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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

CAR Violence Continues Despite French Troops

French troops in the Central African Republic looked on impassively as machete-wielding people looted Bangui’s streets and Muslim-owned shops, with one such person pausing to tell a knot of journalists taking in the scene, “Some of us are working here!” Christian Central Africans have formed Anti-balaka vigilante looting bands, ostensibly to combat the now dissolved and mainly-Muslim Séléka fighters, which have turned against the civilian populace of CAR. The French government launched Operation Sangaris last week, deploying 1,600 troops to put down both the renegade remnants of Séléka and the anti-balaka vigilantes. The French contingent alloys the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) already on the ground, which is comprised of soldiers from Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, and Cameroon. Many in Central Africa believe Chad financed, or at least supported Séléka, and as such a number of the looters have been hostile to the Chadian presence. Jennifer Mowene told the Associated Press, “We don’t want them in the country any longer, they are traitors.” Eloi, a student standing close by agreed, saying, “The Malians and Senegalese can stay but the Muslim Chadians must leave.”

Despite a brief fire fight yesterday, French troops have not engaged in combat against Central African peoples. “The disarmament operations have started. Things are going well,” Colonel Gilles Jaron said, adding that French troops had already arrested 10 men and seized weapons.

Pentagon Continues Relations with Dubious Contractors

The Pentagon has continued working with Lithuanian company Aviabaltika (AVB) and a related Russian firm, the St. Petersburg Aircraft Repair Company (SPARC), four years after reports emerged that both were doing shoddy work and should be barred from new contracts. Aviabaltika, which according to reports by Amnesty International violated EU embargoes by selling Sudan at least one Russian Mi-8 helicopter, was the subject of a probe by the Pentagon’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service over evidence which indicated ties between Army officials and AVB/SPARC, along with potentially improper payments to the firms.

Looting in Argentina

Thousands of federal security forces were deployed across Argentina in a bid to stem looting by people who took advantage of an absence of police, who were on strike. Hundreds were injured countrywide, and at least five people have died.

Police in Entre Ríos, Buenos Aires, Santa Fé, and Chaco provinces went on strike to demand wages in sync with soaring inflation, and like Córdoba last week, looting immediately began. President Cristina Kirchner’s cabinet chief, Jorge Capitanich, laid the blame for the disturbances on the police, who “should be the protectors of citizens, not promoters of chaos.”

Bevy of Research Suggests Martian Life Probable

Six different papers released today in Science’s online magazines suggest NASA’s Curiosity rover has found evidence of an ancient Martian lake that may have supported life. According to researchers, a long and skinny freshwater lake likely existed in Gale Crater only 3.7 billion years ago, suggesting that habitable Martian environs existed more recently than previously believed. “You’ve got an alluvial fan, which is being fed by streams that originate in mountains, that accumulates a body of water,” Curiosity lead scientist John Grotzinger told SPACE.com. “That probably was not unlike what happened during the last glacial maximum in the Western U.S.

Researchers believe this lake might have supported microbes called chemolithoautotrophs, which obtain energy by breaking down rocks and minerals. Terran chemolithoautotrophs often inhabit biomes beyond the reach of sunlight, where photosynthetic organisms cannot compete. Sanjeev Gupta, co-author of one of the new papers, released a statement saying, “It is exciting to think that billions of years ago, ancient microbial life may have existed in the lake’s calm waters, converting a rich array of elements into energy.”

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