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Cartagena, 26 Sept 2016: A final peace agreement between Colombia’s government and a national guerrilla movement is to be signed Monday, bringing to an end the longest-running insurgency in the Western hemisphere.
“It’s the end of the last full-blown guerrilla warfare inspired originally by Cuban and Soviet ideology against democratic institutions in this hemisphere,” is how it is characterized by a senior U.S. administration official.
The conflict between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), whose funding was primarily derived from the country’s illicit cocaine industry, is blamed for leaving dead more than 250,000 people and displacing at least five million.
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Sixteen heads of state and two dozen foreign ministers, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, are expected to attend the signing ceremony at the convention center in the Caribbean port city of Cartagena, founded in the 16th century.
“Peace will begin on Monday when I and the president shake hands,” said FARC maximum leader Rodrigo Londoño (known as Timochenko) on Saturday as he left the remote southern plains and boarded a helicopter operated by the International Committee of the Red Cross, along with about 40 other rebel commanders.
FARC has also agreed to cooperate with de-mining. Colombia has the second highest number of land mines in the world after Afghanistan.
The United States is taking some of the credit for bringing about the peace pact, which diplomats in Washington describe as a transformational event for Colombia and the region and one that President Barack Obama has described as one of the most important achievements during his presidency.
Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, who has staked his reputation on ending the war, had asked the United States to increase its engagement in the four year negotiating process, which mostly took place in Cuba, and a special envoy, Bernard Aronson, was named who participated in the talks.
“It’s about far more than just giving up weapons of war,” said a senior U.S. administration speaking on condition he not be named. “It really includes a major transformation of Colombia itself, it includes a far-reaching commitment to bring government services, security, police, education, health, roads, economic development to the vast stretches of the interior that have been left out of national life.”
Proponents of the deal also note the commitment to work with farmers to get land titles, access to transportation networks for their harvests of legal crops, rather than cocoa leaf production. It also includes transitional justice efforts that will hopefully lead to reconciliation in the countryside.
They also predict it will be the catalyst for Colombia’s GDP to grow at twice its current place and triple foreign directly investment following years of negative growth and capital flight.
Hope compromise pays off
But not everyone supports the deal on which Colombians will render a verdict in a nationwide binding referendum on October 2.
Recent public opinion polls in the country show a double digit advantage for the “Yes” camp, despite widespread loathing for FARC and a robust “No” campaign spanning the political spectrum.
“The consequences of a loss would be catastrophic,” Humberto De la Calle, the government’s chief negotiator, said in announcing the agreement.
Former President Alvaro Uribe contends the deal gives total amnesty to drug trafficking by labeling it a political crime and “Colombians have learned over decades of attempted negotiations with other terrorist groups it is that impunity always becomes the seed of new forms of violence.”
The current president argues compromise was necessary to convince the rebels to turn over their weapons after more than a half century of conflict.
The deal is the best his government could achieve, Santos says, to convince thousands of rebels to stop causing bloodshed and havoc through much of the country.
Other peace threats
The peace pact also includes a large new security commitment by Colombia’s government to go after the extremely violent bandas criminales (known by the acronym BACRIM), some of which are successors to right-wing paramilitaries engaged in cocaine production and smuggling, killings of right activists and have clashed with FARC fighters and other left-wing guerrillas.
The immediate, biggest threat to the October 2 peace referendum could be low voter turnout. To be valid it must be endorsed by at least 13 percent of all registered voters. A 2003 referendum on political reform backed by Uribe failed to cross the threshold.
It’s unclear what happens if the referendum is defeated.
“Although the FARC has reiterated a commitment to peace in recent months and said it will not return to war even if the accord isn’t approved, the fear I’ve heard is that a strong “no” vote would leave those favoring a military solution with the upper hand,” according to Ginny Bouvier, senior advisory for peace processes at the U.S. Institute for Peace.
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“It could also lead to a resurgence of violence in the countryside against social leaders and politicians who have led the charge for victims’ rights to restitution and reparations.”
Besides BACRIM, the smaller Marxist-Leninist rebel National Liberation Army still remains active thus even with the Cartagena signing total peace in Colombia will remain elusive. (VOA)
Indian origin girls -- New Jersey-based Natasha Peri (11) and Dubai-based Priyamvada Deshmukh (12) -- have been named in the worlds "brightest" students list based on results of above-grade-level testing of 19,000 students across 84 countries, according to Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY), a part of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
"Peri, a student at Thelma L. Sandmeier Elementary School, was honored for exceptional performance on the SAT, ACT, or similar assessment is taken as part of the CTY Talent Search," said a statement from the CTY.
Deshmukh, a student of GEMS Modern Academy, Dubai, has been honored for her exceptional performance on the SCAT assessment taken as part of the CTY Talent Search, a university statement said.
She was one of nearly 19,000 students from 84 countries who joined CTY in the 2019-21 Talent Search years. CTY uses above-grade-level testing to identify advanced students from around the world and provide a clear picture of their true academic abilities.
Peri took the Johns Hopkins Talent Search test in Spring 2021 when she was in Grade 5. Her results in the verbal and quantitative sections leveled with the 90th percentile of advanced Grade 8 performance.
"This motivates me to do more," she said, adding that doodling and reading J.R.R Tolkien's novels may have worked for her.
Deshmukh took the Johns Hopkins Talent Search test in Spring 2020 when she was still in Grade 6. Her results in the verbal sections leveled with the advanced Grade 10 performance. She made the cut for Johns Hopkins CTY 'High Honors Awards'.
Due to the Covid19, induced delay in Global logistics support, she finally received her much-awaited "High Honors" pin this week, which she lovingly kept in front of her Grandparents photograph as a tribute to her roots.
The delay in officially getting the certificates did not stop her from attending the summer program at John Hopkins University's CTY in English literature where she studied the confluence of Art and Science in literary writing and completed the course scoring 'A' Grade.
She followed up with top-scoring the second level of Asset Talent Examination which also qualified her for the summer program at Northwestern University this year, where she is learning about world-building in fiction writing this year.
Her elder brother was among the first UAE students to have cleared the Duke University TIP (Talent Identification Programme) when he was in Class 8.
Her parents joke that it's nothing but routine sibling rivalry that she wanted to achieve the same, just a year ahead of her brother. Even though she loves Physics and Computer Science as subjects, unlike her elder brother (who is Chancellor's Scholarship holder student of Astro Physics at the University of Massachusetts), Deshmukh wants to pursue humanities and literature when she goes to college five years down the lane.
As part of Johns Hopkins policy, granular information is not broken down by age or race.
Likewise, it is left to the guardian to disclose the prodigy's name. Within the US, awardees come from all 50 US states.
"We are thrilled to celebrate these students," said Virginia Roach, CTY's executive director.
"In a year that was anything but ordinary, their love of learning shined through, and we are excited to help cultivate their growth as scholars and citizens throughout high school, college, and beyond," Roach added.
The quantitative section of the Johns Hopkins CTY test measures the ability to see relationships between quantities expressed in mathematical terms, the verbal section measures understanding of the meaning of words and the relationships between them.
Basil scientifically called Ocimum basilicum, and also known as great basil, is a culinary herb from the Lamiaceae (mints) family. A common aromatic herb, it is usually used to add flavor to a variety of recipes, but what may astonish one is that there are various health benefits of basil that make it well-known for its immunity-enhancing properties.
Basil seeds or basil essential oil are proven to help prevent a wide range of health conditions, which makes it one of the most essential medical herbs known today. Basil has vitamin A, C, E, K, and Omega 3 components including cooling components too. It also contains minerals like Copper, Calcium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Zinc, and Potassium. An ancient Ayurvedic herb, basil has various proven benefits including being anti-inflammatory, ant-oxidant, immune-booster, pain-reducer, and blood vessel-protector.
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This herb also contains cooling components thus making it really helpful for summers. It detoxifies the body and maintains one's body temperature pace. Adding to the benefits Basil contains antioxidant-rich volatile essential oils, which are considered hydrophobic, meaning they don't dissolve in water and are light and small enough to travel through the air and the pores within our skin. Basil's volatile essential oil is something that gives the herb its distinct smell and taste, but basil contains some great healing properties.
In the long history of Ayurveda, basil seeds were also called tukmaria seeds. These seeds may support one's gut health, may complete one's fiber quota, reduce blood sugar, help in weight loss, and also reduce cholesterol.
The herb has rounded leaves.Pixabay
There are more than 60 varieties of basil, with sweet basil being one of the most widely used. The herb has rounded leaves that are often pointed. It is a bright green plant, although some varieties have hints of purple or red in their leaves, basil makes a colorful and flavorful addition to many different dishes.
It has been observed that many of the cooks use basil to thicken their dessert instead of using any artificial/ unhealthy powder to do so. Sometimes people are not able to differentiate between Chia seeds and basil seeds, to make it clear basil seeds are different in nature they are larger and a bit duller in their color. These herbs are used in various recipes as a cooling component in desserts, drinks, and fruit juices for refreshment, also beating the summer heat.
For better digestion, weight loss, and immune system, I suggest this simple recipe which can be easily made at home:
*Take 2 tsp of Basil seeds (sabja) + Add in 1/2 liter of water +10 mint leaves crushed
*1/2 tsp cinnamon powder + A little bit of sendha salt (pink Himalayan salt)
*Or to make a sweeter version one can add organic honey.
*Mix it well and drink it.
This recipe will help to flush out toxins from our body making it feel light and healthy. (IANS/SP)
The US researchers have discovered a class of immune cells that plays a role in miscarriage, which affects about a quarter of pregnancies.
Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco found that the recently discovered subset of cells known as extrathymic Aire-expressing cells in the immune system may prevent the mother's immune system from attacking the placenta and fetus.
The researchers showed that pregnant mice who did not have this subset of cells were twice as likely to miscarry, and in many of these pregnancies fetal growth was severely restricted.
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"When you're pregnant, the immune system is seeing the placenta for the first time in decades -- not since the mother made a placenta when she herself was a fetus," said Eva Gillis-Buck, from UCSF.
"Our research suggests that this subset of immune cells is carrying out a sort of 'secondary education' -- sometimes many years after the better-known population of the educator cells have carried out the primary education in the thymus -- teaching T cells not to attack the fetus, the placenta and other tissues involved in pregnancy," she added. The findings are published in the journal Science Immunology.
The immune system has to be educated not to attack one's own tissues and organs to prevent autoimmune disease. But pregnancy presents a unique challenge since the fetus expresses proteins found in the placenta as well as proteins whose genetics are distinct from the mother.
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"It was a conceptual leap to link Aire-expressing cells, which are critical for preventing autoimmune disease, to pregnancy," said Tippi Mackenzie, Professor of Surgery at UCSF's Center for Maternal Foetal Precision Medicine.
In the thymus, Aire-expressing cells begin interacting with other immune cells very early in life to teach them what not to attack. The thymus begins to shrink and is nearly gone by adulthood, by which time most immune cells have been educated. But as the thymus shrinks, the population of eTACs in lymph nodes and the spleen expands, the researchers explained.
The study suggests a healthy pregnancy may depend on having these cells around, they added. (IANS/KB)