Category Archives: Community

MexicoWatch: Charges, protest, troops, pols


We begin with a allegation from a military whistleblower reported by Proceso, here in a translation by Borderland Beat:

Mex. Army General: “The only way an event (Iguala) of this magnitude could happen is collusion and participation of the Army. …. may cause a civil war”

From his personal experience in the militia, where he tried without success to create the office  of  military ombudsman within the army (to protect the public from human rights abuses), the general in retirement José Francisco Gallardo Rodríguez affirms that,  his attitude after looking at the facts of Tlatlaya and Ayotzinapa, is that president Enrique Peña Nieto  is betting on repression.

What we see” – he says -“ is a sign, an escape valve for the people through active participation in dissent and social mobilization, which these two serious developments show. Paradoxically the only support that Enrique Peña Nieto has as the President of the Republic are the armed forces’

In an interview, the retired General indicates that according to the Geopolitical Observatory of Armed  Groups in Latin America there exists 42 such groups in Mexico.

“The Government must be very careful because it may cause a civil war in the country: we are seeing it in Michoacán, Tamaulipas, Guerrero; there are 16 states with the presence of self-defense groups”.

These groups, he adds, were not created to ask for the resignation of Peña Nieto or with the purpose of dismissing and supplanting the government, but because “there is no government, there are no institutions and there is a power vacuum that has been created because we have authorities of illegitimate origin, who have come through fraudulent elections”.

From Fox News Latino, the search continues:

Full of distrust, parents of 43 missing students comb Mexican state searching for their kids

The revelation that the DNA of Alexander Mora, one of the 43 Mexican students missing for almost three months now, was among the charred remains found in a public dump last week, failed to bring the cool-off effect government officials hoped for.

But the crushed family members of the young men last seen on Sept. 26 are not giving up.

They said they are determined to keep combing the state of Guerrero, where the students were allegedly abducted by local police forces during a street protest. Considering that Guerrero, the second poorest state in Mexico, is about the size of the state of West Virginia, the search team has decided to split up into smaller groups to cover the area.

“We will keep looking for our sons,” Felipe de la Cruz, father of one of the missing students, told Fox News Latino. De la Cruz and the other family members say they never truly believed the official version put out by Mexico’s head prosecutor, Jesús Murillo Karam, on Nov. 7.

Parents denied again, via teleSUR:

Elections in Mexico’s Guerrero State Will Not Be Cancelled

  • The Ayotzinapa parents had asked that 2015 local elections be canceled in the wake of exposed widespread government corruption.

Cancelling local elections in Guererro state will cause serious problems says the president of Mexico’s National Electoral institute, rejecting petitions by the families of the Ayotzinapa victims that the process be halted and the government dissolved.

After an evaluation conducted over the existing situation in the state, the Electoral Institute President, Lorenzo Cordova, said that “serious problems” would come from cancelling upcoming elections.

The elections, scheduled for June 7, 2015, will go ahead as usual, the Institute conformed. Voters will elect nine federal lawmakers, the state governor, 48 legislators and 81 mayors as usual.

In view of the failure of local, state and federal officials to produce the missing Ayotzinapa students alive, dissident teachers and other activists have raised the possibility of boycotting the upcoming elections.

The collision of two very different worlds, from Fox News Latino:

Acapulco, Mexico mayor caught up in protest over missing students

The mayor of this Mexican resort city was effectively held captive in his car on Friday by people protesting the Sept. 26 abduction and apparent murder of 43 students.

Protesters formed a human wall to block Mayor Luis Walton’s vehicle as he traveled to Acapulco International Airport for an event.

The demonstrators, who included relatives of the missing students and members of the Guerrero state teachers union, proceeded to puncture the tires and paint slogans on the vehicle as a visibly frightened Walton made calls on his cellphone.

From InSight Crime, fears expressed:

Conflict in Mexico’s South Spurs Guerrilla Worries

  • The disappearance and presumed death of 43 student protesters in Iguala, Guerrero has sparked concerns of a new surge of guerilla movements in southern Mexico, but just how likely is it?

The situation in Guerrero has clearly sparked a democratic crisis. The mayor of Iguala and his wife, charged with overseeing the mass murder of the protesters, were arrested after going underground for several weeks. The governor of Guerrero, Angel Aguirre, resigned amid protests. And activists within Guerrero, including family members of the disappeared students, are now calling for a boycott of all elections until the students are found. One spokesman spoke ominously of “thinking about actions that we don’t want to be thinking about.”

It’s not a surprise, therefore, that some media outlets are reporting increased activities of local guerilla groups. This doesn’t make a return of a full-blown insurgent movement a foregone conclusion, and the barriers to a Mexican descent into sustained civil conflict remain substantial. Nonetheless, it is hard to imagine a set of circumstances in modern Mexico more conducive to fomenting armed civil opposition to the government.

Many of the factors are historical: southern Mexico, and Guerrero in particular, has long been an insurgent hotbed for decades. Much of that steps from the South’s persistent inequality, a social problem that correlates strongly with insurgent movements. Guerrero was the second most unequal state in the country according to one recent study by the Mexican government, and its status in that regard is longstanding.

From the Latin American Herald Tribune, one party excluded in another shootout:

Mexico Vigilante Leader Says Elite Police Unit Not Involved in Deadly Clash

The founder of one of the first self-defense groups in the southwestern Mexican state of Michoacan denied Thursday that the Federal Police’s elite Gendarmerie division was involved in this week’s armed clash between rival vigilante forces that left 11 dead.

“The Gendarmerie held their position well, and even moved back from where we were,” Hipolito Mora told Radio Formula in regard to the shootout in the Tierra Caliente region, which straddles the states of Michoacan, Guerrero and Mexico.

Remarks by rival Luis Antonio Torres, who accused the Gendarmerie of conspiring with Mora’s group during Tuesday’s clash, are false, the vigilante leader said.

Torres told reporters Wednesday that the Gendarmerie had made a “pact” with Mora’s group and that his men had no idea they would come under fire while traveling through La Ruana, the town in Michoacan where the clash occurred.

And from teleSUR, a market alarm:

S&P: Violence, Corruption Could Affect Mexico’s Economy

  • The international rating agency Standar and Poors said Mexico has important challenges in corruption and security.

U.S. rating agency Standard and Poors said on Wednesday that corruption and violence in Mexico are major challenges that could affect the country’s economic panorama.

“The disappearance and death of 43 students in the city of Iguala, Guerrero in September 2014 highlights the important challenges that Mexico has to control violence related with drugs trafficking,” said the agency, according to Mexican newspaper Reforma.

“Even when that kind of violence is not new for the country, Iguala events raised doubts on the capacity of the government to deal with this critic topic and with the impact that violence could have on the economic perspectives,” it added.

EbolaWatch: Numbers, fear, aid, politics


From the Centers for Disease Control, the latest Ebola numbers for the three hardest hit West African countries:

BLOLG Ebola cases

From the CDC report, the latest corresponding Ebola curves:

BLOG Ebola curves

The Washington Post covers a high level visit:

UN chief visits Ebola-ravaged West African nations

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised health workers battling Ebola in Sierra Leone and Liberia on Friday, saying they have shown “the most noble face of humankind” amid an epidemic that has killed more than 6,900 people in West Africa.

Ban, who made stops in both countries on Friday, travels Saturday to Guinea where the Ebola virus first emerged a year ago.

“Today we have reason to be cautiously optimistic that this terrible outbreak can be defeated,” said Ban at a news conference with Liberia’s president.

“Our response strategy is working — where people are gaining access to treatment, where contacts are being traced, burials are becoming safer, communities are mobilizing to protect themselves,” he said.

Then to Liberia for that election, via the New York Times:

Liberia Will Proceed With Senate Vote Delayed by Ebola

Senate elections that were repeatedly delayed because of the Ebola epidemic and legal challenges, and further complicated by a presidential ban on large political gatherings in the capital, will finally be held in Liberia on Saturday. Whether they will be fair, peaceful and safe is unclear.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has said the elections, first scheduled more than two months ago but postponed twice, must be held, otherwise the nine-year terms of half the members in the 30-seat Senate will expire with no successors, provoking a constitutional crisis. Critics have said mass gatherings at the polls raise the risk of more contagion that would aggravate the Ebola crisis, which had shown signs of easing in this country of four million.

Last Saturday, the Supreme Court agreed with Ms. Johnson Sirleaf, saying it would not halt the vote. “It is not our place to decide whether it is appropriate to conduct elections at this time or any other time,” said the chief justice, Francis S. Korkpor.

The elections are not only seen as a test of whether Liberia, one of the three worst-hit West African countries in the Ebola epidemic, can conduct the voting without inadvertently spreading an insidious disease. They are also seen as a barometer of Ms. Johnson Sirleaf’s popularity. The most hotly contested Senate seat pits her son, Robert, against George Manneh Weah, a former soccer star and presidential aspirant. The seat represents the capital region, where nearly half the country’s people live.

Next, on to Sierra Leone and a dose of seasonal angst from NBC News:

Could Christmas Worsen Ebola’s Spread?

  • It worries Dr. Dan Kelly. And officials in Sierra Leone were concerned enough to limit public gatherings for the holidays.

Right now, Ebola is raging out of control in Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown. It’s barely under control in outlying districts like Kono and Kenema. The epidemic started as people traveled across the region’s porous borders, and this will be the first Christmas and New Year holiday since the epidemic started.

“You have a couple of million people in Freetown and I’d say 50-plus percent of those people in Freetown are interested in traveling back to remote villages for the holidays,” Kelly told NBC News.

“And they’ll spend a week there,” added Kelly, who’s worked in Sierra Leone on and off since 2006. “It could spread Ebola all around the country and just create hundreds of hotspots for sure.”

Sierra Leone’s president, Ernest Bai Koroma, says travel between all parts of the country has been restricted as part of “Operation Western Area Surge,” an effort to get a handle on the epidemic. He says public gatherings will be strictly controlled in the run-up to Christmas.

The Sierra Leone Concord Times covers belated vaccinations coming:

Ebola vaccine to be available in March

Director of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine yesterday revealed in Freetown that a new vaccine for the deadly Ebola virus disease, which has claimed the lives of more than 2,000 Sierra Leoneans, will be available in March 2015.

Speaking at a press briefing organised by the Ministry of Information and Communications, Professor Peter Piot said they were in the country to have first-hand information about the disease, do research for developing an Ebola vaccine and getting prepared for a further outbreak.

“Since the first outbreak in 1976 in Congo, we have not been able to develop any effective cure for it. But we will make sure not to miss this opportunity to develop a vaccine that will be first implemented here in February or March 2015,” said the professor who co-discovered the Ebola virus in Zaire while working at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium.

A perspective of bodies from two different tragedies, via the Washington Post:

In Sierra Leone, the ghosts of war haunt an Ebola graveyard

To find Andrew Kondoh, walk through the gates of this city’s largest cemetery, where teams in moonsuits bury more than 50 bodies in white plastic bags each day. Look for the man with the wispy goatee and big belly, who is overseeing one of the world’s most chaotic, dangerous graveyards as if he’s done it all before.

That’s because he has.

Twenty years ago, when he was 13, Kondoh took it upon himself to guard a heap of bodies, people killed by rebels during the country’s civil war. For three years, as the pile grew, he protected them from being trampled or picked at by dogs. When that conflict ended, Kondoh made a promise to himself. He was done working with the dead.

Then Ebola surged in Sierra Leone.

“It’s like I’m back there again,” Kondoh said. “Except this time I don’t see the faces in the body bags. I just imagine them.”

The United Nations Development Programme covers a novel way to pay front line workers:

Mobile money for 16,000 Ebola workers

Marion Sesay gossiped with her two work colleagues while they waited in the shade of a local money handler for their names to be called.

She and her friends, nurses at a nearby hospital, are entitled to hazard pay, an extra bit of money every two weeks to offset the risk of working in health care during Ebola times.

“The money is helping us greatly,” Ms. Sesay said. “We can use the money for our kids, for our families. The money is good, but we just want this thing to end.”

For the third installment of their hazard pay entitlement, Sesay and her national colleagues, some 16,000 recipients across Sierra Leone, received text messages on their phones: how much money to expect and where to pick it up with a security code.

The system, a mobile money transfer scheme, was implemented for the first time the week before Christmas with a great deal of satisfaction.

UPDATE: We inadvertently omitted a video, forthwith rectified. From Agence France-Presse:

Sierra Leone bikers spread the message to fight Ebola

Program notes:

More than 100 motorcyclists hit the road to spread awareness messages about Ebola. Nearly 7,000 people have now died from the virus, almost all of them in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization.

A call for a debt jubilee from the Sierra Leone Concord Times:

Calls for IMF, World Bank to cancel Salone debts

The Budget Advocacy Network (BAN) and Jubilee Debt Campaign UK are calling for the immediate cancelation of debts owed by Sierra Leone externally, especially those owed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

The IMF is demanding that Sierra Leone repay the sum of US$2.7 million this week, a further US$1.8 million on Christmas Eve and US$1 million on 29 December this year.

Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone owe a whopping US$464 million to the IMF, out of a total debt of US$3.6 billion.

In 2015, the debt payments of the three countries worst affected by the Ebola outbreak are expected to be US$130 million, including US$21 million to the IMF.

And the president’s State House Communications Unit covers a notable visitor:

Ebola Scientist Assures President Koroma

The Director of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) Professor Peter Piot Thursday 18 December assured government of their support in the fight against Ebola through the development of a vaccine that will bring a final halt to the spreading virus.

He made this assurance during a courtesy call on President Ernest Bai Koroma at State Lodge, Hill Station.

The distinguished Belgian microbiologist well-known for his research on Ebola and AIDS is in the country to support government’s fight against the disease and discuss how best science, innovation and discovery can better contribute to defeating the virus.

Welcoming the delegation, President Koroma expressed his profound delight for receiving Prof. Piot, who had been involved with Ebola outbreaks since 1976 and has played a significant role trying to bring a closure to the epidemic.

EbolaWatch: Worries, vaccines, campaigns, fire


From IRIN, the malady lingers on:

Mystery over Ebola survivors’ ailments

For some Ebola survivors, overcoming the lethal viral assault has not heralded a full return to good health. An array of ailments including headache, joint pains, vision and hearing problems have afflicted convalescents; experts are still uncertain of the exact cause.

Not all survivors of the virus, which has been rampant in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since earlier this year and killed some 70 percent of patients, suffer the symptoms, the extremes of which include amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation) and erectile dysfunction. It is also not yet known why only some are affected.

Margaret Nanyonga, World Health Organization (WHO) consultant clinician, who has assessed 85 Ebola survivors with various symptoms in Sierra Leone’s eastern town of Kenema, told IRIN that some of the ailments were treated, but others such as vision and hearing problems tended to persist.

“The ladies complained of menstrual failure, but these resumed after three months. They also complained about hair loss. Men complained of testicular pains. We don’t know whether it can lead to impotence or not. That is a worry. Some men have reported erectile dysfunction. There are also psychosocial disorders, loss of sleep, anxiety and depression,” she said.
Focus on survivors

Nanyonga explained that the clinic she operated in Kenema is still the only one of its kind in the country dealing with post-Ebola conditions. Responding to Ebola outbreaks in the past, she said, has often ended when the virus is brought under control.

“No one had taken interest in the survivors. After fighting the epidemic, that was the end. But before, there were fewer people surviving Ebola,” she said.

More on a story we posted Wednesday, via the Guardian:

World Health Organisation and DfID slow to react on Ebola, say UK MPs

  1. Parliamentary committee censures WHO and Department for International Development and warns of dangerous inadequacy of global health systems

The House of Commons international development committee has criticised the WHO and also the Department for International Development (DfID) for not reacting quickly enough when the virus took hold earlier this year.

But it commended DfID for the “vigorous efforts” now being made in Sierra Leone, where Britain has taken the lead in international aid, mirroring the US role in neighbouring Liberia and France’s role in Guinea.

The international development committee warned that the global health system “remains dangerously inadequate for responding to health emergencies” and said “DfID should not wait for its 2015 multilateral aid review” to do something about this, adding: “The urgency of the situation warrants immediate action.”

It pressed the international development secretary Justine Greening to move quickly and decisively to guard against a repeat of the disaster, which has claimed the lives of almost 7,000 people in west Africa.

Newsweek covers the Cuban contribution:

To Fight Ebola, Cuba Is Sending Its Biggest Export – Doctors

Cuba’s export of medical professionals has gained the Communist country much praise, including most recently from the island’s neighbor and nemesis, the United States, where top officials have praised Cuba’s response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa. The Cuban contingent of medical professionals sent to the epidemic’s hot zone was larger than any other country’s.

Cuba has trained many more medical professionals per capita than any other developing or developed country. In 2010 it had 6.7 doctors for every 1,000 citizens, according to the World Bank. In the United States in the same year, there were 2.4 doctors for every 1,000 Americans. Unlike America, however, in Cuba the government alone finances medical studies, and it then controls the careers of medical professionals.

When Cuba sent 256 health workers to combat Ebola in West Africa in October, Havana was universally applauded. The World Health Organization (WHO) is “extremely grateful for the generosity of the Cuban government and these health professionals for doing their part to help us contain the worst Ebola outbreak ever known,” said Margaret Chan, the WHO’s director general.

Another vaccine heads to trials, via Reuters:

China approves experimental Ebola vaccine for clinical trials

China has approved a domestically developed experimental Ebola vaccine for clinical trials, the official Xinhua news agency said on Thursday, citing the People’s Liberation Army logistics unit.

Scientists around the world are racing to develop Ebola vaccines after the world’s worst outbreak of the virus, which has killed more than 6,000 people in West Africa this year.

The Chinese vaccine is being developed by the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, Xinhua said, a military research unit which is also involved in developing a drug to treat the disease.

Another trial, via StarAfrica:

Kenya begins Ebola Vaccine trials

Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) researchers in Kilifi County in the country’s coastal region have started the human testing of a vaccine designed to protect against Ebola.

The first dose of the VSV Ebola vaccine was administered to a health worker on Wednesday evening at the Kilifi County Hospital. The Phase 1 trials are part of a wider World Health Organization (WHO) led consortium (VEBCON) funded by the Wellcome Trust.

The Kenyan trials, and other trials that are taking place in the USA, Germany, Switzerland and Gabon, will test the vaccine’s safety and its ability to generate an immune system response in healthy adults.

The vaccine is administered as a single dose after which the participants will be monitored closely. Early trial results will be provided in February 2015.

From Sierra Leone, a double tragedy via the Associated Press:

Ebola: 11th Sierra Leone doctor dies; fire destroys supplies

One of Sierra Leone’s most senior physicians died Thursday from Ebola, the 11th doctor in the country to succumb to the disease, a health official said.

In neighboring Guinea, a fire destroyed medicine crucial to fighting Ebola. The fire engulfed a warehouse at the Conakry airport and burned everything inside, said Dr. Moussa Konate, head of logistics for Guinea’s Ebola response. He could not immediately say how much had been lost.

The death of Dr. Victor Willoughby, who tested positive for Ebola on Saturday, was a major loss for Sierra Leone, said Dr. Brima Kargbo, the country’s chief medical officer.

“Dr. Victor Willoughby was a mentor to us physicians and a big loss to the medical profession,” said Kargbo. “He has always been available to help junior colleagues.”

The 67-year-old died Thursday morning, just hours after an experimental drug arrived in the country for him. The arrival of ZMAb, developed in Canada, had raised hopes for Willoughby’s survival. But he died before a dose could be administered, said Kargbo. ZMAb is related to ZMapp, another experimental drug that has been used to treat some Ebola patients. The drugs’ efficacy in treating Ebola has not yet been proven.

More on the fire from the U.N. News Center:

Ebola: ‘Regrettable loss’ caused by warehouse fire in Guinea

A fire engulfed a United Nations warehouse in Guinea today that contained medicines and laboratory materials used for the fight against Ebola, causing no casualties but “a regrettable loss” in supplies, which the UN mission there vowed to quickly replace. An investigation into the fire was underway.

“This is a regrettable loss, but no one was hurt and we will move quickly together with our partners to replace the lost supplies”, said Anthony Banbury, Head of the UN Mission for Emergency Ebola Response (UNMEER).

“We certainly won’t be deterred in our fight against Ebola,” he said.

UNMEER reported that the fire in the warehouse, mainly containing medicines and laboratory materials, was discovered around 8:00 a.m. local time when workers arrived at facility in the main humanitarian logistics base of the airport and of the city of Conakry, the capital of Guinea – one of the three most affected countries by Ebola in West Africa.

No casualties had been reported, the mission said, and added that the personal protective equipment stored in tents next to the warehouse had not been touched by the fire.

The exact amount of property and material damaged as a result of the fire is not yet known, and an investigation into the fire was underway, according to UNMEER.

The UNMEER warehouse is used by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the World Health Organization (WHO), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Red Cross, the World Food Programme (WFP), and Pharmacie Centrale de Guinée to store supplies for their Ebola Emergency Response.

Preparations, via Sky News:

Sierra Leone Braced For More Ebola Cases

  • Fears of a sharp increase in cases mean even those who have not died from the disease are being buried in Ebola graveyards

Sierra Leone, caught in the grip of the Ebola crisis, is bracing itself for a sharp increase in cases of the killer disease over the Christmas period.

The Government is so worried about the situation it has outlawed any seasonal public celebrations and soldiers are being put on the streets to make sure no one disobeys the directive.

The outbreak of the virus, which began a year ago in neighbouring Guinea and quickly spread to Liberia, is now dominating the lives of everyone in Sierra Leone.

The western part of the country, including the capital Freetown where around a third of the population of more than six million lives, is bearing the brunt of the current upturn in cases.

And the response, via Reuters:

Health teams scour Sierra Leone capital in Ebola drive

Health workers in Sierra Leone began combing the streets of the capital Freetown for Ebola patients on Wednesday, moving house-to-house as the government launched a major operation to contain infection in West Africa’s worst-hit country.

President Ernest Bai Koroma said on national television that, as part of “Operation Western Area Surge”, travel between all parts of the country would be restricted and public gatherings would be restrained in the run-up to Christmas.

An encounter in the Devil’s Hole neighbourhood just outside Freetown showed why the programme was vital. Ibrahim Kamara sat in a discarded vehicle tyre, his eyes glassy and his breath coming in gasps, as he tried to answer questions from Ebola surveillance officers.

“Is the body weak?” a surveillance officer shouted. Kamara, 31, nodded despondently while onlookers gathered round.

“Vomiting,” the officer asked. Kamara nodded again.

And a video report from CCTV Africa:

Sierra Leone Launches Teams & Ambulances Dispatched to Prevent Spread of Ebola

Program notes:

Sierra Leone launched Western Area Surge in the capital Freetown on Wednesday, in an effort to contain an alarming rise in Ebola cases. The emphasis will be on safe burials, ambulance dispatching and quarantine activities. CCTV’s Clementine Logan reports.

While the Sierra Leone Concord Times covers qualified reassurance:

‘It’ll take hard work to end Ebola’

…CDC chief warns

Director of the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has said that only hard work, resilience and collaborative efforts will help put a final halt to the deadly Ebola disease that continues the ravage the lives of Sierra Leoneans since the outbreak hit the country some seven months ago.

Dr. Tom Frieden, however, said he was encouraged by the response of the government of Sierra Leone and its partners in putting mechanisms in place to contain the epidemic.

The CDC boss was speaking yesterday at a press conference held at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Aberdeen in Freetown where he noted that “time is of essence for sick people to quickly go for medical examination” if they notice signs and symptoms of the Ebola disease.

On to Liberia and Ebola labor politics from the Liberian Observer:

Liberian Truckers Take WFP to Task

  • Complain to Four Gov’t Ministries, Agencies

The Port Truckers Association (PTA) of Liberia has taken serious exception to a recent contractual agreement signed between the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) Conakry and United Mining, a Guinean trucking company, to provide transport services in Liberia on behalf of WFP Monrovia’s Ebola response.

The Liberian truckers have rejected the agreement, describing it as an attempt to undermine the Liberianization policy and hurt the viability of the country’s transport industry.

In a statement issued on Thursday, December 10 the PTA announced that it has filed formal complaints with several regulatory institutions in the country, including the National Port Authority (NPA), the Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Transportation, respectively, seeking their immediate intervention in investigating the contract entered into between the WFP Conakry Office and the private Guinean company.

From Heritage, recognition:

Internal Affairs Minister wants Burial Team remembered

Internal Affairs Minister Morris Dukuly has called on the Government of Liberia (GoL) to remember the Ebola burial team across the country. Minister Dukuly said the burial team needs to be remembered, because according to him, the team has sacrificially served the country.

He said the job of the burial team had been at very high risk in contracting the virus, and as such, there is a need for prayers and support to the team.

The MIA boss was speaking Monday, December 15 at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism (MICAT) regular Ebola Hour.

“The burial team also needs to be remembered by national government, because they are sacrificing their lives to have our people buried in a decent and dignify manner” he stated.

And from the Monrovia Inquirer, taking the campaign to the street vendors:

Marketers Committed To Ebola Fight

The Liberia Marketing Association through its president Madam Lusu Slong has committed itself to the “Ebola Must Go” Campaign which was recently launched by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

The campaign is aimed at achieving zero Ebola infection comes December 31 of this year.

The head of the Liberia Marketing Association has called on all marketers to join the fight against the Ebola virus by observing all the necessary preventive measures given by the Ministry of Health and its local and international partners.

Madam Slong stressed that since the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, market women have been finding it difficult to carry out their daily activities something she described as troubling for them noting that most women have to sell in order to sustain their families.

MexicoWatch: Protests, vigilantes, & kidnaping


We begin with another teleSUR report about the parents of the missing youths:

Ayotzinapa Parents Accuse Mexican Attorney General of Cover-Up

  • The parents of the forcibly disappeared students also say the president is repressing protests with an “iron fist” strategy.

The family members of the 43 Atyotzinapa students are accusing Mexico’s Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam of covering up federal involvement in the deaths and forced disappearences.

During a press conference Wednesday, the relatives reiterated their demand for a direct investigation into the participation of the Mexican army and federal police in the deaths and enforced disappearances of the students, as well as into organized crime groups.

Spokesman for the families, Felipe de la Cruz, said that the authorities want people to forget about the state crimes committed in Iguala, Guerrero state on Sept. 26.

He said that while cover-ups happen all too often in Mexico, “in this case, the army, federal police, Iguala local police, ex Governor Angel Aguirre, and the President of Mexico himself have to own up to what really happened in Iguala.”

From BBC News, reaction to a lawless violence caused by lawlessness:

Mexico troops sent to La Ruana after vigilante shoot-out

  • More than 400 federal police officers and soldiers have been sent to a town in Mexico’s western Michoacan state.

The deployment follows a shoot-out between two vigilante groups on Tuesday in which 11 people were killed.

Ballistic tests showed all of those killed had fired their weapons in the two-hour gun battle in La Ruana.

The two groups of vigilantes were set up to fight the local drug cartel, but have since become bitter rivals and have started fighting each other.

March on Ayitla, from photographer Alberto Buitre via his Tumblr, #OficioRojo. http://oficiorojo.tumblr.com/post/105561798603/ayotzinapa-marcha-y-planton-contra-el-ejercito

March on Ayutla de los Libres, from photographer Alberto Buitre via his Tumblr, #OficioRojo.

And from teleSUR, the story of that dramatic confrontation over their own vigilantes:

Thousands Demand Army to Retreat from Mexican Town

  • Residents of Ayutla de los Libres, Guerrero, block a highway for six hours arguing that vigilante groups provide security to the communities.

Thousands of residents of the Mexican county of Ayutla de los Libres, in Guerrero, marched Wednesday on a local highway to demand that the Mexican army be ordered to retreat from the zone.

The demonstrators said that although Guerrero undergoes a serious security crisis the county is safe thanks, in part, to the vigilante groups, known as self-defense groups.

“Military checkpoints on highways are illegal and it has been proven that they do not really work,” said Luis Salgado Leyva during a rally in Ayutla-Cruz Grande highway.

Seventy of the 108 communities that constitute Ayutla took part in the peaceful demonstration. Local media estimated about 3,000 people participated in the rally.

teleSUR English covers electoral questions:

Mexican electoral authorities in Guerrero assess electoral landscape

Program notes:

As Mexico’s federal government remains under fire for its less than adequate response to the Ayotzinapa case, federal electoral officials are in Guerrero state in response to a meeting between the Ayotzinapa families and the Senate in which a request was made to halt upcoming elections in Guerrero due to the institutionalized political corruption at all levels in the coastal state. teleSUR

The Latin American Herald Tribune covers Guerrero cartel business as usual:

Mexican Lawmaker Rescued from Kidnappers

Authorities in the central Mexican state of Morelos rescued a lawmaker hours after he was abducted by members of the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel, the state’s governor said Thursday.

“Legislator David Martinez has been rescued,” Gov. Graco Ramirez said on Twitter.

Martinez, a member of the center-left PRD, was beaten and subjected to psychological torture by his captors, the state public safety commissioner said. “Fortunately, he is very strong and he is happy with this second chance that life is giving him,” Alberto Capella told Milenio Television.

The rescue operation led to the capture of eight members of Guerreros Unidos, an outfit active in southern and central Mexico that has been linked to the Sept. 26 disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero state.

And from teleSUR, a dose of common sense from the south:

Bolivian President Critical of Mexico’s Drug-War Model

  • At a graduation event of national police, Bolivia’s president said the violence in Mexico was a result of the country’s anti-narcotics model.

Bolivian President Evo Morales criticized what he calls a “failed” anti-narcotics model in Mexico and Colombia Thursday in a graduation ceremony of the country’s National Police Academy, while also celebrating Bolivia’s policies towards fighting narcotraficking.

“The market for cocaine is generally in industrialized and developing countries. But … look at what is happening in Colombia, and especially how it is in Mexico,” said Morales at the event.

The former union leader pointed to recent events in Mexico regarding the forced disappearance of 42 teacher-training students of the Ayotzinapa college as a result of the country’s anti-organized crime policies.

“The recent events [in Ayotzinapa-Mexico], I still think that [the forced disappearance of the students] is a failed model, a model of free market that is unfortunately subject to the U.S. empire. And now there are deep problems,” said Morales.

EbolaWatch: Delays, numbers, politics, zeal


We open with a critique, via the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Donors and WHO responded too slowly to West Africa Ebola outbreak – report

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the nations that fund it failed to respond quickly and effectively to the deadly West Africa Ebola outbreak despite repeated warnings by aid agencies, a UK parliamentary committee said on Thursday.

Ebola cases are rising dramatically in Sierra Leone, and the House of Commons International Development Committee said the  international response was still “being outpaced on all fronts” by the spread of the Ebola virus in the former British colony.

The Ebola virus has killed more than 6,800 people and infected around 18,500 since March in West Africa, where poverty, corruption and civil war have left weak healthcare systems unable to cope with the spread of the disease.

The WHO’s response has been characterised by unnecessary bureaucracy and a failure to “see some fairly plain writing on the wall,” the report said.

The medical aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres had warned that the epidemic had reached unprecedented proportions in June 2014, it added.

The New York Times covers travel:

U.N. Secretary General to Visit Ebola-Plagued Nations

The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, plans to visit the three West African countries that have been hit the hardest by the Ebola outbreak, according to a senior United Nations official.

Mr. Ban is to make the announcement at a year-end news conference on Wednesday. The director general of the World Health Organization, Margaret Chan, and his special envoy on Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro, are to accompany him to West Africa.

The trip, which is to begin later this week, seems designed to send a message of solidarity with the three affected countries: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Reuters has the latest numbers:

Ebola toll nears 7,000; rate of spread slows in Sierra Leone – WHO

The death toll in the Ebola epidemic has risen to 6,915 out of 18,603 cases as of Dec. 14, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.

There are signs that the increase in incidence in Sierra Leone has slowed, although 327 new cases were confirmed there in the past week, including 125 in the capital Freetown, the WHO said in its latest update.

“A major operation has been implemented to curb the spread of disease in the west of the country,” it said.

The totals for the three hardest hit countries from the latest World Health Organization Situation Report, released Wednesday:

BLOG Ebola cases

The World Food Programme sounds a hunger alert:

Ebola Leaves Hundreds Of Thousands Facing Hunger In Three Worst-Hit Countries

  • Lack of access to food in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone could threaten over one million people

The number of people facing food insecurity due to the Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone could top one million by March 2015 unless access to food is drastically improved and measures are put in place to safeguard crop and livestock production, two UN agencies warned.

The disease’s impact is potentially devastating in the three countries already coping with chronic food insecurity, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) said in three country reports published today.

Border closures, quarantines, hunting bans and other restrictions are seriously hindering people’s access to food, threatening their livelihoods, disrupting food markets and processing chains, and exacerbating shortages stemming from crop losses in areas with the highest Ebola infection rates, the FAO-WFP reports stressed.

In December 2014, half a million people are estimated to be severely food insecure in the three worst hit Western African countries.

From El País, Spanish Ebola problems:

Multiple deficiencies uncovered at hospital that treated Ebola victims

  • Madrid’s Carlos III had confusing protocols and inadequate personnel training, report finds

The Madrid hospital where nursing assistant Teresa Romero contracted Ebola while treating an infected patient suffered from multiple deficiencies, a new report finds.

Insufficient personnel training, changing protocols, inadequate facilities for putting on and taking off protective suits, and other shortcomings were all listed in the study of La Paz-Carlos III hospital carried out by work inspectors.

The center has treated all of Spain’s Ebola cases, which include two patients repatriated from Africa as well as Romero, who was an employee there. Several dozen people who came into contact with the nursing aide while she was contagious were also kept under observation at Carlos III.

On to Africa, starting with a suspected case from StarAfrica:

Ebola: Guinean under close watch in G/Bissau

A citizen of Guinea Conakry is under close medical watch in Guinea Bissau’s Gabu hospital under suspicion of contracting Ebola, according to national radio quoting hospital sources on Tuesday.According to sources, the individual who is around 40 years of age has been showing symptoms similar to the virus including a temperature of just over 38 degrees.

However, the same sources were quoted by the national radio as pointing out that the suspected patient’s body temperature gradually decreased in recent hours.

In any case, he will be remaining under medical observation for 21 days, sources indicated.

On to the hardest hit country with Sky News:

Sierra Leone Braced For Increase In Ebola Cases

  • Fears of a sharp increase of cases mean even those who have not died from the disease are being buried in Ebola graveyards

Sierra Leone, caught in the grip of the Ebola crisis, is bracing itself for a sharp increase in cases of the killer disease over the Christmas period.

The Government is so worried about the situation it has outlawed any seasonal public celebrations and will be putting soldiers on the street to make sure no one disobeys the directive.

The outbreak of the virus, which began a year ago in neighbouring Guinea and quickly spread to Liberia, is now dominating the lives of everyone in Sierra Leone.

The western part of the country, including the capital Freetown where around a third of the population of more than six million lives, is bearing the brunt of the current upturn in cases.

From BBC News, desperate measures:

Ebola: Sierra Leone begins house-to-house searches

Sierra Leone has begun house-to-house searches in the capital Freetown to find hidden cases of Ebola.

President Ernest Bai Koroma said that Sunday trading would be banned and travel between districts restricted. The president said that as Christmas approached, people would need to be reminded that Sierra Leona was at war with a “vicious enemy”.

Sierra Leone has overtaken Liberia to have the highest number of Ebola cases, World Health Organization figures show.

The president said that while many districts of the country had made progress in fighting Ebola, challenges still remained in the western part of the country, which for the past two weeks had accounted for 50% of new infections.

He said that he was introducing an action plan, Operation Western Area Surge, to encourage people to come forward if they had a fever or other symptoms of Ebola.

He said it was necessary to introduce such stringent measures even though it was the festive season – a time when people would normally “celebrate with their families in a joyous manner”.

And a video report from CCTV Africa:

Ebola: Sierra Leone President bans Christmas Celebrations

Program notes:

Sierra Leone’s president confirmed a ban on parties and other festivities over the Christmas and New Year holidays and a “surge” to hunt for hidden Ebola patients. This as registered cases reach alarming numbers. CCTV’s Clementine Logan reports

Presidential spin from the State House Communications Unit:

CDC Chief Impressed with President Koroma

Director for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States Dr Tom Frieden has described the “Western Area Surge” as a step in the right direction, adding that President Koroma’s leadership of the national response against Ebola is very effective.

“Last time when we met I was deeply impressed by your understanding of the virus,” he told the president.

The CDC Director expressed these sentiments during a courtesy call on President Koroma at State House, Freetown where they assessed the response to the outbreak so far. After one hundred days since he last visited Sierra Leone, Dr Frieden’s visit is part of concerted efforts by CDC and other United States Government agencies and international partners to take aggressive steps to control the spreading virus.

Welcoming the delegation, President Koroma stated that the country has made tremendous progress in building its capacity to fend off the disease. “We now have an increase in treatment and holding centers, laboratory capacity has also increased and spread out across the country; a situation that has limited the movement of people from one region to the other for treatment,” he said.

The Sierra Leone Concord Times covers the youngest victims:

Street Child supports over 1,000 Ebola orphans in South-East

One of Sierra Leone’s leading child protection agencies working with Ebola orphans in the country, Street Child of Sierra Leone (SCoSL), has provided food and non-food items to some one thousand and ninety-one (1,091) children orphaned by the deadly outbreak in eight chiefdoms in Kailahun district and three chiefdoms in Kenema district respectively. The donated items include rice, cooking condiments, toiletries and mattresses.

SCoSL’s Head of Communications, Advocacy and Mini Projects, Moses Lamin Karama, told Concord Times that his organization has supported a total of 656 Ebola orphans in 194 families in eight chiefdoms – Luawa, Kissi Teng, Kissi Tongi, Kissi Kama, Upper Bambara, Mandu, Jawei and Njaluahun – in the Kailahun district, as well as 535 orphans in 45 families in the Kenema district.

Explaining about SCoSL’s Ebola orphans project, Kamara said the organisation has its own unique definition of who an orphan is, and also does things differently from the others.

And the World Bank moves to keep things clear:

World Bank Group Supports Budget Management and Fiscal Transparency as Sierra Leone Responds to the Ebola Crisis

The World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors today approved a US$30 million grant to support the Government of Sierra Leone in its efforts to respond to the unprecedented challenges posed by the Ebola crisis.

Today’s financing includes a US$10 million grant from the World Bank Group’s International Development Association’s (IDA)* Crisis Response Window (CRW), which is designed to help low-income IDA countries recover from severe disasters and crises.

The Emergency Economic and Fiscal Support Operation will support Sierra Leone as it seeks to bring the Ebola epidemic under control by strengthening government budget management and reducing fiscal risks heightened by the crisis.

“The advent of the Ebola virus in May 2014 and the subsequent acceleration of the outbreak in late July have put extraordinary strain on the country,” said Francis Ato Brown, World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone. “This operation will benefit the people of Sierra Leone and the global community by minimizing the economic impact of the outbreak and thereby improving prospects for jobs, growth and other livelihood enhancing activities.”

And from the Sierra Leone Concord Times, a new modality:

President Koroma opens new Ebola Care Centre at Newton

President Ernest Bai Koroma yesterday opened a new Ebola Community Care Centre (CCC) at Newton, in the Western Rural as part of a scale up of services in the district to help stop the spread of Ebola.

“The Western Area is an Ebola hot zone,” said President Koroma. “The Community Care Centre provides an alternative to Ebola Treatment Units, where residents can seek diagnosis, isolation and early treatment in a safe and protected environment close to their homes. This is the first of two centers to be established in the district.”

Funded by DFID, UNICEF – in partnership with the government and NGOs – is constructing CCCs throughout Sierra Leone in response to the Ebola outbreak. The CCCs are small tented structures with an 8-24 bed capacity and can separate patients with dry and wet symptoms.

After the jump, on to Liberia and one complication from running an election during an outbreak, a harsh judicial critique of the election and a street bloody brawl between supporters of rival candidates [one being the president’s son], ports continue to be spared the epidemic, U.N. extends its military mission and announces a political campaign role, a day in a front line sprayer’s life, and the schools chief is eager to go. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Protests, anger, shootouts, more


We begin with a graphic, this one with a presidential twist from the Mexicanisimo Tumblr:

BLOG Pena

From teleSUR, direct action:

Ayotzinapa Supporters Take Over Local Governments in Guerrero

  • Members of the National Popular Assembly in Guerrero have taken over 43 percent of all local governments in the state, according to news reports.

Recent takeovers and new forms of government are scarcely publicized, yet highly significant responses to the police attack on the students of the Raul Isidro Burgos teacher training school at Ayotzinapa las September 26, resulting in six deaths, 25 injuries and 43 forced disappearances.

After the massacre, massive protests prompted former Governor Angel Aguirre to resign and some arrests to be made, yet family, teacher and self-defense groups were not satisfied with such token gestures. They came to a decision that the total complicity of government officials, organized crime groups, police and military formations made it impossible to gain justice uwithout making structural changes.

As part of their program of action, they decided that the indefinite takeover of all 81 town and city councils in the state of Guerrero would be a first step towards setting up Zapatista-style autonomous governments.

Protest in Mexico City, via the Latin American Herald Tribune:

Religious Protesters Light Christmas Tree in Solidarity with Missing Students

Catholics, Protestants and members of other religious groups gathered in the Mexican capital to light a Christmas tree decorated with the photos of missing trainee teachers.

“It’s an ecumenical act that unites us (in solidarity with) the Ayotzinapa students,” Noe Amezcua, one of the organizers, said Tuesday.

Participants in the event read aloud the names of the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Normal School, a teacher-training facility in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, who disappeared on the night of Sept. 26 in the nearby city of Iguala.

One of the missing students has been identified from charred remains found near the town of Cocula.

And from teleSUR English, things to come:

Mexico: No vacation break for Ayotzinapa protests

Program notes:

While Mexicans are beginning their holiday festivities, activists say there will be no vacation break for demonstrations and other protests demanding the safe return of the 42 missing Ayotzinapa students. Anger over the injustice remains high and police repression will only inflame tensions. Clayton Conn reports from Mexico City.

From teleSUR, action taken abroad:

German Parliament Moves to Suspend Security Agreement with Mexico

  • The move by the EU nation comes in the midst of allegations that Mexican federal police were involved in the Iguala massacre.

Arguing that “the human rights situation in Mexico is disastrous,” the opposition in the German parliament will present this Thursday three motions designed to suspend negotiations of a security agreement with Mexico, and to force the German government to adopt a critical stance following the disappearance of 43 Ayotzinapa teachers’ college students in Iguala.

Tom Koenigs, representing the Green Party, is scheduled to unveil a document regarding the lack of human rights in Mexico. The report considers the Iguala case not as an isolated incident, but as the tip of the iceberg of what is happening in the Latin American country.

The Left Party spokesperson Heike Hänsel will likewise present a motion to suspend the security agreement with Mexico and urge Germany, as a European Union member state, to lead in the cancellation of the Global Accord and that future collaboration with Mexico is conditioned with clauses that protect human rights.

BBC News covers a deadly vigilante clash:

Mexico vigilantes in deadly shoot-out in Michoacan

At least 11 people have been killed in clashes between rival vigilante groups in Michoacan state, western Mexico. The two groups confronted each other in the town of La Ruana.

The vigilante groups were created almost two years ago by locals who said the security forces had not done enough to protect them from drug cartels.

Earlier this year, the government tried to gain control of the vigilantes by integrating them into a rural police force and registering their weapons.

Michoacan Security Commissioner Alfredo Castillo said the clashes were triggered by a “historic rivalry” between their leaders.

A video of the attack via Borderland Beat:

From teleSUR, the imperial presidency:

Mexican President Spent $590M on Trips, Expenses: Report

  • The report revealed the expenses of officials from the Executive, Judicial and Legislative branches of Mexico’s government.

The administration of Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto, spent hundreds of millions on trips and expenses during 2013, according to the Federal Institute of Information Access (IFAI).

The organization announced this week that the President and his team, which have been criticized for the high number of external visits made during the two first years at office, expensed US$590,482,924 on more than 20 trips.

The IFAI also noted that the Presidency is, by far, the governmental institution or organization that highest spender of all government branches..

The Executive branch was followed by the Legislative power in spending, with the IFAI noting that Mexican lawmakers spent US$10,537,373 dollars on trips during the same period. The Judiciary spent US$10 million.

And we conclude with another graphic, this time from photographer Diana May and shot at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana Unidad Xochimilco:

BLOG Skull

Blasts from the past: Signs of protest in Berkeley


Going through our archives, we chanced upon some protest photos we’d snapped whilst reporting for the Berkeley Daily Planet and decided to transform them into black and white images, which sometimes reveal insights easily lost when color distracts the eye [we won’t tell you which protester has the lovely purple hair].

We begin with a June 2006 street corner protest by participants in Cop Watch and other organizations calling for stronger oversight of Berkley’s Police Department. The occasion for the protest was the revelation that a Berkeley cop, Sgt. Craey Kent,  had been pilfering drugs from evidence to feed his own addiction. Berkeley consistency is ranked at or near the bottom of California police agencies when it comes to providing information to the press:

28 June 2006, Minolta Dimage AI, ISO 200, 7.2 mm, 1/1000 sec, f4

28 June 2006, Minolta Dimage AI, ISO 200, 7.2 mm, 1/1000 sec, f4

Next up, a street side protester on the University of California campus protests Big Oil on 29 June 2008:

29 June 2008, Nikon D300, ISO 200, 65 mm, 1/500 sec, f5

29 June 2008, Nikon D300, ISO 200, 65 mm, 1/500 sec, f5

Next up, two delightful signs from a protest on the steps of Sproul Hall, where the Free Speech Movement was born 50 years ago this year. The protesters are speaking out against a raid by the regional Joint Counterterrorism Task Force on Berkeley Long Haul Infoshop, where raiders seized all the computers in the building after someone used one of the anarchist institution’s public access computers to send a threatening email to a campus animal researcher. In this photo, the speaker is Ann Fagan Ginger, a venerable figure in the National Lawyers Guild and one of those campus radicals fifty years earlier who stood on top of a police car and announced the birth of a movement that would shake campuses throughout the 20th Century [and that Long Haul raid was subsequently ruled illegal by the courts, just as Ginger predicted]:

4 September 2008, Nikon D300, ISO 1600, 31 mm, 1/2500 sec, f8

4 September 2008, Nikon D300, ISO 1600, 31 mm, 1/2500 sec, f8

Another photo from the same event:

4 September 2008, Nikon D300, ISO 1600, 31 mm, 1/2500 sec, f8

4 September 2008, Nikon D300, ISO 1600, 35 mm, 1/2000 sec, f8

And lest we be accused of only depicting folks from the Left, here’s a shot of folks from the other end of the spectrum in a February 2008 protest against a January City Council vote opposing the presence of a Marine Corps recruiting facility in downtown Berkeley [the Berkeley City Council votes to the left on symbolic issues, but always sides with corporate and developer proposals, cuz that’s where the campaign money comes from — duh]:

12 February 2008, Nikon D200, ISO 1600, 18 mm, 1/60 sec, f5, w/strobe

12 February 2008, Nikon D200, ISO 1600, 18 mm, 1/60 sec, f5, w/strobe

And finally, a non-protest sign we’re including just because its so cringeworthy, though surprisingly apt for Berkeley [and, yeah, it’s real]:

27 March 2009, Nikon D300, ISO 200, 200 mm, 1/320 sec, f9

27 March 2009, Nikon D300, ISO 200, 200 mm, 1/320 sec, f9