Category Archives: Schools

EbolaWatch: Delays, numbers, politics, zeal

We open with a critique, via the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Donors and WHO responded too slowly to West Africa Ebola outbreak – report

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the nations that fund it failed to respond quickly and effectively to the deadly West Africa Ebola outbreak despite repeated warnings by aid agencies, a UK parliamentary committee said on Thursday.

Ebola cases are rising dramatically in Sierra Leone, and the House of Commons International Development Committee said the  international response was still “being outpaced on all fronts” by the spread of the Ebola virus in the former British colony.

The Ebola virus has killed more than 6,800 people and infected around 18,500 since March in West Africa, where poverty, corruption and civil war have left weak healthcare systems unable to cope with the spread of the disease.

The WHO’s response has been characterised by unnecessary bureaucracy and a failure to “see some fairly plain writing on the wall,” the report said.

The medical aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres had warned that the epidemic had reached unprecedented proportions in June 2014, it added.

The New York Times covers travel:

U.N. Secretary General to Visit Ebola-Plagued Nations

The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, plans to visit the three West African countries that have been hit the hardest by the Ebola outbreak, according to a senior United Nations official.

Mr. Ban is to make the announcement at a year-end news conference on Wednesday. The director general of the World Health Organization, Margaret Chan, and his special envoy on Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro, are to accompany him to West Africa.

The trip, which is to begin later this week, seems designed to send a message of solidarity with the three affected countries: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Reuters has the latest numbers:

Ebola toll nears 7,000; rate of spread slows in Sierra Leone – WHO

The death toll in the Ebola epidemic has risen to 6,915 out of 18,603 cases as of Dec. 14, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.

There are signs that the increase in incidence in Sierra Leone has slowed, although 327 new cases were confirmed there in the past week, including 125 in the capital Freetown, the WHO said in its latest update.

“A major operation has been implemented to curb the spread of disease in the west of the country,” it said.

The totals for the three hardest hit countries from the latest World Health Organization Situation Report, released Wednesday:

BLOG Ebola cases

The World Food Programme sounds a hunger alert:

Ebola Leaves Hundreds Of Thousands Facing Hunger In Three Worst-Hit Countries

  • Lack of access to food in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone could threaten over one million people

The number of people facing food insecurity due to the Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone could top one million by March 2015 unless access to food is drastically improved and measures are put in place to safeguard crop and livestock production, two UN agencies warned.

The disease’s impact is potentially devastating in the three countries already coping with chronic food insecurity, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) said in three country reports published today.

Border closures, quarantines, hunting bans and other restrictions are seriously hindering people’s access to food, threatening their livelihoods, disrupting food markets and processing chains, and exacerbating shortages stemming from crop losses in areas with the highest Ebola infection rates, the FAO-WFP reports stressed.

In December 2014, half a million people are estimated to be severely food insecure in the three worst hit Western African countries.

From El País, Spanish Ebola problems:

Multiple deficiencies uncovered at hospital that treated Ebola victims

  • Madrid’s Carlos III had confusing protocols and inadequate personnel training, report finds

The Madrid hospital where nursing assistant Teresa Romero contracted Ebola while treating an infected patient suffered from multiple deficiencies, a new report finds.

Insufficient personnel training, changing protocols, inadequate facilities for putting on and taking off protective suits, and other shortcomings were all listed in the study of La Paz-Carlos III hospital carried out by work inspectors.

The center has treated all of Spain’s Ebola cases, which include two patients repatriated from Africa as well as Romero, who was an employee there. Several dozen people who came into contact with the nursing aide while she was contagious were also kept under observation at Carlos III.

On to Africa, starting with a suspected case from StarAfrica:

Ebola: Guinean under close watch in G/Bissau

A citizen of Guinea Conakry is under close medical watch in Guinea Bissau’s Gabu hospital under suspicion of contracting Ebola, according to national radio quoting hospital sources on Tuesday.According to sources, the individual who is around 40 years of age has been showing symptoms similar to the virus including a temperature of just over 38 degrees.

However, the same sources were quoted by the national radio as pointing out that the suspected patient’s body temperature gradually decreased in recent hours.

In any case, he will be remaining under medical observation for 21 days, sources indicated.

On to the hardest hit country with Sky News:

Sierra Leone Braced For Increase In Ebola Cases

  • Fears of a sharp increase of cases mean even those who have not died from the disease are being buried in Ebola graveyards

Sierra Leone, caught in the grip of the Ebola crisis, is bracing itself for a sharp increase in cases of the killer disease over the Christmas period.

The Government is so worried about the situation it has outlawed any seasonal public celebrations and will be putting soldiers on the street to make sure no one disobeys the directive.

The outbreak of the virus, which began a year ago in neighbouring Guinea and quickly spread to Liberia, is now dominating the lives of everyone in Sierra Leone.

The western part of the country, including the capital Freetown where around a third of the population of more than six million lives, is bearing the brunt of the current upturn in cases.

From BBC News, desperate measures:

Ebola: Sierra Leone begins house-to-house searches

Sierra Leone has begun house-to-house searches in the capital Freetown to find hidden cases of Ebola.

President Ernest Bai Koroma said that Sunday trading would be banned and travel between districts restricted. The president said that as Christmas approached, people would need to be reminded that Sierra Leona was at war with a “vicious enemy”.

Sierra Leone has overtaken Liberia to have the highest number of Ebola cases, World Health Organization figures show.

The president said that while many districts of the country had made progress in fighting Ebola, challenges still remained in the western part of the country, which for the past two weeks had accounted for 50% of new infections.

He said that he was introducing an action plan, Operation Western Area Surge, to encourage people to come forward if they had a fever or other symptoms of Ebola.

He said it was necessary to introduce such stringent measures even though it was the festive season – a time when people would normally “celebrate with their families in a joyous manner”.

And a video report from CCTV Africa:

Ebola: Sierra Leone President bans Christmas Celebrations

Program notes:

Sierra Leone’s president confirmed a ban on parties and other festivities over the Christmas and New Year holidays and a “surge” to hunt for hidden Ebola patients. This as registered cases reach alarming numbers. CCTV’s Clementine Logan reports

Presidential spin from the State House Communications Unit:

CDC Chief Impressed with President Koroma

Director for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States Dr Tom Frieden has described the “Western Area Surge” as a step in the right direction, adding that President Koroma’s leadership of the national response against Ebola is very effective.

“Last time when we met I was deeply impressed by your understanding of the virus,” he told the president.

The CDC Director expressed these sentiments during a courtesy call on President Koroma at State House, Freetown where they assessed the response to the outbreak so far. After one hundred days since he last visited Sierra Leone, Dr Frieden’s visit is part of concerted efforts by CDC and other United States Government agencies and international partners to take aggressive steps to control the spreading virus.

Welcoming the delegation, President Koroma stated that the country has made tremendous progress in building its capacity to fend off the disease. “We now have an increase in treatment and holding centers, laboratory capacity has also increased and spread out across the country; a situation that has limited the movement of people from one region to the other for treatment,” he said.

The Sierra Leone Concord Times covers the youngest victims:

Street Child supports over 1,000 Ebola orphans in South-East

One of Sierra Leone’s leading child protection agencies working with Ebola orphans in the country, Street Child of Sierra Leone (SCoSL), has provided food and non-food items to some one thousand and ninety-one (1,091) children orphaned by the deadly outbreak in eight chiefdoms in Kailahun district and three chiefdoms in Kenema district respectively. The donated items include rice, cooking condiments, toiletries and mattresses.

SCoSL’s Head of Communications, Advocacy and Mini Projects, Moses Lamin Karama, told Concord Times that his organization has supported a total of 656 Ebola orphans in 194 families in eight chiefdoms – Luawa, Kissi Teng, Kissi Tongi, Kissi Kama, Upper Bambara, Mandu, Jawei and Njaluahun – in the Kailahun district, as well as 535 orphans in 45 families in the Kenema district.

Explaining about SCoSL’s Ebola orphans project, Kamara said the organisation has its own unique definition of who an orphan is, and also does things differently from the others.

And the World Bank moves to keep things clear:

World Bank Group Supports Budget Management and Fiscal Transparency as Sierra Leone Responds to the Ebola Crisis

The World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors today approved a US$30 million grant to support the Government of Sierra Leone in its efforts to respond to the unprecedented challenges posed by the Ebola crisis.

Today’s financing includes a US$10 million grant from the World Bank Group’s International Development Association’s (IDA)* Crisis Response Window (CRW), which is designed to help low-income IDA countries recover from severe disasters and crises.

The Emergency Economic and Fiscal Support Operation will support Sierra Leone as it seeks to bring the Ebola epidemic under control by strengthening government budget management and reducing fiscal risks heightened by the crisis.

“The advent of the Ebola virus in May 2014 and the subsequent acceleration of the outbreak in late July have put extraordinary strain on the country,” said Francis Ato Brown, World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone. “This operation will benefit the people of Sierra Leone and the global community by minimizing the economic impact of the outbreak and thereby improving prospects for jobs, growth and other livelihood enhancing activities.”

And from the Sierra Leone Concord Times, a new modality:

President Koroma opens new Ebola Care Centre at Newton

President Ernest Bai Koroma yesterday opened a new Ebola Community Care Centre (CCC) at Newton, in the Western Rural as part of a scale up of services in the district to help stop the spread of Ebola.

“The Western Area is an Ebola hot zone,” said President Koroma. “The Community Care Centre provides an alternative to Ebola Treatment Units, where residents can seek diagnosis, isolation and early treatment in a safe and protected environment close to their homes. This is the first of two centers to be established in the district.”

Funded by DFID, UNICEF – in partnership with the government and NGOs – is constructing CCCs throughout Sierra Leone in response to the Ebola outbreak. The CCCs are small tented structures with an 8-24 bed capacity and can separate patients with dry and wet symptoms.

After the jump, on to Liberia and one complication from running an election during an outbreak, a harsh judicial critique of the election and a street bloody brawl between supporters of rival candidates [one being the president’s son], ports continue to be spared the epidemic, U.N. extends its military mission and announces a political campaign role, a day in a front line sprayer’s life, and the schools chief is eager to go. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Terror, cops, hacks, war, zones

Much ground to cover, mostly because of illness yesterday and overnight that leaves us two days worth of gleanings. So on with the show, with little preamble.

From Sky News, the deplorable:

Pakistan Militants Kill 141 In School Massacre

  • One boy describes his friends “lying injured and dead” around him as the Taliban says it wanted them to “feel our pain”

Taliban gunmen have killed 141 people, including at least 132 children, in a school attack in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Nine men stormed the army-run school while around 500 children and teachers were believed to be inside, with many students taking exams at the time.

Most of the victims of the country’s deadliest terror attack were killed in the first few hours as the gunman fired bullets indiscriminately at pupils and teachers.

A local hospital said the dead – and the more than 120 who were injured – were aged from 10 to 20 years old.

The Independent covers Cold War 2.0 in escalation:

As Russia unveils nuclear subs with underwater drones and robots, the stealth race heats up: governments pour cash into secret armies

Russia, apparently not wanting to be overshadowed by yesterday’s announcement that China has built a long-range heat ray weapon, has revealed plans for its nuclear submarines — including on-board battle robots and underwater drones.

Through small, unmanned drones in the air, to the invisible pain gun like that made by China, the race in military tech is to create weapons that can go mostly unnoticed, while at the same time managing for control on the battlefield and during civil unrest.

Russia’s new submarine takes that battle underwater, too.

The country’s new fifth generation submarines could feature drones that can be released by submarines and stay still, while the ship itself moves away. That would allow the submarine to evade anyone watching by giving the impression it has stayed in place, while only the drone has done so.

Meanwhile, a sidebar to the story most Western media devoured, via New York Times:

In Sydney Hostage Siege, Australia’s New Antiterrorism Measures Proved Ineffective

Around the time that grisly images of beheadings circulated across the world this fall, Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia introduced a raft of laws in response to what he said was an increasing threat that the Islamic State jihadist group would attempt a bold act of terrorism on Australian soil.

The laws, which passed Parliament with wide support, made it an offense to advocate terrorism; banned Australians from going to fight overseas; allowed the authorities to confiscate and cancel passports; and provided for the sharing of information between security services and defense personnel. The government also deployed hundreds of police officers in counterterrorism sweeps across the country.

None of these measures prevented a man with a long history of run-ins with the law, known to both the police and leaders of Muslim organizations as deeply troubled, from laying siege to a popular downtown cafe this week and holding hostages for 16 hours. The attacker, Man Haron Monis, an Iranian immigrant, and two of the 17 hostages were killed early Tuesday amid the chaos of a police raid. The victims were identified as Katrina Dawson, 38, a lawyer, and the cafe’s manager, Tori Johnson, 34.

BBC News covers the ironic:

Sydney gunman was ‘wanted in Iran’

Iran says it requested 14 years ago the extradition of Man Haron Monis – the gunman behind the Sydney siege – but Australia refused to hand him over.

The head of Iran’s police, Gen Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam, told reporters that Monis was wanted for fraud at the time.

He said Monis had fled to Australia via Malaysia in the late 1990s.

Monis and two hostages were shot dead on Tuesday morning, when commandos stormed the Sydney cafe where he had been holding captives for 16 hours.

Sky News adds that he. . .

. . .fled to Malaysia after committing fraud while working as the manager of a travel agency in 1996.

Following legal proceedings in 2000, Iran’s judiciary reportedly informed Interpol about his crime and demanded his extradition from Australia.

Australia allegedly refused to do so, saying it did not have a criminal extradition agreement with Iran.

The Daily Californian covers a Berkeley media event:

Artists claim responsibility for depictions of apparent lynchings hung from Sather Gate

On Sunday, a Bay Area collective of artists released a statement taking responsibility for the installation of the effigies.

The group identified itself as AnonArt Oakland and described its members as consisting of queer and black members. According to the statement, the group intended the project to be in “unambiguous alignment” with the affirmation of black lives and apologized for the disturbance it caused.

The statement emphasized that the images of historical lynchings remain relevant today, as the recent deaths of black men, such as Garner, illustrate the consequences of systemic racism.

“For those who think these images depict crimes and attitudes too distasteful to be seen — we respectfully disagree. Our society must never forget,” the statement read. “We apologize solely and profusely to black Americans who felt further attacked by this work. We are sorry — your pain is ours — our families’, our history’s.”

More from the Guardian:

“We are sorry – your pain is ours, our families’, our history’s,” the group wrote. But they also refused to back down. “For those who think these images no longer relevant to the social framework in which black Americans exist everyday – we respectfully disagree.”

The effigies, found hanging with virtually no context or explanation of intent, left the campus community baffled and on edge after their discovery on Saturday morning. Each cutout featured the name of a lynching victim and year of death, but only one had a modern point of reference: the words “can’t breathe” – an allusion to the last words of Garner, an unarmed black man whose July death at the hands of a white policeman has prompted protests around the US.

The group wrote that they vehemently disagreed with the suggestion that the cutouts were racist, and said they “intended only the confrontation of historical context”. The statement explained that the group meant the effigies to represent crimes that “are and should be deeply unsettling to the American consciousness”.

The collective refused to heed the call of the UC Berkeley chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, that the group responsible identify itself: “We choose to remain anonymous because this is not about us as artists, but about the growing movement to address these pervasive wrongs.” Before the collective posted its statement, Dirks had called for calm and unity, and said that regardless of intent “the imagery was deeply disturbing”.

And still more from the Washington Post:

Leigh Raiford, an associate professor of African American studies at UC Berkeley, told the Chronicle she didn’t think the effigies were intended to threaten students.

“To me this suggested a really powerful public art installation that was trying to provoke people to make a historical connection between the history of lynching, state violence against black folks and the contemporary situation that we’re faced with around police brutality and these non-indictments,” she said.

The San Francisco Chronicle covers belligerence blowback:

San Jose cop on leave over tweets on protests

A San Jose police officer was placed on leave after he posted, and later deleted, two threatening Twitter messages directed at protesters rallying against police brutality.

Officer Phillip White tweeted on Saturday, “By the way if anyone feels they can’t breathe or their lives matter I’ll be at the movies tonight, off duty, carrying my gun.”

White also tweeted that he would use his “God given and law appointed right and duty to kill” anyone who threatens his family. He ended the message with the hashtag #CopsLivesMatter — a twist on the popular #BlackLivesMatter hashtag used during protests following grand jury decisions not to indict police officers for killing unarmed black men in Missouri and New York.

White later deleted his tweets, and eventually his entire account, but Buzzfeed captured screen shots of the remarks. The San Jose Police Department said it is taking “the matter very seriously” and conducting an internal investigation.

From Associated Press, influence exerted:

Police altering tactics after killings, protests

With tensions running high over the killings of blacks by police, departments around the country are changing policies and procedures to curb the use of deadly force, ease public distrust and protect officers from retaliation.

New York City plans to issue stun guns to hundreds more officers. The Milwaukee department is making crisis-intervention training mandatory. And in Akron, Ohio, police have begun working in pairs on all shifts for their own safety.

Police departments are constantly updating training. But some of the more recent measures have been prompted by rising anger toward police. And in some cases, departments are making sure to let the public know about these changes.

“It’s not a mistake or a coincidence that a lot of these departments are publicizing their training or are perhaps revamping their training guidelines and things like that in the wake of these really high-profile incidents,” said Kami Chavis Simmons, director of the criminal justice program at the Wake Forest University School of Law in North Carolina and a former federal prosecutor in Washington.

A Monday protest in the neighborhood, via the Oakland Tribune:

Oakland: Two dozen arrested in protest at police HQ

More than 250 protesters blocked Oakland’s downtown police headquarters for more than four hours Monday morning, including some who chained themselves to the front doors and one who clambered up a flagpole.

A total of 25 protesters were arrested for blocking access to a public building and obstructing or delaying a police officer, among other charges, Officer Johnna Watson said.

The mostly peaceful protest by Black Lives Matter began about 7:30 a.m. outside the police administration building at 455 Seventh St. and ended about 1:35 p.m.

By midmorning, one man had climbed a flagpole in front of the building, and police were trying to persuade him to come down. Six people chained themselves to the pole, and protesters chanted “Justice for Mike Brown is justice for us all.”

The bar barring, via the Los Angeles Times:

Lawyers lie down in the rain to protest killings by police

Amid calls for justice and chants of “black lives matter,” more than 100 lawyers, law students and others staged a “die-in” outside a downtown Los Angeles courthouse Tuesday, arguing that the legal system in which they operate is broken.

The group blocked a lane of traffic and clogged the walkway leading to the Hill Street entrance of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, making it virtually impossible for passing motorists and court visitors to ignore their message.

“The issue of police brutality is not about any single officer or victim, nor is it about good people versus bad people,” Priscilla Ocen, a law professor, declared over a bullhorn. “The number of unjustified homicides is a result of an entire system left too long without the leigitimate checks necessary to ensure accountability and justice.”

The Oakland Tribune covers the sadly expectable:

Fallout grows over Richmond police chief’s participation in #BlackLivesMatter protest

One week after photos of him holding a “#BlackLivesMatter” sign at a peaceful local protest went viral on social media, Richmond police Chief Chris Magnus is still grappling with the fallout — including accusations from his department’s police union that he broke the law — but says he has no regrets.

“It wasn’t the easiest statement to make,” Magnus said by phone Monday morning, “but it was the right thing to do.”

Since the small protest, Magnus has been flooded with more than 300 emails, dozens of phone calls and a flurry of messages on Twitter and Facebook. He estimated that more than 70 percent of the responses have been in support.

From the Guardian, detox for the fruit of the poisonous tree:

Supreme court: car stop was mistake, but drugs found are legal evidence

  • Rules 8-1 against driver stopped for invalid reason found to have drugs in car
  • Chief justice says officer’s error did not violate driver’s constitutional rights

The US supreme court on Monday ruled that a police officer in North Carolina lawfully stopped a car with a faulty brake light – and then found a stash of cocaine in the vehicle – even though driving with one working light is not illegal in the state.

In an 8-1 decision, the court ruled against Nicholas Heien, who had argued that the sandwich bag of cocaine found in the April 2009 search should not have been allowed as evidence when he was charged with drug trafficking because the Surry County sheriff’s department sergeant had no valid reason to stop the car.

Heien, who consented to the search of the car after he was stopped, pleaded guilty and was given a maximum prison term of two years.

After the jump, a Texas cop tasers an innocent 76-year-old, a Tennessee cop charged with rape, body cams for L.A. cops on the way, commodifying a whistleblower, torturers in white coats, cell phone interception sites in Norway prompt demands, Pyongyang tweaks Washington over torture, and on to the hack of the year with a new threat, warnings of theatrical attacks, exploding head suspicions, Sony claims high moral ground over media, Sorken gets sore, hospital gets ransom demand over stolen patient data, malware spam attacks accelerate, a data theft at UC Berkeley, corporate data theft in the cloud, Dutch fine Google for Gmail and search data consolidation for marketing, Google News completes retreats from Spain, pushing the West to intervene in Libya, t Chinese fighting for ISIS, the Syrian war continues,  Spain cracks an ISIS recruiting ring, anti-Islamic far right surges in Germany, Netanyahu’s settlement surge, a plea for troops in the Congo, A Chinese drone shootdown brings calls for a crackdown, the final Occupy Hong Kong eviction, China admits a fatal miscarriage of justice, and predictions of a Sino/American Game of Zones confrontation, and on to Japan for a Red victory of sorts, Abe sets his revisionist militarized agenda and his newly elected legislators back his play, Abe looks to Washington with details to come [but the public dissents], some things just aren’t said, Tojo fans threaten a newspaper, and hate speech aimed at Japan’s Koreans continues. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Broken systems, numbers, fear

First some good news from Berkeley for a had-pressed Liberian newspaper via the paper in question, FrontPageAfrica:

Berkeley Professor Donates Anti-Ebola Gears, Cameras to FPA

Rachel Mercy Simpson, Department Chair of Multimedia Arts, at  Berkeley City College, knew she had to step in when she heard the Publisher of FrontPageAfrica describe to NPR’s “On the Media” the  challenges he and his team of reporters are going through on the front line of the Ebola outbreak in Liberia.

“As an award-winning newspaper, FrontPageAfrica is in a powerful position to communicate with people across West Africa, to encourage safer practices and to reduce the spread of Ebola. FPA reporters put their lives on the line to cover the stories even though they lack rudimentary safety gear. I want to help them out,” wrote Mercy-Simpson to her family and colleagues. Mercy-Simpson, who is married to a Tanzanian and whose father is from South Africa, says while neither countries are neighbors to Ebola-hit Liberia, she felt a need to reach out. “We care about what’s going on in Africa. The devastation to families and the economy in Liberia is terrible. And no one wants to see Ebola spread any further.”

When she learned from the NPR interview that FrontPageAfrica reporters lacked safety gear, Mercy-Simpson immediately contacted the FrontPageAfrica publisher and asked how she could help. “As a filmmaker, I grasped the danger of their not having a telephoto lens and how FPA reporters needed to get close to people who were very sick in order to photograph them.”

The accompanying photo:


From Deutsche Welle, numbers:

WHO releases latest Ebola figures

  • The latest figures from the World Health Organization show another increase in the Ebola death toll. Nearly 6,600 people have died from the virus since the worst outbreak on record began early this year.

The latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show 6,583 people have died out of 18,188 recorded Ebola cases.

The Geneva-based UN health agency reported that the majority of infections and deaths were in the West African states of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The WHO said earlier in the week that the death toll had remained the same in other countries also affected by the disease: six in Mali, one in the US and eight in Nigeria, which was declared Ebola free in October. Spain and Senegal have also counted one case of infection each, but were declared free of the virus in recent weeks.

Numbers contested, via StarAfrica:

S/Leone: Information Minister challenges WHO Ebola figures

Sierra Leone’s Information Minister said Thursday contrary to figures reported by the Western media and the World Health Organization (WHO), cases of infection by the Ebola epidemic were reducing in the country.Alhaji Alpha Kanu said, based on figures from the Ministry of Health and the National Ebola Response Center (NERC), the country was recorded an average of less than 40 new infections a day, “contrary to what you hear on BBC, courtesy of WHO,” he said.

He said what the media is reporting falls far behind the reality on the ground. “That’s patently not true,” he told reporters at the weekly government press conference.

At a separate engagement via an online press conference with the international media, Mr Kanu was cited disputing WHO`s report on the diamond-rich Kono which claimed 87 dead bodies were discovered with 123 sick people from “forgotten” part of the district.

Ebolaphobia strikes again, from AllAfrica:

Sudan Repatriates 26 Nigerians Over Ebola Fears

The Sudanese authorities have denied 26 Nigerians entry into their country over suspicion that they were possibly infected by the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease, one of those repatriated has told PREMIUM TIMES.

Hauwa’u Ibrahim Bakori, a second year student of Pharmacy at Al Ahfad University for Women, Omdurman, said she and 25 others were denied entry after arriving Khartoum Airport on Wednesday.

They were detained, and then deported to Nigeria on Thursday, Ms. Bakori said.

Ms Bakori is in her second year at the Sudanese university and had travelled to Nigeria on holidays.

From teleSUR, an aid effort praised:

UNICEF Recognizes Cuban Efforts in Fight Against Ebola

  • The children’s rights organisation is the latest body to highlight Cuba’s role.

The representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) regional office in Central Africa recognized Cuba’s humanitarian efforts to fight Ebola on Saturday.

Cuba has sent more than 460 doctors and nurses to nations struck by Ebola such as Sierra Leone.

‘’We are carrying out a series of gatherings with nations that offer cooperation like the case of Cuba, we want to take those countries into account for next year’s Unicef aid programming in African nations,’‘ said UNICEF’s Brigitte Helali, from Equatorial Guinea where she is evaluating Unicef aid programs.

Helali also highlighted the progress Cuba has made in healthcare overall with special mention for their work with pregnant women and children under five years old.

From the Associated Press, that same effort stymied by Washington:

US embargo stalled payment to Cuban Ebola doctors

A World Health Organization official says Cuba had to cover food and lodging expenses for dozens of its doctors fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone after the U.S. embargo made it impossible for the global health group to pay them.

U.S. officials as high as Secretary of State John Kerry have praised the Cuban effort against Ebola. But the longstanding embargo affects virtually all dealings with Cubans, even for banks outside the U.S., because they depend on dollar transfers through U.S. institutions.

Jose Luis Di Fabio, the health agency’s representative for Cuba, said it had to request special licenses from the U.S. Treasury Department to transfer money to the doctors in Africa.

The government-employed doctors only recently received payments dating as far back as October, he said.

And from teleSUR English, what those doctors are doing in the country where the need is most great:

Sierra Leone: Cuban doctors reducing Ebola cases

Program notes:

While new cases of Ebola continue to arise in Sierra Leone, the Cuban medical teams on the scene, working alongside local health care workers, are confident that they can continue to contain and reduce the epidemic. Close collaboration and friendships have been forged with US medical workers who admire Cuba’s role and record in providing health care to all. Oskar Epelde reports from Porto Loko

A honcho named, via AllAfrica:

West Africa: UN Chief Appoints New Envoy for Ebola

The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Friday appointed Ismail Ahmed of Mauritania as his new Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, UNMEER.

This was contained in a statement issued by Ban’s Spokesperson, Stephane DuJarric in New York.

According to the statement, as Special Representative, Mr. Ahmed will work closely with the Special Envoy on Ebola, David Nabarro and with the governments of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone and other partners.

Mr. Ahmed succeeds Anthony Banbury of the U.S., who would return to New York in early January 2015.

And from the U.S. News Center, an urgent plea:

UN meeting urges critical improvements to health systems of Ebola-affected countries

The international community must help Ebola-affected countries reboot their health systems so that they emerge from the current crisis more resilient and more focused on prevention efforts than ever before, a high-level meeting coordinated by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva heard today.

“People in Ebola-affected countries are dying – not only from Ebola but also from other causes – because the majority of health facilities in these countries are either not functional or people are not using them for fear of contracting Ebola,” said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, the WHO’s Assistant Director-General of Health Systems and Innovation, in a news release.

“A health system has to be able to both absorb the shock of an emergency like Ebola, and to continue to provide regular health services such as immunization and maternal and child care.”

At the meeting, participants – which included Ministers of Health and Finance from countries at the epicentre of the Ebola epidemic as well as international organizations and development partners – discussed methods of integration for health services spanning clinical care to surveillance, health promotion, disease prevention and management and palliative care.

In particular, noted the WHO news release, areas of improvement included “significantly strengthening” the health workforce; enhancing community trust, engagement and ownership; and ensuring the development of resilient sub-national health systems. In addition, the movement of people across the borders of the Ebola-affected countries spotlighted the “important” need for a greater coordination of trans-national health plans and an alignment of surveillance systems.

Another expanded effort, via Voice of America:

UNICEF Expanding Fight Against Ebola

The U.N. Children’s Fund is appealing for an additional $300 million to expand its fight against Ebola in the three heavily affected West African countries over the next six months. UNICEF said gaining the confidence of community members, increasing their awareness and knowledge of modes of transmission and prevention are key to winning the battle against this deadly disease.

UNICEF officials said money from the appeal would be used to tackle two major drivers of Ebola transmission: lack of early isolation of patients and unsafe burials.  Both of these issues are wound up with traditional cultural practices, which often have stymied aid agencies’ efforts to prevent people from getting infected with the disease and spreading it to others.

Community involvement is absolutely essential to ending this epidemic.  UNICEF’s crisis communications chief, Sarah Crowe, said recent surveys indicate people gradually have been changing their behavior for the better.

And from the New York Times, contesting the Ebola fight:

Contest Seeks Novel Tools For the Fight Against Ebola

The well-prepared Ebola fighter in West Africa may soon have some new options: protective gear that zips off like a wet suit, ice-cold underwear to make life inside the sweltering suits more bearable, or lotions that go on like bug spray and kill or repel the lethal virus.

Those ideas are among the contenders to win the Ebola “Grand Challenges” contest announced in October by the United States Agency for International Development, or among those being considered by the agency without having formally entered the contest.

All still need to undergo testing, and some may prove impractical, but the 1,500 contest submissions “blew the roof off the number of responses we’ve ever had,” said Wendy Taylor, director of U.S.A.I.D.’s Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact.

The agency’s Grand Challenges, modeled on those begun a decade ago by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have produced some nifty inventions, the best known of which is a device for helping women in obstructed labor that was invented by an Argentine auto mechanic after he saw a YouTube video on using a plastic bag to get a cork out of a wine bottle.

After the jump it’s on to Sierra Leone with doctors sounding the alarm, how a single case triggered a chain reaction of death, the U.N.’s Ebola emissary calls for an anti-epidemic surge, Freetown charges chiefs with containing the epidemic, Christmas and New Year’s gatherings banned, and the capital sends a strong anti-graft warning, then on to Liberia and the debilitating impacts of two viral epidemics on the economy, why the U.N. is maintaining a Liberian arms embargo, motorcycle transport riders join the Ebola fight, 1,300 volunteer case trackers recruited by the UN, healed patients head home, and an education system left in shambles. . . Continue reading

Berkeley protests continue; council cancels meet

We received this notice a few minutes ago:

BLOG Protest

And it was quickly followed by a breaking news story in the Berkeley Daily Planet:

Flash: Berkeley Mayor Cancels Tonight’s Council Meeting: Afraid Protesters Will Attend.

James Chang, aide to Berkeley Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, confirmed today that Mayor Tom Bates informed him that tonight’s City Council meeting is being cancelled because there might be protesters in attendance, and the council chambers would be too small to hold them all. Chang said that Bates as the council’s presiding officer under the city charter, has the power to cancel meetings at his sole discretion. Councilmember Kriss Worthington told the Planet that his aide, Alejandro Soto-Vigil, had been told the same thing, but he pointed out that the city of Berkeley could use some larger meeting rooms in buildings owned by the Berkeley Unified School District or Berkeley City College if the size of the council chambers in Berkeley’s Maudelle Shirek Building (Old City Hall) is really the problem which Bates fears. A call to the Mayor’s press aide, Charles Burress (who used to cover Berkeley for the San Francisco Chronicle) has not been returned.

The Associated Press reports on yesterday’s action here in the city on San Francisco Bay:

159 arrested in third night of California protests

Hundreds of people marched through Berkeley for a third night a row, blocking a major highway and stopping a train as activists in this ultra-liberal bastion protested grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers in the deaths of two unarmed black men on the other side of the country.

Protesters blocked traffic on both sides of Interstate 80 in Berkeley, while another group stood and sat on train tracks, temporarily forcing an Amtrak train to stop Monday night.

The California Highway Patrol said a large group of demonstrators destroyed highway perimeter fencing, flooded lanes and threw rocks and other objects at officers. It took about an hour and a half to clear the interstate, and no major injuries were reported.

The agency arrested 150 people on suspicion of resisting arrest, obstructing police and other charges.

Other accounts here, here, here, here, and here.

EbolaWatch: Job change, casualties, side effects

We begin a revolving door notice from The Hill:

Ebola czar to step down by March

Ebola czar Ron Klain will leave the White House and return to the private sector by March 1, Fortune magazine reported.

Klain, formerly chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, was hired in October to coordinate the federal government’s response to the Ebola outbreak.
He will leave by March 1, returning to his job as president of Case Holdings, the holding company for former AOL chief Steve Case’s business and philanthropic interests.

Klain held that job before becoming Ebola czar, as well as being general counsel for Revolution, Case’s venture firm. He’ll return to that position as well, Fortune said, citing Case and a White House official.

People’s Daily covers an Asian Ebola alarm:

Taiwan reports suspected Ebola infection

Taiwan’s disease control authorities said on Saturday that a 19-year-old man is suspected of being infected with the Ebola virus.

The man has developed symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea since he returned from Nigeria, where he had contact with animals, the authorities said.

He is now isolated in a hospital in Kaohsiung City, southern Taiwan. Samples have been sent to Taipei for examination, and authorities will announce the result this afternoon.

But the alarm was doubly false,m as Shanghai Daily would soon report:

Man feigns Ebola

A SUSPECTED Ebola case in Taiwan turned out to be a hoax when tests on the man, 19, proved negative, officials said yesterday. The man said he’d been vomiting and had had diarrhea since returning from Nigeria.

After a period of isolation, doctors found he did not have a fever, and authorities said there is no evidence he has ever left Taiwan.

A recovery celebrated in Havana, from the Associated Press:

Cuban doctor back home after being cured of Ebola

A Cuban doctor successfully treated for Ebola at a Swiss hospital returned home Saturday and was greeted by his family.

Felix Baez Sarria contracted Ebola while working with a Cuban government medical team in Sierra Leone and was flown to Geneva for treatment Nov. 20.

In a brief meeting with journalists at Havana’s international airport, Baez said that he and his colleagues in Africa are committed to fighting the Ebola outbreak.

“I will return there to finish what I started,” said the doctor, who was welcomed home by his wife and two sons.

BBC News covers a critical care failure:

Ebola: basic fluid and nutrition care ‘being missed’

Ebola patients are missing out on basic care that could improve their chances of survival, according to a report in the Lancet medical journal.

Researchers say organisations are being misled by an “inaccurate view” that there is no proven treatment for Ebola. They add that patients, who could be treated with fluids and electrolytes, are dying of dehydration.

The virus causes severe vomiting, diarrhoea and bleeding – all of which can lead to the profound loss of fluids and electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium. When patients are too sick to drink they can be given fluids intravenously – using a drip through a vein.

But Prof Ian Roberts, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Prof Anders Perner, at the University of Copenhagen, say these rehydration therapies are being neglected while people focus on potential drugs and vaccines.

On to Sierra Leone and more front line casualties from StarAfrica:

10th Sierra Leone Ebola doctor dies

The 10th Sierra Leonean doctor to contract the Ebola virus has died, report said on Saturday. At 33, Dr Dawda Koroma was one of the youngest Sierra Leoneans doctors to succumb to the deadly epidemic which continues to ravage the

He was a junior doctor. He became the second doctor to die from the disease in just one day. Like Dr Thomas Rogers, who died early Friday Morning, Dr Koroma was working at the Connaught Hospital.

In all, eleven local doctors have contracted the virus . One is receiving treatment while one has been declared negative after going treatment.

More from the Guardian:

Doctor treated at British-run Ebola military clinic in Sierra Leone dies

  • Sierra Leonean medic is the eighth doctor to die of Ebola in the country

A doctor who was being treated at an Ebola clinic run by British military medical staff in Sierra Leone has died.

The death of Thomas Rogers at the clinic in Kerry Town on Friday brings the number of doctors in Sierra Leone who have been killed by the deadly virus to eight. He had worked at Connaught hospital in Freetown, the capital of the country where Ebola is spreading fastest.

Ebola has now infected more than 17,500 people, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and killed about 6,200. He was the 11th doctor in Sierra Leone to have been infected with the virus.

An adviser arrives, from StarAfrica:

S/Leone: US expert shares Liberian experience on Ebola

The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Country Director in Liberia is visiting Sierra Leone to share Liberia’s experience in the fight against Ebola.Dr Kevin Dekock’s visit to Freetown was facilitated by the US embassy in the country, which said it would want Sierra Leone to learn from the Liberian experience.

Liberia recorded its first case of the epidemic long before Sierra Leone, and for a long time Liberia battled the virus as the worst hit country.

But World Health Organization has said both Liberia and Guinea, the origin of the epidemic, has been able to stabilize the spread with less cases recorded.

That success story cannot be divorced from the US which sent into Liberia thousands of military troops and deployed health institutions like the CDC.

From teleSUR English, another troubling consequence of the outbreak:

Sierra Leone’s sprawling slums under threat of eviction

Program notes:

In Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, there are many provisional neighborhoods built by poor people where tens of thousands live. Impoverished people have organized and built their neighborhoods on empty lots, where they live under tough conditions; but at least they have a place where to live. Due to the lack of sanitary conditions in the slums which does little to keep the dangerous Ebola virus contained, the government has threatened to destroy the shanty-towns the dwellers of whom have no other place to go.

On to Liberia and another consequence of the epidemic from FrontPageAfrica:

Amid Ebola: Liberian Kids Yearn for Reopening of Schools

Since the outbreak of Ebola in March this year, several activities have slowed down including the closure of all schools. That the children should be in school are now looming the city of Monrovia either selling for their parents or doing nothing at all.

Days after Nigerian Billionaire Aliko Dangote called for the reopening of schools in Ebola affected countries, Liberian children are also appealing for schools to reopen to enable them get back to the classroom. Several children are calling for the resuming of schools at least by January.

Sylvester Zayzay, 9 and Amos Johnson, 10, were reluctantly moved around to sell juices and tomato pastes, but they are appealing for the reopening of schools because they are tired of hawking in the streets. Johnson says he is a second grader at the James E. Green Elementary School in Logan Town and since schools were ordered closed due to the Ebola outbreak, he has been forced to help his mother to provide food for the household by selling in the streets.

And from FrontPageAfrica, another Liberian school demand:


Program notes:

Teachers Take Ministry of Education to task for failing to pay their “just benefits”

MexicoWatch: Body ID, anger, protests, warnings

We begin with a confirmation, first from Sky News:

Victim From Mass Mexican Kidnapping Identified

  • The 43 missing students are thought to have been killed by a drugs gang after being handed over by corrupt police.

At least one of the 43 college students abducted in Mexico has been identified among charred remains found near a landfill site, an official has confirmed.

Forensic specialists from Argentina and Austria have been examining body parts found in mass graves and a rubbish dump in southwestern Mexico.

The students went missing on September 26 after clashes with police in the southern city of Iguala, that claimed the lives of six people.

The attorney general has said they were attacked by officers on the orders of the city’s mayor Jose Luis Abarca, who has since been arrested.

More from the Associated Press:

A family member of a missing student told The Associated Press that the remains were of Alexander Mora. The families were given that information late Friday by an Argentine team of forensic experts working on behalf of the relatives and with the Attorney General’s Office, said the man, who also would speak only on condition of anonymity.

Parents of the students declined comment, addressing a crowd that gathered Saturday afternoon at an already planned protest at the capital’s Monument to the Revolution to demand the return of the students alive.

Omar Garcia, a student at the march who attended the same rural teachers college in Ayotzinapa as the missing young men, relayed the reaction of Mora’s father when he learned the fate of his son: “He will never give up. He will never get over his pain, but what he wants to tell all of you, and what we all want to say is this: We want justice!”

His portrait, from the artists at #IlustradoresConAyotzinapa:


Next, another protest from the Latin American Herald Tribune:

Mexican Small Farmers Stage Missing Students Protest

Mexican small farmers on Friday carried out a protest in solidarity with the family members and classmates of trainee teachers who disappeared more than two months ago at the hands of corrupt police officers, using 43 tractors in the demonstration to symbolize each of the missing students.

The protest began at the El Angel monument at 11:45 a.m., covered a portion of the Paseo de la Reforma thoroughfare and was to end up at the interior ministry building, organizers told Efe.

Some 2,500 small farmers from 27 of 32 Mexican states took part in the march, according to El Barzon, the association that headed the demonstration.

Each tractor had a photograph of one of the students from the teachers college in Ayotzinapa, a village in the southern state of Guerrero, who were abducted Sept. 26 by municipal cops in the nearby town of Iguala.

teleSUR looks at the breadth of public outrage:

Protesters Step Up Actions Across Mexico

  • Opposition to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto grows as he continues to deliver empty threats and promises.

In the last three days, students, farmers, union groups and autonomous collectives have once more filled the streets of Mexico City by foot, on horseback or on tractors to demand that the 43 Ayotzinapa students be brought back alive. Theology students also marched in Saltillo and highway shutdowns continued in the state of Guerrero.

In Guerrero, local media reported that Ayotzinapa students took over radio stations, including Radio Universidad, ABC Radio and Capital Máxima, where they accused Peña Nieto on air of being incapable of offering any real solutions. The president came to Iguala just to “give some little kisses to his organized crime friends and do business,” they said.

The students also recalled Nieto’s violent history in ordering massive repression in Atenco when he was previously governor of the State of Mexico.

They also slammed Guerrero’s interim state governor, Rogelio Ortega, for doing absolutely nothing to bring about justice, while projecting an image of a concerned public official.

In Ayutla, Guerrero, rural school students detained Ortega and obliged him to march with them for two hours before signing an agreement to publicly join future protests, according to a report in La Jornada.

Another farmer’s desperation, via the Associated Press:

Mexican farmer immolates self during protest

A young farmer in southern Mexico set himself on fire outside the Chiapas state legislature building to demand the release of his father, an indigenous leader who was arrested last year on charges stemming from a series of demonstrations in 2011 that turned violent.

Agustin Gomez Perez, 21, lay down and allowed another protester to douse him with gasoline and set it alight Friday in the state capital of Tuxtla Gutierrez. He was taken to a hospital, and his stepmother, Araceli Diaz, said Saturday that he was “serious but stable” condition with second- and third-degree burns.

Gomez Perez and other indigenous farmers have been protesting last year’s jailing of his father, Florentino Gomez Giron. The father is charged with murder, stealing cattle, organized crime and causing 39 families to flee the Ixtapa municipality as a result of leading indigenous protests in 2011 to demand improved basic services. The protests culminated in violence that included the destruction of police cars and the burning of the Ixtapa town hall.

And the Christian Science Monitor raises a question:

Can reforms change Mexico’s corrupt police culture?

Police practices came under harsh scrutiny after the disappearance of 43 college students. Mexico’s Congress is debating security reforms, including one that would put a state police command over local police forces.

The concern is not limited to Mexico. Across Latin America, citizens’ fears about insecurity have risen  over the past decade, according to 2014 data released by the Latin American Public Opinion Project’s (LAPOP) AmericasBarometer. Approval for local police performance has fallen, and the average level of trust for national justice systems has hit its lowest level since the survey began in 2004.

“When there’s less trust in a justice system, it tends to decrease support for the [government] system as a whole,” says Elizabeth Zechmeister, director of LAPOP at Vanderbilt University. “The exact consequences will vary across countries, but … it’s symptomatic of a system failing to deliver,” she says, adding that citizens may decide to circumvent institutions like the police or courts, as seen in Mexico with the rise of vigilante self-defense groups.

Mexico has the fifth lowest level of satisfaction with its local police in the region, and just over half the population say the country isn’t safe, according to the 2014 AmericasBarometer report. The surveys in Mexico took place before the mass abduction and suspected massacre in Iguala.

“Wherever you put [police] control, there needs to be accountability. The real problem we’ve seen is the sense that police at any level can get away with abuses,” says Daniel Wilkinson, managing director of the Americas division at Human Rights Watch in New York. “There needs to be a change, where the sense that police who commit crimes will actually be held accountable…. Instead [Mexico] is reforming the command structure.”

teleSUR covers an admonition:

UN Urges Mexican Government to Respect Freedom of Speech

  • In a press statement, the UN also said that forced disappearances don’t expire as time passes.

United Nations general-secretary Ban-Ki-moon, defended the right to freedom of speech and the need to channel legitimate demands from the Mexican people “in a peaceful way and with full respect to human rights and the state of law.”

He was referring to the protests against the government of Mexico over the last two months. He also urged the Mexican government to investigate every disappearance, especially those of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa students.

A spokesperson issued the secretary-general observations during a short interview, he also mentioned the U.N. grief for the incidents of September 26 in Iguala, on the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, referring to the disapparition of 43 students of the Ayotzinapa teachers Training School and the death of three students and three bystanders.

“The United Nations, through the High Commissioner for Human Rights is ready to help the Mexican Government to address it’s current problematics,” said the U.N. spokesperson.

And from the Latin American Herald Tribune, too little and too late:

Mexico Governor Agrees to Meet with Parents of Missing Students

The governor of the southern Mexican state of Guerrero and the parents of 43 teacher trainees who disappeared in late September have agreed to meet for talks on Dec. 11 in the town of Ayutla de los Libres.

Rogelio Ortega marched Friday in Ayutla alongside relatives of the missing youths to express his solidarity with their demands, the state government said in a statement.

“I marched with the relatives of the (trainee teachers) to show my solidarity and generate a public dialogue,” the governor said on Twitter.

The government said the meeting will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday and be aimed at establishing a public, positive and proactive dialogue.

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.