Category Archives: Law

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, volcanoes, fuel, more


We begin with preparations from the Associated Press:

US looking past Ebola to prepare for next outbreak

The next Ebola or the next SARS. Maybe even the next HIV. Even before the Ebola epidemic in West Africa is brought under control, public health officials are girding for the next health disaster.

“It’s really urgent that we address the weak links and blind spots around the world,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told The Associated Press. “Ebola is a powerful reminder that a health threat anywhere can affect us.”

Ebola sprang from one of those blind spots, in an area that lacks the health systems needed to detect an outbreak before it becomes a crisis. Now the Obama administration has requested $600 million for the CDC to implement what it calls the Global Health Security Agenda, working with an international coalition to shore up disease detection in high-risk countries and guard against the next contagion.

And on to a European outbreak with TheLocal.dk:

Denmark closely eyeing German bird flu case

After a worrying new strain of bird flu was found in northern Germany not far from Denmark, Danish officials say they are watching the situation closely but have not raised national threat levels.

The German agriculture ministry said on Saturday that a goose with the highly pathogenic H5N8 strain was identified in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The ministry told AFP that it marked the first case of the virus outside of a farm setting in Europe.

German officials say they have asked regional authorities to keep an “active watch” on wild birds, which means killing animals suspected of having the virus and conducting screening tests.

And a Swiss alert from TheLocal.ch:

Switzerland bans Dutch poultry imports

Switzerland is banning chicken imports from Britain and the Netherlands after Dutch officials said they detected bird flu on three more farms.

The Swiss move, announced on Friday, came into effect on Saturday and applies to live chickens and chicks as well as eggs from the affected zones in the two countries, the Federal Office for Food Security and Veterinary Affairs said.

Belgium meanwhile ordered poultry owners to confine their birds as a precautionary measure following the outbreak in neighbouring Holland.

The Dutch economic affairs ministry confirmed that a second bird flu outbreak detected on Thursday on a farm at Ter Aar, close to the first case east of The Hague, was the highly pathogenic H5N8 strain, previously detected only in Asia.

From the Los Angeles Times, a seismically alarming development:

Earthquake early alert system ready to expand in California

Officials are planning the first major rollout of California’s earthquake early warning system next year, providing access to some schools, fire stations and more private companies.

The ambitious plan highlights the progress scientists have made in building out the system, which can give as much as a minute of warning before a major earthquake is felt in metropolitan areas.

Until now, only academics, select government agencies and a few private firms have received the alerts. But officials said they are building a new, robust central processing system and now have enough ground sensors in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas to widen access. They stressed the system is far from perfected but said expanded access will help determine how it works and identify problems.

From the Times, an example of how the system might work in esnl’s own back yard:

BLOG Quaker

From Science, chilling out, not eruptile dysfunction:

Thanks, volcanoes! Earth cooler than expected due to recent eruptions

Minor volcanic eruptions substantially slowed Earth’s warming between 2000 and 2013, a new study suggests. The small particles, or aerosols, were spewed high into the atmosphere and scattered sunlight back into space, preventing the global average temperature from rising from 0.05°C to 0.12°C. That cooling effect represents between 25% and 50% of the expected temperature rise during that period because of rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, the scientists say, so the finding helps explain the so-called hiatus in global warming over the last 15 years.

“This is an important paper,” says Brian Toon, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. The team’s results “help us understand why Earth didn’t warm as much as expected by climate models in the past decade or so.”

Scientists have long known of the cooling effect of major volcanic eruptions, which spew large amounts of light-scattering aerosols into the stratosphere. The Philippines’ Mount Pinatubo, for example, cooled Earth by a few tenths of a degree Celsius for months after it blew its top in June 1991. But the chilling effect of minor eruptions has been hotly debated, says David Ridley, an atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. That’s because scientists have presumed that most of the aerosols from minor eruptions do not rise beyond the troposphere, the layer of Earth’s atmosphere where weather occurs and where natural processes quickly clear particles from the atmosphere.

Making this, on balance, a positive development? From Reuters:

Cape Verde orders evacuation after Fogo volcano erupts

A volcano in the Cape Verde archipelago off the coast of West Africa erupted on Sunday morning, the prime minister said, calling for residents to evacuate.

A photograph posted on the local RTC TV station website showed a huge plume of smoke rising into the sky, visible from the capital Praia on a neighbouring island.

“Things could deteriorate in the coming moments, in the coming hours,” Jose Maria Neves in a statement on the government website.

“We’ve called on people to heed the authorities’ instructions. People should abandon Cha das Caldeiras,” he said referring to a hillside community.

And from Science, reporting from Norway on ominous portents:

Arctic faces an ice-pocalypse

Thick sheets of ice coating roads, homes, and pastures. Dead reindeer, no radio transmissions, and flights canceled for days. When ice came to this Arctic mining outpost on the Svalbard archipelago two winters ago, it crippled the community for weeks and devastated wildlife for months. Now, scientists are saying such weather extremes in the Arctic—known as rain-on-snow events—may become more frequent in the future.

“It’s hard to study extreme weather events, which by definition are rare,” says ecologist Brage Hansen of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. “So we took the opportunity in 2012.”

Brage and his co-authors focused on the rainy warm spell that brought record-high temperatures and prolonged rain to Svalbard over 2 weeks in January and February 2012. Temperatures during that period were routinely 20°C higher than normal, and on one day, the study notes, a Svalbard weather station recorded a daily average temperature of 4°C, which was “higher than at any weather station in mainland Norway on that day.” Another Svalbard station recorded 272 mm of rain during the 2 weeks; that station’s average for the whole year is 385 mm.

And from the Los Angeles Times, adapting to drought in Wine Country:

Drought revives ‘forgotten art’ at wineries: Farming without irrigation

Everyone used to dry farm wine grapes until the late 1970s, when irrigation was introduced. Dry farmed wines put California on the global map by winning a seminal blind tasting test in 1976 called the “Judgment of Paris.”

Today, only a handful of producers continue the tradition — and only where there’s just enough rain. Adherents are discovering revived interest in the practice now that California’s $23-billion wine industry is facing an emerging water crisis of historic proportions.

“It’s like a forgotten art,” said Frank Leeds, head of vineyard operations for Frog’s Leap Winery in Rutherford, a leading dry farm and organic wine producer in Napa Valley. “There’s very few guys that dry farm and less guys that actively dry farm. It’s easier, I’m sure, to turn on the tap.”

Leeds estimates that up to 85% of Napa Valley has enough rain to practice dry farming. But it’s hardly an option in Temecula, or in the largely bone-dry San Joaquin Valley, which produces more than 70% of the state’s wine.

Another drought impact from the Contra Costa Times:

EBMUD looking at rate hike if there’s no rain

Saying it is “at risk of running out of water” without a rainy season, the East Bay’s largest water provider is looking to hike rates by 14 percent next month to pay for an emergency supply — and may consider boosting the surcharge to 20 or 25 percent in the spring.

Unless it rains and snows a lot soon, East Bay Municipal Utility District managers say the surcharge will be necessary to buy, pump and treat the emergency water from Freeport a few miles south of Sacramento.

The higher charges would go into effect on or around Jan. 2 for the district’s 1.3 million customers in Contra Costa and Alameda counties. The surcharge will be considered on Dec. 9 at EBMUD headquarters in Oakland.

From Want China Times, the high cost of development:

Coal killed 670,000 in China in 2012: report

Coal was the major contributor to the death of 670,000 people and 535.2 billion yuan (US$87 million) in economic losses in China in 2012, according to a report cited in Shanghai-based outlet the Paper.

The results were gleaned from a government research project on coal consumption control and policy that was carried out by Pan Xiaochuan, a professor at Peking University’s School of Public Health in Beijing, and 22 Chinese national and environmental government agencies since October 2013.

Electricity and heat-producing industries, boilers, non-metal mineral processing and ferrous smelting emitted 21 million tons of sulfur dioxide, 23 million tons of nitrogen oxide and 12 tons of smog, powder and dust in China in 2012, which formed the bulk of the country’s pollutants. The PM2.5 particles produced by coal processing amounted to 61% of the pollutants.

The PM2.5 particles are the real killers, according to previous studies of Pan. The professor found that 670,000 people died of diseases related to the fine particles, of which 350,000 died of coronary atherosclerotic heart disease, 170,000 were killed by stroke, 84,000 by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 65,000 by lung cancer. The majority of deaths occurred in provinces and regions where the coal industry is most heavily concentrated.

Occupational diseases within the coal industry numbered 116,000 between 2008 and 2012. More than 94,000, or 82%, suffered from coalminer’s pneumoconiosis.

Economic losses from mining amounted to 2.2 billion yuan (US$359 million) directly and 3.3 billion yuan (US$538 million) indirectly.

Coal consideration in Germany from TheLocal.de:

Germany debates scrapping coal power

After deciding to scrap nuclear power, Germany is pondering saying goodbye to coal, its biggest energy source but also its top polluter and main threat to ambitious climate goals.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is split on the issue, which pits a vocal environmental movement against energy giants and coal mining regions, with only weeks until her cabinet is set to present its next climate action plan.

Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks has said that if Europe’s biggest economy doesn’t reduce coal use, it has no chance of meeting its 2020 target of cutting Earth-warming carbon emissions by 40 percent from three decades earlier.

After the jump, more environmental woes in China, another British fracking controversy, Shell’s Nigerian oil spill lies exposed, on to Fukushimapocalpyse Now! with a nuclear life extension deliberation and a consolidation of political power, the latest on containment in Chernobyl, and a possible end to a Darwinian legacy. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Caution, false alarms, politics. . .


A slow news day, so straight ahead we go, first with an assessment from USA Today:

War against Ebola in West Africa remains a tough fight

A snapshot of the Ebola epidemic raging across West Africa shows a wildfire of infections only slightly contained.

While cases have been on the decline in Liberia, the outbreak is worsening in neighboring countries, where basic Ebola-fighting tools are impractical.

Identifying the infected and those they’ve touched, and isolating them to break the transmission chain are all but impossible in Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown as well as the jungles of Guinea, says Jordan Tappero, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s second-in-command for the regional response.

The new surge of Ebola in Sierra Leone follows a devastating one in Monrovia two months ago. Such a furious spread is something disease trackers say they’ve never seen in the 38 years since the virus was first identified.

The latest domestic false alarm from ABC News:

2 Children Test Negative for Ebola in Ohio

Two young children who were admitted to an Ohio hospital today after they developed fevers following a trip to West Africa have tested negative for Ebola, health officials said.

Two sisters, ages 4 and 6, were taken to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus early this morning after they showed signs of a fever, Jose Rodriguez, director of public affairs and communications for the Columbus Public Health Department, said today.

Instead, the girls tested positive for Influenza A, Rodriguez said.

Before the test results came back, the two were kept in isolation and received supportive care, Jose Rodriguez, director of public affairs and communications for the Columbus Public Health Department, said today.

From KNOE News in Monroe, Louisiana, an interesting development:

CDC sends out Ebola guidelines to funeral homes

  • The Centers for Disease Control has issued guidelines to U.S. funeral homes on how to handle the remains of Ebola patients.

Mulhearn Funeral Home in Monroe confirms they’ve gotten a three-page list of recommendations from the CDC. Among the guidelines, funeral workers are instructed to wear protective gear when handling the remains, since Ebola can be transmitted postmortem. Funeral homes are also told to avoid autopsies and embalming.

According to the Associated Press, Governor Bobby Jindal is urging the Obama Administration to block flights coming into the United States from Ebola-stricken countries.

Friday, Jindal said, “Even countries in Africa have cut back on or stopped accepting flights from countries with Ebola outbreaks.”

Kyodo News cover Asian agreement:

Japan, China, S. Korea agree on Ebola cooperation

The health ministers of Japan, China and South Korea said Sunday they will collaborate closely in preventing Ebola and other deadly diseases from entering their borders.

The trilateral meeting was held in Beijing at a time of tentative signs of a slight improvement in Japan’s relations with China and South Korea, which have been severely strained over territorial and wartime issues.

Despite Japan’s political difficulties with its two neighboring countries, the health ministers agreed to boost countermeasures for the Ebola outbreak and other types of diseases, including pandemic influenza.

On to Liberia and a sad development from FrontPageAfrica:

Infighting in Response Efforts as GoL Unveils Ebola Spending

Though the deadly Ebola outbreak continues to see improvement for several weeks now, the response seems to be marred by poor coordination and infighting between officials at the Ministry of health, donors and agencies helping with the response.

Minutes from the Incident Management Meeting obtained by FrontPageAfrica suggest that there are no data on the quality of contact tracing because the government is not doing it properly and people are going back to treating people in their homes.

Experts believe the government is not taking the issue of contact tracing seriously as it should be doing. Richard Ragan of the United Nations Emergency Ebola Response UNMEER, says: “You always report on suspect cases, but tracking the suspect cases from day to day – what percentage of the suspect cases become actual cases?”

The World Health Organization during the meeting responded to the question, saying: “Give me a functioning database, and I could tell you – but right now, I can’t answer that. There are very important quality improvement activities needed.”

From the African Union, a welcome:

African Union Welcomes Plans by the People’s Republic of China to Build a Hospital in Liberia

AU Commission Chairperson, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has welcomed the announcement by the People’s Republic of China that it will build a 100-bed medical centre in Liberia.

This will add to the Ebola treatment infrastructure already being put in place by the USA, France, the United Kingdom and other donor countries in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, addressing the much needed bed-shortage identified as a key constraint in halting and reversing the trajectory of the epidemic.

This latest announcement follows other contributions made by the People’s Republic of China to the Ebola efforts in Africa, including donating medical equipment and personal protective equipment (PPEs), the deployment of Chinese medical personnel and aid personnel, providing food assistance and financial donations to the three affected countries. This is in addition to the financial contribution of USD$2 million China has already made to AU Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa mission (ASEOWA) and other support given to the World Health Organisation and to the UNMEER.

Finally, from Agence France-Presse, agricultural woes:

Ebola-hit Sierra Leone’s late cocoa leaves bitter taste

Program notes:

The arable district of Kenema in Sierra Leone — at the centre of the Ebola outbreak in May — has been under quarantine for three months as the cocoa harvest comes in.

MexicoWatch: Graves, arrests, anger, context


We begin with the latest body discovers in the search for 43 missing college students apparently abducted on orders of a cartel-running mayor, via teleSUR:

More Mass Graves in Mexican Search for Missing Students

Human bones were found by civilians and non governmental organizations inside the four mass graves.

Civilians and nongovernmental organizations in Mexico found four more mass graves Sunday, as part of the search efforts to locate the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Teacher Training College that went missing after being detained by Iguala police on the night of September 26.

Since that date, more than 15 mass graves and dozens of bodies have been found. However, none of the remains found as of yet have been linked to the missing students.

The most recent mass graves were found in La Laguna, just west of Iguala, the place where federal authorities say police officers shot at several buses that were transporting the students, killing three of them along with another three civilians, before handing over the survivors to a local gang.

And from VICE News, the latest on those arrested in Mexico City during a day oif protest on the anniversary of the Mexican Revolution:

Mexico Moves Detained Protesters to Maximum Security Prisons

Mexican authorities have placed 11 people in maximum security prisons for protesting the disappearance of 43 teaching students in the country.

The detained protesters — mostly students who were arrested Thursday during a massive demonstration in Mexico City — are currently accused of attempted homicide, criminal association, and mutiny, local outlets reported. The Mexico City protest turned violent when protesters began throwing Molotov cocktails and burning an effigy of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

But the families of the detained students said police had arbitrarily arrested and hit them, and that the group had been prohibited from hiring a lawyer other than the government’s public defense attorney.

Human rights defenders also denounced the drastic measure, and a lawyer for Mexico’s Institute for Human Rights and Democracy requested that the government share videos that prove the protesters are indeed guilty. The lawyer, Alejandra Jimenez, said the government had attempted to “criminalize” the protests by imprisoning the demonstrators.

More from Fox News Latino:

Arrests at Mexican protest over missing students draw criticism from human rights group

Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office announced Saturday that eight men and three women, who face charges including attempted homicide, were being held at prisons in the states of Nayarit and Veracruz that normally house dangerous inmates.

The 11 were among tens of thousands of people who gathered in Mexico City’s main plaza to demand justice in the disappearance and apparent killing of 43 students from a rural teachers college.

Alejandro Jimenez of the non-governmental Mexican Institute of Human Rights and Democracy accused authorities of attempting to “criminalize” civil protest and of using the prison system for “political use.”

A graphic response to the change of prisons from Mexico Herido:

BLOG Mexico

The accompanying text:

The world must know!

Today 11 students illegally arrested on november 20th during the demonstratio #20novmx are being transfered to the High Security Federal Prisons in Nayarit and Veracruz states. (7 and 5 hours from mexico city)

General Attornye’s Office (PGR) is violating their rights and the due process in the Judicial Trials.

Also, they’ve been beaten, most of them are pacific students, some of them were taken form restaurants where they’ve been all night, there are tons of videos of this, you can look around, please HELP US SPREAD THE WORD!

Green Left Weekly covers solidarity:

Global protests support students’ campaign for justice

November 20 is the day the 1910-20 Mexican Revolution is officially commemorated. However, normal celebrations were suspended in light of the protests. Protesters are demanding the students be returned alive and are calling on President Enrique Pena Nieto to resign.

That day, actions were held around the world in solidarity with protesters. “Mexico, the world is watching over you,” said the banner of a flash mob gathered at Lille, France.

Meanwhile, students at the University of Nottingham held a silent march inside the university dressed in black and holding banners with different messages under the refrain: “It’s not only 43.”

One banner said: “It’s not only 43. It’s the 22,322 missing people since 2006.”

Protesters also marched in London and students gathered across Germany also gathered to support the Mexican demands for justice. Protesters were held in Barcelona and Madrid in Spain. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, a Mexican football player playing for Real Madrid, tweeted “#WeAreAllAyotzinapa” and “#UnitedForAyotzinapa”.

There were also actions in Amsterdam, Hong Kong, New York, New Delhi and Melbourne. Demonstrations took place right across Latin America, with thousands of people marching in La Paz in Bolivia.

From teleSUR, a criticism for another president:

Uruguay’s Mujica Says Mexico Resembles a Failed State

  • The Uruguayan president said that events like those in Ayotzinapa are due to the “mass corruption” in Mexico.

Uruguay’s outspoken President, Jose ´Pepe´ Mujica likened Mexico to a “failed state with public powers that are totally out of control and decayed.”

Mujica made the remarks during an interview with Foreign Affairs when questioned about the case of 43 missing students in the violence-wracked country.

The Uruguayan president said that events like those in Ayotzinapa are due to the “mass corruption” in Mexico.

“Seen from a distance I think corruption is established as a tacit social custom. Most likely corrupt people aren’t frowned upon; on the contrary, they’re seen like winners; like splendid people. If it’s like that we’re screwed,” he said.

euronews has the predictable response:

Mexico summons Uruguay ambassador over president’s comments on missing students

Mexico said on Sunday it was summoning Uruguay’s ambassador after Uruguayan President Jose Mujica said that the disappearance of 43 students in southwest Mexico suggests the country is a failed state.

The students, who were likely murdered, were abducted by rogue Mexican police in league with gangs, fuelling nationwide protests and creating a political crisis for Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

“It gives one the sense, seen from a distance, that this is a kind of failed state, in which public authorities have completely lost control,” Mujica said in an interview with Foreign Affairs Latin America that was published on Friday.

Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement it was “surprised and categorically rejects some of the comments expressed in the interview.”

From ThinkMexican, another perspective:

#FueElEstado: How the Mexican Government Is Guilty of State Crime in Ayotzinapa Case

The Mexican government is undertaking radical reforms favoring private investors at a blitzkrieg pace. Dismantling public institutions in this manner has a destabilizing effect on the Mexican public’s ability to sustain themselves, diminishes our quality of life and has led to our mass economic migration to Western countries. Like the ongoing privatization of PEMEX and recent attempt to narrow curriculum at the Instituto Politécnico Nacional, the attack on Ayoztinapa students intended to cripple their ability to fulfill fundamental educational and social needs in rural Mexico. Perhaps the thinking was that once the students were placed into a more precarious position, the Mexican State could advance a ‘solution’ in the form of technocratic educational reforms. Therefore, we believe that the attacks in Iguala, Guerrero, on September 26, 2014, were motivated by the federal government’s desire to advance radical economic and educational reforms without opposition.

The Mexican government’s attack against Ayotzinapa students was an extremely flagrant human rights violation. In fact, the National Commission of Human Rights in Mexico has enough evidence to call it a ‘forced disappearance.’ The Ayotzinapa case ranks high in depravity even when comparing its details to other well documented state crimes. In recent memory, attacks against Mexican social activists, students and other civilians have risen in frequency and sophistication, involving coordination between multiple state actors. Along with these acts of state sponsored terrorism, there exist media narratives that serve to justify or absolve state complicity in these violent acts.

Initially, the attack on the Ayotzinapa students was justified in the name of law and order by some local media outlets The attacks against the Ayotzinapa students were first presented as simply heavy handed acts by the police on unruly students. Fortunately, the students had documented the violence and had anticipated omissions and defamation (see timeline). This is partly why the students were able to strongly declare that they were targets and victims of state repression, a point now well understood globally.

And from teleSUR, parents speak:

Parents of Mexican Missing Students Speak at Calle 13 Concert

  • The Puerto Rican music group also joined in solidarity with Ayotzinapa during the Latin Grammy Awards on November 20.

The Puerto Rican duo, Calle 13, allowed some parents of the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa to deliver speeches during their concert in Mexico City Saturday night.

René “Residente” Pérez announced Saturday at a press conference that although the Mexican laws do not allow him, being a foreigner, to speak against Mexican politics and policies, he would allow Mexicans — the parents of the missing students — to speak about the issue, and he did.

“I met with a father and a mother of a missing student and the story of their sons was very moving; since I recently became a father it was heartbreaking, I support these causes because I can’t avoid doing it, it is my duty. For me it is impossible to be on a stage and not mentioning these situations in Latin-America […] I will not speak tonight at the stage, the Mexicans will,” said “Residente” Perez.

We close with an important reminder that “disappeared” students have a long history under Mexican PRI governments. The video describes the 8 October 1968 massacre of students at the Tlatelolco plaza in the center of Mexico City.

Via the fereesayn2k14 Tumblr:

Masacre en Tlatelolco, 2 De octubre 1968

Program notes:

2 De octubre 1968

DIRECTED BY.: Alan Tomlinson

CINEMATOGRAPHY.: Eduardo Flores Torres TATO

InSecurityWatch: War, crime, spies, & threats


And lots of bad news for the Fourth Estate.

We open with a fascinating report certain to make a reader more secure, from the Los Angeles Times:

Banking industry culture primes for cheating, study suggests

Is your banker honest? Not if you remind him of where he works, a new study suggests.

Employees of an international bank were more inclined to lie for financial gain if they were thinking about their jobs than if they were thinking about their home life, according to a study published online Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The conclusions imply that cheating propensity is embedded in the business culture of the banking industry, and not in the type of person who goes into banking.

“These are not generally dishonest people,” said University of Chicago behavioral economist Alain Cohn, lead author of the study. “What our results suggest is that current norms in the banking industry tend to favor dishonesty and that the banks should initiate a change in norms.”

Domestic insecurity from Al Jazeera America:

FBI sends in reinforcements ahead of Ferguson grand jury announcement

  • FBI sends 100 agents to Missouri town that became flashpoint for racial tensions after policemen shot unarmed black teen

Police and protest organizers painstakingly laid the groundwork this weekend to avert street violence in Ferguson, Missouri, and the FBI sent in nearly 100 extra agents as a St. Louis-area grand jury was expected to soon announce its decision on whether to indict the white police officer who fatally shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August.

In a possible sign that an announcement on the grand jury’s decision is imminent, prosecutors told media organizations that they were making plans for a news conference to announce the outcome — but the date, time and location remained undetermined.

Protests on Friday night led to the arrest of three demonstrators as hundreds blocked traffic along South Florissant Road, the main thoroughfare through Ferguson where marchers and police have tangled regularly since the late-summer unrest over the Brown shooting.

Ancillary reinforcements, via Fusion:

Across the tracks from Ferguson, Clayton enlists private army to brace for trouble

The predominantly white residents of Clayton seem convinced that the protesters will take out their anger there, and are hurrying to insulate themselves from the threat with private security firms.

Asymmetric Solutions, a St. Louis-based security and intelligence company that is staffed by U.S. special-operations veterans, has been working with companies around the metropolitan area whose assets are valuable enough to justify the firm’s steep rates. A project manager for the company, who asked not to be named, predicts that outside of Ferguson “most of the difficulty will occur in the Clayton area…the bastions of white wealth and privilege.”

When the grand-jury decision comes down, the firm will deploy its operatives to probable flashpoints. “You’ll never notice any of our people,” he said. “We’re not putting fighters out there—we’re putting thinkers and managers out. Their ability to wage war effectively is simply one more tool in the toolbox.”

From United Press International, war prolonged:

Obama signs secret order expanding U.S. role in Afghanistan

President Obama reportedly signed a classified order authorizing an expanded military mission in Afghanistan in 2015, allowing U.S. forces to carry out missions against the Taliban

President Obama quietly signed a classified executive order authorizing a more expansive role for U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2015, ensuring American troops will be fighting in the country for at least one more year, The New York Times reported.

The order allows American troops to take a direct role in missions against militant groups that include the Taliban.

It’s a broader mission than the president described in a May announcement, when he said the U.S. military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year and the remaining 9,800 troops would be focusing on training Afghan forces and handling al-Qaida threats.

And a possible stimulus, via the New York Times:

Hour’s Drive Outside Kabul, Taliban Reign

The explosion ripped through the floor of the Humvee, tearing a hole in the armored vehicle and injuring the district governor. The crack of Taliban gunfire followed.

Seeking cover, the Afghan police convoy sped behind a mud compound and unleashed a hail of bullets. Undeterred, the Taliban fighters edged closer. As bullets smacked around his head, an Afghan soldier in a white head scarf crouched behind a waist-high wall trading shots with the insurgents, a cigarette tucked in his lips.

“This is our daily life,” said the police chief of Tagab district, a mostly Taliban-controlled patch of Kapisa Province about an hour from Kabul, as rounds struck the compound’s edges, showering his men with dirt. “Everything is like this — you can see it with your own eyes.”

In areas like this, it is the government that operates in the shadows, following the dictates of the Taliban in order to stay alive. Afghan soldiers in Tagab district will not leave their base except for one hour each day starting at 9 a.m., when the Taliban allow them to visit the bazaar as long as the soldiers remain unarmed.

From Deutsche Welle, terror talk:

Inside IS – The Structure of Terror | Quadriga

Program notes:

After beheading yet another western hostage, the Islamic State terrorist organization is now threatening direct attacks on the US and Britain. Documents that have recently come to light allow some insights into the group’s structure, and reveal an extensive finance network and sophisticated logistics systems for weapons and supplies. Is IS more powerful than experts previously believed?

Guests:

Amir Musawy, Berlin correspondent for Iraqia TV

Asiem El Difraoui, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Media and Communication Policy in Berlin

Antje Bauer, reporter specializing in the Middle East, Turkey and Afghanistan.

Read more: http://www.dw.de/quadriga-inside-is-the-structure-of-terror-2014-11-20/e-18014096-9798

From the New York Times, hardly surprising:

Among Pakistan Militants, Signs of Affinity With ISIS

Across Pakistan, the black standard of the Islamic State has become seemingly ubiquitous.

From urban slums to Taliban strongholds, the militant group’s logo and name have appeared in graffiti, posters and pamphlets. Last month, a cluster of militant commanders declared their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State.

Such is the influence of the Islamic State’s steamroller success in Iraq and Syria that, even thousands of miles away, security officials and militant networks are having to reckon with the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

More Pakistani news from the New York Times:

Eavesdropping on Pakistani Official Led to Inquiry Into Former U.S. Diplomat

American investigators intercepted a conversation this year in which a Pakistani official suggested that his government was receiving American secrets from a prominent former State Department diplomat, officials said, setting off an espionage investigation that has stunned diplomatic circles here.

That conversation led to months of secret surveillance on the former diplomat, Robin L. Raphel, and an F.B.I. raid last month at her home, where agents discovered classified information, the officials said.

The investigation is an unexpected turn in a distinguished career that has spanned four decades. Ms. Raphel (pronounced RAY-full) rose to become one of the highest-ranking female diplomats and a fixture in foreign policy circles, serving as ambassador to Tunisia and as assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs in the Clinton administration.

And from the New York Times once more, tortuous deliberations:

Senate Democrats Clash With White House on C.I.A. Torture Report

In a tense confrontation with President Obama’s closest adviser on Thursday, a group of Senate Democrats accused the White House of trying to censor significant details in a voluminous report on the use of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency.

During a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill with Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff, the senators said that the White House was siding with the C.I.A. and trying to thwart negotiations over the report’s release. The negotiations have dragged on for months because of a dispute over the C.I.A.’s demand that pseudonyms of agency officers be deleted from the report.

The C.I.A., supported by the White House, has argued that even without using the real names of the officers, their identities could still be revealed.

According to several people in attendance, the meeting was civil, but neither side gave ground, and it ended without resolution. The Senate Intelligence Committee spent five years working on the 6,000-page report, which is said to provide grim details about the torture of detainees in C.I.A. prisons during the Bush administration, and describe a persistent effort by C.I.A. officials to mislead the White House and Congress about the efficacy of its interrogation techniques. The committee voted this year to declassify the report’s executive summary, numbering several hundred pages, but the fight over redactions has delayed the release.

From IDG News Service, spooky business as usual:

NSA director: No changes in telephone record collection coming

The U.S. National Security Agency is planning no major changes in its domestic telephone records collection program after a bill to rein in those efforts failed in the Senate this week, the agency’s director said.

The NSA will continue to collect U.S. telephone records in bulk, while operating under some restrictions President Barack Obama put on the program back in January, Admiral Michael Rogers, the NSA’s director, said during a House of Representatives hearing on cybersecurity Thursday. The NSA would rather wait to see what specific changes to the program Congress will require before making major changes, he told the House Intelligence Committee.

The NSA had hoped to get direction from Congress in the short term, but the agency may have to re-evaluate the telephone records program “if we’re unable to gain consensus in the window that we thought,” Rogers said. “I don’t have an answer to that in my own mind.”

The Los Angeles Times covers Fourth Estate outrage in Old Blighty:

British journalists slam police surveillance in lawsuit

British freelance video journalist Jason Parkinson had set his camera on a tripod outside London’s upscale Dorchester Hotel to film a protest against a group of delegates from an arms and defense trade show who were dining inside. He wore a red bandanna on his right wrist, a winter vest, a red-and-white striped shirt and a pair of blue jeans with a tear in the right knee.

The details of his attire are recorded in a 12-page police file Parkinson, 44, obtained through a freedom of information request which makes clear the extent to which British authorities have monitored him and other journalists as they carried out their work.

Britain’s National Union of Journalists, along with Parkinson and five others who obtained their own police intelligence records, filed a lawsuit this week against London’s Metropolitan Police and the British government. The action challenges police surveillance of journalists, including the retention of the information collected on a national database, as a violation of British law and the European Convention of Human Rights.

More Fourth Estate suppression from the Observer:

Media ‘gagged over bid to report MP child sex cases’

  • Security services accused of aiding Westminster paedophilia cover-up

The security services are facing questions over the cover-up of a Westminster paedophile ring as it emerged that files relating to official requests for media blackouts in the early 1980s were destroyed.

Two newspaper executives have told the Observer that their publications were issued with D-notices – warnings not to publish intelligence that might damage national security – when they sought to report on allegations of a powerful group of men engaging in child sex abuse in 1984. One executive said he had been accosted in his office by 15 uniformed and two non-uniformed police over a dossier on Westminster paedophiles passed to him by the former Labour cabinet minister Barbara Castle.

The other said that his newspaper had received a D-notice when a reporter sought to write about a police investigation into Elm Guest House, in southwest London, where a group of high-profile paedophiles was said to have operated and may have killed a child. Now it has emerged that these claims are impossible to verify or discount because the D-notice archives for that period “are not complete”.

From PCWorld, Windows™ into a corporate soul, eliminating yet more jobs:

Microsoft turns to robotic security guards to watch for trouble

OK, so the robot apocalypse probably won’t happen any time soon, but the new robot sentries guarding Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus seem like something straight out of a futuristic sci-fi movie.

According to ExtremeTech, each of the K5 security guard robots from robotics company Knightscope stands 5 feet tall and weighs 300 pounds, so you probably don’t want to mess with one.

The K5 robots don’t come with any weapons onboard—thankfully—but they use a suite of alarms, sirens, and cameras to monitor and patrol the grounds of Microsoft’s campus. If one spots trouble, it’ll either sound an alarm or dispatch a human security guard to its location.

From the Guardian, another European separatist movement:

European parliament set to call for break-up of Google in antitrust case

  • Draft motion seeks to serve as solution to Google’s dominance of search markets in Europe and is seen as drastic escalation of running antitrust case

The European parliament is reportedly poised to call for a break-up of Google in a drastic escalation of Europe’s long-running antitrust case against the tech giant.

A draft motion seen by the Financial Times, and expected to be agreed next week, calls for the “unbundling [of] search engines from other commercial services” as a potential solution to Google’s dominance of the search market in Europe.

The European Commission has been investigating concerns that Google has abused its dominant position in search since 2010 and the dispute has become increasingly bitter. In September the EU’s incoming digital commissioner Günther Oettinger warned that any settlement with Google could “cement its strength in the market rather than diluting it”.

After the jump, hackers busted, crime and the power of privilege, dronal decadence, a kidnapped Colombian general’s release promised, Fourth Estate woes in Libya, terrorism leads to call for Nigerian school closures, a split in the Hong Occupy movement, a Fourth Estate prosecution, Chinese journalism woes in the Philippines, a major development in China Seas Game of Zones, China denigrates criticism of its military expansion,  Washington calls for settlement of a Seoul/Tokyo insular spat, and yet another delay in settlement of that controversial Okinawa U.S. base relocation. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Disease, climate, critters, nukes


We begin with another African outbreak, via the Guardian:

Plague kills 40 people in Madagascar

  • World Health Organisation is concerned about risk of disease spreading in the capital where two cases have been recorded

An outbreak of the plague has killed 40 people out of 119 confirmed cases in Madagascar since late August and there is a risk of the disease spreading rapidly in the capital, the World Health Organisation has said.

So far two cases and one death have been recorded in the capital Antananarivo but those figures could climb quickly due to “the city’s high population density and the weakness of the healthcare system,” WHO warned.

“The situation is further complicated by the high level of resistance to deltamethrin (an insecticide used to control fleas) that has been observed in the country,” it added.

And another one in Europe, from DutchNews.nl:

More cases of bird flu in the Netherlands, poultry farmers fear the worst

Three more cases of avian flu have been identified at Dutch poultry farms, this time near Kamperveen in Overijssel, the economic affairs ministry said on Friday.

The first farm, which rears broiler chickens and has around 10,000 birds on site, was identified on Friday morning. One of the other two farms had some 15,000 ducks. All three farms are being cleared.

On Thursday avian flu was found at a farm in Ter Aar. That has now been confirmed the same infectious type as on the first farm last weekend. A nationwide ban on the movement of eggs, poultry and poultry manure will remain in force, the ministry said.

While the Guardian covers taxation as an instrument of public health:

Largest American Indian reservation approves junk-food tax to fight obesity

  • A 2% increase on sales tax for food with little to no nutritional value
  • One-third of Navajos are diabetic or prediabetic
  • Obesity rate in some age groups is as high as 60%

The sales tax on cookies, chips, sodas and other junk food sold on the country’s largest American Indian reservation is going up.

Navajo nation president Ben Shelly signed legislation Friday to increase by 2% the sales tax on food with little to no nutritional value, starting next year. No other sales tax on the Navajo nation specifically targets the spending habits of consumers. It will remain in effect until 2020, but it can be extended by the Navajo nation council.

Navajos advocating for a junk-food tax said they wanted to pass a bill that could serve as a model for Indian country to improve the rates of diabetes and obesity among tribal members. Proposals targeting sugary drinks with proposed bans, size limits, tax hikes and warning labels haven’t gained widespread traction across the country.

And from AllAfrica, when one epidemic displaces another:

Liberia: Ebola Hampers HIV/Aids Care

Ebola has crippled the provision of treatment and care to people living with HIV/AIDS in Liberia, according to health workers and patients.

“We cannot get treatment normally now because of the outbreak of the Ebola disease in Liberia,” said 36-year-old Jeff Thompson, from Monrovia’s Jallah Town, who was diagnosed with HIV in 2011. “Our care centres are closed and all the health workers are scared to come to work.”

There are an estimated 30,000 people living with HIV in Liberia, according to UNAIDS.

Before the Ebola outbreak, more than 70 percent of them had access treatment via 144 HIV/AIDS care centres scattered across the country. But now, due to a shortage of health workers and fear about Ebola transmission, more than 60 percent these facilities have shut their doors, according to the National AIDS Control Program (NACP)

From Al Jazeera America, water rustlers:

California love: Water thieves just can’t get enough

  • In northern areas of the state, counties report illegal diversions from tanks, wells and streams

Something rare quickly becomes valuable. So it should come as no surprise that the latest target of thieves in a state suffering a historic drought is water.

California thieves are cutting pipes and taking water from fire hydrants, storage tanks, creeks and rivers to get their hands on several hundred gallons of the precious commodity.

They drive in the thick of night with a 1,000-gallon tank on the back of a pickup and go after the liquid gold wherever they can find it. Some have hit the same target twice in one night, filling up their tank, unloading it into storage and returning for a second fill-up.

And from CBC News, another kind of contagion:

Jelly-covered plankton multiplying in Canadian lakes

  • Low calcium levels from acid rain, logging blamed

Jelly-covered plankton that look like tapioca are multiplying in many Canadian lakes, clogging up water pipes and potentially disrupting the food chain.

The population of freshwater plankton called Holopedium has doubled in Ontario lakes between the mid-1980s and the mid-2000s, reports a study published this week in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The plankton are thriving in lakes that are low in calcium — and the calcium levels of many lakes have fallen in recent decades because of acid rain and logging.

From the New York Times, a global warming identity crisis:

Climate Change Threatens to Strip the Identity of Glacier National Park

A century ago, this sweep of mountains on the Canadian border boasted some 150 ice sheets, many of them scores of feet thick, plastered across summits and tucked into rocky fissures high above parabolic valleys. Today, perhaps 25 survive.

In 30 years, there may be none.

A warming climate is melting Glacier’s glaciers, an icy retreat that promises to change not just tourists’ vistas, but also the mountains and everything around them.

Streams fed by snowmelt are reaching peak spring flows weeks earlier than in the past, and low summer flows weeks before they used to. Some farmers who depend on irrigation in the parched days of late summer are no longer sure that enough water will be there. Bull trout, once pan-fried over anglers’ campfires, are now caught and released to protect a population that is shrinking as water temperatures rise.

From the Los Angeles Times, combinatorial crises:

‘Looming environmental crisis’ at Salton Sea prompts plea for help

The Imperial Irrigation District has sent a plea to a state water board to help avert a “looming environmental and public health crisis” at the Salton Sea.

In a letter this week to officials at the State Water Resources Control Board, the irrigation district asked that the board sponsor negotiations to get the state to fulfill its obligation to stop the deterioration of the sea caused by the sale of Imperial Valley water to San Diego County.

After a six-month negotiation period, the irrigation district wants the control board “to condition water [sales] on the state satisfying its unmet restoration obligation at the Salton Sea.”

And from the Guardian, forestalling crises?:

Polar code agreed to prevent Arctic environmental disasters

  • International Maritime Organisation committee adopts measures to protect the environment in face of predicted polar shipping rush

The international body in charge of sea safety adopted measures on Friday to protect people and the environment during a predicted shipping rush in the Arctic.

But environment groups and insurers said the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee had failed to address key issues including a proposed ban on heavy fuel oil and how to safeguard against cowboy operators.

The committee, which met in London this week, signed off on the Polar Code and various amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea (Solas) convention. These changes, which include mandatory requirements for ship design, crew training and search and rescue protocols, are expected to be ratified by the full IMO next year and come into force in 2017.

After the jump, a wildlife crisis in Kenya, tourism threatening indigenous cultures, boosting tools to fight environmental crime, Big Coal buys Fabebook Likes, then on to Fukushimapocalypse Now! with a radioactive water freeze trap foiled and a more concrete solution, and removal of more hot fuel commences along with exclusion zone landlocked shipwrecks, plus a radiation release in Scotland. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Politics, denials, aid, and economics


We begin with political posturing, via the Associated Press:

Officials downplay debates over Ebola aid response

U.S. officials on Thursday acknowledged disagreements over coordinating the international response to the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, but they say most issues are being worked out and the overall fight against the disease there seems to be succeeding.

In a call with reporters, the officials said disputes have erupted over matters like where to build new treatment centers and getting U.S. military helicopters to transport patients and blood samples from remote areas.

But they also minimized the debates, characterizing them as a natural and fleeting part of an intense and complicated battle against the largest Ebola epidemic in world history.

“The proof in the pudding is they get resolved. And we have seen progress in Liberia,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, director of USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance.

From Reuters, criminal opportunism:

Ebola becomes latest stock scam, SEC says

U.S. regulators warned investors of stock scams tied to West Africa’s Ebola outbreak and suspended trading in four small companies that they said have made unverifiable claims about products to prevent or treat the deadly virus.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said on Thursday it had suspended trading in over-the-counter stocks of New York-based Bravo Enterprises Ltd, California-based Immunotech Laboratories Inc and Wholehealth Products Inc, as well as Canada-based Myriad Interactive Media Inc.

The SEC cited a lack of publicly available information about their operations and separately warned that “con artists” may be soliciting investors and claiming to be developing Ebola treatments.

And a belated rectification from BuzzFeed News:

Ebola Cleanup Company Removes “Certifications” From Website After BuzzFeed News Investigation

Bio-Recovery Corp. claimed to be “EPA licensed” and won a contract to clean up the New York City apartment of an Ebola patient. But after BuzzFeed News investigated, some of those claims have disappeared from its website.

The company New York City hired to clean up Ebola has erased some of its “certifications” from some of its web pages, after a BuzzFeed News investigation raised questions about whether it was qualified to do the cleanup.

Until recently, Bio-Recovery Corp.’s website claimed to be “EPA Licensed” and an “EPA Certified Hazardous Waste Hauler” in multiple places. BuzzFeed News’ story found no evidence that the company had any active permits and revealed that Sal Pane and his crew showed up to clean up the Harlem apartment of Ebola patient Dr. Craig Spencer with a truck bearing permits that belonged to a dead man.

Pane has a long and colorful history of telling falsehoods. In 2010, Pane was found “personally liable for engaging in fraudulent and illegal acts” for running a mortgage company that scammed customers. BuzzFeed News’ examination found that he has used fake names and made false claims to inflate his credentials, gained credibility from media interviews, and accumulated a trail of people who feel he exploited them when they were vulnerable.

The Los Angeles Times looks into the mechanism of lethality:

Probing Ebola’s deadly inflammatory effect

New research suggests that the massive and destructive inflammation that characterizes Ebola virus disease may be caused by the release of foreign proteins from infected cells.

Although Ebola is infamous for causing bleeding in some of its victims, doctors say the vast majority of deaths are the result of organ failure and shock brought on by the uncontrolled release of cytokines, compounds that cells use to communicate with one another and control immune response.

It remains somewhat of a mystery to scientists exactly why the immune system spins out of control when confronted by Ebola. It releases an excess of signaling compounds that dilate blood vessels and cause blood pressure to plummet, while immune cells inflict collateral damage on otherwise healthy cells during the fight.

From TheLocal.es, recognition:

Spain grants citizenship to ‘Ebola heroes’

Spain on Friday awarded Spanish citizenship to two African missionaries who helped ensure the recovery of Madrid-based nursing assistant Teresa Romero.

Spain has granted citizenship to Paciencia Melgar Ronda from Equatorial Guinea and Helena S. Wolo from Sierra Liberia for the role they played in Romero’s recovery, Spain’s 20 minutos newspaper reported.

Ronda, 47, a nurse who recovered from Ebola after contracting the virus in Liberia, travelled to Madrid to donate blood plasma to Romero. She also allowed doctors to use her as a test case so they could observe the long-term evolution of her recovery.

The 36-year-old Wolo also travelled from her home country of Liberia to Spain and donated plasma used in the treatment of the infected Spanish nursing assistant.

From the Guardian, a critical report:

UN security council criticises discrimination against those from Ebola-hit regions

  • Security council opposes travel restrictions, like those imposed by Australia, on nationals of Guinea, Malia, Liberia and Sierra Leone

Julie Bishop has read a statement from the UN security council expressing concerns about discrimination towards nationals from Ebola-hit countries from other nations.

Last month the immigration minster, Scott Morrison, announced Australia would stop granting temporary visas to visitors from west Africa. The security council statement criticised such blanket bans and urged countries to maintain links with affected countries.

“The security council expresses its continued concern about the detrimental effect of the isolation of the affected countries as a result of trade and travel restrictions imposed on and to the affected countries as well as acts of discrimination against the nationals of Guinea, Liberia, Mali and Sierra Leone,” Bishop said.

Bishop earlier expressed concern about the Ebola virus outbreak at the security council meeting she chaired on the disease.

From StarAfrica, desiderata:

Ebola treatment requires speed, vaccines – Researchers

Confronted with the Ebola epidemic, West African countries need to act fast and utilize ethical values required to put in place effective treatment regimes and vaccines, African medical researchers said in Dakar on Friday.“The Ebola virus is an epidemic that needs speed and ethics for its treatment and vaccines”, Senegalese specialist in bacteriology-virology, Pr. Souleymane Mboup of the Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar (UCAD) told APA.

Sounding out a warning that Ebola is a dangerous disease that has brought an emergency situation, Pr. MBoup opined that the traditional research paradigms for treatment and vaccines, should be scrapped, insisting however that some ethical values should be maintained.

Pr. Mboup was speaking to APA on the sidelines of a two-day meeting of the West African science community on the fight against the Ebola virus organized by the Open Society Initiative in West Africa (OSIWA).

On to Mali, first with the Associated Press:

UN chief: Ebola cases in Mali a ‘deep concern’

The United Nations chief warned Friday that Ebola may be easing in part of West Africa but is still hitting hard in other areas and outpacing the international response.

“If we continue to accelerate our response we can contain and end the outbreak by the middle of next year,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, calling for continued funding and especially health workers to volunteer in the region.

Authorities are closely watching a new front in the outbreak, a cluster of cases in Mali linked to the death of a 70-year-old Muslim imam who was brought to Mali’s capital, Bamako, from neighboring Guinea — and health officials didn’t immediately recognize that he had Ebola.

“The new chain of transmission in Mali is a cause of deep concern,” Ban said. He dispatched World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan to Mali on Friday.

More form the New York Times:

Officials Revise Goals on Containing Ebola After Signs of Wider Exposure in Mali

The leaders of the United Nations and the World Health Organization expressed renewed alarm on Friday about Ebola’s tenacity in Africa and, in particular, its potential to ravage a fourth country, Mali, where they said hundreds of people had been exposed to an infected cleric who died last month.

At a webcast news conference from the World Bank offices in Washington, the United Nations’ secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and the W.H.O.’s director general, Dr. Margaret Chan, also appeared to reset their schedules for containing the Ebola virus, which has sickened at least 15,351 people and killed 5,459, according to a W.H.O. update posted earlier Friday.

Mr. Ban said nothing about the goal of safely burying 70 percent of the dead and treating 70 percent of the sick by Dec. 1, and instead expressed hope that the outbreak could be contained by the middle of next year.

And from Associated Press, another new case:

Mali: New Ebola case confirmed, 2 more suspected

Mali on Saturday confirmed a new case of Ebola and said two more suspected patients are being tested, raising concern about a further spread of the disease which has already killed at least five people in the country.

The patient who tested positive “was placed in an isolation center for intensive treatment,” said a government statement distributed Saturday. No details about the patient were provided.

Mali officials are monitoring 310 people to limit the spread of the disease, said the statement.

Mali’s five confirmed Ebola deaths are linked to a 70-year-old imam who was brought to the capital, Bamako, from Guinea, where the regional Ebola epidemic first began.

While StarAfrica covers a precautionary evacuation:

MSF staff member evacuated from Mali for exposure to Ebola

The international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières /Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has confirmed that one of its international staff members, a Spanish national, has been evacuated from Mali to Spain as a precautionary measure following an exposure incident.

According to a statement issued by MSF on Friday, the staff member, a Spanish national on assignment in Bamako, was injured while working with a patient who had confirmed Ebola. It adds however that the staff member is not showing symptoms of the disease at this time and has not tested positive for Ebola:

“In line with MSF precautionary procedures, the staff member is being transferred to a treatment centre in Madrid using a private aircraft as a precautionary measure and she will be followed up for 3 weeks.”

After the jump, on to Guinea and a crisis stabilized, a theft of suspected Ebola-tainted blood, an upcoming French visitor, and coping with closed schools, on to Liberia and the latest quarantine measures, a report on electoral campaigns in a time of contagion, the economics of an epidemic, a call for media cooperation, Americans mourn a lost colleague, and the economics of an epidemic, plus a Sierra Leone denial of allegations of rotten food aid. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Protests, arrests, anger, parents


We begin with a video report from Fusion on the Mexico City protests demanding justice and reform:

Mexican protesters flood capital, pressure government on missing students

Program notes:

Tens of thousands of protesters marched on Mexico City Thursday to demand justice for 43 missing college students and voice their frustration with the government’s inability to stamp out corruption, impunity and drug violence.

Next, a report from Reuters:

Molotov cocktails, clashes as thousands of Mexicans protest over massacre

Protesters threw Molotov cocktails and clashed with riot police outside Mexico City’s National Palace on Thursday as thousands protested against President Enrique Pena Nieto’s handling of the apparent massacre of 43 trainee school teachers.

Hundreds of police in riot gear blocked access to the palace in the capital’s main square, the Zocalo, where thousands of protesters had gathered in support of the students, apparently murdered after their abduction by corrupt police on Sept. 26.

Three marches had been peaceful until they reached the Zocalo, when the protesters incinerated an effigy of Pena Nieto. Protesters managed to burn down the door of the National Palace during a Nov. 9 march.

A smaller group of protesters then swarmed the entrance of the palace before police charged as they cleared the square.

More from Latin Times:

Ayotzinapa Protests: Thousands Of Mexicans Take El Zócalo And Burn Figures Of Mexican President

Mexico has a very deep wound right now after the disappearance of the 43 students in Ayotzinapa. On September 26, dozens of students took several buses to Iguala, and after a violent encounter with the police, 43 of them were allegedly taken to the police headquarters and never heard from them again. The government claimed the students where there to boycott a political event, but the students claim they were there to raise funds for their school. Mexican authorities eventually declared the students dead after weeks of investigation, but the people of Mexico are not letting this one go so easily.

They’ve had enough with the government, and this atrocious act was the last straw, which detonated a series of protests around the whole country. On November 20, 2014, multiple manifestations both in Mexico and of Mexicans living in other countries took place to show their support to the Ayotzinapa students and to tell the government that they’re tired of the corruption. The protest in Mexico City specifically took place at El Zócalo, where protesters took a cardboard figure of Enrique Peña Nieto and burned it at a stake, showing that the president’s approval rating might be dropping to an all time low.

One of the effigies, via the It’s My Life Tumblr:

BLOHG effigy

And from teleSUR, the first two reports with an interesting contrast:

Mexico: 11 Arrested and Charged With Terrorism After Protest

Mexico City’s Federal District and National Human rights commissions condemned the violent acts and informed that a report by their observers is expected to determine if the detentions were arbitrary.

On Thursday, eleven individuals were arrested during clashes with police in Mexico City’s central “El Zocalo” square, under charges of terrorism, organized crime, homicide attempt and mutiny, which prevents them from making bail. They were temporarily held at a Specialized Investigation Deputy Attorney for Organized Crime (SIEDO) facility, before being sent to high security prisons in the states of Veracruz and Nayarit.

The number of detainees was confirmed by Alejandro Jimenez, lawyer from the Mexican Institute for Democracy and Human Rights.

According to the counselor of two of the detainees, both of them were arbitrarily arrested on the square, and some of the others detainees refused to testify.

And from teleSUR again, a very interesting contrast:

Mexican Police Violently Attack Protesters in Mexico City

Repression unleashed last night could be a sign of President Peña Nieto’s disposition to use greater force against the movement.

Police violently removed protesters from Zocala Square Thursday, the main plaza in downtown Mexico City, injuring dozens, despite pleas from the protesters for police to not use repression against the crowd.

The Zocalo demonstration was one of the largest rallies in support of the missing 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teachers’ college. The earlier rally had already concluded when police marched on those who remained in the square. Police claimed they were provoked by masked protestors and were forced to respond.

However, police indiscriminately attacked all those present, including Juan Martin Perez, the executive director of the Network for the Rights of Children, who was in the square with his family. A photographer from Mexican magazine Proceso was also among the injured when an officer threw a sharp piece of metal at him.

Solidarity from the Latin American Herald Tribune:

Latin America Demands Justice for 43 Missing Students in Mexico

Thousands of people have united, armed with placards and slogans, across Latin America to demand justice for 43 Mexican students who went missing on Sept. 26, from the state of Guerrero, in southern Mexico.

The marches, which reportedly went about peacefully in several countries in Central and South America on Thursday, were a part of the fourth day of protests called by several civil organizations in Mexico.

The peaceful demonstrations in Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador, Paraguay and Cuba were in stark contrast to the ones in Mexico where violent clashes took place with the security forces.

And the government response from BBC News:

Mexico missing students: Action vowed on rule of law

Mexico’s government has vowed to take action to restore the credibility of institutions after the disappearance of 43 students more than two months ago.

President Enrique Pena Nieto’s spokesman Eduardo Sanchez told the BBC that a “crusade” was needed to “re-establish the rule of law”. Mr Sanchez said the government wanted dialogue, but added that some groups had “taken advantage of the situation to provoke violent acts and that is absolutely inexcusable”.

He said the government was working on reforms to re-establish the rule of law. Mr Sanchez said: “We are aware that there is an institutional weakness in some local governments, where we need to work harder for them to uphold the rule of law, where citizens respect the authorities and the legislations.”

While Al Jazeera America diminishes expectations:

Don’t expect an Aztec Spring with Mexico protests, analysts warn

  • Although thousands took to the streets in Mexico City, experts doubt the status quo of violence will change

“It’s really important to temper expectations,” says David Shirk, director of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego and a scholar of the Mexican justice system. “This is another terrible event, but Mexico has turned so many corners of this kind that it seems to be still going in the same direction.”

Ernesto López Portillo, director of the Institute for Security and Democracy, a Mexican think tank, agrees. “This is not the Aztec Spring,” he says, adding that street protests alone are unable to tackle the underlying problem of the a lack of accountability for those in power.

Neither protests nor the promises of politicians have achieved the institutional changes he says are essential to changing life in Mexico, he says. Moreover, despite the intensity of the protests, they have not so far drawn the active support of a majority of Mexicans. Portillo is more inclined to favor strengthening the rule of law and the mechanisms that enforce it.

Previous similar protest movements over the past decade have not resulted in any curbs on the onslaught of violence sweeping through Mexico.

And from United Press International, Uncle Sam advises:

U.S. travelers urged to avoid Acapulco region of Mexico

  • Anger over the disappearance of 43 university students in September has fueled protests and violent clashes

U.S. citizens are being urged to avoid non-essential travel to the popular destination of Acapulco because of ongoing protests and violence linked to the disappearance of 43 students in the state of Guerrero.

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico has issued a message saying that all of its personnel have been told to defer non-essential travel by air and land to Acapulco and that road travel in all parts of Guerrero state is prohibited.

“The Embassy cautions U.S. citizens to follow the same guidelines,” the message says.

The Latin American Herald Tribune covers an arrest:

Fugitive Police Chief Arrested in Missing Students Case

Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office has confirmed the arrest of a former deputy police chief who is a suspected member of the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel and is linked to the disappearance of 43 trainee teachers in the southern state of Guerrero.

Cesar Nava Gonzalez, ex-deputy police chief of the town of Cocula, Guerrero, had been on the lam since shortly after Sept. 26, when police attacked students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School, a nearby teacher’s college, leaving six dead, 25 wounded and 43 missing in the town of Iguala, the AG’s office said in a statement.

Corrupt police officers from Iguala and Cocula detained those 43 students that night and handed them over to the Guerreros Unidos gang, which killed them and burned the bodies to eliminate all traces of the victims, Mexican authorities say, citing statements by suspects in the case.

And from teleSUR, an independent assessment:

Mexico: Missing Students’ Parents to Start Independent Search

  • The protesters declared that they will start an independent search for their missing children

On Friday relatives of the 43 missing students of the Ayotzinapa Teacher’s Training School, declared that they will start an independent search for their missing children.

“We will go armed and backed up by the Community Guard (Community Authorities Regional Coordination),” stated one of the student’s parent.

At the end of a meeting among the Federal Detail and a commission of parents and the counselors from the Tlachinollan Centers for Human Rights on the Mountain, the relatives of the 43 spontaneously demonstrated at the front doors of the Chilpancingo Human Rights Commission, while chanting, “¡Murderers!” to federal officials.

The parents, angry about the lack of official response to their demands, threw water and soda bottles against the Federal Government retinue — headed by Commissioner of the Federal Police, Enrique Galindo Ceballos, the General Attorney’s (PGR) Criminal Investigation director Tomaz Zeron and Deputy Interior secretary Jaime Ramos — in Chilpancingo, Guerrero state’s capital.