Category Archives: Culture

InSecurityWatch: Terror, cops, hacks, war, zones


Much ground to cover, mostly because of illness yesterday and overnight that leaves us two days worth of gleanings. So on with the show, with little preamble.

From Sky News, the deplorable:

Pakistan Militants Kill 141 In School Massacre

  • One boy describes his friends “lying injured and dead” around him as the Taliban says it wanted them to “feel our pain”

Taliban gunmen have killed 141 people, including at least 132 children, in a school attack in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Nine men stormed the army-run school while around 500 children and teachers were believed to be inside, with many students taking exams at the time.

Most of the victims of the country’s deadliest terror attack were killed in the first few hours as the gunman fired bullets indiscriminately at pupils and teachers.

A local hospital said the dead – and the more than 120 who were injured – were aged from 10 to 20 years old.

The Independent covers Cold War 2.0 in escalation:

As Russia unveils nuclear subs with underwater drones and robots, the stealth race heats up: governments pour cash into secret armies

Russia, apparently not wanting to be overshadowed by yesterday’s announcement that China has built a long-range heat ray weapon, has revealed plans for its nuclear submarines — including on-board battle robots and underwater drones.

Through small, unmanned drones in the air, to the invisible pain gun like that made by China, the race in military tech is to create weapons that can go mostly unnoticed, while at the same time managing for control on the battlefield and during civil unrest.

Russia’s new submarine takes that battle underwater, too.

The country’s new fifth generation submarines could feature drones that can be released by submarines and stay still, while the ship itself moves away. That would allow the submarine to evade anyone watching by giving the impression it has stayed in place, while only the drone has done so.

Meanwhile, a sidebar to the story most Western media devoured, via New York Times:

In Sydney Hostage Siege, Australia’s New Antiterrorism Measures Proved Ineffective

Around the time that grisly images of beheadings circulated across the world this fall, Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia introduced a raft of laws in response to what he said was an increasing threat that the Islamic State jihadist group would attempt a bold act of terrorism on Australian soil.

The laws, which passed Parliament with wide support, made it an offense to advocate terrorism; banned Australians from going to fight overseas; allowed the authorities to confiscate and cancel passports; and provided for the sharing of information between security services and defense personnel. The government also deployed hundreds of police officers in counterterrorism sweeps across the country.

None of these measures prevented a man with a long history of run-ins with the law, known to both the police and leaders of Muslim organizations as deeply troubled, from laying siege to a popular downtown cafe this week and holding hostages for 16 hours. The attacker, Man Haron Monis, an Iranian immigrant, and two of the 17 hostages were killed early Tuesday amid the chaos of a police raid. The victims were identified as Katrina Dawson, 38, a lawyer, and the cafe’s manager, Tori Johnson, 34.

BBC News covers the ironic:

Sydney gunman was ‘wanted in Iran’

Iran says it requested 14 years ago the extradition of Man Haron Monis – the gunman behind the Sydney siege – but Australia refused to hand him over.

The head of Iran’s police, Gen Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam, told reporters that Monis was wanted for fraud at the time.

He said Monis had fled to Australia via Malaysia in the late 1990s.

Monis and two hostages were shot dead on Tuesday morning, when commandos stormed the Sydney cafe where he had been holding captives for 16 hours.

Sky News adds that he. . .

. . .fled to Malaysia after committing fraud while working as the manager of a travel agency in 1996.

Following legal proceedings in 2000, Iran’s judiciary reportedly informed Interpol about his crime and demanded his extradition from Australia.

Australia allegedly refused to do so, saying it did not have a criminal extradition agreement with Iran.

The Daily Californian covers a Berkeley media event:

Artists claim responsibility for depictions of apparent lynchings hung from Sather Gate

On Sunday, a Bay Area collective of artists released a statement taking responsibility for the installation of the effigies.

The group identified itself as AnonArt Oakland and described its members as consisting of queer and black members. According to the statement, the group intended the project to be in “unambiguous alignment” with the affirmation of black lives and apologized for the disturbance it caused.

The statement emphasized that the images of historical lynchings remain relevant today, as the recent deaths of black men, such as Garner, illustrate the consequences of systemic racism.

“For those who think these images depict crimes and attitudes too distasteful to be seen — we respectfully disagree. Our society must never forget,” the statement read. “We apologize solely and profusely to black Americans who felt further attacked by this work. We are sorry — your pain is ours — our families’, our history’s.”

More from the Guardian:

“We are sorry – your pain is ours, our families’, our history’s,” the group wrote. But they also refused to back down. “For those who think these images no longer relevant to the social framework in which black Americans exist everyday – we respectfully disagree.”

The effigies, found hanging with virtually no context or explanation of intent, left the campus community baffled and on edge after their discovery on Saturday morning. Each cutout featured the name of a lynching victim and year of death, but only one had a modern point of reference: the words “can’t breathe” – an allusion to the last words of Garner, an unarmed black man whose July death at the hands of a white policeman has prompted protests around the US.

The group wrote that they vehemently disagreed with the suggestion that the cutouts were racist, and said they “intended only the confrontation of historical context”. The statement explained that the group meant the effigies to represent crimes that “are and should be deeply unsettling to the American consciousness”.

The collective refused to heed the call of the UC Berkeley chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, that the group responsible identify itself: “We choose to remain anonymous because this is not about us as artists, but about the growing movement to address these pervasive wrongs.” Before the collective posted its statement, Dirks had called for calm and unity, and said that regardless of intent “the imagery was deeply disturbing”.

And still more from the Washington Post:

Leigh Raiford, an associate professor of African American studies at UC Berkeley, told the Chronicle she didn’t think the effigies were intended to threaten students.

“To me this suggested a really powerful public art installation that was trying to provoke people to make a historical connection between the history of lynching, state violence against black folks and the contemporary situation that we’re faced with around police brutality and these non-indictments,” she said.

The San Francisco Chronicle covers belligerence blowback:

San Jose cop on leave over tweets on protests

A San Jose police officer was placed on leave after he posted, and later deleted, two threatening Twitter messages directed at protesters rallying against police brutality.

Officer Phillip White tweeted on Saturday, “By the way if anyone feels they can’t breathe or their lives matter I’ll be at the movies tonight, off duty, carrying my gun.”

White also tweeted that he would use his “God given and law appointed right and duty to kill” anyone who threatens his family. He ended the message with the hashtag #CopsLivesMatter — a twist on the popular #BlackLivesMatter hashtag used during protests following grand jury decisions not to indict police officers for killing unarmed black men in Missouri and New York.

White later deleted his tweets, and eventually his entire account, but Buzzfeed captured screen shots of the remarks. The San Jose Police Department said it is taking “the matter very seriously” and conducting an internal investigation.

From Associated Press, influence exerted:

Police altering tactics after killings, protests

With tensions running high over the killings of blacks by police, departments around the country are changing policies and procedures to curb the use of deadly force, ease public distrust and protect officers from retaliation.

New York City plans to issue stun guns to hundreds more officers. The Milwaukee department is making crisis-intervention training mandatory. And in Akron, Ohio, police have begun working in pairs on all shifts for their own safety.

Police departments are constantly updating training. But some of the more recent measures have been prompted by rising anger toward police. And in some cases, departments are making sure to let the public know about these changes.

“It’s not a mistake or a coincidence that a lot of these departments are publicizing their training or are perhaps revamping their training guidelines and things like that in the wake of these really high-profile incidents,” said Kami Chavis Simmons, director of the criminal justice program at the Wake Forest University School of Law in North Carolina and a former federal prosecutor in Washington.

A Monday protest in the neighborhood, via the Oakland Tribune:

Oakland: Two dozen arrested in protest at police HQ

More than 250 protesters blocked Oakland’s downtown police headquarters for more than four hours Monday morning, including some who chained themselves to the front doors and one who clambered up a flagpole.

A total of 25 protesters were arrested for blocking access to a public building and obstructing or delaying a police officer, among other charges, Officer Johnna Watson said.

The mostly peaceful protest by Black Lives Matter began about 7:30 a.m. outside the police administration building at 455 Seventh St. and ended about 1:35 p.m.

By midmorning, one man had climbed a flagpole in front of the building, and police were trying to persuade him to come down. Six people chained themselves to the pole, and protesters chanted “Justice for Mike Brown is justice for us all.”

The bar barring, via the Los Angeles Times:

Lawyers lie down in the rain to protest killings by police

Amid calls for justice and chants of “black lives matter,” more than 100 lawyers, law students and others staged a “die-in” outside a downtown Los Angeles courthouse Tuesday, arguing that the legal system in which they operate is broken.

The group blocked a lane of traffic and clogged the walkway leading to the Hill Street entrance of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, making it virtually impossible for passing motorists and court visitors to ignore their message.

“The issue of police brutality is not about any single officer or victim, nor is it about good people versus bad people,” Priscilla Ocen, a law professor, declared over a bullhorn. “The number of unjustified homicides is a result of an entire system left too long without the leigitimate checks necessary to ensure accountability and justice.”

The Oakland Tribune covers the sadly expectable:

Fallout grows over Richmond police chief’s participation in #BlackLivesMatter protest

One week after photos of him holding a “#BlackLivesMatter” sign at a peaceful local protest went viral on social media, Richmond police Chief Chris Magnus is still grappling with the fallout — including accusations from his department’s police union that he broke the law — but says he has no regrets.

“It wasn’t the easiest statement to make,” Magnus said by phone Monday morning, “but it was the right thing to do.”

Since the small protest, Magnus has been flooded with more than 300 emails, dozens of phone calls and a flurry of messages on Twitter and Facebook. He estimated that more than 70 percent of the responses have been in support.

From the Guardian, detox for the fruit of the poisonous tree:

Supreme court: car stop was mistake, but drugs found are legal evidence

  • Rules 8-1 against driver stopped for invalid reason found to have drugs in car
  • Chief justice says officer’s error did not violate driver’s constitutional rights

The US supreme court on Monday ruled that a police officer in North Carolina lawfully stopped a car with a faulty brake light – and then found a stash of cocaine in the vehicle – even though driving with one working light is not illegal in the state.

In an 8-1 decision, the court ruled against Nicholas Heien, who had argued that the sandwich bag of cocaine found in the April 2009 search should not have been allowed as evidence when he was charged with drug trafficking because the Surry County sheriff’s department sergeant had no valid reason to stop the car.

Heien, who consented to the search of the car after he was stopped, pleaded guilty and was given a maximum prison term of two years.

After the jump, a Texas cop tasers an innocent 76-year-old, a Tennessee cop charged with rape, body cams for L.A. cops on the way, commodifying a whistleblower, torturers in white coats, cell phone interception sites in Norway prompt demands, Pyongyang tweaks Washington over torture, and on to the hack of the year with a new threat, warnings of theatrical attacks, exploding head suspicions, Sony claims high moral ground over media, Sorken gets sore, hospital gets ransom demand over stolen patient data, malware spam attacks accelerate, a data theft at UC Berkeley, corporate data theft in the cloud, Dutch fine Google for Gmail and search data consolidation for marketing, Google News completes retreats from Spain, pushing the West to intervene in Libya, t Chinese fighting for ISIS, the Syrian war continues,  Spain cracks an ISIS recruiting ring, anti-Islamic far right surges in Germany, Netanyahu’s settlement surge, a plea for troops in the Congo, A Chinese drone shootdown brings calls for a crackdown, the final Occupy Hong Kong eviction, China admits a fatal miscarriage of justice, and predictions of a Sino/American Game of Zones confrontation, and on to Japan for a Red victory of sorts, Abe sets his revisionist militarized agenda and his newly elected legislators back his play, Abe looks to Washington with details to come [but the public dissents], some things just aren’t said, Tojo fans threaten a newspaper, and hate speech aimed at Japan’s Koreans continues. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Numbers, campaigns, predictions


We begin with the New York Times and a positive note:

Fewer Ebola Cases Go Unreported Than Thought, Study Finds

Transmission of the Ebola virus occurs mostly within families, in hospitals and at funerals, not randomly like the flu, Yale scientists said Tuesday, and far fewer cases go unreported than has previously been estimated.

That implies, they said, that the epidemic is unlikely to reach the gloomy scenarios of hundreds of thousands of cases that studies released in September had forecast were possible; the most pessimistic one, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had predicted up to 1.4 million cases by late January.

The new study, led by epidemiologists from the Yale School of Public Health, was published online by the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. Scientists from Texas, Brazil and the Liberian Health Ministry contributed to the research.

Leaving Al Jazeera English with the downbeat:

Survivors cope with new Ebola after-effects

  • Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues

“My eyes are dark,” she said sadly. “Even when the sun is shining, my eyes are dark.” Kamara said she was happy to have survived Ebola, but fear and misery were etched onto her face.

Kamara is one of 40 percent of Ebola survivors to have gone on to develop eye problems, according to a recent study carried out by the World Health Organisation and Kenema’s District Health Management Team. It has been more than a month since the district saw it’s last case of Ebola, and attention is turning to the plight of survivors.

The results of the survey, a copy of which was seen by Al Jazeera, outline a raft of physical, social and psychological problems the survivors are experiencing.

Seventy-nine percent, for example, now suffer from joint pain; 42 percent have problems sleeping, while more than one-third of those surveyed experienced peeling of the skin. Many others reported problems with their reproductive system.

From the Washington Post, a plea for what should be a given, in both senses of the word:

UN commission asks for Ebola debt forgiveness

A U.N. commission is asking for more debt cancellations for the three West African nations hardest hit by the Ebola virus.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa said Monday that it is crucial that the current Ebola health crisis not be a catalyst for financial distress in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

Carlos Lopez, a U.N. under secretary-general and the executive secretary of the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa, appealed in Ethiopia on Monday for loan forgiveness.

A new report on the socio-economic impact of Ebola said the overall impact on Africa should be minimal because the three countries account for only 0.68 percent of Africa’s GDP. The report estimates that Ebola’s impact on the continent’s GDP levels in 2014 and 2015 will be only -0.19 percent and -0.15 percent.

On to Liberia, where BBC News covers an infusion of help:

Ebola serum supply reaches Liberia

Liberia has begun treating Ebola patients with serum therapy – a treatment made from the blood of recovered survivors.

Doctors hope the experimental treatment could help combat the virus that has been sweeping West Africa and killing thousands of people.

If a person has successfully fought off the infection, it means their body has learned how to combat the virus and they will have antibodies in their blood that can attack Ebola.

Doctors can then take a sample of their blood and turn it into serum – by removing the red blood cells but keeping the important antibodies – which can be used to treat other patients.

Ebola patients treated in the UK and the US have already received this type of treatment.

Decline affirmed, via the Monrovia Inquirer:

Ebola Cases Still Decreasing…Internal Affairs Minister Discloses

Internal Affairs Minister, Morris Dukuly, has corroborated reports that the Ebola virus is still decreasing as efforts continue by government and its partners to eradicate it in the country.     Speaking at the Ministry of Information regular press briefing on Ebola, the Minister said as the Ebola crisis continues to decrease in the country, members of the Ebola Burial Team need to be remembered and considered as heroes as well as health workers.

The Minister noted that the burial team has played a significant role in the fight against the virus and as such they should be encouraged and appreciated, noting that they stand a high risk of getting in contact with the virus. “ As we all know, since the outbreak of the virus people have always talked about the nurses and doctors who have fallen prey to the virus and those who are still in the fight but not many attentions have been paid to the Burial Team something I think we need to consider. Those young men are risking their lives on a daily basis, so it is fair enough for us to appreciate them as well.”

Minister Dukuly encouraged citizens to continue all the necessary preventive measures given by the Ministry of Health and its partners noting that Ebola is real and it is still in the country and as such people should not be complacent of the fact that cases are on the decrease.

Front line fighters recover, via the NewDawn:

Liberian healthcare providers discharged

D’Geedawoi stops just long enough to look back and share a smile with the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officers waiting beside the Ebola survivor board for the release of the next patient.

D’Geedawoi, a father of 4 children, 2 boys and 2 girls, with his wife Sadatu age 32, is grateful for all that was done for him at the Monrovia Medical Unit (MMU) but he is anxious to get home.

D’Geedawoi, age 46, is full of energy and ready to return to his work as a Drug Dispenser and Contact Tracer.  He told us, “ever since I experienced the illness of Ebola all I could think about was death.”

He went on to say that after being infected and then getting the news that he was negative, he felt encouraged to tell others about this place.

D’Geedawoi said, “I will be happy if I can be of any kind of assistance for you all. I want to get out in the field and get the message out there because I have been saved.”

The Liberian Observer covers a showdown over a government-imposed ban on political assemblies:

Looming City Lockdown: CDC Plans 3-Day March

Opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) has decided to stage another “city lockdown” in and around Monrovia, the party’s vice chairman for Operations, Mulbah Morlu, has announced.

Addressing a news conference yesterday in Monrovia, CDC disclosed the staging of a three-day political rally aimed at creating the platform where their political leader, Ambassador George M. Weah, will interact with the “ordinary Liberian people.”

According to Morlu, who is also CDC deputy campaign manager, the party has decided to begin “a three-day roadmap to victory,” parade through the streets of Monrovia, beginning with various market places in the city.

“CDC will begin parading the streets with Amb. Weah beginning with the Small Town Community behind our party’s headquarters and move on to the Peace Island Community in Congo Town.

From the NewDawn, a warning:

Another Serious Ebola Outbreak is Possible, If…

National and international publicity characterizing what may appear to be a gradual decline in the spread of the deadly Ebola virus disease in Liberia may not have just done justice to the fight against the epidemic, but encouraged complacency among some Liberians.

As a result of such publicity, some, including those involved with political campaigns, especially in Monrovia and its environs, have already been disregarding the public health laws, as well as preventive measures authorized by the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Health and partners.  Political rallies are occasioning huge gathering of supporters and sympathizers of candidates, while hugging and handshaking has resumed; vehicles carrying supporters of candidates are over-loaded with the belief that “Ebola is finishing.”

These violations of the public health laws may not necessarily be occurring un-noticed by the National Elections Commission, Ministry of Health and Liberia National Police. Whether or not it is out of embarrassment or fear that actions are yet to be taken against these violators, it is yet to be established. All we say is that these violations are taking place, while those responsible to enforce the laws remain conspicuously silent.

And should these violations continue as they are under the eyes of those who should enforce the laws, the possibility of another serious Ebola outbreak is high.  While we highlight the foregoing issues, the attention of the Government of Liberia and partners must again be drawn to the current severity of the Ebola outbreak in neighbouring Sierra Leone. Even though we may be aware that the Liberian health authorities are cognizant of such development, the issue of border control is very paramount.

And from FrontPageAfrica, a faith-based effort:

Ebola Outreach Goes To Muslim Neighborhoods in Liberia

A team from the Montserrado Community Based Initiative Project (MCBIP) over the weekend took Ebola sensitization outreach to Muslim neighborhoods in West Point. The team headed by Varlee Sanor, United Nations Volunteer (UNV) Field Associate on the MCBI project, held meetings with Muslims at the West Point Central Mosque on Saturday and Sunday.

The meeting was intended to solicit the views of members of the Muslim community and to seek possible ways of collaborating to battle the deadly Ebola virus disease in communities. These are efforts geared toward promoting and enforcing the Liberian Government “zero new Ebola cases” by December 25. The gathering was necessitated by reports about continuous denial, secret burials in the communities, hiding of sick and other anti-Ebola practices in the communities.

During the meetings, Sanor told the Muslims not to be complacent, as the virus was still in the country and continues to kill people in communities in Liberia. He said many people in Liberia have heard and accepted the preventive messages, but continue to be blinded by different cultural and traditional practices.”The fight against the Ebola virus has been difficult not because the messages are not reaching the people, but because of culture and traditions…” Mr. Sanor said.He told the Muslim community that the government and partners were working to ensure that their dead family members are handled with the care and respect they deserve.

After the jump, on to Sierra Leone with a strike threat followed by help from the U.N., the government mobilizes fear for the fight, British predictions of better times ahead coupled with word to America to keep out, a chief calls for quarantine, and the plight of Sierra Leone’s Ebola victims, Mali nears an all-clear, and concluding with a soap brigade in Guinea. . . Continue reading

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

MexicoWatch: Remains, anger, numbers, more


We begin with another graphic, this time from the Accomplished Ignorant Tumblr:

BLOG Mexico

Next, the major development of the day from teleSUR:

Mexico: Human Remains Found in Ashes of Village Bonfire

  • Local media reports that remains found in Cocula may belong to missing Ayotzinapa students.

Members of the Union of Peoples and Organizations of the State of Guerrero (Upoeg) claim to have found human remains in the ashes of a bonfire burnt in La Barranca de la Carniceria, located in Cocula reports local media. According to Upoeg members, the remains are charred bones that may belong to the disappeared 43 Ayotzinapa teacher college students.

The remains were located based on information from witnesses that reported smoke.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, Upoeg representative, informed the Attorney General’s Office about the finding. Experts are expected to arrive at the scene on Monday to examine the remains.

National Public Radio covers a survivor:

Survivor Of Mexican Student Attacks Tells Of Bullet-Riddled Escape

  • In Mexico, authorities continue the investigation into the kidnapping and presumed murder of 43 students from a college in the southern state of Guerrero.

On a recent afternoon at the teaching school in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, I spoke to one man who says he survived the attacks on Sept. 26. NPR couldn’t independently confirm 22-year-old Carlos Martinez’s account, but it is consistent with other eyewitness versions and investigator’s statements.

That night back in September, three buses loaded with students headed out of the school toward Iguala, Guerrero, about an hour and a half away. Martinez, a junior at the school, says unfortunately they arrived just as the mayor’s wife was giving a political speech.

Thinking the students came to disrupt the event, and on orders of the mayor, police chased the students out of downtown and onto the main road, where Martinez says more patrol cars arrived and surrounded the buses.

The police jumped out and started shooting, Martinez says. More would come and start shooting, too. “You just heard shots everywhere,” he says.

From Turin, Italy, La Stampa’s Vatican Insider covers the religious response:

“They took them alive, we want them back alive!”

  • On the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, millions of Mexicans prayed for the missing students from Ayotzinapa

While the hymns of the Missa Criolla were being sung in St. Peter’s Basilica, 10 thousand kilometres away, in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, the following slogan was rolling off people’s lips: “They took them alive, we want them back alive!” The voices of protest at the disappearance of the students from Ayotzinapa did not stop even on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The day marked the 483rd anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Mount Tepeyac. But this anniversary will probably be remembered as the year of prayer for victims of violence in Mexico.

It was religious leaders themselves who referred indirectly to the events which shook Mexican public opinion. During the traditional Mass of Roses – the main celebration that marks the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe –, the Apostolic Nuncio to Mexico, Mgr. Christopher Pierre, prayed to the Virgin Mary to “comfort” victims of “violence” and “poverty” in Mexico.

From the altar of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Nuncio said: “We give thanks to you and pray for our many brothers and sisters in Mexico and around the world who are suffering as a result of violence, poverty and illness. May the Lord give them consolation and free them from evil, through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe.”

From teleSUR, another major confirmation of what was suspected:

New Study Shows Federal Police Involved in Ayotzinapa Attack

  • The participation of federal forces in the attack opposes the official explanation of the events.

A new investigation on the case of the 43 Mexican students that disappeared on September 26 in the city of Iguala, Guerrero, shows that agents from the Federal Police planned the attack and took part in it.

On the night of September 26, Iguala municipal police and armed masked men shot and killed six people, including three students, in a confrontation while 43 other students were taken away. Their whereabouts remain a mystery.

According to the version by Mexican authorities, the armed men kidnapped the students and handed them to a local criminal gang known as United Warriors (Guerreros Unidos), then the students were burned to ashes in a dump near Iguala, which has not been confirmed by forensic experts.

From Deutsche Welle:

Mexicans fight back after student kidnappings

Program notes:

More than two months ago, 43 students disappeared in the Mexican state of Guerrero. They were abducted and then murdered, allegedly by local drug cartels with the assistance of the police and the mayor. Relatives and demonstrators are now campaigning against corruption and poverty.

More police violence against protesters, via teleSUR:

Mexico: Ayotzinapa Students and Teachers’ Repressed by Police

  • Parents of the 43 abducted students, journalists, as well as students and teachers from the Ayotzinapa teacher training college were injured during clashes in Chilpancingo.

Mexican Federal Police repressed early Sunday, in Chilpancingo, Guerrero, a group of students from the Ayotzinapa teacher training school, parents of the 43 Ayotzinapa abducted students, members of the State Coordinator of Education Workers of Guerrero (CETEG) as well as other students and journalists.

Around 17 people were injured during the clashes. They were denied medical care at the Chilpancingo Red Cross, therefore they were taken to other hospitals.

According to a statement published by the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (ANAD), a group of students from the Ayotzinapa teacher training college were heading towards a place called “El Caballito” in Chilpancingo to begin preparations for a concert in support of their 43 missing partners, which was scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

More Chilpancingo violence, via Borderland Beat:

Family Members of the Three Youths Found Executed in Chihuahua Flee in Fear

  • As reported by El Diario Juárez

Members of the Archuleta family fled from the municipality due to the fear of suffering a new attack and the absence of security guarantees, as the authors of the forced disappearance and later assassination of three young men remain free and remain in the town, they denounced.

“We can no longer be here”, one of the members of this family told El Diario that he had to decline participating in the funeral service of his loved ones, but he refused to identify the site in which he was refuging.

In this town one can not bury their dead, lamented the bereaved.

“We are afraid to remain longer in the town”, said the person interviewed upon making what would be his last communication.

The fear, he affirmed, is because they are poor people, laborers, and without any relation with organized crime, despite the fact that they kidnapped his three relatives, tortured them, and killed them.

From Al Jazeera America, a logical suspicion:

Mexico’s police overhaul may not curtail violence, corruption

  • President Peña Nieto’s proposal to dismantle country’s municipal forces ignores state and federal collusion

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has a launched a proposal to overhaul the police force in Mexico, finally acting in response to the thousands of marchers protesting the deteriorated security system and disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero.

The proposal, which Peña Nieto introduced to Congress on Dec. 2, would radically reshape the structure of policing in Mexico, dismantling municipal police forces and replacing them with 32 state police corps. It’s a move designed to show action against corruption on the local level — tragically illustrated by the Iguala police officers who dutifully handed over the students to organized crime at the command of the mayor.

The plan, however, point blank ignores state and federal collusion, despite their obvious contribution to a growing sense of lawlessness in Mexico, and the overall proposal strikes many as a hodgepodge of old ideas.

“This is an improvised and ill-prepared strategy,” said Alejandro Orozco, a Mexico City–based senior security consultant with FTI Consulting. “The way it has been planned and presented contrasts sharply with the energy reform and other sets of reforms that had been developed since the beginning of Peña Nieto’s term and had involved negotiations with the opposition [parties].”

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times publishes the final of four major investigative pieces on the plight of the Mexican people who harvest the food for tables in the U.S.:

Children harvest crops and sacrifice dreams in Mexico’s fields

An estimated 100,000 Mexican children under 14 pick crops for pay. Alejandrina, 12, wanted to be a teacher. Instead, she became a nomadic laborer, following the pepper harvest from farm to farm.

Child labor has been largely eradicated at the giant agribusinesses that have fueled the boom in Mexican exports to the United States. But children pick crops at hundreds of small- and mid-size farms across Mexico, and some of the produce they harvest makes its way into American kitchens and markets.

The Times pieced together a picture of child labor on Mexican farms by interviewing growers, field bosses, brokers and wholesalers, and by observing children picking crops in the states of Sinaloa, Michoacan, Jalisco and Guanajuato.

Produce from farms that employ children reaches the United States through long chains of middlemen. A pepper picked by a child can change hands five or six times before reaching an American grocery store or salsa factory.

Data on child labor are scarce; many growers and distributors will not talk about it. About 100,000 Mexican children under 14 pick crops for pay, according to estimates in a 2012 study by the World Bank and other international agencies. It is illegal to employ workers younger than 15.

And the plight of Mexicans who work on farms across the U.S. border via Frontera NorteSur:

Border Farmworkers Still Lack Health Care

According to Harald Bauder, academic director of the Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement, they are part of a larger global migration phenomenon that produces labor segmentation whereby the labor market is divided into primary and secondary segments.  In the secondary labor market, jobs are unstable and the market lacks enforcement of labor standards.  It is evident that farmworkers are laboring in the secondary labor market.

Over the summer, I interviewed 58 farmworkers in El Paso, Texas about their access to health care.  The farmworkers surveyed live and work in the U.S.-Mexico border area of West Texas and Southern New Mexico. The area studied contains approximately 12,000 farmworkers and, according to the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, the workers in question earn an average of $9,000 per year for a family of four.  This is well below the annual income of $23,850, tagged as the poverty level for a family of four in 2014 by the U.S. Health and Human Services.

The abysmal wages earned by these farmworkers is even puzzling considering that, according to a 2012 report written by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, the net profit in 2011 for New Mexico’s agricultural industry was $1.35 billion. The farmworkers primarily labor in the chile and onion fields, two of the biggest cash crops in New Mexico.

A double tragedy, via teleSUR:

Most Missing People in Mexico Are Under 17

There are currently over 22,000 missing people in the country – 41 percent of them went missing during President Pena Nieto’s time in office.

More than 20,000 people are currently missing in Mexico, most of whom are underage children, according to nongovernment organizations in the country.

“We found out that six out of 10 missing people in Mexico are children, but there is no information of how they were kidnapped. We need much more information to take the right measures and find these kids,” said advocate Luis Alberto Barquera, from the Organization for Social Development and Education For All (ODISEA A.C).

Barquera also told the Mexican news site Sin Embargo that according to the National Registration of Missing People 2013, at least 59 percent of the disappeared people are children and teenagers from 0 to 17 years old.

And from the New York Times, the same is true on both sides of the border:

Mexico Faces Growing Gap Between Political Class and Calls for Change

As the Nobel Peace Prize was being awarded in Oslo this week, a young man dashed on stage, unfurled a Mexican flag streaked with red paint and begged for help for his country because more than 40 college students have been missing for months after clashing with the police.

At the Latin Grammy Awards ceremony in Las Vegas last month, the big winners, Calle 13, shouted solidarity with the victims as they performed. At home, mass marches have regularly filled Mexican streets with angry calls for the government to act against corruption and crime.

But is the country’s political class listening?

In the coming days, Mexico is expected to name a special prosecutor to investigate corruption — a supposed Elliot Ness who would spare no sacred cows and answer the clamor of the public. The prosecutor is supposed to finally root out bribery, favoritism, kickbacks and reveal the kinds of organized crime that prosecutors say were at play in the case of the missing students.

That kind of prosecutorial determination may be what the public demands. What it is getting, however, is a prosecutor with little of the independence necessary to carry out the stated mission, government watchdog groups say.

Rap News: Tacklin’ the New World Order


Direct from Melbourne, Australia, we bring you the latest edition of Juice Rap News, created by Giordano Nanni and Hugo Farrant, this time targeting yet another powerful meme.

From their YouTube channel, thejuicemedia:

The New World Order [RAP NEWS 30]

Program Notes:

The New World Order: They control the world’s governments; THEY rule over all of us from the top of the pyramid. While WE suffer at the bottom. Right? Today we blow open the truth about the NWO in order to shed light on this widespread conspiracy which has frequently been invoked to explain the state of our world. Join intrepid host Robert Foster as he takes control of the lever of critical inquiry, alongside special guests Russell Brand, conspiracy guru Terrence Moonseed, and NWO representative William De Berg, in order to ask: who is the New World Order? And how can we stop it?

Warning: This episode of Rap News has been in the making since we started the show, 5 years ago. No punches will be pulled, no quarter will be given, and no depth will be left unplumbed on this arduous quest for the harsh truth. Welcome to the New World Order, bitches.

Written & created by Giordano Nanni & Hugo Farrant in a suburban backyard home studio in Melbourne, Australia, on Wurundjeri Land.

The pyramid of the hierarchy of control/power is posted here, and worthy of your consideration [click on the image to enlarge for legibility].

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.:

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