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Mexico replacing army with activism to take on the drug lords: Brian Stewart

Written By doni icha on Rabu, 15 April 2015 | 07.40

There have been times in recent years when Mexico felt that its only hope to stem the rising blood-tide of its drug war was to send in the military to the most affected states, to clamp down on the near anarchy.

For the six years under former president Felipe Calderon, from 2006 to 2012, army units waged tough campaigns against ruthless drug cartels in northern Mexico.

And yet the violence soared with each escalation of force, to the point where an estimated 60,000 people were killed in drug-related violence in these years, while another 25,000 went missing.

To put this in perspective, violence in Mexico has at times surpassed the annual death toll in Afghanistan's civil war.

And while it is not classified as a "failed state," large chunks of Mexico appeared on the verge of becoming so hollowed out by corruption and violence as to be virtually crippled.

People and jobs fled, local economies stagnated, and police and local administrations were too often bought out by the drug cartels.

The recent scandal over the kidnapping and murder of 43 activist students last fall in the state of Guerrero by a gang thought to be allied to local police has rocked the current national government and highlighted its seeming ineffectiveness in rooting out corruption.

Fortunately, however, the picture is not all bleak. Indeed, some social experiments by very brave civic reformers are starting to show promise in pointing Mexico's way back from the brink.

What makes these efforts particularly interesting are the results of two recent reports that help evaluate the usefulness of military action in cities such as Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo and Culiacan as they compared to a gentler, civic-reform approach. 

Troops arrive, killings increase

The results of army intervention, it seems, were as disruptive as they were depressing. 

Violence did not subside in the face of military boots on the ground. In fact it quickly grew worse, according to a detailed study by the science journal The American Statistician.

Mexico Drug Cartel Arrest

Soldiers escort a man identified as Omar Trevino Morales, alias "Z-42," leader of the infamous Zetas drug cartel, last month after he was arrested in a pre-dawn raid. The military option is still very much a part of Mexico's attempts to dismantle the cartels. (The Associated Press)

In 16 of 18 regions studied, the arrival of soldiers either failed to reduce the number of homicides or saw the number of murders and other crimes soar almost immediately as the targeted cartels simply splintered into ever more warring gangs.

Soldiers trained for combat seemed understandably helpless amid a complex climate of rampant corruption, intimidation of civilians and vengeance killings.

For example, after troops arrived in Ciudad Juarez in 2007, killings rose 15-fold to more than 3,000 a year, which earned the city the sad label "murder capital of the world." It seemed a truly hopeless case.

What's so remarkable, therefore, is that Juarez has, in a very few years, reversed that decline, according to a second report, this from the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

It may now even be an object lesson for other areas of the world desperate to find ways out of social collapse.

Back from the brink?

In Ciudad Juarez, after the army's intervention failed to restore peace, a broad alliance of civic leaders — academics, non-profit volunteers, feminist activists, business and profession groups — came together and set out to devise a social approach to the problems at hand, especially in poor areas most affected by gang rule.

The group tried to improve the lives of local citizens while, at the same time, demanding accountability from all levels of government, especially local police.

Community centres, schools and hospitals were built or renovated, job programs boosted and special social programs launched for youth most at risk of recruitment into criminal gangs.

Public demonstrations also spread to expose and denounce corruption.

Mexico Drug War

Doctors in the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez take part in a "die-in" protest in 2010, one of the earliest demonstrations to get authorities to guarantee public safety. (The Associated Press)

These were extremely brave efforts given the cartel's penchant for killing anyone who spoke out.

Still, the new united front, using what was called "socio-urban activism," was able to finally get municipal, state and federal governments to join an extraordinary security and justice working group.

Juarez remains a very troubled city with too much crime, but the results of all this civic action have been dramatic enough to attract, this time, positive international attention: homicides have fallen by around 86 per cent, other crimes also plummeted and there is finally a palpable sense of a nightmare passing, the ICG reports.  

"Normalcy seems to have returned, as restaurants and night clubs reopen downtown, factories resume hiring, and local police (not troops) patrol the streets," the group says in its recent report "Back from the brink: saving Ciudad Juarez."

Old-school activism

It's a fascinating story, and none of the improvements came easily. They required, along with much local courage and vision, substantial help from the current federal government of Enrique Pena Nieto.

In office since 2012, Pena Nieto has downplayed, at least somewhat, the military options and pushed instead an ambitious national program to strengthen civil action and boost respect for laws.

Significant funding alongside commitments from six different ministries were given to Juarez as a test case.

Fortunately old-fashioned civic activism, the kind we often belittle these days, had somehow survived against all odds in Juarez and this public resilience was up to the challenge.

Volunteer groups, like those that had previously rallied against violence against women, were experienced enough to spearhead much of the campaign. Doctors, long extorted and threatened by kidnappings, mobilized to support victims in their demands for justice.  

Certain business interests joined with the activists to demand that all levels of governments end the "halo of impunity that envelops the city."

APTOPIX Mexico Violence

Mourners comfort each other during a ceremony last week to honor slain policemen in Tlaquepaque. On Monday, the Jalisco New Generation drug cartel stopped a police convoy on a rural highway and opened fire, killing 15 officers and wounding five in the bloodiest single attack on Mexican law enforcement in recent memory. (The Associated Press)

Of course, it very much remains to be seen whether the Juarez example can work right across Mexico, as the scourge of official corruption and multiplying criminal gangs continues in many areas.

And the distrust of authority is so widespread that vigilante militias are now spreading.

What's clearly critical for there to be success in these cases, though, is that citizens themselves mobilize for reform and governments react as an ally rather than a foe.

As the military option fails, it is possible to look to the Juarez mix of civic courage and empowerment as the only model left to move crime-infested regions back from the brink. 

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Spacecraft snaps first colour image of Pluto

Scientists have released the first colour image of Pluto and its largest moon Charon ever taken by an approaching spacecraft.

The photo was released at a news conference on Tuesday to discuss the spacecraft New Horizons, which took the image, and its nearing of Pluto.

No spacecraft has ever visited Pluto. Scientists are hoping that will change on July 14, when NASA's New Horizons probe is expected to fly within 9,978 km (6,200 miles) of the dwarf planet after a nine-year journey.

Alan Stern, a New Horizons scientist, spoke about the historic project with excitement.

"This is a small, compact, highly advanced spacecraft. A real 21st century exploration spacecraft with tremendous capability, that's in almost, almost the most wonderful place you can ever imagine you can be as a scientist," Stern said.


NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, seen in an artist's impression, will make a close flyby of Pluto and its moons on July 14. (NASA/Reuters)

"The spacecraft is in perfect health, it's full of fuel and it's carrying a scientific arsenal of seven instruments that are combined the most powerful suite of scientific instruments ever brought to bear on the first reconnaissance of a new planet. Nothing like this has been done in a quarter century and nothing like this is planned by any space agency, ever again. This is a real moment in time."

Stern said that next month, as New Horizons nears Pluto, it will start taking the most detailed photos ever seen of it. The craft will begin sending back atmospheric data on Pluto in May, and data on the dwarf planet's surface composition in June.

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Dashcam video shows police cruiser ramming suspect on foot

Police in Arizona have released dashcam video in which an officer is seen using his cruiser to run down an armed suspect walking beside the road. 

The two videos show the view from police cruisers as they follow suspect Mario Valencia down a street in Marana, a town northwest of Tucson, on Feb 19. (Warning: Some may find the video disturbing.) 

Valencia had allegedly stolen a rifle from a local Walmart, according to local TV station KOLD. He is seen firing it into the air as police follow at a distance.

"One round just went out — into the sky," an officer in the first cruiser is heard saying over the radio. "It's definitely unlocked now. He's definitely loaded."

The officer is then heard telling a colleague in the second cruiser to stay back. 

"Stand off, the gun is loaded." 

At that point the other cruiser speeds forward and drives straight into Valencia, who is tossed violently into the air. Police also released video from the second cruiser. 

"Jesus Christ! Man down," the first officer says. 

Valencia was seriously injured, but survived the incident, according to KOLD. He faces 15 charges. 

Police allege he was dangerous, possibly suicidal, and had been on a crime spree that morning.

The officer has been identified as Michael Rapiejko. Warren said Rapiejko was put on a standard administrative leave because the incident was considered use of force. The Pima County Attorney's Office cleared Rapiejko of any wrongdoing and he is back on the force, Warren said.

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5 reasons India matters so much to Canada

Canada welcomes Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a three-day visit. CBCNews.ca will have live coverage throughout the day, including events in Ottawa and a major Modi speech before a large crowd in Toronto at 7:30 p.m. 

Watch Joint news conference LIVE here at 10:40 am ET 

For two countries that Prime Minister Stephen Harper calls "natural partners" in a new global economy, Canada and India might appear to share a rather meek business relationship.

Not even one per cent of Canadian exports currently ship to India, with goods exports around $3.1 billion in 2014 — less than one-sixth what Canada exports to China.

Promising to open India to global commerce, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's historic three-day Canadian tour this week seeks to change that.

His trip ends a 42-year dry spell since a head of state from the world's largest democracy visited to talk bilateral relations.

As Harper pushes for a free-trade pact with Modi, Canadian economists and business leaders representing South Asian professionals lay out their case for why India is a social, political, cultural and economic force that matters.

1. A hot opportunity

"Let's not forget there's a race to get to India's door," says Jaswinder Kaur, director of the Canada-India Centre of Excellence in Ottawa.

"We're competing against Japan, the French, the Australians, and this is an opportunity for Canada to demonstrate how we can contribute and make a true partnership."


India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi was elected partially on the promise that he would open India up to global commerce. (Toru Hanai/Reuters)

Canada's Global Markets Action Plan identified India as a priority market, with a burgeoning economy and roughly 11 million people under 30 entering the workforce each year.

India has for years remained the largest market for Canada's pulses (grain legumes such as lentils and peas), and Canada also supplies lumber and potash.

"But are Canadian companies ready to do business?" Kaur says. "That's where the real work is going to begin."

The International Monetary Fund projects that by 2016, India's GDP growth will outpace that of China's becoming the fastest-growing major economy in the world.

In the meantime, two-way bilateral trade has grown to $6 billion, up 47 per cent since 2010, when trade was around $4.09 billion.

2. Energy demands

Much has been made, Kaur notes, of Modi "shopping for uranium" as part of this Canadian tour.

India needs the radioactive element to feed its nuclear reactors, and Canada has a vast supply.

'Mr. Modi will be looking for a signed contract for Canada to be a supplier of uranium, as India desperately needs energy as it expands.'- Elliot Tepper, Carleton University South Asian studies professor

If Ottawa allows, Saskatchewan-based Cameco Corp. could resume uranium exports to India following a ban 40 years ago, when India was accused of testing a nuclear weapon in 1974, and then again in 1998, using Candu technology supplied by Canada.

"Since then, our relations have slowly climbed back up to the point where we have a nuclear agreement," said Elliot Tepper, a South Asian studies professor at Carleton University.

"Mr. Modi will be looking for a signed contract for Canada to be a supplier of uranium, as India desperately needs energy as it expands, and wants to rely more on nuclear power."

Meanwhile, Canadian natural gas and oil will continue to be useful resources to India.

3. Young population

The under-35 demographic represents more than 65 per cent of India's population, and many of them are migrating from rural areas to cities searching for education and employment, both of which Canada can help supply.


Open for business. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the world's largest industrial technology fair, the Hannover Messe, in Hanover, Germany, earlier this month. He has been on something of a world tour, trying to drum up industrial investment in job-hungry India. (Reuters)

Modi's "Make in India" initiative is encouraging international firms to set up manufacturing plants in India to spur job creation at home and become a low-cost alternative to China.

Flipping the saying that China will grow old before it grows rich, Gary Comerford, president of the Canadian Indian Business Council, believes "India will grow wealthy before it grows old."

Over the last decade, he says, a large number of Indians have "pulled themselves out of poverty" and into a rising middle class.

"And that means they're consuming," Comerford says of the next generation of big spenders. "They're getting a fridge, a TV, a cellphone.

"If you take that sheer population of 1.2 billion and convert it into a consuming group, as well as being an economic powerhouse, it will be a political powerhouse as well."

4. Cross-cultural understanding

India remains a democracy with a "remarkably pluralistic society," which Canada can appreciate as a state that welcomes diversity as a foundation of the country, says Tepper.

Indian PM Harper 20150412

Two business-friendly PMs, India's Narendra Modi and Canada's Stephen Harper chat at the G20 summit in Australia in November. (The Canadian Press)

"That makes our two countries both natural allies and rather special in terms of the states of the world," he says, adding that the two countries have worked together quietly for years on such things as counter-terrorism and sharing concerns about violent extremists.

University of Toronto professor Kanta Murali, who analyzes Indian politics at the Centre for South Asian Studies, points to a 1.2 million-strong Indian diaspora in Canada as "central to the excitement surrounding Modi's visit."

A shared history under British colonial rule, a broadly English-speaking population and a democratic system add to a sense of kinship, adds Comerford.

5. A knowledge economy

According to Dherma Jain, president of the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce, more than 15,000 Indian students have decided to pursue foreign studies at universities and colleges in Canada.

Modi's visit is expected to seal some educational co-operation agreements such as twinning programs, Tepper said.

"Canada will be providing expertise that India invites as it wants to upscale its own capacity, from technology to agriculture, and attracting people to come to Canada instead of going elsewhere," he said.

India is interested in harnessing green tech as well, notes Karunakar Papala, chairman of the Indo-Canada Ottawa Business Chamber, which represents some 600 business owners in the capital.

Modi's plan for India to develop 100 high-tech "smart cities" that are more energy and resource efficient, could benefit from Canadian know-how. (The Indian prime minister made a similar pitch when he visited Germany recently.)

"Solar technologies, green technologies, Canada has got a lot to offer there," Papala said.

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ISIS takes villages near Iraqi city of Ramadi

The militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) launched an offensive in Iraq's western Anbar province on Wednesday, capturing three villages near the provincial capital of Ramadi, where fierce clashes were underway between the extremists and government troops, residents said.

The dawn push by ISIS seized the villages of Sjariyah, Albu-Ghanim and Soufiya, which had been under government control, the residents said, adding that the fighting was taking place on the eastern edges of Ramadi, about two kilometres away from local government building.

In Soufiya, the militants bombed a police station and took over a power plant. The residents, who spoke on condition of anonymity fearing for their own safety, said airstrikes were trying to back up Iraqi troops.

Iraqi security officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Around noon Wednesday, the militants opened another front with the government troops on three other villages, to the northeast of Ramadi.

The ISIS push comes after it was dealt a major blow this month, when Iraqi troops pushed the group out of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown.

It also coincides with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's visit to Washington where he met with President Barack Obama on Tuesday and appealed for greater support from the U.S.-led coalition carrying out airstrikes against ISIS militants, who have also captured large areas in neighbouring Syria.

Also, a spate of militant attack in and outside Baghdad killed at least 43 people over the past two days.

Meanwhile, Iraqi state TV cited Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, the regional commander of troops in Salahuddin province as saying that troops started a large-scale operation to recapture areas beyond Tikrit. The TV did not provide more details.

Last year's blitz by the Islamic State, which swept through key areas in the north and west to seize about a third of Iraq, has pushed the country into its worst crisis since the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops.

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Aussie and Kiwi rivalry opens new front as New Zealand dollar nears parity

They tussle over cricket, rugby, movie stars and even a fluffy meringue dessert they call Pavlova, which both countries claim as their own.

Now the rivalry between New Zealand and Australia extends to a new arena — their currencies.

The kiwi, as the New Zealand dollar is called, is poised to surpass the Aussie dollar in value for the first time since the currencies were freely traded on international markets in the early 1980s. It was trading above 99 Aussie cents Wednesday and has been flirting with parity since last week.

Currency traders were predicting the kiwi would break above 1 Aussie dollar Thursday or soon thereafter.

Role reversal

China's slowing growth is playing a role in this reversal, as are higher New Zealand interest rates. Weaker Chinese demand for Australia's iron ore is depressing iron prices and the Aussie dollar relative to other currencies.

In broad terms, the change indicates that New Zealand's economy is outperforming its Australian counterpart - something many New Zealanders are eager to celebrate, especially after losing the Cricket World Cup final to Australia last month.

"Our dollar is more than a currency," wrote broadcaster Mike Hosking in an online opinion piece. "It's an accumulation of what we've built, of what we offer the world, of how the world sees us. It's our fiscal calling card, and at buck for buck it's a platinum card with no limit, accepted wherever we go."

Indeed New Zealand's economy has been growing faster than Australia's and its unemployment rate is lower, factors which have helped halt an exodus of New Zealanders flocking to Australia for better job opportunities.

Australians aren't so happy.

"As Australia grapples with sinking commodity prices, sluggish consumer spending, lackluster business investment, and an unstable political environment, New Zealand can boast of almost boom-time conditions," Mark Mulligan at The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper wrote in a piece titled "Currency World Cup."

Regression to the mean?

Still, Australia has outperformed its neighbour over the long run. Unlike New Zealand, Australia managed to avoid a recession after the 2008 global financial crisis and continues to offer higher wages and better living standards than most countries, including New Zealand.

Australia has 24 million residents, five times as many as New Zealand, and often overshadows its neighbor in sports, business and international affairs.

Australia first floated its currency in 1983 and New Zealand the following year. Prior to that, the currencies were pegged against other currencies or gold, which sometimes allowed the kiwi to climb higher than the Aussie.

Since being freely floated, the Aussie has been worth significantly more than the kiwi until recently. The New Zealand dollar bought just 82 Aussie cents two years ago.

Economists say that when it comes to currencies, for every winner there is also a loser, depending on which side of the trading ledger you're on.

The stronger kiwi means New Zealanders can enjoy cheaper imports and holidays in Australia, but it hurts New Zealand exporters and tourism operators who rely on the Australian market, said Shamubeel Eaqub, a principal economist at the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.

And he said he believes New Zealand's central bank has been forced to keep interest rates higher than in most developed nations in part to try and tame skyrocketing Auckland house prices, which have outstripped income growth and which some people worry is creating a bubble.

For now, many New Zealanders are eager to claim a victory in an ongoing rivalry that includes actor Russell Crowe, who was born in New Zealand but identifies as Australian, and the Rugby World Cup, which both countries have won twice.

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Canada prepares to join in training Ukraine military

Written By doni icha on Selasa, 14 April 2015 | 07.40

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced Canada will join a training mission to help Ukraine's beleaguered military.

After months of requests for help from the Ukrainian government, Tuesday morning's announcement represents the first time the Canadian Forces have joined Ukrainian forces in their struggle against Russian-backed rebels.

Harper made the announcement at a staged photo call and took no questions. 

A press release said 200 troops will be deployed "on both a sustained and periodic basis" until March 31, 2017, to "develop and deliver military training and capacity-building programs for Ukrainian forces personnel." It's intended to start this summer, the release says.

Defence Minister Jason Kenney and Chief of Defence Staff Tom Lawson are answering questions about the long-anticipated move at the defence department's headquarters.

Canada's British and American allies are already in Ukraine conducting training missions of their own.

Canadian forces are expected to help with explosive ordnance disposal and improvised explosive device disposal training, military police training, medical training, flight safety training, and logistics system modernization training.

Some of the IED skills Canada will pass on were painfully learned during the five-year combat mission in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The release also says Canada will provide individual and unit tactics training to Ukrainian National Guard personnel as part of a mission led by Americans.


Newly mobilized Ukrainian paratroopers carry an anti-tank grenade launcher during a military drill near Zhytomyr on April 9. Canadian troops could soon be joining U.S. and British forces training the Ukrainian military. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

The U.S. military has deployed 800 troops to train three — possibly four — battalions in western Ukraine and the British recently sent 75 soldiers to give instruction in command procedures, tactical intelligence and battlefield first aid.

Defence sources say that this deployment will see Canadian soldiers working and housed far away from the battle taking place on the eastern side of the country. Canadian soldiers will be stationed in an existing NATO training centre located in Yavoriv, near the Polish border. 

Training will also take place at the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence Demining Centre in Kamyanets-Podilsky in western Ukraine.

Canada's mission is another attempt to push back against the Russian regime of President Vladimir Putin. 

Both Washington and Ottawa have been under pressure to ship lethal military aid to President Petro Poroshenko's government, which has been struggling to hold a shaky ceasefire together with rebels.

The Pentagon delayed the training program for Ukrainian soldiers last month to avoid giving the Kremlin an excuse to scrap the peace deal struck in February.

There have been widespread reports in the last week that Russian-backed separatists are preparing for a spring offensive in the southern region, a sign the conflict could re-ignite.

Russia could very well consider the deployment of NATO trainers as a provocation at a time when it has rattled most of Europe with massive, snap military exercises along its borders involving tens of thousands of troops.

It strikes at the heart of the dilemma faced by Western leaders: how to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin's slow-motion dismemberment of Ukraine without provoking a major war.

The announcement of Canada's participation comes just days after Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves told a British newspaper that he was in favour of NATO deterring Russia with the permanent stationing of combat units in the Baltic states.

Four Canadian CF-18s took part in NATO air policing missions to protect the Baltic States last year, and a company of soldiers belonging to the Royal Canadian Regiment are currently involved in exercises in the region.

In February, Defence Minister Jason Kenney said Canada was "actively considering different options for engaging" in the emerging training mission, but he also said Canada would and could not act alone in supplying lethal weapons to bolster Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's government.

The Canadian Press reported in December that a small team of fewer than 10 soldiers travelled to Ukraine to look for training opportunities with Ukrainian forces in the areas of military police, medical personnel and "personal protective measures." Officials did not characterize the very small number of troops as a pre-deployment team.

"There are a number that have come and gone in support of various missions and the military police, they're coming, they will be here for a deployment and then they will leave. This is a continuing effort," then-defence minister Rob Nicholson told reporters.

Tuesday's training mission is in addition to the help offered to Ukraine in the past through Canada's military training and cooperation program, the press release said.

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'I don't understand why he'd run:' Officer says in dashcam video after Walter Scott shooting

The white South Carolina police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of a black man can be heard telling his supervisor twice that he didn't understand why the man ran away, according to dashcam video.

That officer, Michael Slager, was jailed and has been fired in the wake of the April 4 shooting death of Walter Scott, 50, who was buried over the weekend. The shooting happened after Slager pulled Scott over for what the officer said was a broken taillight on his Mercedes.

Scott was behind some $18,000 US in his child support payments, and family members have said he may have run because he was worried about going back to jail. A warrant had been issued for his arrest.

The shooting was captured on a cellphone camera by a man passing by and became the latest example nationally of an unarmed black man shot by a white police officer, further stirring outrage.

The shooting was not captured by Slager's dashboard camera, which shows what appears to be a routine traffic stop until Scott takes off running. But the cellphone video shows Slager firing eight times at Scott.

The State Law Enforcement Division has released almost 13 hours of dashcam video from the cruisers of the five officers who responded to the scene.

SLED spokesman Thom Berry said Monday that the actions of all North Charleston officers at the scene are being reviewed. Any findings will be forwarded to a local prosecutor.

On one video, Slager can be heard answering a call on his cellphone.

"Everything's OK, OK?" he tells the caller. "I just shot somebody."

He also tells the caller: "He grabbed my Taser, yeah. He was running from me." The officer initially said after the shooting that Scott had tried to take his Taser, and the man who recorded the shooting on his cellphone said he started recording after noticing a scuffle.

Slager can later be heard on the video talking to an officer Berry identified as his supervisor.

"I'm sure SLED will be on the way," the supervisor says. "Once they get here, it will be real quick. They're going to tell you you'll be off a couple of days, we'll come back and interview you. They're not going to ask you any questions right now. They'll take your weapon and we'll go from there."

The supervisor suggests to Slager, "When you get home, it would probably be a good idea to kind of jot down your thoughts on what happened — the adrenaline is just pumping."

"It's pumping," Slager responds, and they both laugh.

Then there is a pause for a few seconds, and Slager speaks again, softly:

"I don't understand why he took off like that."

Another short pause.

"I don't understand why he'd run."

On Monday, a small group of protesters blocked a main avenue in North Charleston and the entrance to City Hall.

Attorney Malik Shabazz, the president of Black Lawyers for Justice, also appeared in front of City Hall, calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the incident. He said his group will do its own investigation and hold a national town hall meeting next weekend on race and police practices.

Black Lawyers for Justice has brought a $40 million lawsuit alleging Ferguson, Missouri, and St. Louis County used excessive force and falsely arrested innocent bystanders to quell widespread unrest after the fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old by a white police officer last year.

Shabazz said whether a lawsuit is brought in South Carolina depends on what his investigation turns up.

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Abe Lincoln memorialized in monuments, mementoes

April 15, 2015, marks 150th anniversary of U.S president's death at the hands of John Wilkes Booth

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Boko Haram kidnappings: 1 year later, still no sign of the schoolgirls

Nigeria's President-elect Muhammadu Buhari vowed on Tuesday to make every effort to free more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram militants a year ago but admitted it was not clear whether they would ever be found.

The abduction of the girls from a secondary school in Chibok in the country's Northeast last April drew international attention to the humanitarian crisis caused by Boko Haram's attempt to establish a caliphate in religiously mixed Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil producer.

A march took place in the capital, Abuja, on Tuesday to mark the one-year anniversary of the mass kidnapping.

Buhari, whose presidential election win two weeks ago was the first democratic defeat of an incumbent in Africa's biggest economy and most populous nation, said his administration would do everything it could to defeat the militant Islamist group.

"We do not know if the Chibok girls can be rescued. Their whereabouts remain unknown. As much as I wish to, I cannot promise that we can find them," he said in a statement.


A member gestures while addressing a sit-in demonstration organized by the Abuja "Bring Back Our Girls" protest group at the Unity Fountain in Abuja, Nigeria on Jan. 25. (Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters)

"My government will do everything in its power to bring them home," added the former military ruler, who said his approach would differ from that taken by President Goodluck Jonathan.

Jonathan was criticized for a slow response to the Chibok girls crisis after he argued that a hasty rescue risked killing them.

"It was handled in a lousy manner," Lawan Abana, whose two nieces were among those kidnapped, said by telephone.

"We are confident that the girls are still alive," said Abana, his voice trembling and pausing after each word.

Amnesty International said in a report on Tuesday that Boko Haram has kidnapped at least 2,000 Nigerian women and girls since the start of 2014, many of whom were sexually abused or trained to fight.

The document, which includes scores of victim testimonies, accuses Boko Haram of rape, forced marriages and coercing them into armed attacks, sometimes on their own villages.

Female suicide bombers have been used by the insurgents in a spate of bombings in the last few months.

"I was among the girls trained to shoot. I was also trained how to use bombs and how to attack a village," a 19-year-old woman, who did not want to be identified, told Amnesty. She also described repeated rapes by gangs of up to six men.

With help from Nigeria's neighbours Niger, Cameroon and especially Chad, the rebels have been forced to retreat from an area the size of Belgium in the last few weeks.

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