By Robert Baer
You know it’s a messy war when you can’t recognize the enemy — even when he’s sitting across the negotiating table from you. (read HERE)
BISHKEK | Tue Nov 30, 2010 12:15am EST
(Reuters) – An explosion in Kyrgyzstan’s capital on Tuesday wounded at least two people outside a sports palace where several people are standing trial accused of mass killings during an April uprising in the Central Asian republic.
Investigators in Bishkek were trying to determine the nature of the explosive device, Alik Karimbayev, deputy head of Kyrgyzstan’s Security Council, said.
The windows of the sports palace were blown out, although the building itself was not damaged.
The explosion underscores tensions in Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic that hosts U.S. and Russian military air bases, where authorities are trying to form a new government less than six months after hundreds were killed in ethnic violence.
On Monday, Kyrgyz authorities said four Islamist militants were killed during a raid in the southern city of Osh, the focal point for the ethnic bloodshed in June. One died when he detonated a grenade, the Security Council said.
The Health Ministry said two soldiers were wounded in Tuesday’s blast in Bishkek and had been taken to hospital. A Reuters witness at the scene said the sports palace had been cordoned off and police were conducting a security sweep of the building with dogs.
The sports palace is hosting the trial of 22 people accused of killing dozens of people in Bishkek during a popular uprising in April that ousted the president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
Officials say 87 people were killed on April 7, when forces loyal to Bakiyev shot into crowds in a square in central Bishkek. Bakiyev is now exiled in Belarus.
The first day of the trial on November 17 descended into chaos when relatives of the deceased broke through police lines and threatened the accused, demanding their execution. Three of the defendants subsequently fled their homes to avoid standing trial.
Baktybek Rysaliyev, spokesman for the Supreme Court, said hearings scheduled for Tuesday had been postponed as a result of the explosion.
After elections last month, Kyrgyzstan is attempting to form the first parliamentary democracy in Central Asia, a region otherwise governed by authoritarian presidents. Critics of the new parliament say it lacks authority.
China and Russia are renouncing the U.S. dollar for trade, their premiers have announced.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin said they will now use their own currencies for bilateral trade.
Chinese experts told the China Daily that the move reflects closer relations between the two countries and is aimed at protecting their own domestic economies rather than challenging the dollar.
‘So far we have been paying each other in foreign currencies, first of all in dollars. Now, and this is only the first step, trade in the rouble has started in China. In December the yuan will be traded in Moscow,’ Putin said.
Moving forward: Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and China’s Premier Wen Jiabao exchange documents during their meeting in St Petersburg on Tuesday
China accounts for 8.3 per cent of Russia’s total trade.
It is on track to overtake Germany as Russia’s biggest trade partner after discounting the Netherlands, formally the biggest partner because its liberal corporate legislation encourages many Russian firms to register there.
Moscow and Beijing are unlikely to agree the price of Russian gas supplies to China before mid-2011, Russia’s top energy official said, but the two countries’ prime ministers noted on Tuesday bilateral trade was booming.
Russia, the world’s biggest energy producer, is eager to increase sales of gas to the fastest growing major economy but price proved a sticking point in the talks.
‘I think by next summer we will be able to discuss concrete parameters for a commercial contract (on gas supplies),’ Igor Sechin, who holds sway over Russia’s energy sector, told reporters after meeting Chinese officials.
Russia says China should pay prices similar to those Gazprom charges European customers, but Beijing wants a discount.
The sides were about $100 per 1,000 cubic metres apart, according to Chinese officials last week.
Under a deal signed between Gazprom and China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) on Sept. 27, Gazprom will sell 30 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas per year to China from 2015.
Putin said the gas talks were ‘successfully moving forward’.
‘China is an extremely important market for us, which we must imperatively work in,’ Sechin said, adding that China has the capacity to meet only seven per cent of its gas needs internally.
Under the deal the two countries will have to build the Altai gas pipeline – stretching from Siberia to China’s Western border with Russia.
After the meeting, which took place in Russia’s northern city of St.Petersburg, Putin and Wen said bilateral trade rose by 57 per cent to $41billion this year and praised the agreement to boost the use of the yuan and rouble.
I have always searched for the simplest yet best ways to explain what I see as a multi-decade decline of every aspect of the United States, especially its political system and government. I keep coming back to the inescapable logic that a large fraction of Americans, regardless of their education, economic status and political alignment, must suffer from delusion. This delusion produces denial about hugely important subjects and issues.
Like a law of physics, this combination makes people seem incredibly stupid to others disagreeing with their positions. Stupid, because they are unable to accept facts and truths that conflict with their views.
This special kind of stupidity is independent of inherent intelligence. In this case brain power is overpowered by psychological deficiency, namely self-delusion.
This delusion is not genetically produced, but is a result of external influences, notably political, government, media and corporate propaganda intentionally designed to produce delusional beliefs and thinking. Who does this? All sorts of commercial and political interests. The result is a series of biases and blocks, such as cognitive dissonance, to objective facts and information that creates denial about very important conditions affecting the planet, the nation and individuals. People afflicted with this deadly combination appear stupid to those outside their mental ghetto that they gladly inhabit, along with similarly afflicted people.
National unity breaks down with countless mental ghettos that span economic, political and geographic boundaries.
Conservatives see liberals as stupid and vice versa. Democrats see Tea Party adherents (who only support Republican candidates) as stupid and vice versa. Those seeing climate change and global warming as serious phenomena posing real threats see deniers as stupid. People who give a high priority to tax cuts that mainly benefit the rich and superrich seem stupid to those who recognize that the wealthiest Americans have hijacked the US economy, as shown by endless statistics that reveal their preferential financial benefits. Those who reject religions think the religious stupid. People who shun social networking sites see those addicted to them as stupid. Growing numbers of obese people seem stupid to those eating healthy and exercising regularly to maintain healthy weights.
You surely can think of classes of people who seem stupid, because of a particular belief or viewpoint rather than across-the-board limited intelligence. With conversations that have nothing to do with their position (or maybe several), you would likely think of them as reasonably intelligent and smart, not stupid. In other words, stupidity is often topic or issue specific.
Here are two examples of what I call psychological stupidity with their powerful implications for understanding why the nation is seen on the wrong track by so many Americans who cannot unite behind solutions.
There is no mystery why the top 20 percent of the population in terms of wealth votes for Republicans, but they are not enough to win elections. What makes far less sense is why many more middle class Americans vote for Republicans. They seem stupid in voting against their own economic interests because Republicans pursue policies that preferentially reward the richest Americans. This behavior can only be explained by the success of Republican propaganda (mainly trickle down prosperity), lies and deceptions that instill a set of biases and beliefs that enable Republicans to win elections. A prime example is obtaining broad support for keeping taxes on really rich people low.
On the other side, are millions of people who vote for Democrats because they have been sold rhetoric about reforming the government system, as if Democrats are not also in the pockets of a number of special interests that will not accept truly needed deep reforms. Why have we not seen President Obama pursue punishment of many people and companies in the banking, mortgage and financial sectors that caused the economic meltdown? He had received huge campaign contributions from them and then surrounded himself with cabinet officials and advisors from them. Otherwise intelligent people vote for Democrats because of their psychological stupidity based on false promises of change and reform that they have succumbed to.
Psychological stupidity has become a kind of cultural epidemic that no one is addressing, so it just gets worse. It invites manipulation and the continuing corrosion and corruption of government. The rich and powerful know how to take advantage of this stupidity, obtaining government policies and programs they want, selling products and services that consumers do not really benefit from, and grabbing more of the nation’s wealth.
Those afflicted with psychological stupidity are also likely to exhibit moral superiority, making it even more difficult to have intelligent and productive conversations with them. Such arrogance strengthens their defenses against facts and information that conflicts with their cherished views. The answer: Associate with others having exactly the same views and only get information from like-minded media sources, creating mental ghettos (such as the Tea Party and Fox News) that others can take political or commercial advantage of (Republicans and companies selling gold).
Self-deception is the widespread legal narcotic lubricating the slide of American society into the toilet that other once great nations ended up in. Maybe this old Arab proverb warrants respect: People who lie to others have merely hidden away the truth, but people who lie to themselves have forgotten where they put it.
Which mental ghettos do you belong to?
While on Georgetown’s main campus earlier this month, former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez was served with a subpoena in the case of Claudia Balcero Giraldo v. Drummond. There has been a lot of misinformation floating around our community with respect to what the subpoena is, where it came from and how it was served. As a member of the Adios Uribe Coalition, I hope that the following account will help to clear the air. First, the serving of a subpoena is a common and integral part of our judicial system. Subpoenas protect all parties’ right to a fair trial and help to ensure that a court will advance justice with all the relevant facts at hand. The subpoena served to President Uribe was authorized by a federal judge and requires Uribe’s attendance at a formal deposition where he will be asked to speak under oath about issues relevant to the Drummond case.
Nearly 500 family members of Colombian citizens murdered by paramilitary forces during the prolonged Colombian civil conflict brought the suit against Drummond Company, Inc., for its alleged role in supporting war crimes and funding the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a paramilitary organization. A federal court ruled that the claims against Drummond are viable and the case is now searching for more evidence, in a discovery phase.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Terry Collingsworth of Conrad & Scherer, LLP, believes that President Uribe has explicit knowledge of Drummond’s alleged relationship with the paramilitary organization as well as other information pertinent to the case. President Uribe’s testimony will likely be of great help in bringing to justice those involved in the murders and terrorist activities against Colombian citizens. Much of the confusion in our community surrounds the way in which President Uribe was served. Charity Ryerson, a Georgetown law student and former intern at Conrad & Scherer, served the subpoena to President Uribe as he walked to his car after teaching a class. Ryerson notified President Uribe that she was serving him with a subpoena in the Drummond case and President Uribe refused to accept the documents.
When serving a subpoena upon a non cooperating party, a standard method of service is to present the person with the subpoena and to drop it at the person’s feet when that person refuses to take it. After President Uribe’s refusal, Ryerson dropped the subpoena at his feet. At no point did Ryerson make physical contact with President Uribe or the security guards who were present. There have been two misconstrued rumors circulating around campus. The first rumor is that serving a subpoena on Georgetown campus is a violation of campus rules or somehow an act of aggression. This is not true. University spokeswoman Julie Bataille confirms that “the university does not have a policy forbidding the service of process on its property, but does not, as a general matter, work with process servers to facilitate service.”
Hours before serving the subpoena, Ryerson was told by Georgetown administrators that she could not serve the subpoena on campus. This was simply a matter of miscommunication and in the future, process servers will not be forbidden from fulfilling their lawful duties. The second misinformed rumor is that some sort of physical abuse occurred when Ryerson served the subpoena. By law, a recipient of a subpoena can claim that the subpoena is invalid if an abuse took place during the service of it; the recipient does not have to provide testimony unless service is repeated.
Drummond has publicly claimed that Ryerson improperly served the subpoena to President Uribe. I witnessed the interaction and can assure the whole Georgetown community that Ryerson did not make physical contact with President Uribe and that allegations to the contrary are simply false. In order to ensure that our shared principles of transparency, freedom of speech, social justice and the rule of law are to continue to flourish, everyone weighing in on President Uribe’s presence on campus must do so publicly. This helps our entire community to avoid the spread of false information and rumors. Given the political context that surrounds President Uribe, I recognize that any subpoena served upon him will inevitably attract attention.
However, I hope that our community will rest assured knowing that the sole purpose of a subpoena is to advance the cause of justice in claims of interest to the federal judicial system. To these ends, Georgetown’s Adios Uribe Coalition is more than happy to talk further with any member of the Georgetown community, and will continue to advance Georgetown’s commitment to social justice, freedom of speech and the rule of law. Chris Byrnes is a graduate of the School of Foreign Service class of 1998 and Georgetown Law class of 2002. He is an active member of the Adios Uribe Coalition.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Relatives of dozens of slain Colombians sued an Alabama-based coal company in federal court Thursday, accusing it of making millions of dollars in payments to a paramilitary group that sowed terrorism in the South American country.
The suit filed in Birmingham said 67 victims of the The United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, also known as AUC, included unionists, farmworkers and others. It claimed the rightwing group received payments from operatives for Drummond allegedly to assassinate top union leaders and protect the company’s large coal mine and railroad in Colombia.
The lawsuit is much broader than one filed in March by the children of three slain Colombian union leaders against Drummond Co. Inc.
A similar lawsuit ended in 2007 with a verdict for Drummond, which has repeatedly denied any connection with the Colombian violence. The verdict was upheld by a federal appeals court in December.
Lawsuit includes hundreds of people
The plaintiffs in the latest lawsuit include hundreds of parents, children and siblings of people allegedly killed by AUC, mostly in Colombia’s Cesar and Magdalena provinces.
A spokesman for Drummond, Bruce Windham, was out of its Birmingham headquarters Thursday and not immediately available to return a call for comment.
Attorney Terry Collingsworth, who represents the plaintiffs, said the latest lawsuit was filed because of new information alleging that Drummond made payments to the paramilitary group, which he said “terrorized people up and down Drummond’s railroad corridor.”
The suit lists the victims and their relatives with pseudonyms such as “Jane Doe” or “Peter Doe,” followed by a sequence of numbers. A motion is pending seeking to allow the suit to go forward while keeping the plaintiffs anonymous.
“Many of the AUC leaders are now speaking freely about their relationship with the elites of the Colombian business community, and their direct collaboration with the Colombian military,” the suit said.
The suit, like the earlier ones, was filed under the more than 200-year-old Alien Torts Claims Act, which allows foreigners to file suit in U.S. courts for alleged wrongdoing overseas.
The initial suit was the first filed against a U.S. corporation under the law to ever make it to trial.
Unspecified damages sought
The latest suit seeks unspecified financial damages and other relief. It says the political situation in Colombia prevents the plaintiffs from addressing their complaints in their home country.
“Any efforts by plaintiffs to seek redress would be futile because those seeking to challenge official or paramilitary violence, including prosecutors and human rights activists, are at great risk of retaliation,” the lawsuit says.
The suit names as defendants Augusto Jimenez, the CEO of Drummond’s Colombian subsidiary; Alfredo Araujo, Drummond’s community relations manager in Colombia; and James Atkins, director of security for Drummond in the South American country.
The suit alleges that Araujo is a close friend of a Colombian paramilitary leader, Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, also known as “Jorge 40.”
The suit claims that from 1999 to 2006, Drummond paid millions of dollars to “Jorge 40″ and a wing of the AUC called the Juan Andres Alvarez Front. It alleges that the payments were negotiated by Drummond through Araujo and Atkins and approved by Jimenez.
According to the suit, the victims were killed in such places as a kiosk, on a sports field, in a shop — and some are said to have “disappeared,” apparently killed and their bodies never found.
The suit alleges Drummond knew that “because of the lawless environment created by the civil conflict in Colombia, the paramilitaries acting as their agents, could murder trade unionists employed at their mines — including Locarno, Orcasta and Soler — with impunity.”
[How does any nation disband an illegal civilian army and reintegrate its soldiers without first prosecuting the war crimes that some of them have committed, or causing outright civil war? AfPak negotiators should pay close attention to the case of Columbia, to gain insight into how Pakistan can demobilize the Pakistan/American-backed Taliban militias and later warlord armies without causing civil war. SEE: Columbia Attempts to Demobilize 18,000 Paramilitaries Without Igniting Civil War]
Bogota – Colombia’s Constitutional Court overturned a law that called for halting criminal prosecution of some 17,000 low-level rightist paramilitaries who demobilized between 2003 and 2006.
In a 5-4 decision, the court found that the measure violated the principles of justice and reparation for militia victims and was effectively an amnesty.
Implementation of the law, which was approved last year by Congress, remained on hold pending the ruling from the Constitutional Court.
The decision implies that roughly 17,000 of the more than 31,000 members of the AUC militia federation who laid down their arms under a peace process with the 2002-2010 government of President Alvaro Uribe are subject to criminal prosecution, where applicable.
The administration of current head of state Juan Manuel Santos expressed concern Wednesday that the court’s ruling could undermine efforts to reintegrate the former gunmen.
Noting that some demobilized paramilitaries have already joined criminal outfits, Interior and Justice Minister German Vargas Lleras said that without the offer of pardon or amnesty, the government would find it difficult to persuade those men to take part in reintegration programs.
The law was meant to apply to militia members who did not have command responsibility, were not linked to drug trafficking and did not face any criminal charges aside from the offense of belonging to an illegal armed group.
But it also would have allowed prosecutors to drop or suspend cases involving erstwhile paramilitaries with drug ties who agreed to testify against more significant offenders.
The AUC was behind more than 22,000 killings over the course of 20 years, according to an ongoing investigation by Colombian prosecutors.
Uribe extradited more than a dozen of the top warlords to the United States to face drug charges, angering militia victims who wanted to see those men tried in Colombia for crimes against humanity.
SATURDAY, 27 NOVEMBER 2010 08:07 ADRIAAN ALSEMA
Former paramilitary leader Jorge Ivan Laverde, alias "El Iguano," says fellow former paramilitary leaders are suspending all collaboration with Colombian justice after the Constitutional Court ruled that 17,000 fighters can not be excluded from prosecution.
In an interview with Caracol Radio, Iguano said the peace process that led to the disarmament of the AUC in 2005 and 2006, "the way it is going, is going really bad. The concern of these 17,000 men that are demobilized is that they are one step away of being arrested and don’t know what to do."
According to Iguano, the thousands of paramilitary fighters may rearm "because the government did not provide a real reintegration."
The former paramilitary commander added that "these men of who they now took the principle of opportunity were guards of the AUC, they did not take part in crimes against humanity like we did."
Colombia’s Interior and Justice Minister German Vargas Lleras said the government is working on a series of initiatives that allow a reintegration of paramilitary fighters into society and solve the judicial limbo they now are in.
Without being specific, the minister said a group of lawmakers will be working throughout the weekend to propose solutions in Congress on Monday.
The government is forced to come up with additional legislation for the Justice and Peace law, the law that allowed the demobilization of the AUC, in that time considered a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union. Part of the deal was that 17,000 members of the organization who were not suspected of crimes against humanity would be reintegrated into society without being prosecuted for being part of a terrorist organization. According to the court, only the judicial branch can make such deals with suspected criminals.