Category Archives: Crime

InSecurityWatch: War, politics, hacks, terror. . .


And much more.

We begin the the latest round of the Great Game from the Washington Post:

Top U.S. intelligence official backs arming Ukraine forces against Russia

The top U.S. intelligence official said Thursday that he supports arming Ukrainian forces against Russian-backed separatists, as the Obama administration continues deliberations about whether to deepen involvement in a conflict pitting the West against Russian President Vladi-mir Putin.

James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, said providing weapons to Ukraine would likely trigger a “negative reaction” from the Russian government, which Western officials are hoping will ensure that separatists stick to a European-brokered cease-fire that took effect this month.

“It could potentially further remove the very thin fig leaf of their position that they have not been involved in Ukraine,” Clapper told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, adding that Russia could respond by sending more sophisticated weapons to separatist areas.

From RT, asserting a naval presence:

Russia secures military deal to use Cyprus’ ports despite EU concerns

Russian navy ships will keep having access to stop off at Cyprus’ ports in Mediterranean as the two countries have agreed to prolong the pre-existing deal on military cooperation.

The agreement, which applies to Russian vessels involved in counter-terrorism and anti-piracy efforts, was signed by President Vladimir Putin and his Cypriot counterpart, Nicos Anastasiades, in Moscow.

The signing came aimed heightened tensions and sanctions between Russia and the EU over the military conflict in Ukraine.

President Putin, however, stressed that the agreement, as well as Russia-Cypriot ”friendly ties aren’t aimed against anyone.”

From Agence France-Presse, how to keep them from droning on:

BLOG Drones

From Nextgov, what could possibly go wrong?:

CIA’s New Big Data Hub Will be Hosted in the Cloud

The CIA is preparing to take the next step in its quest to shake up the status quo of siloed agencies within the intelligence community.

CIA Chief Information Officer Doug Wolfe confirmed Wednesday the intelligence agency will start using Cloudera’s Enterprise Data Hub platform by April, a move he expects “to extend the innovation and push the envelope on a whole range of different solutions” for all 17 IC agencies.

The enterprise data hub, also known as a “data lake,” would presumably provide standardized data sets compiled by intelligence analysts across various agencies to decision-makers among many other features found in the company’s widely used open source big data platform.

From SINA English, a Chinese wall:

Some foreign tech brands removed from China government purchase list

CHINA has dropped some of the world’s leading technology brands from its approved state purchase lists, while approving thousands more locally made products.

Chief casualty is US network equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc, which in 2012 counted 60 products on the Central Government Procurement Center’s list, but by late 2014 had none, according to a Reuters analysis of official data.

Apple Inc has also been dropped over the period, along with Intel Corp’s security software firm McAfee and network and server software firm Citrix Systems.

An official at the procurement agency said there were many reasons why local makers might be preferred, including sheer weight of numbers and the fact that domestic security technology firms offered more product guarantees than overseas rivals.

From the Guardian, absence of evidence asserted:

No evidence of NSA and GCHQ Sim card hack, says allegedly compromised firm

  • Gemalto, the world’s largest Sim card manufacturer, denies claims intelligence services hacked into its servers and stole the keys to billions of mobile phones

The firm allegedly hacked by the NSA and GCHQ has stated that it cannot find any evidence that the US and UK security services breached and stole the encryption keys billions of Sim cards.

The alleged hack was revealed by documents from the NSA files provided by Edward Snowden, which detailed attacks on Gemalto – the world’s largest Sim card manufacturer – which allegedly saw them steal encryption keys that allowed them to secretly monitor voice calls and data from billions of mobile phones around the world.

But after an investigation, the Dutch security company, which supplies Sim cards to all of the major UK mobile phone networks and 450 operators globally, has said that no evidence of a theft of Sim card security details has been found.

From the Intercept, the sound of one hand clapping:

Gemalto Doesn’t Know What It Doesn’t Know

The company was eager to address the claims that its systems and encryption keys had been massively compromised. At one point in stock trading after publication of the report, Gemalto suffered a half billion dollar hit to its market capitalization. The stock only partially recovered in the following days.

After the brief investigation, Gemalto now says that the NSA and GCHQ operations in 2010-2011 would not allow the intelligence agencies to spy on 3G and 4G networks, and that theft would have been rare after 2010, when it deployed a “secure transfer system.” The company also said the spy agency hacks only affected “the outer parts of our networks — our office networks — which are in contact with the outside world.”

Security experts and cryptography specialists immediately challenged Gemalto’s claim to have done a “thorough” investigation into the state-sponsored attack in just six days, saying the company was greatly underestimating the abilities of the NSA and GCHQ to penetrate its systems without leaving detectable traces.

“Gemalto learned about this five-year-old hack by GCHQ when the The Intercept called them up for a comment last week. That doesn’t sound like they’re on top of things, and it certainly suggests they don’t have the in-house capability to detect and thwart sophisticated state-sponsored attacks,” says Christopher Soghoian, the chief technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union. He adds that Gemalto remains “a high-profile target for intelligence agencies.”

Target tally totaled, via SecurityWeek:

Target Data Breach Tally Hits $162 Million in Net Costs

The cost of the Target breach keeps on climbing.

According to the firm’s latest earnings report, the net expense of the breach stands at $162 million.

The actual total has now reached a gross expense of $191 million. That amount was partially offset by a $46 million insurance receivable in 2014. In 2013, the company’s gross expense related to the breach was $61 million, which was offset by a $44 million insurance payment. That brings the net expense of the breach for the retail giant to $162 million.

According to the Ponemon Institute’s ninth annual global study on data breach costs released last year, the average total price tag of a breach was $145 for every record stolen or lost – an increase of nine percent compared to the cost noted in the previous report. The study focused on 314 companies across 10 countries. All the companies that participated in the 2014 study had experienced a data breach ranging from a low of 2,400 compromised records to a high of slightly more than 100,000. The most expensive data breaches occurred in the U.S. and Germany, and cost $201 and $195 per compromised record, respectively.

From Threatpost, Anthem for more bad news:

Up to 18.8 Million Non-Anthem Customers Affected in Breach

In addition to roughly 80 million Anthem customers, nearly 20 million more individuals who aren’t customers of the health insurer could ultimately wind up implicated in this month’s massive data breach.

The company disclosed yesterday that between 8.8 million and 18.8 million Blue Cross Blue Shield customers’ records may have been storoed in the database that was hacked. Anthem is part of a network of independent BCBS plans, and the latest batch of affected customers may have used their BCBS insurance in states such as Texas or Florida where the company runs partnerships.

It’s the first time the company has disclosed information regarding the breach as it relates to data other than its own since the compromise was announced on Feb. 5.

From SecurityWeek, ad-hacking your wireless:

Researchers Spot Aggressive Android Adware on Google Play

Highly aggressive adware has been found hidden in ten Android applications hosted on Google Play, Bitdefender reported.

Adware is highly common on both desktop PCs and smartphones. However, the threats discovered by the security firm stand out not just because they are aggressive, but also because they employ clever tricks to stay hidden on the infected device.

Once installed, the apps redirect victims to a webpage, hosted at mobilsitelerim.com/anasayfa, which serves ads designed to trick users into installing other pieces of adware disguised as system or performace updates, or get them to sign up for premium services. The displayed ads differ depending on the user’s location, Bitdefender said.

“Although they’re not malicious per se, by broadcasting sensitive user information to third parties, they resemble aggressive adware found on desktop PCs. The resulting barrage of pop-ups, redirects and ads irks users and seriously damages both the user experience and the performance of Android devices,” Bitdefender security researcher Liviu Arsene explained in a blog post.

And from Threatpost, an enduring threat:

Ransomware Looming As Major Long-Term Threat

On May 30, 2014, law enforcement officials from the FBI and Europol seized a series of servers that were being used to help operate the GameOver Zeus botnet, an especially pernicious and troublesome piece of malware. The authorities also began an international manhunt for a Russian man they said was connected to operating the botnet, but the most significant piece of the operation was a side effect: the disruption of the infrastructure used to distribute the CryptoLocker ransomware.

The takedown was the result of months of investigation by law enforcement and security researchers, many of whom were collaborating as part of a working group that had come together to dig into CryptoLocker’s inner workings. The cadre of researchers included reverse engineers, mathematicians and botnet experts, and the group quickly discovered that the gang behind CryptoLocker, which emerged in 2013, knew what it was doing. Not only was the crew piggybacking on the GameOver Zeus infections to reach a broader audience, but it also was using a sophisticated domain-generation algorithm to generate fresh command-and-control domains quickly. That kept the CryptoLocker crew ahead of researchers and law enforcement for a time.

“The interesting thing is all the opsec involved in this. The architecture thought out with this was really clear. The people working on this really sat down and architected and then engineered something,” said Lance James of Deloitte & Touche, who spoke about the takedown effort at Black Hat last year. “It took a lot more people on our side to hit it harder.”

After the jump, Austria enacts an Islamic crackdown, on to the ISIS front, first with a spooky assessment, crowdsourcing an anti-ISIS army, and a ‘Jihadi John’ profile from Old Blighty its spooky origins, Yemeni Arab Spring activists see their hopes dim, a Boko Haram bombing body count, bomb-sniffing pachyderms deployed, on to Pakistan and an American blogger slain, thence to North Korea and Japanese sanctions threatened, Washington deploys its top airborne spycraft to the South China Sea, Japan’s already considerable military power, and Shinzo Abe engineers more overseas naval deployments, and eases more legal restrictions. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Protests, violence, politics, laws


We begin with an image, via Sailor Lunita, of family members with images of their missing students in a protest in Mexico today, held as part of the global day of action on behalf of the missing students of the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa who were disappeared on 26 September 2016:

BLOG Ayotz

Next, from teleSUR, marking an anniversary:

Mexico Protests Mark 5 Months Since 43 Students Disappeared

  • The forced disappearances have brought to light the deeply entrenched state violence and corruption in Mexico.

Families and supporters of the 43 forcibly disappeared Ayotzinapa students continue their fight to find their loved ones in demonstrations Thursday, marking exactly five months since they went missing.

The families called for a national day of action on Feb. 26 to pressure the Mexican government to be more transparent about the details of the case and to put more resources into locating the students. Mass protests are scheduled in Mexico City to begin at 4 p.m. local time.

Tensions have grown in the country since the students went missing, which has become the highest profile example of the entrenched corruption within Mexico’s government.

So far, Iguala’s mayor and his wife, which is where the students went missing, have both been arrested for their involvement in the disappearances and allegedly ordering local police to arrest them and hand them over to a local drug gang called United Warriors (Guerreros Unidos).

From AJ+, anger over a protester’s death:

Anger Continues In Guerrero Mexico After Protester Is Killed

A 65-year-old man has died after sustaining injuries at a protest in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, demanding better pay. The region has seen near-daily protests ever since 43 students disappeared five months ago.

From teleSUR, more revelations:

Mexico: Photos Shed Light on Military Role in Ayotzinapa 43

  • New photographs suggest the military knew more about the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa 43 than previously thought.

Mexico’s military released previously unseen photographs of students who survived a massacre in Guerrero state Wednesday that have sparked renewed controversy over the case of the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa teachers training college students.

Published in Mexican newspaper Milenio, the photos allegedly show 25 students that survived the initial shoot out in Iguala, Guerrero on Sept. 26, 2014.

From teleSUR again, more protests planned:

Mexican Teachers Union Preparing for Civil Disobedience

  • Angered at the violent repression unleashed by police against teachers, unions in Mexico have put their members on maximum alert.

A teachers’ union in Mexico announced Thursday that it will escalate its tactics, declaring itself on maximum alert and preparing its members for civil disobedience and rebellion.

The National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) issued its warning in response to the violent repression against teachers by federal police in Acapulco earlier this week.

Mexico News Daily covers a law we suspect, given the vote, to be yet another instance of impotent window dressing:

Anti-corruption plan approved by deputies

  • Legislation to establish the national system will now move on to the Senate

A National Anti-Corruption System was approved today by the Chamber of Deputies after ironing out a number of differences that have stalled its passage.

It was approved by 409 of the 500 deputies.

The legislation establishes a system to coordinate efforts to implement policies to prevent and deter corruption and to promote integrity, and strengthen the Public Administration Secretary to allow it to audit, investigate and apply sanctions against crimes of corruption.

Finally, another image, this time from Insurrection News, with and image from today’s protest in Mexico City, bearing a message we suspect is true, tranlsating as “Justice will come when the blood of the bourgeois begins to run.”:

BLOG Ayotz 2

InSecurityWatch: Leaks, spooks, hacks war, more


We begin with the ACLU Blog of Rights, shining the light:

This Secret Domestic Surveillance Program Is About to Get Pulled Out of the Shadows

The federal government will have to produce information on a vast and secret domestic surveillance program and defend the program’s legality in open court. That’s the result of a decision issued Friday by the federal judge presiding over our lawsuit challenging the Suspicious Activity Reporting program, part of an ever-expanding domestic surveillance network established after 9/11.

The program calls on local police, security guards, and the public — our neighbors — to report activity they deem suspicious or potentially related to terrorism. These suspicious activity reports (“SARs” for short) are funneled to regional fusion centers and on to the FBI, which conducts follow-up investigations and stockpiles the reports in a giant database that it shares with law enforcement agencies across the country.

The decision is significant.

Surveillance programs have largely been shielded from judicial review, as many courts have accepted the government’s position that people cannot prove they have been under surveillance, and thus lack standing to sue. In this case, we represent clients who were confronted by law enforcement or know that SARs were uploaded to a counterterrorism database based on their entirely lawful activity. The government will now have to turn over information about a program that has never been subject to public scrutiny.

The problems with the Suspicious Activity Reporting program are manifold, beginning with the fact that government doesn’t require reasonable suspicion of criminal activity — an already low threshold — for a SAR to be maintained and shared. That violates a binding federal regulation, which is part of the basis for the lawsuit.

From AJ+, our first [but not last] leak story:

Spy Cables: Inside South Africa’s Spy Agency

Program notes:

Ever wondered how Africa’s most powerful spy agency operates? The Spy Cables show us how South Africa’s State Security Agency’s plans to build a secret satellite with Russia which would enable them to spy over all of Africa — take that NSA! Also, learn how a security screw up led to the African Union Chief almost being killed in Addis Ababa.

From the Guardian, domestic snooping:

South Africa spied on own government to get facts on joint project with Russia

  • Intelligence agency used agent with links to Russian government to glean information about satellite surveillance programme, leaked cables reveal

South Africa’s intelligence service relied on a spy “with direct access to the Russian government” to find out details of its own government’s involvement in a $100m (£65m) joint satellite surveillance programme with Russia, the leaked spy cables obtained by al-Jazeera and shared with the Guardian reveal.

The satellite system, known as Project Condor, which was launched into orbit by Russia in December last year, provides surveillance coverage of the entire African continent. The project has been shrouded in secrecy, with Russia originally refusing to reveal who its client was.

Those in the dark appear to have included South Africa’s intelligence agency. But a South African agent with access to Russian military intelligence was able to help, according to a leaked espionage report marked “top secret” and dated 28 August 2012.

From the Guardian, a Russian Al Queda warning:

Al-Qaida planning kamikaze attacks on ships in Mediterranean, cables claim

  • Leaked document from Russian intelligence agency claims north African branch wants to extend its range to Europe with marine unit

Al-Qaida has developed a seaborne unit to attack targets around the Mediterranean, according to a confidential report from Russian intelligence, one of a cache of secret documents from spy agencies around the world tracking jihadi terrorist groups.

According to the Russians, North African al-Qaida (Aqim – al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb) has established a 60-strong team of suicide bombers to plant mines under the hull of ships and to use small, fast craft for kamikaze attacks.

The claim, in a leaked document from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), is one of a string of reports on the rise of Islamic State (Isis) and al-Qaida.

They include a two-month briefing by Omani intelligence estimating that Isis now has up to 35,000 fighters and an income of $1.5m (£1m) a day, reports from United Arab Emirates agents about the Isis leadership structure and a dossier from Jordanian intelligence on confessions extracted from terrorist suspects.

The Guardian has another leak story:

Spies, lies and fantasies: leaked cables lift lid on work of intelligence agencies

  • In the world of espionage, reports peppered with half-truths, rumours and the seemingly outlandish are par for the course, documents show

Intelligence agencies thrive on impressing politicians and the public with their mystique, exploits real or imagined, and possession of information that supposedly gives them a unique understanding of the world.

The reality is often bureaucratic and banal, the information unreliable, uncheckable or available in open sources and their judgments frequently politicised and self-serving. All of those elements can be found throughout the spy cables leaked to al-Jazeera and the Guardian.

Take the story about an Israeli plot to use water-gobbling plants to sabotage Egypt. The alleged scheme is mentioned in a 56-page report compiled by South African intelligence on the Israeli spy agency Mossad.

SecurityWeek covers snoopery north of the border:

Canada Monitoring Citizens’ Emails to Government: Media

Ottawa – Canada’s electronic eavesdropping agency has amassed a huge trove of emails sent to the government, as part of its cybersecurity mandate, according to a leaked secret document Wednesday.

And their retention by the Canadian Security Establishment (CSE) for days, months or years in some cases, is worrying privacy advocates.

Public broadcaster CBC, citing a 2010 document obtained from former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, said the CSE closely monitors visits to government websites and scans about 400,000 emails per day for suspicious content, links or attachments.

The electronic communications include Canadians’ electronic tax returns, emails to members of Parliament and passport applications, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation said.

From RT, dis-Dane-ful:

Denmark’s plan to give spooks greater-than-NSA spy powers sparks outcry

Copenhagen is considering empowering its intelligence services to conduct covert electronic surveillance on citizens abroad without the need for a court order. Outraged privacy advocates have pledged to fight the initiative.

Despite the global outpouring of criticism of the National Security Agency and its affiliated partners in the so-called Five Eyes spying ring, which was exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013, it seems the Danish government is only too willing to take spying to an unprecedented new level.

As part of a package of new anti-terror initiatives, Copenhagen is now prepared to empower the Danish Defense Intelligence Service (Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste, or FE) with greater snooping authority than the NSA.

However, plans to give Danish intelligence what appears to be unlimited access to the electronic communications of Danish citizens abroad is being criticized by privacy watchdog groups, including the think-tank Justitia and Associate Professor Anders Henriksen, from the University of Copenhagen.

From TheLoca.de, jailed for a speech “crime”:

Ex-lawyer jailed again for Holocaust denial

A Munich court on Wednesday sentenced a previously convicted Holocaust denier and ex-lawyer to a second jail term, after she publicly declared that there had been no organized genocide of the Jews under Adolf Hitler.

Sylvia Stolz, 51, was sentenced to 20 months’ imprisonment for telling an anti-censorship congress in Switzerland in 2012 that the “so-called Holocaust” under Adolf Hitler’s National-Socialist (Nazi) Party had never been legally defined or proven, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.

In an almost 100-minute address, video footage of which was used as evidence in her trial, Stolz stated before a crowd of 2,000 people there was no hard evidence of either Nazi plans or orders “to partially or wholly destroy Jewry”.
Therefore it was in itself a breach of the law that people like her who defended others put on trial for Holocaust denial should be prosecuted, she argued.

Another U.S. ISIS-related bust, via the Guardian:

Three New York men charged over alleged attempt to join Isis in Syria

  • One arrested at airport trying to board flight to Istanbul, another purchased ticket for Turkey on 29 March and third allegedly operated ‘domestic support network’

Three men from Brooklyn, New York are facing terrorism charges for allegedly attempting to join Islamic State (Isis) militants in Syria, federal authorities said on Wednesday.

Two of the men, Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, 24, and Abror Habibov, 30, are Uzbekistani citizens; the other is a 19-year-old Kazakhstani citizen, Akhror Saidakhmetov. All three were charged with conspiracy to provide material support to Isis.

Their indictment was announced by the the FBI, the New York police department and US attorney Loretta Lynch, who is in the process of being confirmed by the Senate as US attorney general.

From the Guardian, a call for justice in the Windy City:

Chicago ‘black site’: former US justice officials call for Homan Square inquiry

  • Two ex-senior Justice Department officials say allegations about police operation are ‘very disturbing’ and raise serious questions about constitutional violations

Two former senior Justice Department officials are calling on their colleagues to investigate a secretive warehouse used for interrogations by Chicago police and likened to a CIA “black site” facility.

Sam Bagenstos, who during Barack Obama’s first term was the Justice Department’s No 2 civil rights official, said that the Guardian’s exposé of the Homan Square police warehouse raised concerns about “a possible pattern or practice of violations of the fourth and fifth amendments” that warranted an inquiry.

William Yeomans, who worked in the civil rights division from 1981 to 2005, and served as its acting attorney, said the allegations about off-the-books interrogations and barred access to legal counsel reported by the Guardian merited a preliminary investigation to confirm them, a first step toward a full civil rights investigation.

From the Guardian, intimidating cops under the gun in Old Blighty:

British police investigated over attempts to recruit activists as spies

  • Two Cambridgeshire officers face misconduct allegations after approaches by covert unit that campaigners said left them stressed and paranoid, with some ending their political activities

It is examining allegations that coercive and at times repeated approaches by police caused the activists to give up their political campaigning, or left them stressed and paranoid.

One campaigner wore a secret camera to capture police attempting to persuade him to spy on Cambridge University students, environmentalists, campaigners against government cuts and anti-racist activists. The footage was broadcast by the Guardian in 2013.

Another, a 23-year-old single mother, has alleged that police threatened to prosecute her if she disclosed to anyone, including her mother, the attempt to recruit her as an informer.

Cambridgeshire police are carrying out the internal investigation into what they have described as serious allegations surrounding its attempted recruitment of informers.

From the New York Times, more arrests for presidential wiretapping in Turkey:

Turkish Police Arrested and Accused of Wiretapping President Erdogan

Police officers in Turkey arrested dozens of fellow officers on Wednesday accused of wiretapping President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and top government officials.

The chief prosecutor’s office in Ankara, the capital, issued 54 arrest warrants, the Anadolu News Agency reported, and at least 40 people were arrested in a wave of early morning raids that were carried out simultaneously in 19 cities.

The arrests are the latest salvo in a feud between Mr. Erdogan and his former ally, Fethullah Gulen, an influential Muslim cleric who lives in exile in Pennsylvania and has been accused of participating in a plot to overthrow the government.

After the jump, Al Jazeera reporters busted for droning Paris, a drone ban in Morocco, Charlie Hebdo back on schedule, a big reward for a hacking bank robber, Instagram leaks celebrity locations, an Aussie Anonymous hacker charged with attacking spooky sites, major civil rights failures by the major powers, on to the ISIS front and historical nihilism as libraries are burned and artifacts sold, and ISIS sounds up Syrian Christians, Lakes Chad fish traders bombed by Niger to defund Boko Haram, as Boko Haram targets Nigerian elections, a 100-bomb North Korean nuclear arsenal envisioned, China demotes a spy chief, corrupt officials planned to assassinate China’s leaders, China extends its bombers’ reach, and Okinawan opposition to an American base increases. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, toxins, climate, nukes


From the UN News Center, a call for vaccination action in Europe:

UN health agency ‘taken aback’ as measles resurfaces in Europe, calls for widespread vaccination

European policymakers, healthcare workers, and parents must step up their efforts to vaccinate children against measles amid an ongoing outbreak across the continent, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said today, warning that a recent resurgence in the disease threatened Europe’s goal of eliminating measles by the end of 2015.

According to UN data, over 22,000 cases of the virus have surfaced across Europe during the 2014 to 2015 biennium with the outbreak spreading to seven countries. This comes despite a 50 per cent drop from 2013 to 2014.

“When we consider that over the past two decades we have seen a reduction of 96 per cent in the number of measles cases in the European region, and that we are just a step away from eliminating the disease, we are taken aback by these numbers,” Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, affirmed in a press release.

“We must collectively respond, without further delay, to close immunization gaps. It is unacceptable that, after the last 50 years’ efforts to make safe and effective vaccines available, measles continues to cost lives, money and time,” she added.

Vastly unvaccinated in Africa, via the Liberian Observer:

70% Un-vaccinated children at Risk for Measles

An official of the Ministry of Health is encouraging all parents and guardians to take their children for the third phase of the nationwide Measles Immunization Program, to be launched from April 10-16 in all 15 counties.

“The Measles Immunization Program was delayed due to the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus that led to thousands of deaths. Parents must now be very serious in ensuring that their children take the measles immunization to avoid risks,” Mr. Clarke stressed.

Mr. Adolphus Clarke is the Deputy Program Manager for the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI). He noted that the exercise is geared towards protecting children against future outbreaks of the disease.

From SciDev.Net, a potentially much-needed new drug undergoes testing:

Tuberculosis drug candidate begins clinical safety trial

The first clinical safety trial on a tuberculosis drug since 2009 is now under way.

The phase I trial of TBA-354 will involve 50 volunteers from the United States, according to the TB Alliance, the not-for-profit product development partnership sponsoring the trial.

In preclinical studies, the compound showed more potent antibacterial and sterilising activity than pretomanid (PA-824), a related substance now in phase II and phase III clinical trials to assess its safety and efficacy, the alliance announced last week.

It said that the six years that passed between TBA-354 and the last drug to undergo Phase 1 trials shows that the pipeline of drugs to combat tuberculosis is disconcertingly empty.

From the University of California, cat-derived ailment complications:

Increased risk from toxoplasmosis

A third of all humans carry the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis — a disease commonly associated with cats, HIV-AIDS patients and pregnant women — with scientists long believing healthy immune systems control the parasite and prevent the disease from emerging. But new research by professor Kirk Jensen of the University of California, Merced, shows the parasite might be more dangerous than previously believed.

In a paper published Feb. 24 in mBio — an open-access journal presented by the American Society for Microbiology — Jensen shows that secondary exposure to most parasite strains found in South America can lead to uncontrolled infection and disease, which in humans can cause severe congenital infection or lesions in the retina and brain.

“There are a few strains of the Toxoplasma parasite present in North America and Europe, but in South America, there are many strains,” said Jensen, a professor in the university’s School of Natural Sciences. “We found these South American strains are really good at evading the immune system.”

After an initial infection, the immune system is typically primed and ready to protect against repeat offenses by the same parasite or disease. This is how vaccines protect humans from infectious diseases like measles. However, Jensen said, “There are known cases where pregnant women who were seropositive — and therefore should have been protected from toxoplasmosis — developed congenital infection following travel to South America.”

From Outbreak News Today, another outbreak:

Uganda: Hundreds sickened by typhoid; adulterated beverages and foods suspected

As of yesterday, more than 500 people were confirmed admitted to designated treatment centres after being diagnosed with typhoid, the Health Ministry reports.

The source of the bacterial outbreak is suspected to be due to adulterated beverages and foods prompting health officials to warn the public of the capital of Kampala.

Preliminary laboratory investigations of sampled beverages and foods obtained from  the Kampala central business district contained the Salmonella bacterium.

Dr Monica Musenero, the assistant commissioner in-charge of epidemiology and epidemic diseases at the Health ministry said, “We took samples of water, juices, and foods from areas where the outbreak hit hard. We suspect the outbreak is caused by something in the category of juice or water that is widely consumed by people,” said Dr Musenero. “The 1st laboratory samples tests and epidemiological links have hinted on water, but it’s still too early to mention which type of water,” she said.

From SciDev.Net, a climate change to spreading diseases:

Warming climate accelerates spread of vector-borne diseases

Health agencies need to take into account disease evolution in warming environments as climate change could alter the development of vector-borne diseases, two studies have found.

The “vector” in a vector-borne disease refers to an infected human or animal that transmits pathogens or parasites and causes disease in human populations.

Climate change can impact “all relevant aspects” of vector-borne diseases, including the locations of host populations and the availability of vectors, says Nina Fefferman, a biologist and part of a team from Rutgers University in the United States behind one of the studies.

The research focused on Aedes japonicus japonicus, a species of disease-carrying mosquito native to Japan and Korea, whose range has expanded since the 1990s to parts of Europe and the Hawaiian archipelago. The study found that populations of the mosquito on the island of Hawaii and in the American state of Virginia were capable of “rapid evolutionary change” and adaptation to their new environment.

As a result, vector-borne disease could become a greater threat to human health as the global climate warms, the study found. Its authors say that climate change studies need to play a greater role in national and global efforts to eradicate these diseases.

From BBC News, a death toll reevaluation:

Tobacco ‘kills two in three smokers’

The death risk from smoking may be much higher than previously thought – tobacco kills up to two in every three smokers not one in every two, data from a large study suggests.

The study tracked more than 200,000 Australian smokers and non-smokers above the age of 45 over six years. Mortality risk went up with cigarette use, BMC Medicine reports.

Smoking 10 cigarettes a day doubled the risk, while 20-a-day smokers were four to five times more likely to die.

From Environmental Health News, polluting the poor:

EPA to investigate North Carolina for civil rights violations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has accepted a civil rights complaint filed against the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and will investigate whether lax regulation of industrial pig farms disproportionately impacts communities of color.

Last week the EPA announced it would proceed two days after Environmental Health News reported about the complaint and new research that found high levels of fecal bacteria in water near industrial pig farms in eastern North Carolina. The Charlotte Observer also wrote an editorial about the research and said the state needs to be “more vigilant” about pig waste.

The complaint was filed last September by the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help, the Waterkeeper Alliance, and is being led by Earthjustice.

FrontPageAfrica covers medical fraud in Liberia:

High Risk Zone for Fake Drugs: Pharmacy Under Scrutiny

One of Liberia’s leading pharmacies, Abeer Pharmacy has been ranked the top pharmacy that imports and sells fake drugs in the country. Mr. David Sumo, head of the Liberia Medicine and Health Products regulatory authority, explains that the pharmacy usually brings in anti-malaria pills, such as lonart, quinine and pain killers. He added that Abeer Pharmacy has repeatedly failed to abide by the standard of the regulatory agency.

“I know most of you will be surprised to hear this, the pharmacy has failed our test many times, and we’ve put this particular pharmacy in the high-risk zone,” Mr. Sumo said. He advised people dealing in fake drugs to desist and called on everyone, especially those who have mini-drug stores to look at the expiration date properly before purchasing the drugs.

LMHRA was set up in 2001 to register all medicines that are locally-manufactured, imported, distributed, sold and used in Liberia. It also has a mandate to prepare and keep the registry of medicines used in both the private and public sector in Liberia and to remove from the registry and prohibit the manufacturing, importation, distribution sale and use of any medicine which quality, safety or efficacy is brought to question. The body also has the power to set up a quality control laboratory to undertake laboratory analysis of all medicines imported and used in Liberia.

From United Press International, another kind of medical fraud:

Iowa scientist pleads guilty to fraud in AIDS vaccine study

A former Iowa State University scientist on Wednesday pleaded guilty to fraud for faking the results on an AIDS vaccine study funded by the federal government.

Dong-Pyou Han pleaded guilty to two felony counts of making false statements. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dropped two other counts of the same charge.

Dong-Pyou, 57, admitted he faked data in the study that cost the government between $7 million and $20 million. He said he inserted human antibodies into the blood of rabbits to make it appear as though an experimental vaccine he was studying helped protect the animals against HIV.

After the jump, a Big Agra pesticide lie, Big Agra pesticides pose global surface water dangers, plastics pose a major danger to imperiled coral reefs, clear evidence of manmade carbon atmospheric heat-trapping, a village to be abandoned because of climate change, Occupy targets Rio’s Olympic golf course in an environmental reserve, a massive fish die-off in Rio’s Olympic waters, massive pollution in a Mexican river, how liberal California unions bankroll fracking, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, starting with a demand for a probe of a radioactive leak coverup, fishers outraged over the leak coverup, Radioactive water drainage changes contemplated, and, finally, evacuees fail to heed claims the hot zone is safe. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Pope, protests, violence, arrests


We begin with an ongoing search, via AJ+:

Searching Every Inch Of Mexico For The Missing

Program notes:

In Mexico, people aren’t searching just for the kidnapped Ayotzinapa students. Mario Vergara shows AJ+ how the Committee of Families of Victims of Enforced Disappearances of Iguala is scouring the region for family and friends – like his brother Tomas, who was last seen in 2012. The UN estimates that more than 23,000 have gone missing in recent years. From video journalists Alba Tobella, Sara Pedrola and Pepe Jiménez in Mexico.

Borderland Beat covers a notable arrest:

Iguala mayor finally charged in the disappearance of normalistas; if justice was served in another case the students would be alive

  • Infamous former Iguala mayor, José Luis Abarca, has finally been indicted for crimes connected to the case of the missing normalistas.

Mayor Abarca is charged in the murder of activist Arturo Hernández -witnesses testify Abarca shot and killed  Hernández, and now is charged  in the disappearance of 43 normalistas

BB reporter Chivis has long contended that the case of the normalistas against the former Iguala mayor and his wife was worrisome, lacking strong evidence.  She hoped that the case of Mayor Abarca killing a social activist,  Arturo Hernández Cardona, in front of witnesses, would go forth, as it was the easier of the two cases to successfully prosecute.

And that perhaps the winning of a conviction in the Hernández case would lend credence to the normalistas case, and fearful witnesses would then come forward.

From the Associated Press, a violent protest:

In Mexico, protesters drive bus into police lines

Protesters drove a bus into police lines in the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco, injuring at least seven officers, according to Mexican federal officials.

The Interior Department said that five protesters also were injured in the confrontation Tuesday evening, which came after thousands of protesters had tried to block entrances to the Acapulco airport, prompting police to ferry tourists to the terminal in trucks.

When police tried to open the entrance roads, a protester drove a bus into them. The department said some protesters had been detained, but did not give a precise number.

The estimated 4,500 demonstrators belong to two radical unions protesting the Sept. 26 disappearance of 43 students. Those students were detained by police in the city of Iguala in the same state. The city police turned them over to a drug gang, which apparently killed them and incinerated their remains.

Followed by lethal violence, via teleSUR:

Mexican Teacher Killed After Police Attack Protestors

  • The victim was an active participant in protests in the Mexican state of Guerrero and was known for leading chants during marches.

On Wednesday, an official with the government of the Mexican state of Guerrero confirmed the death of a teacher after police violently attacked a protest by teachers.

The victim has been identified as Claudio Castillo Peña, a retired 65 year-old teacher. According to the secretary of civil protection, Castillo died as a result of head trauma.

“Comrade Caludio Castillo Peña died as a result of blows at the hands of the Federal Police, a comrade who had poliomyelitis, who as a result could not defend himself nor run due to his physical condition and his age,” said a statement posted online by the teachers’ union.

A later development, via Fox News Latino:

Most jailed teachers freed after deadly clash with police in Mexico port city

Authorities have released the vast majority of the more than 100 teachers arrested after clashes with police in the southern Mexican port city of Acapulco, an incident that left one protester dead, union officials said Wednesday.

A member of the State Coordinator of Education Workers of Guerrero, or CETEG, told Radio Formula that 65-year-old retired teacher Claudio Castillo Peña died as a result of Tuesday night’s crackdown on the protest.

“He lost his life at 4:00 a.m. (Wednesday) due to the blows he received,” said Manuel Salvador Rosas, who added that Castillo Peña was one of the detained protesters who were taken to hospitals in Acapulco, a Pacific port located in the southern state of Guerrero.

From VICE News, analysis:

Fatal Protest in Acapulco Shows Tensions Remain High in Troubled Guerrero, Mexico

The clashes showed that tensions have far from subsided in the state since a group of 43 rural teaching students were abducted by police and turned over to a drug gang in the city of Iguala last September.

Tuesday’s demonstration was called because teachers said they wanted federal officials to guarantee that wages would not be delivered late, as occurred in January, according to La Jornada Guerrero.

Members of CETEG have clashed with authorities at demonstrations across the state in recent months. In December, the teachers union set fire to several police vehicles in the state capital of Chilpancingo, leaving more that half a dozen people injured, including one police officer.

And from neomexicanismos, an image:

BLOG Ayotz gun

The Los Angeles Times covers a papal apology:

Vatican apologizes to Mexico over pope’s comment on drug trafficking

The Vatican is issuing a mea culpa in a spat with Mexico over critical remarks by Pope Francis on the “terror” engulfing the Latin American country.

In a private email to a friend, Francis had warned against the “Mexicanization” of their native Argentina, a reference to the dominance of drug-trafficking and violence.

The friend, Gustavo Vera, an activist in Buenos Aires, published the pope’s email on his foundation’s website, touching off anger within the Mexican government. The Foreign Ministry sent a letter of protest to the Vatican, asking for an explanation and expressing “sadness and concern,” Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Meade said.

“The pope did not mean to hurt the feelings of the Mexican people, nor did he intend to minimize the efforts of the Mexican government” in the fight against drug trafficking, papal spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi told reporters in Rome.

Fox News Latino covers the acceptance:

Mexico: Any differences with pope now “completely settled”

Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Jose Antonio Meade said Wednesday that any differences with the Vatican were now “completely settled,” after Pope Francis had warned in a private letter of the risk of the “Mexicanization” of Argentina, and he added that the invitation for the pontiff to visit Mexico “remains open.”

In a meeting with reporters, Mexico’s top diplomat said that after the pope made reference to the increase in drug trafficking in his native Argentina, any “difference that there could have been” with the Holy See had been “completely settled” through dialogue.

“Mexico’s relationship with the Vatican … (and) with the pope is a relationship of great importance, … fond and close, as the Vatican said” on Tuesday, he noted.

From teleSUR English, organizing:

Mexican youth mobilize in support of Ayotzinapa

Program notes:

The Inter-University Assembly, which includes more than 90 institutions of higher learning throughout Mexico, has been a very useful tool for students to express their outrage over cases such as the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students. The assembly has been an organizing center for mobilizing youth and is currently a key player in the protests demanding the return of the Ayotzinapa students.

InSecurityWatch: Leaks, hacks, crime, spooks


We begin with a twofer from Reuters:

South African spooks red-faced from latest spy data leak

A mass leak of South African espionage secrets will cause many foreign agencies to think twice before sharing information with Pretoria, hampering its efforts to walk a delicate diplomatic tightrope between East and West, experts said on Tuesday.

Britain’s Guardian paper and Gulf TV channel Al Jazeera said they had obtained hundreds of dossiers, files and cables from the world’s top spy agencies to and from South Africa, dubbing it “one of the biggest spy leaks in recent times”.

“A leak like this affects the credibility of the agencies and how they cooperate,” said Mike Hough, a retired professor from Pretoria University’s Institute for Strategic Studies. “It could lead to the termination of certain projects.”

From Al Jazeera, something many journalists have assumed for a half century:

Spy cables: Israel airline used as intelligence ‘front’

  • Leaked documents reveal South Africa challenged Mossad over alleged clandestine security operations under El Al cover.

Secret cables obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit confirm that South Africa’s spy agencies concurred with allegations that Israel uses its flag-carrier, El Al Airlines, as cover for its intelligence agencies.

Leaked documents from South Africa’s intelligence agency support claims made on a 2009 South African television programme by a former El Al employee-turned-whistleblower.

Despite official Israeli denials, the whistleblower’s claims prompted an emergency meeting between senior officials from both sides, as well as a separate note of enquiry from Canada’s intelligence agency.

Another leak, via the Guardian:

Spy cables: Greenpeace head targeted by intelligence agencies before Seoul G20

  • South Korea’s intelligence service requested information about South African activist Kumi Naidoo in runup to leaders’ meeting in 2010

The head of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo, was targeted by intelligence agencies as a potential security threat ahead of a major international summit, leaked documents reveal.

Information about Naidoo, a prominent human rights activist from South Africa, was requested from South African intelligence by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) in the runup to a meeting of G20 leaders in Seoul in 2010.

He was linked in the intelligence request with two other South Africans who had been swept up in an anti-terrorist raid in Pakistan but later released and returned to South Africa.

And from Al Jazeera, faults revealed:

Spy Cables expose S Africa’s alarming security failings

  • Secret documents reveal an array of security lapses and flaws within South African government and intelligence.

South African government and security agencies have left secrets exposed at every level and foreign spies have access to all areas of government, according to Intelligence documents obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit.

A secret security assessment by South African intelligence says foreign espionage is booming, with more than 140 foreign spies estimated to be operating in South Africa – and that the South African state is doing a poor job of protecting itself.

They are thought to have gained access to government departments, ministries and “even the presidency” and are suspected of breaking into nuclear power plants, stealing military blueprints and hacking computers.

The report slams poor security awareness among civil servants, who regularly failing to observe the most basic procedures, leaving classified information unlocked and failing to adequately vet new recruits.

From the Los Angeles Times, a major security fail:

State Department official arrested, suspected of soliciting sex from minor

A senior State Department official who oversees counter-terrorism programs has been arrested on suspicion of of soliciting sex from a minor, authorities in Virginia said late Tuesday.

Daniel Rosen was arrested at his home in Washington, D.C., just after noon and is being held in the city’s jail on suspicion of use of a communications device to solicit a juvenile, said Lucy Caldwell, spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Police Department.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Rosen, 44, is the director of counter-terrorism programs and policy for the State Department. Police said they have notified the State Department of his arrest.

A kindred failure across the pond, via the London Telegraph:

Sir Malcolm Rifkind to step down as MP and resigns from security committee

  • Tory MP Sir Malcolm Rifkind is to step down as an MP at the General Election and has also resigned as chairman of the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the Conservative MP embroiled in cash for access allegations, is to step down as an MP at the General Election and has also resigned as chairman of the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee.

Sir Malcolm was suspended by the Conservative Party pending an internal investigation on Monday after telling undercover reporters from The Telegraph and Channel 4’s Dispatches that he would use his position as a politician to help a fictitious Chinese company.

His decision to stand down as the Conservative MP for Kensington means there will be a contest for one of the Conservative Party’s safest seats.

The Guardian exposes a case of Chicago P.D. reality rising to film noir levels:

Chicago’s Homan Square ‘black site’: surveillance, military-style vehicles and a metal cage

  • This building looks innocent enough. But those familiar with the secretive interrogation and holding facility describe a shocking display of police abuses

From the outside, you have to concentrate to realize Homan Square is a police facility. At first glance, it’s an unremarkable red brick warehouse, one of a handful on Chicago’s west side that used to belong to Sears Roebuck, complete with roll-up aluminum doors. No prominent signage tells outsiders it belongs to the police. The complex sits amidst fixtures in a struggling neighborhood: a medical clinic, takeout places, a movie theater, a charter school.

But a look at what surrounds the warehouse gives clearer indications of Homan Square’s police business. The yellow barrier for cars at the street checkpoint. The vans in the motor pool marked Chicago Police Forensic Services parked next to the unmarked cars. The black-and-white checkered door to match the signature pattern on Chicago police hats. The floodlights on the roof. The guy with a gun walking outside and smoking a cigarette in a black windbreaker with POLICE written on the back.

Over the years Homan Square has formed a backdrop for high-profile drug seizures, where Chicago officials or cops display cocaine, marijuana and guns taken off the street. The rock group Portugal.The Man reportedly sent Homan Square detectives three dozen doughnuts – plus croissants and danishes – in gratitude for helping the band recover stolen music equipment.

But its interrogations function is less well known, even to close observers of Chicago police. Anthony Hill, an attorney, said he once made it into Homan Square, to the surprise of police, and said he saw “four, five cells,” describing it as a “bare-bones police station.

“When I got in, they were so shocked I was there they didn’t know what to do with me,” he said.

The Hill takes a profitable spin through the revolving spooky door:

NSA staffers rake in Silicon Valley cash

Former employees of the National Security Agency are becoming a hot commodity in Silicon Valley amid the tech industry’s battle against government surveillance.

Investors looking to ride the boom in cybersecurity are dangling big paydays in front of former NSA staffers, seeking to secure access to the insider knowledge they gained while working for the world’s most elite surveillance agency.
With companies desperate to protect their networks against hackers, many tech executives say the best way to develop security products is to enlist the talents of people who have years of experience cracking through them.

“The stories he could tell,” venture capitalist Ray Rothrock recalled about his meetings with a former NSA employee who founded the start-up Area 1 Security. “They come with a perspective that nobody in Silicon Valley has.”

From the Verge, from their resumes:

The NSA’s SIM heist could have given it the power to plant spyware on any phone

Last week, The Intercept published shocking new documents detailing a campaign by US and UK spies to hack into the SIM manufacturer Gemalto, stealing crucial encryption keys that protect and authenticate cellphone signals. But while it was clearly a major attack, I had a hard time seeing the operational benefits for the world’s spy agencies. SIM encryption only protects calls between your phone and the cell tower, which means any would-be surveillers would need to stay within a mile of the target. It’s also puzzling because carriers are often happy to hand over all their data with a blanket court order. Why would the GCHQ go to so much trouble for access to data they mostly already have?

But in the days since the report published, there’s been concern over an even more frightening line of attack. The stolen SIM keys don’t just give the NSA the power to listen in on calls, but potentially to plant spyware on any phone at any time. Once the stolen keys have bypassed the usual protections, the spyware would live on the SIM card itself, undetectable through conventional tools, able to pull data and install malicious software. If the NSA and GCHQ are pursuing that capability, it could be one of the biggest threats unearthed by Snowden so far.

Our earlier report focused on the Ki keys, used to encrypt traffic between the phone and the tower — but this new attack uses a different set of keys known as OTA keys, short for “over-the-air.” Each SIM card gets its own OTA key, typically used to remotely install updates. Manufacturers can send a binary text message directly to the SIM card, and as long as it’s signed with the proper OTA key, the card will install the attached software without question. If those keys were compromised, it would give an attacker carte blanche to install all manner of spyware. Researcher Claudio Guarnieri, who’s researched the Snowden documents extensively, says the OTA keys could make the Gemalto heist the most important news to come out of the documents so far. “It’s scary,” Guarnieri says. “If the NSA and GCHQ have obtained a large quantity of OTA keys, we’re facing the biggest threat to mobile security ever.”

From the Guardian, real class-y AT&T:

AT&T is putting a price on privacy. That is outrageous

  • Poor customers should not have to choose between being spied on and forking over money

Imagine if the postal service started offering discount shipping in exchange for permission to scan every letter you receive and then target you with junk mail based on the contents of your personal mail.

One of the largest telecommunications companies in America, AT&T, is doing just that for customers of its super-fast gigabit broadband service, which is rolling out in select cities. Though a few months ago, it dropped the use of an undeletable “supercookie” that tracked subscribers’ web browsing activity, AT&T reportedly plans to track and monetize its broadband customers’ internet activity – “webpages you visit, the time you spend on each, the links or ads you see and follow, and the search terms you enter” – to deliver targeted “ads online, via email or through direct mail”.

The tracking and ad targeting associated with the gigabit service cannot be avoided using browser privacy settings: as AT&T explained, the program “works independently of your browser’s privacy settings regarding cookies, do-not-track and private browsing.” In other words, AT&T is performing deep packet inspection, a controversial practice through which internet service providers, by virtue of their privileged position, monitor all the internet traffic of their subscribers and collect data on the content of those communications.

What if customers do not want to be spied on by their internet service providers? AT&T allows gigabit service subscribers to opt out – for a $29 fee per month.

After the jump, ghoulish corporate vultures follow our health concerns online, a Dutch university occupation evicted, Germans lose faith in democracy, the Anthem health data breach scope widens, widespread ongoing hack points persist in many aps, denial of service attacks target Google in Vietnam, on to the Mideast and an Assyrian Christian army mobilizing to fight ISIS, a Saudi apostasy death sentence, a Pakistani cell phone fingerprint requirement, pushing for a North Korean nuclear surrender, China raises NATO hackles with a missile sale to Turkey, Hong Kong delegates to the Beijing legislature call for a crackdown, Shinzo Abe aims for more power for military commanders, more Okinawan anger over an American military base move, and a Japanese human rights downgrade. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Protests, artists, and politicians


We begin with the protests, first from teleSUR English:

Mexicans call for another global action day in support of Ayotzinapa

Program notes:

Social organizations, relatives of the missing students and general supporters are using social media to call for a massive protest to continue demanding answers from the government about the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa. The march will take place this Thursday, five months to-the-day since the disappearance of the teaching students.

Here’s a poster for one of the events, from the Asamblea Popular de Houston:

BLOG Ayotz

Next, from teleSUR, a dubious presidential legacy in the making:

Violence on the Rise in Mexico Under Peña Nieto

  • Over 130,000 kidnapping cases took place in Mexico in 2013, while 173 have been executed in two weeks.

Violent crimes, including kidnappings and executions, have increased exponentially under President Enrique Peña Nieto according to Mexican newspaper Reforma Tuesday.

The new statistics show one kidnapping was reported every five hours in January 2015 alone. The recent spike has seen kidnappings increase 7.2 percent compared to December 2014, while over 170 executions took place in the last two weeks.

“In the first month of 2015, 163 kidnappings have been reported, which is 7.2 percent more than December 2014,” said the anti-kidnapping coordinator, Renato Sales Heredia.

From Mexico News Daily, a reasonable move:

PRD rejects candidate: her husband’s in jail

  • The ex-mayor of Lázaro Cárdenas was arrested on suspicion of criminal links

The national council of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) has the edge on its state-level officials in Michoacán when it comes to recognizing bad optics.

On Friday, the party’s state council approved the list of proportional representation candidates for the federal Chamber of Deputies. No. 2 on the list was Nalleli Pedraza Huerta, whose husband, Arquímedes Oseguera, is a former mayor of Lázaro Cárdenas.

He became a former mayor after he was jailed last April on suspicion of kidnapping and extortion and for having links to organized crime. One piece of evidence is a video showing Oseguera at the side of Servando Gómez, “La Tuta,” leader of the Caballeros Templarios cartel.

And from the Washington Post, politics by other means:

Mexican party turns to lottery to pick candidates

Mexican political parties are desperate to convince voters their candidates aren’t tied to drug gangs, violence or corruption. But one party has gone to extreme lengths to pick candidates in an open, transparent way: It held a lottery.

The National Regeneration Movement, known as Morena, had some 3,000 vetted hopefuls put their names in a drum on Sunday, and the names of more than 100 candidates for the June 7 congressional races were pulled out at random. Many have little previous experience in political office.

“We have decided to break the mold, and break with the corrupt way politics has always been done in our country,” said Morena leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. “The candidacies going to be decided by a lottery.”

Reuters covers a complaint:

Mexico complains about remarks attributed to pope over drug image

Mexico said on Monday it would send a letter to the Vatican to complain about remarks attributed to Pope Francis about the risk of Argentina suffering a criminal “Mexicanization” due to the spread of drug gangs there.

Mexico’s Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Meade said his government had expressed concern that the country was being “stigmatized” as a land of drug traffickers in an email attributed to Francis published in Argentina over the weekend.

“We had a meeting with the (papal) nuncio and we will indeed send a note, and what worries us is that the drug trafficking challenge is a shared challenge. It’s a challenge that Mexico is undertaking massive efforts on,” Meade said in Mexico City.

While Mexico News Daily looks at the other side of the rhetorical coin:

Poppy cultivation grows with demand

  • It’s a lucrative crop for rural farmers in Guerrero and other states

The only publicly available statistic that gives some indication of opium poppy production in Mexico is that which reveals how many hectares of poppies were discovered and destroyed.

And in 2014 that figure was up 46% over the previous year for a total of 21,425 hectares. In terms of worldwide cultivation, that’s 7% of the total, well behind No. 1 producer Afghanistan with 70%, but still in third place behind Myanmar with 57,800 hectares.

Colombia was at one time the biggest producer in Latin America (although it never came close to Afghanistan’s output) but that changed in 2005 when its production began to drop. A year later, the area under cultivation in Mexico began to climb, rising from 3,300 to 5,000 hectares between 2005 and 2006.

Via Borderland Beat, another awards ceremony, another opportunity to call out for justice:

BLOG Ayotz 2

And from teleSUR, the response:

Mexico Ruling Party on Defensive over Inarritu’s Oscar Comments

  • The Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI responded sharply to the critical comments made by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu at Sunday’s Oscar awards ceremony.

In response to critical comments made on Sunday night at the Oscar awards ceremony by Mexican director, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Mexico’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI published a sharp congratulations on Monday morning on its Twitter feed. Later, the country’s PRI president Enrique Pena Nieto responded to the acclaimed director’s message.

When accepting the Oscar trophy for best film for the highly acclaimed Birdman, Inarritu told the crowd, “I want to dedicate this award to my fellow Mexicans, the ones who live in Mexico … I pray that we can find and build the government that we deserve.”

The response given by the PRI party, which returned to power in 2012 with Pena Nieto after a 12 year hiatus from a 71 year long stint, was, “Rather than just deserving it, it’s a fact that we’re building a better government, Congratulations #GonzalezInarritu.”

And one more image to close, via Camilo José Villa:

BLOG Ayotz 3