Category Archives: Organized crime

MexicoWatch: Protests, vigilantes, & kidnaping

We begin with another teleSUR report about the parents of the missing youths:

Ayotzinapa Parents Accuse Mexican Attorney General of Cover-Up

  • The parents of the forcibly disappeared students also say the president is repressing protests with an “iron fist” strategy.

The family members of the 43 Atyotzinapa students are accusing Mexico’s Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam of covering up federal involvement in the deaths and forced disappearences.

During a press conference Wednesday, the relatives reiterated their demand for a direct investigation into the participation of the Mexican army and federal police in the deaths and enforced disappearances of the students, as well as into organized crime groups.

Spokesman for the families, Felipe de la Cruz, said that the authorities want people to forget about the state crimes committed in Iguala, Guerrero state on Sept. 26.

He said that while cover-ups happen all too often in Mexico, “in this case, the army, federal police, Iguala local police, ex Governor Angel Aguirre, and the President of Mexico himself have to own up to what really happened in Iguala.”

From BBC News, reaction to a lawless violence caused by lawlessness:

Mexico troops sent to La Ruana after vigilante shoot-out

  • More than 400 federal police officers and soldiers have been sent to a town in Mexico’s western Michoacan state.

The deployment follows a shoot-out between two vigilante groups on Tuesday in which 11 people were killed.

Ballistic tests showed all of those killed had fired their weapons in the two-hour gun battle in La Ruana.

The two groups of vigilantes were set up to fight the local drug cartel, but have since become bitter rivals and have started fighting each other.

March on Ayitla, from photographer Alberto Buitre via his Tumblr, #OficioRojo.

March on Ayutla de los Libres, from photographer Alberto Buitre via his Tumblr, #OficioRojo.

And from teleSUR, the story of that dramatic confrontation over their own vigilantes:

Thousands Demand Army to Retreat from Mexican Town

  • Residents of Ayutla de los Libres, Guerrero, block a highway for six hours arguing that vigilante groups provide security to the communities.

Thousands of residents of the Mexican county of Ayutla de los Libres, in Guerrero, marched Wednesday on a local highway to demand that the Mexican army be ordered to retreat from the zone.

The demonstrators said that although Guerrero undergoes a serious security crisis the county is safe thanks, in part, to the vigilante groups, known as self-defense groups.

“Military checkpoints on highways are illegal and it has been proven that they do not really work,” said Luis Salgado Leyva during a rally in Ayutla-Cruz Grande highway.

Seventy of the 108 communities that constitute Ayutla took part in the peaceful demonstration. Local media estimated about 3,000 people participated in the rally.

teleSUR English covers electoral questions:

Mexican electoral authorities in Guerrero assess electoral landscape

Program notes:

As Mexico’s federal government remains under fire for its less than adequate response to the Ayotzinapa case, federal electoral officials are in Guerrero state in response to a meeting between the Ayotzinapa families and the Senate in which a request was made to halt upcoming elections in Guerrero due to the institutionalized political corruption at all levels in the coastal state. teleSUR

The Latin American Herald Tribune covers Guerrero cartel business as usual:

Mexican Lawmaker Rescued from Kidnappers

Authorities in the central Mexican state of Morelos rescued a lawmaker hours after he was abducted by members of the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel, the state’s governor said Thursday.

“Legislator David Martinez has been rescued,” Gov. Graco Ramirez said on Twitter.

Martinez, a member of the center-left PRD, was beaten and subjected to psychological torture by his captors, the state public safety commissioner said. “Fortunately, he is very strong and he is happy with this second chance that life is giving him,” Alberto Capella told Milenio Television.

The rescue operation led to the capture of eight members of Guerreros Unidos, an outfit active in southern and central Mexico that has been linked to the Sept. 26 disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero state.

And from teleSUR, a dose of common sense from the south:

Bolivian President Critical of Mexico’s Drug-War Model

  • At a graduation event of national police, Bolivia’s president said the violence in Mexico was a result of the country’s anti-narcotics model.

Bolivian President Evo Morales criticized what he calls a “failed” anti-narcotics model in Mexico and Colombia Thursday in a graduation ceremony of the country’s National Police Academy, while also celebrating Bolivia’s policies towards fighting narcotraficking.

“The market for cocaine is generally in industrialized and developing countries. But … look at what is happening in Colombia, and especially how it is in Mexico,” said Morales at the event.

The former union leader pointed to recent events in Mexico regarding the forced disappearance of 42 teacher-training students of the Ayotzinapa college as a result of the country’s anti-organized crime policies.

“The recent events [in Ayotzinapa-Mexico], I still think that [the forced disappearance of the students] is a failed model, a model of free market that is unfortunately subject to the U.S. empire. And now there are deep problems,” said Morales.

MexicoWatch: Remains, anger, numbers, more

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

BLOG Mexico

Next, the major development of the day from teleSUR:

Mexico: Human Remains Found in Ashes of Village Bonfire

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

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

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

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

National Public Radio covers a survivor:

Survivor Of Mexican Student Attacks Tells Of Bullet-Riddled Escape

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From teleSUR, another major confirmation of what was suspected:

New Study Shows Federal Police Involved in Ayotzinapa Attack

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

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

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

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

From Deutsche Welle:

Mexicans fight back after student kidnappings

Program notes:

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

More police violence against protesters, via teleSUR:

Mexico: Ayotzinapa Students and Teachers’ Repressed by Police

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

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

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

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

More Chilpancingo violence, via Borderland Beat:

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

  • As reported by El Diario Juárez

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

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

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

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

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

From Al Jazeera America, a logical suspicion:

Mexico’s police overhaul may not curtail violence, corruption

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

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

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

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

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

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

Children harvest crops and sacrifice dreams in Mexico’s fields

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

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

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

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

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

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

Border Farmworkers Still Lack Health Care

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

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

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

A double tragedy, via teleSUR:

Most Missing People in Mexico Are Under 17

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

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

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

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

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

Mexico Faces Growing Gap Between Political Class and Calls for Change

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

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

But is the country’s political class listening?

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

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

InSecurityWatch: Cops, torture, hacks, & Asia

And so much more. . .

To open, there’s an ap for that via the Associated Press:

‘Driving while black’ apps give tips for police stops

A “Driving While Black” smartphone application is set for release this month, but its developers say motorists should be careful when they use it.

“Do not reach for your phone when you are talking to police,” stressed attorney Melvin Oden-Orr, who created the app with another Portland lawyer and a software developer.

Avoiding any move that could make officers think you’re reaching for a gun is just one of the tips “Driving While Black” offers. And despite its attention-grabbing name, the common-sense advice it offers applies to motorists of all races.

The app describes how people can assert their civil rights with officers, enables drivers to alert friends and family with a push of a button that they’ve been pulled over, and includes a recording function to document the interaction.

Empirical policing from MIT Technology Review:

Researchers Will Study Police Confrontations Via Body Cameras

  • UCLA scholars will analyze raw video and audio feeds to glean insights into effective policing

As more police are equipped with cameras on their bodies to capture footage of interactions with the public, a group of researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, has been given permission to study video and audio streams from one police department to learn how best to prevent confrontations from escalating.

Police body-cams have been proposed as ways to resolve allegations of needless use of force following the police shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, and the death of a New York City man during his arrest for selling cigarettes illegally.

The White House last week pledged $75 million that police departments could use to buy 50,000 body cameras as a way to help “build and sustain trust” among civilians. But whether or not cameras will resolve disputes or improve trust, they could at least provide a wider window into how policing works.

From Channel 4 News, solidarity in London:

76 arrests at Eric Garner protests in London

Program notes:

Police have arrested 76 people who were part of a mass demonstration at Westfield shopping centre in London.

On to that torture thing, first with a “what if?” from the New York Times:

C.I.A. First Planned Jails Abiding by U.S. Standards

Just six days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President Bush signed a secret order that gave the Central Intelligence Agency the power to capture and imprison terrorists with Al Qaeda. But the order said nothing about where they should be held or how the agency should go about the business of questioning them.

For the next few weeks, as the rubble at ground zero smoldered and the United States launched a military operation in Afghanistan, C.I.A. officials scrambled to fill in the blanks left by the president’s order. Initially, agency officials considered a path very different from the one they ultimately followed, according to the newly released Senate Intelligence Committee report on the C.I.A.’s harsh interrogation program.

They envisioned a system in which detainees would be offered the same rights and protections as inmates held in federal or American military prisons. Conditions at these new overseas prisons would be comparable to those at maximum-security facilities in the United States. Interrogations were to be conducted in accordance with the United States Army Field Manual, which prohibits coerced, painful questioning. Everything at the prisons would “be tailored to meet the requirements of U.S. law and the federal rules of criminal procedure,” C.I.A. lawyers wrote in November 2001.

The Los Angeles Times covers the tortured semantics of somatic torture:

CIA struggled to keep rationalizing brutal interrogations, report shows

When CIA interrogators waterboarded their first prisoner, Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah, on Aug. 4, 2002, they justified the simulated drowning as a vital tool to extract secrets about future attacks against the United States.

But after 20 days of round-the-clock interrogation at a secret prison in Thailand, during which Zubaydah was repeatedly waterboarded in long sessions, slammed against walls, slapped, confined in a coffin-size box for 266 hours and chained in “stress positions,” the interrogators concluded the Saudi-born operative knew nothing about new plots.

At that point, the justification changed: Officials said the brutal treatment was necessary not to extract information, but to reassure themselves that Zubaydah already had told them everything he knew.

“Our goal was to reach the stage where we have broken any will or ability of subject to resist,” the interrogators said in an email to CIA headquarters. The goal was to get to “the point that we could confidently assess” that Zubaydah did “not possess undisclosed threat information,” they said.

From the New York Times, the inevitable:

Chinese Coverage of C.I.A. Torture Report Says It Highlights U.S. Hypocrisy

The report on the C.I.A.’s interrogations of terrorism suspects, released by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, has received extensive coverage in China, which has long accused the United States of hypocrisy on human rights issues.

At a regular news briefing in Beijing on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hong Lei, said that China “consistently opposes torture.”

“We believe that the U.S. side should reflect upon and rectify its relevant behavior, earnestly obey and implement the provisions of international conventions,” he said.

Another Asia voice from the Guardian:

Afghan president condemns ‘shocking’ and ‘inhumane’ torture described in CIA report

  • Ashraf Ghani vows to defends the dignity of those who had been jailed in reminder of how impact of CIA interrogation programme still fuels anger

The Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, has described detailed revelations of US torture as “shocking” and “inhumane”, and demanded to know how many Afghans had been debased in grim facilities inside their own country.

The recently elected leader promised to defend the dignity of those who had been jailed, and gave notice that from the start of next year no foreign organisation would have the right to detain or torture Afghans.

“This is a vicious cycle. When a person is tortured in an inhumane way, the reaction will be inhumane,” Ghani told a specially convened news conference in Kabul. “There can be no justification for these kinds of actions and inhumane torture in today’s world.”

More tortuous spookspeak from the Washington Post:

CIA chief: ‘Unknowable’ whether ordinary interrogation would bring same intel gains

CIA Director John Brennan said Thursday that valuable information was obtained from detainees subjected to harsh interrogation techniques, but it remains “unknowable” whether conventional questioning alone could have led to the same intelligence gains.

In his first public comments since Tuesday’s release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA detention program, Brennan also defended the use of so-called “enhanced” techniques as the “right” response at a time when the agency believed al-Qaeda was possibly preparing another wave of terrorism in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Brennan also directly challenged some of the reports main conclusions.

Where have we heard this before?:

Rummy’s more cadaverous other half weighs in via Techdirt:

Dick Cheney Says CIA Torture Report Is ‘Full Of Crap’ — Then Admits He Hasn’t Read It

  • from the judging-a-book-by-its-cover dept

It’s no secret that those most closely responsible for the CIA’s torture program are pulling out all the stops to attack the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the program, trying out a variety of defenses from “it actually saved lives” to “it’s just a partisan hack job.” So it should come as no surprise that former Vice President Dick Cheney has been making the cable TV news appearances to help attack the report. After all, many have argued that the real person behind the torture program was Cheney and his staff — and to date, Cheney has insisted that everything that was done was perfectly reasonable and he’d do it again. Thus there’s no surprise when Cheney appears on Fox News (because, of course), to claim that the report is “a bunch of hooey” and “full of crap” and “deeply flawed” only to then admit “ I haven’t read the report.”

Wait, what?

Even the Fox News interviewer was taken aback — and Cheney must have realized how stupid he looked, because he then tried to backtrack, arguing that he hadn’t read “all 6,000 pages,” but then saying he’d read “parts of it” and “summaries.” Yes, we’ve all read “summaries.” But some of us have sat down to read the whole 500 pages (minus the redacted bits, of course). You would hope that if Cheney was going on TV to respond to questions about the report that he might have done so as well, rather than just repeating the talking points handed out to folks associated with the program. Apparently not.

More inevitability from the New York Times:

U.S. Tells Court That Documents From Torture Investigation Should Remain Secret

The Obama administration has urged a court to reject a request to disclose thousands of pages of documents from a Justice Department investigation into the torture of detainees by the Central Intelligence Agency, including summaries of interviews with about 100 witnesses and documents explaining why in the end no charges were filed.

The administration made the filing late Tuesday in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by The New York Times, hours after the Senate Intelligence Committee made public a 524-page executive summary of its own investigation into C.I.A. torture. The committee based its report on a review of C.I.A. documents but did not conduct any interviews.

The Justice Department materials, the court filing revealed, include 10 reports and memorandums totaling 1,719 pages — more than three times the number of pages in the Senate report released Tuesday — as well as “numerous” pages of reports on interviews with current and former C.I.A. officials.

The London Telegraph covers acts of omission by commission:

Downing Street admits: CIA torture report redacted at request of British spies

  • No 10 confirms British intelligence officials discussed redactions to torture report ‘on grounds of national security’

Key passages of report into the CIA’s torture programme were censored at the request of British spies, Downing Street has admitted, raising fears that the UK’s hand in the post-9/11 interrogation programme was covered up.

David Cameron’s spokesman admitted the Security Services asked their American counterparts to censor a US Senate report into the brutal interrogation of terror suspects at secret foreign prisons. It is understood the requests were granted.

John Brennan, the head of the CIA, tonight defended the “abhorrent” interrogation programme, saying the information helped locate Osama Bin Laden.

Mr Brennan said there was “strong concern” among foreign spy chiefs that the report was about to be made public. “Covert was something that they hoped was going to remain such,” he said.

And Channel NewsAsia Singapore covers an Asian denial:

Thailand denies existence of CIA black site

Thailand has long been accused by human rights groups of being one of a number of countries which hosted secret prisons run by the CIA to interrogate Al-Qaeda suspects in the years after the 9/11 attacks on New York

A senior Thai official on Thursday (Dec 11) flatly rejected longstanding claims the kingdom hosted a secret CIA prison after the publication of a US Senate report this week reignited controversy over Washington’s “black site” network.

Thailand has long been accused by human rights groups of being one of a number of countries which hosted secret prisons run by the CIA to interrogate Al-Qaeda suspects in the years after the 9/11 attacks on New York.

But Suwaphan Tanyuvardhan, a minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, rejected any suggestions that the Thai government had been complicit in running any “black sites”. “There has been no such thing as a secret prison or torture facilities in Thailand. Thai officials do not do these kind of actions,” he told reporters.

More semantic persiflage from the Washington Post:

‘Learned helplessness’: The chilling psychological concept behind the CIA’s interrogation methods

Of all the harrowing accounts and chilling examples in the U.S. Senate report on CIA interrogation practices, among the most striking was that of Abu Zubaydah. One of the first detainees in the war on terror, he was also one of the most vital. Lying in a bed in Thailand, he told FBI interrogators all about Khalid Sheik Mohammed — the mastermind of the Sept. 11th attacks.

But then the CIA showed up. Its team was accompanied by a psychologist. And he wanted to conduct a test that would get “Zubaydah to reveal everything by severing his sense of personality and scaring him almost to death,” reported Vanity Fair in 2007 in a groundbreaking story. So interrogators built a coffin and stuffed him inside it, the Senate report said, for 300 hours. He was waterboarded 83 times in 17 days. He was absolutely broken by the procedures — but not one significant plot was foiled as a result of his confessions.

Despite the failure of the interrogation methods, the psychological concept guiding them — called “learned helplessness” — lived on. With the guidance of two psychologists on contract to the CIA for $1,800 per day, the technique of stripping someone of their will would be applied to numerous additional prisoners in the coming years. Media reports have named the two psychologists: Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who in all earned $81 million in payment. They derived their approach from a well-known 1967 research paper by University of Pennsylvania psychologists.

And from the London Telegraph, more inevitability:

Russia calls for prosecutions over ‘inquisition-style’ CIA interrogation methods

Foreign ministry says “shocking” Senate report was “latest confirmation of gross, systemic human rights violations” by US authorities

Russia has called on the United States to punish those responsible for the use of “inquisition-style” interrogation methods in the “global war on terror”, as revealed in the US Senate report on torture this week.

Konstantin Dolgov, the human rights ombudsman of Russia’s foreign ministry, said the results of the “shocking” report were “the latest confirmation of gross, systemic human rights violations by the American authorities”.

The long-awaited torture report, published in 500-page summary form on Tuesday by the Senate’s intelligence committee, detailed brutal interrogation methods used by the CIA against al-Qaeda suspects

The Guardian covers the objects of the machine, free at last:

Guantánamo prisoners released to Uruguay: ‘We are so happy to be here’

Six former US detainees who were never charged with a crime, were flown to Uruguay on Sunday to begin new lives as refugees

Over the past 12 years, Ali al-Shaaban has experienced precious little human kindness. Detained in Pakistan as a suspected al-Qaida member in the months after the 9/11 terror attacks, he was transferred to the US military prison at Guantánamo Bay, where he was held for more than a decade.

This week, however, the 32-year old Syrian has been the subject of a wave of affection in a country half a world away from his homeland: government officials offer him warm embraces; total strangers wave to him and offer words of encouragement.

Shaaban is one of six Guantánamo prisoners who were flown to Uruguay on Sunday to begin new lives as refugees. The six – four Syrians, a Palestinian and a Tunisian – were never charged, and were cleared for release in 2009, but the US struggled to find countries willing to receive them until the Uruguayan president, José Mujica agreed to accept them.

The Associated Press covers culture war:

US co-opted Cuba’s hip-hop scene to spark change

In early 2009, a U.S. government contractor sent a Serbian music promoter to Cuba with these covert marching orders: Recruit one of Havana’s most notorious rappers to spark a youth movement against the government.

In communist Cuba, it was a project that could have landed Rajko Bozic in jail. So when he made his pitch to team up with hip-hop artist Aldo Rodriguez, Bozic left out the part about his true intentions — or that he was working for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Dreadlocked, muscled and tattooed, Aldo, as he was known, was a hero in the hip-hop underground for lyrics protesting the Castro government’s grip on everyday life in songs like “El Rap Es Guerra,” or “Rap Is War,” words he tattooed on his forearm.

He and his group, Los Aldeanos, were about to unknowingly get sucked into a tug-of-war between Havana and Washington, as thousands of pages of documents obtained by The Associated Press and dozens of interviews show.

A video report from the Guardian:

USAid uses Cuban hip-hop to spark youth unrest

Program notes:

Hip-hop is latest covert weapon in the US government’s attempts to unseat Cuba’s communist government.

For more than two years, the American development aid organisation USAid has been secretly trying to infiltrate Cuba’s underground hip-hop movement. Like its previous efforts, including exploding cigars, poisoned milkshakes and the botched Bay of Pigs invasion, the attempt to co-opt rappers ended in ignominious failure, new documents have shown.

Grounded, via the Los Angeles Times:

European Union bans all Libyan airlines, citing safety risk

The European Union on Thursday banned all seven Libyan airlines from operating in the airspace of the 28-nation bloc, citing threats to flight operations while the country is plagued by violent militias battling for dominance.

“Recent events in Libya have led to a situation whereby the Civil Aviation Authority is no longer able to fulfill its international obligations with regard to the safety of the Libyan aviation sector,” European Union Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said in a statement issued in Brussels.

“My priority in aviation is passenger safety, which is nonnegotiable, and we stand ready to help the Libyan aviation sector as soon as the situation on the ground will allow for this,” Bulc said.

After the jump, Spanish law formalizes immigrant expulsions and implements anti-protest fines, ISIS tries hostage corpse ransom, Cold War 2.0 on the Baltic, using the deplorable to justify the unspeakable in Old Blighty, the hack of the year yields Tinseltown tawdriness and other revelations, fighting POODLE attacks on your browser, Spanish law triggers a Google News departure, prosecution urged for Brazilian military dictatorship crimes, a legal victory for journalists in Sierra Leone, forced conversions alleged in India, freedom of information oversight defunding Down Under, a virginity test for Indonesian policewomen, North Korean kidnap leaks alleged, China memorial brings Japanese war crimes into the present, Hong Kong Occupy evicted with 247 arrests as some vow to return, China rejects a Vietnamese island claim, Washington pushes for a Japanese/South Korean rapprochement, a Hollywood film inspires a revisionist censorship cry in Japan, and Tojo nostalgia in Tokyo as Japan ups its military budget again. . . Continue reading

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: Cops, spooks, hacks, war

And more. . .

First, resistance continues, via the New York Times:

Protests Continue in New York City on Friday

Protests continued for a third night in New York City over a grand jury’s decision this week not to indict a white police officer in the death of an unarmed black man on Staten Island in July.

Demonstrators gathered in Union Square, Columbus Circle and Rockefeller Center on Friday, with hundreds flooding the Apple store on Fifth Avenue, Macy’s in Herald Square and Grand Central Terminal.

Thousands of people across the country have protested since Wednesday, when a grand jury announced that it would not indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo, 29, over his fatal encounter with Eric Garner, 43. Mr. Garner was allegedly selling loose cigarettes on a sidewalk when he was put into a forbidden chokehold by the officer, after resisting arrest.

The protesters in New York came out despite chilly temperatures and a drizzling rain that was expected to continue on and off through the night. The demonstrations have largely been peaceful, though the police late Friday arrested some people who marched on the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive.

And a California city that just beat back a Chevron-funded bid to control the city council takes a significant step, via the Oakland Tribune:

Richmond police receive body cameras, will be on every officer in 2015

Police body cameras have become an issue du jour in the wake of Ferguson and other controversies involving use of force by law enforcement, but Richmond’s Police Department first moved in that direction with a pilot program more than a year ago.

Police officials received a shipment of 120 body cameras this week, paid for by a U.S. Department of Justice grant, and police leaders expect to have all officers in the field outfitted with them by mid-January. The City Council approved the purchase in October.

“We are already thinking that more employees beyond sworn personnel may wear them in the future,” said Capt. Mark Gagan.

The FirstVu evidentiary cameras and support equipment, provided by Kansas-based Digital Ally, are the size of a matchbook and will be worn on officers’ lapels with a power source held in the breast pocket. Footage immediately transmits to a remote server and stores in the cloud, with no chance for modification or editing, Gagan said.

From BuzzFeed, the shame of a nation, Ohio style:

Cleveland Police Pistol-Whipped Suspects, Punched Juveniles, And Pepper-Sprayed Mentally Ill People

  • Inside the Justice Department’s shocking and appalling report on the Cleveland Police.

A one-year investigation by the Justice Department into the Cleveland Police Department found off-duty officers pistol-whipped suspects, assaulted a juvenile in the back of a squad car, abused the mentally ill, were reckless with Tasers, and fired their weapons when they didn’t have to.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced at a press conference this week that the investigation revealed a pattern of excessive force, reckless behavior, and poor training and accountability policies within the department.

The violations are so egregious that the CDP will now face government intervention mandating reform. The CDP is already in the midst of an investigation into the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by Cleveland police.

From BBC News, a national rebuke:

Eric Garner death: UN fears over no-charge jury decisions

UN human rights experts have expressed “legitimate concerns” about US juries failing to charge policemen involved in the deaths of two black civilians.

It is part of a broader “pattern of impunity” concerning minority victims, the UN said in a statement.

Thousands of people have taken to the streets in protest over the deaths of two black men at the hands of white officers in recent months.

Grand juries in Missouri and New York failed to charge either officer.

“I am concerned by the grand juries’ decisions and the apparent conflicting evidence that exists relating to both incidents,” UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsak, said in a statement.

The Christian Science Monitor raises a question of semantics:

US ‘terrorism?’ What’s not being said about Kansas City, Austin attacks.

  • The adoption of slogans like the ‘war on terrorism’ since Al Qaeda’s attacks on 9/11 was supposed to be about the tactic, not about the underlying beliefs of the attacker

Yesterday, a man in an SUV who’d been making online and in-person threats against the Muslim community ran down and killed a 15-year-old boy getting into the family car outside a mosque in Kansas City, Mo. At the end of last month a man with ties to extremist Christian groups and opposed to immigration fired more than 100 rounds at various targets in Austin, Texas, including the police headquarters, the federal courthouse, and the Mexican consulate, before he was killed.

In neither case has the word “terrorism” featured prominently in the coverage of the attack. And, if the US press and politicians stay true to what’s become the accepted framing for homegrown “terrorism,” it’s unlikely to appear much going forward.

The adoption of slogans like the “war on terrorism” since Al Qaeda’s attacks on New York and Washington in 2001 was supposed to be about the tactic, not about the underlying beliefs of the attacker. But in practice, terrorism carried out by Muslims is portrayed as far scarier, a far greater danger, than similar violent acts carried out by adherents of other faiths.

From the Intercept, oh, golly whillikers!:

White House Getting Cold Feet Over Exposing CIA’s Torture Secrets

After seven months of promising to release a report exposing CIA torture of terror suspects, the Obama administration Friday reportedly sent Secretary of State John Kerry to ask Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein to consider holding off “because a lot is going on in the world.”

The White House has been negotiating with Feinstein since April over extensive CIA-requested redactions before making public a 450-page summary of the committee’s exhaustive investigation into CIA detention and interrogation during the Bush/Cheney years.

But the intelligence community never wanted its dirty secrets revealed. I suggested as early as six weeks ago that administration officials, doing the CIA’s bidding, were stalling negotiations until Republicans took over the chamber and killed the report themselves.

intelNews reminds:

NSA spies on every cell phone company in the world, new data shows

The United States National Security Agency has spied on virtually every cell phone manufacturer and provider in the world in an attempt to uncover security weaknesses that can be exploited for surveillance, according to newly leaked data.

It also appears that the NSA has worked to sabotage the technical security features of commercial telecommunications systems in order to be able to spy on their users.

From Network World, puns avoided:

US Senator introduces bill to block FBI backdoor access

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden on Thursday introduced a bill that would prevent the government from forcing companies to design backdoors or security vulnerabilities into their products to aid surveillance.

The Secure Data Act aims to preempt moves by the government to better eavesdrop over newer communications technologies, and is part of an overall bid by some legislators to place curbs on extensive government surveillance.

A key legislation that would put curbs on the bulk collection of phone records by the U.S. National Security Agency, called the USA Freedom Act, could not move towards a final vote on the legislation in the Senate last month, despite backing from the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.

From United Press International superespiocypher power:

American intelligence agencies building new supercomputer

Current supercomputing utilizes technology that relies on tens of megawatts and requires large amounts of physical space to house the infrastructure and power and cool the components.

American intelligence agencies announced plans Friday to develop and build a new superconducting supercomputer, one which would increase current computing capacity while simultaneously reducing the energy consumption and physical footprint of the machines.

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, a branch of the U.S. intelligence community, said in a press release that the agency has embarked on a multi-year research effort called the Cryogenic Computer Complexity program, or C3.

Current supercomputing utilizes technology that relies on tens of megawatts and requires large amounts of physical space to house the infrastructure and power and cool the components.

C3 hopes to use recent breakthroughs in supercomputing technologies — “new families of superconducting logic without static power dissipation and new ideas for energy efficient cryogenic memory” — to construct a superconducting supercomputer with “a simplified cooling infrastructure and a greatly reduced footprint.”

A British spooky imprimatur, from BBC News:

GCHQ does not breach human rights, judges rule

The current system of UK intelligence collection does not currently breach the European Convention of Human Rights, a panel of judges has ruled.

A case claiming various systems of interception by GCHQ constituted a breach had been brought by Amnesty, Privacy International and others. It followed revelations by the former US intelligence analyst Edward Snowden about UK and US surveillance practices.

The judges said the case had been important in clarifying GCHQ’s policy.

Some of the organisations who brought the case, including Amnesty UK and Privacy International, say they intend to appeal the decision to the European Court of Human Rights.

Others raise a more fundamental point, via the Independent:

UK democracy undermined by police power to snoop, say MPs

Secretive snooping powers that have been used by police to blow the cover of whistleblowers are “not fit for purpose”, MPs warn today amid serious concerns about the use of surveillance in the UK.

British democracy is being undermined by the abuse of terror laws which saw the police sign off more than 500,000 requests last year to retrieve communications data, says the influential Home Affairs committee.

The current powers, which have also been exploited by councils to spy on ordinary citizens, must be overhauled urgently, the MPs argue in a report published just hours after judges ruled that GCHQ’s current system of intelligence collection is lawful.

After the jump, on to a Sony hack elevated by threatening emails to employees and a look at Pyongyang’s elite military hacker brigade, a warning of widespread vulnerabilities, another chain store credit card system hacked, preinstalled malware in consumer cell phones, France orders a Pirate Bay ISP blockade, on to the Mesopotamia war and optimism dashed, European homecoming fears, and Iranian confirmation of anti-IS airstrikes in Iraq, then on to Hong Kong and a final anti-Occupy sweep approaches, and China announces a military technology push while announcing a media drive for the approaching national day of remembrance of the Rape of Nanjing. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Blunders, rage, protest, questions

We begin today’s coverage with yet another blunder by the Mexican president, via teleSUR English:

Mexico: Peña Nieto’s statement sparks outrage on social networks

Program notes:

In Mexico, outrage is growing on social networks such as Twitter and Instagram over the statement made by President Enrique Peña Nieto calling on society to “move beyond” the tragedy of Iguala, in reference to the 43 students of the Ayotzinapa Rural Teacher Training College who were kidnapped by police and are reported missing since September 26.

From the Guardian, a call for protection:

UN: parents of missing Mexican student teachers are at risk and need protection

  • High Commission for Human Rights says parents and protesters have been put at risk by a social media campaign to ‘vilify and insult’ their sons

The UN High Commission for Human Rights has warned that the parents of 43 Mexican students who disappeared after they were attacked by police have been put at risk by a campaign to demonise their missing sons.

Javier Hernández, the representative in Mexico for the UN High Commission, told the Guardian that the parents – and protesters calling for justice – needed protection amid a campaign to denigrate the trainee teachers who vanished 10 weeks ago.

“Some are starting to vilify and insult the disappeared students and demonise their parents and their demands,” said Hernández. “The vast wave of protest generated by the case of the 43 students needs to be protected.”

Reuters covers the ongoing search:

Spurred by mass abduction, Mexicans scour for remains of their dead

Terrorized by brutal drug gangs and corrupt police, residents around this town in southwestern Mexico have for years kept silent when relatives disappeared, fearing they would be targeted next if they made a fuss.

Some tried their own low-profile searches, even going to spots where they saw vultures circling above, but most kept quiet and others simply fled the area when they were threatened.

Then, 10 weeks ago, 43 trainee teachers were abducted by police in Iguala and handed over to hitmen from a local gang which the government says murdered and incinerated them.

And from teleSUR, another contingent marches:

Farm Workers March for Ayotzinapa

  • More than 1,500 members of the Barzon farm worker organization marched in Mexico City demanding justice for Ayotzinapa and support for the agircultural sector.

Shutting down parts of the city center of the Mexican capital, farm workers of the Barzon organization drove 43 tractors with the faces of the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students in a protest demanding the student be returned alive, and expressing indignation over what they call the government’s abandonment of the country’s agricultural sector.

“The Mexican government under Enrique Peña Nieto has turned everything over to foreign companies. He has done it with our oil and now it is happening with support for us farmers,” explained one of the farm workers from the state of Chihuahua.

The protest ended and turned into a rally in front of the offices of the Interior Secretary, where leaders of the group were to hold a meeting with officials.

The Guardian talks to a parent of one of the 43:

Missing Mexico student’s dad: ‘The government is waging war against our children’

  • Emiliano Navarrete talks to the Guardian about his son’s disappearance and his government’s response

Emiliano Navarrete is the father of 17-year-old José Angel Navarrete, one of 43 Mexican students who disappeared in the southern city of Iguala after they were attacked by corrupt municipal police on 26 September.

The students, from a radical teacher training college in the town of Ayotzinapa, are believed to have been killed after they were handed over to a local drug gang known as Guerreros Unidos.

Seventy-nine people have since been arrested in connection with the case, including the mayor of Iguala, who was closely linked to Guerreros Unidos and allegedly ordered police to attack the students because he feared they would disrupt an event to promote his wife’s political ambitions.

And from VICE News, a significant casualty of repression blowback:

Mexico City Police Chief Resigns Amid Criticism Over Police Behavior

Mexico City police chief Jesus Rodriguez Almeida resigned abruptly on Friday, ending his stint just two years after taking the helm of a department that has faced mounting reports of abuse during recent demonstrations over the 43 missing students in Guerrero state.

Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera released a short statement saying he received Rodriguez’s notice of resignation on Friday morning.

Mancera made no other comment about the police chief’s tenure, adding only that he would submit a new candidate for police chief to Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, who must confirm the head of public-safety in Mexico’s Federal District.

More from teleSUR English:

Mexico City’s Chief of Public Security Renounces

Program notes:

The chief of Public Security of Mexico City renounced as the protests continue. Our Correspondent Clayton Call with further details

The Latin American Herald Tribune covers a belated road trip:

Mexico’s Peña Nieto Visits Guerrero to Address Missing Students Crisis

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has undertaken his first visit to the southern state of Guerrero to tackle the crisis caused by the disappearance of 43 students more than two months ago, and announce measures for economic stimulation in the region.

Economic activity and tourism has witnessed a slump as a consequence of the protests, some of them violent, that have rocked the state owing to the disappearances.

Demonstrations and the blocking of roads, offices and businesses have led to a drop in economic activity, employment and tourist arrivals.

“This obligates the government of the Republic (of Mexico) to come here and address the people, like it has been doing to the entire nation. We will take actions to reactivate the economy of these tourist spots of Guerrero,” Peña Nieto said Thursday in Acapulco.

From the Guardian, governmental chutzpah:

Mexico government denies neglecting corruption amid missing students fury

  • As Iguala incident and growing inequality fuel national security crisis, human rights minister describes student disappearances as ‘wake-up call’ to country

A senior Mexican minister has described the disappearance and possible murder of 43 student teachers as a “wake-up call” for the country, but has rejected accusations that the government has been too focused on its economic agenda to tackle violent crime and corruption.

The disappearance of the students 10 weeks ago in the southern city of Iguala – allegedly after corrupt municipal police handed them over to a local drug gang – has provoked protests across Mexico and led to a slump in the popularity of President Enrique Peña Nieto amid accusations that he has done little to address the country’s security crisis.

Juan Manuel Gómez Robledo, undersecretary for multilateral affairs and human rights at Mexico’s foreign ministry, said the students’ disappearance had strengthened the government’s determination to root out corruption and fight drug gangs. “[The disappearance] is a big challenge, but it does not mean we were not working on these issues before,” he said. “It sounds a warning and tells the people, the government and the private sector that economic reforms will never bear their fruit if rule of law does not prevail.”

Despite the discovery of at least 38 bodies in mass graves near Iguala – and the official report that dozens of young people were killed and burned in a rubbish tip outside a neighbouring town – Gómez Robledo said the government was still treating the students’ disappearance as a missing persons case.

teleSUR covers a telling refusal:

Mexico Attorney General Refuses Student Search at Army Base

  • An increasing number of voices appear to be pointing the finger at the complicity of Battalion 27 in the forced disappearence of the Ayotzinapa students.

Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo has flatly rejected family demands to search for the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students at military bases.

The attorney general said that as the National Defense Department is “more concerned than anyone” with finding the students, it would be “absurd” to think the students could be hidden there. “We know they are not there,” he added.

His response came as journalist Marcela Turati asked him if the search would include the grounds of the 27th Battalion of the National Defense Department.

And from the Latin American Herald Tribune, another armed confrontation:

Five Alleged Kidnappers Die in Clash with Police in Eastern Mexico

Five alleged kidnappers died Thursday in a shootout with police in the city of Poza Rica, in the eastern Mexican state of Veracruz. Police rescued two kidnap victims, authorities said.

The shootout began when the kidnappers opened fire on police with the elite Public Safety Secretariat at a house in Poza Rica, the state government said in a communique.

During the shootout, five of the alleged kidnappers were killed and the two victims were rescued by police.

Finally, via teleSUR, censorship strikes:

Mexican Anti-Government Hashtag Disappears

Internet users have switched to #YaMeCanse2 after the #YaMeCanse hashtag, used since protests agaist government corruption and forced disappearences errupted, has disappeared. The Mexican government uses automated online softwards to detect criticism.

Over the past month top-trending hashtag #YaMeCanse has been used in all anti-government protests, but its sudden disappearence from the web, possibly due to government “bots” has seen the emergence of #YaMeCanse2.

The hashtag was trending for 26 days until, it suddenly disappeared, despite the fact it is still being widely used. The fall was so unexpected — it had stayed in first place for weeks, and suddenly it was gone — that it immediately raised some suspicions as to whether it had been purposefully removed.

Internet forums and technology sites drew attention to what are known as “peñabots,” an army of false Twitter and Facebook accounts, created specifically to confront criticism toward President Enrique Peña Nieto and his government.

InSecurityWatch: Cop, hacks, war, drones, zones

And we begin with the cop, via Sky News:

Ferguson Officer Quit Because Of ‘Threats’

  • The police chief complains of “egregious” threats, as the mayor says Darren Wilson will receive no severance payment package.

The white officer who shot dead black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, quit because of threats against the police department, his lawyer has said.

Darren Wilson’s resignation with immediate effect was announced on Saturday, four months after the confrontation that fuelled violent protests in the St Louis suburb and across the US.

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told a news conference on Sunday: “The threats (from protesters) have been egregious and counselling is available to the officers.” He was joined by Ferguson Mayor James Knowles, who said Mr Wilson, 28, received no severance payment package.

On to the war, via CBC News:

Gill Rosenberg, Canadian citizen, reportedly captured by ISIS in Syria

  • Canada ‘pursuing all appropriate channels’ to verify reports, is in touch with local authorities

The federal government is working to confirm reports that Gill Rosenberg, a Canadian citizen, has been captured by Islamist extremists in Syria.

According to the Jerusalem Post, websites “known to be close” to ISIS extremists reported the capture of the Israeli-Canadian woman, who joined Kurdish fighters overseas, on Sunday.

“Canada is pursuing all appropriate channels” to seek further information and is in touch with local authorities, a spokesman for the foreign ministry said on Sunday.

The newspaper said the websites give few details on the alleged capture, only that it occurred after three suicide attacks on sites where Kurdish fighters were holed up.

Another Bush/Cheney legacy from the Washington Post:

Investigation finds 50,000 ‘ghost’ soldiers in Iraqi army, prime minister says

The Iraqi army has been paying salaries to at least 50,000 soldiers who don’t exist, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Sunday, an indication of the level of corruption that permeates an institution that the United States has spent billions equipping and arming.

A preliminary investigation into “ghost soldiers” — whose salaries are being drawn but who are not in military service — revealed the tens of thousands of false names on Defense Ministry rolls, Abadi told parliament Sunday. Follow-up investigations are expected to uncover “more and more,” he added.

Abadi, who took power in September, is under pressure to stamp out the graft that flourished in the armed forces under his predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki. Widespread corruption has been blamed for contributing to the collapse of four of the army’s 14 divisions in June in the face of an offensive by Islamic State extremists.

An upcoming visit via the News in Lagos, Nigeria:

EU delegation visiting Guantanamo Bay prison

A delegation of five European officials led by French former justice minister Rachida Dati will visit the US military detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba this week, aides said Sunday.

Invited by the United States, the delegation’s informal visit is meant to help give Europe ideas on how it can help the United States shut down the controversial jail once and for all.

Dati and her delegation of European Parliament members will visit on Tuesday and will also have a chance to see inmates’ prison conditions, said Philip Kyle, her parliamentary attache.

The Canadian Press covers spookery to the north:

Disclosure of ‘sensitive’ telecom surveillance details worried feds: memo

A move by telecommunications firms to be more forthcoming with the public about their role in police and spy surveillance could divulge “sensitive operational details,” a senior Public Safety official warned in a classified memo.

Company efforts to reveal more about police and intelligence requests — even the disclosure of broad numbers — would require “extensive consultations with all relevant stakeholders,” wrote Lynda Clairmont, senior assistant deputy minister for national and cybersecurity.

Clairmont’s note, released under the Access to Information Act, provided advice to deputy minister Francois Guimont on the eve of his one-hour April 17 meeting with representatives of Telus Corp. to discuss specifically what information the company was allowed to tell the public about electronic surveillance activities.

Telus released a so-called “transparency report” five months later, revealing it had received more than 103,000 official requests for information about subscribers in 2013.

The Los Angeles Times covers a devastating hack attack:

Sony movies leak online as computer systems remain dark

If Sony Pictures employees return to work Monday after the Thanksgiving weekend without computer or email access, it will mark the beginning of the second week of blackout for the Culver City movie studio after a widespread hack.

And Sony’s headaches do not appear to have lessened. Pirated copies of some Sony movies have begun to appear online on file sharing websites in the days after the attack. It is not known whether the two problems are related.

Among the titles that have popped up are the Brad Pitt World War II drama “Fury,” the musical remake “Annie” and the upcoming film “Still Alice.” Copies of “Mr. Turner” and “To Write Love on Her Arms” have also surfaced.

From the Hill, expect more:

Corporate data breaches ‘inevitable,’ expert says

A cybersecurity expert said in an interview broadcast Sunday night that data breaches such as those at top retailers including Target and Home Depot are “inevitable.”

“Nearly every company … is vulnerable,” Dave DeWalt, Fire Eye’s chief executive, told 60 Minutes. “Even the strongest banks in the world — banks like JPMorgan, retailers like Home Depot, retailers like Target can’t spend enough money or hire enough people to solve this problem,” he added.

“This isn’t a lack of effort. Most of the large companies are growing their security spend — yet 97 percent, literally 97 percent, of all companies are getting breached,” DeWalt said.

DeWalt said it takes 229 days, on average, to discover a security breach, which are often blamed on poor passwords.

A rousing dronal endorsement from TechWeek Europe:

London Needs More Drones To Beat Its Traffic Problems, Says Boris Johnson

  • Drones could prove the answer to the hordes of delivery vehicles clogging the capital’s streets, Mayor believes

The skies of London could become much more crowded after the city’s Mayor called for airborne drones to take the place of road vehicles.

Speaking at an event in Singapore during his six-day tour of south-east Asia, Boris Johnson called on the capital’s technology firms, particularly the financial technology sector, to come up with a solution to the traffic problems that plague the city, and suggested drones could be the answer.

“We have a problem, folks – all this internet shopping is leading to a massive increase in white van traffic dropping this stuff off – 45 percent it’s going to go up in London in the next seven years,” he said. “That’s going to be terrible for congestion in our city and doubtless the same will be true of Singapore as well.

“I look out at this brilliant audience here today, bulging with ideas, and I ask you possibly to solve it. We need a solution … Is it, as I hope, going to be drones? I want to be controlling an app that enables my shopping not only to be click and collect … I want my own personal drone to come and drop it wherever I choose.”

From the Guardian, a source of domestic insecurity:

Begging prosecutions increase dramatically across England and Wales

  1. Number of cases rises 70%, prompting concerns that cuts in support and benefits make more people resort to begging

Prosecutions for begging have rocketed across England and Wales over the past year with dramatic increases recorded in many police force areas.

The number of cases brought to court under the 1824 Vagrancy Act has surged by 70%, prompting concerns that cuts to support services and benefits are pushing more people to resort to begging.

Some areas have spiked spectacularly. The number of charges for begging in the area covered by Merseyside police rose nearly 400% from 60 cases to 291 in 12 months, while Thames Valley, which covers relatively prosperous Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, showed a similar rate of increase from 20 cases to 92.

Deutsche Welle covers a Colombian release:

Colombian rebel group FARC ‘frees kidnapped general, two soldiers’

Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, has confirmed that FARC rebels freed an army general captured earlier this month. General Ruben Alzate’s release may help restart Bogota’s suspended peace talks with the group.

The Colombian president wrote on his Twitter account on Sunday that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) had also released two other hostages, Corporal Jorge Rodriguez and army advisor Gloria Urrego. Santos said General Alzate and his fellow captives would be reunited with their families soon.

“Freed … in prefect condition,” Santos wrote.

Fifty-five-year-old General Alzate was the highest-ranking Colombian military official ever to have been kidnapped by the Marxist group. Alzate, Rodriguez and Urrego were kidnapped by FARC fighters on November 16 when they were travelling to the remote area of Choco.

And from Xinhua, the Egyptian crackdown continues:

Egypt court jails Badie and 26 others 3 years for insulting judiciary

An Egyptian court sentenced the Muslim Brotherhood’s top official Mohammed Badie and 26 of the Islamist group’s leading figures to three years in prison for insulting the judiciary.

Badie and other defendants were in the criminal court of Cairo Sunday on charges of jailbreak during the 2011 uprising. The judge delivered the sentence after the group’s leaders offended the court during trial.

The trial of Badie and other defendants on the charge of escaping from jail has been adjourned to December 20.

After the jump, on to Asia and the ongoing Games of Zones, first with a seismic shift on a contested island, the crackdown on Occupy Hong Kong heats up with a city hall siege and a street-clearing, another Chinese crackdown, Uncle Sam ups the ante in the Game of Zones as China mulls missile sales and asserts insular singularity, Japan adds island-claiming amphibious boats, Tokyo stakes a secret documents claim, and Japan ramps up its cleanup of its chemical warfare effort in occupied China, plus odds on an apocalyptic scenario. . . Continue reading