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Month: March 2009 (Page 1 of 2)

Declassified US State Dept Docs, US Knew of Abuses by Guatemalan Leaders it Supported

The U.S. government knew that top Guatemalan officials it supported with arms and cash were behind the disappearance of thousands of people during a 36-year civil war, declassified documents obtained by a U.S. research institute show.

The National Security Archive, a Washington D.C.-based institute that requests and publishes declassified government documents, obtained diplomatic and intelligence reports from the U.S. State Department under the Freedom of Information Act and posted them on its Web site on Wednesday.

“Government security services have employed assassination to eliminate persons suspected of involvement with the guerrillas or who are otherwise left-wing in orientation,” one 1984 State Department report said.

State Department spokesman Fred Lash said he was unaware of the declassified documents and could not immediately comment.

Guatemala’s U.S.-backed army battled leftist guerrillas in a 1960-1996 civil war that left more than 200,000 people dead or missing. Most were Mayan Indians.

“The government is obviously rounding up people connected with the extreme left-wing labor movement for interrogation,” then-U.S. Ambassador Frederic Chapin said in a 1984 cable.

Chapin also said he was optimistic that missing union activist Fernando Garcia was alive and would be released. But Garcia has never been found, and two police officers were arrested in his case last week based on information found in Guatemalan police documents discovered in 2005.

The U.S. and local police files show that disappearances and executions were part of a deliberate strategy to crush leftist rebels, said Jesse Franzblau, a researcher at the Archive.

Note: The link to the National Security Archive posted on the AP story above is incorrect. The correct link is below. Just go to the GWU archive and start digging. You’ll be shocked.

Read more at the George Washington University National Security Archive

World faces irreversible climate change, researchers warn

The world is facing an increasing risk of “irreversible” climate shifts because worst-case scenarios warned of two years ago are being realized, an international panel of scientists has warned.

Temperatures, sea levels, acid levels in oceans and ice sheets were already moving “beyond the patterns of natural variability within which our society and economy have developed and thrived,” scientists said in a report released Thursday.

The findings came at the end of a three-day conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, where nearly 2,000 researchers gathered to discuss climate change.

See the rest of the story here.

Happy 20th Anniversary to the World Wide Web

Twenty years ago today, Tim Berners-Lee, of the CERN particle physics laboratory in Geneva, wrote a paper describing what quickly became the World Wide Web.

Back in 1989, the Web was just an idea, but it was a world-changing idea and one of the most important ideas of the 20th century.

At that time, the first browser and the first web server had yet to be created but those things came quickly. Back then, we got our news from newspapers and on TV at 6 PM. We did our research and study in libraries. We met with our friends in church or at a bar. We received and paid bills through the mail. We used to go to the bank to deposit checks and take care of business. We shopped for clothing by driving to stores and touching the products. We learned about new products through print ads, billboards, and television. We learned about different cultures and met people in distant lands by getting on an airplane and going there. We got our music by buying CDs or cassettes. The idea of an individual being able to publish his writings or photos and have them instantly visible to millions of people was inconceivable.

By 1995, things were well underway. At that time the first major search engine was created, called Alta Vista. Does anyone besides me remember Alta Vista? There was no Yahoo, no Google, no Hotmail, no online music, no multiplayer games. Web-based email was yet to be invented (by Hotmail, later bought by Microsoft). There was no YouTube because there was no digital video yet. Compressed audio (MP3) had just been developed by the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany. The first MP3 player for computers (WinAmp) came in 1998. The first portable MP3 player came in 1999.

Look at what has happened in the last 10 to 14 years. The whole world has changed for anyone who has access to the Internet.

What will the next 20 years bring?

Iran Shows its True Colors

There has not been much news coverage of the plight of the Baha’is in Iran but it did get some coverage in a recent New York Times blog.

The leaders of Iran like to portray themselves as the right people to lead Iran into the future. A future of what? Gestapo-like oppression? Wars? Kangaroo courts convicting people of phony crimes against the state and sentencing them to death? Is that the future that the leaders of Iran want for their country? Is that what the Iranian people want from their leaders?

The leaders of Iran like to badmouth the U.S., and while the behavior of the U.S. has been less than exemplary for quite a few years, the Iranian government is really showing us what they are about and what sort of people they really are by their oppression of a peaceful religious group called the Baha’i.

What’s next? Concentration camps?

Why is the West putting up with this? Is it because the West desperately needs Iran’s oil? Well now with the worldwide economic crisis, the demand for oil has dropped steeply. Oil reserves and storage facilities in the United States are completely full and brimming over, and this condition is predicted to last for at least a couple of years and more likely longer. It’s my opinion that now would be a good time for the West to put its foot down because, for the time being, Iran has lost its only bargaining chip: oil. We don’t need it so we don’t have to put up with the Iranian regime’s behavior. Do we?

Read the NY Times blog entry here.

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