Category Archives: Schools

MexicoWatch: Enabling, outrage, action, images


We open with a graphic from Boligan.com, via Babybat, depicting the plight of justice in Mexico:

BLOG Ayotzinapa

Enabling, via Al Jazeera America:

US policies in Mexico have made bad situation worse

  • Missing Mexican students are collateral damage of drug-war capitalism

The whole episode is emblematic of Mexico’s corruption, impunity and weak democratic institutions, with elected officials and security forces colluding with the drug cartels. In this case, the students were apparently abducted by local police on direct order from Iguala’s mayor and handed over to the local Guerreros Unidos gang, which has close ties to the mayor’s wife, who claim to have killed them, burned the bodies and dumped the ashes in Cocula. And though nearby, the military evinced indifference to the students’ plight.

Despite these entanglements, however, the U.S. continues to engage in a bi-national strategy with Mexico to combat drug trafficking, entrusting the very politicians and security forces whose ties to criminal enterprises are readily apparent.

In the last six years alone, Washington spent $3 billion on the Mérida Initiative, a border security, counter-narcotics and counterterrorism program established by the George W. Bush administration in 2008. The U.S. also funnels millions of dollars through the Department of Defense to train state security forces. In 2006, Peña Nieto’s predecessor Felipe Calderón declared war on the cartels, and the human cost has been staggering. During his six-year tenure from 2006 to 2012, 83,000 people were killed and at least another 26,000 disappeared. The death toll has now reached 100,000.

Mexico’s U.S.-backed anti-drug policies are inherently counterproductive. The criminal networks associated with the illicit and unregulated drug trade are intrinsically violent, and dismantling one cartel does little to curb overall drug trafficking and violence. Instead, interdiction and drug-related arrests can escalate violence by creating power vacuums that spur fragmentation, decentralization and competition among cartels for the freed-up market share.

teleSUR English covers parental initiative:

Ayotzinapa students’ families plan take up arms and continue search

Program notes:

Nearly two months after the disappearance of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa, Mexico teachers college at the hands of local police and criminal gangs, some parents are fed up with government excuses and inaction, and plan to begin an armed search for their missing loved ones with the aid of new, community-led police forces. Many feel the time for peaceful protests is over over and plan to arm themselves and look for their children.

One result, via teleSUR English again:

Ayotzinapa students’ families find 6 new clandestine graves

Program notes:

In the absence of progress by the government in finding their loved ones nearly two months after the 43 students from Ayotzinapa disappeared while in custody of local police, families of the missing students decided to form independent search groups, some of them armed, to search for their missing loved ones with the aid of community-led police forces. The groups’ first discoveries were 6 more clandestine graves.

The Latin American Herald Tribune covers a demand:

Students Call for Mexican President to Step Down Within 6 Days

A group of students from a teachers’ training college from which 43 of their colleagues went missing and are presumed dead has called for the resignation of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto within six days.

“President Peña Nieto has six days to resign because the Mexican people want him to, and if he doesn’t, then the protests against him will increase all over the country,” said one of the students in a broadcast from a radio station the protesters had taken over.

The students issued the demand on Sunday after around 100 seized control of two radio stations in Chilpancingo, the capital of Guerrero state, to air messages demanding that the 43 students who went missing after a night of violence on Sept. 26, be returned alive.

And from teleSUR, the self-evident:

Mexican Police Repression ‘Backfiring,’ ‘Not Stopping Protests’

  • Eleven protestors arrested during mass protests on November 20 are being charged with attempted murder, rioting and conspiracy

On the evening of November 20 in the historic Zocalo square, in Mexico City, police clashed with protestors, beating them with batons and riot shields. Videos and photos uploaded to social networking sites show protesters who were not involved in agressions towards the authorities, including the elderly and children, were targeted and arrested by the police.

“There are patterns of systematic repression, arbitrary detentions and one element that I think is important to express which is to send a message to the public that mobilizations and social protest are bad,” said human rights defender and analyst, Miguel Moguel, from the Mexican NGO, Fundar in a press conference on Sunday, Novemeber 23.

Moguel and other human rights experts and lawyers describe the police operation on November 20 as excessive, “without control or end point” and brutal.

Yet while some analyze the use of police force as a means to quiet social protest, some such as Isabel Sangines, professor and activist, believe that the measures provoke greater protest and dissatisfaction with the authorities.

Evidence thereof, again from teleSUR English:

Mexico: new wave of protests slam gov’t repression

Program notes:

A new wave of protests has erupted in Mexico over the police attack on and detention of demonstrators at the November 20 “mega-march” in solidarity with the 43 missing Ayotzinapa Teacher Training College students. Many feel the police operations are designed to limit and criminalize social protests. Clayton Conn reports from Mexico City.

On an ancillary note, this from Reuters:

Mexico to discuss canceled $3.75 billion train contract with China

Mexico’s transportation minister will meet with Chinese government officials on Monday to discuss the cancellation of a $3.75 billion high-speed rail contract that was awarded to a Chinese-led consortium, Mexico said on Sunday.

The deal for the project, which had earlier this month been granted to a group led by China Railway Construction (601186.SS), the sole bidder, was abruptly revoked after opposition lawmakers claimed it was fixed.

Local media later revealed that a Mexican group in the consortium owned a $7 million house that Pena Nieto’s wife was in the process of acquiring, raising questions about a possible conflict of interest in the bidding process.

The Monday meeting will take place in China, where Mexico’s communications and transportation minister Gerardo Ruiz Esparza will also discuss Mexican plans to build a $10 billion state-owned and privately operated mobile network, according to a statement from the ministry.

Finally, while we can’t definitively trace the original source of this photo-comparison posted on the Naila Twitter feed, showing very similar looking fellows to occupants of a police bus throwing flames during the outbreak of violence by a few in Mexico City during the 20 November mass protest over the 43 vanished students and ensuing government bungling and butt-covering, we pass it on as entirely too plausible though we can make no conclusive assessment on identity absent both attribution and a higher resolution image:

BLOG Provocateurs

Lotteries: Yet another tax on the poorest


Given that our first job on a daily newspaper was at the Las Vegas Review-Journal back in 1966 [when Sinatra and the Rat Pack still played the Sands nad black dealers and cocktail servers simply didn’t exist because high rollers from Southern oil states were notoriously melanin-intolerant] we watched with some interest the rush of state governments across the country into the ranks of those who prey on their poorest citizens by enticing them with the lure of wealth they simply couldn’t otherwise acquire.

The lottery rush, usually sold as a panacea for funding public schools or other public goods, was really the earliest move by neoliberalism to deconstruct the mild version of the welfare state enacted under the same populism that kept sending Franklin Delano Roosevelt back to the White House.

In this segment from HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the comedian gives his take on lotteries, which is superb as far as it goes:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: The Lottery

Program note:

State lotteries claim to be good for education and the general wellbeing of citizens.

But are they? (Spoiler alert: No.)

What’s missing is a sharper focus on who gambles and why.

North Carolina Policy Watch makes a critical observation:

Lottery tickets and scratch-off instant games continue to be the most popular in North Carolina counties saddled with some of the state’s highest poverty rates.

Statewide, North Carolinian adults spent $212 per capita on the lottery in 2011, according to an N.C. Policy Watch analysis of lottery sales information as well as adult population and poverty estimates from the U.S. Census.

But those per capita sales figures more than double in places like Halifax County, a struggling Eastern North Carolina county where per capita lottery sales were $516, the second-highest in the state. The county is also one of the state’s poorest, with more than a quarter of its population living under the federal poverty line, roughly defined as a household income of $23,000 for a family of four.

And as MarketWatch reported in back in 2006, before the stock market crash from which all the the smallest fraction of the elite have yet to recover [emphasis added]:

A majority of Americans are pessimistic about their ability to save $200,000 in net wealth in their lifetimes, and more than one-fifth say the lottery is the most practical way for them to reach that type of goal, according to a new survey.

Just 26 percent of adults surveyed think they could accumulate $200,000 in net wealth in their lifetime, and 9 percent believe they could collect $1 million, according to the survey of about 1,000 Americans by Opinion Research Corporation for the Consumer Federation of America and the Financial Planning Association.

Twenty-one percent of those surveyed said a lottery would be the most practical strategy for accumulating several hundred thousand dollars. That percentage was higher among lower-income people, with 38 percent of those who earn less than $25,000 pointing to the lottery as a solution.

Some Americans “both greatly overestimate their chances of hitting a lottery jackpot, and greatly underestimate their ability to build six-figure wealth by patiently making regular savings contributions over time,” said Stephen Brobeck, the consumer federation’s executive director, in a telephone news conference.

Next, from the report of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission:

The lottery industry stands out in the gambling industry by virtue of several unique features. It is the most widespread form of gambling in the U.S.: currently, lotteries operate in 37 states and the District of Columbia. It is the only form of commercial gambling which a majority of adults report having played. It is also the only form of gambling in the U.S. that is a virtual government monopoly. State lotteries have the worst odds of any common form of gambling (a chance of approximately 1 in 12-14 million for most existing lotto games), but they also promise the greatest potential payoff to the winner in absolute terms, with prizes regularly amounting to tens of millions of dollars.

Lotteries rank first among the various forms of gambling in terms of gross revenues: total lottery sales in 1996 totaled $42.9 billion. 1982 gross revenues were $4 billion, representing an increase of 950% over the preceding 15 years, 1982-1996.

Lotteries have the highest profit rates in gambling in the U.S.: in 1996, net revenues (sales minus payouts, but not including costs) totaled $16.2 billion, or almost 38% of sales. They are also the largest source government revenue from gambling, in 1996 netting $13.8 billion, or 32% of money wagered, for governments at all levels.

And the money quote, from economic Richard D. Wolff:

Duke University researchers in 1999 (Clotfelter et al. 1999) found that the more education one has the less one spends on lottery tickets: dropouts averaged $700 annually compared to college graduate’s $178; and that those from households with annual incomes below $25,000 spent an average of nearly $600 per year on lottery tickets, while those from households earning over $100,000 averaged $289; blacks spent an average of $998, while whites spent $210.

Put simply, lotteries take the most from those who can least afford it. Thus, still another study of state lotteries concluded: “We find that the implicit tax is regressive in virtually all cases.” (Clotfelter and Cook 1988) Instead of taxing those most able to pay (the principle of the federal income tax in the US), state leaders use lotteries to disguise a regressive tax that falls on the middle and even more on the poor.

In lotteries, corporations have managed to offload even more of their traditional tax obligations onto the poorest among us while simultaneously privatizing those formerly public services their taxes used to partially fund.

So who’s the real winner here?

MexicoWatch: Fear, hope, despair, rage, protest


We begin with an interview with one of the survivors of the 26 September attack in Iguala, Mexico, leading to the abduction and disappearance of 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa. From Emergencia MX:

Testimony of a student from Ayotzinapa rural school. Survivor of the attack from Mexican police.

Program notes:

The original interview and video was made by “43″ voices.

EmergenciaMX has retaken their material with the purpose of subtitling it.

Next, the other shoe drops, via BuzzFeed:

Mexican Mayor Charged In Disappearance And Death Of Dozens Of Students

  • The former mayor of Iguala, Jose Luis Abarca, has been charged with the aggravated murder of six people, as well as the attempted murder of others

The attorney general’s office in the Mexican state of Guerrero announced Thursday they have formally charged the former mayor of Iguala in connection with the deaths and disappearance of dozens of students in September.

Jose Luis Abarca was charged with “aggravated homicide against six people” as well as with the “attempted murder of others,” prosecutors said in a statement on their website announcing the formal detention order.

The 43 students, who belonged to a teacher training college, disappeared Sept. 26 following a confrontation with local police in which six students died.

From editorial cartoonist Carlos Latuff; a caricature of the murderous mayor and his spouse:

BLOG Latuff

From the Washington Post, another face of tragedy:

Parents of missing Mexican students cling to hope

Maria Telumbre knows fire. She spends her days making tortillas over hot coals, and experience tells her a small goat takes at least four hours to cook. So she refuses to believe the government’s explanation that gang thugs incinerated her son and 42 other missing college students in a giant pyre in less than a day, leaving almost nothing to identify the dead.

The discovery of charred teeth and bone fragments offer Telumbre no more proof of her son’s death than the many graves unearthed in Guerrero state since the students disappeared Sept. 26. She simply does not accept that the ashes belong to her 19-year-old son and his classmates.

“How is it possible that in 15 hours they burned so many boys, put them in a bag and threw them into the river?” Telumbre says. “This is impossible. As parents, we don’t believe it’s them.”

A video report on the parents from Reuters:

Parents of missing students criticize Mexico search efforts

Program notes:

Parents of the missing 43 students cast doubt on search efforts to find their sons after a meeting with authorities in the restive state of Guerrero. Nathan Frandino reports.

A political conundrum, via Reuters:

Mexican police play havoc with president’s security pledge

Restoring order to a country torn apart by drug violence was Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s first promise when he took power two years ago, but corruption and police brutality have handed him the biggest crisis of his rule.

Local police abducted 43 trainee teachers in the southwestern city of Iguala on Sept. 26 and handed them over to a drug gang. The gang almost certainly murdered them and torched their bodies, the government says.

The case, still not closed, has infuriated Mexicans and highlights the scale of the challenge that Pena Nieto faces in trying to end shocking violence and impunity.

“What we’re seeing are the results of many years of deterioration, complacency and denial by successive governments,” said Eduardo Olmos, a former mayor of the northern city of Torreon, who purged all but one of its 1,000-strong police force in 2010 when it was infiltrated by the Zetas drug gang.

Similarly, from Slate:

Mexico’s Breaking Point

This is not the first, biggest, or most gruesome mass disappearance during Mexico’s past eight years of brutal drug violence. More than 106,000 have died in what government data term “executions,” “confrontations,” and “homicide-aggressions” since former President Felipe Calderon informally declared his war on drugs in 2006. But the tragedy of Ayotzinapa is different. Rarely has the collusion between local authorities and the cartels been so obvious and the consequences so dire. Unsurprisingly, the events surrounding the case have captivated Mexico and the international community for weeks.

Since coming to power in 2012, President Enrique Peña Nieto has sought to keep his focus on economic growth rather than the violence that the country has become known for internationally. In the aftermath of this incident, Peña Nieto’s approval ratings have sunk to the lowest point of his presidency amid criticism of the government’s sluggish response. He has decried the incident as “outrageous, painful, and unacceptable” but human rights groups say his short statements about the case have been vague and lacking in specific plans for action. He has also been criticized for taking more than a month to meet with the families of victims and for traveling to the APEC summit in China this week as the crisis simmered. Calls for his resignation are getting louder and more widespread.

From the time the war on drugs started, and its massive, hemorrhaging failure became apparent, there have been protests, marches, and calls for action. This time around, the protests’ significance has moved beyond a dull weariness and discontent to raw expressions of pain. This has happened in part because of who the victims are, students from a poor rural town and a university with a strong tradition of activism for social justice (and a strong tradition of having this activism criminalized by the government). This reputation appears to be why the mayor sent police forces to detain them in the first place. According to Mexican media, citing documents from the investigation, José Luis Abarca ordered the police to “teach them a lesson.”

Borderland Beat covers more blowback:

Australia was no reprieve for EPN from the Ayotzinapa students controversy

The G20 summit was held in Australia this year.

The Group of Twenty (G20) as it is known by, is an economic summit is comprised of  19 countries plus the European Union.  President Barack Obama and Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto are two of this years attendees.

If President Pena thought he would be afforded relief  from the hotseat he and his administration find themselves on,  stemming from the normalistas killings….well he was in for a  surprise.

Australia’s Mexican community have been peacefully demonstrating against EPN’s participation in the G20 summit, rather than his choosing to stay in Mexico and working for a solution in  the Iguala student massacres.

And from Mexico News Daily, the parents again:

Ayotzinapa caravan rolls out from Tixtla

  • Parents wish to spread the message that their children are still alive

Three caravans of buses are rolling out across the country this week as part of an effort by the families of the missing students of Ayotzinapa to tell the country they believe their children are still alive.

The first caravan — three buses carrying family members and classmates of the missing students — departed yesterday on a 1,700-kilometer journey from the Ayotzinapa teacher training college in Tixtla, Guerrero, heading north.

The objective is to inform the public about the tragic events of September 26 and 27 in Iguala, Guerrero, when their sons were taken and six people were killed, presumably on the orders of the town’s mayor.

More from Mexico Voices:

Mexico’s Iguala Crisis: Ayotzinapa Students Shift from Violent Protests to Informative Caravans

After five days of violent protests, teachers and students of Guerrero, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Chiapas and Mexico City changed the direction of their demonstrations to performing peaceful, informative protests. Relatives of the disappeared normal school students and members of the Student Federation of Socialist Peasants of Mexico are setting out across the country in caravans and asking people to support locating the disappeared normal school students.

The first caravan took the name “Julio César Ramírez Pontes” and left the Ayotzinapa Normal School at about 11:00 a.m., headed toward Chihuahua. It will tour the states of Zacatecas, Jalisco and Michoacán. The second caravan, named “Daniel Solis” in memory of a student who died in the attack in Iguala last September 26, departed at 4:00 p.m., setting out for the states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, Morelos and Tlaxcala. The third caravan will visit seven municipalities in Guerrero, including Acapulco. It is expected that the three contingents will meet in Mexico City at the end of their tours.

And more from teleSUR:

Ayotzinapa Families to Meet with Zapatistas

Family members of the 43 missing students from the Ayotzinapa rural college, who are meeting with the EZLN and the Good Government Council in Chiapas, say that students’ disappearance “is not an isolated incident.”

After a 20-hour trek, the “Daniel Solis Gallardo” convoy –  named after one of the three Ayotzinapa rural college students killed on September 26 by police and hitmen – arrived yesterday in Chiapas, where they were received by thousands of supporters.

Family members announced that they will meet Saturday with members of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), where there will hold a press conference. From there, they proceeded to the Integrative Center of Indigenous Community Development (Cideci by its Spanish acronym) at the University of the Earth in the state’s capital,  San Cristobal de las Casas.

Meanwhile, protests continued in Guerrero. From PressTV:

Mexican protesters call for justice in Chilpancingo

Program notes:

Thousands of demonstrators angered by police corruption and the massacre of 43 students by cartel gangsters, have flooded the streets of Mexico calling for justice.

Mobs of protestors wielding sticks, pipes and stolen riot gear from police marched through Chilpancingo, the capital of the failed state of Guerrero on Friday. The students, who were all trainee teachers, went missing from the drug-infested state, after they planned to crash the politically ambitious mayor’s wife speech back in September. The protesters carried images of the missing male students. Authorities say they were abducted by the now dissmissed police force and handed over to a drug cartel. Three gang members admitted to slaughtered them and incinerated their corpses. Protests have rocked a number of Mexican cities this week, with the Guerrero state congress set ablaze on Tuesday in the escalating demonstrations.

One impact, via NTDTV:

Acapulco Tourism Feels Chill Over Wave of Mexico Violence

Program notes:

Thousands of tourists cancel hotel reservations on holiday weekend because of ongoing violence in Guerrero state.

Closer to Casa esnl in the San Francisco Bay Area [and belated] via Mission Local:

Protest This Saturday for Disappeared Students in Ayotzinapa, Mexico

It is the event that has captured international headlines and captivated much of the world for the last two months: the disappearance of 43 students from rural Guerrero, Mexico. They were taken by local police, turned to a local gang and are presumed murdered. If that wasn’t enough, the governments timid response has reached a boiling point and there are now daily protests throughout Mexico demanding their return.

Mexico attorney general Murillo karam offered some details during the press conference last week: the bodies were left to burn for 15 hours and then tossed to a nearby river. Massive protests have ensued in Mexico City and abroad.

This Saturday, several Bay Area organizations have put together a march that will begin at noon at 24th and Mission to march and protest against the Mexican government response to what’s happened in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.

And here’s a video of the march as it happened today via Mexican Monitor:

Ayotzinapa Solidarity Protest in San Francisco

Program notes:

Some 500 people marched from 24th and Mission streets in San Francisco’s Mission District in solidarity with the 43 missing students in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, Mexico. 43 students went missing, and are presumed dead, in Iguala, on September 26. The timid reaction by the government and frustrations with a corruption, extreme violence have lead to daily protests throughout the Mexico. In San Francisco, Calif. many people with connection to Mexico or immigrants themselves, took to the streets on Saturday to demand that the president, Enrique Peña Nieto step down.

From up the road from Casa esnl in Berkeley, a solidarity gathering earlier this week at the University of California [in Spanish] via vlogger edwin rodriguez:

UC Berkeley con Ayotzinapa

Program notes:

Across the countries, not just colleges, but cities have been mobilizing around this. We’ve already held a small vigil on campus, but now its time to start mobilizing for the 20th of November. This is the date people across Mexico plan on mobilizing towards the capital and the date international solidarity is to be displayed.

So to those 43, to the 6 who have already been killed by this unlawful act of governance, by the injustice committed by Jose Luis Abarca and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, by their party the PRD.

We Will Continue Standing In Solidarity Until Justice Is Served.

Another gathering today in Sydney, Australia, via vlogger integramedia3d:

Apoyo a Ayotzinapa Sydney Australia

Next, from VICE News, a criticism of the mood north of the border:

Americans Support Mexico’s Anti-Government Protests — As Long as They Stay in Mexico

Since the beginning of the decade, we have become accustomed to the optics of unrest and revolution. Tunisia, Egypt, Ukraine, Venezuela, Brazil — and to a degree, Ferguson, Missouri. The context and struggles may share some resonance, but they’re not interchangeable. I can list these sites of unrest in abstraction only because that is how Western media consumers receive them — contiguous images of tear gas, fire, lines of riot cops, chanting crowds, furious crowds, surging crowds, bleeding, and weeping.

Civil unrest has a consistent visual language across continents and political contexts. What is not consistent, however, are the standards by which Americans evaluate political dissent as justifiable or insupportable. The righteous eruption of protest in Mexico over the massacre of 43 normalista students is the latest instance to draw out a particular American tendency when it comes to watching unrest from afar; a NIMBY attitude to revolution.

If Americans believe the fury in Mexico right now is justified, they are equally obligated to push for a swift end to the war on drugs at home. Yes, there are arguments to continue US drug prohibition, but none of them trump the proliferation of mass slaughter in Mexico. Corruption and state-sanctioned violence there is very much in Americans’ backyard — and Americans should not distance themselves from the struggle against it.

And from the Associated Press, a reminder of other apparently state-sanctioned violence in Guerrero:

Kidnapped Ugandan priest’s remains ID’d in Mexico

The remains of a Ugandan priest kidnapped more than six months ago have been found in a mass grave in southern Mexico, Roman Catholic authorities said Friday.

Father John Ssenyondo, 55, was among 13 bodies in a clandestine grave discovered Nov. 2 in the town of Ocotitlan, said Victor Aguilar, vicar of the Chilpancingo-Chilapa diocese in the southern state of Guerrero.

Dental records were used to identify the priest, who was born Dec. 25, 1958, in Masaka, Uganda. He came to the diocese about five years ago.

Aguilar said Ssenyondo, a member of the Combonian order, was abducted April 30 in the town of Santa Cruz after saying Mass, when a group of people in an SUV intercepted his car.

MexicoWatch: Protests, anger, and evidence


The latest on those 43 missing student teachers and the growing outrage spawned by their abduction and apparent murder by police and the military.

First a video overview from Al Jazeera’s AJ+:

Ayotzinapa Student Killings Ignite Mexico And The Internet

Program notes:

The disappearance of 43 students at the hands of police in late September has gripped Mexico. Now officials are saying that the students of the rural Ayotzinapa school were handed over to a drug cartel that killed them, burned their bodies and left their remains along a river. Protests in the streets and online are calling for President Enrique Peña Nieto to step down, and for an end to state-complicit drug violence.

The story is getting increasingly wider play, as evidence by this from the Malay Mail:

Mexico’s missing students: State congress up in flames as protesters demand answers

Protesters fuming over the disappearance of 43 college students set fire to a state congress in southern Mexico yesterday in another day of angry demonstrations over the presumed massacre.

Some 500 masked students and radical teachers broke into the empty Guerrero state legislature and burned the library and the chamber where local lawmakers hold sessions.

Moments earlier, protesters torched the education department’s audit office in another part of the state capital Chilpancingo.

From teleSUR, yet another dead end in the search for the students:

Remains Found Don’t Belong to Ayotzinapa Students

According to a report by the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, the remains found in mass burial site do not belong to the 43 disappeared students.

The Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) which has been conducting an independent investigation into the disappearance of 43 students in Mexico reported that human remains analyzed so far do not belong to the youth.

The non-profit organization released a statement after concluding the exhumation of remains found in graveyards in the region of Cerro Viejo and La Parota and a dump in the town of Cocula, in southern state of Guerrero.

The document was published by the Office of the General Prosecutor (PGR), and the genetic analysis were conducted by The Bode Technology Group, a U.S.-based laboratory. It concluded that 24 of 30 remains recovered do not have biological kinship with the 43 students who were abducted by authorities during a rally on September 26, the rest of the remains are still being analyzed and results are expected shortly.

And from Vocativ, the despicable:

Nestlé Makes Fun of Missing Ayotzinapa Students for Publicity

The disappearance of 43 student teachers from Ayotzinapa, Mexico, in September— believed to have been slain by gangs at the behest of local authorities—has led to ongoing nationwide protests.

When Attorney General Murillo Karam ended a press conference on Friday with the words “Ya me cansé” (“I’ve had enough”), it began trending on Twitter, with outraged citizens co-opting the phrase to express their dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of the crime. And the next day, protesters set fire to the doors of the National Palace.

So when Nestlé decided to get in on the action Monday with a joke—likening the missing students to one of their signature crispy candy bars—it invoked disgust, instead of laughs. “A los de Ayotzinapa les dieron Crunch,” read the tweet from Crunch Mexico. Translation: “They crunched those from Ayotzinapa.”

Though the remark was deleted a couple of hours later and followed up by an apology tweet, public condemnation was swift, leading the company to issue a second apology: “We’d like to express our solidarity with the families of Ayotzinapa and we extend this to the brand, which was part of that bad joke.”

The brand flip-flopped later on Monday, however, and pinned the tweet to a hacker. People were not convinced, and Mario Vera, Nestlé Mexico’s vice president of communications, has promised to get to the bottom of it.

The Associated Press covers collateral damage:

Mexico: Violent protests hit Acapulco’s tourism

Violent protests over the disappearance of 43 college students are putting a damper on tourism in Mexico’s Pacific resort city of Acapulco.

Joaquin Badillo is head of a business association in the southern state of Guerrero, where Acapulco is located.

He says the city’s hotels have seen massive cancellations ahead of this weekend, which coincides with Monday’s national holiday commemorating the 1910 Mexican Revolution. More cancellations have been registered for Christmas week, the busiest time of the year for Acapulco tourism.

And from Bloomberg, one father’s anguish:

Dad’s Disbelief Over Son’s Missing Shows Mexico Reeling

The last time Mario Gonzalez spoke with his son Cesar was on Sept. 26, when the college student phoned home to say he was happy at his new school. Hours later Cesar was gone, disappeared along with 42 of his classmates.

After speaking with his father, Cesar joined friends for a two-hour bus trip to the Mexican city of Iguala to ask passing drivers for money to fund their studies at a live-in public school, said a fellow pupil who asked not to be named due to security concerns. In Iguala, Mayor Jose Luis Abarca had plans for a public event that evening with his wife. He told the local police he didn’t want any protests by the students, said Jesus Murillo, Mexico’s attorney general.

What followed, according to preliminary investigations by Murillo, is so horrifying that Mario Gonzalez says he refuses to believe it.

More collateral damage from CNN:

Mexico facing ‘big political crisis’ in aftermath of student disappearances, says ambassador to U.S.

Mexico is facing a “big political crisis,” the country’s Ambassador to the United States told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday, nearly two months after 43 students were forcibly abducted by the police and are now feared murdered.

“It is a big political crisis for Mexico. We are all outraged by these brutal events and the only feeling that we can have is to share this sorrow and pain from the parents of these students who are still missing,” Ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora said.

In what was the first interview a Mexican government official has given to the international media since the students’ disappearance on September 26, Medina Mora maintained that the government is facing this crisis “with every single tool at our reach in order to impede this to happen again.”

“We have 10,000 people deployed on the terrain as we speak, searching for these students actively. We have a very clear path of investigation. We have hypothesis that actually shows that it might be the case that they are dead, they have been killed.”

Reuters covers papal dismay:

Pope laments ‘murder’ of missing Mexican students

Pope Francis on Wednesday expressed his sorrow at what he said is clearly the murder of 43 missing Mexican students, though the government has yet to officially declare them dead after their abduction and apparent massacre in the southwest of the country in late September.

Mexico’s government has said evidence suggests the 43 trainee teachers were handed over by corrupt police to members of a local drug gang who then incinerated them, but it has yet to confirm the deaths for lack of definitive proof.

“I’d like somehow to say that I am with the Mexicans, those present and those at home, in this painful moment of what is legally speaking disappearance, but we know, the murder of the students,” Francis said in his general audience in the Vatican.

From the Daily Express in London, more dismay:

Alfonso Cuaron demands justice for Mexican students

Mexican director ALFONSO CUARON used his acceptance speech at a benefit gala in New York City to demand justice for slain students in his native country.

The Gravity filmmaker was the guest of honour at the Museum of Modern Art’s annual film benefit gala on Monday (10Nov14), with his family, friends and former co-workers on hand to celebrate his acclaimed body of work.

But when he took to the stage to accept his prize, he used a portion of his time to speak out about the students of the Ayotzinapa Teacher Training College who went missing after taking part in a protest in the city of Iguala on 26 September (14). The students’ convoy of buses came under fire from local police, and it was later confirmed the entire group of young people had been killed. Thousands of Mexicans have subsequently taken part in protests across the country, demanding action from the government.

Cuaron, along with son Jonas and fellow Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro, added their voices to those seeking justice for the students, as they read an official statement, which was co-signed by an absent Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

The London Daily Mail focuses on the principal suspect:

The bloody rise of Mexico’s First Lady of murder: Beautiful but utterly evil mayor’s wife who ‘ordered’ massacre of 43 students was the ‘Boss of Bosses’ for cartel behind TWO HUNDRED killings and disappearances

  • Maria de los Angeles Pineda was arrested with husband Iguala mayor Jose Luis Abarca following disappearance of 43 students
  • Students believed to have been abducted by corrupt police then handed to cartel who ‘incinerated them’ for threatening to disrupt a party for Pineda
  • Emerged that Pineda ran the brutal cartel – behind 200 disappearances
  • Search for students has led to discovery of mass graves for other victims
  • Her family’s criminal network grew after they sought revenge for kidnapping and murder of Pineda’s sister when she was a girl
  • Family of mayor knew her relatives were dangerous but said: ‘Now it turns out she was the worst of the whole lot’

The wife of the Mexican mayor arrested over the massacre of 43 students not only ordered police to stop their protest but also had them turned over to a criminal cartel which she herself was the boss and founder, it was claimed on Wednesday.

Maria de los Angeles Pineda, the wife of Iguala mayor Jose Luis Abarca, was the mastermind behind the Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors) cartel. It was set up in 2009 and is said to be responsible for over two hundred murders and disappearances in northern Guerrero state – where the tourist hotspot of Acapulco is.

It would be easy to mistake Pineda as an unwitting accomplice to her husband’s schemes from the carefully-manicured public images of her.

Fox News Latino covers protest abroad:

Black handkerchiefs at Mexico-Holland friendly in solidarity with Ayotzinapa

Mexican residents of The Netherlands will carry black handkerchiefs to the Wednesday soccer match between their national team and the Dutch squad in solidarity with the 43 Ayotzinapa teaching students who disappeared in September in Mexico’s southern state of Guerrero.

“I will participate in this initiative simply out of solidarity because right now I can’t do anything else,” Oscar Pina, a Mexican who has lived in Rotterdam for six years, told Efe.

The plan is to wave the black handkerchiefs at the time the Mexican national anthem is being played before the match in Amsterdam to “show support and solidarity with what is occurring in Mexico and since it’s going to be a match that many people are going to be watching, it’s a way to reach more people,” said the 32-year-old.

The Nogales International covers another vigil:

Locals rally at Mexican Consulate for 43 missing students

A parade of candles made its way around the Mexican Consulate parking lot in Nogales on Tuesday evening, as nearly 50 people gathered to call for justice for the 43 Mexican students who disappeared on Sept. 26.

Six students were killed in what appears to be a politically motivated attack in Iguala, Guerrero and 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School disappeared, sparking protests throughout Mexico and forcing the Guerrero governor to resign.

A protest effort known as “Todos a la Calle,” or “everybody to the street,” is spreading via social media and spurred Tuesday’s group to gather at the consulate, according to Nogales resident Veronica Cortez, 41.

From teleSUR English, a report on the ongoing candlelight vigils in Mexico:

Mexican families light candles of hope for the 43 students

Program notes:

While most of the actions and protests demanding the 43 dissapeared students in Mexico be returned alive have marked with rage and in some instances of violence, there are also calls expressing of hope.

And an upcoming rally in the San Francisco Bay area:

#YaMeCanse March and Protest for Mexico

Saturday November 15

12:00 pm

24th & Mission st. San Francisco, CA

Finally, a graphic reminder that Ayotzinapa is the latest in a long line of state conducted or supported massacres and disappearances:

BLOG Ayotzinapa

Chart of the day: An American phenomenon


From Montclair SocioBlog:

BLOG Shootings

EbolaWatch: Phobia, pols, meds, & Africa


Always Africa, though news from the continent is slow today.

First from the London Daily Mail, which gets it about right:

Ebola hysteria sweeps US schools: Teacher who visited Dallas told not to come to work as hundreds of Mississippi parents pull kids school because principal visited Zambia… 3,000 miles from countries hit by the disease

  • Maine elementary teacher stayed 9.5 miles from Ebola hospital in Texas
  • She has been ordered into isolation for 21 days amid ‘parents’ concerns’
  • In Mississippi, hundreds of parents pulled kids from middle school after principal visited Zambia – a country 3,000 miles from Ebola-hit nations
  • Parents at nearby high school also removed children to ‘avoid risk’

CNN reports on the growing American Ebolaphobia:

U.S. public ‘very worried’ about Ebola

Program notes:

The fear of Ebola is fraying nerves and ringing false alarms across the country. Ted Rowlands reports.

From AllAfrica, the silver lining in the Ebolaphobia cloud:

How Ebola Could Save Thousands of U.S. Lives

If media coverage of the three Ebola cases in the United States – some of it calling attention to the far greater danger of influenza – causes more people to ask their doctors about a flu shot, Ebola could end up saving many lives

Have you had your flu shot this year?

The highly contagious respiratory infection is linked to as many as 50,000 annual deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An estimated 20,000 children under five are hospitalized.

If media coverage of the three Ebola cases in the United States – some of it calling attention to the far greater danger of influenza – causes more people to ask their doctors about a flu shot, Ebola could end up saving many lives. Strong statements by Fox news anchor Scott Shepherd and New York Times columnist Frank Bruni (Scarier Than Ebola) are examples of what could prove to be life-saving reporting.

The Pentagon gets busy, via the Los Angeles Times:

Pentagon announces Ebola rapid-response team for U.S. cases of virus

The Pentagon announced Sunday it is putting together a 30-person rapid-response team that could provide quick medical support to civilian healthcare workers if additional cases of the Ebola virus are diagnosed in the United States.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered U.S. Northern Command Commander Gen. Chuck Jacoby to assemble the team, which was requested by the Department of Health and Human Services, said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby.

The team will consist of 20 critical-care nurses, five doctors trained in infectious disease, and five trainers in infectious-disease protocols.

CBC News covers measures to the north:

Canada’s Ebola response gets fresh test in Nova Scotia

  • One of 5 rapid response teams ready to aid local health authorities

Nova Scotia has been chosen for a second test of Canada’s response to Ebola.

On Sunday, a team from the federal Public Health Agency arrived to brief health-care providers on the techniques they will be reportedly practising on Monday should a confirmed case of Ebola arrive in Canada.

“Drills, dry runs, and practising are important to ensuring that our teams are able to respond without hesitation in the event of a case of Ebola,” Health Minister Rona Ambrose said in a news release.

The agency says if a case of Ebola is ever confirmed in Canada, one of the five Ebola rapid response teams would work with local health authorities to prevent its spread.

Each team comprises a field epidemiologist, an infection control expert, a bio-safety expert, a laboratory expert, a communications expert and a logistics expert. Aircraft are stationed in Winnipeg and Ottawa.

And a video report from the Public Health Agency of Canada:

PHAC Rapid Response Team

Program note:

Ebola Rapid Response Team practices deploying to a simulated case of Ebola

From The Hill, czarist politics:

Praise, criticism for Obama’s Ebola czar pick

President Obama’s selection to lead the administration’s Ebola response drew both praise and criticism from guests on the Sunday morning political shows.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, pushed back at GOP opposition to Obama’s new czar, Ron Klain, calling him an “excellent manager.”

Klain, a former chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore and later Vice President Joe Biden, will take the reins of the administration’s Ebola strategy next week. He was named to the position on Friday.

When asked if a healthcare professional would be a better choice, Fauci said “not necessarily.”

From the Washington Post, surprise, surprise:

Why Democrats are sounding like Republicans on Ebola and the GOP is moving into overdrive

Democrats are beginning to sound more like Republicans when they talk about Ebola. And Republicans are moving into overdrive with their criticism of the government’s handling of the deadly virus.

The sharpened rhetoric, strategists say, suggests Democrats fear President Obama’s response to Ebola in the United States could become a political liability in the midterm election and Republicans see an opportunity to tie increasing concerns about the disease to the public’s broader worries about Obama’s leadership.

“This is feeding into the Republican narrative that Democrats don’t know how to govern and government is too large,” said Jim Manley, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). Democrats, Manley said, “are desperate to try to demonstrate that they have tough ideas to respond to the crisis.”

Failure acknowledged, via the Los Angeles Times:

Fauci acknowledges that Ebola guidelines failed to protect caregivers

A top federal health official conceded Sunday that the government-recommended protective gear worn by nurses and doctors caring for patients sickened by Ebola has been inadequate to protect caregivers from infection.

The official, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that medical professionals need gear that would provide complete, head-to-toe coverage, shielding their skin from contact with an Ebola patient’s body or its fluids.

Serving as the Obama administration’s sole spokesman for Ebola on five national television talk shows Sunday, Fauci indicated that new guidelines for “personal-protective’‘ gear were about to be issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He acknowledged that two nurses in Dallas may have been infected by their exposure to an Ebola-infected patient that they cared for who ultimately died, Thomas E. Duncan.

The original guidelines, Fauci said, “did have some exposure of skin in the sense you had a mask—but there was some skin that was exposed and some hair that was exposed.’‘ Speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation,’‘ Fauci added, “we want to make sure that’s no longer the case.’‘

More failure acknowledged, via the New York Times:

C.E.O. of Texas Hospital Group Apologizes for Mistakes in Ebola Cases

The head of the group that runs the Texas hospital under scrutiny for mishandling Ebola cases apologized Sunday in full-page ads in local Dallas newspapers, saying the hospital “made mistakes in handling this very difficult challenge.”

Barclay E. Berdan, chief executive of the Texas Health Resources, which operates a network of 25 hospitals here, said in an open letter that hospital officials were deeply sorry for having misdiagnosed symptoms shown by Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who was sent home after his first visit to the emergency room of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, but was later readmitted and then died of the virus two weeks later.

“The fact that Mr. Duncan had traveled to Africa was not communicated effectively among the care team, though it was in his medical chart,” Mr. Berdan wrote. “On that visit to the Emergency Department, we did not correctly diagnose his symptoms as those of Ebola. For this we are deeply sorry.”

And a diagnosis from the Progressive:

Top Doc Says Ebola Shows Skewed Priorities

The Ebola crisis has revealed severe deficiencies in how the American health care system works, experts say.

Dr. Walter Tsou, past president of the American Public Health Association and the former health commissioner for Philadelphia, says that the Ebola crisis shows the skewed priorities of the U.S. health care system.

“Our chronic disease-oriented health care system is ill-equipped to address an acute infectious disease outbreak,” Dr. Tsou, a board adviser to Physicians for a National Health Program, tells The Progressive. “We don’t have enough biocontainment units, sufficiently trained experts on how to control for highly infectious disease agents, trained sanitation crews who can clean up and properly handle waste disposal.”

Tsou says that the Ebola epidemic has uncovered big flaws in the global health system, too.

The Los Angeles Times covers Golden State preparations:

Gov. Brown to meet with nursing groups to discuss Ebola preparations

Leaders of two nursing organizations say they plan to meet Tuesday with Gov. Jerry Brown to call on the state to upgrade Ebola training and safety precautions for California health professionals.

The California Nurses Assn. and National Nurses United are asking state regulators to formally adopt what they called “optimal safety standards,” including requirements for Hazmat suits and accelerated hands-on training programs.

“California hospitals have been appallingly slow in moving to enact any effective protocols, much less the highest standards, in response to this virulent Ebola threat that has already infected two nurses in Dallas,” NNU and CNA Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro said in a statement.

And from the New York Times, their ship just came in:

Ebola Watch Lists in U.S. to Shrink, Cruise Passenger Cleared

Some of the dozens of people who are being watched for possible exposure to Ebola in the United States are expected to be cleared on Sunday and Monday, potentially easing concerns about the spread of the disease after two nurses were infected.

A Dallas lab worker who spent much of a Caribbean holiday cruise in isolation tested negative for the deadly virus and left the Carnival Magic liner with other passengers after it docked at Galveston, Texas, early on Sunday morning.

The precautions taken for the cruise passenger reflected widespread anxiety over Ebola in the United States, including calls from some lawmakers for a travel ban on West Africa.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau covers the post-quarantine question:

As 21-day Ebola quarantine ends, what’s to fear?

The first wave of people, including the fiance of Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan, will emerge from a state-ordered, 21-day Ebola quarantine Monday, which should probably spark relief in a region that desperately wants to escape the shadow of the epidemic.

But church officials are considering extra security for Louise Troh and her children amid ongoing fears about Ebola across Dallas-Fort Worth _ and throughout the United States.

Experts who study psychology say the release of 48 people from the Ebola watchlist back into society, and the expected onslaught of news coverage about them shopping at local grocery stores and returning to schools, could fuel another wave of irrational fears.

From the London Daily Mail, doubly devastated:

‘They are left with nothing’: Devastated girlfriend of Ebola patient zero Thomas Eric Duncan to be released from quarantine after Hazmat teams destroyed almost all their belongings

  • The fiancée of Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan will be released from quarantine at midnight tonight – but will emerged with hardly any possession after they were destroyed by hazmat teams.
  • Louise Troh, 54, missed her boyfriend’s funeral while she was locked away for the duration of the deadly virus’s 21-day incubation period, which expires tonight.
  • During the frantic operation to seal off Duncan’s apartment in Dallas and eliminate all traces of the disease, she also lost the majority of her belongings.
  • Only a few personal documents, some photographs, and a single Bible escaped the cleansing operation.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau covers the latest form of prejudice:

In Texas, Liberian Americans weary of Ebola stigma

When Otto Williams opened his mouth last week to say that he’d be happy to work a new job installing home heating and air conditioning units, the contractor listened to Williams’s accent and asked where he was he from.

“Liberia,” said Williams, 42, an HVAC technician. Knowing the concerns some people have about the Ebola virus, he made sure to smile.

But soon, the contractor mentioned he was in a hurry, excused himself and promised to call Williams back. He didn’t.

“It’s gotten to the point where you don’t want to mention you’re Liberian,” Williams said.

More from the Washington Post:

West Africans in Washington say they are being stigmatized because of Ebola fear

Alphonso Toweh was riding a bus when a man sitting next to him politely asked where he was from.

“Liberia,” said Toweh, a writer from Monrovia who is visiting the Washington area, home to the nation’s second-largest population of African immigrants.

“At that point, the man went far from me,” he said. “He did not want to come close to me. People, once they know you are Liberian — people assume you have the virus in your body, which is not the case.”

The Japan Times covers a patient recovered:

Spain: Nursing assistant clear of Ebola virus

An initial test shows that a nursing assistant who became infected with Ebola in Spain is now clear of all traces of the virus nearly two weeks after she was hospitalized, authorities said Sunday.

Teresa Romero, 44, is the first person known to have contracted the disease outside West Africa in the current outbreak when she tested positive for the virus Oct. 6. She has been in quarantine at Carlos III hospital in Madrid since then.

A statement Sunday said a blood test revealed that Romero’s immune system had eliminated the virus from her body. The statement came from the Spanish government committee in charge of the nation’s Ebola crisis. A second test in the coming hours is needed to absolutely confirm Romero’s recovery, said Manuel Cuenca, microbiology director at Madrid’s Carlos III health care complex.

From the Associated Press, another screening program launched:

Belgium’s main airport to begin Ebola screening

Brussels Airport says it will begin screening passengers arriving from Ebola-stricken countries Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The airport operator says passengers arriving from these three countries will have their temperatures taken starting Monday.

Four flights a week from the area concerned arrive weekly at Brussels Airport. Similar measures were begun Saturday at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, where one daily flight arrives from Conakry, Guinea.

And from the Guardian, a renewed push for Aussie medical aid:

Ebola: Labor renews calls for health workers to be sent to west Africa

  • Tanya Plibersek says Australia would be in ‘big trouble’ if it waited for virus to spread to Asia Pacific before offering help

Australia would be in “big trouble” if it waited for the Ebola virus to spread to the Asia-Pacific region before acting, the opposition has said, as the government called for bipartisanship on the serious health issue.

The health minister, Peter Dutton, said on Sunday the government continued to talk with other countries about what support could be provided if Australian medical teams were dispatched to west Africa and later needed to be evacuated.

Dutton accused Labor of “playing politics with a very important issue” and indicated that Australia was “ready to rapidly deploy support” if an outbreak occurred in near neighbours such as Papua New Guinea or the Solomon Islands.

Questions from the Associated Press:

Effectiveness of Ebola travel ban questioned

A ban on travel from West Africa might seem like a simple and smart response to the frightening Ebola outbreak there. It’s become a central demand of Republicans on Capitol Hill and some Democrats, and is popular with the public. But health experts are nearly unanimous in saying it’s a bad idea that could backfire.

The experts’ key objection is that a travel ban could prevent needed medical supplies, food and health care workers from reaching Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the nations where the epidemic is at its worst. Without that aid, the deadly virus might spread to wider areas of Africa, making it even more of a threat to the U.S. and the world, experts say.

In addition, preventing people from the affected countries from traveling to the U.S. could be difficult to enforce and might generate counterproductive results, such as people lying about their travel history or attempting to evade screening.

After the jump, China and Japan mull partnerships with Washington, front line nurses speak out, the problem with bushmeat, the sorrows of surviving, a continent’s image tarnished, Washington’s military point man hails progress, the WHO plans an African meet, Nigeria to get an all-clear, troubling news for a British survivor, defenses bolstered in the Gambia, a troubling sign in Zimbabwe, and the African Union sends help, on to Liberia and a presidential cry for help, a hopeful sign, and survivors mask a plea for help — plus a suggestion we really like. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Ills, pollution, GMOs, nukes


We begin with another outbreak from Global Times:

Guangdong sees over 1,400 new dengue cases

Health authorities of south China’s Guangdong Province said 1,412 new cases of dengue were confirmed in the province on Thursday.

The total number of dengue infections rose to 27,593, over 27 times that of same period last year, said the provincial health and family planning commission on Friday.

The disease, which has killed six people, has been detected in 20 prefecture-level cities in Guangdong. Its capital city Guangzhou was hit worst with 23,484 cases reported.

From the Daily Monitor in Kampala, Uganda, not courting illness:

Court suspends trials over Marburg

  • Proceedings halted. Criminal proceedings have been halted and the court is only handling civil cases which do not involve prisoners

The Magistrate’s Court in Kasese District has suspended proceedings after the Mubuku Prison administration refused to admit more prisoners due to fear of Marburg infection in the country.

On Tuesday, the chief magistrate’s court presided over by Agatonica Mbabazi sentenced four people to three months in jail each in Mubuku Prison.

However, they were later released after prison authorities declined to receive them for custody.

“Four convicts were released immediately after the prison authorities refused to take in more inmates due to fear of Marburg outbreak in the country. I had nowhere to put them,” the chief magistrate said.

And from Punch Nigeria, another African concern:

29 million Nigerians risk Lassa fever –FG

The Federal Government has said that 29 million Nigerians are at the risk of Lassa fever, while 26 states are exposed to the disease.

The government also said the recent outbreak of the disease in the country was a signal that it had not received the expected attention.

The Minister of State for Health, Dr. Khaliru Alhassan, spoke on Friday in Abuja during a press briefing to coincide with the National Lassa Fever Day and public presentation of 5,000 safeguard soaps to the ministry by Procter & Gamble, Nigeria.

And from Public Radio International, another public health tragedy:

Deaths among low-income children are making the US a leader in infant mortality

The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the United States is the worst among developed nations when it comes to infant mortality rates. There are 6.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in the United States; compare that to Finland, which had only 2.3 per 1,000 live births, or even Greece with 3.8.

So what’s the reason?

“It’s the period after a month of life — a month to 12 months — where the US is really doing worse,” says Emily Oster, an economist who helped calculate these figures. “Much of the death rate in that period is not really about medical interventions, it’s about things that are happening in the home.”

And in low-income homes, says Oster, a visiting associate professor of economics at Brown University, there’s a lack of support and resources that may be leading to a high number of deaths among babies. While there are other factors, including questions about how the US calculates infant mortality, she says this is the biggest problem.

And another one, via MintPress News:

A Third Of Schoolchildren Vulnerable To Hazardous Chemicals Facilities

While the conversation on hazardous chemicals facilities tends to revolve around risks to the general public, nearly 20 million schoolchildren go to schools located in vulnerability zones. Many of these schools lack plans in case of a chemical emergency.

One in three U.S. students attends school within the formally designated “vulnerability zone” of facilities involved in the manufacture or storage of large amounts of hazardous chemicals, according to new research.

That would translate into nearly 20 million schoolchildren spending near-daily time within the vicinity of at least one hazardous facility, including refineries, chemical manufacturers and wastewater treatment plants. Further, half of that number attend school near multiple facilities like these. And in 102 counties in 22 states, every single student goes to class within one or more vulnerability zones, most of which are a mile or larger.

“Literally tons of inadequately tested, potentially harmful chemicals and known human toxins are in use in industrial production sites and storage facilities across the country. These stocks of toxic chemicals represent a looming, silent risk in communities nationwide,” a new report from the Center for Effective Government, a Washington watchdog group, states.

Another Chinese accomplishment, via the Guardian:

China pollution levels hit 20 times safe limit

Visibility dropped dramatically as small pollutant particles reached dangerous levels in northern China’s Hebei province

Days of heavy smog shrouding swathes of northern China pushed pollution to more than 20 times safe levels on Friday, despite government promises to tackle environmental blight.

Visibility dropped dramatically as measures of small pollutant particles known as PM2.5, which can embed themselves deep in the lungs, reached more than 500 micrograms per cubic metre in parts of Hebei, a province bordering Beijing.

The World Health Organization’s guideline for maximum healthy exposure is 25.

In the capital, buildings were obscured by a thick haze, with PM2.5 levels in the city staying above 300 micrograms per cubic metre since Wednesday afternoon and authorities issuing an “orange” alert.

From the Guardian, a marine tragedy in the making:

Great Barrier Reef: ‘a massive chemistry experiment gone wrong’

  • Scientists warn that pollution may be dramatically increasing the rate of ocean acidification in inshore areas, threatening coral

It has long been known that pollution is having a devastating impact on the Great Barrier Reef but now scientists are warning that it may also be dramatically increasing the rate of ocean acidification in inshore areas of the region.

Dr Sven Uthicke, a senior research scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, has with colleagues this week published a paper in the journal PLOS one, on ocean acidification in the reef. The study compares the reef’s inshore and offshore waters, and information on present-day water quality with 30-year-old data.

The study, Coral Reefs on the Edge? Carbon Chemistry on Inshore Reefs of the Great Barrier Reef,reads as though a massive chemistry experiment has gone wrong on one of the country’s most precious ecosystems.

Another water woe from BBC News:

Brazil drought crisis deepens in Sao Paulo

The governor of the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo has asked for emergency clearance to siphon the remaining water out of the main reservoir serving Sao Paulo city, which has almost run dry.

After nine months of unprecedented drought, 95% of the water has gone.

Geraldo Alckmin, re-elected in last week’s elections, has been criticised for not imposing water rationing to tackle the crisis.

Twenty-nine other Brazilian cities have been affected by the drought.

From NASA Goddard, changing ice poles apart:

The Arctic and the Antarctic Respond in Opposite Ways

Program notes:

The Arctic and the Antarctic are regions that have a lot of ice and acts as air conditioners for the Earth system. This year, Antarctic sea ice reached a record maximum extent while the Arctic reached a minimum extent in the top ten lowest since satellite records began. One reason we are seeing differences between the Arctic and the Antarctic is due to their different geographies. As for what’s causing the sea increase in the Antarctic, scientists are also studying ocean temperatures, possible changes in wind direction and, overall, how the region is responding to changes in the climate

And the Guardian covers a water dilemma:

China’s water dilemma between farming and growing population

Water stressed China faces a dilemma between safeguarding food production and releasing water to a thirsty population, can new technology and policy reforms help?

In an increasingly volatile world, China’s economic growth has proved remarkably resilient. While the economies of Europe and America have stalled or nose-dived since the 2008 financial crash, China’s has continued to expand. The headlines are startling: since the early 1990s, GDP growth per capita has averaged 8.9%, and nearly 600 million people have been lifted out of poverty.

Perhaps less well known is the fact that China’s growth was kick-started by investment in agriculture. This, in turn, catalysed growth in the wider rural economy and, as China’s rural inhabitants got richer, so they moved to growing towns and cities, building – literally – the skylines of Beijing, Shanghai and other megacities.

In the meantime, China’s agricultural economy has motored on. Despite rapid urbanisation, and an economy now driven by industry rather than farming, the country is still able to feed over 20% of the world’s population. Maintaining self-sufficiency in wheat and rice remains ideologically important, even if imports of feed grains for meat production have soared over recent years.

Agence France-Presse covers a GMO confrontation:

Argentine ecologists block construction of Monsanto plant

Program notes:

In Cordoba, Argentina, a group of environmentalists decided a year ago to block the construction of a corn processing plant of US seed giant Monsanto, in opposition of its use of genetically modified crops.

While China may greenlight GMOs, via Global Times:

China may renew certificates for GM rice

Expired safety certificates for two species of genetically modified (GM) rice developed in China may be renewed, said an official with the Ministry of Agriculture on Friday.

“A safety certificate is a precondition for further use. If the rice did not show safety issues during the previous term of the safety certificate, the certificate will be renewed,” said Kou Jianping, head of technology enforcement at the Ministry of Agriculture, “but it depends on the whole review process.”

In 2009 three safety certificates were issued for GM plants, two for rice and one for corn. They all expired on Aug. 17. On June 9, the ministry received an application from Huazhong Agricultural University to renew safety certificates for the GM rice, but has not received any application for the corn, Kou said.

On to the nuclear, starting in Germany with TheLocal.de:

One in three nuclear waste barrels damaged

Inspectors in northern Germany have found that a third of barrels containing radioactive waste at a decommissioned nuclear plant are damaged, the Schleswig-Holstein Environment Ministry said on Thursday.

Vattenfall, the energy company which manages the Brunsbüttel site in Schlewswig-Holstein, reported that 102 of the 335 barrels stored in the site’s six underground chambers were corroded, leaking or had loose lids.

Some of the containers are so deformed that they can no longer be moved, as they no longer fit into the robotic gripping arms installed at the site, the inspectors reported.

And for our final item, a done deal from Reuters:

South Africa signs nuclear agreement with France

South Africa has signed a nuclear power agreement with France, the government said on Friday, three weeks after it reached a similar deal with Russia as part of Pretoria’s first tentative steps towards building up to 9,600 MW of nuclear power.

The Sept. 20 agreement, which Russia touted as a $10 billion contract to build power plants, took many South Africans by surprise, compelling officials to clarify that it was in fact just the early stages of a long procurement process.

Energy officials also stressed that other intergovernmental agreements – with France, China, South Korea, the United States and Japan – were likely to follow.