Peace at Last?

first_img It all started a little over a year ago. On November 4, 2011, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) suffered a serious blow: the death of their leader Alfonso Cano as the result of the military operation “Odiseo,” when the Colombian Air Force bombarded a FARC campsite. Juan Manuel Santos, president of Colombia, made a statement a few hours after the announcement of Cano’s death: “This is the time to leave weapons behind, repeating what we said before, the alternative is to either go to prison or to the grave.” The former Colombian president, Andrés Pastrana, also spoke up: “This is a crucial moment for the FARC. Those who are leaders seriously consider peace negotiations to put an end to this war, for the benefit of all Colombians.” Analysts considered Cano’s death the beginning of the end for this terrorist organization. On December 6, 2011, several NGOs called for a protest through the social networks urging the FARC to free the hostages and to end the violent acts, seeking a more dignified life for the Colombian people. Former hostages, family members of murdered victims and hostages overcame their fear and pleaded for peace. Even Colombians who were not direct victims of the terrorist group joined the protest. Many people shouted: “No more hostages! No more FARC! No more!” The march was supported by the government and all the media. The repercussion was such that 10 other countries, including Argentina, Ireland, México, Spain, and the United States, organized similar protests, according to members of the NGOs involved. President Santos stated: “Set them all free now, without any terms. Show there really is a desire for peace.” Actually, both the Colombian government and the FARC realized that the continuation of the conflict made no sense, because it was not through war that rebels would succeed. Instead, they need to become a legal political force, and the government knew that the end of the conflict was essential for Colombia’s complete integration into the world of major democracies. The president said that all mistakes made during previous attempts of peace agreements must be avoided, such as the one conducted under former President Andrés Pastrana, which failed after almost four years of negotiations, between October 1998 and February 2002. The government concluded that a large demilitarized zone that had been created for meetings was being used by the terrorists for their reorganization. It is important to note that the FARC’s current force has between 8,000 – 9,000 members, less than half of the 20,000 guerillas they had in 1998, according to Colombian government data. On February of 2012, the FARC abandoned the practice of kidnapping for ransom and, in April the group released the last 10 police officers and soldiers who were still held as hostages, but they believed that the guerrillas still kept dozens of civilians captive. In June, Colombian legislators approved a measure to reform the constitution granting amnesty for demobilized guerrillas. Finally, on August 27, 2012, President Santos confirmed that his government had started the “exploratory talks” with rebels from the FARC to prepare the groundwork for a peace process. He said that, this time, the Colombian forces will not suspend their operations, nor reduce the military presence in the country during the contact with the guerrillas. Initially, the dialogues were scheduled for October 8, in Oslo, Norway, but were later postposed to the 17th, and the talks would continue in Havana, Cuba. The news generated a positive reaction from world leaders, renewing hope for an end to the armed conflict which has lasted for almost half a century, since the beginning of the FARC in 1964, leaving 600,000 people dead, 15,000 missing, and four million displaced. On October 17 and 18 the delegates from the Colombian government, led by Humberto de La Calle, and the FARC, led by Iván Márquez, met in Oslo, Norway, for the first round of talks. Five topics were selected: the restitution and land development; the war on drug trafficking, which has been the main source of income for the FARC in recent years, as well as programs to replace the crops and initiatives to prevent the consumption of drugs; the possibility of former guerrillas participating in the political process; the disarmament, including ceasefire; and lastly, the most important matter for the Colombian people, the victims of 48 years of armed conflicts, repairing the damages and creating an official record documenting crimes committed by the rebels. The Colombian government and the guerrilla group started the second phase of peace dialogues on November 19, in Havana, which lasted through the 29. Members of the government negotiating team include retired General Jorge Mora; Peace Counselor Sergio Jaramillo; former Peace Counselor Frank Pearl; President of the Colombian National Association of Businessmen, Luis Carlos Villegas; and former Director of the National Police Óscar Naranjo. Members of the FARC delegation are Iván Márquez, number two in the terrorist group, and Rodrigo Granda (alias Ricardo Téllez), Jesús Emilio Carvajalino (alias Andrés París), and Luis Alberto Albán (alias Marcos Calarcá). In the beginning of this second phase, the FARC announced a unilateral ceasefire, which started on November 20 and will last for two months. The guerrilla units received the order and everybody in the national territory had to cease all offensive military operations against the public force, and the acts of sabotage against the public or private infrastructure. “This will be a quick and efficient process. A process that will last months, not years”, said Humberto de la Calle. However, he stressed that for the duration of the negotiations, the government will not make military concessions, ceasefire, nor create demilitarized zones. A timeframe has been determined of November 2013 to reach a negotiated peace. The dialogue resumed on December 5, “with the focus still on the agricultural reform, the first item on the agenda,” the parties said in a joint statement. The best indicator that the process is moving forward was the agreement to create a public forum in Bogota, in January 2013, regarding the agricultural development, since the uneven distribution of lands has been a major source of conflict for a long time. The conversations remain and the entire world expects that, this time, Colombia will reach their desired objective: peace. By Dialogo December 14, 2012last_img read more

Glen Cove Advertising Exec Admits $2M Fraud

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York A Glen Cove advertising business owner has admitted to defrauding the U.S. Postal Service out of $2 million in bulk mailing payments.Community Coupons owner Matthew Rosencrans, 50, pleaded guilty at Central Islip federal court to mail fraud.“A theft from the Postal Service is a theft from the American Public,” said Philip Bartlett, U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge of the agency’s New York office.Prosecutors said Rosencrans submitted more than 15 million pieces of bulk mail for distribution throughout the New York Metro area between July 2010 and August 2013, but only paid for delivery of about 3.4 million pieces.Rosencrans faces a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and $2.1 million in restitution to the the USPS.last_img read more

Galloper Offshore Substation On the Move

first_imgThe offshore substation for the 336MW Galloper wind farm, built at Heerema Fabrication Group’s Hartlepool yard, has sailed away to the installation site in the outer Thames Estuary, some 27 kilometres off the Suffolk coast.The substation topside was loaded onto a barge at Heerema’s Hartlepool yard in early April. The jacket foundation for the substation was rolled out of the Hartlepool facilities in February.The Galloper wind farm will comprise 56 Siemens 6MW wind turbines, with the wind turbine installation vessel Pacific Orca expected to install the first units at the site soon.GeoSea installed the 56 foundations at the site at the end of March, two months ahead of schedule. VBMS is currently installing the wind farm’s inter array-cables.Development and construction of the GBP 1.5 billion Galloper offshore wind farm is led by innogy SE on behalf of the project partners, UK Green Investment Bank (GIB), Siemens Financial Services and Macquarie Capital.Photo: Heerema Fabrication Grouplast_img read more

City of Fort St John to shutdown recreational facilities for annual maintenance

first_imgThe annual closure for the North Peace Leisure Pool is scheduled to take place September 2 to the 29, 2019.For more information on these closures, you can visit the City of Fort St. John’s website. FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The City of Fort St. John has announced the dates for its annual shutdown of recreational facilities. According to the City, the Pomeroy Sport Centre, Kids Arena Field House, and the North Peace Arena will be closed to the public from July 22 to August 5 and will reopen August 6.The City says this closure includes the Northern Vac Walking Track, basketball court, ping pong tables, and the indoor playground at the Pomeroy Sport Centre.- Advertisement -In most cases, the facilities are open 20 hours per day, seven days a week and, as a result, each facility requires maintenance and upgrading.These shutdowns also provides an opportunity for staff training.During the closure, the Visitor Centre will be relocated to Centennial Park, 9522 100 Street, near the North Peace Leisure Pool and will be open between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. daily.Advertisementlast_img read more

Kalarippayat Anyone?

first_imgJust after dawn, Sajith Kumar S.S. joins a handful of men and boys in the heart of the bustling southern Indian city of Trivandrum to practice a rare, indigenous martial art once banned by British colonizers to the point of near extinction.After covering their lean brown bodies with oil and clad only in loincloths, the men go through a graceful sequence of warm-up exercises, then challenging postures and movements mimicking wild animal forms.It’s an inspiring demonstration of the raw power and sinuous strength of the lion, elephant, horse, cat, snake, rooster, wild boar and peacock.Kalarippayat, one of the oldest and unique forms of physical and martial training derived from the ancient Indian science of warfare and influenced by Hinduism, reached its peak between the 12th and 16th centuries in the state of Kerala. Performers Satish Kumar (left) and Srijith (right) demonstrate the Kalarippayat, an ancient martial art from the South Indian state of Kerala At the time, Kerala was divided into feuding principalities and Kalarippayat was practiced in a specially designed arena known as a kalari. It became a key part of cultural education for young men who were often called upon to defend their territory.Although considered a martial art complete with a distinctive set of weaponry, “this was (also) part of the national sport at that time … a social institution, a physical culture form combining spirituality, self discipline, body training, some elements of yoga and mental training, and this was compulsory for every youth at the time,” said Sathya Narayanan director and Gurukkal of the C.V.N Kalari Sangham in Trivandrum, where the men were training.Narayanan’s grandfather, C.V. Narayanan Nair pioneered to preserve the martial art form after extensive research. The C.V.N. Kalari was established in 1956 in his memory and 30 now exist throughout Kerala, all using the same lineage style.Like Gurukkal of the kalari, Narayanan, 44, plays the traditional dual role of martial arts master and physician trained in a special system of medicine similar to the ancient Indian science of Ayurveda, which uses herbs.However, his expertise has more to do with the treatment of orthopaedic disorders such as fractures, sprains and other injuries.During its peak, practically every Keralite village had a kalari where young men trained, Narayanan said. But when the colonial British discovered that those practicing the art possessed a superior mental and physical fitness, and could defeat their trained army soldiers in hand-to-hand combat, the British banned the practice.“Why? Because as the practitioners progressed in the study, they could specialize in weapons, and they became the source for the soldiers of the (indigenous) army at that time,” Narayanan said.The British banned Kalarippayat for about 70 years until a relaxation of laws allowed it to be practiced again on a limited scale in the early 20th century.But “They didn’t allow any warriors to be trained. That was prohibited,” said Narayanan. During the advanced stages of the art, students engage in battles using wooden and metal weapons.The kalari, built below ground level and with an earthen floor and a thatched roof, has a unique tropical architecture void of fans or air conditioners and its natural ventilation system prevents wind from entering.This helps to create a humid, cocoon-like environment that keeps practitioners warm during the cool monsoon season and cool during hot months. It measures 83 square meters and is about 6.40 meters high. Ideally students, including girls, begin training at the age of eight. However, Narayanan said most Indian females drop out after puberty. Even Indian boys do not practice the art widely, but it does attract Western martial arts students and scholars interested in ancient cultures.“Because it is hard to practice. It is not easy to learn. The process is long, and it demands a certain amount of discipline. So it is difficult, and the youngsters nowadays also don’t have the time also for that kind of thing,” said Narayanan.The discipline is about balance and suppleness more than endurance. So certain body types lend themselves better to achieving a beautiful lithe movement.But it also requires tremendous mental focus and concentration and the student must demonstrate the potential to develop, said Kalarippayat instructor Rajasekharan Nair, who has spent 36 years training and teaching at the C.V.N. Kalari. The 50-year-old, who works as a government administrator at a science research institute, could easily be mistaken for a man in his late 30s or early 40s.When asked if anyone could be trained in the art, he said that apart from having the right body structure with a tendency for suppleness, “if you have the mental power, we can work.”With the increased popularity of yoga in the West, many foreigners have become attracted to Kalarippayat. However, yoga requires the use of the body to achieve a state of mind, mainly through activating the endocrine system, Narayanan said.Kalarippayat “is a more dynamic science that works predominantly with the spine and neurological system as you try to connect your mind to the body through the spinal column,” he added describing the process as “a good amount of psycho-physical activity.”“That is what Kalarippayat is all about. The mind thinks that you want to do it, but then the body has to listen to it and find a good way of doing it. You have to find it in your own manner,” he added.Kumar showed an unusually high proficiency in the art and dreams of making his livelihood from it and spoke openly about how it has enabled him to control his anger.“Before I began to practice about five years ago, I was an angry person. I may still be angry, but I practice so hard, sincerely hard until the anger leaves me,” he said.Kumar was among a small group of C.V.N. Kalali practitioners who were recently invited to Shainghai, China, by renowned martial arts expert Jackie Chan to demonstrate their skills in a Chinese-English language film entitled The Myth part of which was set in India. (DPA)   Related Itemslast_img read more