Category Archives: Community

Chart of the day II: Police body cams cut violence


From the Los Angeles Times, what happened when the City of Rialto, California, began to equip officers with body cameras [click on the image to enlarge]:

BLOG Body cams

MexicoWatch: Corruption, protest, disappointment


We begin with a teleSUR English report on one of the missing 43:

They took Luis Ángel Arzola alive, we want him back alive

Program notes:

Lorenzo Francisco Gálvez talks about his son, Luis Ángel Francisco Arzola, who is one of the 43 students of the Ayotzinapa Rural Teacher Training College who were kidnapped in Iguala on September 26 and not seen since.

From the Guardian, a report about the day’s blockbuster story:

Mexico authorities ‘knew about attack on students as it happened’

  • Leaked government documents say federal officials did nothing to stop disappearance and probable massacre of missing 43

Mexican federal authorities had real-time information of an attack on a group of student teachers by corrupt local police, but did nothing to stop the disappearance and probable massacre of 43 people, according to new evidence published by the news magazine Proceso.

Based on leaked government documents, the new allegations are likely to further fuel public anger at the government of the president, Enrique Peña Nieto, which has insisted that federal authorities share no responsibility for the students’ disappearance.

The documents include a detailed record of the student’s movements made by a government information command post – known as a C4 – as the group left their college in Ayotzinapa in the town of Tixtla.

Anabel Hernández, one of the report’s authors, told MCS Noticias radio station: “When we see that the federal government and the state government were following the students since they left the college in Ayotzinapa, it becomes very difficult to think that everything else that happened was an accident.”

The story was assembled with the help of the UC Berkeley journalism school for the Mexican magazine Proceso.

We know one of the authors, Steve Fisher, who has done excellent reporting on environmental issues. And here how teleSUR describes co-author Anabel Hernández in a must-read interview with the reporters:

The ever-passionate and expressive Hernandez is no stranger to explosive investigations and allegations, so much so that her home was raided by official authorities late last year. The award-winning and internationally-acclaimed journalist has also been subjected to harrowing, threatening acts, such as having found animal body parts at the doorstep of her home.

Now for the Proceso story, via a Borderland Beat translation:

Iguala: Unofficial history

Federal forces participated in the attack against the students at the normal Ayotzinapa the night of September 26 in Iguala, Guerrero, during which died three teacher training and 43 went missing in a succession of facts that was known in real time by the federal government.

A study done with the support of the Journalism Program of Research from the University of California at Berkeley on the basis of testimonies, videos, unpublished reports and judicial statements shows that the Federal Police (PF) participated actively and were directly involved in the attack.

Even more, according to information obtained by the normal process of Ayotzinapa, the attack and disappearance of the students was directed specifically to the ideological structure and governance of the institution, because one of the 43 missing  was part of the Committee on student Struggle, the highest governing body of the school and 10 were “political activists in training” of the committee of political and ideological orientation (COPI).

Until now the official version is that the then mayor of Iguala, José Luis Abarca, ordered the aggression, concerned about the possibility that students interrupted the report on the activities of his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda Villa, President of the municipal DIF.

According to this version, municipal police of Iguala and the neighboring municipality of Cocula attacked and captured the students, while members of Guerreros Unidos killed the missing and burned their corpses. with the ignorance of the federal agents and soldiers stationed in the area.

And there’s a video of confrontations and one of the first shootings in Iguala, with another cell phone visible and recording as well, via Proceso:

Iguala: The Unofficial History

Program notes:

Audiovideos captured by witnesses to the attack on Ayotzinapa students.

Next, a damning admission, via teleSUR:

Federal Police Claim They Knew but Didn’t Participate in Iguala

A high ranking federal police officer agreed that the Ayotzinapa students were under surveillance, but denied that agents participated actively in the events of September 26, meaning the government has been hiding information for over two months.

Enrique Galindo, general commissioner of Mexico’s Federal Police, accepted on Monday that the organization knew about the attack on Ayotzinapa Teacher Training School students on September 26. However, he denied that federal officers were among the ones attacking and eventually abducting students in the southern state of Guerrero.

“Federal Police do not intervene, there’s no clear evidence of their active participation in the incidents … that truck [apparently a federal police truck, seen in a video shown by Proceso magazine] it’s not a federal police truck.”

“We did know about that day’s demonstrations because they [the students] came by bus. Our jurisdiction only applies to federal roads. The federal officers did go after the call for help, to respond to the violent acts against the soccer team, but we didn’t act at all in the city,” declared the official yesterday during an interview.

And from Eric J. Garcia’s El Machete Illustrated, a graphic response:

U.S. helping drug war

U.S. helping drug war

Followed by the inevitable poster protection, covered in a subsequent teleSUR story:

Mexico Government Denies Federal Involvement in Ayotzinapa Case

  • Attorney General Jesus Murillo said he has no evidence of Federal Police participating in the attack against the students.

Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo denied this Tuesday news reports suggesting involvement of federal police forces in the attack against the Ayotzinapa students in Iguala, Guerrero on Sept. 26, when three of them were killed and 43 others forcibly disappeared.

“Is absolutely not true that the Federal Police participated, there are many statements that have no foundation,” said Murillo in an interview with Mexican broadcaster MVS.

Murillo said that even when the Federal Police knew about the moves of the students that does not imply that it participated in the attack.

“I do not have the evidence that they claim to have. I do not know where that evidence comes from. If they have it I hope they hand it to me for analyzing it.” said Murillo in another interview with Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui.

Reuters covers a disappointing development:

Austrian experts may need months to identify murdered Mexican students

Austrian forensics experts who helped solve the mystery of Russia’s murdered imperial family identified one student earlier this month using samples sent to Innsbruck’s Medical University.

The remaining samples, however, are in such a bad state that even time-consuming specialist analysis, focusing on so-called mitochondrial DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), might take months, if it yields any good data at all.

“We hope for results in the next two to three months,” molecular biologist Walther Parson, a leading expert at Innsbruck Medical University’s forensics institute, who is working on the Mexican case, said.

“The chances for useful results even with mitochondrial DNA are very slim, but we will try everything to create more potential DNA profiles.”

The Guardian covers police suppression:

Mexican police clash with protesters at site of concert for missing students

  • Injuries to 21 people reported and cars burned near venue of solidarity concert for 43 students missing since September

Clashes between federal police and protesters organising a concert in solidarity with 43 missing college students left at least 21 people injured and several cars in flames on Sunday in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero.

A police official said eight officers were injured, including five who were run over by a vehicle. Three others were said to have been beaten by protesting teachers, leaving one officer with “severe brain damage”. The official was not authorised to talk to the press and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Tlachinollan human rights group, which supports the relatives of the missing students, said the violence left at least 13 people injured, including students, teachers, parents of the missing students and two journalists, including a photographer who was working with Associated Press.

From teleSUR, the response from those who matter the most:

Relatives of Missing 43 Suspend Dialogue with Mexican Gov’t

  • Victims claim that the federal government is carrying out a strategy of provocation to orchestrate a violent end to the mass protests.

Claiming the government has been taunting the relatives of the missing 43, their lawyer announced the temporary suspension of the dialogue with federal officials on Tuesday.

“Right now we suspend the talks with the federal government because of all the things that have been happening,” said Vidulfo Rosales, lawyer of the missing 43 relatives.

However, Rosales also noted that the parents are willing to receive information from the government in order to find out what really happened to their sons.

The teleSUR English video report:

Mexico: government charged with seeking to criminalize protests

Program notes:

Family members of the 42 missing Ayotzinapa Teachers Training College students and human rights lawyers charged that Sunday’s confrontation with federal police at a concert in Chilpancingo, Guerrero was a provocation designed to criminalize the growing protest movement in Mexico. Meanwhile, there is mounting pressure on the Federal Attorney General’s Office to explain the role of the federal police and the military in the killing and kidnapping of the Ayotzinapa students as reported by the weekly magazine Proceso and contrary to the government line that only municipal police were involved. Clayton Conn reports from Mexico City.

From the Latin American Herald Tribune, vigilantes return:

Armed Civilians Block Roads in Western Mexico to Press for Cartel Crackdown

Hundreds of armed civilians blocked highways over the weekend in nine of the 113 cities in the western Mexican state of Michoacan to pressure the federal government to arrest Caballeros Templarios drug cartel members.

The civilians, who were armed with assault rifles and pistols, used buses, trucks and pick-up trucks, to block the roads on Sunday.

The protesters unfurled banners that called for the arrest of Servando Gomez Martinez, the cartel’s leader.

The demonstrators also called for the arrest of Sergio Huerta Tena, a close associate of Gomez Martinez, and Ignacio Andrade Renteria, a former associate of the drug lord.

And from teleSUR, the battle to keep military murder under wraps:

Mexico: Tlatlaya Massacre Witnesses Released

  • Orders are given for two women who witnessed a massacre of 22 presumed criminals by the Mexican army to be released.

A federal judge ordered the immediate release on Monday of two women who were arrested by the Mexican army in June this year, witnesses to the mass execution of 22 presumed organized crime members by the army in a warehouse in the town of Tlatlaya, State of Mexico.

The Fourth District Court in the State of Mexico ordered the dismissal of the criminal charges of illegal possession of firearms and cartridges for the exclusive use of the military.

The two women remain detained in the Women’s Federal Social Rehabilitation Center in Tepic, Nayarit.

And a story that should inspire students at the University of California, via teleSUR:

Mexican University Resumes Classes after 76-Day Student Strike

  • Students returned to classes Monday after fighting against proposed reforms for more than two months.

About 12,000 students from the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) resumed classes Monday, ending a 76-day student strike against changes to the curriculum and other major reforms.

The IPN´s 40,000 students and nearly 4,000 employees resumed their normal academic activities, starting with the medicine and health science colleges, while the engineering department will commence classes on Jan. 7.

The students have demanded that federal government and IPN authorities suspend changes to the curriculum because they would lower the quality of education. Students also called for the removal of IPN’s dean, Yoloxochitl Bustamante.

Tens of thousands of undergraduates took to the streets, and by October they achieved these two demands. However, realizing the strength of their movement, the students called for further changes and proposed to hold negotiations with the government.

Finally, a graphic from Vancouver, British Columbia photographer Paulo Noe Mariles of a demonstration of solidarity at the Vancouver Art Gallery:

bLOG Ayotzinapa

An important community meeting scheduled


For our San Francisco Bay Area readers, an announcement just received via email abut a meeting called by our local state senator and others:

Senator Hancock, Supervisor Keith Carson, The Black Elected Officials and Faith Leaders invite you to attend a town hall meeting:

Moving Toward Change and Crafting Solutions

 Wednesday, December 17, 2014

7:00pm

Beebe Memorial Cathedral

3900 Telegraph Avenue

Oakland, CA

Please join us for this very important and positive opportunity to share ideas and craft solutions to addressing strained relationships between law enforcement and our communities.

EbolaWatch: An all-Africa edition today


Unusually, all the stories today are from more than just about Africa and the political and corporate involvements of the North. All originate from the continent itself, albeit sometimes through a Western media lens.

We begin with the intersection of labor and the outbreak in Guinea, via Voice of America:

Guinea Fights to Reduce Ebola Risks to Miners

Health teams working in Guinea are ramping up outreach efforts in the country’s mining regions, where a concentrated and mobile workforce provides a ripe environment for spreading the deadly Ebola virus, according to a UNICEF representative.

“The situation in Guinea remains worrying,” Christophe Boulierac, a Geneva-based spokesman for the United Nations children’s agency, said after completing a 10-day tour there last week.

Ebola has sickened at least 2,000 people in Guinea and killed at least 1,233, with the infection rate rising slightly since October, the World Health Organization reported in its latest status update.

Boulierac traveled to two regions of Guinea: the West African country’s northern mining region and its southeastern rainforest, where the current outbreak began nearly a year ago.

On to Liberia and a legal decision from the New York Times:

Liberian Court Rejects Petition to Delay Elections Over Ebola

Liberia’s Supreme Court on Saturday said it would not halt Senate elections scheduled for Tuesday, rejecting a petition calling for the vote to be delayed because of the Ebola crisis.

The court said its role was not to make decisions on political affairs. “It is not our place to decide whether it is appropriate to conduct elections at this time or any other time,” said Chief Justice Francis S. Kporkpor.

The court had suspended campaigning for almost two weeks while it considered petitions that sought to suspend voting until the Ebola outbreak was brought under control. The petitioners said they feared that the virus could be spread as people campaigned and turned out to vote in large numbers.

Two of the five justices dissented, saying the government was not prepared to conduct the elections safely. They also said that holding elections in the current climate violated civil and political rights.

From FrontPageAfrica, a member of the court explains the rationale for the decision:

FPA WEB TV: ‘THAT IS THE LAW’

Program notes:

Kabineh Ja’neh, Associate Justice of Liberia’s High Court Explains Controversial Election Opinion

While Liberia’s traditional forms of electioneering are largely banned during the outbreak, via the Liberian Observer:

New Election Date: Dec. 20

  • No Street Parades, NEC Warns

National Elections Commission (NEC) has again somersaulted on its mandate to conduct polling for the 2014 Special Senatorial Election.

The new date set for the election is now Saturday, December 20, 2014 and not December 16, as was previously announced, NEC indicated yesterday in Monrovia.

According to a press statement signed by the Commission’s Communications Director Joey Kennedy, NEC took the hard decision in collaboration with political parties and independent candidates at an urgently arranged meeting at the Commission’s headquarters in Sinkor, Monrovia.

“The decision to reschedule the election from December 16 to December 20, 2014, is intended to compensate for time lost as a result of the Stay Order imposed on the election and campaign activities by the Supreme Court,” the electoral body said.

Tracing the outbreak, from the the Liberia News Agency:

UNICEF Intervenes In New Ebola Outbreak In Gbarnga

Two new positive cases of Ebola leading to one death, have been reported in the Gbarnga suburb of Sugar Hill Community in Bong County.

According to the head of UNICEF county team, E. Dutch Hamilton, the new Ebola cases are said to have emanated from a young man who reportedly brought his sick father to the community from Monrovia on Sunday, December 7 in search of alternative remedies for his ailment.

Hamilton said the two had gone to Monrovia to provide care for one of the man’s children who died during their stay in the capital.

When community members noticed the abnormal health condition of the family, they immediately contacted the county health team who placed the entire family under quarantine.

A diagnosis from the Liberian Observer:

‘Liberia Still in 18th Century Health System’

  • -Eminent Liberian Doctor Blasts

An eminent and specialized Liberian medical doctor and surgeon has described the Liberian healthcare delivery system as an “18th century health system” with Liberians only surviving through goodwill gesture of foreign partners.

Dr. Vuyu Golakai, who is also the Dean of the A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine at the University of Liberia, stressed in a power point presentation during Liberia’s observation of the 21st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that, for people to feel the impact of good a  healthcare system, government needs to generate a condition that will bring to realization such impact.

He noted that availability of healthcare, accessibility, acceptability and quality make the impact of healthcare felt.

The fearless and outspoken Liberian medical doctor emphasized that the health system of Liberia has remained vulnerable as a result of failure and unfairness on the part of government to invest therein.

On to Sierra Leone and aid from Down Under finally up and running, via the Guardian:

Ebola: Australian-run centre in Sierra Leone opens for business

  • Foreign affairs minister announces another $3m for the centre, bringing Australia’s contribution in Ebola fight to $45m

An Australian-run medical centre for Ebola patients has opened in Sierra Leone overnight, the foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, has announced.

Britain recently completed the building, which is near Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown.

“Patients will be referred to the centre and in line with best practice it will commence operations with five beds,” Bishop said in a statement. “Operations will be gradually scaled up to full capacity at 100 beds under strict guidelines to ensure infection control procedures are working effectively and trained staff and safety practices are in place.”

Another front line fighter stricken, via the Associated Press:

Another Sierra Leonean doctor sick with Ebola

An official in Sierra Leone says one of the country’s top doctors has contracted the Ebola virus. Dr. Victor Willoughby is the 12th Sierra Leonean physician to become infected — 10 of whom have died.

Government Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brima Kargbo confirmed Sunday that Willoughby had tested positive for Ebola.

Nearly 1,800 people have died from Ebola this year in Sierra Leone amid the regional epidemic. Doctors and nurses have been especially vulnerable because the disease is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of the sick.

Junior doctors in Sierra Leone last week launched a strike to demand better medical treatment for health workers who contract the disease. Kargbo said Sunday that skeleton crews have returned to aid the senior doctors.

Next to Sierra Leone and another diagnosis from Reuters:

Shock treatment: what’s missing from Sierra Leone’s Ebola response

The failure of Sierra Leone’s strategy for fighting Ebola may be down to a missing ingredient: a big shock that could change people’s behaviour and finally prevent further infection.

Bruce Aylward, the head of Ebola response at the World Health Organisation, said Sierra Leone was well placed to contain the disease — its worst outbreak on record — with infrastructure, organisation and aid.

The problem is that its people have yet to be shocked out of behaviour that is helping the disease to spread, still keeping infected loved ones close and touching the bodies of the dead.

“Every new place that gets infected goes through that same terrible learning curve where a lot of people have to die … before those behaviours start to change,” Aylward told Reuters.

EbolaWatch: Broken systems, numbers, fear


First some good news from Berkeley for a had-pressed Liberian newspaper via the paper in question, FrontPageAfrica:

Berkeley Professor Donates Anti-Ebola Gears, Cameras to FPA

Rachel Mercy Simpson, Department Chair of Multimedia Arts, at  Berkeley City College, knew she had to step in when she heard the Publisher of FrontPageAfrica describe to NPR’s “On the Media” the  challenges he and his team of reporters are going through on the front line of the Ebola outbreak in Liberia.

“As an award-winning newspaper, FrontPageAfrica is in a powerful position to communicate with people across West Africa, to encourage safer practices and to reduce the spread of Ebola. FPA reporters put their lives on the line to cover the stories even though they lack rudimentary safety gear. I want to help them out,” wrote Mercy-Simpson to her family and colleagues. Mercy-Simpson, who is married to a Tanzanian and whose father is from South Africa, says while neither countries are neighbors to Ebola-hit Liberia, she felt a need to reach out. “We care about what’s going on in Africa. The devastation to families and the economy in Liberia is terrible. And no one wants to see Ebola spread any further.”

When she learned from the NPR interview that FrontPageAfrica reporters lacked safety gear, Mercy-Simpson immediately contacted the FrontPageAfrica publisher and asked how she could help. “As a filmmaker, I grasped the danger of their not having a telephoto lens and how FPA reporters needed to get close to people who were very sick in order to photograph them.”

The accompanying photo:

BLOG Prof

From Deutsche Welle, numbers:

WHO releases latest Ebola figures

  • The latest figures from the World Health Organization show another increase in the Ebola death toll. Nearly 6,600 people have died from the virus since the worst outbreak on record began early this year.

The latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show 6,583 people have died out of 18,188 recorded Ebola cases.

The Geneva-based UN health agency reported that the majority of infections and deaths were in the West African states of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The WHO said earlier in the week that the death toll had remained the same in other countries also affected by the disease: six in Mali, one in the US and eight in Nigeria, which was declared Ebola free in October. Spain and Senegal have also counted one case of infection each, but were declared free of the virus in recent weeks.

Numbers contested, via StarAfrica:

S/Leone: Information Minister challenges WHO Ebola figures

Sierra Leone’s Information Minister said Thursday contrary to figures reported by the Western media and the World Health Organization (WHO), cases of infection by the Ebola epidemic were reducing in the country.Alhaji Alpha Kanu said, based on figures from the Ministry of Health and the National Ebola Response Center (NERC), the country was recorded an average of less than 40 new infections a day, “contrary to what you hear on BBC, courtesy of WHO,” he said.

He said what the media is reporting falls far behind the reality on the ground. “That’s patently not true,” he told reporters at the weekly government press conference.

At a separate engagement via an online press conference with the international media, Mr Kanu was cited disputing WHO`s report on the diamond-rich Kono which claimed 87 dead bodies were discovered with 123 sick people from “forgotten” part of the district.

Ebolaphobia strikes again, from AllAfrica:

Sudan Repatriates 26 Nigerians Over Ebola Fears

The Sudanese authorities have denied 26 Nigerians entry into their country over suspicion that they were possibly infected by the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease, one of those repatriated has told PREMIUM TIMES.

Hauwa’u Ibrahim Bakori, a second year student of Pharmacy at Al Ahfad University for Women, Omdurman, said she and 25 others were denied entry after arriving Khartoum Airport on Wednesday.

They were detained, and then deported to Nigeria on Thursday, Ms. Bakori said.

Ms Bakori is in her second year at the Sudanese university and had travelled to Nigeria on holidays.

From teleSUR, an aid effort praised:

UNICEF Recognizes Cuban Efforts in Fight Against Ebola

  • The children’s rights organisation is the latest body to highlight Cuba’s role.

The representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) regional office in Central Africa recognized Cuba’s humanitarian efforts to fight Ebola on Saturday.

Cuba has sent more than 460 doctors and nurses to nations struck by Ebola such as Sierra Leone.

‘’We are carrying out a series of gatherings with nations that offer cooperation like the case of Cuba, we want to take those countries into account for next year’s Unicef aid programming in African nations,’‘ said UNICEF’s Brigitte Helali, from Equatorial Guinea where she is evaluating Unicef aid programs.

Helali also highlighted the progress Cuba has made in healthcare overall with special mention for their work with pregnant women and children under five years old.

From the Associated Press, that same effort stymied by Washington:

US embargo stalled payment to Cuban Ebola doctors

A World Health Organization official says Cuba had to cover food and lodging expenses for dozens of its doctors fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone after the U.S. embargo made it impossible for the global health group to pay them.

U.S. officials as high as Secretary of State John Kerry have praised the Cuban effort against Ebola. But the longstanding embargo affects virtually all dealings with Cubans, even for banks outside the U.S., because they depend on dollar transfers through U.S. institutions.

Jose Luis Di Fabio, the health agency’s representative for Cuba, said it had to request special licenses from the U.S. Treasury Department to transfer money to the doctors in Africa.

The government-employed doctors only recently received payments dating as far back as October, he said.

And from teleSUR English, what those doctors are doing in the country where the need is most great:

Sierra Leone: Cuban doctors reducing Ebola cases

Program notes:

While new cases of Ebola continue to arise in Sierra Leone, the Cuban medical teams on the scene, working alongside local health care workers, are confident that they can continue to contain and reduce the epidemic. Close collaboration and friendships have been forged with US medical workers who admire Cuba’s role and record in providing health care to all. Oskar Epelde reports from Porto Loko

A honcho named, via AllAfrica:

West Africa: UN Chief Appoints New Envoy for Ebola

The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Friday appointed Ismail Ahmed of Mauritania as his new Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, UNMEER.

This was contained in a statement issued by Ban’s Spokesperson, Stephane DuJarric in New York.

According to the statement, as Special Representative, Mr. Ahmed will work closely with the Special Envoy on Ebola, David Nabarro and with the governments of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone and other partners.

Mr. Ahmed succeeds Anthony Banbury of the U.S., who would return to New York in early January 2015.

And from the U.S. News Center, an urgent plea:

UN meeting urges critical improvements to health systems of Ebola-affected countries

The international community must help Ebola-affected countries reboot their health systems so that they emerge from the current crisis more resilient and more focused on prevention efforts than ever before, a high-level meeting coordinated by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva heard today.

“People in Ebola-affected countries are dying – not only from Ebola but also from other causes – because the majority of health facilities in these countries are either not functional or people are not using them for fear of contracting Ebola,” said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, the WHO’s Assistant Director-General of Health Systems and Innovation, in a news release.

“A health system has to be able to both absorb the shock of an emergency like Ebola, and to continue to provide regular health services such as immunization and maternal and child care.”

At the meeting, participants – which included Ministers of Health and Finance from countries at the epicentre of the Ebola epidemic as well as international organizations and development partners – discussed methods of integration for health services spanning clinical care to surveillance, health promotion, disease prevention and management and palliative care.

In particular, noted the WHO news release, areas of improvement included “significantly strengthening” the health workforce; enhancing community trust, engagement and ownership; and ensuring the development of resilient sub-national health systems. In addition, the movement of people across the borders of the Ebola-affected countries spotlighted the “important” need for a greater coordination of trans-national health plans and an alignment of surveillance systems.

Another expanded effort, via Voice of America:

UNICEF Expanding Fight Against Ebola

The U.N. Children’s Fund is appealing for an additional $300 million to expand its fight against Ebola in the three heavily affected West African countries over the next six months. UNICEF said gaining the confidence of community members, increasing their awareness and knowledge of modes of transmission and prevention are key to winning the battle against this deadly disease.

UNICEF officials said money from the appeal would be used to tackle two major drivers of Ebola transmission: lack of early isolation of patients and unsafe burials.  Both of these issues are wound up with traditional cultural practices, which often have stymied aid agencies’ efforts to prevent people from getting infected with the disease and spreading it to others.

Community involvement is absolutely essential to ending this epidemic.  UNICEF’s crisis communications chief, Sarah Crowe, said recent surveys indicate people gradually have been changing their behavior for the better.

And from the New York Times, contesting the Ebola fight:

Contest Seeks Novel Tools For the Fight Against Ebola

The well-prepared Ebola fighter in West Africa may soon have some new options: protective gear that zips off like a wet suit, ice-cold underwear to make life inside the sweltering suits more bearable, or lotions that go on like bug spray and kill or repel the lethal virus.

Those ideas are among the contenders to win the Ebola “Grand Challenges” contest announced in October by the United States Agency for International Development, or among those being considered by the agency without having formally entered the contest.

All still need to undergo testing, and some may prove impractical, but the 1,500 contest submissions “blew the roof off the number of responses we’ve ever had,” said Wendy Taylor, director of U.S.A.I.D.’s Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact.

The agency’s Grand Challenges, modeled on those begun a decade ago by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have produced some nifty inventions, the best known of which is a device for helping women in obstructed labor that was invented by an Argentine auto mechanic after he saw a YouTube video on using a plastic bag to get a cork out of a wine bottle.

After the jump it’s on to Sierra Leone with doctors sounding the alarm, how a single case triggered a chain reaction of death, the U.N.’s Ebola emissary calls for an anti-epidemic surge, Freetown charges chiefs with containing the epidemic, Christmas and New Year’s gatherings banned, and the capital sends a strong anti-graft warning, then on to Liberia and the debilitating impacts of two viral epidemics on the economy, why the U.N. is maintaining a Liberian arms embargo, motorcycle transport riders join the Ebola fight, 1,300 volunteer case trackers recruited by the UN, healed patients head home, and an education system left in shambles. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Protest, tragedy, politics, bodies


We begin with an image from the Tumblr WHAT ARE WE HERE FOR?, featuring images from a photographer living in Mexico:

Graffiti in Tixtla, Guerrero the neighboring town to Ayotzinapa, the rural teachers school with 43 students missing since September 26. The faces on the hanging pigs are those of the Mexican president and the mayor of Iguala, Guerrero who, along with his wife, ordered the attack on the Normalistas most of whom where first year students.

Graffiti in Tixtla, Guerrero the neighboring town to Ayotzinapa, the rural teachers school with 43 students missing since September 26. The faces on the hanging pigs are those of the Mexican president and the mayor of Iguala, Guerrero who, along with his wife, ordered the attack on the Normalistas most of whom where first year students.

From Al Jazeera America, compounding a tragedy:

Classmates of missing Mexico students abandon studies

  • Dropout rate among freshman class escalates as students fear further violence, follow wishes of their families

Since 43 students at a teachers college in rural Ayotzinapa, Mexico, were disappeared in September, dozens of remaining members of their first-year class have abandoned their studies.

Within days of the students’ kidnapping and suspected massacre by a drug gang, nearly everyone in the first-year class — where the majority of the 43 disappeared students were enrolled — left the school, students told Al Jazeera.

“The freshman class was down to about five students, but now as we better understand the situation and have talked to the families, some have started returning, one by one,” said Uriel Alonso Solís, a 19-year-old second-year student at Ayotzinapa, adding that about 25 freshman students are currently attending classes.

But at least 75 students have discontinued their studies, according to members of the school’s student committee.

The Christian Science Monitor documents a hack attack:

Anonymous hits Mexican websites to protest kidnapping of 43 students

The hacktivist collective aimed a digital attack at Mexico that took down and defaced at least eight websites in response to the government’s handling of the abduction and possible murder of 43 trainee teachers.

Anonymous attacked and took down several Mexican government websites Thursday night, an online assault the hacktivist collective said was meant to protest the government’s handling of the recent mass abduction of 43 students.

While smaller scale attacks have been going on for three weeks, the so-called #opMexico culminated Thursday evening in a wave of assaults on government and academic sites. The operation took down several websites and defaced others. Some sites hit in the attack were redirected to a webpage featuring an Anonymous logo, a poem, and a video titled “Anonymous: Operation Sky Angels” that outlines their motive for the attack.

In the video, the hacker group chides the government for failing to deliver justice and accused it of being “deeply implicated in the violence it claims to oppose.” After calling the government “abusive” and shrouded in a “veil of corruption,” the trademark Anonymous robotic voice vows to “avenge” the students and make the government “pay for their crimes.”

And the video, via TheAnonMessengers:

Anonymous: Operation Sky Angels

Program note:

#OpMexico

Follow https://bitly.com/anonyreport for updates.

From the Latin American Herald Tribune, and hardly surprising:

Families of Missing Students Claim Harassment by Mexican Authorities

Families of the 43 students who went missing more than two months ago in southern Mexico have claimed the government is harassing organizations supporting them in their quest for justice.

At a press conference Thursday, the families blamed the authorities for this week’s attempted kidnapping and beating of a student who was also threatened for taking part in protests demanding that the missing students be returned alive.

“The government told us to stop (the protests) to avoid bloodshed,” said one of the family members, adding that the apparent threats did not scare them but in fact made them stronger.

According to the family member, the government is fearful of how the protests could evolve so it is trying to halt the demonstrations.

From teleSUR, keeping up the heat:

Ayotzinapa Protest to Continue through the Holidays

  • Relatives of the Mexican disappeared students say they have nothing to celebrate during the holidays and call for actions to continue.

Relatives of the 43 forcibly disappeared students from the Ayotzinapa teachers college in the state of Guerrero called for actions demanding the safe return of the missing students to continue during the holidays.

They added that during this time normally reserved for celebration, they have nothing to celebrate.

The relatives of the disappeared students are specifically calling for solidarity actions to be held from Dec. 23-27, when most students and some workers are on holiday. A spokesperson for the relatives said that not only have they lost their children but they’ve lost their fear, “because we no longer fear continuing this struggle.”

And one such protest, via teleSUR English:

Mexico: March for justice held in hometown of murdered student

Program notes:

Hundreds of residents of the town of Tecoanapa in the Mexican State of Guerrero marched to demand justice for the missing Ayotzinapa Teachers Training College students. Tecoanapa is the hometown of Alexander Mora, the only missing students whose remains have been identified. The family of the dead student is calling for renewed protests demanding justice.

From the Washington Post, tragedy unearthed:

Mexicans’ search for bodies reveals a history of hidden deaths

They picked up spent shotgun shells and placed them in plastic baggies for safe keeping. They examined discarded bottles, charred sticks, crusted weather-worn clothes. Over rocks and ridges, to the tops of trees and down in bone-dry riverbeds, the parents were searching for their children’s graves.

“Fifteen minutes more,” a father in dusty camouflage said before trudging farther up into the thick Mexican forest, hacking the thorny branches with his machete. “Just a little farther.”

Forty-three students went missing here in September, and for all the attention that received, they were hardly the first. Their abduction by police has loosed a flood of new accusations and begun to reveal a history of hidden deaths.

Before that crime, many people had been too afraid of the police to report the disappearances. Last month, just seven parents attended the first meeting in the basement of a Catholic church here for relatives of the missing. But as the national uproar over the students has grown, plus the arrest of the Iguala mayor, the dissolution of the town’s police force and the torching of city hall, the scope of the brutalities began to become clear. Dozens, then hundreds, of people came to subsequent meetings at the San Gerardo church, which has become the gathering point for a citizen movement to search the surrounding hills and fields for the students’ remains.

From the Department of the Obvious, via teleSUR:

Mexico’s Human Rights Commission Acknowledges Crisis

  • At the country’s annual human rights award ceremony, Mexico’s ombudsman affirmed that the country is suffering a crisis in human rights.

Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) president, Rual Gonzalez, said the “shameful acts of Iguala and Tlatlaya are not the product of a spontaneous generation.” He declared that the “conditions that gradually led to those events have been boiling for a long time.”

He made his comments at an annual human rights awards ceremony, with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in attendance.

“Human rights are in crisis in different parts of the country,” said Gonzalez.

He also echoed some questions that activists have raised in marches and protests: Where were state security institutions that should prevent risks and threats to internal security and public order? What were the corresponding authorities of the different levels of government doing when these events occurred?

The Los Angeles Times continues is superb reporting on what goes into so much of the food the fills U.S. supermarkets:

Company stores trap Mexican farmworkers in a cycle of debt

The mom-and-pop monopolies sell to a captive clientele, post no prices and track purchases in dog-eared ledgers. At the end of the harvest, many workers head home owing money.

Company stores, called tiendas de raya, are a stubborn vestige of an oppressive past. During the early 20th century hacienda era, they kept peasants buried in debt, fueling resentment that helped spark the Mexican Revolution.

The country’s export farms have modernized rapidly in recent years to meet U.S. food safety standards and satisfy Americans’ appetite for fresh fruit and vegetables year-round.

But the company stores operate as they have for generations: as mom-and-pop monopolies that sell to a captive clientele, post no prices and track purchases in dog-eared ledgers.

The tiendas play a key role in a farm labor system that holds workers in a kind of indentured servitude. The combination of low pay and high prices drives many deep in debt to the stores. They spend the picking season trying to catch up. Guards and barbed-wire fences deter workers from fleeing the camps and their unpaid bills.

The company store has a long history, and back in 1956, the top rated song in the United States, recorded by Tennessee Ernie Ford, recalled the stores’ repressive role in poor mining communities in the U.S.:

After the jump, as presidential cabinet member’s curiously presidential real estate dealings, a big thumb’s up from Washington, a quite reasonable asylum plea denied, a proposed amnesty for village vigilantes, a hitman’s claim of killing nearly a thousand, gunmen kill and burn their way through a village, and a story that shouldn’t surprise. . . Continue reading

Bernie Sanders breaks it down: The rich win


In a deft takedown of the new spending bill, Sen. Bernie Sanders places the trillion-dollar spending package in the context of the flow of wealth to the few at the very top as the national infrastructure collapses and families fall further behind and the young are burdened with ever-larger debt obligations to obtain an education that will merely enable them to tread water while the elderly see their pensions and Social Security payments covering less of their living expenses.

One family, the Waltons [no, not those Waltons, but the Walmart Waltons] owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans, while 90 percent of new income goes to the top one percent.

The major beneficiaries of the package are defense contractors, most of whom, as Sanders notes have been found guilty of fraud or made settlements with the government for  constantly underestimating costs, then collecting payments for massive overruns.

The bill also allows significant benefit cuts for employees who belong to more than one pension plan and can end in disaster for millions of middle class employees. In some case, cuts can reach half of the promised pension benefits. Meanwhile, the banksters who caused the crisis used to justify the draconian cuts escaped punishment and continue to salt away their millions and billions.

Anyone who things that Congress regulates Wall Street has it backwards, Sanders said. With their power and wealth and massive campaign funding, its the banksters who regulate Congress and write the laws the pass.

And now Wall Street’s giants have infused the spending bill with a provision repealing the regulations passed in wakes of the crash that imposed weak but real limitations on their rampant greed, setting the stage for another crash [and bailout] to come.

From his YouTube channel:

Bernie Sander: Wall Street Wins Again

Program notes:

Sen. Bernie Sanders discusses the omnibus appropriations bill on the Senate floor.