Category Archives: Education

Chart of the day II: Educational [un]attainment

Education at a Glance 2015: OECD Indicators [PDF], just published by the The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development:

Percentage of 25-34 year-olds with attainment below upper secondary education (2014)

Percentage of 25-34 year-olds with attainment below upper secondary education (2014)

Militarizing academia, a list and an omission

We begin with the latest edition of Days of Revolt, the new weekly broadcast series from Chris Hedges produced by The Real News Network for  Telesur English:

Days of Revolt – Militarizing Education

Program notes:

In this episode of Days of Revolt, host Chris Hedges discusses the militarization of higher education institutions with journalist Alexa O’Brien. They uncover the trail of money and influence from the national security state to college programs. Hedges and O’Brien identify the ways in which this apparatus has long-been in effect, and what it could mean for the future.

While we generally agree with her critique of the military’s increasing grasp on the military, we find one peculiar omission from the list of the 100 most militarized universities she published in VICE News.

Not on the list is the University of California, now headed by former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

Lest we forget, it was UC Berkeley’s own Robert Oppenheimer who headed the immense World War II scientific research program responsible for developing the atomic bomb. Berkeley is still involved in running Lawrence-Livermore National Laboratory, where new nuclear weapons are developed, and appoints three members to the board of Los Alamos National Laboratory, birthplace of the atomic bomb. And it was UC Berkeley’s John Yoo who provided the guiding legal advice justifying torture in the wake of 9/11.

The University of California also provided nearly half of the scientists of the Jason group, the secret, self-selected cabal of academics who provide research and advice to the Pentagon.

Among the Jasons’ “gifts” to humankind are the border patrolling drone and border-installed remote sensing devices, developed for the Vietnam War under the rubric of the Air-Supported Anti-Infiltration Barrier [PDF].

A 2007 College Quarterly review of Ann Finkbeiner’s 2006 book The Jasons: The Secret History of Science’s Postwar Elite, noted:

She was able to contact a number of Jasons and succeeded in interviewing thirty-six (published estimates of the total roster range from forty to about one hundred). Some refused to be interviewed. Some agreed only on condition of anonymity. Her book reveals that the $850 a day now paid to Jasons, while worthwhile, seems to be among the least of the motives for joining. More important is the sense of self-importance to be had from playing the part of a confident Washington insider. More likely still are altruistic, if naïve, beliefs that the Jasons make positive contributions to society by, if nothing else, exposing strategic errors or technological flaws in government plans and, of course, also solving real scientific problems in the bargain. They certainly have the skills to do so. Nobel laureates and giants of the intellectual community including Dyson, Hans Bethe, Steven Weinberg and the legendary Murray Gell-Mann have been Jasons. Too often, however, Finkbeiner concludes that their bargain is ultimately Faustian.

Jason has applied its collective braininess to such projects as the “electronic infiltration barrier” that did not, as it happens, protect South Vietnam from North Vietnam’s flow of troops (they tunnelled underground). Jason also worked out puzzles in adaptive optics, allowing telescopes to correct for atmospheric interference – information kept under wraps for a decade until the military found a use for it in Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”). Today, they may be providing advice on the occupation of Iraq; but, we won’t get the details on that soon, if ever.

The Jasons have also served as a model for other nations, as noted in a 10 November 2009 report in Nature, the world’s leading scientific journal:

The British government has recruited a group of academics to tackle tricky scientific problems related to defence, Nature has learned.

The programme is similar to a group known as the JASONs, which the US government has consulted on technical issues since the 1960s. “You hear a lot about the JASONs and how much credibility they have in the United States,” says Mark Welland, the UK Ministry of Defence’s chief scientific adviser. Britain needs a similarly “fast-moving, free-floating entity”, he says.

Scientific advice is frequently sought in Britain, but on security-related issues the advice usually comes from inside the government. Scientists at government labs such as the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston are consulted on sensitive topics, in part because academic researchers lack the necessary security clearances.

Though the Pentagon created the group in 1958, it was only in 1971 that their existence became known to the public, thanks to the leak of the Pentagon Papers.

While the group’s membership remains a secret, some names surfaced in 1972, thanks to the release of the in-depth report on the group, authored by UC Berkeley Professor Charlie Schwartz and colleagues.

According to one published estimate, fully half of the Jasons have come from the University of California, primarily Berkeley.

The Federation of American Scientists maintains a database of declassified Jason reports.

So any way you look at it, the University of California belongs on any list of the nation’s most militarized universities.

Headline of the day: Idiocy on the march

From the Guardian:

Dozens of ‘white student unions’ appear on social media amid racism protests

Groups claim to speak for students at Stanford, New York University, University of Missouri and elsewhere, but their origins are uncertain

UPDATE: Add UC Berkeley to the list, via the Oakland Tribune.

Native Americans, genocide, and U.S. culture

The latest edition of Empire Files, Abby Martin’s new series for Telesur English, looks at the ongoing clash between Native American culture and the shifting patterns of intolerance and sometimes acceptance in mainstream culture.

Two national holidays epitomize the conflict. First, on 12 October comes Columbus Day, a celebration of colonialism carrying the implicit assumption that the Americas lacked any significant culture before the arrival of European imperialists.

The second holiday, is, of course, Thanksgiving, a symbolic recreation of a feast made possible for starving British colonialists by the intercession of Native Americans who had helped the hapless Puritans adapt to the land.

The troubled legacy continues to flare in the painful exploitation of Native American history by sports teams and the military, and in the ongoing contestation of Native American rights to control their own land and lives.

This episode features an extended conversation with historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Professor Emerita of Ethnic Studies at California State University and an internationally scholar.

From Telesur English:

The Empire Files: Native American Genocide with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Program notes:

Each November, Americans celebrate a mythical version of U.S. history. Thanksgiving Day’s portrayal of the experience of Native Americans under the boot of settler-colonialism is one of the Empire’s most cherished falsehoods.

To hear about the true story of native peoples’ plight – from genocide to reeducation – Abby Martin interviews Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, renowned indigenous scholar and activist, about her most recent book “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.”

Foreshadowing the Great Recession bankster debacle, a 1980s bank collapse with elements of what was to come — another story killed by the Sacramento Bee

On 28 June 1985, we submitted our last story as a reporter on the staff of the Sacramento Bee, a story about a Gambino Family wiseguy, the bankruptcy of a Northern California county’s largest employer, money laundering, and a death buy arson in a Goodfellas-style Southern California insurance scam.

Since we had quit the paper over repeated censorship of major stories, most notably our coverage of the crimes and corruption that would lead the what became the largest single bank collapse to date and the subsequent censorship of another story about organized crime and political corruption in California and its nationwide connections.

That final story was undertaken after we turned in our two weeks’ notice, and it’s the never-before-published story we posted on 10 November.

Today’s story was written after the editor of the Bee’s Sunday editorial section called us at home with a request to write something for him. “Sure,” we said, “but they’ll probably kill it.”

No, he said, he had only taken the editorial position after he had been assured he would have absolute editorial discretion.

So what did I want to write about, he asked.

“What about the collapse of a bank in Davis, a major player on the national scene?”

We explained that we had inside information from friends and other sources in Davis, just across the river from Sacramento and the city where we were living at the time.

We explained that we’d need some serious expense money in order to acquire documents and buy some lunches. No problem, came the reply.

The story we turned in several weeks later, the editor said, was the best work he’d ever commissioned. It would run in two weeks.

Then came the call. “We’re still ready to go, but there’s been a quest that you leave out one name.”

I named the name [more of that later]. “That’s the one,” the editor said.

“The answer is no.”

“I’ll have to get back to you,” the editor said.

The next day came the expected call.

“Still insist on leaving the name in?,” came the question.


“Well, then, I’ve got some good news and some bad news,” he said.

“The bad news being that your higher-ups won’t run the story if the name stays in, and the good news is that you’ll pay the full amount and give up any claim to rights on the story.”

“You got it.”

So we pocked our check for five figures and took the story to the Davis Enterprise, the much smaller daily paper in the community most impacted by the bank collapse.

The story ran with the name intact. A few months later a friend at the Enterprise called with some news. My report had just been award the 1992 California Newspaper Publishers Association Best In-Depth Reporting award — a fact the Bee didn’t report, though it did cover other awards.

So why is the story still important today?

The problems that brought down Farmers Savings and Loan came about, in part, because of differences between state and federal regulations involving S&Ls and banks. In addition, Farmers was chartered under state law, not federal, and the state had far fewer regulators than Uncle Sam, and state rules were somewhat loser [though federal S&L rules were also looser than federal bank laws].

In the years since, that state got out of the S&L charter business, and federal rules were tightened.

Then came Bill Clinton, and federal rules for banking institutions were dealt a major blow by the abolition of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, paving away for the financial shenanigans leading up to the Great Recession.

The story of Farmers Savings foreshadowed in key respect what would happen a quarter-century later.

Oh, and that name we were encouraged to omit? He was the man Hillary Clinton would use to leak word to the press about her current presidential run — and more on that at the end of our very long post.

Here’s the story:

FARMERS SAVINGS BANK: A Tale of Big Bucks, Ruin, and Death

For a time, it was a marvel, the American Dream come true.

There was the $2 million corporate jet, a corporate Mercedes fleet, a system of huge bonuses, and a set of offices that was the largest non-governmental complex in Davis.

There was the stock, too — soaring from a low of $12.50 to as high as $70 a share in less than five years.

More impressive were the numbers on the yearly balance sheets, colossal nine-figure sums with dollar signs in front of them. At its peak, the bank was administering nearly $2 billion in mortgages, collecting fees for handling notes it bought from some institutions and sold to others.

Then there were the profits — $4.4 million in 1983, up from less than $50,000 three years earlier.

In just four short years, Farmers Savings Bank had grown from a single office housed in a trailer into a financial titan. It was the 41st largest S&L in a state which housed the nation’s largest thrifts.

More significantly, it had skyrocketed into one of the top ten players in the nation’s volatile secondary mortgage market and bankrolled the play by creating a new investment vehicle — a high-yielding six-, seven- and eight-figure certificate of deposit dubbed the ULTRA.

But it was a case of too much of a good thing and too few internal checks.

Within a few chaotic months, Farmers collapsed, foundering on a catastrophic computer crisis, the acquisition of an out-of-state company one regulator called a financial black hole, and a portfolio of questionable value.

Finally, after a disastrous slide in reserves, a pair of massive layoffs, and a missed payroll, federal and state regulators stepped in, deposing the man who shaped and rode the whirlwind through its dramatic rise and precipitous fall.

And for that man, Peter Anders, mysterious death was to follow.

“It was a case of too much too fast,” said Jim Streng, Sacramento Counter Supervisor and a member of the Farmers board of directors until he quit in 1984after leading an unsuccessful fight to kill the Lear Jet purchase.

Said Thomas Needham, a co-founder of the bank, “It was such a dramatic up-and-down event. It took off like gangbusters, and then the party was over.”

The story of Farmers Savings is a testimony to the ills besetting California’s savings and loan industry. According to federal regulators, the state has led the nation in savings and loans takeovers. With 18, California houses a quarter of all the country’s thrift placed in receivership by the feds.

And that number, they caution, may represent just the tip of the iceberg.

One of the problems, according to some officials, is in the differences in regulatory requirement for state- and federal-chartered thrifts.

State-chartered thrifts are permitted to maintain 10 percent of their assets in direct investments, such as real estate and service corporations. Federally chartered S&Ls have a three percent direct investments ceiling.

“That was certainly one source of many of Farmers’ problems,” said one state official.

Origins in a small town

Farmers began as the dream of one man, David de la Cruz of Dixon.

In 1978, de la Cruz was working in the controller’s office of Pacific Standard Life Insurance in Davis.

“I was thinking of leaving them, and I had always dreamed of starting my own bank,” de la Cruz said. So he approached another colleague at Pacific Standard, attorney Thomas Needham of Davis.

Together the two explored requirements for starting a state-chartered outfit.

“We found we needed a third incorporator, so we turned to Peter Anders,” de la Cruz said.

Anders was a UC Davis law school graduate who had set up business as a financial consultant and real estate speculator. He specialized in creating IRA and Keogh retirement accounts for many of the community’s most prominent citizens.

Together the three men raised $125,000 to cover the legal and consultant costs required to file the complex application forms with the state Department of Savings and Loan in 1978.

They also recruited 200 potential stockholders who pledged to buy nearly $1,4 million in stock and make deposits of $315,950. Of the potential investors listed in the 1978 filing, de la Cruz brought in 51, Anders 15, and Needham 5.

While Anders and Needham went after large investors, de la Cruz went for smaller investors, “like waitresses at the restaurant where I ate.” But de la Cruz also brought in Norman Woodard Sr., a prominent Dixon businessman who, with pledges for $100,000 in stock and $100,000 in savings, was the largest of the initial investors.

Needham himself signed up for $100,000 in stock, de la Cruzfor $37,500, and Anders for $20,000.

Farmers was chartered as a Dixon savings and loan.

“The state requires very complicated market studies, including an extensive analysis of the area. We filed for Dixon because there was no way we could’ve gotten a charter for another savings and loan in Davis,” de la Cruz said.

Farmers opened for business in in 1980 with 20 employees and a trailer for an office.

Anders pushes for control

For the first two years, with de la Cruz as chairman, Farmers chartered a conservative path.

“I was represented as a savings and loan that would serve the farm community,” said one early investor recruited by de la Cruz. “I liked that, because I’m a farmer and anything that helps farmers is near and dear to my heart.”

Needham and de la Cruz were conservative. They wanted their bank to grow slowly, as a traditional thrift — taking in savings and lending money to farmers and homeowners.

But Peter Anders had bigger dreams.

As a professional investment counselor, Anders had played on the mortgage market and made money, friends say.

He had also created a bewildering array of real estate partnerships, including A&A Investment Partnership, C&C, D&D, E&E, F&F, H&H, I&I, K&K, L&L, M&M, O&O, Q&Q, R&R, and S&S, as well as California Mortgage Investors, PFA Financial Services, PFA Retirement Plan, and PFG Financial Group.

In 1980, Anders and a Sacramento man, Charles L. McGranaghan, set up the first in a series of businesses operated out of offices at 719 Second Street in Davis.

Those business, Pension Income Program [PIP] One and Two and PMC Development Fund, specialized in creating real estate syndications for tax-sheltered retirement accounts. Anders was listed as a general partner in PIP One and Two and vice president and senior account manager of FMC.

Anders was also responsible for selecting and managing the protfolios of the PIP shelters, according to their 1980 prospectuses.

Eventually, Anders and McGranaghan parted company, with McGranaghan taking the businesses. On 23 October 1984, McGanaghan filed for bankruptcy, listing debts of more than $1.5 million.

Anders has been named a defendant in a lawsuit filed by an attorney for creditors who invested in PIP One and Two. “We don’t know where their money went,” said Steve Baird, of Mountain View, the attorney for the investors. “The lawyers for Anders’ estate have told us there’s no use suing them because there isn’t any money there.”

Launching the push for growth

Peter Anders was a man who dreamed in large numbers, and the slow-growth course charted by de la Cruz and Needham was not for him.

In 1982, Anders made his push for control.

“Some of us on the board filed a petition with the state asking them to refuse him permission to buy more stock. You have to get state approval before you can buy a controlling interest,” de la Cruz said.

“We wanted to keep things on an even keel. We didn’t want to see things skyrocket. We were also worried because if he had control, Peter could set his own salary.”

But the petition was denied, and in May Anders won control. His first move was to oust de la Cruz from the chairmanship of the nak he had founded.

It was then that Farmers shifted course.

By the end of 1982, Farmers had assets and liabilities of $53.3 million — up 1000 percent from the year before.

That was just the beginning.

The secondary mortgage market is a frantic one. Profits on individual mortgages are usually small; they are bought, at a discount, from the original lender, them resold, often for a fraction of a percentage point higher, to pension funds and other institutional investors.

Making money means dealing in high volumes, tens and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of paper.

To play in the fast-paced secondary market, Farmers needed capital, lots of it. And the way to raise that money was through jumbo certificates of deposit [CD’s] — accounts of $100,000 or more.

At the end of 1981, Farmers had assets and liabilites of $53.3 million. Of the total $2.3 million in savings, $1.1 million was in the form of jumbo CDs. Passbook and checking accounts totaled   just over $350,000.

By the end of 1982, with Anders at the helm, assets and liabilities leaped to $53.3 million. Jumbo CDs totaled $44. million — an increase of nearly 4100 percent.

“They were paying considerably more for money than any other major association in the industry,” said the president of a major Sacramento-based savings and loan.

Numbers rising, very rapidly

By the end of 1983, assets and liabilities had leaped to $205.4 million. Savings deposits reached $186 million — with $177 million in jumbo CDs, up 395 percent from the year before.

Farmers had begun a major advertising campaign. “They were taking these big ads in Mortgage Banker magazine, advertising how much money they had,” said Edward Rubin, a UC Davis real estate law professor. “They were the largest single advertiser.”

Anders had also moved the bank’s headquarters to a former bank building at the corner of Second and C Streets in Davis — a building purchased for $550,000 in 1979 by real estate partnerships Anders headed. Dixon, the bank’s original home, now housed only a branch.

As the numbers on Farmers’ balance sheet grew, so did the bank’s staff. “They were pirating our people at incomes that seemed to be substantially more than were justified by the industry,” said one Sacramento area thrift president.

If the salaries were high, the bonuses paid to the crew who played the mortgage market were higher still.

“We were paying those guys huge bonuses,” said de la Cruz. “They were making several times their annual salaries. Some of us on the board were concerned because the bonuses were based on the bottom line of the financial statement.”

De la Cruz said bank statements can be misleading. “The profit is real only if all the loans are paid, if the insurance stays in force, if everything works. If something goes wrong, the profit evaporates.”

But Anders was charging ahead, buying more stock for himself, bringing in friendly directors, consolidating his position.

Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?

In addition to the hefty bonuses, Anders asked the board to buy a Mercedes for the bank’s president, lawyer Dean Itano. Next came a Mercedes for Anders himself, then more cars for the staff.

“I voted against them,” said Streng. “Six months earlier we had voted to buy a Volkswagen, and now we were buying Mercedes.”

Streng left the board in December 1983 when Anders announced that Farmers was now the proud owner of a Lear Jet, purchased for a mere $2 million.

“I don’t think any company nears a Lear Jet,” Streng said, “especially Farmers Savings with Metro Airport just 30 minutes away. But Peter said it would save the corporation money. I just never understood how it would.”

Streng said the Lear Jet purchase was merely the catalyst for a decision which had been taking shape in his mind.

“When I got onto the board, it was a conventional savings and loan, in the business of making conventional real estate loans. As a builder, I know something about that.

“But then Peter saw some openings in the secondary market, and I don’t pretend to understand that. It appeared to be very profitable, but I had concerns that if you would make money that easily, you could lose it just as easily.”

At nearly the same time as Streng left, Anders gathered the final votes needed to force de la Cruz and Needham off the board. He was the last of the founders, the one now firmly in control. The new board was his, controlling 80 percent of the corporate stock, including those shares in a $1 million December offering.

That same month, Farmers paid out nearly $1.7 million for land in a South Davis industrial park to build a new corporate headquarters, following the city’s rejection eight months earlier of a proposal to build an eight-story high-rise complex in downtown Davis on land Anders owned.

The board approved a pair of sprawling two-story office buildings, and, when the city gave the go-ahead, construction started in 1984. On 23 July 1985, Yolo County set a value of $3.9 million on the just-completed buildings and fixtures — bringing the total cost of the offices to $7.3 million.

The brokerage staff moved into one of the two buildings; the second, unfinished by the time the drama ended, was to house lavish executive suites, a large ultra-modern cafeteria, and a well-equipped gymnasium.

The 1983 annual report was an exuberant document. It concluded with these words: “In the coming year, Farmers will break ground in many areas. There are no existing formulas on which to rely. The Bank will continue to respond with innovative alternatives to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

The troubles had already started.

From the Jumbo to the ULTRA

To fuel its rapid emergence into the secondary mortgage market, Farmers needed cash — lots of it. But it couldn’t rely on federally insured accounts to cover the play.

So the company needed to sell millions in jumbo CDs, individual certificates of deposit greater than the $100,000 insurance ceiling set by the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation [since folded into the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation].

“They were paying more than anyone else around,” said the president of a rival savings and loan.

Late in 1983, Farmers executives had created a CD called the ULTRA, a floating rate certificate paying a guaranteed minimum that ran as high as 12 percent, according to one investor. The ULTRA was designed, in part, to attract brokered deposits from other institutions.

ULTRA funds were earmarked in part for as series of limited partnerships, with Farmers or its subsidiaries as the general partner. Funds were to be invested in income-producing property.

Thanks to the ULTRA, Farmers was able to attract the needed cash, and by year’s end, brokered CDs accounted for 96 percent of the institution’s deposit base.

But by the end of 1984, federal regulators grew alarmed with what they saw as excessive reliance on expensive accounts and the use of savings deposit to fund real estate transactions. The federal bank board handed down an edict limiting the size of Farmers’ pool of Ultra accounts.

That decision was the first step in slowing what had, until then, been a seemingly endless growth surge.

A computerized debacle

Buying and selling massive blocs of mortgages requires an incredibly sophisticated system to keep track of hundreds of thousands of loans.

Making money in that market means dealing in volume — where millions can ride on the rise and fall of a fractional interest rate.

It is a business made possible only by modern data processing technology — by computers.

Farmers’ original system was based on small “micro” computers. When Anders moved into large-scale buying and selling, the old system bogged down.

The bank brought in a new computer, an IBM mainframe. But then, in an effort to maintain continuity with the old system, the bank hired a crew to write a program for the new machine based on the program for the vastly smaller old system.

It was a disaster. The new program was cumbersome and painfully slow. As programmers struggled to bring the system up to speed, record-keeping started to fall behind.

Soon bank managers simply didn’t have a clear picture of where the bank stood. The only accurate information was six to eight months out of date.

“Records were in terrible shape,” said one bank source. “A lot of paperwork was missing. We might know the amount of a loan, but sections describing the interest rate or duration might be missing.”

“We were flying blind during much of 1984,” said one former member of the bank’s board of directors.

It also meant that information reported to regulators and accountants wasn’t accurate.

There were other problems, too.

Loading on troubled loans, missing data

According to one bank source, when Farmers bought the mortgages, sellers insisted the bank take varying percentages of troubled loans along with the blue chips. “That’s a common industry practice,” the source said.

In addition, one top regulator said, when Farmers bought large blocs of mortgages, there was often no time to scrutinize files on individual loans.

In some instances, files would prove incomplete, and when Farmers resold the loans and the problems were discovered, the purchasers would ask Farmers to take the loans back — and the bank would comply. “That’s standard practice in the industry,” the regulator said.

The net effect was that, as time passed, Farmers was holding an ever-larger portfolio of questionable loans, said the official.

Playing the mortgage market requires buyers and sellers — and, according to a 1995 article in American Banker, Farmers was buying paper before they had sellers lined up, contrary to normal banking policy.

Normally, loans have been presold to pension funds and other institutional investors before a broker buys them from the originating lenders. But with Farmers, thanks in part to the severe digital record-keeping problems, that wasn’t always the case, leaving the bank with a large “uncovered position,” with mortgages in hand and no buyers.

By 19 October, the signs were clear enough that Anders decided to go public with his fears. In an interview with a Sacramento Bee reporter, he acknowledged that Farmers was “at a dangerous point” in its growth.

But he was to make his worst decision two months later.

Entering the real estate game

Before he took the helm at Farmers, Anders had been active in real estate syndication — creating limited partnerships to buy property with his own business acting as general partner.

He wanted the bank to do the same thing.

Farmers had already purchased a small California syndicator, Ibex Capital, but the money it generated was too small for Anders, bank sources say.

It was in the fall when Anders opened negotiations with Security Properties, Inc. [SPI], a Seattle company with no relation to a similarly named California corporation based in Pebble Beach.

Security was a high stakes real estate syndicator with partnerships holding $1,5 billion in property and a payroll of 1,500.

California thrift regulators were also looking at SPI, because all major acquisitions by state-chartered S&Ls required authorization from the Department of Savings and Loan.

While regulators couldn’t find enough wrong with the deal to issue a clear turn-down, they were worried and urged Anders not to buy. “We told him it looked like a potential disaster,” said one state regulator.

But on 3 December 1964, Anders notified the press that Farmers had bought Security Properties for $30 million.

There’s a whole lot more after the jump, including computer shenanigans, lies to state regulators, questionable investments, an unsolved murder, a powerful political player and Hillary Clinton backer, and much, much more. Continue reading

Ayotzinapa parents battle propagandists

For a few months after 43 students of the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers College of Ayotzinapa were “disappeared” [previously] following a violent confrontation with Mexican police on 26 September 2014, the world paid attention.

But aside from the arrests of a few minor officials, the egregious but not unprecedented violence against poor rural youth has gone unpunished, and a government investigation whitewashed the role of the state.

And while news media north of the border paid attention for a few months, the massacre of Ayotzinapa has faded from public consciousnessness.

But the families of the missing have not forgotten, and thet are demanding justice as the right mobilizes think tanks to denigrate their actions.

From TeleSUR English:

Mexico: Right-Wing Seeks to Counteract Ayotzinapa Investigation

Program notes:

Mexico’s Citizens Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, a right-wing think tank, charges that the independent investigation into the enforced disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students by experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is part of a leftist conspiracy to discredit the official government inquiry. Social organizations accuse the Council, the new Guerrero state government, and the media of seeking to delegitimize protests over the Ayotzinapa case. Clayton Conn reports from Mexico City.

Ayotzinapa students get another beatdown

On 26 September 2014, 43 male students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa in Tixtla, Guerrero, Mexico, went missing after police and possibly soldiers opened fire after the students commandeered buses in nearby Iguala — an event which we covered in some depth.

The state teachers colleges produce poorly paid instructors for rural communities, instructors drawn from the regional poor, and at Ayotzinapa they live in cold, concrete-floored unfurnished rooms.

So if students want to go to events in nearby communities, they sometimes commandeered local buses, something that had gone without violent suppression until that night, which had the misfortune to coincide with a with an event of major importance to the mayor’s spouse.

Just what happened to the students remains a mystery, though one bone fragment has been identified as belonging to one of the 43.

Less than 14 months later, students again commandeered buses, along with a gas truck to keep them fueled. And police violence followed.

From the Los Angeles Times:

More than a dozen students were hospitalized in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero after they were detained and beaten by scores of state and federal police officers, according to human rights activists.

About 150 students from a rural teachers college were traveling in eight buses on the highway from the state capital of Chilpancingo toward the small rural town of Ayotzinapa just after 4 p.m. Wednesday when state police pickups began pursuing them, according to the Guerrero-based human rights group Tlachinollan and witnesses.

Cellphone video provided by one of the students purports to show a police pickup driving up to the back of one of the buses and breaking in the windows.

The students attend the Ayotzinapa teachers school; 43 of their were detained and subsequently disappeared in the nearby city of Iguala in September 2014. The students Wednesday were on their way back from raising money for their campaign on behalf of the missing, Tlachinollan said.

Here’s that video, via Anon Hispano, along with a Google translation of the Spanish text:

Federal police began assaulting students #Ayotzinapa 11/11/2015

Program notes:

Treacherous attack took place in the shed nearby Tixtla, Guerrero, by federal and state police to students of the Normal Rural ‘Isidro Burgos’ Ayotzinapa, under the pretext of the abduction of a pipe of Pemex, with a balance at least 20 injured and 10 arrested.

More context from Fox News Latino:

Wednesday’s confrontation outside the municipality of Tixtla occurred when the officers intercepted a tanker truck carrying 30,000 liters of gasoline that the students had commandeered in the state capital of Chilpancingo and were taking to Tixtla, where the Ayotzinapa Rural Normal School is located.

The students, who were traveling in around 10 buses, tried to recover the tanker, leading to a clash in which the state police used batons and tear gas and the trainee teachers responded by hurling rocks and other objects at the officers.

An Ayotzinapa spokesperson told EFE that many of the students took refuge in nearby hills and that one of the 15 detainees was Ernesto Guerrero, a survivor of the deadly Sept. 26, 2014, events in the city of Iguala, Guerrero.

Al Jazeera’s AJ+ has more video from the scene:

Ayotzinapa Students Attacked By Mexican Police On Video

Program notes:

“The truth is these m*****f****** were chasing us, but this is how they chase criminals, isn’t it?” At least 8 Ayotzinapa students were hospitalized after they said they were attacked by Mexican police.

More in a video report from Telesur English:

Mexico: Police Attack on Ayotzinapa Students Repudiated

Program notes:

In the southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero, public opinion and social organizations are deeply concerned and angered over Wednesday’s police attack on Ayotzinapa students. The brutal attack, video of which was filmed by the students, left 8 students seriously injured and hospitalized. Critics say the attack is part of a strategy by the state government, now in the hands of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, to discredit the students and criminalize their protests. Clayton Conn reports from Mexico City.

And a Telesur English website update has the latest on the conditions of the injured students:

In Mexico, eight students from the now-infamous teacher training school in Ayotzinapa from which 43 students were disappeared in 2014 remain hospitalized after they suffered police brutality Wednesday: four are in critical condition.

According to the students’ lawyer, Vidulfo Rosales, two people have fractured bones in their the arms, and another in the face. Juan Castro Rodriguez was left in the most serious condition, with a “grade one” head injury.

Rosales, a human rights attorney, demanded that the students be moved from the Raymundo Abarca Alarcon hospital to private facilities, paid for by the Guerrero state government, as he said a bed shortage meant the students were kept standing while waiting for medical attention and did not receive adequate care.

Along with the 20 injured students, 13 students were detained and 20 injured during the attacks by Guerrero state police Wednesday night.

And elsewhere in Mexico. . .

From Telesur English:

Hundreds of Afro-Mexicans in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero lived moments of terror when a group of men armed with AK-47s and AR-15s stormed their local celebrations and opened fire, killing at least 12 people, including two children and a women, according to local reports on Tuesday.

The attack was carried out Sunday night in the small, mostly Afro-descent community of Cuajinicuilapa, near the border with neighboring state of Oaxaca, the town mayor Constantino Garcia said.

Police officials also found shells that they say were fired by .38 caliber and 9 mm semi-automatic handguns.

Authorities have yet to reveal the possible motives of the attack, because as it stands now and based on the weapons used, federal security forces, including military, could be responsible, as well as organized crime.