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Colombian army officer gets 44 years for role in murder of 245 civilians

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A former Colombian army officer was sentenced to 44 years in prison for his role in the deaths of more than 245 civilians, many of whom were hacked to pieces with a power saw, officials said.

Retired major Alirio Antonio Urena received the sentence for killings systematically carried out out against the local population of the town of Trujillo in western Colombia between 1986 and 1994.

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At the time, Urena was a commander in Colombia’s Valle de Cauca state of an army brigade with ties to right-wing paramilitaries which was said to be responsible for the systematic assassinations of people in Trujillo, prosecutors said.

The victims of the killings were accused of collaborating with left-wing rebels, against whom the Colombian military has been waging a decades-long war.

The paramilitaries, who also are said to have close ties with drug traffickers, used power saws to dismember many of its victims.

The dead included Tiberio Fernandez, a popular Catholic priest and political organizer whose body was found castrated and decapitated in the Cauca River.

Monday’s verdict was the first by the Colombian justice system in the notorious case, which was reopened in 1991 after justice officials originally had absolved the Urena and his co-defendants.

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In a separate case, seven Colombian soldiers were found guilty in connection with the abduction and murder of a man who they falsely claimed was a member of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The trial in the city of Villavicencio, 95 kilometers (60 miles) south of Bogota found strong evidence against a major, a lieutenant and five other soldiers involved in the incident, which occurred in July 2007.

According to prosecutors, the soldiers abducted Eduardo Perez and took him to the town of Hato Corozal northeast of Bogota before shooting and killing him. They subsequently said he was a member of the FARC, which was operating in the region.

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Investigators later determined found that Perez did not belong to the rebels, and filed filed charges of aggravated murder and kidnapping.

Sentencing was set for November 22 for the soldiers, who were led by major Gustavo Soto, lieutenant John Suancha and the other troops identified as Carlos Bello, Abdon Guevara, Elio Celis, Gelver Perez and Johny Higuera

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Soto was the head of a unit focused on anti-kidnapping with jurisdiction over a wide area of central and eastern Colombia.


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Ex-Bush official shreds Barr for serving Trump’s ‘authoritarian’ ambitions

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MSNBC's Elise Jordan busted Attorney General William Barr's hypocrisy on surveillance.

The "Morning Joe" contributor and former White House official in the George W. Bush administration, where Barr also served -- and helped build the surveillance state before going on to work for telecommunications companies that turned over customer data to the government.

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Blast damages hospital near biggest US base in Afghanistan

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At least one person was killed and dozens wounded when a bomb exploded close to the largest US military base in Afghanistan Wednesday, damaging homes and a hospital under construction near Bagram Airfield, officials said.

The attack -- which has not yet been claimed -- comes as Washington resumed talks with the Taliban on Saturday, three months after President Donald Trump abruptly halted diplomatic efforts that could end America's longest war.

"The explosion happened in front of the gate of the Korean hospital which is almost adjacent to Bagram airfield," Parwan governor spokeswoman Wahida Shahkar said, referring to the US airbase located north of Kabul, in Parwan province.

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The ‘War on Christmas’ was started more than 500 years ago — by Christians

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If it feels like the “War on Christmas” is getting really old, it is. Almost 15 years have passed since Bill O’Reilly first opened December with a segment called, “Christmas Under Siege”—ten long years in which his cadences and refrains and echoing chorus have become as familiar to most Americans as Handel’s Messiah. More familiar, in fact.

Not that O’Reilly invented the idea. During the 1920’s, Henry Ford’s newspaper published a series of anti-Semitic articles titled, “The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem.” Among the complaints:

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