.

Whereupon Morgan made an extraordinary offer: he and the Rothschilds, the two most powerful forces in international banking at that time, would purchase 3.5 million ounces of gold in Europe in exchange for 30-year gold bonds. (Morgan had uncovered a forgotten Civil War-era statute that allowed the Treasury to issue bonds in exchange for coin.) He also guaranteed that the gold would not flow back out of the Treasury, at least for a while...

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From Chechnya, a cautionary tale

...But scratch the surface, and Chechnya becomes a cautionary tale, particularly for the US odyssey in Iraq, now almost in its seventh year. A deadly insurgency, which the Kremlin has pronounced all but defeated, perseveres in the mountains that have sheltered rebels for centuries, and is spilling out beyond Chechnya's borders into other republics of Russia's North Caucasus.

The circumstances that fuel the insurgency are familiar to American troops and diplomats stationed in Iraq: a weak, nascent kleptocracy; staggering unemployment; revenge that is easily harvested by the enduring Islamic fundamentalism. Unable to keep the rebels in check, the government — with the tacit support of the Kremlin — carries out arbitrary abductions and summary executions.

After Sunday's election in Iraq, top American commanders said the performance of Iraqi security forces demonstrated that the country is on track to the level of stability and peace needed to withdraw American combat troops by Sept. 1. (That at least 38 people were killed in bombings and artillery attacks in Baghdad suggests that the commanders' bar for what is considered stability and peace — or good performance of Iraqi forces — is rather low.) As Washington gears up for the pullout it might serve it well to look at Chechnya as an example of one way violence can continue to bleed a former counterinsurgency battlefield long after the war is officially over.

The back history of the conflict in Chechnya — nearly 300 years of relentless opposition to the oppressive Russian rule — is radically different from that of Iraq. But the efforts by Washington and by the Kremlin to extricate themselves from their respective wars follow an uncomfortably similar pattern: Prop up a relatively amenable government and hand over to it the responsibility to quash rebellion; pour money into reconstruction projects, ignoring the ensuing corruption and graft; tolerate human rights violations in the name of relative political stability; accept occasional flare-ups of an Islamic rebellion; and declare — or, in the case of the United States, strive to declare — the end of major military operations.

In Chechnya, “the model failed,'' according to Sarah Mendelson, director of the Human Rights and Security Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. The end of the war here has given way to a smoldering, self-perpetuating conflict that is quietly ravaging the region like an underground peat fire.

A recent CSIS report shows that the number of suicide bombings in the North Caucasus in 2009 nearly quadrupled compared to the previous year. Most of the attacks occurred in Chechnya. Ambushes, shootings, and roadside bombings are also on the increase across the region: last year, more than 900 people were killed here, almost double from the year before.

Of course, bloodshed in Chechnya is less dramatic in scope than the bombings and shootings that are claiming lives today in Iraq. But Chechnya's population is smaller by almost 30 times. And this war is older. Think Iraq 2019...

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Americanizing the global mind?

 The last few years in American mental health have been marked by a brutal public flogging. Revelations in 2008 and 2009 that drug research at Harvard  and the University of Texas was tainted by millions of dollars in drug company undisclosed payments to the researchers (which were subsequently condemned on the floor of Congress by Senator Chuck Grassley) was followed by high profile media coverage of problems with the practice of psychotherapy.

In October 2009, findings from an article in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, which chronicled how psychotherapists are notoriously ignorant of clinical advances in their field, were reported by Newsweek's Sharon Begley in a stinging criticism of the profession. In January of this year, a review in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) of the research on depression medication argued that studies suggesting that drugs are not effective result from unnecessary prescription. In other words, for the minority who are clinically depressed, medication is a godsend, but for the majority who receive it – people who are just sad – it doesn't do much.

Citing this and other research, Judith Warner called the entire field into question in the New York Times:

“This is the big picture of mental health care in America: not perfectly healthy people popping pills for no reason, but people with real illnesses lacking access to care; facing barriers like ignorance, stigma and high prices; or findings care that is ineffective.”

Now, this criticism has gone global with Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche, by journalist Ethan Watters, a book that takes aim at “the grand project of Americanizing the world's understanding of the human mind.”

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Indian children may have been 'sacrificed'

Five children poisoned to death in a village in India may have been "sacrificed", police say.

They say that the children were killed in Maharashtra state by a childless couple in a suspected black magic ritual to enable them to conceive.

The couple and parents of the accused husband have been arrested. Officials say post-mortem results are awaited.

Black magic is sometimes carried out in poorer parts of India by people who believe it will provide benefits.

These can include helping childless women to bear children and producing more rainfall.

'Foul play'

Police say they are looking for the tantrik, or witch doctor, who advised the couple to "sacrifice" 11 children in accordance with black magic rituals.

They say that Vitthal and Vandana Mokle were married for 12 years but were unable to conceive despite frequently visiting doctors.

Investigating Officer Sheikh Abdul Rauf told the BBC that after initial inquiries they suspected foul play in the deaths of the children.

"The first death occurred in December 2009 and the most recent one was in March," he said.

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We stand on the cusp of one of humanity's most dangerous moments

Aleksandr Herzen, speaking a century ago to a group of anarchists about how to overthrow the czar, reminded his listeners that it was not their job to save a dying system but to replace it: “We think we are the doctors. We are the disease.” All resistance must recognize that the body politic and global capitalism are dead. We should stop wasting energy trying to reform or appeal to it. This does not mean the end of resistance, but it does mean very different forms of resistance. It means turning our energies toward building sustainable communities to weather the coming crisis, since we will be unable to survive and resist without a cooperative effort.

These communities, if they retreat into a pure survivalist mode without linking themselves to the concentric circles of the wider community, the state and the planet, will become as morally and spiritually bankrupt as the corporate forces arrayed against us. All infrastructures we build, like the monasteries in the Middle Ages, should seek to keep alive the intellectual and artistic traditions that make a civil society, humanism and the common good possible. Access to parcels of agricultural land will be paramount. We will have to grasp, as the medieval monks did, that we cannot alter the larger culture around us, at least in the short term, but we may be able to retain the moral codes and culture for generations beyond ours. Resistance will be reduced to small, often imperceptible acts of defiance, as those who retained their integrity discovered in the long night of 20th-century fascism and communism.

We stand on the cusp of one of the bleakest periods in human history when the bright lights of a civilization blink out and we will descend for decades, if not centuries, into barbarity. The elites have successfully convinced us that we no longer have the capacity to understand the revealed truths presented before us or to fight back against the chaos caused by economic and environmental catastrophe. As long as the mass of bewildered and frightened people, fed images that permit them to perpetually hallucinate, exist in this state of barbarism, they may periodically strike out with a blind fury against increased state repression, widespread poverty and food shortages. But they will lack the ability and self-confidence to challenge in big and small ways the structures of control. The fantasy of widespread popular revolts and mass movements breaking the hegemony of the corporate state is just that – a fantasy.

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Online investigations: Searching the Web and organizing your information

Tools Shared During the 2010 School of Authentic Journalism

By the Online Journalism Working Group Professors and Students of the School of Authentic Journalism
Class of 2010, School of Authentic Journalism

March 4, 2010

On February 7, the investigative journalism and online reporting teams held a joint plenary on online investigations.

Presenters demonstrated a few tools that are used to locate information and carry out online investigations.

These tools include online databases on various topics, internet archives, and ways to back up controversial or damning information so that it can't be removed from the internet. Some of the tools and databases search the Deep Web, which is the part of the web that is not searchable by search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and MSN. Other tools are used to organize the often copious amounts of electronic documents that online investigators often have to manage.

The investigative and online teams are making the tools they mentioned during the plenary available online.

This is an interactive blog post. The online and investigative journalism teams will continue to update the post with more tools.

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President Fox guarding narco hen-house?

Mexico press said Fox close to top drug trafficker, raising questions about curious Bush-Clinton links to Fox

[ This story was originally published at on February 15, 2001. Interestingly, it was re-posted without censorship but with a great deal of comment at on July 28, 2001. President Bill Clinton had earlier met former Mexico President Ernesto Zedillo at the coastal ranch of alleged narcotics trafficker Roberto Hernandez Ramirez in 1999 for the U.S.-Mexico "anti-drug" conference, after which new President Vicente Fox vacationed with Ramirez. Curiously, reports at the same time revealed that then Texas Governor George Bush "loaned" Fox one of his top media consultants to assure his election, validating secret Bush links to the Mexico president (the consultant used fake names to hide the ties during his 40 visits with Fox), all of which is mostly unknown to the American people and the United States Congress--well, most of Congress. This, despite multiple Mexico press allegations.

To add to the outrage, Ramirez is also on the board of directors of New York CitiBank and a member of the International Advisory Committee of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, after having sold his BanaMex bank to CitiGroup in 2001 for $12.5 billion.

Revealing photo and map evidence with testimonial allegations about Ramirez ran daily in Por Esto during Clinton's Cancun conference, alleging Ramirez was running a drug trafficking operation from his huge property, complete with an airport which allegedly smuggled one-third of Central America's cocaine into the U.S.A. This, according to the three largest daily newspapers in Mexico, raising questions about side agendas as President Bush himself meets with Fox on Thursday and Friday in Cancun, adjacent to the property owned by Ramirez, who the press referred to as "El Narcotrafficante."

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DR-Congo: EU urged to ban 'conflict minerals'

After the United States senate's move to stem the flow of money from mineral mines fuelling the brutal civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the watchdog group Global Witness (GW) is calling on Europe to follow suit.

"We are calling on the European Union (EU) to introduce legislation to exclude conflict minerals from eastern DRC coming into the European market," Lizzie Parsons from GW, an international organisation investigating the links between natural resource exploitation and human rights abuses, told IPS.

According to GW, armed groups control much of the mineral trade in the eastern DRC. These armed groups profit from the multi-million dollar mineral trade by forcibly controlling the mines and exacting bribes or taxes. Those buying the "conflict minerals" include companies based in EU member states.

The role of the mineral trade has been recognised as one of the factors fuelling the violence and contributing to human rights violations in eastern DRC since the start of the war.

Human rights activists have long called attention to how "conflict minerals" are sold to purchase arms by rebel groups that regularly commit horrific abuses against civilian populations, including mass murder, rape, torture and forced recruitment.

Over the last few months, GW gathered information in the region and visited mines that are under the control of armed groups.

Parsons says the armed groups would have been a lot poorer and much less well-armed without the trade. "We do know that the mineral trade is a significant proportion of their income."

GW is calling on suppliers that source minerals from DRC to identify the mines they come from. They are also recommending spot checks and audits to back these declarations. According to the watchdog group a few companies have made some efforts, but that is not enough.

"The companies' policies have purely been on paper. And a number of companies, including for example Apple, have not acknowledged the problem at all," Parsons says.

The "conflict minerals" - tin (cassiterite), tantalum (coltan or columbite-tantalite), and tungsten (wolframite) - are, after they are mined, moved from DRC to East Asia where they are processed into valuable metals needed for electronic products. The metals are used in i-pods, digital cameras, cell phones and laptops worldwide.

Global Witness states that, so far, governments have done little to curb the trade in conflict minerals. But last year the U.S. made a move. In May 2009, a draft legislation requiring U.S. companies to disclose the origin of their mineral supplies was introduced in the senate.

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Fake TV torture show prepares to shock France

Would you torture a fellow TV game show contestant just to please the audience? A stunning documentary suggests that most people are willing to inflict extreme pain on an innocent person if it keeps a baying crowd happy.

The makers of the French documentary "The Game of Death" -- to be aired in France tonight -- set up a fake game show called "The Xtreme Zone," complete with a beautiful hostess, a rowdy audience and a flashy set. Some 80 potential contestants were asked to put general-knowledge questions to another participant named Jean-Paul, who was played by an actor. If the actor got the answers wrong, the questioner could pull a lever and punish him with electric shocks.

Although the participants didn't know the contestant was a plant, most were willing to give in to the presenter's and audience's loud demands for "punishment!" whenever an incorrect answer was given. According to director Christophe Nick, 64 of the 80 players zapped the actor with what they were told was the maximum 460 volts, even though no cash prize was offered. Sixteen people quit the quiz in disgust.

And while Jean-Paul was out of sight of the contestants, his whimpers and cries of "Let me go!" made it clear he was in pain. At the highest voltage, the actor would fall silent -- suggesting he had either passed out or died.

Program maker Nick said his crew was "amazed" that so many players were willing to go along with the sadistic whims of the host and crowd, albeit often reluctantly. "They are not equipped to disobey," he told Agence France-Presse. "They don't want to do it, they try to convince the authority figure that they should stop, but they don't manage to."

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