Category Archives: Governance

Peña plans massive Mexican education budget cuts


Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, apostle of Bushist bneoliberal educational “reform,” will make drastic cuts in the national education buget, reports teleSUR English:

The administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto plans to deepen contested education reforms, by cutting spending for facilities improvements, equipment access, and teacher training, the Mexican newspaper La Jornada reported Sunday.

The Mexican government proposes federal-level cutbacks in 19 out of 23 programs for children and youths next year,

According to data from Mexico’s Center for Economic and Budget Research, also known as CIEP, spending earmarked for education in the 2017 budget is set to fall by 4.2 percent. Total educational spending represents 14 percent of the federal budget and 3.3 percent of GDP, which represents a reduction in educational investment historically. According to World Bank statistics, Mexico dedicated 5.1 percent of GDP to education in 2011, which was, at that time, more than the worldwide average of 4.53 percent of GDP.

According to numbers reported by La Jornada, some areas will be hit harder than others. Funding for the Education Reform Program is set to plunge by nearly 72 percent, while the Program for Professional Development for Teachers.

Other programs on the chopping block include initiatives aimed at bridging the digital divide, improving early childhood education, and developing infrastructure in the education system, among others, La Jornada reported.

Peña’s move is certain to spark more unrest among his country’s increasingly militant teachers.

New Politics reported Sunday on the factors driving the increasingly militant teachers to take to Mexico’s streets, actions all too often met with deadly gunfire:

Mexico’s dissident teachers have been engaged in a strike against the Education Reform Law since May 16 of this year–four months! Their strikes of tens of thousands, led by the National Coordinating Committee (la CNTE), a caucus within the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE), have also engaged in protest marches, the blocking of highways and railroads, the commandeering of government vehicles, and the occupation of government buildings.

The government has responded by docking teachers’ pay, firing them, sending the police to beat them, and issuing warrants and arresting teacher leaders. One can only call what has gone on in Chiapas and Oaxaca and to a lesser extent in Guerrero and Michoacán class war.

Now there also appear to be death squads carrying out executions of teachers and their allies. So far at least three assassinations have taken place: a teacher, a parent, and a lawyer for the union. This is an ominous and very dangerous escalation of political violence.

  • One teacher, Jorge Vela Díaz, was shot and killed and his wife Lorena Antonio Sánchez, was wounded on Sept. 14 when two armed men men on motorcycles attacked them at a public school in the town of Ocotlán, Morelos. Both were teachers and members of Local 22 of the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE) of Oaxaca.
  • At the same time, another man, 19 year old Eder Zuriel Gonzen Mosqueda, a parent, was shot and killed in front of the “Juan Enrique Pestalozzi” primary school in San Juan Bautista Textepec, near the border of Veracruz. His relationship to the union is unknown, but the fact that he was shot in front of a school suggests this is related to the union.
  •  On Sept. 15, Agustín Pavia Pavia, a founder and leader of the MORENA party and  defender of the teachers movement in Oaxaca was shot and killed in front of his house in Oaxaca City, the state capital. He was the fifth member of the Oaxaca MORENA party to be assassinated in 2016; no one has been charged with any of the deaths.

Chart of the day: India more assertive under Modi


From the Pew Research Center, new evidence that India is growing more assertive and militaristic under Right wing Hindu populist Prime Minister Narendra Modi:

Microsoft Word - Pew Research Center India Report FINAL Septembe

Ayotzinapa parents rebel, tests debunk gov’t claim


Two major developments to report in the ongoing controversy 26 September 2014 disappearances of 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in the state of Guerrero [previously].

First, parents of the missing students, frustrated with the government’s self-evident coverup of events surrounding the mass kidnaping, have broken off talks with officials of the government of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto

From teleSUR English:

Relatives of the 43 Ayotzinapa students who disappeared are cutting off all dialogue with the Mexican government after the lead investigator resigned for allegedly tampering with evidence—and was then awarded with a promotion.

Thomas Zeron de Lucio was the former director of criminal investigations responsible for overseeing the Ayotzinapa case. He resigned Wednesday but Ayotzinapa relatives accuse President Enrique Peña Nieto of rewarding Zeron with a higher paying position as technical secretary of the National Security Council. That comes after a new independent study debunked the government narrative on the disappearance of the students in Guerrero.

“Enough, no more lies or simulations,” Felipe de la Cruz, spokesperson for the families, said during a press conference on Thursday in Mexico City. “That’s the requirement. Until it is completed—until Thomas Zeron de Lucio is investigated and punished—the parents will not be returning to the talks.”

The government’s official version says local police apprehended the students, who had commandeered a bus to travel to a protest, and handed them over to a gang known as Guerreros Unidos.

“It is outrageous that after having an open investigation he is rewarded with a higher charge. It’s nothing but a joke to the 43 parents—a mockery to all Mexicans,” said Mario Gonzalez, whose son is one of the missing students.

Confirmation of the coverup

The official government version of events declares that the students were ambushed by members of the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel in collusion with corrupt local police, acting on the believe that the students, who lived in dorms without beds or other furnishings, were engaged in major legaue drug trafficking.

Absurd on its face, the government scenario has been rejected by parents and by numerous NGOs which have been conducted their own independent investigation.

Keystone of the government’s theory is the allegation that the bodies of the students were incinerated in a mass cremation at a trash dump in a ravine.

But that theory has been rejected by internation scientists, most recently in experiments conducted by Australian fire scientist José Torero of the University of Queensland, St. Lucia, in Brisbane.

Torrero conducted his own tests, using pig carcasses, burning as many as four at a time on pyres.

From Science:

Torero’s experiments “are one more element that says the so-called ‘historical truth’”—how a former attorney general labeled the government’s theory of the crime—“is impossible,” says Francisco Cox Vidal, a lawyer and member of an expert group (known in Spanish as the GIEI) convened by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights in Washington, D.C., to examine the disappearance and the official inquest. Deputy Attorney General for Human Rights Eber Betanzos Torres did not respond to requests for comment.

>snip<

Born in Peru and trained at the University of California, Berkeley, Torero has investigated many high-profile fires, including those that brought down the Twin Towers. The cartel members had testified that they incinerated the bodies on a pyre of wood and tires in the open air. Torero’s calculations suggested that fully incinerating 43 bodies in the manner the cartel described would have required a staggering amount of wood: between 20,000 and 40,000 kilograms. He also doubted that it would be possible to nearly eliminate organic matter from the remains with an open-air fire, rather than with a furnace. And when he visited the Cocula dump in July 2015, he saw no evidence of a massive fire. He concluded that it was impossible the students had been burned there.

In an 8 June report, the Attorney General’s office called for experimental verification. Torero independently took up the challenge. He and a dozen students simulated the alleged pyres at Cocula in a field at his university’s Gatton campus, outside Brisbane. They used bone-dry wood, stacked precisely, and left out tires, which would have made the fire less efficient. The experimental set-up, Torero says, represented “the ideal scenario.”
Scientist José Torero working with fire in his lab.

His team systematically burned pig carcasses. Even when using 630 kg of wood for a single 70-kg pig, 10% of the pig’s flesh remained after the fire burned out, Torero told Science. Forty-three bodies of a similar weight, therefore, would have required over 27,000 kg of wood, and organic matter would have survived the fire. Even if the cartel had been able to find that much wood in Cocula, the intense bonfire would have scarred nearby tree trunks, Torero says. Visiting the dump 10 months after the disappearances, he saw no such scars.

Torero also burned up to four pig carcasses at once to explore whether body fat would fuel the fire and promote total incineration. Each added carcass weakened fire intensity, the team found. Burning 43 bodies together, therefore, would require much more wood than burning each separately. “Bodies are a large percent water,” says Lentini. “They’re not great fuel.”

One casualty of Torrero’s investigation has been Tomás Zerón de Lucio, director of the national government’s Agency of Criminal Investigations, who resigned Wednesday.

With the government’s case up in flames, the mystery of just what happened to the missing students remains an open case in the eyes of the world.

Sadly, news media in the U.S. had been neglecting the story. We hope that changes.

Quote of the day: A matter of perspective. . .


From From Naureen Shah, director of Amnesty International USA’s Security and Human Rights Program, writing for Medium:

It’s deeply disturbing that, 15 years after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government’s sense of justice is so skewed that while not a single person has been prosecuted for torture or unlawful drone killings, it is Edward Snowden who faces decades behinds bars.

So, while we witness the vilification of Edward Snowden, this is happening:

  • The architects of CIA torture celebrate their abuses, safe in the knowledge they likely won’t ever be prosecuted.
  • 61 men languish at Guantanamo, many locked away without charges for more than a decade, and they may die there.
  • Drone strikes have killed scores, including a woman struck by Hellfire missiles and blown to bits before the eyes of her grandchildren, and yet her death has never even been acknowledged by the U.S. government.

Wednesday September 14th marked the 15th year that U.S. intelligence and defense agencies have used the 2001 Authorization of the Use of Military Force, a law passed in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, as a permission slip for human rights abuses.

These out of control agencies, unchecked by the courts and Congress, violating human rights with impunity — this is why Edward Snowden had to speak out, why it’s ludicrous to suggest he could have worked within this desperately broken system, a system where human rights abuses are systematically ignored and sometimes covered up.

Headline of the day: Suspicions finally confirmed


From the London Daily Mail, another revelation from Hillary’s emails:

Israel has ‘200 nukes all pointed at Iran’, former US secretary of state Colin Powell  says in leaked private email that has Washington on edge

  • The detail is the latest revelation to emerge from a cache of leaked communications
  • The former US secretary of state revealed the information in an email he sent to a colleague last year
  • Israel has a policy of nuclear ambiguity and has never talked openly about the type or size of its weapons 
  • The email was being sent to business partner and democratic donor Jeffrey Leeds regarding Israeli PM Netanyahu’s speech to Congress 

Miami Beach Zika hot zone triples in size


Zika hot zones in the City of Miami, left, and Miami Beach, right, with the uppermost region just added to the hot zone by the Florida Department of Health.

Zika hot zones in the City of Miami, left, and Miami Beach, right, with the uppermost region just added to the hot zone by the Florida Department of Health.

Almost all of Miami Beach, the home of posh hotels and plush mansions, has been declared a Zika hot zone, the Florida Department of Health of Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday.

With Miami already reeling from from confirmed cases if tiurusts who contracted the disease on their Miami vacations, Friday’s announcement may well lead to a major decline in those tourist dollars so vital to the regional economy.

From Reuters:

State officials in Florida on Friday tripled the active Zika transmission zone in the trendy seaside community of Miami Beach after five new cases of the mosquito-borne virus believed to cause a severe birth defect were identified in the area.

The active transmission zone grew from 1.5 square miles to 4.5 square miles and consists of a large portion of the popular tourist destination, Florida Governor Rick Scott said in a statement on Friday evening.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine told the Miami Herald that the city will begin truck-spraying of larvicide in the zone on Saturday.

“We have a serious problem,” he told the newspaper. “Once again, we must take all reasonable and safe action to eliminate this. This is a problem.”

More on the impacts from the Miami Herald:

By dramatically expanding the beach’s Zika zone, Scott has ramped up an area of caution that already has hotels warning of sharp slowdowns and elected leaders pleading with Florida and Washington for financial help if the region’s economy suffers the severe hit they fear might be coming.

Miami Beach began the day with some unsettling Zika news: two new cases in the original zone, south of 28th Street. Hours later, Scott announced the expanded zone and a total of five cases.

The number of locally transmitted cases is now 93, which includes at least 10 people who live outside the state but acquired the virus here.

>snip<

During an afternoon conference call between Miami Beach and county officials Friday, some local hotels reported their business has taken a serious hit in the past month. Many have lost group bookings.

The Fontainebleau hotel told the city manager’s office it has had its worst three weeks in 15 years. The Carillon Resort had lost $100,000 in short-term cancellations. And owners of the Mandarin Oriental — which is on Brickell Key, not Miami Beach — were concerned about bookings for Art Basel, which are not coming in at their usual pace. Art Basel is an annual art fair held in South Beach, a marquee event during the first week of December.

The governor’s cash pitch

From Scott’s announcement:

“While we’ve learned that we’re expanding the impacted area in Miami Beach, the good news is that we expect to lift the zone in Wynwood on Monday because of our aggressive mosquito control measures, outreach to the community, education efforts and the vigilant actions of the residents and businesses in Wynwood. The expansion of the Miami Beach area where local transmission is occurring highlights the need for continued aggressive mosquito control measures and for Congress to immediately approve federal funding to combat Zika. I went to Washington this week to meet with Congressional leaders and urge them to immediately provide funding for this national crisis. Every minute that passes that Congress doesn’t approve funding means more time is lost from researching this virus to find a vaccine to help pregnant women and their developing babies.

“Due to the inaction by Congress, I authorized an additional $10 million in state funds today to continue fighting Zika. I am also continuing to call on Congress to hold a field hearing in Miami on Zika preparedness and prevention by October 1. I know many members of Florida’s Congressional Delegation are fighting for Zika funding and it is critically important that members come to Miami and hear directly from those who are on the frontlines of batting this virus.

“Following today’s news, I am asking the CDC to provide Florida with an additional epidemiologist to support DOH’s efforts to combat and contain Zika and host a call with community leaders and clinicians in Miami Beach to answer questions and provide the latest guidance on Zika. In August, I asked the CDC to send additional lab support to Florida and while they have provided some resources, we need much more. That is why earlier this week I asked the CDC for more lab support. Additionally, I am renewing my call to the Obama Administration to provide 10,000 Zika Prevention Kits to protect pregnant women and a detailed plan on how they would like us to work with FEMA now that Zika is mosquito-borne in our state. We have continued to call on the CDC to quickly respond to these requests, and pregnant women who are most at-risk for the Zika virus deserve to have these requests immediately fulfilled.”

The governor stands to reap rewards

Cynics might think the Florida governor’s call for a major federal cash infusion to fight the disease-carrying mosquitoes, given a story reported 17 August by the investigative journalism website FloridaBulldog:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has an undisclosed financial interest in a Zika mosquito control company in which his wife, Florida First Lady Ann Scott, owns a multi-million dollar stake through a private investment firm she co-owns.

The company is Mosquito Control Services LLC of Metairie, LA. According to its web site, MCS “is a fully-certified team of mosquito control experts – licensed throughout the Gulf Coast, including Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.”

On June 23, Gov. Scott signed an executive order allocating $26.2 million in state emergency funds for Zika preparedness, including “mosquito surveillance and abatement, training for mosquito control technicians and enhanced laboratory capacity.”

It is not known whether MCS, whose services include monitoring and aerial spraying, stands to benefit from Florida government funds. Company manager Steven Pavlovich holds an active Florida “public health applicator” license with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services through April 2019, but MCS is not a registered state vendor. The Department of Health contracts with two other two mosquito control vendors.

MCS did not respond to two requests for comment.

Headline of the day II: He spies on you, but. . .


Facebook, the most popular social media platform in history, requires users to let the software spy on their most intimate habits.

But don’t you day try to do the same to the guy who runs it, because he’ll spend millions to stop you.

Irony, anyone?

From the London Daily Mail:

Palo Alto REJECTS Mark Zuckerberg’s bid to demolish neighboring homes and create a family compound after he spent $30m on properties next to his house

  • Facebook founder filed paperwork with the city of Palo Alto in May, stating his intentions to tear down and rebuild four neighboring homes
  • Architectural review board rejected the plans saying a giant compound will violate zoning codes and ideal land use 
  • Plans shows that Zuckerberg will tear down the four homes and rebuild them as smaller properties
  • Zuckerberg bought the four properties in 2013, after a developer threatened to build a house with views right into the billionaire’s bedroom