Category Archives: Elders

EbolaWatch: Hope, pleas, meds, culture clash


First, the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

BLOG Ebola

We begin with the latest drug research, via, Kyodo News:

Trials of Japanese drug encouraging for Ebola treatment: France

The French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, known as Inserm, said Thursday that clinical trials of the Japanese anti-influenza drug Avigan Tablet have shown encouraging results for treating Ebola in Guinea.

After being informed of the outcome by the national medical institution, the French president’s office said in a statement the trials of the drug showed a fall in the number of deaths and accelerated recovery of patients, according to French public radio reports.

Avigan, developed by Toyoma Chemical Co., a subsidiary of Fujifilm Holdings Corp., could become the first effective medicine to treat Ebola, which has caused nearly 9,000 deaths mainly in West Africa.

From the United Nations News Center, end game caution:

‘Last mile in fight against Ebola will be the hardest,’ says senior UN relief official

The international community’s mobilization in the global Ebola response has been “very impressive and effective” but efforts to reach zero cases must continue unabated, a top United Nations humanitarian official has confirmed.

“There is most definitely a fantastic combined community, national and international effort that has turned this crisis around,” John Ging, Director of Operations for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told reporters at a press briefing in New York earlier today.

“But there is no room for complacency,” Mr. Ging added. “The last mile is the hardest mile. We must stay the course.”

Confirming the need for ongoing vigilance, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported today a surge in new Ebola cases this past week, ending a series of declines the agency noted when it reported that the number of new cases in the three hardest-hit countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone recently fell below 100 for the first time in seven months.

“While remarkable progress has been made, we must not forget that it only takes one new case to start a new outbreak,” stressed Mr. Ging.

A similar perspective, via Voice of America:

Window for Containing Ebola Outbreak Seen Narrowing

The World Health Organization reports that good progress is being made toward containing the Ebola epidemic, but it warns that the outbreak is far from over and still poses a grave threat.

David Nabarro, special envoy of the U.N. secretary-general, is urging people not to become complacent. Though cases of Ebola are declining, he said, a great deal of hard work remains to get to zero cases and zero transmission.

To prove this point, Nabarro noted that WHO reported 124 new confirmed cases of Ebola this past week, an increase of 25 cases from the previous week.

“There will always be volatility,” he said. “Numbers will go up and down, but the more we are able to actively seek out cases and follow up their contacts, the better our results will be. … Now to finish the work off, it will be necessary to continue to bring in materials and people, so that we can undertake the kind of detective work that is necessary … to overcome the disease and also, at the same time, to get basic services back and working again.”

But this takes lots of money. Nabarro said the United Nations needs $1 billion to finish the job — now.

The Guardian covers needed relief:

IMF grants Ebola-hit countries $100m debt relief

  • International Monetary Fund urges other lenders to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to take similar action to ease financial burden

The three countries stricken by Ebola have been granted debt relief of about $100m (£65m) by the International Monetary Fund, which has been under pressure to relieve the financial burden on Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The IMF also urged other international lenders to the countries to take similar action as it established a catastrophe containment relief trust to provide grants to countries suffering epidemics and other natural disasters.

The trust will provide the money to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea so they can pay off debt to the IMF. The IMF also offered the west African states $160m of new interest-free loans.

From Reuters, complications:

Secret burials thwarting efforts to stamp out Ebola – U.N.

Efforts to stamp out West Africa’s Ebola epidemic are being thwarted by villagers touching and washing the infectious bodies of dead victims at secret burials and difficulty in tracing those exposed to the virus, U.N. officials said on Thursday.

The number of new cases rose for the first time this year in the past week, coinciding with a looming funding shortfall and the approach of the rainy season that will hamper aid efforts from April, they warned. [ID: nL6N0VE530]

“The commonest way in which people are getting Ebola is through the rituals that take place when somebody is buried, particularly the important cleansing and touching that goes on,” Dr. David Nabarro, U.N. Ebola special envoy, told a briefing.

On to Liberia, where case continue, via the News in Monrovia:

Margibi Confirms Ebola Death

Health authorities in Margibi County have recorded two confirmed Ebola deaths in the county.

The County Health Officer, Dr. Adolphus Yeah, told The NEWS that the first confirmed death was reported in the county after a man from the St. Paul’s bridge community in Montserrado County died days after he fled his community.

According to Dr. Yeah, the man, identified as John Forkpa, fled from his St. Paul bridge residence on January 27, 2015 and  reportedly died on Sunday, February 1, 2015 in Dogbahta, a village in Borlorlah Township, about 15 kilometers from the provincial city of Kakata. Dr. Yeah explained that specimen from the deceased confirmed that he had Ebola.

Meanwhile, the County Health team has launched a vigorous contact tracing for all those who interacted with the man prior to his demise.

The CHO also disclosed that the two villages, including Dogbahta and Papata have been quarantined as part of measures intended to prevent the spread of the disease.

After the jump, vaccine targets set, cautious political optimism, providing light and communication for survivors, on to Sierra Leone and an obstructionist tribal leader, and a Paramount Chief threatens survivors. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Another arrest, parents, more art


We begin with a poster, via Regeneración, for an upcoming rally and protest on behalf of the missing students right here in Berkeley:

BLOG Ayotz 5

Next, from teleSUR English, the parents persevere:

Ayotzinapa families searching on their own for their missing children

Program notes:

In Mexico, parents and colleagues of the students of the Ayotzinapa Teacher Training College who were kidnapped and forcibly disappeared by the police in Iguala, State of Guerrero, on September 26 2014, have begun to search for them on their own.

The Associated Press covers the latest arrest:

Mexico detains new suspect in disappearance of 43 students

A purported drug cartel hit man has been arrested in connection with the disappearance and alleged killing of 43 college students in southern Mexico in September, authorities said Friday.

Felipe Rodriguez, alias “The Brush” or “The Stubborn One,” is a member of the Guerreros Unidos gang and believed to be the “material author” of the killings, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement. It did not give further details.

Officials say the 43 students were rounded up by police Sept. 26 in the Guerrero state city of Iguala and handed over to Guerreros Unidos gang members, who allegedly killed them, burned the bodies at a trash dump and threw the remains into a river.

More from Fox News Latino:

Mexico nabs another suspect in missing students case

Felipe Rodriguez, described as a “material author of the homicide in the Ayotzinapa case,” is giving a statement to prosecutors, the AG’s office said.

The suspect was apprehended Thursday night in Jiutepec, a town in the central state of Morelos, sources with the Federal Police told Efe.

Reputed Guerreros Unidos members arrested in late October confessed to the killings and implicated Rodriguez in the crime, the AG’s office said.

From teleSUR, a parental demand:

Ayotzinapa Families Demand Investigation into Mexican Army

  • The attorney general has made it clear that, despite available evidence, the government will not open a case against the army, says the families’ attorney.

Families of the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa have insisted that the Mexican army be investigated for the disappearance of their kin, however the federal government seems reluctant to open a new line of investigation, according to the families’ legal team.

For several days, families of the students and other supporters have been protesting in front of military barracks across the country demanding that the bases be searched. Thursday, the families increased pressure on the government, when they insisted to the attorney general in a formal meeting that a case be opened against the army.

The families’ attorney, Vidulfo Rosales, said there are more 10 ministerial statements accusing the military of collaborating with the United Warriors (Guerreros Unidos), the criminal organization that the students were reportedly handed over to.

More from the parents, via teleSUR English:

Families of missing Mexican students demand new lines of investigation

Program notes:

Fed up with their government’s lies, evasions, lack of results and the violence that they themselves are increasingly facing at the hands of authorities, families of the Ayotzinapa teaching college students are demanding new lines of investigation into the disappearance of their loved ones who went missing September 26 while in police custody. Clayton Conn has more for us on this story.

The Guardian covers the growing community autonomy movement:

Mexican firebrands call for self-rule: ‘It’s time for the people to take power’

  • Away from the spotlight of protests over the disappearance of 43 student teachers, Guerrero may prove a much more serious challenge to state authority

Over the past three months, dozens of town halls across Mexico’s southern state of Guerrero have been taken over by members of an amorphous movement calling for “popular government”. The protesters – some of whom have been armed – have also called for the army to close its bases and leave the region.

Guerrero is a state steeped in a history of rebellion: it was the setting for some of the first uprisings of the Mexican revolution, and home to the country’s most famous rural guerrilla army of the 1970s.

But the current wave of unrest was triggered by the disappearance last September of 43 student teachers in the city of Iguala, after they were attacked by municipal police in league with a local drug cartel.

“The narcos did with us what they wanted. People were intimidated, frightened and desperate,” says Huricel Cruz, a teacher and former student at the radical Ayotzinapa training college where the 43 missing students were enrolled. “Then the people took control and things calmed down.”

From the Latin American Herald Tribune, an everyday occurrence, sadly:

Human Remains Found in Clandestine Graves as Violence Continues in Mexico

Families of people missing in the municipality of Iguala in Guerrero found eight bodies in three clandestine graves, a community source reported, while violent protests over the disappearance of 43 students last September continues to rage.

The families accompanied by community policemen found three bodies Wednesday and five others Thursday in the graves discovered at the spot known as La Laguna, a spokesperson for the Union of People and Organizations (UPOEG) told Efe.

Since the 43 students went missing on Sept. 26 in Iguala, UPOEG, a community-based organization that started in January 2013 to perform police functions, assists residents in search of missing relatives.

So far, they have found about 40 human remains in Iguala, but apparently do not match with the students of Ayotzinapa who disappeared at the hands of Iguala police officers and members of the criminal cartel Guerreros Unidos.

And we conclude with some more graphics. First from Regeneración, the Mexican army, busily covering up:

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Next, from Andalalucha, a dramatic mural in Tixtla, not far from Iguala where the students were abducted, depicting the corruption of police in Guerrero:

BLOG Ayotz 3

And from japhetweeks, President Enrique Peña Nieto practicing that old political discipline of “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil”:

BLOG Ayotz 1

EbolaWatch: Numbers, patients. money, woes


We begin with the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control:

BLOG Ebola

Next, from NBC News, a front line fighter returns:

Dr. Rick Sacra Won’t Push His Luck in Return to Ebola Zone

Dr. Rick Sacra may be immune to the Ebola virus, but he’s not going to push his luck by testing that natural defense.

Sacra was infected with Ebola in September while working in Liberia. Now, he’s headed back. “In fact, the experts tell me I am immune,” Sacra said. “I don’t plan to test that but I am grateful for it.”

The University of Massachusetts emergency room physician survived the virus after he was flown to the University of Nebraska’s special treatment unit where he received every available treatment.

It’s been a long, tough road, Sacra said at a news conference. But the medical missionary for North Carolina-based SIM said he never doubted he’d be going back to help fight the epidemic that’s infected more than 21,000 people and killed more than 8,200.

He’s the first American to return after having survived Ebola.

Another First World healer emerges from the shadow of death, via the Guardian:

UK Ebola nurse no longer critically ill, hospital says

  • Pauline Cafferkey is showing signs of improvement and remains in isolation at the Royal Free hospital in London

British nurse Pauline Cafferkey, who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone, is showing signs of improvement and is no longer critically ill, the Royal Free hospital in London has said.

The Scottish public health worker remains in isolation at the hospital where she is receiving specialist care. She was diagnosed with Ebola after returning to Glasgow and was admitted to the city’s Gartnavel hospital on 29 December before being transferred to the Royal Free the following day.

Cafferkey, from Cambuslang in south Lanarkshire, had volunteered with Save the Children at the Ebola treatment centre in Kerry Town before returning to the UK.

From the World Bank, the hardly surprising:

Ebola Hampering Household Economies across Liberia and Sierra Leone

  • Latest surveys point to declines in employment, food insecurity, and long-term welfare concerns

The socio-economic impacts of Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone are far-reaching and persistent, according to two new World Bank Group reports. Both countries continue to experience job losses, despite their differing health outlooks. These impacts have not been limited to the areas where infections have been the highest, which points to economy-wide slowdowns. As a result, many households have been forced to take short-term actions to cope, which can have substantial long-term effects on welfare.

“The Ebola virus itself must be eradicated- this is the number one priority,” said Ana Revenga, Senior Director for Poverty at the World Bank Group. “But its socio-economic side effects put the current and future prosperity of households in Liberia and Sierra Leone at high risk. We must pay careful attention to those who are most vulnerable to both health and economic shocks, and ensure that they are supported throughout and after the crisis.”

In order to capture the key socio-economic effects of Ebola, the World Bank Group and partners are undertaking high-frequency mobile phone surveys.  In Liberia the surveys are conducted by the Gallup Organization in partnership with the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services, and in Sierra Leone, the data collection is led by Statistics Sierra Leone in partnership with Innovations for Poverty Action.

From Reuters, harsh but logical:

After Ebola, WHO blames governments and seeks more clout

The World Health Organization says governments flouted their obligations during the Ebola crisis and wants more power to tackle health emergencies in future, documents published by the international agency showed on Monday.

The Geneva-based U.N. health organisation has been heavily criticised for its slow response to the Ebola epidemic, which has now killed at least 8,371 people out of more than 21,000 cases in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The WHO promised in October to publish a full review of its handling of the outbreak once the epidemic was under control.

But it has not yet done so.

CCTV Africa covers preventive measures:

Health experts Discuss ways to Prevent Ebola from Reaching Middle East

Program notes:

More than 170 international and regional health experts gathered in the Egyptian capital Cairo – to discuss how to prevent the Ebola virus from spreading to the Middle East. The meeting follows evaluations done in 18 countries to identify measures that are being taken to avoid spread of the disease.

More from the World Health Organization:

WHO-EMRO: Ebola assessment missions in the Eastern Mediterranean Region

Program notes:

In response to the Member States’ request, the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean completed Ebola assessment missions in 18 out of 22 countries in the Region during November and December 2014. More than 60 experts reviewed preparedness and readiness measures for Ebola in six main areas: leadership and coordination, points of entry, surveillance and contact tracing, infection prevention and control, laboratory services, and risk communications. At the end of the mission, the WHO teams shared their key findings and recommendations in each of the six areas.

Reuters covers a Chinese move:

China quietly toughens travel restrictions on West Africans

China has been quietly toughening travel restrictions on students and businessmen traveling from Ebola-hit West Africa even as it increases support to fight the deadly disease on the ground in the region, diplomats say.

Beijing-based ambassadors from Liberia and Sierra Leone, whose countries along with Guinea are the hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak, say some of their nationals are staying away from China due to the new procedures.

No cases of Ebola have so far been reported in China.

While AllAfrica covers a plea in the opposite direction:

Kenya: Uhuru Calls for West Africa Flight Ban Review

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday called for a review of the Ministry of Health and Kenya Airways decision to suspend flights to three Ebola ravaged West African nations.

He said that in the spirit of Pan-Africanism, Kenya cannot afford to isolate its “kin” in times of trouble and should instead stand in solidarity with them.

“Bwana MD,” he told Kenya Airways Managing Director Mbuvi Ngunze, “when you get there (Liberia and Sierra Leone) you need to see how we shall resume flights there so we can visit with you from time to time,” he said to the 170 health workers who left Kenya Friday for the Ebola hit-nations on board two chartered Kenya Airways planes.

From StarAfrica, a recovery grant:

IDB grants $35m to Ebola nations in Africa

Representatives from the four countries plagued by the Ebola epidemic namely Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Mali, on Monday secured from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), a $35 million fund for their recovery once the hemorrhagic fever is over, APA can report.

The agreement to this effect was signed in Conakry between IDB boss, Dr. Ahmed Muhammad Ali and delegates from the beneficiary countries participating in a ministerial meeting on Ebola by Mano River Union member countries.

According to the IDB boss, the funds disbursed by Saudi Arabia are already under the custody of the financial institution, which will make it available to four countries.

Guinean Minister of International Cooperation, Dr. Moustapha Sanoh Koutoub, disclosed that his country will receive the lion’s share of the funds, benefiting from some $12 million.

On to Liberia and a back-to-school story from FrontPageAfrica:

Children & Parents Eyeing Return to School as Ebola Slows

Grace Travers is a mother of three and had been wishing to register her Three-year-old daughter in school last September but due to the deadly Ebola epidemic, schools in Liberia remains closed and students have lost almost a whole semester of schooling.

Travers’ daughter will no longer start school at three because of the delay, but she tells FrontPageAfrica that she cannot bear the thought of the older children missing a whole year of school and wants the government to keep its promise of reopening of school in February. “I want schools to reopen because the children are playing all day. For me as a parent, I want school to reopen because our children have been sitting home for so long due to Ebola,” she says.

Travers says her children are home all day, though she has to work and it is difficult keeping them under proper control without school. She says it is important that the government reopen school soon, because they longer children stay without school the more difficult it will be for families to keep them out of trouble. She said school is a very important part of a child’s upbringing and missing it has many consequences.

Major progress continues, via the Monrovia Inquirer

Lofa County Still Ebola Free…As Citizens Remain Vigilant

Lofa County, the epicenter of the vicious Ebola virus that has killed thousands of Liberians as well as foreign nationals has made significant strives in the war against the virus.

For the past three months there has been no reported new cases of the deadly virus as intimated by Philip Michael Forkpa, Hygienist Supervisor of the Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in Foya now Community Case Center following the departure of the charitable organization MSF that had been running the center during the heat of the health crisis.

“Thanks to the citizens who have remained vigilant and continue to observe all the health measures in every village and town because it was due to the resilience of the people of Lofa County that has caused the county to make such gains against the virus,” Forkpah stated.

Ebola started in Foya on March 19, 2014 when the first case was discovered at the FoyaBarma Hospital in the Northern County of Lofa. In the month of March 2014, authorities at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare reported the first case of the Ebola disease in Lofa County.

More from the Liberia News Agency:

Lofa Supt. Urges Joint Effort To Avert New Ebola Outbreak

Lofa County Superintendent George Dunor has said the battle against another Ebola outbreak in Lofa must get the collective efforts of all citizens and not only government and its partners as was the case during the first outbreak.

Superintendent Dunor noted that although the Ebola situation in the county is gradually declining, the need for everyone to continue to follow preventive measures to avoid a new outbreak should be the concern of everyone.

He told the Liberia News Agency in Voinjama over the weekend that traditional and religious leaders, women and youth organizations must constantly carry out the Ebola awareness campaign aimed at eradicating the virus from the county.

After the jump, a familial disaster follows a funeral, a door-to-door campaign, deadly conflict erupts at the border, and aid dispatched to another afflicted country, and on to Sierra Leone with a reporter’s traumatic encounter with Ebola, communities plagued by depression and panic, and an existential question to close. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Parents, murders, and an arrest


And more, included murders of journalists and priests. . .

We begin with a worrisome report from teleSUR English:

Families of Mexico’s missing students under threat

Program notes:

Here in Mexico our correspondent Clayton Conn has more on the Ayotzinapa case of the now 42 missing students and their families.

And from the Associated Press, an arrest, but not for involvement in the disappearances of the students:

Mexican mayor’s wife to be tried for gang ties

The wife of the former mayor of a Mexican city where 43 students disappeared will be tried on organized crime charges.

The federal judiciary council said Monday that a court ruled there was enough evidence to try Maria de los Angeles Pineda on charges she engaged in organized crime to traffic drugs and launder money.

Pineda is the wife of Jose Luis Abarca, who is on trial for organized crime, homicide and kidnapping. Abarca was mayor of Iguala, in Guerrero state. In September he allegedly ordered local police to detain the students and turn them over to the Guerreros Unidos drug gang, which apparently killed them.

The council said Pineda belonged to the gang since 2005 and probably handled $937,000 (13, 722, 849 pesos) for Guerreros Unidos.

From teleSUR English, another troubling reality:

Guerrero is the most dangerous place for priests in Mexico

Program notes:

The state of Guerrero, Mexico, has the highest homicide rate in the country and is considered the most dangerous place to be a priest in Latin America. In 2014 alone, three Catholic priests were murdered in the state by the organized crime. The Catholic Church in Guerrero says that violence against the priests is a reflection of the high levels of violence in Guerrero.

Borderland Beat covers another vigilante/self-defense organization murder:

Michoacan: Ambush leaves 5 Autodefensas dead and 8 injured

The PGJE of the State of Michoacán has initiated a preliminary investigation in relation to violent events which took place this morning in the community of Huahua. In the municipality of Aquila where five men lost their lives who were identified as communitarios.

According to the testimony given to ministerial personnel , at approximately 10:00 am on Sunday , a group of 13 men who were identified as communitarios ( autodefensas ) performed a patrol on board a pick up truck and during the patrol passed through a gap that lead to a ranch “El Socorro “ , they were ambushed by unknown individuals who withdrew from the location after the attack.

Resulting from this attack were five men dead at the ambush site , plus 8 that received various injuries , the wounded men were channeled to different health care institutions to receive treatment for their wounds.

More from Fox News Latino:

Gunmen kill 5, wound 8 others in western Mexico

Five people were killed and eight others wounded in an attack apparently staged by Caballeros Templarios drug cartel members in the western Mexican state of Michoacan, state prosecutors said Monday.

The attack occurred Sunday in Huahua, a community outside the coastal city of Aquila, the Michoacan Attorney General’s Office said.

The victims – Nahua Indians and members of a vigilante group – were attacked as they patrolled the dirt road that links Huahua to the El Socorro ranch, the AG’s office said.

Caballeros Templarios gunmen tried to murder Cemei Verdia, the commander of the community self-defense group in Aquila, on Dec. 16, but they attacked the wrong vehicle, wounding four people, including a child.

Context from teleSUR:

Self-Defense Groups in Mexico Turn on Government

  • The Mexican government originally agreed to cooperate with self-defense groups in the country, but now seeks to disarm them.

Members of a self-defense group in the southern Mexican state of Michoacan are “thirsty for justice” after police killed their colleges in a neighboring municipality, according to a report by the AFP news agency published Sunday.

“The people are hurt and they hate (the government),” one unnamed commander of the self-defense groups told AFP.

Federal police attempted to re-take the municipal headquarters in Apatzingan Jan. 6, which had been occupied by members of a self-defense group in protest since late December 2014. The police operation provoked a shoot-out between the self-defense group and the police, leaving nine dead, including one soldier, according to official reports.

Fox News Latino notes a discovery:

Security forces find arms cache in central Mexico

The security forces found an arsenal buried in Tlatlaya, a city in Mexico state, where 22 civilians were killed by soldiers last June, officials said Monday.

Two containers filled with 30 rifles, two handguns, three attachments for grenade launchers and 3,500 rounds of ammunition were found at the site, Mexico state Gov. Eruviel Avila said in a statement.

Mexico state surrounds the Federal District and forms part of the Mexico City metropolitan area.

The 2 January abduction and presumed murder of journalist José Moisés Sánchez Cerezo in a town in the state of Vera Cruz [th town’s entire police force has been arrested as suspects] has prompted a Latin Correspondent analysis:

Abduction of journalist highlights dangers of reporting in Veracruz

More than 50 journalists have been killed or disappeared across Mexico since 2007 and the eastern state of Veracruz is widely considered the most dangerous place in the country to practice the profession.

Ten journalists have been murdered there and at least five others have gone missing since Governor Javier Duarte de Ochoa took office in 2010.

Drug cartels are thought to be responsible for much of the violence against the press and the fact that Veracruz is territory of Los Zetas, arguably Mexico’s most violent criminal gang, partly explains why the state has become such a hotspot.

However, corruption has been so rife in parts of Veracruz in recent years that local authorities have at times grown almost indistinguishable from organized crime.

And from the Washington Post, sound business practice?:

Losing marijuana business, Mexican cartels push heroin and meth

Mexican traffickers are sending a flood of cheap heroin and methamphetamine across the U.S. border, the latest drug seizure statistics show, in a new sign that America’s marijuana decriminalization trend is upending the North American narcotics trade.

The amount of cannabis seized by U.S. federal, state and local officers along the boundary with Mexico has fallen 37 percent since 2011, a period during which American marijuana consumers have increasingly turned to the more potent, higher-grade domestic varieties cultivated under legal and quasi-legal protections in more than two dozen U.S. states.

Made-in-the-USA marijuana is quickly displacing the cheap, seedy, hard-packed version harvested by the bushel in Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains. That has prompted Mexican drug farmers to plant more opium poppies, and the sticky brown and black “tar” heroin they produce is channeled by traffickers into the U.S. communities hit hardest by prescription painkiller abuse, off-ering addicts a $10 alternative to $80-a-pill oxycodone.

We close once again with images. First from Vertical world of Montecruz, an artist creates a poster with an epigram that has gone viral in Mexico: Fue el estado: It was the state:

Bellas Artes @ Mexico DF

Next, from rimbaudienne, a banner translating as “They wanted to burn us but they didn’t know we were the wick”:

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Finally, from nombret, a protester holds up a sign declaring “TV makes a show out of death, an object of a woman, and a circus of politics”:

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MexicoWatch: Protests, arrests, dead journalists


First up, a graphic call to action for a Tuesday protest in Washington, D.C.:

BLOG Ayotz

Next, via teleSUR, the latest protest by parents of the missing students:

Parents of Missing Mexican Students to ‘Occupy’ Barracks

  • The family members suspect the army participated in the crime and the students are being hidden inside barracks.

A group of family members and classmates of the 43 forcibly disappeared Mexican students will symbolically occupy military barracks throughout Mexico on Jan. 12, they announced Saturday.

The parents of the missing students believe that the federal government is attempting to cover up their role in the disappearance of their children, and have formerly called for an army barracks to be searched as a possible location for the students. The government refused to comply with the request back in Dec. 2014.

On the night of the attack the students sought the help of the 27th Army battalion, housed in barracks in Iguala town, where the attack took place, but the army denied them any assistance.

The families point to the fact that the federal police were monitoring the students right before the attack, and that survivors claim that federal police and national military participated in the attack.

Latin Times covers an investigative partnership:

43 Missing Students Of Ayotzinapa: FBI Involved In Ongoing Investigation Per Mexican Government Request

It seems like part of Mexico’s government’s strategy to diffuse the situation around the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa case, was to “wait it out.” Enrique Peña Nieto even stated they were “not going to take any dramatic action” after the tragic events occurred on this past September 26 in Iguala, Guerrero. After three months of waiting for answers on the alleged disappearance, (despite being declared dead by Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam), NBC News reports that the FBI has been involved in the ongoing investigation of the case, especially by performing DNA testing per the country’s government’s request, as they have only been able to identify one student (Alexander Mora venancio) in the numerous mass graves that have been discovered.

Sergio Alcocer, undersecretary of foreign affairs for North American, said the aid to the Mexican governement was provided through the Merida Initiative, a counter-drug and anti-crime program established in 2008 by the US, which has already appropriated around $2.4 billion by assisting Mexico.

In addition, several journalists and students have been on the case and have discovered (or better said, confirmed) the local authorities and federal police were directly involved in the disappearance of the 43 student teachers: “Nothing that happened that night was an accident. The government knew exactly what was happening,” said Anabel Hernández, a journalism student in the University of California, who also discovered official documents, which have not been revealed to the public, since they implicate the federal police directly in the events occurred that night. These revelations were also published in a report by Proceso magazine.

A video report on a leading suspect from teleSUR English:

Mexico: Ayotzinapa suspect transferred to maximum security prison

Program notes:

Mexican authorities transferred Maria de los Angeles Pineda, wife of the recently deposed mayor of Iguala and considered one of the masterminds behind the kidnapping and forced disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students, from house arrest to a maximum security prison. At the same time the students’ families and social organizations are demanding a more exhaustive investigation centering on possibly army complicity in the crime. Clayton Conn reports from Mexico City.

More from teleSUR:

Wife of Iguala Mayor Faces Federal Charges in Ayotzinapa Case

  • The Mexican federal government continues to insist that the former mayor and his wife are the masterminds behind the forced disappearance of the Ayotzinapa students.

The wife of the former mayor of Iguala who has been accused by the Mexican government of being the mastermind behind the forced disappearance of 43 Mexican students was moved to a high security prison Monday.

María de los Ángeles Pineda Villa, the wife of former Mayor Jose Luis Abarca, was taken to federal prison on the allegation that she was also involved in the disappearance of the Ayotzinapa teachers training college students and the death of six people on Sept. 26.

However, the parents of the missing students dispute the government’s version of events. They believe the government is attempting to cover up the role of the federal police and army in the forced disappearance of their children.

And from teleSUR English, a video report on arrests covered here yesterday:

Mexico: 10 police officers detained in Ayotzinapa case

Program notes:

Ten municipal police officers from Iguala have been detained for trial due to their alleged involvement in the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa teaching college students who went missing while in police custody last September 26.

Fox News Latino covers the latest journalist murders:

Kidnappers murder journalist and her husband in Mexico

A journalist and her husband were murdered by kidnappers in the western Mexican state of Nayarit, a state Attorney General’s Office spokesman told Efe on Monday.

Jazmin Martinez was a former cultural and entertainment reporter for the Televisa network.

The 26-year-old Martinez and her 30-year-old husband, Alejandro Ramirez Topete had been kidnapped last week.

Two of the five suspected members of the kidnapping gang involved in the killings have been arrested.

teleSUR covers a journalist disappearance:

Mexican Journalist May Have Been Disappeared by Authorities

  • Photojournalist and social activist Moises Sanchez Cerezo disappeared on Jan. 2. His family believes local authorities may be involved.

The Attorney General’s Office of the Mexican state of Veraruz announced Monday that several municipal police of the community Medellin de Bravo have been detained in connection to the forced disappearance of journalist and social activist Moises Sanchez on Jan. 2.

“As part of investigations into the disappearance of Moises Sanchez Cerezo, municipal police from Medellin de Bravo were detained and placed under investigation during the first minutes of today,” said a statement by the attorney general. However, the announcement did not reveal how many individuals were arrested.

According to witnesses and neighbors, three vehicles arrived at the home of Sanchez Jan. 2 at 7:30 p.m. when a group of nine heavily armed men forcibly kidnapped the journalist, taking his computers, cameras and cell phones.

Relatives have declared that Sanchez had been threatened by the mayor of Medellin, Omar Cruz, days before the armed group took him away.

And from Fox News Latino, cartel reconfigurations:

New cartel emerges in Mexico as government dismantles larger drug gangs

A new cartel has emerged in the southern part of the state of Mexico – home to the country’s capital – and has caused worry among federal officials already dealing with widespread violence and corruption stemming from drug traffickers.

Calling itself La Empresa (or the Company, in English), this new cartel is entering a region of the country that is currently seeing the reemergence of the once-powerful La Familia Michoacana cartel, Damian Canales Mena, Mexico state’s public safety secretary, said in a press conference, according to El Universal.

As proof that La Empresa is spreading in the Mexican state, Canales Mena pointed to the recent violent death of Bulmaro “El Negro” Blas Salazar, a known drug trafficker, and a sign found from the group stating they won’t tolerate kidnappings or thefts.

EbolaWatch: Numbers, cases, aid, campaigns


We begin with the latest total case and death numbers for all countries from today’s World Health Organization Situation Report [PDF]:

BLOG Ebola Numbers

Next, via the Centers for Disease Control, the latest Ebola curves for the three hardest hit West African countries. Note the unrelenting steep rise in Sierra Leone:

BLOG Ebola curves

CCTV America offers a year-end progress report:

Professor Jonathan Moreno discusses progress in fight against Ebola

Program notes:

Healthcare workers have made major strides this year in containing the Ebola virus. CCTV America interviewed physician Jonathan Moreno about the progress made so far and what lies ahead in fighting the virus.

From BBC News, help for a European victim:

Experimental drug for Ebola patient Pauline Cafferkey

Ebola patient Pauline Cafferkey is receiving an experimental anti-viral drug and blood from survivors of the disease, doctors in London have said.

Specialists at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, where the nurse is being treated, did not name the drug.

Dr Michael Jacobs said Ms Cafferkey was in isolation and was sitting up in bed, talking and reading.

As the disease has no known cure and is unpredictable, Dr Jacobs said they would know more in a week’s time.

Case-handling blowback from Britain’s Channel 4 News:

Ebola plans under review after Glasgow positive

Screening measures for Ebola are to be reviewed after a health worker was found to have the virus having flown on from Heathrow after repeated tests

Dame Sally Davies, the government’s Chief Medical Officer, said questions had been raised about airport screening for Ebola after NHS nurse Pauline Cafferkey was found to have the virus after returning to the UK from west Africa.

Mrs Cafferkey flew in to Heathrow before catching a flight to Glasgow where she was placed in isolation after feeling feverish. She had flown to Sierra Leone with other NHS volunteers in November.

“We regularly keep under review what we are doing because this is a new process,” Dame Sally said. “Clearly queuing and things like that are unacceptable and we will review. But we will let people who are well travel because they will not infect the public.”

Another review, via the Guardian:

Scottish Ebola case triggers Save the Children investigation

  • Charity for which Pauline Cafferkey was working to look into how she caught disease in Sierra Leone, as UK reviews screening measures

Save the Children has launched an urgent investigation into how a Scottish nurse contracted the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone, as health chiefs promise to review screening measures in the UK.

The charity’s humanitarian director, Michael von Bertele, said he had ordered an inquiry into whether Pauline Cafferkey caught the disease outside the treatment centre in Kerry Town where she had volunteered.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “I would say that protection, if people adhere to the protocols, is of a very high standard but … nothing is risk-free, particularly when dealing with a disease like Ebola.”

He said the investigation had started already.

And another Rupert Murdoch minion does her master proud in Old Blighty, via BBC News:

Katie Hopkins’ tweets on ‘Ebola bombs’ examined by police

  • Complaints were made to police about Katie Hopkins’ tweets on Ebola

Police are examining complaints about Ebola comments tweeted by controversial TV personality Katie Hopkins.

After news that a Scots nurse was being treated for the virus, Hopkins wrote: “Sending us Ebola bombs in the form of sweaty Glaswegians just isn’t cricket.”

Another tweet said: “Glaswegian ebola patient moved to London’s Royal Free Hospital. Not so independent when it matters most are we jocksville?”

From the Dept. Of Unconfirmed but Too Noteworthy to Ignore, this from Outbreak News Today:

Ebola in Iraq? Unconfirmed reports hitting the internet

  • A number of unconfirmed reports have hit the internet today concerning Ebola virus case(s) in Mosul, Iraq.

According to a report in Shafaq News today, A medical source in Mosul hospital revealed diagnosing the infection with Ebola virus of elements belonging to ISIS.

Later in the report it states, The source, who asked not to be identified told “Shafaq News”, that “the cases were recorded on foreign fighters of African descent.

The medical source warned from the spread of the disease within the city of Mosul and its transmission to other Iraqi cities

From the New York Times, an economic damage assessment:

Ebola Ravages Economies in West Africa

More than any loss of life or manpower, it is the extreme efforts to check the disease that are proving far more costly to the economies. Shutting schools, quarantining whole districts, sealing borders, canceling flights and banning public gatherings may have helped reduce transmission of the disease, but such measures have crippled trade. The shame of it is that Sierra Leone was growing at an impressive clip — before Ebola hit.

“A shock like this just brings a whole bunch of households back below the poverty line,” said David Evans, a World Bank economist. “It’s a huge setback.”

It is not clear how quickly Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone would bounce back even if the virus were stopped in its tracks right now. The World Bank predicts that Sierra Leone’s economy will contract in 2015 and that West Africa will lose at least $3.8 billion in economic activity. Farming is one of the biggest concerns. In some areas of Sierra Leone, agricultural production has dropped by nearly half because so many cassava and rice farmers were ordered to stay home for mandatory quarantines.

Already 500,000 people in the region have gone hungry because of Ebola, and that number could double by March. In the last two months, the United Nations World Food Program has distributed 22 million pounds of emergency food.

And from the Guardian, a prescription:

Ebola can only be beaten by tackling poverty in Africa

Listening to the NHS staff returning from fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone, it is obvious that poverty still kills as efficiently as it always has. One doctor on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning explained that their clinic had no access to any special treatment, but that simply by rehydrating patients they were immediately seeing better than 50% recovery rates. He added that there was not yet any scientific evidence that the new vaccines or treatments made a difference. It may be that outcomes that are just as good and much, much cheaper will come from the absolute fundamentals of good basic care and hygiene.

It is now nearly a year since this tragic story began to unfold. It should have been contained much sooner: prevention and treatment should have been delivered at scale with urgency. But Ebola has become a metonym for the way the west sees the African story, a continent that lives under a perpetual cloud of fear.

It is also a brutal reminder of an everyday fact in rural Africa – that poverty kills. For thousands of families no good will come of the disease. But for the wider continent and for the next generation, something could. In 2015, the UN is reviewing the development goals that it originally set in 2000. Here’s a thought. Make sure the new list includes tackling some of the structural barriers that stand between ordinary Africans and a growing income. Pull down trade barriers, and enforce government transparency. The way to end diseases of poverty is, after all, by ending poverty.

While CCTV America examines the fate of the smallest victims:

Ebola orphans often overlooked

Program notes:

In the race to contain the Ebola virus, the children of Ebola victims are often overlooked. Many children are abandoned, stigmatized, and suffering the pain of incredible loss. CCTV America’s Stephanie Freid reported this story from Conakry, Guinea.

After the jump, it’s on to Sierra Leone with a U.N. warning and a recovered Cuban doctor’s vow to return to the hot zone, on to Liberia with an ex-official’s call for border closures, public gathering ban lifted for New Year’s worship, the central bank announces relief measures — including payments for private school teachers impoverished by ban on classes, and motorized anti-Ebola auxiliaries, collateral damage in Zimbabwe, and a new position at the Centers for Disease Control. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Occupy, protest, arrests, more


Plus one major suspect released. . .

First, the latest move from protesters, via teleSUR:

Town Halls Occupied in Guerrero, Mexico for Ayotzinapa

  • More than two dozen town halls have been occupied in the state of Guerrero by social organizations, demanding justice in the Ayotzinapa case.

In a show of solidarity with the families of the disappeared Ayotzinapa students, various social and grassroots organizations continue to occupy 28 of the 81 town halls throughout the southern Mexican state of Guerrero.

On December 24th organizations that form the National Popular Assembly (NPA) decided on the occupy action for the entire state, setting forth a plan to form popular municipal councils.

Since the decision was made last week groups from the Popular Guerrerense Movement (MPG) took over the town halls in different regions of the state. However as of now only the towns of Tlapa, Tecoanapa, Ayutla de los Libres, y San Luis Acatlán have formed popular councils.

teleSUR again, this time with a suspect released:

Mexican Mayor Released on Lack of Evidence in Ayotzinapa Case

  • A judge decided that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to issue a detention order against the mayor of the town where local police allegedly participated in the forced disappearance of 42 students and murder of 1.

The mayor of the Mexican city of Cocula in Guerrero state, Cesar Miguel Peñaloza, was released late on Saturday after being held for a week over alleged links with the case of 43 missing students in the city of Iguala on September 26, the Attorney General (PGR) reported.

“I can tell you that I’m willing to clarify any situation that may link us to the case,” Peñalosa said to the press after being freed.

The release came after a judge decided that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to issue a detention order. According to the government’s version of events, Cocula was where the criminal gang and perhaps local authorities burnt the students’ bodies. However the families of the victims do not accept the official version of events, and have been deferring to outside forensic experts.

And from teleSUR yet again [it’s the only medium staying focused on the story]:

Ayotzinapa Activists Arrested during Protest Performance

  • Two #YoSoy132 students have been arbitrarily arrested in an artistic protest on a bus in Cancun in honor of the three month anniversary of the tragic events in Iguala, Guerrero on September 26 which resulted in the forced disappearance of 43 Ayotzinapa Teachers’ College students.

Municipal Tourist Police in Cancun arrested two students who attempted to hold a protest performance in the Forum Plaza of the hotel district to bring attention to the three month anniversary of the disappearance of 43 Ayotzinapa Teachers’ College students in Iguala on September 26.

In social media postings, family members and friends called the arrest “illegal and arbitrary,” accusing the police of using excessive force and not respecting the rights of the detained.

The Municipal Secretary of Public Security and Transit, Arturo Olivares Mendiola, told Sol Azteca that the students, Luis Angel Caballero Martinez, and Itzcoatl Padilla Ramos, were arrested on Friday night at 10 p.m. for not paying busfare and disturbing the peace in a public vehicle.

From teleSUR English, a year-end summary:

MEXICO: Forced Disappearance of 43 Students Opens Deep Wound

Program notes:

In September, dozens of students from the Ayotzinapa teachers’ college in the Mexican state of Guerrero were attacked by local police. Six were killed. The police then turned 43 students over to the organized crime group, Guerreros Unidos. They have been missing ever since.

Frontera NorteSur draws parallels:

The U.S. and Mexico: Hand-in-Hand in Human Rights Violations

Though little-noticed by the U.S. media, events north of the border bore striking similarities to developments in Mexico in 2014. Like in the mass protests that arose south of the Rio Bravo and then rapidly extended worldwide over the police killings and forced disappearances of the Ayotzinapa rural teachers’ college students in Guerrero, Mexico, the catalyzing issue in El Norte was police violence.

In the two NAFTA nations, questions of race and class, police militarization, political corruption, justice system breakdown, economic inequities, and systematic human rights violations provided the contextual kindling for national conflagrations.

In a recent press commentary on the links between Ayotzinapa and the police killings of unarmed African American teen Mike Brown and others in the U.S.,  Aida Hernandez, professor and researcher with the Center for Higher Studies and Research in Social Anthropology in Mexico City, contended that both instances expose the outrage that “poor young indigenous people and African Americans are disposable in racist and racialized societies.”

In the case of Ayotzinapa, Hernandez wrote, the fact that the majority of the 43 students disappeared last September were of indigenous heritage was a “little discussed” issue even while racist messages pertaining to the students were posted in social media and conveyed in the mass media.

On a similar note, a pre-Christmas piece by Reuters lent more credence to charges of widespread racial profiling by the New York City  and other police departments.

From Fox News Latino, chaos:

Amid protests and rampant crime, Mexico struggles to get nearly 2,000 police forces under control

News coverage of the role of corrupt local police officers in Iguala shifted attention away from Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto’s economic reform agenda to security.

Questions about collusion between municipal police and drug cartel henchmen, and the possible complicity of Mexico’s army and Federal Police, have fueled a debate about whether Mexico’s local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies are capable of—or willing to—effectively provide security in a context defined by a weak judicial system, high levels of impunity and organized crime financed corruption.

If local police forces are co-opted by criminal groups, residents are left without recourse.  In Acapulco, the local police are clearly unable to guarantee security for residents. The arrival of the Federal Police, although positive, hasn’t stopped the violence in the hills either.

From teleSUR, digging deep:

Mexico Human Rights Body Examining Army Role in Disappearances

  • The investigation comes after recent evidence of state involvement in the forced disappearance of 43 students casts further doubts on the government’s claims.

?The President of Mexico’s Human Right’s Commission (CNDH) has said the body will investigate the role of the Mexican army in the disappearance of 43 Mexican students in Iguala, Guerrero.

After meeting the parents of the students, human rights ombudsman Luis Raul Gonzalez told reporters Sunday that the CNDH has requested the Mexican army provides a report of its actions in Iguala during Sept. 26, when the students went missing.

That night the municipal police of Iguala and armed masked men kidnapped 43 students of Ayotzinapa teachers training college, and then allegedly handed them over to a local drug gang. According to the Mexican authorities the students were burned to ashes.

teleSUR English covers solidarity:

Mexico: Artistic community shows solidarity with Ayotzinapa students

Program notes:

The Mexican artistic community is organizing activities in solidarity with the families of the 42 missing students of Ayotzinapa. Artists are using music and theater to demand the safe return of the students and justice for the families of the six people who were killed by the municipal police of Iguala on September 26.

The Latin American Herald Tribune covers a surrender:

Vigilante Leader, 26 Followers Surrender to Mexican Authorities

The founder of the vigilante groups in the western Mexican state of Michoacan and 26 of his followers surrendered, officials said.

Hipolito Mora Chavez and his supporters – 25 men and a woman – turned themselves in to state police on Saturday and were taken to a prison.

Mora Chavez and his supporters face charges in connection with a shootout on Dec. 16 that left 11 people dead, including one of his sons.

The vigilante leader surrendered at 2:00 p.m. in La Ruana, a community outside the city of Buenavista Tomatlan, following the end of the traditional nine days of mourning for his eldest son, Manuel Mora Moreno, an Efe reporter on the scene confirmed.

Borderland Beat offers a critical caveat:

Hipolito Mora is  a commander in the Rurales force. It has been noted that the press continues to label the men as ‘vigilantes’, without mentioning the men were not of the self-defense movement but were a part of the President Peña/Commissioner Castillo force.

From Fox News Latino, a cause of death:

Slain priest strangled, Mexican prosecutor says

The Catholic priest murdered last week in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero was strangled to death, not shot, as originally reported, state Attorney General Miguel Angel Godinez said Monday.

Police discovered the body of the Rev. Gregorio Lopez Gorostieta last Thursday, three days after armed men snatched him from a seminary in Ciudad Altamirano.

“There has been a poor handling of information, because Father Lopez Gorostieta did not die from a gunshot, he died of strangulation, according to the autopsy,” Godinez said in an interview with Radio Formula.

And to conclude, an image via Seguimos Grabando, this time a mother of one of the 43 kidnaped students wishing him a Merry Christmas “wherever you are. . .”

BLOG Ayotz