Twenty-five people have been found dead, the apparent victims of at least three massacres in the troubled southwestern Mexican states of Guerrero and Michoacan, according to government and media reports Saturday.
Regional officials thus far have given only a few details about the bodies discovered in three locales. The slayings underscore the challenge facing President Enrique Peña Nieto as he tries to restore order in an increasingly lawless region just a few hours’ drive from the Mexican capital.
Both states, with their remote and sometimes rugged terrain, have a long history of banditry and drug cartel influence. But the chaos has mounted in swaths of the countryside in recent months, as peasant self-defense militias have sprung up to fight extortionate drug cartel members. Some have accused the militias themselves of having ties to rival drug gangs.
In some areas, local government officials have fled. In other regions, whole villages have been emptied of people who have moved to what they hope is safer environs.
At the bottom of the barrel are those who seek to profit off these national tragedies. That’s where you’ll find Caleb Lee, a veteran huckster who has partnered with WorldNetDaily, Glenn Beck and others to offer anyone with $27 information on how to built a completely untraceable AR-15 assault rifle in the comfort of their own garage.
Lee is the proprietor of UndergroundAssaultRifle.com, a Virginia-based business whose sole product is a set of videos and do-it-yourself manual which purports to tell purchasers everything they need to know about crafting copies of the assault rifle used recently in massacres in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo.
A self-described “red-blooded American” and proud “capitalist” (not, he emphasizes in his online ad, “a ‘spread the wealth’ socialist like those fools in the Whitehouse for crying out loud”), Lee has partnered with far-right media outfits including the online “news” site WorldNetDaily (WND) and Glenn Beck’s TV network and website, TheBlaze, to promote his new business. As of Thursday evening, WND, whose editors never met a conspiracy theory they didn’t like, featured a link to Lee’s ad on its front page, where it shared space with headlines warning direly of a “Saul Alinsky plot to vilify guns” and speculating that the nasty weather that scuttled plans to hoist a spire to the top of theWorld Trade Center on Monday was sent by an angry God to punish America for abandoning Him.
Beck’s site, meanwhile, featured its own front-page link to Lee’s ad (“See how to get an untraceable AR-15 before it’s banned”), along with a promotion for his upcoming keynote address at this weekend’s National Rifle Association (NRA) convention in Houston, a video about “Obama’s private army,” a think piece on whether the late Ronald Reagan would have supported gay marriage, and a “must-read” item about the “mysterious Jesus-era stone” that’s sparked “major debate among scholars.”
Lee, whose site is emblazoned with WND and TheBlaze’s logos, fits right in. His long-winded ad is replete with references to “crooks and fat cat lobbyists” in Washington, who together with their friends, the “power-hungry anti-gun puppets,” are even now “making serious headway at turning the country against Second Amendment supporters like us.” (“Serious headway”? Last time we checked, about 90% of Americans supported some kind of restriction on gun rights, but the U.S. Senate - which supposedly represents them - couldn’t overcome pressure from the gun lobby to muster the votes necessary to pass the most innocuous of gun control proposals.)
There are still wingnuts who support Pinochet in this country even after the details of of over 2,000 deaths and tens of thousands tortured came out.
Wikileaks strikes again, releasing documents that show that the Vatican strongly supported brutal dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet of Chile after he overthrew Salvador Allende in 1973. And they communicated this to Henry Kissinger, then the secretary of state and also a supporter of Pinochet.
The Vatican once dismissed reports of massacres by Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as “Communist propaganda”, according to US diplomatic and intelligence documents from the 1970s leaked on Monday.
One cable dated October 18, 1973 sent to Washington by the US embassy to the Holy See relayed a conversation with the Vatican’s then deputy Secretary of State, Giovanni Benelli, the leak by whistleblowing website WikiLeaks showed.
Now that its confirmed by a high ranking Syrian officer I wonder what the world reaction will be after Assad has gone over that ‘red line’.
The head of Syria’s military police defected to the opposition, accusing the Assad regime of systematic ‘murder’ and claiming that reports of chemical weapons being used against rebels in the restive city of Homs were true.
Maj-Gen Abdul-Aziz Jassim al-Shallal became one of the highest ranking Syrian military officers to throw their support behind the rebels, accusing forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of turning their weapons on innocent civilians in the now 22-month-long civil war.
‘I declare my defection from the army because of its deviation from its fundamental mission to protect the nation and [its] transformation into gangs of murder and destruction,’ he said in a video message posted online, reportedly from the Turkish border.
He accused the military of ‘destroying cities and villages and committing massacres against our innocent people who came out to demand freedom.’ General Shallal suggested in his message that he had been working with the opposition for some time before he formally defected to the rebel cause.
He becomes the latest in a string of leading military advisers to abandon the government and join the disparate rebels. But it is his claim that chemical weapons were used in Homs during a deadly attack on Christmas Eve that is likely to be of greater interest to the Syrian opposition and their foreign backers.
Reports from Homs had suggested that a type of nerve agent was used by the Syrian forces in the attack, a point that General Shallal appeared to verify yesterday. Al Jazeera reported at the time that at least seven people had died after inhaling a poisonous gas ‘sprayed by government forces in a rebel-held Homs neighbourhood’.
‘We don’t know what this gas is but medics are saying it’s something similar to sarin gas,’ Raji Rahmet Rabbou, an activist in Homs, told Al Jazeera.
It is not clear that the substance used in Homs was banned by international law, even the though the General yesterday specifically referred to a ‘chemical weapons’ attack. Nonetheless, the use of non-conventional weapons is considered a ‘red line’ by some in the international community who have been reluctant to intervene directly.
The massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, has caused many people, including people at the White House, to say that this is not the day to talk about gun policy. This day is obviously for mourning the dead, but I don’t understand why we shouldn’t talk about the conditions that lead to these sorts of shootings. I wrote about this issue in the current issue of The Atlantic (you can read the story here), and I want to quickly make a few points drawn from that longer article.
1) This is a gun country. We are saturated with guns. There are as many as 300 million guns in circulation today (the majority owned legally, but many not) and more than 4 million new guns come onto the market each year. To talk about eradicating guns, especially given what the Supreme Court has said about the individual right to gun-ownership, is futile.
2) There are, however, some gun control laws that could be strengthened. The so-called gun-show loophole (which is not a loophole at all — 40 percent of all guns sold in America legally are sold without benefit of a federal background check) should be closed. Background checks are no panacea — many of our country’s recent mass-shooters had no previous criminal records, and had not been previously adjudicated mentally ill — but they would certainly stop some people from buying weapons.
Understanding the Breivik Verdict: The mass murderer’s ideology, shared by others, poses a threat to Enlightenment values.
On August 24 in Oslo, terrorist and mass murderer Anders Breivik was sentenced to the toughest sentence under Norwegian law: 21 years in prison, with the possibility of prolongation should it be determined, 21 years from now, that he remains dangerous. Considering Breivik’s crimes, the gravity of the verdict came as no surprise. On July 22, 2011, Breivik attempted to assassinate the Norwegian head of state with a bomb before gunning down over 60 innocent young members of the Labour Party at a summer camp. He claimed that Labour members were “cultural Marxists” responsible for an impending Muslim takeover of Europe.
Still, the sentence leaves important questions. How could Breivik have come so far in his planning for the massacres without being detected? How widespread is his viewpoint in Norway and in Europe as a whole? And what, exactly, is the character of this viewpoint? Breivik’s ideology is so extreme that an important part of the Norwegian court case dealt with the question of his sanity. Was he clinically insane, meaning that he shouldn’t be sentenced under a legal procedure presupposing the accused’s soundness of mind? Should he rather be confined, indefinitely, to an asylum or hospital? Or are his deeds, terrible as they are, the coherent product of an extreme but not clinically pathological political ideology? Two groups of psychiatrists submitted reports that reached opposite conclusions on this question. In the end, the court determined that Breivik was sane, and as a result he faces a normal jail sentence.
Certainly Breivik’s 1,500-page Internet manifesto does not appear to be a schizoprenic text. Some of its contents are clearly copied and pasted from other sources, but other parts he apparently wrote himself. Like the complicated logistics of his murderous acts, the manifesto text displays a high degree of coherence.
Mayaben Kodnani, a senior BJP leader and former Minister in the Narendra Modi Cabinet, and the former Bajrang Dal convener, Babu Bajrangi, were among 32 persons convicted on Wednesday in the Naroda-Patiya massacre case, in which 97 Muslims were killed.
Special court judge Jyotsna Yagnik acquitted 29 persons, giving them “the benefit of the doubt” because of insufficient evidence; but she did not pronounce them innocent either. The court will announce the quantum of punishment on Friday.
All those convicted were found guilty of murder, attempt to murder, conspiracy, spreading enmity and communal hatred and unlawful assembly under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Bombay Police Act. Some of them, including Suresh Chara, were also found guilty of rape and molestation.
Syrian rebels shelled an airport near Aleppo on Thursday in what was described as one of the first known instances of insurgents using captured heavy weapons, as opposition activists warned that fighting for the city, the country’s main commercial center, would likely intensify.
“We have seen military reinforcements making their way to Aleppo,” said Abou Firas, an activist in Aleppo who used a satellite Internet connection because telephone and Internet service from the city was cut off. “We were worried about massacres but now we are issuing a warning about a war of extermination to be launched by the regime.”
The news about the government reinforcements could not be independently confirmed because of restrictions on reporters. It came after the battle for Aleppo intensified on Wednesday when United Nations observers there reported that Syrian jets had fired rockets into contested neighborhoods and that rebels had commandeered tanks and other heavy weapons.
The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Britain, said the rebels had put the captured armor to use, shelling a military airport near Aleppo.
The most senior Syrian diplomat to defect and publicly embrace his country’s uprising is calling for a foreign military intervention to topple President Bashar al-Assad. He also accused the Damascus regime of collaborating with al Qaeda militants against opponents both in Syria and in neighboring Iraq.
“I support military intervention because I know the nature of this regime,” Nawaf al-Fares told CNN. “This regime will only go by force.”
Until a few days ago, Fares was Syria’s top man in Baghdad.
His defection marks a shocking about-face for an official who occupied a critically important post. Until Fares was sent to Iraq in 2008, Syria had no ambassador stationed in Baghdad for more than 20 years.
“I was at the top of the Syrian regime,” Fares said in his first interview with a U.S.-based TV network since his defection. “But what happened in the last year during the holy revolution, all of the killing, the massacres, the refugees, and the declaration of war by Bashar al-Assad against the Syrian people, stopped any kind of hope for reform or real change, which had been promised previously by Bashar al-Assad.
“I tried during the last year and a half to convince the regime to change its treatment of the people,” Fares added. “But I wasn’t successful, so I decided to join the people.
• More than 200 Syrians, mostly civilians, were massacred in Tremseh, near Hama, when it was bombarded by helicopter gunships and tanks and then stormed by militiamen who carried out execution-style killings, opposition activists said.
• The UN’s monitoring mission in Syria confirmed the use of heavy weapons in Tremseh including tanks and helicopters, before the alleged massacre took place. General Robert Mood, the head of the mission, said military operations were continuing and his monitors had been prevented from entering Tremseh.
• International envoy Kofi Annan said the Syrian government’s use of heavy weapons in Tremseh was a violation of its apparent commitment to his peace plan. He said he was “shocked and appalled” by reports from Tremseh. Annan is due to hold talks with Russia on Monday.
• The Syrian government blamed the killings on “terrorists”. The state news agency accused elements of the media of spreading “lies and fabrications” as a way of prompting foreign intervention against Syria.
• The opposition Syrian National Council has repeated its call for the UN security council to pass a binding resolution against the Assad government in the wake of the killings. Britain’s foreign secretary William Hague said diplomats in New York will continue to press for a Chapter VII resolution in the face of repeated objections from Russia.