Category Archives: Wealth

MexicoWatch: Protests, anger president, context


We begin with a musical report from Fusion:

Mexican musicians release protest anthem for missing Ayotzinapa students

Program notes:

The tragedy of 43 disappeared students in Mexico now has a soundtrack. Mexican musician Juan Jose Rodriguez channeled his outrage into creativity and activism by reaching out to friends on social media and organizing a group of 25 musicians to record the protest song “Grito de Guerra,” or “Battle Cry.”

The lyrics allude to Mexico’s national anthem, while criticizing the government for impunity and violence.

“I have listened to this song alone while mixing in the studio, and I have cried from outage, and it hurts,” Rodriguez said. “We hope that the people who listen feel the pain, and that we’ve passed along that feeling of rage.”

He said he hopes the song will “drive people to action.”

The track will be available on iTunes and proceeds will go the families of the missing students, according to Rodriguez.

And a VICE News video focusing on survivors of the attack that ended with the abduction of the missing 43:

The Missing 43: Mexico’s Disappeared Students (Part 1)

Program notes:

On September 26, teaching students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School in Mexico were intercepted by police forces en route to a protest in Iguala. In the ensuing clash, six people were killed, and 43 Ayotzinapa students were taken away by the police. Investigations over the following weeks led to the startling allegations that the police had acted at the behest of the local mayor, and had turned over the abducted students to members of the Guerreros Unidos cartel. All 43 students are now feared dead.

The case has come to represent the negative feeling of the Mexican public toward the state of justice and the rule of law in Mexico. The events have now galvanized the survivors of the attack and the disappeared students’ parents. Nationwide demonstrations have increased in intensity, and recently led to government buildings in the state of Guerrero to be set on fire.

In this episode, VICE News travels to Guerrero, ground-zero for the protest movement that has erupted since the disappearance of the students, and meets with survivors of the Iguala police attack.

From the Latin American Herald Tribune, another kind of turning point:

Mexico Missing Students’ Case Marks Milestone in Web-Based Social Activism

Few had even heard of the small southern Mexican town of Ayotzinapa two months ago but that has changed in the wake of the apparent massacre of 43 students from a rural teacher training college, a tragedy that has caught the attention of tens of millions of people on social networks.

A specialist in social networking Web sites who has analyzed the global repercussions of the events of Sept. 26 in the nearby town of Iguala, Guerrero state, says that roughly 60 million people in countries around the world have posted, read or shared messages about the missing students.

“Since I began monitoring the networks in 2011 (the case of the Ayotzinapa Rural Normal School students) has been the most significant” in terms of volume of related comments and messages, Javier Murillo said.

And from the Guardian, the first of a series of reports on Thursday’s massive protest in Mexico City:

Mexico on the brink: thousands to protest over widespread corruption and student massacre

  • Violence and breakdown of law and order threaten to destabilise country after mass murder of students and scandal over presidential home

Mexico is facing an escalating political crisis amid growing fury over a mansion built for the presidential family and the disappearance and probable massacre of 43 student teachers.

The two apparently unrelated issues have fed the widespread perception that unbridled political corruption is the underlying cause of the country’s many problems – ranging from stunted economic growth to a breakdown of law and order that has left parts of the country at the mercy of murderous drug cartels.

“The drama of Mexico is about impunity,” said leading political commentator Jesús Silva Herzog. “This is not about the popularity or unpopularity of the president, that is irrelevant. It is about credibility and trust and, at its root, it is about legitimacy.”

Thousands gathered in Mexico City on Thursday ahead of what was expected to be the largest demonstration so far over the students’ forced disappearance by municipal police in collusion with a local drug gang in the southern city of Iguala.

More from Al Jazeera English:

Clashes in Mexico protest over students

  • Protesters clash with riot police in Mexico City amid anger over 43 missing students believed to have been killed

Protesters have clashed with riot police near Mexico City’s international police at the start of another day of demonstrations as the country bristled with anger over the presumed massacre of 43 students.

Masked protesters burned tyres, threw firebombs and launched firecrackers at police on Thursday, who used tear gas to disperse the group.

The clashes came after hundreds of protesters blocked the main road to the Benito Juarez airport for an hour, while police patrol cars assisted travellers to reach the airport.

The city braced for a bigger rally later in the day, cancelling the annual parade celebrating the 1910 revolution and erecting metal barriers to protect shops.

And an update, from the Washington Post:

Angry Mexicans protest over 43 missing students

The march in Mexico City was overwhelmingly peaceful, in contrast to recent protests that have ended with the burning of government buildings in Guerrero state, where the students disappeared. Whenever masked protesters tried to join Thursday’s march, demonstrators shouted them down with chants of “No violence!” and “Off with the masks!”

The protesters converged on the city’s main square, where families of the missing students stood on a platform in front of the National Palace holding posters of their relatives’ faces. Amid chants for President Enrique Pena Nieto to step down, family members repeated that they do not believe the government’s account that the youths were killed by a drug gang, .

“We’re not tired,” said one man speaking from the platform. “On the contrary, we are mad with this Mexican government and its entire structure, because it has not done anything but deceive the families.”

Earlier in the day, about 200 youthful protesters, some with their faces covered by masks or bandannas, clashed with police as they tried to block a main expressway to the international airport. Protesters hurled rocks, fireworks and gasoline bombs at the police, at least one of whom was hit by the projectiles. Some passengers had to walk to the terminal, but flights were not interrupted and expressways were reopened.

Next, a video report on Thursday’s activities from teleSUR:

Day of massive protests in Mexico on ‘Revolution Day’ holiday

Program notes:

Today, on the 104th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, instead of the usual military parade and other traditional patriotic festivities in Mexico City’s central Zocalo square, another kind of revolution was taking place. Three massive demonstrations protesting against the Mexican governnment and its resonsibility in the case of the kidnapping of 43 young teaching shcool students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teacher Training College.

Context from Al Jazeera America:

The rebel spirit driving Mexico’s protests has deep roots

  • Analysis: Outrage over case of 43 missing students has helped unleash widespread discontent with a deep historical echo

Three caravans, led by family members of 43 missing students, began winding their way toward Mexico City last week from Guerrero, Chiapas and Chihuahua. On Thursday they will converge in the capital, where they will join student groups, teachers and rights advocates in a megamarch for justice, culminating at the city’s Zócalo Square — the symbolic heart of Mexico and so often the stage for expressions of popular discontent.

But the caravans’ finish line could also mark a starting point for a new challenge to Mexico’s prevailing social order, of which the 43 students are but the latest victims. And both the venue and the date of Thursday’s rally connect with a deep-rooted revolutionary tradition in Mexico. On the same day, 104 years ago, Francisco Madero, an heir to a powerful family in the state of Coahuila, issued the Plan of San Luis de Potosí denouncing the regime of dictator Porfirio Díaz — and ushering in the Mexican Revolution.

In many ways, today’s uprising mirrors — and is inspired by — that revolt. Although Madero’s insurgency quickly petered out, leaving him to seek refuge in Texas, his rallying cry resonated with the frustrations of peasant workers and indigenous communities throughout Mexico, and it was their determination to fight for their rights that fueled the revolution for years. It is the descendants of those foot soldiers of the revolution who are the parents and classmates of the missing students and are leading what could be the largest uprising in Mexico in decades. Thursday’s protest is no longer simply a cry for justice for the 43 missing students. A swath of Mexican society is demanding the ouster of President Enrique Peña Nieto over his administration’s incompetent investigation into the student disappearances and its efforts to portray the crime as an isolated incident.

More background, via Der Spiegel:

Teeth and Bones: Mass Abduction Reveals a Decaying Mexican State

Most murders don’t even make the front page in Mexico anymore. But the recent abduction of 43 students has infuriated the country. The story has exposed the tight relationship between politics, law enforcement and organized crime. And it shows how weak the state has become.

The group that stealthily tightened its grip on power in Iguala and the rest of the state in recent years is called Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors). It is one of more than 100 splinter groups that have formed across the country in the wake of the dismantling of the large cartels. Increasingly, they have turned to kidnappings and protection money as a way of generating revenue.

From the perspective of drug bosses, Iguala is a place of strategic importance. The city is nestled in the hilly hinterlands away from the Pacific coast, but it sits astride an important transportation route for cocaine. It is also a growing commercial center offering plenty of opportunities for money laundering. All one needs to carry out important transactions is control over the security apparatus and a close relationship with city hall.

Guerreros Unidos sought to make that relationship as close as possible and simply put up its own candidate in mayoral elections.

His name was José Luis Abarca, a married man whose wife’s brothers were high-ranking members of Guerreros Unidos and fixtures on the government’s most-wanted list — before they died in a hail of bullets. Abarca’s mother-in-law is thought to have been a bookkeeper for Beltrán Leyva, the large cartel that was dismantled in 2011 and which ultimately gave rise to Guerreros Unidos.

Still more context, via the Christian Science Monitor:

As protests rage, what can Mexico do to stop more students from going missing?

Nearly two months have passed since 43 college students disappeared in Iguala. As Mexico looks to improve security in Guerrero, it could look north to cities and states along the US border that have seen marked success in cracking down on violence

Nearly two months have passed since the students disappeared in Iguala, last seen in the hands of local police, who confessed to turning them over to drug gangs. Yet outrage and protests in Mexico are growing: both over the ties between organized crime and local politicians nationwide, and the weak and disorganized federal response to the suspected massacre.

Progress in reforming Mexico’s police force and strengthening the judiciary has been starkly absent in states like Guerrero. Yet some cities and states closer to the US border – Tijuana, Nuevo Leon, and Ciudad Juarez – have seen marked security improvements over the past three years. While the results have not eliminated the presence of organized crime, violence has diminished in these areas, providing some guidance as the country looks for longer-term and broader solutions.

“What everyone wants the government to do is to make sure that its security and justice systems are fair and safe,” says Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center for International Scholars, a Washington-based think tank. “No one expects things to be fixed overnight but [the government] needs to show progress on its justice reform, police reform, and the transparency of its institutions.”

The Latin American Herald Tribune covers presidential disclosure:

Mexican President Reveals Personal Assets after Mansion Controversy

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has made public his personal assets, which includes income, properties and investments, in response to the controversy surrounding a luxurious mansion owned by his wife.

A declaration on the presidential website, dated May 14, 2014, reports an annual income from his government employment of 2.9 million pesos ($214,000).

It also reports an income of 211,350 pesos ($15,530) from financial activities and 249,982 pesos ($18,367) from other sources, amounting to a total of 3.4 million pesos (about $248,000) per year.

Peña Nieto also owns four homes, with the largest one having an area of 2,138 square meters (23,013 square feet), an apartment and four plots, one of them with a surface area of 58,657 square meters (631,379 square feet).

The declaration includes other assets such as works of art, jewelry and furniture worth about 7 million pesos (about $514,000), and several investments, including coins and metallic objects, worth 16.8 million pesos ($1.2 million).

Solidarity, via teleSUR English:

Bolivians march in solidarity with Mexico’s Ayotzinapa 43

Program notes:

Students and teachers from the San Andres University in La Paz, Bolivia today marched and demonstrated in Solidarity with Mexico’s 43 Ayotzinapa teaching college students who were kidnapped by corrupt police in late September, never to be seen again. In a gruesome reminder of the confession made by criminal gang members arrested for the crime who claim to have killed and burned the students, before placing them in plastic bags and tossing them into a river, some demonstrators enclosed themselves in plastic bags, creating a very vivid performance image for the protest.

California solidarity, from the Orange County Register:

Protesters in Santa Ana march for missing students in Mexico

  • More than 100 gather in solidarity with activists south of the border

Peaceful protesters on Thursday – the day that marks the anniversary of the Mexican Revolution – gathered at Cabrillo Park. They carried signs reading “Your pain is our pain” and marched to the Mexican Consulate on Fourth Street.

Many demonstrators were young Orange County residents with roots in Mexico. Others talked about immigrating here from Mexico decades ago.

“We are tired. That’s why we come here from our countries. We come here because of the situation back home. … It’s the reality,” said David Rodriguez, 55, a Huntington Beach resident from Michoacan, Mexico.

“My kids, they feel like Mexico is their country, too, and they say, ‘How can a nation be in that state?’” Rodriguez said.

And from teleSUR English, Mexico as a failed security state:

Interviews from Mexico – Public Security

Program notes:

Interviews from Mexico, hosted by Laura Carlsen, goes straight to the source — the men and women making news and making history in Mexico and throughout the region. Today’s program focus is on the ever-present and increasingly important problem of public security in Mexico. Carlsen interviews John Bailey, emeritus professor at Georgetown University in Governance and Foreign Service and author of the recently published book “The Politics of Crime in Mexico: Democratic Governance in a Security Trap.”

EnviroWatch: Ills, carbon, climate, fuel, nukes


We begin with an alien invasion of the microbial trans-species kind from SciDev.Net:

Monkey malaria on the rise among humans in Malaysia

Once only monkeys were suffering — now people are getting sick too. Monkey malaria, which is three times more severe than other forms of malaria, now accounts for two-thirds of human malaria cases in Malaysian Borneo, says Balbir Singh, director of the Malaria Research Centre at the University of Malaysia in Sarawak.

Other South-East Asian countries such as Cambodia and Thailand are seeing infections too. Signs that monkey malaria may now be jumping directly between humans could lead to a further spike in cases, adds Singh.

The disease is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium knowlesi, transmitted by mosquitoes which usually feed on monkeys’ blood. The parasite was first described in 1932, and it was known that very occasionally people could get infected — for instance, when spending time in the jungle canopy being exposed to bites from mosquitoes that would normally prefer monkeys.

Cancer, race, and class from Newswise:

Race, Hospital, Insurance Status All Factors in How Lung Cancer Is Treated

African Americans, Hispanics, and those who receive care at a community hospital are all significantly less likely than other patients to receive treatment for early stage non-small cell lung cancer, according to a report in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology.

“We found significant disparities for treatment of a curable cancer based on race, insurance status, and whether or not treatment was at an academic or community hospital,” said Dr. Matthew Koshy, a physician in the department of radiation oncology at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, and lead author of the study. “Reducing these disparities could lead to significant improvements in survival for many people with inoperable early stage lung cancer.”

The study is the largest to date looking at treatment received by patients with stage I non-small cell lung cancer, an early stage of lung cancer that has not spread to the lymph nodes and is characterized by a small nodules in the lung tissue. Treatment during this early stage offers the best chance for long-term survival.

From the Washington Post, and it should come as no surprise:

U.N. report: Promised cuts in carbon emissions not enough to prevent warming

Pledges by the United States and other countries to sharply reduce greenhouse-gas emissions still aren’t enough to prevent global temperatures from rising beyond levels that scientists believe could be dangerous to the planet’s health, a U.N.-commissioned study says.

The report by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) cited a sizable “emissions gap” between the promises made by world leaders to lower pollution and the maximum amount of carbon the atmosphere can safely absorb.

“Without additional climate policies, global emissions will increase hugely up to at least 2050,” said the study, released Wednesday by the U.N. body that established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the scientific organization that studies the effects of heat-trapping greenhouse gases on the global environment.

More atmospheric aggro from the Mainichi:

Brazil environmentalists: greenhouse gases rise

Emission levels of greenhouse gases in Latin America’s biggest country were almost 8 percent higher in 2013 than one year earlier, a Brazilian network of environmental groups said Wednesday.

The Observatorio do Clima, or Climate Observatory, is comprised of more than 30 non-governmental organizations focused on climate change. It said in a report that greenhouse gas emissions amounted to 1.57 billion metric tons in 2013 compared to 1.45 billion metric tons in 2012.

The increase represents a reversal in the trend that started in 2005 when emissions of greenhouse gases dropped year-by-year as deforestation levels fell, the report said.

The report said that soil use changes in 2013 accounted for 16.48 percent of the emissions due to increased deforestation levels in the Amazon region and in the savanna-like ecosystem known as the Cerrado in central Brazil.

Still more atmospheric woes from the Guardian:

EU court rules UK government must clean up dangerous air pollution

  • UK government must urgently improve air quality in British cities following a landmark case that could see more vehicles restricted from city centres

The government will be forced to urgently clean up illegal air pollution in British cities following a ruling on Wednesday in the European court of justice. It is likely to see many diesel cars and heavy goods vehicles restricted from city centres within a few years.

The landmark case, brought by a small environmental group through the UK courts, will allow people to sue the government for breaching EU pollution laws and will force ministers to prepare plans for many cities to improve air quality.

Europe’s highest court firmly rejected Britain’s long-standing approach to complying with EU air pollution laws which has been to appeal to Europe for time extensions.

The government has admitted that under its current plans, London, Leeds and Birmingham will not meet legal limits for the toxic nitrogen dioxide gas (NO2) until after 2030. This is 20 years after the original deadline set by Europe. Other cities, including Manchester and Glasgow , have target dates of 2025.

From the Los Angeles Times, the pollution pecking order:

Province near Beijing aims to move polluting factories overseas

In an effort to reduce pollution, authorities in Hebei province on Tuesday announced a plan to move steel, cement and glass factories outside of China, the official New China News Agency said. Through preferential policies and financial incentives, local companies will be encouraged to relocate to Africa, Central Asia and South America by 2023.

Industrial pollution is the largest source of the tiny, choking particles that regularly cloud Beijing’s skies, according to research last year by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Hebei, which surrounds the capital, is one of the country’s main industrial production centers. But with China’s economy slowing, factories have a surplus of capacity.

Authorities now want to put some of these factories offshore, with the government seeking to move 5 million tons of both steel and cement production out of the country by 2017, and even more ambitious targets of 20 million tons of steel and 30 million tons of cement moved out by 2023.

From TheLocal.dk, closer to home:

Denmark pressures EU on everyday chemicals

Saying that “the phasing-out of harmful chemicals is progressing far too slow in the EU,” Denmark’s environment minister has recruited colleagues for a coordinated campaign targeting the EU Commission.

Denmark’s environment minister, Kirsten Brosbøl, has joined with seven other European ministers to pressure the new EU Commission to increase its efforts to protect consumers from dangerous chemicals.

Brosbøl and the environment ministers of Austria, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden are calling on the new members of the EU Commission to eliminate chemicals from everyday products.

“Denmark holds an unfortunate record with regard to testicular cancer, and many couples are having difficulties getting pregnant, while children are reaching puberty at an ever earlier age. We know that this may be due to a number of harmful chemicals in our everyday lives,” Brosbøl said in a press release.

On to petro politics and perils with the Guardian:

Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise detained in Spain

  • Greenpeace ship taken into Spanish custody after oil protest in waters off of the Canary Islands, six months after being released by the Russian government

The Greenpeace protest ship Arctic Sunrise has been taken into custody by the Spanish government in waters off the Canary Islands, just months after it was released by the Russian government.

Spain’s Ministry of public works and transportation detained the vessel on Tuesday night pending an investigation against the captain for an “infringement against marine traffic rules”. The maximum fine for the offence is €300,000 (£240,000).

On Saturday, Greenpeace protesters from the ship approached the Repsol oil ship Rowan Renaissance – ignoring warnings from the Spanish navy to leave an exclusion zone. Activists were injured after their rhibs – an inflatable boat with a rigid hull – were repeatedly rammed by the Spanish navy. Footage of the clashes showed the moment when one activist had her leg broken and was thrown into the water.

EcoWatch fracks the commons:

Fracking Approved in Largest National Forest in Eastern U.S.

Despite strong opposition from both elected officials in the affected areas and environmental groups, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has approved fracking in George Washington Forest. Objections to the plan came from members of Congress from Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and Washington D.C. city council, which passed a resolution opposing it in March. McAuliffe reiterated his opposition before a meeting of the state’s Climate Change and Resilience Commission in September.

The forest, located in Virginia and West Virginia, is the largest national forest on the east coast. It contains the headwaters of the Potomac River, which feed into the Chesapeake Bay and provide drinking water for millions of people in the Washington, DC/Chesapeake region.

The USFS had initially proposed  to ban fracking in the 1.1 million acre forest, the first outright ban of the practice in a national forest. But when the plan was released in 2011, energy companies complained and exerted pressure on the USFS. About 10,000 acres of the forest are already been leased to oil and gas companies, with private mineral rights existing under another 167,000 acres. The newly released plan will only allow fracking on that land, which is located in sparsely populated rural Highland County, Virginia. The plan also puts off limits another 800,000 acres that were available for drilling.

And from RT America, Sioux pipeline ire:

Keystone XL an “act of war” declares South Dakota tribe

Program notes:

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota says that congressional approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline will be considered an act of war. If given the green light by congress, the controversial project will traverse land under the control of the Native American tribe, which is now threatening to exercise its rights as a “sovereign nation.” RT’s Ben Swann speaks to tribal president Cyril Scott to learn more.

Next, Fukushimapocalypse Now!, starting with nuclear politics from the Japan Times:

Abe’s election decision met with anger in disaster-hit communities

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to dissolve the House of Representatives for a snap election was met with anger in communities affected by the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster.

Many people in the affected areas are concerned about a further delay in post-disaster reconstruction as procedures will grind to a halt until a new government is installed.

“Why does the Lower House need to be dissolved now?” Shigetoshi Shimomura, a local community leader in the Kerobe district of Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, asked indignantly. “Although Abe has said that there will be no revival for Japan without reconstruction of disaster-hit areas, he doesn’t seem to attach much importance to the issue,” the 65-year-old said.

JapanToday administers a seismic reminder:

M5.3 quake hits off Fukushima, jolts Kanto; no tsunami alert issued

An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.3 struck in the sea off Fukushima Prefecture at 10:51 a.m. Thursday, but no tsunami alert was issued by the Japan Meteorological Agency.

The agency said the epicenter was 40 kilometers deep.

The quake registered a 4 in Fukushima Prefecture, 3 in Miyagi, Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures, and a 2 in Tokyo and other parts of the Kanto region. Buildings shook briefly in Tokyo.

There was no immediate reports of injuries or damage to buildings.

Finding fault with the Mainichi:

Experts retain Tsuruga reactor fault judgment in draft report

A panel of experts under Japan’s nuclear regulator on Wednesday reaffirmed an earlier judgment that a reactor at the Tsuruga nuclear station is sitting right above an active fault, a move that could force the operator to permanently shut down the unit.

After the Nuclear Regulation Authority acknowledged last year that the fault in question is active, Japan Atomic Power Co. has submitted additional data in trying to have it overturned.

The experts, however, concluded that the new data offered no evidence to sway the judgment as it compiled a new draft report on the fault’s assessment.

From RT America, questions raised:

US fails to properly monitor Fukushima fallout

Program notes:

Scientists are warning that more stringent monitoring of radiation levels in the ocean is needed to ensure pollution from the Fukushima Daiichi disaster doesn’t worsen. Radioactive particles from Japan have managed to reach the west coast of the US, but there is no federal agency tasked with monitoring the levels of pollution, as RT’s Lindsay France explains.

Paving the way for politically fraught preliminary cleanup operation, via Jiji Press:

Japan Enacts Bill on Radioactive Soil Interim Storage

Japan enacted a bill Wednesday that is necessary to establish interim facilities to store soil polluted with fallout from the March 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

The storage facilities for the radioactive soil collected through decontamination of polluted areas in the northeastern Japan prefecture of Fukushima are set to be built around the natural disaster-stricken nuclear plant in the same prefecture.

The legislation, given the final go-ahead by the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of the Diet, requires the state government to dispose of the stored soil outside the prefecture and finish the final disposal work within 30 years, one of the five conditions that the Fukushima prefectural government has set for allowing the interim storage.

Disaster preparations from NHK WORLD:

Diet approves nuclear compensation treaty

Japan’s Diet has approved a bill to join an international treaty on sharing the costs of compensation in a nuclear disaster.

The bill on the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage cleared the Upper House on Wednesday.

The treaty obliges the signatories to set aside the equivalent of 47 billion yen, about 400 million dollars, to compensate victims in a nuclear accident.

If the cost of compensation in Japan exceeds its reserve, other signatories would provide around 60 million dollars more. Conversely, Japan would have to contribute about 34 million dollars to help compensate for a nuclear accident in another country.

And to close, British nuclear woes of another sort from the Guardian:

Hinkley Point C nuclear plant’s future in doubt as crisis hits shareholder

  • Questions over new Somerset power station after Areva’s nuclear projects in Finland and France run into difficulties

The future of the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in Somerset is under a cloud amid a financial crisis at Areva, a shareholder in the project and the designer of the proposed reactors.

Shares in the French engineering business plunged by almost a quarter after Areva warned it must suspend future profit predictions because of problems centred on a similar power station project in Finland.

Both that scheme at Olkiluoto and another at Flamanville in France are massively over-budget and over-schedule, forcing Areva to consider whether it needs an injection of new cash to survive.

EbolaWatch: Numbers, hope, fear, & politics


First, the good news, via the U.N. News Center:

Ebola cases no longer rising in Guinea, Liberia, UN health agency reports

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported today that the number of Ebola cases is “no longer increasing nationally in Guinea and Liberia, but is still increasing in Sierra Leone”, and that preparedness teams have been sent this week to Benin, Burkina Faso, Gambia and Senegal.

Earlier today, UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel, Robert Piper, had appealed for funding for Ebola preparedness in the swath of Africa consisting of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal making up one of the poorest regions in the world.

WHO, in its most recent update, said the evolving Ebola outbreak “highlights the considerable risk of cases being imported into unaffected countries.”

“With adequate levels of preparation, however, such introductions of the disease can be contained before they develop into large outbreaks,” it said.

Next, the latest official numbers released today for all countries by the World Health Organization:

BLOG Ebola stats

More optimism from the Associated Press:

CDC chief drops worst-case Ebola estimate

he government’s worst-case scenario forecast for the Ebola epidemic in West Africa won’t happen, a U.S. health official said Wednesday.

In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the number of people sickened by the Ebola virus could explode to as many as 1.4 million by mid-January without more help.

Things have changed. On Wednesday, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said, “We don’t think the projections from over the summer will come to pass.”

Frieden did not provide new estimates.

And still more optimistic numeration from VOA News:

World Bank Sees $3B-$4B Ebola Impact in Africa

A World Bank official says the Ebola epidemic will not be as costly to West Africa’s economy as previously feared, thanks to effective containment efforts.

Francisco Ferreira, the bank’s chief economist for Africa, told an audience in Johannesburg Wednesday that he expects the epidemic’s economic toll on the region will range from $3 to $4 billion.

The World Bank in October had predicted the economic impact could be as high as $32 billion if the virus spread significantly outside the borders of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three countries hardest hit by the outbreak.

And the accompanying video report from VOA News:

Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

Program notes:

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion – well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture – warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

From StarAfrica, a vow of solidarity from the regional economic organization:

ECOWAS restates solidarity with Ebola nations

The President of the ECOWAS Commission, Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo has assured that all institutions of the sub-regional organization are fully behind the affected countries battling the Ebola epidemic. “ECOWAS will do its best to help address the current Ebola crisis,” Ouédraogo promised.

“Let me pay a special tribute to you Madam President for your country’s courageous fight against the further spread of the Ebola virus disease.

ECOWAS stands ready to collaborate with your government, the UN System and all partners for an effective and efficient response to the Ebola outbreak,” the ECOWAS Commission President said.

The medium and the message, via Al Jazeera English:

UN Ebola effort faces ‘information challenge’

Top Ebola official says trouble figuring out new infection cases in West Africa makes controlling outbreak difficult.

Authorities are having trouble figuring out how many more people are getting Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone and where the hotspots are in those countries, according to the UN’s top Ebola official in West Africa.

This is harming efforts to get control of the outbreak, Anthony Banbury said on Tuesday.

Over the past week, the US said, Banbury met the presidents of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where Ebola has infected at least 10,000 people and killed roughly half of them, as he focuses on adapting an operational framework for international anti-Ebola efforts.

“The challenge is good information, because information helps tell us where the disease is, how it’s spreading and where we need to target our resources,” Banbury told the Associated Press by phone from the Ghanaian capital of Accra, where the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, or UNMEER, is based.

From Punch Nigeria, a call for screening at the border:

Ebola: NMA wants W’ African travellers tested

The Nigeria Medical Association has urged the government to ensure that passengers coming into the country from West African countries are properly checked during Christmas period to prevent fresh outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in the country.

Chairman of the NMA in Osun State, Dr. Suraj Ogunyemi, gave the advice on Wednesday in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, at a press conference to usher in the 2014 Physicians’ Week.

Ogunyemi lauded the Federal Government, states and others who rose up in the battle against Ebola virus when it was brought into Nigeria by the late Liberian-American, Patrick Sawyer.

He said, “We must realise that the threat of importation of the EVD into the country is very much abundant. EVD could be imported from travellers from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea to Nigeria, especially through Nigerians who work there and would return by road during Christmas.

“It can also be reintroduced by traders who travel across the nations of West Africa. So, government must ensure that our borders, seaports and airports are manned by health officials with adequate devices to check those coming into the country.”

On to the latest country to be stricken with the Associated Press:

Amid Ebola cases, Mali braces borders and beyond

On Mali’s dusty border with Ebola-stricken Guinea, travelers have a new stop: Inside a white tent, masked medical workers zap incomers with infrared thermometer guns and instruct them to wash their hands in chlorinated water.

After five recent Ebola deaths, Mali has become a front line in the fight against the virus, especially in the border town of Kouremale which two of those victims passed through last month. Malian authorities, with help from the U.N. and aid groups, this week deployed medical teams at the border to try to stop the disease’s spread.

“You are Mali’s portal. Don’t be the weak link in the fight against Ebola. Mali must not become a land of propagation for Ebola in the world,” President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita urged medical staffers and border guards during a visit as the deployment began. “We are counting on you to meet this challenge.”

Next, the bad news from Sierra Leone from Deutsche Welle:

Sierra Leone hit hardest in latest WHO Ebola numbers

The global Ebola infection tally has surpassed 15,000. Sierra Leone confirmed 533 new cases in the week to November 16, accounting for much of the increase.

Cases of Ebola reached 15,145, with 5,420 deaths, through November 16 – almost all in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, which reported the steepest uptick – the World Health Organization announced Wednesday. Sierra Leone has also reported 63 Ebola deaths since Friday.

“Much of this was driven by intense transmission in the country’s west and north,” the WHO announced. Sierra Leone has only managed to isolate 13 percent of Ebola patients, the agency’s figures show.

Ebola does not transmit easily, but it has particularly spread in the capital, Freetown, which accounted for 168, or nearly one-third of Sierra Leone’s 533 confirmed cases in the week to November 16, and nearby Port Loko. A doctor, the first Cuban infected with Ebola, who caught the virus in Sierra Leone will fly to Switzerland in the next 48 hours for hospitalization in Geneva. Five doctors from Sierra Leone have died of Ebola.

More from Reuters:

Ebola spreading intensely in Sierra Leone as toll rises – WHO

The figures, through Nov. 16, represent a jump of 243 deaths and 732 cases since those issued last Friday, and cases continue to be under-reported, the WHO said in its latest update.

Sierra Leone, a former British colony, confirmed 533 new cases in the week to Nov. 16, it said, accounting for much of the increase. It also reported 63 deaths since last Friday.

“Much of this was driven by intense transmission in the country’s west and north,” the WHO said.

The capital Freetown, which accounted for 168 new confirmed cases, and nearby Port Loko were particularly hard-hit.

British National Health Service help on the way, via the Guardian:

First NHS volunteers set to leave for Sierra Leone on Ebola mission

  • The 50 volunteers have undergone extensive training designed to ensure none of them return to the UK with the virus

The first batch of NHS staff who volunteered to treat Ebola patients in Sierra Leone are to leave the UK for west Africa after undergoing extensive training designed to ensure none return with the virus.

The 50 staff will depart nearly six weeks after they were shortlisted as suitable by UK-Med, the organisation funded by the Department for International Development to recruit NHS staff for secondment. Nearly 1,000 volunteered, but because of the need for careful selection and training, none have yet flown out.

The particular risk to health workers is highlighted by the news that one of the 250 Cuban doctors and nurses sent to the Ebola epidemic region has become infected. Félix Báez Sarría, one of about 165 Cuban medics in Sierra Leone, is being flown to Switzerland for treatment. “He’s not critical, he’s doing well, in a good condition,” said his boss, Dr Jorge Delgado Bustillo. “The most important thing now is to get him evacuated to Geneva.”

On to Liberia with some ominous numbers from another sector via BBC News:

Ebola crisis in Liberia: ‘One in two workers now jobless’

Nearly half of all Liberians who were employed when the Ebola outbreak began are no longer working, a survey by the World Bank has found.

It said many workers have been told to stay at home or have lost their jobs, while markets have been forced to shut.

Ana Revenga, a senior World Bank official, said even those living areas of Liberia that have not been hit by Ebola “are suffering the economic side effects of this terrible disease”.

The other side of the Ebola coin from StarAfrica:

Liberia’s Sirleaf delighted about decline in Ebola cases

Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has expressed delight that most Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs) around Monrovia are experiencing a decline in patient intake.She however warned Liberians to continue to follow the measures outlined by healthcare workers in order to break the transmission of the disease, as there are still hotspots and pockets in communities.

According to an Executive Mansion press release, President Sirleaf made the statement following a tour of several ETUs around Monrovia to assess conditions there, including constraints if any, and to thank healthcare workers, partners, and volunteers for their services to the country especially in the fight against the Ebola virus disease.

The President’s visit took her to treatment units at ELWA-II, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) ELWA-III, Ministry of Defense, the three ETUs under construction at the Samuel Kayon Doe Sports Complex, and the National Ebola Command Center in Sinkor.

An American de-escalation from the Associated Press:

Military scaling back treatment units in Liberia

A Pentagon spokesman says the U.S. military is scaling back the size and number of Ebola treatment facilities it is building in Liberia.

Army Col. Steve Warren said Wednesday that a total of 10 treatment facilities will be built; the Pentagon previously had planned to build as many as 17. Additionally, seven of the 10 will have 50 beds each rather than the 100 beds previously planned.

The first of the 10 treatment facilities has been completed and two more are expected to be finished this week. They are built by U.S. military personnel and are to be operated by local or international health workers.

Finally, a Liberian political impact from FrontPageAfrica:

Ebola Factor: Virus Crisis Could Dissuade Voters in Grand Bassa

It’s Friday, the busiest and most popular market day in Grand Bassa County’s second most populous district, and many people have turned out to either sell or buy at the Wayzohn Market, Compound Three – the district’s provisional capital. The most dominant issue nowadays is the Ebola crisis and it takes a lot to sway people from this discussion, especially in a county where new cases of the virus have emerged thus sparking fears amongst locals.

The debate now amongst many, not just those gathering at forums or market place, is ‘how much impact will the current Ebola crisis have on the Special senatorial election?’ The answer to this has prompted many to suggest, without any doubt, that the virus has already altered Liberia election’ time table. Like those men at the tea shop, many people who have spoken to FrontPage Africa fear that voters’ turnout will be lower than expected, mainly because of the compounded problem of the Ebola fear and the reluctance of people who see it meaningless to vote only because they claim the government has forsaken them.

“As we all know when elections is coming about this time the momentum is very high, but for this election, we’re only hearing about election, but the momentum is low,” Alexander Flankiah, a resident of Wayzohn, District Three said. Flankiah is expected to be on the campaign trail of one of the famous candidates in the race, but his pessimism about attracting a large crowd for rally is keeping him worried. During a recent trip to a town in rural Grand Bassa, he said it was difficult to bring people together. “People were stopping their immediate family from showing up because of the recent Ebola cases in the county.” he said.

MexicoWatch: Protests, hubris, anger, & threats


We start with an infuriating story from teleSUR, infuriating because uniformed armed thugs hauling students off a bus with threats is exactly what led to the disappearance of those 43 students:

Mexican Soldiers Intimidate, Threaten Students Outside Iguala

The army troops stopped a bus and threatened students from the Vicente Guerrero Teacher Training School.

At a checkpoint south of Iguala in the southern violent state of Guerrero, members of the 27th Infantry Battalion of the Mexican Army on Tuesday ordered the bus driver to stop and told the Teloloapan students to get off.

The soldiers lined the students up facing the bus, where they searched them and made insulting, humiliating remarks, especially to the young girls. They threatened the entire group, around 30 students in all, for more than an hour.

The troops specifically  warned the students that they’d better stop making trouble about the disappeared Ayotzinapa students, and then took pictures of each person. Afterward, they ordered them to go back to their school without causing any problems in Iguala.

And the accompanying video report:

Mexican Students intimidated and photographed by army yesterday

Program notes:

Yesterday in the Mexican state of Guerrero, a busload of students returning from a protest in solidarity with the Ayotinapa 43 (teaching college students who were kidnapped in late September by corrupt authorities in Iguala) was stopped by the army, who forced the students out of the bus, intimidated them, and told them to stop protesting, before photographing them and sending then back on their way. Also yesterday, parents of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa students recurred to the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, with whom they signed a contract. The OAS has pledged to help protect the families from danger, and to help continue the search for their children.

And then there’s strange silence of the media and public temper north of the border via the Chicago Tribune:

Americans ignore the mass murder of students that is roiling Mexico

The violent disappearance of 43 students from a rural teachers college in Guerrero state has caused a political earthquake the likes of which Mexico has not seen in generations — perhaps even since the revolution of 1910.

That makes it all the more baffling how little attention most people in the U.S. have paid to the unfolding tragedy. To understand the historical significance — and the moral and political gravity — of what is occurring, think of 9/11, of Sandy Hook, of the day JFK was assassinated. Mexico is a nation in shock — horrified, pained, bewildered.

These emotions have been swelling since late September, but have become overpowering since Nov. 10. That’s when Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam held a news conference to detail the federal government’s investigation into the students’ disappearance, a probe that relies heavily on witness testimony from men who allegedly participated in their murders.

Next, via teleSUR, a notable cancellation:

Protests for Ayotzinapa Cancel Mexico’s Official Revolution Parade

Mexico’s Interior Minister announced the cancellation of Thursday’s parade celebrating Mexico’s 1910 revolution, as a mass strike for the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa will occur on the same day

The traditional official celebrations and military parade organized to commemorate Mexico’s 1910 revolution will be moved from the Zocalo square to a military installation in the Polanco neighborhood of the Mexican Capital this Thursday, announced Mexico’s Interior Minister, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong on Wednesday evening.

“November 20 is a date that we Mexicans celebrate the beginning of our revolution. This time, it was decided that the celebration will not be accompanied by the traditional festivities and parade,” said the minister.

“The Interior Ministry reports that the commemoration of November 20 will consist of a decorations ceremony and promotions of active military personnel from the Defense Ministry and Navy, which will be held in the Base Marte,” he added.

Bringing it home, via the Latin American Herald Tribune:

Teachers Take Over Judicial Branch HQ in Mexico Protest Over Disappeared

Teachers in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero on Tuesday took over the state judicial branch headquarters and held workers there for four hours as part of protests associated with the disappearance of 43 teaching students.

About 500 members of Guerrero’s state education workers coordinator, or CETEG, took over the Judicial Complex, which houses the offices of the state supreme court in Chilpancingo, the state capital.

The teachers demanded the release of “political prisoners” and the annulment of arrest warrants that, CETEG said, have been issued for their members for recent violent acts that were part of the protests over the students’ disappearance.

And from teleSUR English, national strike coming:

Mexico: national student strike planned in solidarity with Ayotzinapa

Program notes:

In Mexico, public universities and teacher training colleges across the country are organizing for a 24-hour strike to take place on Thursday November 20 to demand the safe return of the 43 missing students from the Ayotzinapa teacher training college who were kidnapped on September 26.

From Reuters, presidential arrogance at its worst:

Mexico president sees anti-government motive in massacre protests

Grappling with outrage over violence and impunity after the apparent massacre of 43 trainee teachers, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Tuesday accused unspecified groups of seeking to destabilize his government.

Protest marches over the crime, which the government has blamed on corrupt police in league with a drug gang and city officials, have overshadowed Pena Nieto’s efforts to boost years of sub-par economic growth via a raft of economic reforms.

“Structural reforms and big changes have … without doubt affected interests of those who have much and of others who oppose our nation-building project,” Pena Nieto said.

“We have seen violent movements which hide behind the grief (over the missing students) to stage protests, the aim of which at times is unclear,” he added. “They seem to obey interests to generate instability, to foment social unrest.”

Solidarity in Southern California from the Los Angeles Times:

Missing Mexico students: ‘We want them alive,’ L.A. activists chant

Standing in front of photos of 43 missing students in the Mexican state of Guerrero, activists and community members gathered across the street from the Consulate General of Mexico in Los Angeles on Wednesday chanting: “Vivos se los llevaron, vivos los queremos.”

“They were taken alive, we want them alive.”

Immigrant and human rights groups called on people to stand in solidarity with Mexico and the students who went missing in Iguala, Guerrero, on Sept. 26, and are presumed to likely be dead.

And a reminder, via Vice News:

There Are More than 43 Missing People in Guerrero and Mexico’s Military May Have a Role

There are more than 43 families looking for their missing sons and daughters in Guerrero, Mexico. The Pita family is one of them.

Felix and Guadalupe Pita’s son, Lenin Vladimir Pita, was 17 when he disappeared on March 1, 2010. He went missing in Iguala, the same city where 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School vanished eight weeks ago.

“Talking about my son breaks my heart,” Felix Pita, a weather-worn man with greying hair and a gravelly voice, told VICE News. “If they could take my son, they can take more. I have been told that they kidnap them and make them work or they sell them to hitmen.”

On a related note, via teleSUR:

Dozen Mexican Mayors under Investigation for Drug Links

The Iguala mayor who was arrested for allegedly masterminding the forced disappearances of 43 students in September is among a dozen Mexican mayors currently under investigation for corruption

Twelve mayors have been investigated between January and July of this year for alleged links to criminal groups, Mexican federal intelligence sources told the Milenio newspaper Monday.

The investigation describes the mayors as “objects of special attention,” and their daily activities are being monitored.

The 12 mayors include four from the ruling center-right Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and eight from the center-left Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), including the mayor of Iguala Jose Luis Abarca.

And a video report from Deutsche Welle:

Mexico – The state and the drug cartels

Program notes:

The disappearance of 43 students in Mexico is symptomatic of much larger problems in the country: widespread corruption and drug-related violence. Many people feel their government can’t protect them.

From Reuters, oh, the poor baby:

Mexico’s first lady says will sell house at center of scandal

Mexico’s first lady said on Tuesday she would give up a house at the center of a scandal that created a potential conflict of interest between President Enrique Pena Nieto and a company bidding for a lucrative rail contract.

The Mexican government this month abruptly cancelled a $3.75-billion high speed rail contract awarded to a consortium led by China Railway Construction Corp Ltd that featured a Mexican company known as Grupo Higa.

It then emerged that a subsidiary of Grupo Higa owned a luxury house that Pena Nieto’s wife Angelica Rivera was in the process of acquiring, raising questions about the tender.

In a televised statement, Rivera, who was one of Mexico’s most popular soap actresses before marrying Pena Nieto in 2010, said she had paid off about 14.3 million pesos ($1.05 million) of the value of the house and would sell her stake to settle any outstanding questions about the matter.

Next, via teleSUR, filling in the memory hole:

Mexican Museum to House Ayotzinapa Exhibition

The Museum of Memory’s objective is to highlight crimes against humanity perpetrated by authoritarian groups and governments

The Mexican Museum of Memory and Tolerance will hold a 2015 exhibition about the murders, executions, disappearances and the impunity afflicting Mexico. It will feature the tragic events of the 43 missing students in Ayotzinapa.

The museum, which opened in 2010, seeks to preserve the historical memory of the most shocking crimes against humanity. It houses exhibitions about the Nazi holocaust, the genocides in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and massacres in Guatemala, among others.

According to its director, Shanon Zaga, 2015 will be the year the museum will focus on the crimes against humanity undertaken in Mexico itself.

Exhibitions will range from the 1968 Tlatelolco student massacre, to the the mass murder of hundreds of women in Ciudad Juarez in past decades. Most pressingly, one of the exhibits will focus on the recent events of the disappearance of 43 students in Ayotzinapa.

And to close, via CCTV America, corporate angst:

Protests over missing students affect private investment in Mexico

Program notes:

Mexico’s sputtering economy is facing more challenges following recent demonstrations over to the fate of 43 college students missing and presumed killed in a September mass abduction in Guerreo state, in the southern part of the country. CCTV America’s Franc Contreras reported this story from Mexico City.

Protests challenge California, British tuition hikes


The desideratum of the neoliberal regimes governing on both sides of the Atlantic can be summed up simply: It is the abolition of any barriers toi the infinite accumulation of wealth by that the very apex of an increasingly rigid and increasingly steep class hierarchy.

Two graphics drawn on the work of Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez and colleagues sum up the reality:

First, the hyperconcentration of wealth by the American elite, via VoxEU:

BLOG wealth

Second, evidence that a parallel process is at work in Europe as well, most notably the U.K., via the London School of Economics:

Print

One major factor in this process of hyperaccumulation is the deconstruction of progressive income tax and the replacement of lost revenues by regressive taxation that penalizes the porr and, increasingly, middle classes.

And one major initiative has been the replacement of student tuition and fees to replace lost tax revenues, with the result that student costs are soaring at rates far higher than inflation, forcing the young to mortgage their futures through student loans, debts that in the U.S. can’t be forgiven in bankruptcy court, effectively insuring a form of debt servitude.

Just how bad has the increase been? Well, here’s what is looks like for the University of Califonia, via the Committee on Student Fees:

BLOG UC tuition

But it doesn’t stop there.

From the Associated Press:

Tuition hike tentatively approved in California

A proposed tuition hike was tentatively approved Wednesday by a committee of the University of California governing board.

The committee voted 7-2 to approve the plan recommended by UC President Janet Napolitano that would raise tuition in each of the next five years.

The proposed tuition hikes still must be reviewed by the full Board of Regents on Thursday.

Napolitano said the increases are needed to protect the quality of education in the face of insufficient state funding.

Before the meeting, students made their feelings known as the Los Angeles Times reports:

UC tuition hike: Shoving, anger among protesters, police

Student protesters and university police tussled outside a UC San Francisco meeting hall early Wednesday where the regents for the 10-campus system were about to debate a proposed tuition hike.

About 100 protesters tried to block entrances into the building as regents and other UC officials tried to enter. Some of the officials were jostled as they wedged their way through the yelling crowd. Pushing matches between police and protesters erupted at several entrances and at metal barricades.

There was one arrested in an incident that led to the shattering of a glass door in the building’s rear, UC police said. No one appeared to be seriously injured in the protest.

A video report on the protest from Sacramento Bee:

UC students standoff with CFO Nathan Brostrom

Program notes:

University of California students protested a proposed tuition hike outside the Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco on Nov. 19, 2014.

The Bee also covered a Tuesday protest in nearby Davis, home of another University of California campus:

UC Davis tuition protest

Program notes:

Hundreds of students at UC Davis marched Tuesday to protest proposed tuition hikes.

And from ABC 10 News in San Diego, a report on a protest at the UC campus there:

UCSD students protest proposed tuition hike

Program notes:

UC San Diego students staged a sit-in Tuesday to protest a tuition hike proposal — an action mirrored at other University of California campuses.

And just as the wealth concentration process is going on in the U.K., so is the ceaseless rise in unviserity tuition, so that at the same time studentds were taking to the streets in California, their counterparts were doing the same in London.

From the Guardian:

Student protest over tuition fees ends in scuffles with police

  • Organisers say 10,000 joined march, which saw NUS offices daubed with paint after it refused to back protest

Organisers said the demonstration against tuition fees and wider cuts to education was the biggest mobilisation of students since 2010 when demonstrators occupied Tory party offices at Millbank.

Wednesday’s protest saw the National Union of Students (NUS) headquarters in London daubed with paint after it decided not to back the demonstration due to “an unacceptable level of risk” to its members. That provoked anger among those who took part in the march. “We did not organise what happened at the NUS but we do know students are very angry about being let down by the NUS,” said Beth Redmond from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, one of the groups that organised the demonstration. “When you see the numbers here today, they are in danger of becoming an irrelevance.”

Organisers claimed that up to 10,000 protesters took part in the march with university students joining those from further education colleges and sixth forms.

The protest passed off peacefully until demonstrators arrived at Parliament Square. A breakaway group of several hundred, including many who were wearing masks, pulled down fences blocking off the square, provoking minor scuffles with the police.

A video report for the Press Association:

Two arrested in mass student protest

Program notes:

Two protesters have been arrested after protesters on a student demonstration charged the headquarters of the Tory party in central London. Thousands of students marched through central London in protest against tuition fees and debt.

We agree with the students. Tax those who can afford it, and save the most precious resource any community has, its future, embodied in the students of today.

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?

InSecurityWatch: Threats, war, cops, hacks, Asia


We begin with the New York Times:

Governor Activates Missouri National Guard

Anticipating protests after the grand jury’s decision in the death of Michael Brown, Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri activated the National Guard on Monday.

The governor said the National Guard will play a limited role as it did during protests in August, providing security at command posts, fire stations and other locations.

“As part of our ongoing efforts to plan and be prepared for any contingency, it is necessary to have these resources in place in advance of any announcement of the grand jury’s decision,” Governor Nixon said in a statement.

Under the executive order, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, St. Louis County Police Department and St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department will operate as a unified command, with the St. Louis County police responsible for security in Ferguson.

And then there’s this from the Independent:

Terrorism fuelled by state violence, extra-judicial killings and ethnic tensions

Terrorism has become dramatically more deadly and more widespread across the globe with a 60 per cent rise in the number of deaths and countries affected by major attacks, a study has found.

Fatalities from terrorist incidents rose from just over 11,000 in 2012 to nearly 18,000 last year, while the number of countries which experienced more than 50 deaths from terror attacks rose from 15 to 24, according to the Global Terrorism Index (GTI).

The authors of the comprehensive annual survey of terrorist incidents and trends said that the vast majority of the bloodshed was restricted to five countries – Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria – where groups such as Isis (also known as Islamic State or Isil) adhering to extreme Wahhabist interpretations of Islam are leading attacks.

From the Los Angeles Times:

CIA intelligence gap hinders counter-terrorism efforts in Syria, Iraq

“It’s a black hole,” one U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in discussing intelligence, on the challenge of tracking terrorists and assessing casualties in a war zone that is in effect off-limits to U.S. personnel.

U.S. counter-terrorism officials have identified about a dozen Americans fighting with militants in Syria or Iraq, for example, including some who have joined Islamic State. But U.S. intelligence analysts have struggled to develop a complete picture of their movements or what roles they play in the militant groups.

U.S. intelligence agencies have poured resources into the war since the spring, and the CIA has set up a training camp in Jordan for Syrian fighters. They also rely on information gathered from U.S.-backed rebel groups, including the Free Syrian Army.

Nordic suspicions from TheLocal.se:

Isis sleeper cells suspected in Sweden

A defector from the rebel group Isis has told a Scandinavian broadcaster that his former organization has terrorist sleeper cells in Sweden awaiting orders.

The man told Norwegian news network NRK: “There are cells awaiting orders, and there is more than one group.” NRK met the defector at a secret location in Turkey, near the border to Syria.

The man claimed to have a background as a special soldier for Isis (also known as the Islamic State or IS) and said he had defected from the terror group a few months ago.

From Homeland Security News Wire:

Terror financiers operate freely in Qatar: U.S.

Qatar’s massive financial support of the most extreme Jihadist movements in the Middle East and North Africa is not exactly a secret – notwithstanding the sheikhdom rulers’ half-hearted denials, and the nominal membership of Qatar in the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition.

Qatar, with a small territory, about 250,000 citizens, and a lot of oil money – some derisively call it “a bank, not a country” — some years ago made the strategic decision that, in order be taken seriously as a regional actor, it had to do things differently. It could not compete with regional power-houses such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, so it decided to undermine and weaken both countries by undermining and weakening their rulers and their allies in the region.

Qatar has been doing so in two ways.

In November 1996 Qatar has launched Al Jazeera, which, in addition to some mainstream news reporting and relatively open studio debates and call-in shows, has been a tool of the Qatari government in its propaganda and disinformation campaign to undermine the governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, other Gulf Sheikhdoms, and other moderate states in the region (note that this applies to Al Jazeera in Arabic. The English-language Al Jazeera operates in a manner which is largely similar to Western news outlets).

The other way Qatar has sought to weaken moderate government in the region is by providing massive financial aid to Jihadist groups in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and the Palestinian Territories.

Notable, from the Los Angeles Times:

Putin vows to protect Ukraine separatists from defeat

Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to prevent the defeat of allied separatists in eastern Ukraine while clinging to his insistence that Russia hasn’t been involved in the deadly, 7-month-old conflict.

In an interview with Germany’s ARD television, Putin repeated his claim that ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers in Ukraine are in danger of repression by a Kiev leadership he suggested was plotting to oust them en route to creating a fascist state.

“We are very concerned about any possible ethnic cleansings and Ukraine ending up as a neo-Nazi state,” Putin said, according to the Kremlin news service account of the interview. “What are we supposed to think if people are bearing swastikas on their sleeves? Or what about the SS emblems that we see on the helmets of some military units now fighting in eastern Ukraine?”

A shotgun wedding from Taiwan’s Want China Times:

US makes ‘fatal mistake’ driving China and Russia closer: Duowei

The United States is making a “fatal mistake” by antagonizing both China and Russia and forcing the two primary opponents closer together, says Duowei News, a US-based Chinese political news website.

Washington turned against Moscow following the start of the Ukraine crisis in February this year, leading the European Union and Japan in imposing heavy sanctions against Russia. The increasing distrust between the two countries has been apparent, with Russian president Vladimir Putin and US president Barack Obama coming into contact for only 20-30 minutes during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders summit in Beijing last week, with neither leader having much to say to the other.

Putin also berated the US shortly before the ensuing G20 in Australia, accusing Washington of undermining the very trade institutions it created by imposing sanctions on Russia, a “mistake” that it said went against international law and trade agreements.

Trackin’ pistol-packin’, from MIT Technology Review:

Police in California and Texas Test Networked Guns

  • A chip that tracks how a police officer’s gun is being used could prove useful in investigations and court cases

When a police officer draws a firearm he or she often doesn’t have an opportunity to radio for backup.

YardArm, a California-based company, is building technology that will automatically alert headquarters in such situations. The company makes a chip that goes into the handle of a regular firearm and transmits data over a cell-phone network connection. The data transmitted includes the location of a gun and whether it has been unholstered or discharged. The company is also working to track the direction in which a gun is pointing. The data can be fed to a police dispatch system or viewed on a smartphone.

Founded in 2013, YardArm started out making a consumer product for monitoring a firearm’s location. But since many American gun owners object to technology or policies aimed at regulating firearms, it did not find many customers.

The despicable, enabling the despicable, via the New York Times:

Indictment of Ex-Official Raises Questions on Mississippi’s Private Prisons

In 1982, Christopher B. Epps, a young schoolteacher, took a second job as a guard at the facility known as Parchman Farm, the only prison operated at the time by the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

Eventually he had to choose a path. “It worked out that I was making more as a correctional officer than as a teacher,” Mr. Epps would later recall in an interview for a corrections newsletter.

By the time he spoke those words in 2009, Mr. Epps was being feted as Mississippi’s longest-serving corrections commissioner. The state inmate population had quadrupled, five private prisons had been built to help house them, and, according to a federal grand jury indictment, Mr. Epps had found a new, secretive way to bolster his income.

The 49-count indictment, unsealed last week, accuses Mr. Epps of receiving more than $1 million in bribes from a former Mississippi lawmaker named Cecil McCrory, beginning in 2007. In exchange, the indictment charges, Mr. Epps helped secure lucrative corrections department contracts for private prison companies owned or represented by Mr. McCrory.

More penal despicability, via the Miami Herald:

Detention at Guantánamo grinds on: 13 years and counting, 148 captives remain

It’s the first Tuesday in November, just another day as Guantánamo grinds on toward the detention center’s 14th year as the most expensive prison on earth with no end in sight. President Barack Obama ordered it emptied in 2009, on his second day in office, and people here are dubious that it will be done before his last.

It will close “a year from now, six months from now, 10 years from now — I don’t know,” says Zak, a Pentagon employee who has served as the prison’s Muslim cultural adviser since 2005.

“My focus is to ensure that I have operationally effective and safe facilities for a mission with an indeterminate end date,” says Rear Adm. Kyle Cozad, the 14th commander of the prison operation.

Bobby despicability, via the London Telegraph:

A million crimes reported by public left out of police figures

  • Watchdog warns that police are failing to record one in five crimes because of the ‘target culture’ in forces

Almost a million crimes a year are disappearing from official figures as chief constables attempt to meet targets, a study by the police watchdog has disclosed.

Its report exposed “indefensible” failures by forces to record crime accurately, and said that in some areas up to a third of crimes are being struck out of official records.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary said violent crimes and sex attacks were particularly vulnerable to being deleted under “inexcusably poor” systems.

Although the report stopped short of accusing police of widespread “fiddling” it said there was an “undercurrent of pressure not to record a crime across some forces” and “wrongful pressure” by managers.

From Network World, a criminal marketing twist:

New ransomware CoinVault allows users to decrypt one file for free

Cybercriminals behind a new ransomware program called CoinVault are trying out a new psychological tactic to convince users to pay up—freebies.

The new threat was discovered by security researchers from Webroot and is similar in functionality to more prevalent ransomware programs like CryptoWall. It uses strong 256-bit AES encryption with keys stored on a remote server, it kills the Windows Volume Shadow Copy Service so that users can’t use it to recover their files and only supports Bitcoin as a payment method.

Users are asked to pay 0.5 bitcoins—around $200 at the current exchange rate—in order to receive the key that decrypts their files, but the cost increases every 24 hours.

One aspect that sets CoinVault apart from other file-encrypting ransomware programs is that it allows users to see a list of encrypted files on their computer and choose one they can decrypt for free.

SecurityWeek covers more criminal despicability:

Research Finds 1 Percent of Online Ads Malicious

One percent does not sound like a lot, but multiple it by the right number, and it can be.

Such is the case when it comes to malicious advertising. In research recently presented at the 2014 Internet Measurement Conference in Vancouver, a team of security experts from Ruhr-University Bochum, University College London and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) examined more than 600,000 online advertisements on 40,000 websites over a three-month period and used multiple detection systems to assess whether they were good or bad. The end result: one percent of the ads were found to be involved in suspicious or malicious activity such as drive-by downloads and link hijacking.

“While this is bad news for the advertising networks, advertisers and Internet users who are all under attack from the malware producers, the good news is there are several things available today that can stop malvertising,” said Giovanni Vigna, co-founder and CTO of Lastline, one of the members of the team that worked on the research. “One of these is the use of the sandboxing attribute in iframes within HTML5. None of the 40,000 websites we observed leveraged this mechanism, even though it could stop the link-hijacking that is by far the most prevalent method by which miscreants are getting past other security measures in order to distribute malware through advertisements.”

After the jump, hard times intolerance in Britain, attacks on immigrant housing in Germany, a Columbian general captured by rebels and a massive manhunt ensues, a disillusioned Mossad agent speaks out, Pakistani police thuggery, a killer Indian medical mob, illegal student protests in Myanmar, a crackdown on Hong Kong Occupy camp nears, more repercussions from the election of an Okianawa govenor opposed to a U.S. base move as activists work to expose the toxic legacy of Vietnam War-era Agent Orange exposures on the island, and a unique Californian match made in prison. . . Continue reading