Category Archives: Wealth

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, volcanoes, fuel, more


We begin with preparations from the Associated Press:

US looking past Ebola to prepare for next outbreak

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

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

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

And on to a European outbreak with TheLocal.dk:

Denmark closely eyeing German bird flu case

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

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

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

And a Swiss alert from TheLocal.ch:

Switzerland bans Dutch poultry imports

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

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

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

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

From the Los Angeles Times, a seismically alarming development:

Earthquake early alert system ready to expand in California

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

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

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

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

BLOG Quaker

From Science, chilling out, not eruptile dysfunction:

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

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

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

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

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

Cape Verde orders evacuation after Fogo volcano erupts

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

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

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

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

And from Science, reporting from Norway on ominous portents:

Arctic faces an ice-pocalypse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another drought impact from the Contra Costa Times:

EBMUD looking at rate hike if there’s no rain

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

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

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

From Want China Times, the high cost of development:

Coal killed 670,000 in China in 2012: report

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coal consideration in Germany from TheLocal.de:

Germany debates scrapping coal power

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

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

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

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

MexicoWatch: Graves, arrests, anger, context


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

More Mass Graves in Mexican Search for Missing Students

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

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

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

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

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

Mexico Moves Detained Protesters to Maximum Security Prisons

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

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

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

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

More from Fox News Latino:

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

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

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

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

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

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The accompanying text:

The world must know!

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

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

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

Green Left Weekly covers solidarity:

Global protests support students’ campaign for justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

From teleSUR, a criticism for another president:

Uruguay’s Mujica Says Mexico Resembles a Failed State

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

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

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

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

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

euronews has the predictable response:

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

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

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

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

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

From ThinkMexican, another perspective:

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

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

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

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

And from teleSUR, parents speak:

Parents of Mexican Missing Students Speak at Calle 13 Concert

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

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

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

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

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

Via the fereesayn2k14 Tumblr:

Masacre en Tlatelolco, 2 De octubre 1968

Program notes:

2 De octubre 1968

DIRECTED BY.: Alan Tomlinson

CINEMATOGRAPHY.: Eduardo Flores Torres TATO

Chart of the day: Where the plutocrats live


From the Wealth-X and UBS World Ultra Wealth Report 2014 tracking the growth of wealth of the world’s elite, a look at the concentration of wealth in ten American cities:

BLOG Billions

From the Swiss bank’s announcement of the report:

The Wealth-X and UBS World Ultra Wealth Report 2014, released today, shows that 12,040 new ultra high net worth (UHNW) individuals were minted this year, pushing the global UHNW population to a record 211,275, a 6% increase from 2013.

The combined wealth of the world’s UHNW individuals – defined as those with US$30 million and above in net assets – increased by 7% to US$29.725 trillion in 2014, almost twice the GDP of the world’s largest economy, the United States.

North America and Europe continue to dominate the global landscape as the regions with the largest UHNW population and wealth. The United States maintains its position as the world’s top UHNW country in 2014 with a population of 69,560 UHNW individuals with a combined net worth of over US$9.6 trillion, a 6% and 7% increase respectively from last year.

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.