Category Archives: Culture

IsraelSpin: How a Jew becomes an ‘antisemite’


We are all too aware of the way Ziocons deploy allegations of antisemitism to smear folks they see as potential impediments to what a reasonable outsider might see as the Great Israeli Land Grab.

Our last employment came as a reporter for the Berkeley Daily Planet, a now defunct newspaper done in in significant part by a campaign of intimidation directing against advertisers when the paper refused to stop running contributions from readers, many of them Jewish, who were critical of Israel’s unalloyed imperialism.

We conducted a detailed examination of the claimants and their claims and exposed them as either outright lies or as singular instances [notably one single letter to the editor which expressed some genuinely antisemitic tropes].

The Ziocons managed to cow hapless advertisers into withdrawing their ads, one local business telling us that she was left shaken and afraid and physical harm should she continue.

One of the campaigners even dug up a hoary trope usually employed by antisemites: Jews are rich and hold disproportionate economic power and were thus to be especially feared by stores struggling with the impact of the economic crash. The trope wasn’t raised so overtly, but rather by noting that the city’s Jewish population is concentrated in its wealthiest neighborhoods [leaving the obvious conclusion to the intimidated advertisers].

Sometimes te Ziocons were even more threatening, as when a Holocaust survivor who had written letters critical of Israeli policy found WE KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE scrawled on the sidewalk outside her front door.

Yep, in the distorted Weltanschauung of the Ziocon, even a Jew can be an antisemite.

And that was what American Jewish writer and Israel critic Max Blumenthal found on a trip to Germany, a discovery he relates to Abby Martin in this extended clip from RT America’s Breaking the Set:

How Germany is Using ‘Anti-Semitism’ to Shut Down Israel Criticism | Interview with Max Blumenthal

Program notes:

Abby Martin speaks with author and journalist Max Blumenthal about his recent trip to Germany and how he why he was treated like an anti-Semite for his criticism of the state of Israel.

One of the reason the antisemitism works so well is that publishers — and to a lesser extent journalists themselves — are all too easily intimated these days, when alternative media and hordes of unpaid bloggers claim the audiences once reserved for the corporate pillars of print and the airwaves, giving well-organized and zealous boycotters disproportionate power [a point the Left seems to have forgotten in an age of rampant consumerism].

One of the tropes constantly employed is this, drawn from a sarcastic comment by one of the Ziocons to one of our first posts here at esnl:

Many thanks for all of your thoughtful comments. We are comforted to learn that you are such a philosemite and that you are an equal opportunity America and Israel basher. We understand your “moral equivalency” argument about so-called terrorists. After all, one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s “terrorist.

But, even if it’s true that Zionism as a political movement (a state founded by “Jewish terrorists”) is just a mirror image of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the question still remains why you feel so much more motivated to castigate the ills of Israel, its manifold missteps and crimes, but never find the same moral imperative to excoriate Israel’s adversaries.

Surely, you cannot deny that point in good conscience? Insofar as Richard Brenneman takes an interest in foreign nations, your interest seems delimited to demonizing Zionism. Again, please direct us to one blog post or anything else you have written in fourty [sic] years as a distinguished and award winning journalist in which you have taken Israel’s adversaries to task for any of their violent tactics and actions.

What was truly remarkable about the comment was the utter lack of self-awareness revealed when he linked to a panel from a Ziocon Israel cartoonist:

BLOG Greater Israel
All the answers were there, but neither he nor the cartoonist realized it.

The difference between Israeli and the Palestinians is precisely the same as the difference between the European colonists and the Native American: One was an alien invader using brutality, endless wars, and ceaseless land grabs to steal what belong to the other, who was offered the stark choice of meeting the invader on his own bloody terms or surrender.

Religion was the claim used by both imperial powers, with the New World hailed as the New Jerusalem by its colonizers, while the Jewish invaders of Palestine waged a war of terror based on an equally dubious claim to hold a divine quit claim deed on land the others had inhabited for millennia.

When claims are based on such absurdities, they can only be enforced by brutality. It happened here, it’s happening there.

The Palestinians are fighting for precisely the same reasons Native Americans did. And just as a few voices were raised on this side of the Atlantic over the bloody land grab of territory inhabited by Native Americans, so too voices like Blumenthals are raised in opposition to bloodthirsty self-righteousness on the part of those who claim a Jewish identity.

And to be clear, both our daughters are Jewish by self-definition [and by Jewish law, since their mom is Jewish], as is our best friend and two of the three other women with whom we’ve shared a roof and bed.

Zionism is not Judaism and Judaism is not Zionism, but to simply say or write those words is sufficient to win the epithet of antisemite [and, hey, aren’t Arabs by definition Semitic people too?]

None of this is to say that antisemitism isn’t real. Germany history is testament to that. And the genuine antisemite is about as loathsome as a human can get.

Just remember what Socrates said: Wisdom begins with the definition of terms.

EbolaWatch: Prognoses, medicine, Africa news


We begin with a prognosis from Reuters:

Ebola discoverer Piot sees long, bumpy road to ending epidemic

West Africa’s Ebola epidemic could worsen further before abating but new infections should start to decline in all affected countries by the end of this year, a leading specialist on the disease said on Wednesday.

Peter Piot, one of the scientists who first identified the Ebola virus almost 40 years ago, said the outbreak was far from over, but said that “thanks to now massive efforts at all levels” what had been an exponential growth in numbers should soon begin to recede.

The death toll in the worst Ebola epidemic on record has risen to 5,459 out of 15,351 cases identified in eight countries by November 18, latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO) showed. Almost all those cases are in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

“By the end of the year we should start seeing a real decline everywhere,” Piot, who is now director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told a meeting of public health experts, non-governmental organisations and officials.

Taking the curative effort a step closer to the source, via Bloomberg News:

Ebola Scientists Seek Cure With Ape Remedy

Program notes:

Around the world scientists are working on a solution to help the Ebola-stricken areas of western Africa. Closer to home, some British and American virologists are taking a different approach, by seeking to eradicate the disease from the usual source of transmission — apes and chimpanzees — before they pass it on.

A belated effort bearing fruit, from CBC News:

Experimental Ebola vaccine passes 1st hurdle in U.S.

  • Vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline and U.S. NIH safely tested on 20 people

The vaccine made by British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline and the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) is being developed to combat the Sudan and Zaire strains of the Ebola virus, the latter the one behind the current deadly outbreak in West Africa.

The trials were conducted at the NIH in Bethesda, Md., with 20 healthy participants who received doses of the vaccine.

The participants developed antibodies to Ebola, researchers said in Wednesday’s New England Journal of Medicine. But the researchers note participants’ immune responses depended on the dose and were also associated with minor side-effects.

From SciDev.Net, more funds arriving late:

Speedy Ebola test among UK projects given grant

A portable device to test bodily fluids for Ebola in under an hour and anthropological training to help foreign health workers work more effectively with local people in West Africa are among five research programmes being funded by the UK’s Department for International Development and the Wellcome Trust.

The projects were awarded money as part of an emergency call issued in August for research on Ebola supported by the Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) fund, launched last year.

The £1.34 million (US$2.1 million) jointly handed to the projects is dwarfed by the €1 billion (more than US$1.2 billion) pledged by European leaders in October for medical care and assistance in affected countries. It is also less than US$5.7 million promised last week by philanthropic organisation the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aimed at increasing production of experimental Ebola treatments in these countries

From the Japan Times, a belated European contingent coming:

EU arranging to send 5,000 doctors to Africa to fight Ebola: source

The European Commission called Wednesday for 5,000 doctors to be sent from EU states to combat west Africa’s Ebola epidemic, a European source said on Wednesday.

“The situation is too serious and it needs an immediate response,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP, adding that senior EU officials were in contact with central governments to mobilize the response.

“Thousands of other medical caregivers were also being called for,” the source said.

In a tweet, EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said he had so far reached 14 EU ministers, urging them to send more medical staff to Ebola-hit countries.

From the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a call to action:

West African artists urge French-speaking nations to act on Ebola

West African artists have urged heads of state holding a French-speaking nations’ summit in Dakar this weekend to take action to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in the region.

The rare tropical disease has infected more than 15,000 people in West Africa since it was first recorded in Guinea in March. More than 5,000 people have died from the virus, which causes severe vomiting, diarrhoea and internal bleeding.

The theme of this year’s biannual summit of “francophonie”, a 77-strong group whose role includes promoting peace, democracy and human rights, is women and youth.

One to Sierra Leone and a sad landmark ahead, via the New York Times:

Sierra Leone to Eclipse Liberia in Ebola Cases

Sierra Leone will soon displace Liberia as the worst-hit of the West African countries ravaged by Ebola, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

More than 600 new cases of Ebola were reported in the three countries most affected — Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea — in the week that ended Sunday, and more than half were in Sierra Leone, according to figures in an updated summary of cases and deaths on the W.H.O. website.

The W.H.O. update suggested that taken together, all three countries would miss the Dec. 1 target date for achieving important progress benchmarks — 70 percent isolation of patients and 70 percent of burials performed safely. Corpses of Ebola patients are extremely infectious and are an acute source of contagion.

A more optimistic take from the Associated Press:

Sierra Leone official: Ebola may have reached peak

The Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, which has been surging in recent weeks, may have reached its peak and could be on the verge of slowing down, Sierra Leone’s information minister said Wednesday.

But in a reminder of how serious the situation is in Sierra Leone, a ninth doctor became infected Wednesday and the World Health Organization said the country accounted for more than half of the new cases in the hardest-hit countries in the past week. By contrast, infections appear to be either stabilizing or declining in Guinea and Liberia, where vigorous campaigning for a Senate election this week suggests the disease might be loosening its grip.

In all, 15,935 people have been sickened with Ebola in West Africa and other places it has occasionally popped up. Of those, 5,689 have died. The case total includes 600 new cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in just the past week, according to the WHO.

Another front line fighter falls ill, via the Washington Post:

9th Sierra Leonean doctor infected with Ebola

An official says a ninth Sierra Leonean doctor has been infected with Ebola, underscoring the devastating toll the disease is taking on health care workers.

Abass Kamara, a Health Ministry spokesman, said that Dr. Songo Mbriwa tested positive for Ebola on Wednesday. Mbriwa is a top military doctor and was working at the Hastings Ebola treatment center in the east end of the capital.

The disease is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids of the sick, putting health workers at particular risk and it has devastated their ranks. Nearly 600 of them have become infected in the West African outbreak, many in the hardest-hit countries.

From the Guardian, the down side of survival:

Ebola: ‘survivors are left alone to carry their pain and loneliness’

  • On the Ebola frontline: how life in rural Sierra Leone is unfolding for one community worker

Isaac Bayoh, 25, volunteers as an Ebola quarantine and awareness worker. He is part of a team that isolates the houses of those who have the disease, educates the family and neighbours, and monitors the patient’s progress. Here, in his own words sent via WhatsApp, he shares his experiences about how people and communities are affected

My story just like many has been a terrible experience, I have seen friends and loved ones taken away and never returned.

I have seen the most sorrowful reaction of people upon hearing of being positive with the Ebola virus or their family or a friend or a neighbour have tested positive. I have seen joy in a family being vanished away, I have seen things that my eyes cannot ever believe but yet they are fact, they are happening every day with people, with friends, loved ones, families and communities.

A woman tells me after being quarantined when her son died of the Ebola virus that her life has ended because her only son, who was her only support, is dead and it’s just a matter of time before her own symptoms begin to show. I can clearly see the fear in her eyes as we speak. That when I came in to give the psychological support, and because of what I told her, when her result came and it was positive, I saw that state of mind in her, that emotion. She is strong and [has] not given up. She is here today after surviving the virus, and she said one of her recovery methods was to stay positive no matter what. She never gave up.

Next, a video report from the World Health Organization:

WHO: field report from Koinadugu, Sierra Leone

Program notes:

Upon learning of the first Ebola cases reported in Koinadugu District, Sierra Leone in October 2014, the World Health Organization and partners acted swiftly to track new transmission chains, increase key resources on the ground, and establish remote community care centers where they could do the most good. With support from the government and traditional leaders, this coordinated, targeted response is beginning to show signs of bringing the localized outbreak under control.

In November 2014, WHO spokesperson Winnie Romeril joined WHO and partners on the ground and filed this video report.

After the jump, on to Liberia and the first healed patients form an American-built field hospital, a fatal forgery brings death to eight, a presidential appointee rejected, a Chinese hospital makes a good presidential impression, a warning about lethal semen, and a clean water NGO tackles a new task, plus school sanitation worries in post-Ebola Nigeria. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Protest, politics, and posturing


And do see the previous post revealing yet another mass abduction of Mexico’s youth. . .

First, from Agence France-Presse, ongoing protest:

Mexico protest demand release of detained demonstrators

Program notes:

Hundreds of people protested in Mexico City on Tuesday, demanding the release of 11 demonstrators who were detained when marches last Thursday turned violent.

More on the latest protests from teleSUR:

Protests Shake Mexico as 2 Months Pass with No Sign of Students

  • Thousands protest peacefully for the missing 43 and the 11 students arrested last Thursday

Demonstrators took to the street across Mexico Wednesday to mark two months since 43 students of the Ayotzinapa Teacher Training College in the state Guerrero were disappeared by Iguala policemen.

At similar nationwide protests on November 20, federal authorities repressed protestors, arresting at least 11 students under circumstances that human right activists have called “unconstitutional.”

Wednesday’s protests also called for the release of the 11 students at the November 20 protests.

The accompanying video report from teleSUR English:

2-Month Anniversary of the Ayotzinapa Disappearances

Program notes:

Today marks two months since the Police in Guerrero, Mexico, killed six and disappeared 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teacher training college. The even has caused deep discontent and widespread social shockwaves across Mexico and the world. Clayton Conn has more.

And from the retro girl Tumblr, a remarkable image reconfiguration of an arrest from the 20 November protest in Mexico City:

BLOG Mexiarrest

Next, via Reuters, the latest scandal to surface uinvolving the now badly tarnished president, Enrique Pena Nieto:

Same firm, new house: Mexico leader’s conflict-of-interest storm grows

On Nov. 3, the government announced a Chinese-led consortium had won a no bid contract to build a $3.75 billion high-speed rail link in central Mexico.

Three days later, the government abruptly canceled the deal, just before a report by news site Aristegui Noticias showed that a subsidiary of Grupo Higa, a company that formed part of the consortium and had won various previous contracts, owned the luxury house of first lady Angelica Rivera.

Under public pressure, Rivera said she would give up the house. But neither she nor Pena Nieto have addressed the apparent conflict of interest stemming from the government’s business with Grupo Higa.

On Wednesday, Aristegui Noticias published a new story that said Pena Nieto used a different property belonging to another Grupo Higa subsidiary as an office when he was president-elect in 2012.

From the Washington Post, an opposition in disarray:

Mexico’s left faces problems as leader quits

Mexico’s left faces huge problems following the resignation of former presidential candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, a pillar of progressive politics and son of the revered president who nationalized the oil industry.

In 1989, Cardenas founded the Democratic Revolution Party, known as the PRD. On Wednesday he said he is not only leaving the PRD, but party politics entirely.

“I think that, with this, my life in a party is over … I’m not going to any other political party,” Cardenas told the Radio Formula station, adding that he would continue to work on his favorite cause, reversing recent government reforms that opened the state-run oil sector to private investment and concessions.

PRD’s worst failure came when it allowed Jose Luis Abarca to run for mayor of the southern city of Iguala, in Guerrero state, on the PRD ticket.

Abarca was, in fact, aligned with a local drug gang and allegedly ordered the kidnapping of 43 students from a local teachers college. The drug gang then allegedly killed the students and incinerated their remains.

More on the political crisis from Reuters:

Sound and fury spurs political crisis in Mexico

Program notes:

Pena Nieto’s government is in the deepest crisis of his two year presidency marred by the apparent massacre of 43 students in Mexico. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.

And from VICE News, the opening words of text accompanying a must-see photo essay:

In Photos: The Ayotzinapa Normal School, Before and After the Disappearance of 43 Students

The experiences of life as a college student are as diverse as the personalities on campus.

At the all-male Raul Isidro Burgos Normal School in Ayotzinapa, in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, the students lead lives that are entirely different from those of their peers elsewhere. Their day-to-day depends greatly on the volatility of the political and social reality that surrounds them.

The Missing 43: Mexico’s Disappeared Students. Watch part one of the VICE News documentary here.

In August 2013, I had the opportunity to spend three days at the school. I got to know the campus and the students, saw the murals of revolutionaries and fallen guerrilla leaders, and learned about the school’s history. I shared homemade mezcal with a group of normalistas, as the teaching students are known, while the graduating students prepared for a traditional, modest farewell ceremony.

More on the ongoing protests at Ayotzinapa itself from teleSUR:

Ayotzinapa: Guerrero Teachers, Students Protest at 2-Month Mark

  • Classmates of the disappeared 43 Ayotzinapa students, along with public school teachers, block highways in Guerrero state, protesting two months of what they call injustice

With two months since the disappearance of 43 students of the Ayotzinapa teacher’s training college, classmates, teachers and social organizations blocked a major highway connecting the Mexican capital to the resort beach city of Acapulco.

Members of the State Coordinator of Education Workers of Guerrero and ‘normalistas’ – as teacher training students are called – began blocking the Mexico-Acapulco Sun Highway in the late Wednesday morning, expressing the continued demand that the missing 43 students be returned alive.

The group reportedly stationed a trailer rig and buses to prevent the passage of motorists. Several other groups moved to various other points of the Guerrero state capital Chilpancingo.

From the Guardian, the growing count of the Disappeared:

Bringing up the bodies: Mexico’s missing students draw attention to 20,000 ‘vanished’ others

  • The shocking disappearance of 43 student teachers lifted the lid on the open secret of Mexico’s many others who’ve disappeared amid drug-fuelled violence

The disappearance and probable massacre of 43 student teachers after they were attacked and arrested by Iguala’s municipal police two months ago has focused world attention on the horror of Mexico’s drug violence – and the official corruption that allows much of it to happen.

A wave of protests triggered by the massacre put President Enrique Peña Nieto under acute political pressure.

But the incident has also lifted the lid on the open secret of Mexico’s many other disappeared: amid the drug-fuelled violence of recent years, some 20,000 people have simply vanished.

Relatives of the missing have largely remained silent for fear of retribution. Now, however, many have found new strength to denounce the terror imposed by criminal gangs – often in blatant collusion with state authorities.

And we close with an emerging meme via historianart, incorporating the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa, the 11 students arrested and imprisoned during the 20 November protests in Mexico City, and the 30 missing high school students from Cocula revealed Wednesday by Agence France Presse [see the previous post]:

BLOG Meximeme

The anti-Blair, a man who really did save children


His name was Chinue Sugihara, and he saved more than 6,000 men, women, and children from Hitler’s Holocaust, far more than the 1,200 saved by the famous Oskar Schindler — yet Sugihara’s name is virtually unknown.

We knew his story only because we’ve been studying the Holocaust for the last half-century, accumulating a library of more than 900 books on the subject. We’ve also interviewed survivors and watched endless hours of documentaries driven by an imperative to understand how what had been regarded as the most civilized nation in Europe could descend into such barbarity.

And so we were delighted this afternoon to come across a brief documentary from Australia’s endangered SBS television focusing on Sugihara’s memorable accomplishments, and it serves as a refreshing anodyne for any bad taste left by thoughts of Tony Blair conjured up by our previous post.

Via Journeyman Pictures:

The “Japanese Schindler” Who Saved Thousands in WW2

Program notes:

The remarkable story of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara has long been overshadowed by other heroes of WW2. Now, a new play is finally set to be memorialise his rescue of 6,000 Polish and Lithuanian Jews.

“Sugihara was an incredible person. He probably never saw a Jew before in his life and he saved so many families.”

91-year-old Holocaust survivor Lilly Singer was one of the thousands who would not be alive today without the intervention of Sugihara. She’s in the audience of a new play dramatizing his actions which saved thousands of lives. As the Nazi tanks rolled eastwards, Polish Jews began flooding into Lithuania – their only route of escape onward through Russia. Brian Liau is playing the part of Sugihara. “He asked the Japanese foreign office 3 times for permission to issue visas.” Despite being refused, Sugihara went on to issue over 6,000 visas for families trying to cross the border. Largely forgotten, for Lilly Singer he remains the hero of the conflict. “He saved me and that was the end of that”.

A final enigma. . .

In drafting this post we chanced upon an image at Sugihara’s Wikipedia page that leaves us hungry for more information. It is this Eastern Orthodox icon of the Japanese diplomatic, offered without further explanation:

BLOG Sugihara

Sugihara joined a politically connected Christian fraternity while in college in Japan, and we can only presume he took the Beatitudes in their purest sense.

But the question is the halo itself: Has he been declared a saint? We would love to know more. . .

Whatever the answer, it is people like Chinue Sugihara who are the real cause for hope and thanksgiving, and not loathesome, obsequious toadies like Tony Blair.

Dave Brown: Tony knows how to Save the Children


For British Prime Minister Tony Blair dove into the limelight to scoop of Save the Children’s Global Legacy Award, which we can only presume was given because the endless wars he enabled have killed a lot of parents, thereby leaving so many children to save.

The irony of the award was noted by 200 or so of the NGO’s staff who have signed a petition calling on the award to be withdrawn because not only was the bestowal “morally reprehensible, but [it] also endangers our credibility globally.”

Editorial cartoonist Dave Brown of the Independent took up the tools of his trade and came up with this:

Blog Blair

An implicit reference in the cartoon is the remark of esnl‘s favorite musical satirist, Tom Lehrer, who famously declared that “political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Prize.”

And having mentioned our favorite songster, how can we not append a telling example of his craft, written at the height of the Cold War’s nuclear terror, via The Tom Lehrer Wisdom Channel:

Tom Lehrer: We Will  All Go Together When We Go

EbolaWatch: Devastation, aid, labor, & politics


We begin today’s compendium with a stunning graphic from the World Bank, revealing the extent of the devastation the disease has wrought to one country’s working class:

BLOG Ebola jobless

From the News in Monrovia, Liberia, critical context:

‘Dumpsite Food’ Eaters

Residents of a community outside Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, known as ‘Own your Own’ are said to be surviving on food from dump sites in the county.

The area is where Arcelormittal and other concession companies are operating. These companies dispose spoiled foods in the dump sites just opposite the Ebola Treatment Unit constructed by the United States Government.

Some of the citizens and residents who spoke to our reporter said the dump site has been their source for food for the past seven years.

Our reporter who recently returned from the county said most of the citizens using the dump site for survival are women and children.

Meanwhile, returning American sailors smile through quarantine, via the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Seabees’ morale high despite long Ebola quarantine, congressman says

There were no hugs or handshakes just in case Ebola germs lurked, but Rep. Steven Palazzo found 15 Navy Seabees from Mississippi in “good spirits” Friday as they waited out a 21-day isolation period at Virginia’s Langley Air Force Base after a seven-week stint building treatment facilities in disease-ravaged Liberia.

“Everybody had a smile on his face,” Palazzo said.

The Seabees “were nowhere near any of the Ebola victims or the medical personnel that were treating them” while working in Monrovia and even had “limited involvement” with Liberians in the community who had been found free of the disease, he said.

While Reuters covers critical quarantine questions:

US quarantine moves hurting Ebola response in Africa -Harvard

Moves by some U.S. states to isolate medical workers returning from fighting Ebola in West Africa could worsen the global health crisis by discouraging badly needed new volunteers, according to health experts at Harvard University.

Ebola has killed more than 5,450 people in West Africa since March in the disease’s worst outbreak on record, striking hardest in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, which are among the world’s least developed countries.

“By far and away what is needed most in West Africa are care providers who can help,” Paul Biddinger, director of the Harvard School of Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program, said during a panel discussion about the disease on Tuesday.

But “because of a fear of stigma, of being involuntarily quarantined … people don’t want to necessarily subject themselves to this, and that is tragic.”

From Agence France-Presse, a video about a video:

African celebrities in Ebola campaign video

Program notes:

African celebrities have called for action against Ebola in a video produced by the ONE Campaign.

Next, a warning from the United Nations Development Program:

Ebola crisis may result in more hunger: UNDP study

Wild price swings caused by the Ebola health crisis are making it more difficult for households to feed themselves and make a stable living, according to a new study by the UN development programme.

“Border closures, movement restrictions and a slowdown in farming activity are shaking food  markets badly,” said Ayodele Odusola, Chief Economist at the Regional Bureau for Africa of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“This could have a disastrous impact on households, both because farmers are unable to make a living and because families are finding very different prices on the local market from one day to the next. People living in rural and remote areas are feeling the impact of reduced purchasing power more than their urban counterparts,” he added.

Since the onset of the Ebola crisis, buying power went down by 20 percent in Sierra Leone and by more than 25 percent in Liberia. The study also found rural communities were worst affected, due to more expensive transport costs and dependency on declining farming incomes.  Reduced traffic has been observed in more than two-thirds of Liberia’s counties, for instance.

As a result, in October, Monrovians paid $17.5 for 25 kilograms of rice, while people in the Southeast paid $21.3 for the same quantity. Because Liberia and Sierra Leone depend on Guinea for food imports, their situation is particularly serious.

PCWorld covers another development:

Ebola speeds up educators’ embrace of tech in Sierra Leone, Liberia

The deadly Ebola outbreak has sparked some creative thinking among academic institutions and private education initiatives determined to reach out to students who have been hunkering down for months in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Faced with a raging epidemic, the University of Sierra Leone plans to upload lecture notes on its website, send learning material through email and engage students through social media platforms like Whatsapp and Facebook. The 2014/2015 session, which should have begun Oct. 1, was postponed due to the Ebola outbreak.

Sierra Leone is one of the countries worst hit by the disease, which has already claimed over 5,000 lives in West Africa. Just last week, Sierra Leone recorded 435 new confirmed cases of Ebola and 110 confirmed deaths.

On to Mali with the Associated Press:

Mali confirms eighth Ebola case

Mali has confirmed a new case of Ebola, bringing to eight the number of people who have fallen ill with the deadly disease in the West African country.

A government statement issued Monday night said the patient had been placed in a treatment center.

All of Mali’s Ebola cases can be traced back to a 70-year-old imam who was brought to the country from Guinea, where the epidemic first began.

Six of Mali’s eight Ebola patients have died. The government said Saturday that another patient who tested positive was also receiving treatment and had been isolated.

From Voice of America’s TV2Africa, a video report on the course of the disease in Mali:

Mali Ebola

Program notes:

Almost a month after a 70-year-old Guinean Imam sought treatment at a clinic in Bamako, Mali is scrambling to stop a potential outbreak. Five people have died so far. A sixth related Ebola case was confirmed Saturday. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.

On to Liberia, first with FrontPageAfrica and another campaign launched:

Initiative Spearheads Setting up of Ebola Force on Reducing Denial

UNDP /Ministry of Health Community Based Initiative in the West Point Community District #4, has organized a meeting with the elder Council, the new Commissioner and the youth of West Point.

The meeting was part of efforts by Active Case Finders and Contact Tracers of West Point to facilitate the establishment of an Ebola Task Force to help mitigate the resurging denial of the Ebola Virus, stigma, and hiding of the sick.

An earlier meeting held with the elder council indicated that the people of West Point were hiding their sick because it was popularly believed that those who went to the ETUs never came back to their families. As a way of dispelling this belief, Active Case Finders providing services in the Community, identified 12 survivors from the West Point Community and presented them to the elder council.

The Inquirer covers a return:

Catholic Hosp. Reopens

The St. Joseph Catholic Hospital yesterday opened its doors to the public following months of closure as a result of the deadly Ebola virus outbreak which victimized a number of medical staff and missionaries.

The hospital’s re-opening was attended by a number of international Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), the Catholic Church in Liberia and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

The Human Resources Manager of the hospital, Mr. Joel N. Williams said the hospital attended to 23 patients yesterday but did not admit any because the reopening process will be carried out on a gradual basis.

Mr. Williams said the hospital is beginning its operations on a gradual basis by first reopening its Maternity ward with eight beds which will be increased on a weekly basis with the sponsorship of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

From the NewDawn, laying down the law:

MoH issues Ebola regulations

The Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has set up anti-Ebola regulations to govern all citizens irrespective of status or affiliation.

Outgoing Health Minister, Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale, has mandated that all video clubs, night clubs or restaurants should have chlorinated water placed at the entrances of those businesses for hands washing, and everyone’s temperature should be taken, stressing that anyone with 37.5 degree Celsius should be denied entrance and considered an Ebola suspect.

Minister Gwenigale has also instructed that vehicles in Liberia should continue to carry three persons at the back seat until Ebola is eradicated here. He said no community should allow visitors from various counties, especially when the person is sick, adding that if any community has such case, it should be reported to community leaders, who will immediately inform health authorities.

From FrontPageAfrica, another hot zone:

Ebola Hotspot: Rural Rivercess Towns Ravaged by Virus Outbreak

Deplorable roads, lack of food and adequate awareness are massive challenges affecting efforts to contain the deadly Ebola virus that has killed more than 13 persons in Kinkayah Chiefdom, Nyorwein Administrative District in Rivercess County.

Residents in the area where authorities of the county have quarantined since the virus surfaced killing 13 people told FrontPage Africa they desperately need food in other to have the quarantine remain in force and at the same time support efforts to contain the virus in the area.

“Since the outbreak on October 21, the people abandon their farms and the whole chiefdom is being quarantine and there’s no food for them,” Augustus T. Yarpah, Speaker of the County Traditional council told FPA. He said MSF is doing well for the quarantine communities by giving treatment to people who are sick, but one of the problems is the lack of food for people in the whole of Kinkayah (Kayah for short) chiefdom especially in Gozohn Town.

After the jump, more from Liberia, including an instance of either irrationality or crime, good news from one region, quarantine for a banker, and the World Bank boosts its emergency funds to Monrovia, then on to Sierra Leone and quarantine regulation, emergency workers stage a gruesome job action and retribution follows, Nigerian medics head to Freetown, the extra burden faced by disabled students, and a crucial diagnosis is made. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Bodies, politics, prison, & protests


Today’s post begins and ends with bodies, first in the form of a teleSUR English report on the latest DNA results from mass graves found in the region where the 43 missing college students disappeared:

Mexico: Forensic experts haven’t found remains of Ayotzinapa students

Program notes:

In Mexico, the Argentine team of forensic experts issued a statement in which it reported having identified the bodies of three people from an unmarked grave. However, none of those bodies belong to the students of the Ayotzinapa Rural Teacher Training College who are reported missing since September 26.

From teleSUR, motivation:

Mexican Students Want President to Resign, and Stability

Students respond to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto after he said that protests are seeking to “destabilize” his government. They say, actually they want stability.

A group of graduate students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) released a video Tuesday in response to recent statements by President Enrique Peña Nieto, who claimed that behind the protests to demand justice for the disappearance of 43 students of Ayotzinapa are groups trying to destabilize his government.

“They say that students want to destabilize the country. No Enrique, we want to stabilize the country,” said one of the students in a four-minute video that was uploaded on the YouTube channel of the UNAM General Assembly of Graduate Students.

They also added that this is a response to the president’s threats to use police force to repress social protests.

Reuters covers hints of a draconian crackdown to come:

Mexico’s embattled government poised to unveil law and order measures

Following mass protests in Mexico over the apparent massacre of 43 trainee teachers two months ago, the government will unveil measures this week designed to improve policing and fix a failing justice system, lawmakers said on Tuesday.

Senate leader Miguel Barbosa of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution said the measures would focus on issues like streamlining the chain of command in the police as well as improving the penal system and access to justice.

The government would present the plans on Thursday, Barbosa said in an interview with Mexican radio.

Ricardo Pacheco, a lawmaker in the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party who heads the justice committee in the lower house of Congress, said the plan was to give the state greater powers to combat organized crime and violence.

More from the Latin American Herald Tribune:

Missing Case Forces Mexican President to Make “Important Announcement”

With the missing students crisis getting out of hand and due to the resulting embarrassment in the international arena, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is to make an “important announcement” about the restoration of legality in the country, a senior government official has announced.

“The president will have to take decisions on what has not worked, on what has to be replaced and changed. He will make an important announcement this same week,” Government Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio said Monday.

However, he did not provide further details about the announcement but said that it would be made by Thursday, and would deal with areas where there are concerns, especially regarding municipalities.

Allegations raised, via the Guardian:

Mexican authorities accused of persecuting peaceful protesters

  • Eleven demonstrators charged with attempted murder and riot after mass protest in capital over disappearance of 43 students

Human rights groups have accused Mexican authorities of using arbitrary detentions, trumped-up charges and excessive force in an attempt to quell a mass protest movement unleashed by the disappearance and presumed murder of 43 students.

The complaints centre on the indictment for attempted murder, criminal association and rioting of 11 protesters who were arrested after masked youths clashed with police in the central Zócalo square, following a huge and mostly peaceful march through the capital last Thursday.

Supporters of the 11 accused insist that they had nothing to do with the violence, alleging that several of the detainees were arrested later, during an aggressive police operation to disperse the crowd.

More from teleSUR:

Mexico’s Human Rights Chief Investigating Protest Arrests

The president of Mexico’s National Commission of Human Rights said the agency will investigate claims of police abuse during detentions at the #NOV20 protest.

The president of Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), Luis Raul Gonzalez Perez, said the agency is opening an investigation into the arrests and possible excessive use of police force during a protest November 20 in Mexico City’s Zocalo Square calling for the return alive of the disappeared 43 Ayotzinapa students.

“We are opening the relevant investigation, from the beginning we had staff in the Attorney General’s office as well as staff in the different high security prisons. Staff have been with those detained we have given them a medical review,” he said.

The country’s newly-minted ombudsman, who has been in office for a little over 10 days, made his comments in an interview after giving the opening address to the “Truth and Justice Commissions: Lessons Learned for a Post Ayotzinapa Mexico” forum held at the Mexico City campus of the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education.

Continuing protests, again via teleSUR:

Hundreds March for #20NovMx Protest Detainees

  • The lawyer of the student detainees accused the government of committing state terrorism

Mexican society has gained a new reason to protest peacefully: the 11 students who were arrested by police last Thursday, accused with various serious charges after participating in the #20NovMx protest for the missing 43.

Hundreds of people marched on Tuesday from the Independence Angel to the Zocalo Square in Mexico City, to demand the national government release the detainees, who are being accused of terrorism and attempted murder, among other charges.

The demonstrators, mostly students, assert that their mates were illegally arrested on the night of November 20, when both local and federal riot police agents dispersed a peaceful demonstration in Zocalo square that was interrupted by a few people in balalcavas or bandanas who threw molotov bombs at the police.

And from teleSUR yet again:

Mexico: 11 Ayotzinapa Protesters Arrested Are Denied Bail

The eleven individuals arrested after the march of November 20 on Mexico city are charged with serious offenses, although the state’s evidence against them is blurry

The eleven detainees on the Mexico city central Zocalo square incidents after November 20 demonstration for the missing Ayotzinapa students were debriefed on Monday at the 17 district court of the southeastern state of Veracruz and denied bail due to the charges against them, considered as serious offenses: attempted homicide.

On November 29 the period for clearing their legal situation ends, that’s why the eleven indicted people asked for an extension of the constitutional term. Two separate NGOs denounced that the arrested were mistreated, tortured and charged without evidence of their misdemeanors.

The detainees complained to Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) for alleged acts of physical violence and mistreatment during their transport to the Republic’s General Attorney (PGR) facilities and later to Federal Prisons, where they remain held.

From Reuters, aiding and abetting:

Mired in crisis, Mexican president aided by discredited opposition

The leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD, has campaigned against human rights abuses in the past but its reputation is in tatters because the Iguala mayor who allegedly ordered the students’ abduction was one if its own.

And the horrific events – the government says the drug gang apparently killed all of the students and incinerated their bodies – unfolded in Guerrero state, which the PRD governs.

Mexico’s most successful leftist, former PRD leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has also been sidelined in the uproar because of ties between Morena, the party he formed after leaving the PRD, and the same mayor.

On the right, the National Action Party (PAN), is hamstrung by bitter infighting, allegations that senior lawmakers peddled favors in exchange for illegal payments, and accusations by supporters that it sold out to Pena Nieto in Congress.

In short, the whole political class is in disrepute, said Ernesto Ruffo, an independent-minded PAN Senator.

And the McClatchy Foreign Staff covers a credibility chasm:

Few believe Mexico’s first lady made enough as TV star to pay for mansion

Mexico’s first lady, soap opera star Angelica Rivera, is back in the spotlight. But rather than receiving public adulation, she’s the subject of ridicule.

A poll released over the weekend found that three-quarters of Mexicans think Rivera isn’t telling the truth about how much she earned during her television career and how she paid for a $7 million mansion that’s at the heart of a political scandal enveloping her husband, President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Among those scoffing at Rivera are fellow television actors, who contend she never pulled in the kind of money she claims.

Political analysts and columnists say the attention on Rivera, whose fame soared with a hit 2007 soap opera, was designed to take the heat off Pena Nieto himself.

From Frontera NorteSur, solidarity at the border:

Ayotzinapa Protests: Report from Ciudad Juarez

On a day when the world protested state violence against the Mexican students of the Ayotzinapa rural teachers college, Ciudad Juarez was no exception.

In the big border city across from El Paso, Texas, the November 20 protest- timed to coincide with the official holiday anniversary of the 1910 Mexican Revolution- produced multiple street protests, the seizure of a highway toll booth, a brief blockade of the Santa Fe Bridge connecting Juarez with El Paso, and poetry brigades.  A large multi-media event was staged at the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juarez (UACJ), where normal activities were suspended for November 20 so students and staff could take a public stand on the human rights crisis gripping their nation.

Hundreds of students, teachers, union activists and community members got involved in local events organized for what became known as N20.  In virtually unprecedented fashion, some Mexican cities canceled the official November 20 annual parades due to government fears of the mounting protests, but the one in Ciudad Juarez proceeded as scheduled- albeit with the addition of protesters who managed to squeeze their way into the end of the parade, according to Diana Solis, UACJ student and member of the activist University Assembly.

“The people are participating. Many people came out to support,” Solis said. “This is unstoppable. The government is worried.”

And from Al Jazeera America, other violence:

Violence against women soars in Mexico

  • Abductions, rapes and murders of women are higher than ever, as UN calls for end to femicide

Violence against women must stop, United Nations chief Ban Ki-Moon said Tuesday — the International Day to End Violence Against Women — as it was reported that 14 of the 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide are located in Latin America.

In Mexico, over a dozen female torture victims echoed Ban’s alarm. Members of the group “Break the Silence,” which aims at raise awareness of what it calls the government’s systematic use of sexual violence, said that despite countless cases, there have only been two federal convictions for torture of women in the country’s history, Mexican news website Animal Politico reported.

The numbers of abductions, rapes, and murders of women are higher in Mexico than ever before, with an average of seven women killed violently every day, according to local media. In July, U.N. special rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, said that Mexican women suffer from multiple and intersecting forms of violence, ranging from militarization as part of the so-called war on drugs, to impunity among security forces, to impediments to women seeking access to justice.

And to close, a body count from teleSUR:

Over 500 Bodies Found in Guerrero Mass Graves so Far

  • So far, up to 500 bodies have been found in mass graves in the state of Guerrero alone

Tomaz Zeron, head of the Criminal Investigation Agency, said that the forensic experts are continuing their work at the mass graves siates located by Guerrero’s Union of Commoners and Organizations (Upoeg). On Monday, Zeron told press that two graves were analyzed and one of them was determined to contain a corpse, dated back from more than a year ago.

Also on Monday, Upoeg stated that so far, up to 500 bodies have been found in the state of Guerrero alone. In a press conference, the group’s spokesperson, Bruno Placido, a spokesman for the group, said his organization has been issuing warnings since 2013, however the PGR only began to act well after the disappearance of the Ayotzinapa students began to garner global attention.

In the Mexican southwestern state of Guerrero, the Republic’s General Attorney (PGR) recieves every report from the Upoeg on a new mass grave, investigating them as separate cases from those connected to the incidents of September 26, when 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Teacher’s Training School were disappeared after being abducted by local police and handed over to a local criminal organization.