Category Archives: Latin America

EnviroWatch: Climate, fracking, water, Fukushima

And much more. . .

We begin with an impasse from the Guardian:

Lima climate summit extended as early optimism is overtaken by discord

  • Talks stumble amid rising frustration over ‘ridiculously low’ cash commitments for emissions cuts from rich nations

Climate talks in Lima ran into extra time amid rising frustration from developing countries at the “ridiculously low” commitments from rich countries to help pay for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

The talks – originally scheduled to wrap up at 12pm after 10 days – are now expected to run well intoSaturday , as negotiators huddle over a new draft text many glimpsed for the first time only morning.

The Lima negotiations began on a buoyant note after the US, China and the EU came forward with new commitments to cut carbon pollution. But they were soon brought back down to earth over the perennial divide between rich and poor countries in the negotiations: how should countries share the burden for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and who should pay?

Good news from StarAfrica:

Gambia malaria infection on the wane – Report

The infection level of malaria in The Gambia is gradually declining according to a report resulting from the latest medical research on its prevention in the country. According to the report, published in The Lancet, the world’s leading general medical journal and seen by APA on Friday the research was carried out in 96 Gambian villages targeting 8,000 children who were tested for malaria this year.

It attributed the drop in infection to the massive distribution of long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets across the country.

The report also pointed out that using treated bed nets is more effective than spraying insecticide chemicals in homes. “High bed net coverage is sufficient to protect people against malaria in areas of low or moderate transmission” it added.

The Lancet said the study is deemed significant as it was conducted in areas with differing transmission rates of malaria to further assess the effectiveness of combining insecticide sprays with treated bed nets.

Jiji Press sounds an alarm:

Japan on High Alert for Bird Flu

Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is on high alert for bird flu, faced with outbreaks around the world.

This year, 245 avian influenza cases have been confirmed in South Korea, and the same bird flu virus strain spread in Europe, leading an official of the ministry to be concerned about “worldwide simultaneous, multiple outbreaks.”

In Japan, bird flu viruses have been found in the droppings of wild birds one after another. Almost throughout the year, South Korea has seen outbreaks of the highly pathogenic H5N8 subtype bird flu virus.

Water woes lead to a food crisis, via the Guardian:

UN: drought in Central America has pushed 2.5m people into food insecurity

  • Subsistence farmers, farm labourers and low-income families especially at risk as UN warns of ‘creeping humanitarian crisis’

A drawn-out drought in Central America has pushed 2.5 million people in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador into food insecurity, the UN warned Friday.

The drought in the three countries is “turning into a creeping humanitarian crisis”, Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN’s humanitarian agency, told reporters in Geneva.

Subsistence farmers, farm labourers and low-income families were especially at risk, with young children and pregnant women considered the most vulnerable, he said.

A full 80% of farmers in the worst-hit areas of El Salvador had reported losing all of their crops, while 75% of maize and bean crops in Honduras and Guatemala had failed. The lack of rain has also resulted in the death of thousands of cattle.

Water woes farther South, from the Los Angeles Times:

Sao Paulo, Brazil, officials downplay water crisis as residents suffer

The water crisis is so bad in South America’s largest city that when rain began to dribble from the sky recently, workers in a downtown office high-rise stood up and cheered, running to the windows to celebrate each drop.

A majority of city residents recently surveyed said their water has stopped flowing at some point, usually at night. In some neighborhoods, people say their homes have no water service at all. Although scientists say that the drought has its roots in such changes as deforestation, analysts say poor planning and political manipulation by local authorities have exacerbated the crisis.

Authorities insist that they have not shut off the supply to any neighborhoods and that problems caused by a loss of water pressure may affect 1% to 2% of homes. They recommend that residents use home water tanks. But they acknowledge that without huge amounts of rain over the next months — “floods,” said National Water Agency President Vicente Andreu — the crisis will intensify.

From CBC’s News’s The National, a Canadian import:

Toxic waste from Love Canal coming to Canada

Program notes:

Up to 100 truckloads of toxic material that traces back to Love Canal are being sent to Canada.

Euopean neoliberal deregulation advances in Europe, via EurActiv:

Commission plans to ditch circular economy and air pollution rules

The European Commission plans to scrap its flagship Circular Economy package and anti-air pollution rules next week.

The executive will ditch the rules from its 2015 work programme, sources told EurActiv. That is set to be announced on Wednesday (17 December).

The Circular Economy package is designed to increase resource efficiency and recycling, and the Clean Air Package imposes rules that set member states’ air quality targets.

Sources told EurActiv that Commissioners were handed a secret document yesterday (10 December) at their weekly meeting. The document, outlining a list of bills to be killed off by Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, was taken back from the Commissioners, after it was read and discussed.

Getting slick with United Press International:

Oil slick threatens N.J.’s Sandy Hook Bay

An oil slick discovered in Sandy Hook Bay off the coast of New Jersey could threaten marine life and a federal park, officials said.

The 1-mile-long, 50-yard-wide slick was discovered Thursday about 1.5 miles west of the U.S. Coast Guard station at the northern tip of Sandy Hook. When it was first discovered, the slick had measured 2 miles long and 400 miles wide, but had shrunk as of Friday.

Coast Guard crews installed a boom off Horseshoe cove to protect an environmentally sensitive area from the oil spill.

“We’re concerned. We’re very concerned about this,” said Pete McCarthy, unit coordinator of Sandy Hook for the National Park Service. “We’re worried about what it’s going to do to the shoreline, obviously, (and) what it’s going to do to wildlife.”

Degreening, via the Independent:

New era of cheap oil ‘will destroy green revolution’

The collapsing oil price that is reshaping the global economy could derail the green energy revolution by making renewable power sources prohibitively bad value, experts have warned.

Oil tumbled below $60 a barrel for the first time in more than five years yesterday – a fall of 44 per cent since June. It is forecast to fall further.

“Renewable energy subsidies have been mostly sold to the public on the basis of the economic benefits,” said Peter Atherton, an energy analyst with Liberum Capital. “But the economic arguments hinged on the idea that fossil fuel prices would get more expensive, while expensive renewable subsidies would be able to come down over time. That’s looking doubtful now.”

Anne Robinson, director of consumer policy at the uSwitch price comparison website, said: “More subsidies are likely to be needed [for green power] as the gap between the cost of fossil fuel power and renewable power gets bigger.” The extra subsidies would be borne by households in the form of higher energy bills.

After the jump, more studies reveal fracking health risks as Spain’s neoliberal regime makes a fracking push, then on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with a deal struck to an interim nuclear waste storage site, a regulators decree that a cement fix will plug underground hot water leaks, nuclear watchdog calls for a massive radioactive water release into the Pacific, South Koreans book a visit, while a volcanic eruption warning sounds for a volcano in the same province, a reactor startup nears in another province, and reactor restarts figure in regional politics as protests continue, While Germans remain nuclear power consumers thanks to a Swiss connection. . . 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:


Follow for updates.

From the Latin American Herald Tribune, and hardly surprising:

Families of Missing Students Claim Harassment by Mexican Authorities

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

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

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

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

From teleSUR, keeping up the heat:

Ayotzinapa Protest to Continue through the Holidays

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

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

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

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

And one such protest, via teleSUR English:

Mexico: March for justice held in hometown of murdered student

Program notes:

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

From the Washington Post, tragedy unearthed:

Mexicans’ search for bodies reveals a history of hidden deaths

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

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

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

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

From the Department of the Obvious, via teleSUR:

Mexico’s Human Rights Commission Acknowledges Crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Company stores trap Mexican farmworkers in a cycle of debt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Democrats: Plutocratic since ’92, gettin’ worse

Bill Moyers and journalist and Harper’s Magazine publisher John R. MacArthur conduct a devastating dissection of the Democratic Party and the plutocratic alliance that has devastating America’s dwindling class of well paid blue collar workers to satisfy the demands of the plutocrats who now control both major parties in the U.S.

At the core of the agenda mandated by the Chicago Democratic machine [a point we’ve made here countless times] is the demand for an end to all remaining barriers to corporate and bankster profiteering [read looting], a push begun by Bill and Hillary back when Bubba signed NAFTA and continuing through today as Barack Obama, a product of that Chicago machine, rams through “free trade” agreements across both the Pacific and the Atlantic, sounding the death knell for organized labor and the aspirational working class.

From Moyers and Company:

Democrats Bow Down to Wall Street

From the transcript:

BILL MOYERS: In 2008, Obama, he used NAFTA against Hilary Clinton, as you said, because Bill Clinton had sponsored it in 1993. And he promised that he would reform NAFTA.



JOHN R. MACARTHUR: No. As soon as he got into office, he announced, we really don’t need to reform NAFTA. We’ll find other ways to help people who’ve been hurt by NAFTA, which they, and of course, they’ve done nothing. In fact, he’s pushed more free trade deals, Korea, Colombia, et cetera, you know, he keeps pushing, and now, the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership, which will make things even worse.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah. You say if he wins the Trans-Pacific Partnership, he’ll be giving away big chunks of our remaining manufacturing base to Japan and Vietnam and other Pacific Rim countries. Why does he want to do that?

JOHN R. MACARTHUR: Because he’s the fundraiser in chief. And again, this goes back to Bill Clinton. Because Obama’s really just imitating Bill Clinton. Clinton made an alliance with the Daley machine in Chicago, which Obama, he’s inherited that alliance with the two Daley brothers. The people who were thriving are the people in power. Rahm Emanuel is now mayor of Chicago. Bill Daley and Rahm Emanuel were the chief lobbyists for passing NAFTA under Clinton. They’re the ones who rounded up the votes. They’re the ones who made the deals with the recalcitrant Democrats and Republicans who didn’t want to vote for it. These people are in the saddle. They succeeded each other as–

BILL MOYERS: They’re Democrats, too.

JOHN R. MACARTHUR: Democrats. But Daley succeeded Rahm Emanuel as Obama’s chief of staff. These are the people Obama talks to all the time. And they’re saying, free trade, great. We don’t know about factories closing. But it’s a great way to raise money.

BILL MOYERS: Senator Mitch McConnell, who will soon be the Senate majority leader, said that new trade agreements are one of his top priorities. Are we about to see some bipartisan cooperation between the Republicans in the Senate and Obama in the White House on passing this new trade agreement?

JOHN R. MACARTHUR: Absolutely. They’ve already announced that they’re going to try to work together. And if history is repeated, you will see fast track passed.

BILL MOYERS: Which means…

JOHN R. MACARTHUR: Which means you give the president, you give the executive branch, the authority to negotiate the trade agreement in secret. That’s what Congress gives away, which I think is unconstitutional. Because the Senate is supposed to advise and consent, right? But so far, nobody has challenged it on constitutional grounds. You give fast track authority to the president. They negotiate the deal. At the end of it, a gigantic bill, very complex, because I’ve read the NAFTA agreement, it’s very complex language. You give it to Congress. And you say, okay, vote for it, yes or no, up or down.

No amendments allowed, no amendments allowed. And so that’s when the heavy lobbying starts. And most times, at least in the past with PNTR, that’s permanent normal trade relations with China, and NAFTA, the big money wins. And this is what’s going to happen again with TPP if people don’t stop it before it gets to the fast track stage. And I guarantee you, this is a way to send more jobs, particularly to Vietnam and Malaysia. What’s happening now is that labor rates are going up slightly in China. This panics the corporations. They want other places to go. Vietnam’s an even cheaper labor platform than China. And so it’s cheap labor coupled with really minimal environmental protection. You can do just about anything you want to.

MexicoWatch: Lies, violence, politics, schools

We begin with a stunning new development from teleSUR:

Government Investigation on Missing 43 Keeps Falling Apart

  • A scientist from Mexico’s largest university, the UNAM, published a detailed report that showed the 43 missing students couldn’t have been burnt in a Cocula waste dump.

Every day, more statements or proof come out showing that the Mexican General Attorney’s claim that the missing 43 were killed and burned in a rubbish dump isn’t true.

Attorney General Jesus Murillo, claimed that people who had been arrested for allegedly partipcating in the kidnapping said the     Ayotzinapa students were taken to a rubbish dump in Cocula where they were killed and incinerated by the Guerreros Unidos group on the night of September 26.

However, scientists of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) published a detailed report on Thursday that refutes the government’s version, They explained that to have burnt that many people, it would have been necessary to use enormous quantities of fuel.

“The hypothesis that the students were burned in Cocula has no scientific explanation,” said Jorge Montemayor, researcher at UNAM’s Physics Institute, during a press conference.

More from Fox News Latino:

Mexican scientists shred official account of students’ burning

Jorge Antonio Montemayor, a research physicist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told a press conference that the evidence provided by the AG’s office indicates the bodies were incinerated in a modern crematorium, not the rural dump authorities say was the site of the massacre.

Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam announced on Nov. 7 that the students – including some still alive – were set ablaze at a dump outside the town of Cocula.

The fire raged for some 14 hours, Murillo Karam said, citing statements from three suspects in custody.

But if the killers used wood for the fire, they would have needed some 33 tons of logs, implying premeditation and raising the question of where they would have bought that quantity of wood, Montemayor said Thursday.

The Cocula dump is also not big enough to accommodate a wood-fueled blaze capable of incinerating 43 bodies, the scientist said.

As for the theory that the killers used a combination of wood and tires for the fire, the resulting blaze would have produced a column of smoke visible for kilometers, Montemayor said.

That kind of blaze would also have left a residue of melted rubber and the steel belts from the tires, he said.

Next up, two videos from the series of ongoing Sky News reports titled Narco State: Mexico’s Drugs War, starting with:

Mexico’s Unstoppable Cycle Of Death

Program notes:

Mexico’s drugs trade has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people. Many more – known simply as the “Disappeared” – are missing. Sky’s Stuart Ramsay joined the families searching for loved ones.

And next:

‘I Search For My Son Day And Night’

Program notes:

Cleotilde Adame, a mother whose son was taken three years ago, pleads with the Mexican government for help in finding him, and says she wants her child back – dead or alive.

From teleSUR, posterior protection:

Mexican Military Official Claims Ayotzinapa Parents Manipulated

  • The high-ranking marine also expressed support for the government’s handling of the Ayotzinapa case.

The head of Mexico’s marines publicly claimed that the parents of the 43 forcibly disappeared students are being manipulated by political players.

“It surprises me and angers me even more that they manipulate the parents, “ said Admiral Vidal Soberon Sanz.

However, he did not specify who was doing the manipulating.

In response to Sanz’s comments, the spokesperson of the families of the disappeared, Felipe de la Cruz, said of the military, “They are the puppets, we’re not idiots.”

While the Christian Post covers an existential dilemma:

Mexico Priests, Christians Fighting Pessimism in Wake of Presumed Murder of 43 Students

Mexican priests and the Christian faithful are trying “not to fall into pessimism” as the country struggles to deal with the presumed murder of 43 students involving corrupt police officers, which has sparked nationwide protests and heavy police reform.

“The country is experiencing difficult times, perhaps a crisis of confidence in society, in the authorities, there are many doubts. However, there are priests and faithful who are looking for solutions, in order not to fall into pessimism,” said The Apostolic Nuncio in Mexico, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, according to Fides News Agency.

Pierre spoke of the need to create a new commission in Mexico focused on justice, peace and reconciliation, and argued that “protesting without proposing anything is sterile.”

He added, “I like to see that the Catholic Church is part of society, expresses its solidarity with those who suffer, but must also feel the responsibility to find solutions to offer a way out.”

From Agence France-Presse, an enigma explained:

Nobel protester sought to draw attention to ‘murdered Mexican students’

A young man who disrupted the Nobel prize ceremony in Oslo by waving a Mexican flag streaked with red said Thursday he did it to denounce the alleged killing of students by Mexican authorities.

The protest by the 21-year-old at the presumed massacre of 43 Mexican students came as Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai and India’s Kailash Satyarthi displayed their peace prizes to rapturous applause on Wednesday.

The security breach was especially serious since child rights activist Malala, who was lucky to survive a Taliban assassination attempt in October 2012, remains a target for Islamist extremists.

The Mexican protester, Adan Cortes Salas, said he was sorry for having frightened anyone and for any repercussions the security services may face, but did not regret his actions.

“My message was… ‘help to Mexico’,” Salas told NRK television in Norway during an interview conducted in a detention centre. “Our government is killing students.”

And finally, from teleSUR, life in a narco state:

Thousands of Mexican Students Go without Classes Due to Crime

  • More than 100 schools have been closed in the state of Guerrro according to the local government.

The serious crime problems of the Mexican state of Guerrero are not only affecting its economy. Thousands of students and teachers have been forced to stop attending school because the state authorities cannot guarantee basic security.

The Secretary of Education of Guerrero, Salvador Martinez, revealed on Thursday that in the port city of Acapulco, which has had a dramatic decrease in tourism since the issue of the 43 students, 31,355 students of all levels and about 2,000 education workers have stopped attending their schools.

The reason for this, Martinez explained, is that a large part of the teachers went on strike after the disappearance of 43 students of the Ayotzinapa Teacher Training College, on September 26.

InSecurityWatch: Torture, hacks, drones, & zones

And more. . .

We begin with a segment from Abby Martin’s Breaking the Set:

Why the Senate Torture Report Doesn’t Matter | Interview with David Remes

Program notes:

Abby Martin speaks with human rights lawyer, David Remes, about the contents of the newly released Senate torture report summary and how it will impact the future of the “war on terror”.

And from CBC News, a call for prosecution:

UN counterterrorism expert says U.S. officials must be prosecuted for CIA torture

Senior U.S. officials who authorized and carried out torture as part of former President George W. Bush’s national security policy must be prosecuted, a top United Nations special investigator said Wednesday.

Ben Emmerson, the UN’s special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, said in addition that all CIA and other U.S. officials who used waterboarding and other torture techniques must be prosecuted.

He said the Senate intelligence committee report on the CIA’s harsh interrogation techniques at secret overseas facilities after the 9/11 terror attacks shows “there was a clear policy orchestrated at a high level within the Bush administration, which allowed to commit systematic crimes and gross violations of international human rights law.”

The New York Times covers leaks the spooks love:

Report Says C.I.A. Used Media Leaks to Advantage

The Central Intelligence Agency leaked classified material to reporters to shape the perception that its detention and interrogation program was an effective tool in thwarting terrorism, according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report released Tuesday.

The report also said that in 2002, a publication, revealed later on Tuesday to be The New York Times, agreed to withhold information about a secret prison in Thailand at the urging of the agency and Vice President Dick Cheney.

In addition to providing vivid details of the C.I.A.’s use of secret prisons and more aggressive torture methods than was previously known, the Senate report provides examples — in highly redacted form — of the interactions between the agency and journalists in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The details in the report speak to tensions inside the government over the intelligence community’s dealings with the media. In some cases, the agency authorized the disclosure of classified information to journalists. Yet, in recent years, the government has investigated reporters and officials, including prosecuting a C.I.A. officer for leaking details of the torture program.

And from the Washington Post, debunking a myth:

Senate report disputes CIA account of Osama bin Laden search

The killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 was hailed by current and former CIA officials as the crowning justification for the use of harsh interrogation tactics. High-value detainees, when subjected to those methods, provided intelligence that the officials said helped lead the spy agency to a mysterious courier and, ultimately, to the terrorist leader himself.

The Senate Intelligence Committee report released Tuesday upends that version of history, providing an alternate case study that revives questions about the agency’s account. The report asserts that the role of harsh interrogation techniques was greatly exaggerated.

“A review of CIA records found that the initial intelligence obtained, as well as the information the CIA identified as the most critical — or the most valuable — on Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti, was not related to the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques,” investigators concluded.

The role the CIA detention and interrogation program played in the hunt for bin Laden is one of the most pivotal questions in assessing the effectiveness of the agency’s response to the Sept. 11 attacks. The Senate report notes that even in the weeks before the raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs had prepared “agreed-upon language” to be released that would stress “the critical nature of the detainee reporting in identifying bin Laden’s courier.”

The Los Angeles Times offers a frank assessment:

At CIA’s ‘Salt Pit’ prison, torture reigned with little oversight

The first detainee interrogated in the old abandoned brick factory north of Kabul became the model for what would later unfold in the cave-like halls of a CIA interrogation facility known as the “Salt Pit.”

Ridha Najjar, a suspected former bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, often was left alone in the shadows under a barrage of shrieking music, cold, shackled and hooded, his dark figure handcuffed to an overhead bar for 22 hours a day, according to a report released Tuesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Later, another detainee, Gul Rahman, believed to have served in a security detail for an Afghan warlord, would die in the Salt Pit.

He was dragged though the dirt and grime of the corridors, his mouth taped, his clothes falling off. His captors slammed and punched him, and left him chained to a concrete floor in a sweatshirt but no pants. Officials labeled the death hypothermia, though his face, legs, shoulders and waist were cut and bruised.

A few months later in March 2003, with the outside world still unaware of the secret facility, a lead CIA officer who ordered Rahman to be shackled naked in his cell was presented a $2,500 “cash award” for his “consistently superior work,” the report states.

And a bottom line, summed up in a headline from the Los Angeles Times:

Senate report says CIA torture methods yielded no useful intelligence

The CIA’s brutal interrogations of terrorism suspects from 2002 to 2008 led to false confessions and fabricated information, produced no useful intelligence about imminent terrorist attacks and were so badly run that the CIA lost track of captives, according to a long-delayed Senate report released Tuesday. covers an error with great bodily harm:

CIA tortured German it mistook for a terrorist

A German citizen abducted and tortured by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents in 2004 should never have been detained, a US Senate report published on Tuesday showed.

Khalid al-Masri was “rendered” – a term for extrajudicial transfers of prisoners – to the CIA in January 2004 after being arrested by Macedonian border authorities, who mistook him for an al-Qaeda suspect.

While in CIA custody he was severely beaten, stripped, shackled and sodomized with a suppository as part of a process the agency called “capture shock”.

He was later flown to a CIA site in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was beaten, kicked and subjected to other abuse in a prison called the “Salt Pit”.

And the London Telegraph reports an admission:

Polish president admits Poland agreed to host secret CIA ‘black site’

  • Alexander Kwasniewski, Poland’s president from 1995-2005, admits for the first time that Poland agreed to host a secret CIA ‘black site’

A former Polish president has admitted for the first time Poland agreed to host a secret CIA “black site” where terrorism suspects were held and allegedly tortured.

Alexander Kwasniewski, Poland’s president from 1995-2005, said he had permitted America to operate a base on Polish soil in the wake of the September 11 attacks but stressed there was “no agreement on torture”.

It is the first time a senior Polish politician in office during 2002-2003, when the base was operational, has conceded the CIA had a site in Poland.

For many years they issued flat denials about its existence despite a mountain of evidence indicating the base had existed, and allegations by former terrorism suspects that not only were they prisoners in Poland but also tortured there.

More from RT:

Poland: We hosted secret CIA torture prison

Program notes:

The damning report into CIA torture has led Poland to finally admit that it DID host a secret American prison – after years of denying it. It’s the first acknowledgement by a foreign country to hosting such a site. covers a partner in crime:

Austria complicit in US torture program

Austria was one of many European and Arab countries which was complicit in US torture programs, by supporting the secret and illegal transfer of detainees to some of its ‘black site’ prisons, according to a new report released on Tuesday.

The report is based on an in-depth investigation by the US senate, and was led by US Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Although many parts of the report are redacted, or have code names instead of countries, reporters and analysts have combined other information to glean details of which countries were actively supporting the US in its program of secret prisons around the world, where torture was allegedly carried out by the CIA on a routine basis.

From Techdirt, torture profiteers:

Profiting Massively From Torture: Designers Of CIA Torture Program Raked In $81 Million (And Are Still Getting Money)

  • from the how-do-they-sleep-at-night? dept

There are so many incredible things in the CIA Torture Report that will be discussed and analyzed over the next few weeks and months. But one that stands out to me is that the architects of the torture program were not only wholly unqualified to design it, but they profited massively from the program, to the tune of at least $81 million. And that number may go up, as they also are getting paid by the government for any legal issues related to the program, including over $1 million for legal fees associated with responding to the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation that resulted in this report.

The report uses pseudonyms for the two psychologists: Grayson Swigert and Hammond Dunbar. However, their names were actually revealed back in 2007: James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. To say they were unqualified for the work of designing the torture program would be an understatement. While they were psychologists with the US Air Force’s “Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape” (SERE) program (which is supposed to help train US military personnel in case they’re captured), you’d think they’d actually have some relevant background with terrorism and/or interrogation. But, nope:

Neither psychologist had experience as an interrogator, nor did either have specialized knowledge of al- Qa’ida, a background in terrorism, or any relevant regional, cultural, or linguistic expertise. SWIGERT had reviewed research on “learned helplessness,” in which individuals might become passive and depressed in response to adverse or uncontrollable events. He theorized that inducing such a state could encourage a detainee to cooperate and provide information.

And from the Guardian, torture by others:

Rousseff in tears as Brazilian report details junta’s killings and torture

  • Brazil’s president, herself tortured by 1970s military regime, breaks down as she says ‘new generations deserve truth’

Brazil’s National Truth Commission delivered a damning report on the killings, disappearances and torture committed by government agents during the country’s 1964-85 military dictatorship. It called for those responsible to face prosecution.

The 2,000-page report was delivered on Wednesday to President Dilma Rousseff, a former Marxist guerrilla who endured harsh torture and long imprisonment in the early 1970s.

“Under the military dictatorship, repression and the elimination of political opposition became the policy of the state, conceived and implemented based on decisions by the president of the republic and military ministers,” the report states. The commission “therefore totally rejects the explanation offered up until today that the serious violations of human rights constituted a few isolated acts or excesses resulting from the zeal of a few soldiers”.

Investigators spent nearly three years combing through archives, hospital and morgue records and questioning victims, their families and alleged perpetrators. The document represents Brazil’s most sweeping attempt yet to come to terms with the human rights abuses committed under the country’s military regime.

Who were trained by Uncle Sam, via BuzzFeed News:

The U.S. Spent Decades Teaching Torture Techniques To Brazil

The Latin American country’s National Truth Commission just produced its own torture report, which among other things documents the way American teachers taught Brazilian officers the theory and methods of torture.

U.S. military officials spent years teaching torture techniques to Brazil’s military, including throughout the South American giant’s lengthy period of military dictatorship, according to a new report.

After more than two years of investigation, the panel charged with documenting the human rights abuses committed under Brazil’s military dictatorship released its final report on Wednesday. The Brazilian report comes just a day after the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s own lengthy chronicle of the United States’ use of torture in prosecuting last decade’s War on Terror.

According to O Globo, the National Truth Commission (CNV) report documents how more than 300 members of the Brazilian military spent time at the School of the Americas, run out of Fort Benning near Columbus, Georgia. While there, attendees “had theoretical and practical lessons on torture, which would later be replicated in Brazil.”

teleSUR covers survivors arriving:

Mujica to Meet Guantanamo Refugees

  • The President of Uruguay urged Obama to release political prisoners and end the Cuban embargo.

The ex-inmates of the Guantanamo prison that Uruguay has accepted will meet with President Jose Mujica, local media reported on Wednesday.

The meeting was expected to happen Wednesday afternoon at the military hospital which the refugees entered after arriving inthe South American country on Sunday, to undergo medical examinations.

Also on Wednesday, five of them were released from the hospital.

And the Los Angeles Times comes to a conclusion:

CIA torture report not likely to result in reforms or prosecutions

Amid a fresh call for a major shake-up at the highest levels of the CIA, the White House expressed support for agency Director John Brennan, who was the deputy executive director in 2002 when the interrogation program was designed and implemented.

The Justice Department defended its decision not to prosecute those involved, saying the report would not trigger reconsideration.

And in Congress, where lawmakers split along party lines over the accuracy of the findings and the wisdom of releasing the 500-page redacted summary, there were few signs of momentum behind legislation.

Techdirt goes down the rabbit hole:

GCHQ Follows NSA Into Paranoia — Just As Julian Assange Predicted

  • from the cognitive-decline dept

One of the knock-on effects of Snowden’s leaks is that the NSA is terrified there might be more whistleblowers, and has taken extreme action in an attempt to reduce the risk of that happening by stripping 100,000 people of their security clearances. In other words, it no longer trusts huge swathes of the people it works with — hardly a healthy situation. Now it seems that GCHQ has succumbed to a similar paranoia about its employees:

GCHQ is sponsoring ways of identifying disgruntled employees and those who might go on to be a security threat through their use of language in things like office emails.

The article in the Gloucestershire Echo — the English county where GCHQ is located — explains how potential whistleblowers will be identified:

“research will investigate the use of techniques from the field of natural language processing to detect the early indicators of an insider’s threat.”

That means changes in the way a person communicates can give a clue that they are unhappy and perhaps prepared to do something to harm the organisation.

On to the year’s other major domestic story, via United Press International:

Medical students across U.S. hold ‘die-ins’ to protest racism

Medical students at the University of Pennsylvania blocked traffic as they joined a national “die-in” to protest the police killings of unarmed black men and racism in health care.

White-coated medical students from Harvard to the University of California held “die-ins” Wednesday to protest the deaths of unarmed black men and racism in health care.

The National White Coat Die-In involved scores of medical schools across the United States.

Lucy Ogbu Nwobodo, one of the organizers of the protest at the UC Davis Medical School in Sacramento, said the national discussion of the shooting of Michael Williams in Ferguson, Mo., and the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York “have affected all of us.”

“We decided to come together as one voice to speak up about these issues,” Nwobodo told Capital Public Radio. “We believe that because it affects our patients outside of the hospital it’s just as important as what we see in the medical clinics.”

At Yale in New Haven, Conn., medical students spent 4 1/2 minutes lying on the ground, a minute for each hour Williams’ body remained on the street, and then, like Garner, shouted “I can’t breathe.” Jessica Minor, a medical student, said the protest was also aimed at the under-representation of minorities and women in medical school.

At the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, protesters stopped traffic. About 100 students blocked Walnut Street by lying down.

The same, this time in Old Blighty, via USA Today:

Londoners hold ‘die-in’ in support of U.S. protests

Hundreds of protesters rallied Wednesday at one of Europe’s largest shopping malls to show solidarity with U.S. demonstrations over the killing of unarmed black men by white officers.

Shouting “black lives matter” and “we can’t breathe,” the multiracial crowd marched through the Westfield center in west London and staged several “die-ins,” echoing recent protests in the U.S. at Macy’s Herald Square and Grand Central Station in New York City, as well as Union Station in Washington. Other protests in recent days have occurred in Berkeley, Calif.

The English protest was called by the London Black Revolutionaries, the National Union of Students Black Students’ Campaign and the London Campaign Against Police and State Violence.

From United Press International, another response:

Columbia Law School postpones exams after Garner, Ferguson grand jury decisions

Columbia Law School is granting final exam postponements to students who say they were traumatized by recent grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers responsible for killing unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y.

The school’s interim dean, Robert E. Scott, announced the decision Saturday in an email to the school. He allowed the extensions after a petition was posted by The Columbia Law School Coalition of Concerned Students of Color on the same day.

“Recent events have unsettled our lives as students,” the petition read. “We have struggled to compartmentalize our trauma as we sit and make fruitless attempts to focus on exam preparation. We sit to study with the knowledge that our brothers and sisters are regularly killed with impunity on borders and streets; we sit to study with the understanding that our brothers and sisters are marching to have our humanity recognized and valued by a system that has continually failed us.”

And from Reuters, a win:

Chicago proposes chokehold ban in wake of U.S. protests

Chicago city council members have proposed a ban on the use of chokeholds by police officers working within city limits in an expansive proposal coming in the wake of the chokehold death of an unarmed black man being arrested in New York.

The proposal, which includes all security personnel such as deputy sheriffs, U.S. Marshals and private security guards, is the first among U.S. municipalities attempting to regulate arrest techniques after a grand jury last week declined to indict a New York City police officer in a chokehold death.

Council members in favor of the ban, which was introduced this week to the city’s finance committee, say they want Chicago in front of the issue of excessive police force that has resulted in street protests across the nation.

After the jump, Uncle Sam demands handover of emails in Ireland, then on to the hack of the year, first with FBI doubts about Pyongyang’s responsibility, word that a ransom demand came first, while Homeland Security warned Sony of possible North Korean retaliation, the film in question approved at the top, and a celebrity scandal emerges from the leaks, on to other malware, starting with a new version of an old curse, another new breed of malware, and a high level hacker cabal resurfaces, the FAA gives limited private drone us OK to four companies, another Palestinian tragedy and another provocation from the Israeli government, an African security investigation, on to Asia and American arms sale to Taiwan, Hong Kong braces for Occupy eviction, Brits angry at China for blocking a parliamentary Hong Kong visit, Chinese Game of Zones anger at Washington, and hints of a Beijing secret Game of Zones play, Chinese jets cross a Japanese line, a Chinese ballistic challenger, fears of a South Korean press crackdown, more fears over Japan’s new state secrets act amidst a right wing campaign against the press, while racists continue their Kyoto hate speech campaign, and Abe’s government steps up its campaign to whitewash war crimes abroad, cinematic Hitler love in Thailand, and a facesit-in protest in Old Blighty. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Fracking, fuel, dolphins, & climate

And more.

We begin with the Guardian:

Fracking and Lima climate talks slammed at Nature Rights Tribunal

  • Thirteen judges meet in Peru to hear accusations that the rights of ‘Mother Earth’ are being violated

It’s difficult to know what was more moving or arresting. There was the Ponca lady, Casey Camp-Horinek, starting to cry as she spoke about the impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, on her people in what she called “occupied” Oklahoma in the US, and saying “We’re having a funeral a week… We’re this close to being fracked to death.”

Then there was Kandi Mossett, from North Dakota, a fracking “victim who wasn’t able to come”. She appeared on the projector and broke down too, telling how “these radioactive frack socks [that are] off the charts on the Geiger counters” are being dumped and found by children who say things like, “Hey, we’re catching bugs with our nets.”

That was right after Shannon Biggs, the executive director of Movement Rights, had explained that fracking in the US is destroying lives, livelihoods, groundwater, rivers, farms, prairies, communities and landscapes, as well as causing “earthquakes where earthquakes don’t exist” and poisoning “millions and millions and millions” of gallons of water that are “taken out of the hydrological cycle forever”.

Camp-Horinek and Biggs were speaking before the International Tribunal for the Rights of Nature which met in Lima, Peru, on Friday and Saturday. The objective was to investigate cases of possible violations of the Rights of Nature as laid out in the Universal Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth made in Bolivia in 2010.

In total 12 cases were heard, by 13 judges, with an Ecuadorian lawyer, Ramiro Avila, acting as “prosecutor for the earth” and numerous experts and impacted people from around the world called as witnesses. One such case was made against fracking for its impacts on “the subsoil of Mother Earth”, and another against “climate change caused by human activities” – just as the United Nations’ climate talks are being held elsewhere in Lima.

Next, from teleSUR, a record-setting march:

South America’s Largest Ever Environmental March

  • As the official COP 20 meetings continue behind closed doors, tens of thousands take to the streets in defense of the environment.

On Wednesday, estimates indicate that up to 15,000 people took part in the March in Defense of Mother Earth in Lima, Peru. People came together from all over the world in what was the largest march in Peru in decades and the largest environmental demonstration in South America.

The march was organized by social organizations to pressure government authorities meeting at the COP 20, the official UN Climate Change Conference.

One of the organizers, Laura Santa Cruz, explained, “We expected this many people because we have put all our efforts into this, we have worked without rest, and we have struggled to push this forward. We believe that it is necessary to articulate our cause at a global level to confront the [environment] crisis that is already affecting us, and that only seems to be getting worse.”

BBC News protest blowback:

Peru moves to sue Greenpeace over Nazca banner

Peru says it will sue activists from the environmental pressure group Greenpeace after they placed a banner next to the Nazca Lines heritage site.

The activists entered a restricted area next to the ancient ground markings depicting a hummingbird and laid down letters advocating renewable energy.

Peru is currently hosting the UN climate summit in its capital, Lima. A Greenpeace spokeswoman said the group was investigating but its activists had been “absolutely careful”.

Luis Jaime Castillo, a Peruvian deputy culture minister, said Peru would file charges of “attacking archaeological monuments” against the activists from Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Another cause for protest from EcoWatch:

Latin Americans Pay Price for Corporate Climate Destruction

Information contained in a new report that details how multi-national corporations are destroying the environment and causing serious climate damage in Latin America brings attention to an important area not being discussed at the UN COP 20 climate negotiations being held in Peru.

The report describes in detail how the destruction caused by three European multi-national corporations is typical of the damage caused by multi-nationals throughout the continent.

While the climate discussions in Lima are focussing on what nation states need to do to reach a binding climate agreement a year from now, what is missing is a discussion about how corporations are not held accountable for the climate damage they cause in developing countries—damage that those countries are held accountable for.

The Guardian covers a return:

Olkola reclaim traditional Cape York land after three-decade struggle

More than 6,300 square kilometres of former cattle grazing land in Queensland is formally handed back to Indigenous owners, spelling the end of uranium exploration in the area and the start of a quest to develop tourism opportunities

One of the largest returns of land to traditional owners in Queensland’s history has killed off the prospect of uranium mining in a key part of Cape York.

The Olkola, who reclaimed more than 6,300 square kilometres of former cattle grazing land in a formal ceremony on Wednesday, are instead seeking business opportunities in adventure tourism.

Just over 1000 sq km of Olkola land is licensed for uranium exploration by French corporation Areva, which has spoken of north Queensland’s potential to match Kazakhstan as a source for nuclear fuel.

But the deal negotiated by the Olkola has forced Areva to give up its exploration licences in areas given over to a national park, and the clan has no intention of allowing mining elsewhere.

And from, another record:

2014 set to be the warmest year in three centuries

This year will go on record as the warmest in three centuries with an average temperature almost 1.5 degrees above average, the KNMI weather bureau said on Wednesday.

With much of December still to go, this year the average temperature is likely to be 11.5 Celsius, beating the 11.2 Celsius records set in 2006 and 2007.

It was warmer than average in every month but August and eight months also set temperature records, the KNMI said. And in parts of the country, it has not frozen at all in 2014.

Newswise covers an accelerant:

Warmer Pacific Ocean Could Release Millions of Tons of Seafloor Methane

Off the West Coast of the United States, methane gas is trapped in frozen layers below the seafloor. New research from the University of Washington shows that water at intermediate depths is warming enough to cause these carbon deposits to melt, releasing methane into the sediments and surrounding water.

Researchers found that water off the coast of Washington is gradually warming at a depth of 500 meters, about a third of a mile down. That is the same depth where methane transforms from a solid to a gas. The research suggests that ocean warming could be triggering the release of a powerful greenhouse gas.

“We calculate that methane equivalent in volume to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is released every year off the Washington coast,” said Evan Solomon, a UW assistant professor of oceanography. He is co-author of a paper to appear in Geophysical Research Letters.

While scientists believe that global warming will release methane from gas hydrates worldwide, most of the current focus has been on deposits in the Arctic. This paper estimates that from 1970 to 2013, some 4 million metric tons of methane has been released from hydrate decomposition off Washington. That’s an amount each year equal to the methane from natural gas released in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout off the coast of Louisiana, and 500 times the rate at which methane is naturally released from the seafloor.

From EcoWatch, passin’ more gas:

Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells ‘High Emitters’ of Methane Gas

Natural gas has been sold to us as the environmentally friendly fossil fuel compared to gas or coal since it doesn’t release carbon emissions. We’ve learned that’s not true, since drilling for natural gas can release methane, a far more potential greenhouse gas in contributing to climate change.

Now there’s some more bad news regarding the methane that’s a byproduct of oil and gas drilling operations, including fracking operations. Two studies found that the amount of methane leaked by oil and gas operations is probably being underestimated. Both hoped to provide information to make wells safer.

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of abandoned gas and oil wells in western Pennsylvania found that they continue to leak methane into the atmosphere long after their productive life has ended. In fact, millions of old wells could be leaking methane that’s not being included in any emissions data base, with an estimated 300,00 to 500,000 disused wells in Pennsylvania alone.

“Millions of abandoned wells exist across the country and some are likely to be high emitters,” the group of researchers from Princeton University wrote. “Additional measurements of methane emissions from abandoned wells and their inclusion in greenhouse gas inventories will aid in developing and implementing appropriate greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategies.”

And SINA English nixes a deal:

U.S. says no China-style climate deal in works for India

The United States on Wednesday played down prospects for a wide-ranging deal with India to curb greenhouse gas emissions next year along the lines of a plan agreed to with China last month.

President Barack Obama will visit India in January at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The visit has prompted speculation that the two nations might be preparing cooperation on climate change similar to a U.S. plan with Beijing.

“We don’t have that kind of process going on with India,” U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern told a news conference during Dec. 1-12 talks among 190 nations in Lima on ways to slow global warming.

After the jump, endangered dolphins threatened by Indian oil spill and Florida dolphins threatened by a virus, FBI busts a former chemical company boss over a toxic spill, Catholic bishops cal for an end to fossil fuels and the Church of England threatens a Big Oil divestment, Native Americans demand Big Coal return their ancestors’ bones, the unending Union Carbide-spawned Bhopal tragedy, and from Fukushimapocalypse Now!, an increased radition exposures mulled. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Parents, cartels, a plea, and a reality

We begin with another graphic response to the abduction and presumed murders of the 43 students from a poor rural teachers college in the state of Guerrero which triggered a national crisis of conscience.

From, a repurposing of a state-sponsored family planning mural in Oaxaca:

BLOG AYotziinapa

From the Latin American Herald Tribune, the parents make a demand:

Families of Missing Students Seek Suspension of Guerrero Government Powers

The families of the 43 missing students in Mexico are seeking the suspension of powers of the government of Guerrero state where the disappearances occurred because of infiltration by organized crime.

The suspension was requested in a document submitted to Senate representatives at a meeting on Tuesday at which the families also asked the legislative body to join in the search for the students.

At the meeting between the families and political representatives in the Senate, Vidulfo Rosales, legal counsel for the families, presented their demands, the most important of which was that the students be returned alive.

teleSUR covers an offer from north of the border:

Obama Offers Mexico Assistance in Finding the Missing Students

  • President Obama offered Mexican president forensic assistance in the case of the now 42 disappeared students.

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that his administration has offered help to the Mexican government in order to solve the case of the 43 students that were abducted the night of September 26.

“We’ve offered assistance in tracking down exactly what happened, our forensic capabilities, our capacity to get to the bottom of exactly what happened,” Obama told TV network Telemundo in an interview.

“The problem with drug traffickers is a chronic one that in some cases means they’ve taken complete control of towns and regions,” he said. Obama also said United States could contribute to improve the criminal justice system and the investigation capabilities of authorities from a federal level down to a municipal level.

Via Borderland Beat, a telling report from Sky News:

Mexican Sicario/Hitmen Held In Autodefensas “Jail”

Program notes:

Sky News published this story of autodefensas High in Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains “arresting” Caballeros Templarios, incarcerating suspects in their makeshift jail.

From Sky News, critical context:

Mexico’s Unstoppable Cycle Of Death

  • Mexico’s drugs trade has killed tens of thousands, and those who have never been found are known as the “Disappeared”.

In the hills above the town of Iguala, a group of families gather to start a search for new mass graves. They have already found three.

Above them, vultures swoop and turn in the deep blue skies.

Dogs had started turning up in nearby villages with human body parts.

Mexico has been in the grip of a staggering crime wave that saw, by some estimates, 120,000 people killed in the six years to 2012.

Another 27,000 people are missing. Rounded up by local police, they were handed to one of the country’s notorious cartel gangs and “disappeared”: a common expression succinct in its accurate brevity.

And a Sky News again, a video report:

Mexico’s Drug Cartels: Who’s Fighting Who?

Program notes:

Dr Thomas Rath, a Lecturer in Latin American history, breaks down the regional impact of the drug trade.

Finally, from a companion Sky News article, that map of drug syndicate turf boundaries:

BLOG drugs

teleSUR covers a presidential plea:

The Ayotzinapa Case Should Not Be Avoided: Correa

  • Ecuador’s president brought up the Ayotzinapa case at the Ibero-American summit, despite Mexican efforts to avoid the topic.

Mexico’s current crisis should not be left out of the topics discussed at the Ibero-American Summit said Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, in an interview with Spanish news agency EFE.

Despite the efforts of the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs to avoid the topic of the abduction of the 43 Ayotzinapa students at the 24th Ibero-American Summit, Correa said that not only should the topic be disucssed, but that there needs to be a “common regional response.”

Correa is one of the many leaders attending the summit to raise the issue of the teacher-training students, who went missing between Sept. 26 and 27, which has caused public outcry and mass rallies for the state corruption the case has unearthed. covers an enigma:

Man with Mexican flag disrupts Nobel ceremony

A man who disrupted the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for unclear reasons while brandishing a Mexican flag in Oslo on Wednesday was arrested, Norwegian police said.

Dressed in a grey jacket and black trousers and with a camera hanging around his neck, the man brandished the Mexican flag in front of Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai and India’s Kailash Satyarthi as the Nobel laureates received their prize to rapturous applause.

Police led the man outside Oslo City Hall, where the ceremony was being held.

And from The Real News Network a Sharmini Peries interview of Professor John M. Ackerman of the National Autonomous University of Mexico [UNAM], editor-in-chief of the Mexican Law Review, and columnist with both La Jornada newspaper and Proceso magazine:

A Second Mexican Revolution in The Works

And excerpt from the transcript:

PERIES: So, John, President Nieto is obviously observing all of this and he has revealed a plan to boost the economy in, at least, the southwestern region recently. This is the area where the 43 students went missing. Do you think the plan will address the underlying economic issues that are required at this time?

ACKERMAN: That’s a good question. This ten-point plan is a very insufficient and in fact counterproductive move on the side of Peña Nieto. We can look at it both politically and economically.

Politically it’s a failure because what is a political crisis of his government, the legitimacy [incompr.] his government he is trying to resolve through very minor bureaucratic, technical fixes, like changing the national emergency number from 066 to 911, creating a national identity card. Mexico already has a national identity card, but they’re going to give it a new name and a different procedure for making it, making local police more dependent on state police, municipal and state police. These are all sort of bureaucratic switching of gears and moving things around, administrating the crisis, which is not going to resolve anything when the crisis is political and it’s about legitimacy at its root.

And on the other side he announced new economic programs which aren’t really new either. These new economic programs are basically the expansion of neoliberal policies towards southern Mexico. This is the dream of Vicente Fox. When Vicente Fox, the president from the right-wing PAN Party, who came into power in 2000, when he came into power, he announced something called the Plan Puebla Panamá, the Puebla Panamá Plan, which was basically turning the whole southern part of Mexico, the isthmus, if you want, the /?p?k?n/ in Oaxaca into a big enclave for the maquilas, bringing the whole model of underdevelopment of the north in Mexico down to the south.

And most importantly–and this is what Peña Nieto’s really trying to do–is disarticulate and weaken the bonds of solidarity and of community development. This is very much of an indigenous historical area, Guerrero and Chiapas and Oaxaca full of community organizing and of revolutionary ideals. So through his sort of economic plan, which is, again, these enclaves for international capital, what he’s trying to do is also have this political project of dearticulating, disarticulating the networks of solidarity which are creating the uprising today.

Last, from the Los Angeles Times, the second in a series of articles on the reality of life faced by the families of millions in Mexico:

Desperate workers on a Mexican mega-farm: ‘They treated us like slaves’

  • Scorpions and bedbugs. Constant hunger. No pay for months. Finally, a bold escape leads to a government raid, exposing deplorable conditions. But justice proves elusive.

When the mistreatment of workers at the camp was finally exposed, Mexican authorities made arrests, imposed fines and promised to make an example of the company. A year and a half later, however, the case of Bioparques speaks more to the impunity of Mexican agribusiness than to accountability.

Bioparques is emblematic of Mexico’s agricultural miracle. Its owner, Eduardo De La Vega, has transformed the region around San Gabriel, south of Guadalajara, into an export powerhouse with 500 acres of greenhouses, a packing plant and an executive airstrip.

Able to harvest 10 months out of the year, the company grows tomatoes on a massive scale at the Bioparques mega-farm in San Gabriel and a second in the state of Sinaloa, Agricola La Primavera. It has sent as many as 6 million boxes of tomatoes a year to the U.S. from the two locations. They are sold under the Kaliroy brand name.

The first part in what will be a four-part series is here.