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FARC and Colombian Government Agree to Truth Commission, Recognition of Victims

With the Colombia run-off election 8 days away, FARC and the Government of Colombia reached another milestone in the Havana peace talks.

Both sides agree the victims of the violence in Colombia must be heard. A truth commission will be set up, which FARC refers to as the "Commission of Clarification of the Origen and the Truth of the History of the Conflict." FARC has also declared a cease-fire for the next three weeks, through the election.

Here is the text of the agreement (English). Here is FARC's press release (English.)

Colombia Reports uses the headline "FARC formally admits responsibility for victims of Colombia conflict" but I think that's misleading. FARC has not admitted responsibility for the atrocities to the victims. In fact, the agreement says at this stage, the parties will not be exchanging blame. Recognizing there are victims and that the victims have a right to be heard and learn the truth is not the same as an admission of guilt or responsibility for what befell them. FARC and the Government have always claimed the other is responsible. The agreement says: [More...]

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Subcomandante Marcos Steps Down as Voice of Zapatistas

Subcomandante Marcos, the charismatic leader of Mexico's Zapatistas rebels for the past 20 years, has announced he will no longer speak for the group and will no longer exist as Subcomandante Marcos. (The Zapatistas are rebels fighting for the rights of indigenous people in Chiapas, Mexico's poorest state.) He will now be known as Subcomandante Galeano.

I've been a longtime fan of Marcos. He is a prolific writer -- 21 books and more than 250 essays and articles. I especially recommend Our Word is Our Weapon: Selected Writings by Subcomandante Marcos.

In a 10 page communique posted on the EZLN website (in Spanish), Marcos says he no longer exists and has never existed -- that his persona is a hologram created by the group to advance its goals, but that the persona of Marcos has now become a distraction. The group is changing, a new generation is coming in, and it was collectively decided to end the persona of Marcos. He also says rumors of his death and illness are untrue, just a false story put out by the group, in an attempt to separate the group from his persona. Vice has posted the audio of his 55 minute announcement, in Spanish. [More...]

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Colombia: Early Returns Signal Run-Off Election

With 96 percent of polling stations in Colombia reporting, President Juan Manuel Santos has 25.5 percent of the vote to right-wing challenger Oscar Ivan Zuluaga's 29.2%. That means a run-off election will be held next month since neither candidate got 50%.

Zuluaga is a protege of former President Aliviro Uribe. He has opposed the FARC peace talks, and before slightly softening his position in recent days, said he would shut them down.

Santos has been a big promoter of the peace talks. Like Zuluaga, at one time he worked in Uribe's cabinet. Santos and Uribe have since had a falling out, thus, Uribe's support of Zuluaga. [More....]

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FARC and Colombia Reach Accord on Drugs

The peace talks between FARC and Colombia reached a new milestone this week, with a partial agreement on drug trafficking.

Under the agreement, FARC pledges to end its involvement in the drug trade and Colombia promises to develop a strategy to combat corruption associated with drug trafficking and to stop eradicating farmer's coca plants and instead focus on alternative crop programs (except where communities refuse to participate in alternative programs or violate the agreement.[More...]

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Uruguay President: Treat Pot-Smokers Like Cattle

Uruguay President José Mujica tells Fox News that Uruguay's new law legalizing marijuana is better than Colorado's new law. Why? Because in Uruguay, they regulate users, not just sellers. Under their new law, pot-smokers will be treated like cows.

“Right now, every cow, 13 million of them, are registered here,” Mujica said. “We know where they were raised, what they eat – we’re the only country that does that,” he said. “We are going to apply a process just like that to marijuana laws.”

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Uruguay Releases Guidelines for Legal Marijuana Market

Uruguay is the first country to legalize the production, sale and consumption of marijuana. It released the new rules today. A copy in Spanish is here.

The government will control every facet -- including setting the price. Pot will initially cost around $1.00 per gram, in an effort to freeze out the black market. The government agency calling the shots is called the Institute for Regulation and Control.

Today we know that trying to eliminate marijuana has not been an effective measure and has only caused more problems. The marijuana market already exists and is controlled by drug trafficking. [More...]

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Colombia and the Plan to End World Drug Trafficking Embroils President's Chief Strategist

In what reads like a reality-based version of Mundo Fox's El Capo 3, the Mexican newspaper El Spectador has obtained a 109 page document submitted to Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos through his chief campaign strategist, J.J. Rendon, proposing to end the cartels and world drug trafficking. (Google translated version here.) The 2011 document is called "Agenda for solving the problem of drug trafficking and the violence it generates." The document begins:

"Celebrating its first 10 months of the new government, Colombian society has high expectations for their future, and one of his most repeated yearnings for decades is that it can definitively eradicate the drug problem and violence it generates. National and international conditions are suitable to develop an agenda for tackling the problem of drug trafficking, with ranges not only in the country but in the region and throughout the Western Hemisphere. "

With elections in Colombia just weeks away, J.J. Rendon has just resigned over accusations by trafficker Javier Calle Serna that Rendon was paid $12 million to submit the plan to the President. [More...]

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Nigerian Court Orders Public Horsewhipping for 4 Gay Youths

A Sharia court in Bauchi City, Nigeria sentenced four young men to 15 lashes with a horsewhip for having gay sex. The floggings were conducted publicly in the courtroom after trial and sentencing at a secret hearing. In addition, the youths were order to pay a fine, and if they can't afford it, they will have to spend a year in jail.

[A Human Rights activist] said the men, aged between 20 and 22, should not have been convicted because their confessions had been forced by law agents who beat them. She said they had to prostrate themselves on the floor of the court to be whipped on their backsides.

In January, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan signed a bill into law banning gay marriage and same-sex unions. It also reinforced criminal penalties for homosexuality and granted federal support to the Sharia authorities to enforce anti-gay laws. [More...]

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Freedom Today for Schapelle Corby

Video Update here.

Update: Schapelle Corby has been released. She's in this photo with the black and white plaid head covering. Some video here. Here's a picture of the media scramble as she left. She was whisked into a prison bus, where she will be taken to the prosecutor's office to be processed, a 40 minute drive, and then to the Bali Corrections Board office, a thirty minute drive, where she'll be met by her parole officer and then released.

Schappelle Corby will be released today from Bali's Keborkhan prison. The head of the prison said the release papers have arrived and she will definitely be leaving through the front door of the prison today.

The media is out in force waiting at the prison door. More than 100 police officers are on hand to ensure her safety.

9 years, 4 months and 2 days.

Boycott Bali.

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Schapelle Corby Granted Parole

Update 1:50 a.m: Schapelle Corby has been granted parole. She could be released at any time -- as soon as the prison receives written confirmation. It most likely will be Monday. More here. Here's a live video of the press conference with translation. She will have to remain in Indonesia until 2017. This is interesting: Had she not asked for or been granted parole, she could have returned to Australia in 2015 as her sentence would have expired and there would be no requirement of supervision.

Update 1:45 am: More media confirm parole was granted at what sounds like one of the most confusing press conferences ever.

Corby has got parole. Press statement clarifies that she has "fulfilled all substantive administrative requirements". Date up to prison

Update 1:35 a.m. What he said was 1,291 cases of the 1,700 have been processed. He didn't specifically say Schapelle was one of them. But reporters say his press release says she got parole. And ABC News Australia says parole was granted. [More...]

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Egypt Charges 20 al Jazeera Journalists With Aiding Terrorists

20 journalists who work for the al-Jazeera news organization have been charged in Egypt with aiding terrorism and/or joining a terrorist group. Among them are at least three who work for the al Jazeera English network, including "acting bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy, a Canadian-Egyptian, award-winning correspondent Peter Greste of Australia and producer Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian."

The Egyptian journalists are charged with joining a terrorist group, while the foreign journalists are charged with aiding a terrorist group.Egypt enacted the law under which they are charged last month. The three mentioned above were arrested on Dec. 29 and remain in custody. [More...]

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Group Threatens Olympic Attacks

The group "Vilayat Dagestan" which is part of the Caucasus Emirate, has claimed credit for the recent bomb attacks in Volgograd, Russia, and threatens more for the Olympics.

"We've prepared a present for you and all tourists who'll come over," the video says. "If you will hold the Olympics, you'll get a present from us for the Muslim blood that's been spilled."

The two men in the video, identified as Suleiman and Abdurakhman, claimed to be the suicide bombers from the recent bombings and showed pictures of themselves with explosives strapped to their bodies.

Doku Umarov, the leader of the Caucasus Emirate, initially called for attacks on the Olympics, but later rescinded them.

Here is the Google-translated version of their statement that accompanied the video. [More...]

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Jailed Pussy Riot Women To Be Freed

Under a Amnesty bill passed in Russia this week, the two Pussy Riot members still jailed in Russian prisons, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina will be freed.

In September, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova went on a hunger strike, and released this letter describing the inhumane conditions of her confinement. She was later moved to a prison in Siberia.

Also likely to be freed: 30 Greenpeace protesters.

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International Accord Reached on Iran's Nuclear Program

An accord has been reached with Iran about its nuclear weapons program.

Iran has agreed to stop enriching uranium above 5%. The accord is to last six months. (Sounds more like a pause than a cessation.)

In return for the initial agreement, the United States agreed to provide $6 billion to $7 billion in sanctions relief. Of this, roughly $4.2 billion would be oil revenue that has been frozen in foreign banks.

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Libyan PM Kidnapped From Hotel

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was kidnapped at gunpoint from the posh five star Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli just before dawn. As the photo shows, he's not wearing his glasses and appears to be in his jammies.

The Group claiming responsibility for the kidnapping is The Operations Cell of Libyan Revolutionaries, which along with other former rebel groups, have been providing security to the military.The rebel groups which kidnapped Zeiden have been providing security to the military. One claimed credit on Facebook.

According to the AP, the kidnapping is in retaliation for the U.S. kidnapping of suspected al-Qaida suspect al-Libi,last week. [More...]

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