ABC NEWS – Police in northern Mexico detained about 40 people Sunday who were apparently planning to demonstrate in support of captured drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
The move came after a similar march demanding Guzman’s release last week drew about 1,000 enthusiastic supporters into the streets of Culiacan, the capital of northern Sinaloa state, which is the home base of the Sinaloa Cartel purportedly led by Guzman.
Daniel Gaxiola, spokesman for the Sinaloa state public safety department, said those detained were among a crowd of about 150 people who gathered at a shrine to Jesus Malverde, a folk saint viewed as the patron or protector of people involved in the drug trade. Some shouted “Long live Chapo!” and refused police orders to disperse, he said.
About 20 police patrol vehicles were sent to the scene, and Gaxiola said the 40 people detained were held for disturbing the peace.
Messages on social networking sites had urged people to gather at the shrine for a march in favor of Guzman, who is alleged to be the hemisphere’s most powerful drug lord.
In last Wednesday’s march, some participants said they liked Guzman because he provided jobs, money and protection. At that march, norteno musicians played trumpets while high school students in uniforms held up signs reading “We want Chapo free” and “We love Chapo.”
After that march, authorities said they would not seek to limit freedom of expression, but would not tolerate marches that disturbed the peace or provided support or justification for criminals.
Guzman was arrested Feb. 22 in the Pacific Coast city of Mazatlan. Mexican federal judges have said he will have to stand trial on separate drug-trafficking and organized-crime charges in Mexico. The Attorney General’s Office said he also faces organized-crime charges in six other cases in four Mexican states and in Mexico City.
Guzman, who escaped from a western Mexico prison in 2001, is to remain in Mexico’s highest-security prison. The government has said he will not soon be extradited to the U.S., where Guzman has been indicted in California, New York and other states.
New York Times – President Obama has warned Russia that “there will be costs” for a military intervention in Ukraine. But the United States has few palatable options for imposing such costs, and recent history has shown that when it considers its interests at stake, Russia has been willing to absorb any such fallout.
Even before President Vladimir V. Putin on Saturday made his first public gesture toward ordering Russian troops into the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, Mr. Obama and his team were already discussing how to respond. They talked about canceling the president’s trip to a summit meeting in Russia in June, shelving a possible trade agreement, kicking Moscow out of the Group of 8 or moving American warships to the region.
That is the same menu of actions that was offered to President George W. Bush in 2008 when Russia went to war with Georgia, another balky former Soviet republic. Yet the costs imposed at that time proved only marginally effective and short-lived. Russia stopped its advance but nearly six years later has never fully lived up to the terms of the cease-fire it signed. And whatever penalty it paid at the time evidently has not deterred it from again muscling a neighbor.
“The question is: are those costs big enough to cause Russia not to take advantage of the situation in the Crimea? That’s the $64,000 question,” said Brig. Gen. Kevin Ryan, a retired Army officer who served as defense attaché in the American Embassy in Moscow and now, as a Harvard scholar, leads a group of former Russian and American officials in back-channel talks.
Mr. Putin has already demonstrated that the most obvious cost, to its international reputation, would not stop him from what Ukraine is calling an invasion of Crimea and what United States officials, at least privately, are calling a military intervention. Having just hosted the Winter Olympics in Sochi, he must have realized he was all but throwing away seven years and $50 billion of effort to polish Russia’s image.
Before issuing any orders, Mr. Putin certainly expected condemnations and diplomatic protests from the United States and Europe, and he calculated that they did not outweigh what he sees as a threat to Russia’s historical interest in Ukraine, which was ruled by Moscow until the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 and where it still has a major military base.
Finding more compelling levers to influence his decision-making will be a challenge for Mr. Obama and the European allies. Mr. Obama has seen repeatedly that warnings often do not discourage autocratic rulers from taking violent action, as when Syria crossed the president’s “red line” by using chemical weapons in its civil war.
Russia is an even tougher country to pressure, too powerful even in the post-Soviet age to rattle with stern lectures or shows of military force, and too rich in resources to squeeze economically in the short term. With a veto on the United Nations Security Council, it need not worry about the world body. And as the primary source of natural gas to much of Europe, it holds a trump card over many American allies.
Mr. Obama is under bipartisan pressure to take action to stop Mr. Putin. A dozen senators from both parties wrote him a letter Friday arguing that “the U.S. should make use of the tools at its disposal,” including targeted sanctions and asset seizure.
“Now is the time for U.S. leadership,” said one of those senators, Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida. “The U.S. and the European Union should take meaningful measures to demonstrate to the Russian government that military action against Ukraine is intolerable and will carry significant consequences for Moscow.”
None of the senators, however, outlined ideas not already on the table in the Situation Room. And besides, Mr. Obama needs Russian support in the midst of critical talks over Syria’s civil war and Iran’s nuclear program.
“What can we do?” asked Fiona Hill, a Brookings Institution scholar who was the government’s top intelligence officer on Russia during the Georgia war when Mr. Putin deflected Western agitation. “We’ll talk about sanctions. We’ll talk about red lines. We’ll basically drive ourselves into a frenzy. And he’ll stand back and just watch it. He just knows that none of the rest of us want a war.”
ABC News - The Christian militiamen know hundreds of Muslims are hiding here on the grounds of the Catholic church and now they’re giving them a final ultimatum: Leave Central African Republic within a week or face death at the hands of machete-wielding youths.
On Monday, some of the 30 Cameroonian peacekeepers fired into the air to disperse angry militia fighters congregated outside the concrete walls of the church compound. The gunfire sent traumatized children running for cover and set off a chorus of wails throughout the courtyard.
The peacekeepers are all that stand between nearly 800 Muslims and the armed gangs who want them dead. Already the fighters known as the anti-Balaka have brought 40 liters (10 gallons) of gasoline and threatened to burn the church to the ground.
Even the Rev. Justin Nary, who takes in more Muslims by the day, knows he too is a marked man in the eyes of anti-Balaka.
“Walking through town I’ve had guns pointed in my face four times,” he says. “They call my phone and say they’ll kill me once the peacekeepers are gone.”
Some of those seeking refuge fled from the village of Guen, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) away, after at least 70 Muslims were killed there, according to the Rev. Rigobert Dolongo who said he helped bury the bodies.
Muslims and Christians lived together in Carnot in relative peace for generations until a Muslim rebellion from the country’s far north overthrew the government and unleashed total chaos. The rebels known as Seleka were blamed for scores of massacres on predominantly Christian villages across the country.
When they were forced from power in January, it unleashed a wave of violent vengeance against Muslims throughout the anarchic nation. In the capital, angry mobs killed and mutilated anyone suspected of having supported the Seleka. The Christian militia known as the anti-Balaka stormed Carnot in early February when the Seleka fled.
The situation in the capital, Bangui, appears to have stabilized somewhat, but the sectarian violence continues in the countryside.
National Review – America is unraveling at a stunning speed and to a staggering degree. This decline is breathtaking, and the prognosis is dim.
For starters, Obama now rules by decree. Reportedly for the 27th time, he has changed the rules of Obamacare singlehandedly, with neither congressional approval nor even ceremonial resolutions to limit his actions. Obama needs no such frivolities.
“That’s the good thing about being president,” Obama joked on February 10. “I can do whatever I want.” In an especially bitter irony, Obama uttered these despicable words while guiding French president François Hollande through Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson — a key architect of America’s foundation of limited government.
That very day, Obama decreed that the Obamacare mandate for employers with 50 to 99 workers would be postponed until 2016 (beyond an earlier extension to 2015), well past the November 2014 midterm elections. This eases the pressure on Democrats, whose campaigns would suffer if voters saw their company health plans canceled due to Obamacare’s unnecessary, expensive, mandatory benefits — e.g. maternity coverage for men.
So, by fiat, Obama has postponed the employer mandate. When Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) effectively tried to do this through legislation last fall, Democrats virtually lassoed and branded him.
Also by decree last week, Obama decided unilaterally to soften political-asylum rules. Refugees and other immigrants who provide terrorists “limited material support” now can come to America. So what if someone merely clothed and fed Mohamed Atta or Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? After all, garments and meals don’t blow up. Welcome to America, Mustafa!
Meanwhile, the Justice Department is working hard to revoke the asylum of and deport the Romeikes. This evangelical-Christian family was granted refuge in America to escape prosecution for homeschooling their children, which German law forbids.
So, Obama believes, those who are only somewhat helpful to deadly, anti-U.S. terrorists may become Americans, while religiously oppressed homeschoolers who face prison should get the hell out.
The transparent electoral motive that fuels so many of Obama’s executive orders seems unprecedented. The tone is also brand new. Obama’s predecessors have signed executive orders and, more or less, left it at that. But Obama pounds his chest as he does so. As he told Congress at last month’s State of the Union address: “America does not stand still — and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”
While appalled Republicans sat on their hands, Democrats stood up and shouted like equatorial, rubber-stamp parliamentarians: “Hooray! We are irrelevant!”
Meanwhile, as the American Enterprise Institute’s Marc Thiessen wrote in the February 10 Washington Post, new Congressional Budget Office figures show that Obamacare will reduce U.S. incomes by $70 billion annually between 2017 and 2024. The CBO also estimated that by 2021, Obamacare’s disincentives to hire and incentives not to work would slash labor hours by the equivalent of 2.3 million jobs.
Rather than dispute these figures, key Democrats embraced them.
“We want people to have the freedom to be a writer, to be a photographer, to make music, to paint,” said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. She added that “people would no longer be job-locked by their [health] policies, but have the freedom to follow their passion.”
So, rather than expand economic growth and jobs, Democrats applaud as Americans stop working — to do watercolors, draft poetry, and take naps — while exhausted taxpayers foot the bill.
Reuters – North Korean security chiefs and possibly even Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un himself should face international justice for ordering systematic torture, starvation and killings comparable to Nazi-era atrocities, U.N. investigators said on Monday.
The investigators told Kim in a letter they were advising the United Nations to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC), to make sure any culprits “including possibly yourself” were held accountable.
North Korea “categorically and totally” rejected the accusations set out in a 372-page report, saying they were based on material faked by hostile forces backed by the United States, the European Union and Japan.
The unprecedented public rebuke and warning to a ruling head of state by a U.N. Commission of Inquiry is likely to further antagonize Kim and complicate efforts to persuade him to rein in his isolated country’s nuclear weapons program and belligerent confrontations with South Korea and the West.
The U.N. investigators said they had also told Kim’s main ally China that it might be “aiding and abetting crimes against humanity” by sending migrants and defectors back to North Korea to face torture and execution – a charge that Chinese officials had dismissed.
As referral to the Hague-based international court was seen as unlikely, given China’s probable veto of any such move in the U.N. Security Council, thoughts were also turning to setting up some form of special tribunal on North Korea, diplomatic and U.N. sources told Reuters.
“We’ve collected all the testimony and can’t just stop and wait 10 years. The idea is to sustain work,” said one.
“STRIKINGLY SIMILAR” TO NAZI ERA
Michael Kirby, chairman of the independent Commission of Inquiry, told Reuters the crimes the team had catalogued were reminiscent of those committed by Nazis during World War Two.
“Some of them are strikingly similar,” he said.
“Testimony was given … in relation to the political prison camps of large numbers of people who were malnourished, who were effectively starved to death and then had to be disposed of in pots, burned and then buried … It was the duty of other prisoners in the camps to dispose of them,” he said.
Asked why the report had specifically mentioned Kim, Kirby told journalists: “A great deal of responsibility must lie on such a person. If you are at the center, then you have power to change things.”
“I do expect that the report will galvanize action on the part of the international community,” he said.
Kirby, asked how many North Korean officials might be guilty of having committed the gravest crimes, replied: “The potential would be running into the hundreds, I would think.”
The independent investigators’ report, the size of a telephone directory, listed atrocities including murder, torture, rape, abductions, enslavement, starvation and executions.
“The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world,” it said.
The findings came out of a year-long investigation involving public testimony by defectors, including former prison camp guards, at hearings in South Korea, Japan, Britain and the United States.
Defectors included Shin Dong-hyuk, who gave harrowing accounts of his life and escape from a prison camp. As a 13-year-old, he informed a prison guard of a plot by his mother and brother to escape and both were executed, according to a book on his life called “Escape from Camp 14″.
North Korea’s diplomatic mission in Geneva dismissed the findings. “We will continue to strongly respond to the end to any attempt of regime-change and pressure under the pretext of ‘human rights protection’,” it said.
The two-page North Korean statement, in English, said the report was an “instrument of a political plot aimed at sabotaging the socialist system” and defaming the country.
Reuters – A federal appeals court on Thursday struck down a requirement by San Diego County that residents show “good cause” to carry a concealed firearm, a ruling that could force local governments across California to revisit the way they license handguns.
A three-member panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, acting on a 2009 lawsuit, ruled in a 2-1 decision that San Diego County’s restrictions amounted to an unconstitutional infringement on citizens’ Second Amendment rights to bear arms.
Coupled with a California state law that largely bans the open carrying of firearms in public, San Diego County’s “good cause” rules on concealed weapons effectively bar residents from carrying a gun altogether, the panel said.
“In California, the only way that the typical, responsible, law-abiding citizen can carry a weapon in public for the lawful purpose of self-defense is with a concealed carry permit. And, in San Diego County, that option has been taken off the table,” Justice Thomas O’Scannlain wrote in the 77-page opinion for the majority.
California, which has enacted some of the nation’s strictest gun laws, allows residents to carry a concealed weapon if they meet several requirements, including completing a training course, demonstrating good moral character and establishing “good cause” to have the gun.
Interpretation of the statute is left to individual jurisdictions, with San Diego County taking one of the most restrictive stances by refusing to accept self-defense or concern for personal safety as a “good cause.”
Instead, applicants must demonstrate a special need or a specific risk in order to establish good cause.
ABC News – Chevrolet has taken on the job of restoring the classic Corvettes swallowed by a gaping sinkhole beneath the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky.
GM’s head of global product development Mark Reuss said Thursday the damaged vehicles are some of the most significant in auto history.
He says the company wants to restore as many of them as possible so auto fans can enjoy them.
The sinkhole consumed eight prized cars like they were toys early Wednesday when the museum was closed. Six of the cars are owned by the museum in Bowling Green, Ky., and two are on loan from General Motors.
The cars include a 1992 white 1 millionth Corvette and a 2009 white 1.5 millionth Corvette.
Chevrolet says the restoration will be done in Michigan.
Fox News -A senior Iranian naval commander says his country has sent several warships to the Atlantic Ocean, close to U.S. maritime borders for the first time.
The commander of Iran’s Northern Navy Fleet, Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad, is quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying Saturday that the vessels have already begun the journey to the Atlantic Ocean via waters near South Africa.
Iranian officials said last month that the fleet consisted of the destroyer Sabalan and the logistic helicopter carrier Khark, which will be on a three-month mission. The ships are carrying some 30 navy academy cadets for training along with their regular crews.
Haddad says the fleet is approaching U.S. maritime borders for the first time. The Islamic Republic considers the move as a response to U.S. naval deployments near its own coastlines. The U.S. Navy’s 5th fleet is based in nearby Bahrain — across the gulf from Iran.