Category Archives: Latin America

InSecurityWatch: Stalkers, hacks, war, spies, law


From the Observer, the worst of both worlds:

Spyware and malware availability sparks surge in internet stalking

  • Domestic violence experts warn malicious software is increasingly being used to compromise victims’ computers and phones

Domestic violence experts have warned that the use of specialist technology that enables abusers to stalk victims online and via mobile phones is growing at an alarming rate.

A series of parliamentary answers has revealed that, in the 12 months up to April 2014, police received 10,731 reports of computers being compromised by spyware and malware (malicious software). Both can be used by abusers to gather information from someone’s computer or phone. They can allow abusers to view documents, photographs or passwords – and even turn on a device’s camera or microphone. Mobile spyware can also reveal a person’s location.

The real number of victims is likely to be considerably higher. “As most victims are unaware that they are being watched or are too scared to come forward, the real number of incidents could be up to 10 times that,” said Harry Fletcher, criminal justice director of the Digital-Trust, a new charity set up to help victims of cyber abuse.

A spy with conviction, via BBC News:

Ex-Colombian spy chief Maria del Pilar Hurtado convicted

The former head of Colombia’s secret police, Maria del Pilar Hurtado, has been found guilty of spying on politicians, judges and journalists. The Supreme Court said Hurtado’s sentence would be announced in 15 days.

Those targeted in the spying, which occurred between 2007 and 2008, were all political opponents of Alvaro Uribe, who was president at the time.

His former chief of staff has also been convicted but Mr Uribe denies any knowledge of the illegal intercepts.

Cold War 2.0 expostulation, via the Guardian:

Former MI6 chief warns over Russian threat

John Sawers says defence spending needs to increase to counter Vladimir Putin’s actions and Europe needs to find a new way to coexist with Russia

Russia has become a greater threat to Britain, and defence spending needs to increase to counter Vladimir Putin’s actions, the former MI6 chief has warned.

Sir John Sawers, who stepped down in 2014 after five years of running the Secret Intelligence Service, said the threat posed by Moscow was “not necessarily directly to the UK but to countries around its periphery”.

“The real problem is how we live with a Russia which feels very exposed. Putin’s actions are ones of a leader who believes his own security is at stake,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday.

And from the New York Times, Cold War 1.0:

Cuba’s Designation as a Sponsor of Terrorism Snarls Negotiations With U.S.

More than a year ago, the State Department held a meeting with bankers and Cuban officials to deliver an unusual request: please accept Cuba’s money.

The one bank that did business with Cuban diplomats in Washington, M & T Bank of Buffalo, had announced that it would no longer serve foreign missions. Cuba could hardly shop around for a replacement, not least because it is on the American government’s list of nations that support terrorism — forcing Cuban diplomats in Washington to carry out many of their transactions with bundles of cash.

Now, Cuba’s spot on the American list of states that sponsor terrorism is emerging as a major sticking point in the effort to restore diplomatic ties with the United States and reopen embassies that have been closed for nearly five decades.

And so it continues, via the McClatchy Foreign Staff:

UN cites 2 ‘credible’ reports of torture at U.S. facilities in Afghanistan

The United Nations reported Wednesday that it had uncovered two credible accounts of torture at U.S. military facilities in Afghanistan in recent years during an investigation into the treatment of detainees.

The report, which was devoted primarily to mistreatment of prisoners held in Afghan custody, said the “credible and reliable” accounts came from two detainees who’d been held “in a U.S. facility in Maydan Wardak,” a province whose capital of Maidan Shar lies about 20 miles west of Kabul, and “a U.S. special forces facility at Baghlan,” a province that lies north of the Afghan capital.

The report quoted the prisoners as saying the mistreatment in Baghlan occurred in April 2013 and at Maydan Wardak in September 2013.

Torture as part of the U.S. war on terror has been a controversial issue. A recent report by the Senate Intelligence Committee outlined 20 cases of mistreatment of suspected terrorists held in secret CIA prisons, and U.S. soldiers have been accused of torturing Afghan prisoners, with the most notorious case being the death of Dilawar, an Afghan taxi driver who died after he was hung from the ceiling of his cell by his wrists and beaten in 2002.

But there have been few verified reports in more recent years, though Afghan authorities have accused Americans of abusing prisoners.

The New York Times covers the defense:

‘Jihadi John’ Stirs Britain to Defend Spy Agencies

After disclosures that the man who posed in videos of the murder of Western hostages was known to British intelligence, Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday defended the security services, saying they faced tough decisions and had prevented deadly attacks.

“All of the time, they are having to make incredibly difficult judgments, and I think basically they make very good judgments on our behalf,” Mr. Cameron said at a news conference.

“I think while we are in the middle of this vast effort to make sure British citizens are safe, I think the most important thing is to get behind them,” he said.

And from WMC Action News 5 in Memphis, a target:

Mid-South professor targeted by ISIS

A Mid-South professor is being targeted by ISIS, a group known for its gruesomeness.

“ISIS does not represent my faith, their actions are in contradiction to my faith, and I’m appalled at what they are doing in the name of my faith,” said Rhodes College professor of religious studies, and the Resident Scholar of the Memphis Islamic Center Yasir Qadhi.

ISIS is using its propaganda magazine in the name of Islam to call for the assassination of Qadhi.

“I was one two clerics that they targeted in their latest magazine, two American clerics, and basically called for my assassination,” said Qadhi. “And they have said this is an act of of worship…..that if somebody kills me, God is going to reward them.”

BBC News covers a designation:

Egypt court puts Hamas on terrorist list

An Egyptian court has listed the Palestinian group Hamas as a terrorist organisation, accusing it of supporting an insurgency in northern Sinai.

The ruling comes a month after a different court labelled the armed wing of Hamas as a terrorist group. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, is an offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood – itself designated as a terrorist organisation in 2013.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi was ousted that year. The court ruling on Saturday effectively bans Hamas within Egypt, a wider verdict that January’s censure of its armed wing.

From the New York Times, agitation:

Online, American Helps Fuel Attacks in Egypt

Writing from an online perch in Istanbul, he calls on Egyptians to start off-hour attacks against KFC restaurants, banks, mobile phone shops and other corporate outposts. He urges assaults on the military’s commercial interests instead of its security checkpoints.

Nonviolent protests are worse than “futile,” he says, just an opportunity “to get arrested or shot in an exercise in crowd control training for the police.”

This Internet provocateur is an American convert to Islam, Shahid King Bolsen, a college dropout who speaks only rudimentary Arabic and has barely set foot in Egypt. He has nevertheless emerged as the unlikely apostle for a distinctive blend of anti-globalization sloganeering and Islamist politics that is fueling a new wave of violence against businesses across the country.

From the Independent, a Saudi blogger’s fate worsens:

Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face the death penalty

Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger whose punishment of 1,000 lashes has prompted international condemnation, may now face the death penalty.

Mr Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, told The Independent in a series of messages that judges in Saudi Arabia’s criminal court want him to undergo a re-trial for apostasy. If found guilty, he would face a death sentence.

She said the “dangerous information” had come from “official sources” inside the conservative kingdom, where Mr Badawi has already been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes – administered at a rate of 50 per week – for criticising the country’s clerics through his liberal blog.

After the jump, terror porn and fundamentalist eBayism, China alleged to spy on nuclear power plants, Aussie women head off to ISIS, China’s Muslims increasingly targeted, Pegida marchers outnumbered by foes in Britain, a looted Iraqi museum reopens, more U.S. drone kills in Yemen, Cameroonians stage an anti-Boko Haram rally, a former Peruvian leader charged in a journalist’s killing, terror fears raise a free speech crackdown on the U.K. campus, civil libertarians fear Canada’s anti-terror legislation, and new Turkish laws evoke the police state specter, South Korea pushes Japan for Comfort Women resolution, a partisan challenge to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s security state push, and a call for cybersecurity coordination. . . Continue reading

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, GMOs, toxins, nukes


We begin with an Indian outbreak, via BBC News:

Swine flu: India health minister urges calm

Indian Health Minister JP Nadda has urged the public not to panic, as the number of deaths so far this year from swine flu passed 900 from 16,000 cases.

Rajasthan and Gujarat are among the worst affected states. Officials in Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city, have announced restrictions on public gatherings as a precautionary measure.

The current outbreak, which began in December last year, is India’s deadliest since 2010.

A parallel development from Outbreak News Today:

Hong Kong adult flu deaths near 300, more H7N9 reported on the mainland

With the additional six influenza related fatalities reported in Hong Kong adults during the past day brings the total deaths in the city to 295, the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health reported Friday.

Since the beginning of the year, Hong Kong has seen a 398 severe influenza cases requiring hospitalization, including the 295 deaths.

The vast majority of cases, nearly 96 percent, were A(H3N2) seasonal influenza.

In related news, the Health and Family Planning Commission of Anhui Province on Mainland China reported two additional human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9).

From the U.N. News Center, a call for help with a new outbreak:

Humanitarian community must move quickly to halt cholera spread in Malawi – UN

With 39 cases of cholera in the last two weeks, including two deaths, the United Nations children’s agency in Malawi is on high alert for spread in southern border areas where highly-populated camps for people displaced by the floods are located, according to a press statement released today.

With Malawi’s Ministry of Health having confirmed the cases – the first in the last three years – there are serious concerns that a rapid spread of infection could lead to a larger outbreak that already over-burdened health services may not be able to contain.

“As humanitarian actors in Malawi, we need to move quickly to stop any further spread of this disease,” said UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Representative in Malawi, Mahimbo Mdoe. “These displaced populations are extremely vulnerable, particularly those with low-immunity, such as malnourished children.

UNICEF is working to support the Government with mobile health services, as well as safe water, sanitation and hygiene services, which are critical factors in preventing the spread of cholera.”

The New York Times covers a vaccination crackdown:

Pakistani Officials Issue Arrest Warrants Over Refusals of Polio Vaccine

Determined to curb Pakistan’s polio crisis, police officials in the northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa said Friday that they had issued hundreds of arrest warrants for parents for refusing to vaccinate their children.

“We had 13,000 to 16,000 refusal cases,” the deputy police commissioner for Peshawar, Riaz Khan Mahsud, said in an interview. “There is total determination on our part. We shall convince parents of the good of vaccinating their children, but if they refuse, we shall detain them. There is no leniency.”

The police in other districts of the province also reported issuing warrants, though no official total was released.

And BBC News conforms a diagnosis:

Distinct stages to chronic fatigue syndrome identified

Distinct changes in the immune systems of patients with ME or chronic fatigue syndrome have been found, say scientists.

Increased levels of immune molecules called cytokines were found in people during the early stages of the disease, a Columbia University study reported. It said the findings could help improve diagnosis and treatments.

UK experts said further refined research was now needed to confirm the results.

From BBC News again, the human condition:

Leukaemia mutations ‘almost inevitable’, researchers say

It is “almost inevitable” that your blood will take the first steps towards leukaemia as you age, researchers show.

The cancer is often associated with children, but some types become more common with age.

The study, published in the journal Cell Reports, showed 70% of healthy people in their 90s had genetic errors that could lead to leukaemia. The researchers warn that the number of cases could soar as life expectancy increases.

China Daily covers a crusade:

Former celebrity TV anchor on crusade against pollution

A former celebrity TV presenter has released a self-funded documentary about smog, inspired by her sick daughter.

Chai Jing’s one-year project, Under the Dome, marks a comeback for the former presenter and journalist with China Central Television following the birth of her child. It adds a sentimental touch to a matter of public interest with Chai not only an independent observer but also a concerned mother.

After ending a decade with the state broadcaster early last year, Chai shunned public attention to focus on taking care of her daughter, who was diagnosed with a tumor as a fetus and underwent surgery as a new-born baby.

“I saw smog through my daughter’s eyes,” Chai said while presenting her film. She recounted how the little girl was confined indoors, patting the window to vent her frustration at being unable to play outside.

From CCTV America, a related story:

Chinese government investigation uncovers high polluting factories

Program notes:

Officials from China’s environment protection agency said they’ve carried out a series of undercover investigations. They sought-out high levels of pollution discharged by factories across the country. CCTV’s Jie Bai reported on the startling results they uncovered.

From Al Jazeera America, the impact of skepticism:

In the war over GMO labeling, Big Food loses the PR battle

  • Analysis: Food industry efforts to quash labeling initiatives further hurt genetically modified foods’ image

Despite two decades of assurances from biotechnology firms, food processors, federal regulators and even a substantial share of scientists that GMO foods are safe, ballot initiatives and citizen petitions seeking labels on GMO foods are springing up as quickly as the industry can pay — or sue — to defeat them. Meanwhile, sales of foods labeled GMO-free have been steadily gaining ground on consumer shopping lists, and polls suggest that more Americans than ever favor labels that identify GMO foods.

This has even some supporters of genetic engineering wondering if it’s time to rethink the labeling question. “If you give people a choice and value, that wins,” said David Ropeik, a risk-communication consultant. He has begun calling on the industry to let go of its “fear of fear” and embrace GMO labeling, which is required in at least 64 other nations, including Japan, Australia, Russia, Brazil and more than a dozen European countries.

A related story from the Guardian:

Trans-Pacific Partnership could prevent clearer food labelling – health advocates

  • Under the free trade deal, a foreign company could sue the government if sales dropped after labelling was introduced, says the Public Health Association

Australia’s Pacific free-trade deal could stand in the way of clear country-of-origin labelling being considered by the Abbott government in the wake of the hepatitis A outbreak linked to imported frozen berries.

Michael Moore of the Public Health Association said under the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) a foreign company may be able to sue the Australian government for loss of revenue as a result of Australian products being given an “unfair advantage”.

The agreement, which is being negotiated in secret, includes Australia, New Zealand, the US, Peru, Chile, Mexico, Canada, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Japan. The deal would bring down the trade and legal barriers between member countries as well as their foreign corporations.

From the Los Angeles Times, public disservants:

LAFD failed to inspect hundreds of hazardous sites, state says

The Los Angeles Fire Department has failed to properly inspect hundreds of hazardous sites scattered across the city, exposing the public to increased risks from potential spills and mishandling of toxic substances, according to a state report released Friday.

The 24-page California Environmental Protection Agency study found breakdowns in numerous aspects of the LAFD’s oversight and monitoring of chemical factories, laboratories and other storage facilities that deal with dangerous substances.

“Their program has fallen apart,” said Jim Bohon, head of the state unit that conducted the review. “They are failing in environmental management in a very gross way.”

Another firefighter crackdown, via BBC News:

Argentina fire chief sacked over Patagonia blaze

The head of Argentina’s national fire control agency has been sacked as a huge forest fire threatens to engulf a renowned national park in Patagonia.

Jorge Barrionuevo was sacked during a visit to the region by the government chief of staff.

The fire is advancing towards Los Alerces National Park, which is home to larch trees dating back more than 1,000 years. The flames have already destroyed 200sq km (77 sq miles) of forest.

From the New York Times, hopefully better late than never:

Mexico Moves to Save Endangered Porpoise

The Mexican government is making a final effort to save the vaquita, a tiny porpoise that has been driven to the edge of extinction as a result of illegal fishing for another endangered species that is served as a delicacy in China.

Scientists say that fewer than 100 of the vaquita, a marine mammal, remain in its habitat, the northern Gulf of California. Several thousand fishermen working there depend on the yearly shrimp catch for a modest living.

The fishermen’s gillnets, stretching for miles across the sea, have long been a lethal threat to the vaquita, which become entangled in them and die. But over the past few years a new threat has emerged: illegal fishing for a large fish called the totoaba whose swim bladder is dried and cooked in soup in China, where some consumers believe it has medicinal properties. The vaquitas are also caught and killed in the nets set for totoaba.

On to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with a bureaucratic beatdown from the Asahi Shimbun:

Nuclear watchdog takes TEPCO to task for delay in leakage report

The nation’s nuclear watchdog body slammed Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Feb. 27 over its failure to disclose information on the leakage of radioactive rainwater into the sea from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Plant operator TEPCO disclosed many months later that a drainage ditch near the wrecked reactors showed high concentrations of radiation and rainwater had leaked into the sea outside the enclosed harbor.

“TEPCO must reflect seriously (on the delay). We are concerned that the company’s efforts to secure a safe environment will be unable to obtain trust (from the people),” said NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka during a meeting in Tokyo that TEPCO President Naomi Hirose attended.

Next, a visitor, via Kyodo News:

Abe views Fukushima site for radioactively contaminated waste

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday viewed a site in Fukushima Prefecture for interim storage facilities for radioactively contaminated soil and other waste generated in cleanup work following the 2011 nuclear disaster.

“I hope to speed up the decontamination work to ensure reconstruction,” Abe said as he looked at the facilities under construction from the roof of the Futaba town hall under the guidance of Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa.

The mayor asked Abe for constant support for the town’s reconstruction given that the local authorities took the bitter decision to host the facilities.

From the Asahi Shimbun, a hot zone drive-through, complete with a roadside radiation meter:

Entire Joban Expressway set to open with completion of Fukushima stretch

A major artery connecting Tokyo to the coastal Tohoku region will open March 1, with the completion of the final stretch that runs past the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

BLOG FufuksignThe final 14.3-kilometer section connecting the Joban-Tomioka interchange with the Namie interchange, both in Fukushima Prefecture, is to open after prolonged construction delays due to the nuclear disaster that unfolded in March 2011.

However, along one stretch, running 8 km, radiation levels are high enough that residents are not permitted to return to their homes for the foreseeable future.

Finally, from NHK WORLD, something else to worry about:

IAEA: Japan needs more anti-nuclear terror steps

Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency have acknowledged overall improvements in anti-terror measures at nuclear facilities in Japan. But they say more needs to be done to safeguard them.

The IAEA team, comprising 8 experts from the US and 5 other countries, stayed in Japan for 2 weeks through Friday.

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority says the experts heard about anti-terror legislation and resources from officials with the authority, the National Police Agency and related ministries and agencies.

The experts also visited the Hamaoka nuclear power plant in Shizokuka Prefecture and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s research center in Ibaraki Prefecture to see what’s being done to make them safe from terrorism.

Abby Martin’s swan song: An insightful look at Cuba


Abby Martin’s final week at the helm of RT America’s Breaking the Set with an insightful look at Cuba, offering a rare, and comprehensive, look at the people and its political, economic, and agricultural systems.

In the face of overwhelming opposition and subversion from Washington, fueled by the Cuban exile dominance of the electoral votes of Florida, the small island nation 90 miles from U.S. shores, and the subsequent fall of the Soviet Union, its main base of support, Cuba faced enduring struggles, yet endured.

In the process, it has created revolutions in healthcare and agriculture, becoming the only nation in which cities provide most of their own food from intensive and organic neighborhood gardens and educating a cadre of physicians who have provided much, often most, of the total global response to medical emergencies around the world.

The outstanding examples set by Cuba in these fields have made a mockery of the enduring U.S. embargo against the island nation, leaving Israel Washington’s only ally in opposition to full normalization of relations.

In these three segments, Abby Martin demonstrates the skills she has honed during, first, her years as an unsalaried journalist at Berkeley Community Television, then during the three years at the helm of her RT America news magazine.

So sit back and enjoy a remarkable work of journalism.

From Breaking the Set:

Cuba Part I: Revolution, Sabotage & Un-Normal Relations

Program notes:

On this special episode of Breaking the Set, Abby Martin highlights BTS’ eight day trip to Havana, Cuba, starting with a historical look at the tensions between the US and Cuba that have led the two countries to the negotiating table to normalize relations. Abby then discusses the major areas of contention when it comes to these negotiations and where they currently stand. BTS producer, Cody Snell, then speaks with members of the largest delegation of peace activists to visit Cuba since the normalized relations announcement, highlighting the role of grassroots diplomacy. BTS than talks to average Cubans both in Havana and in Miami about their views on the state of US-Cuban relations. BTS wraps up the show with an interview with Kenia Serrano, a high ranking Cuban parliament member and President of The Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples, about everything from internet access to the crackdown on free speech in the country.

Cuba Part II: Ebola Solidarity & Castro’s Daughter on Gay Rights

Program notes:

On this special episode of Breaking the Set, Abby Martin highlights part II of BTS’ eight day trip to Havana, Cuba, starting with an interview with Cuban doctor, Katiel Llorente Izabelez, who explains how Cuba has managed to maintain such a high life expectancy rate, despite the lack of access to up to date medical supplies. BTS producer, Cody Snell, then speaks with students at the Latin American School of Medicine, an international medical school set up by the Cuban government that provides free tuition to low income individuals that want to become doctors. Abby then discusses how Cuba managed to send the largest contingent of doctors to fight the ebola crisis in West Africa, and how this is just the latest example of the country’s medical internationalism. Abby then goes over the US programs meant to encourage Cuban doctors to defect and how this undermines international health efforts. BTS wraps up the show with an exclusive interview with Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President, Raul Castro, and director of Cuba’s sexual education program CENESEX, about the biggest challenges facing Cuba’s gay community.

Cuba Part III: The Evolution of Revolution

Program notes:

On this special episode of Breaking the Set, Abby Martin features the third installment of BTS’ trip to Cuba, focusing on reforms to the country’s economic and agricultural models. Abby first gives an overview of how Cuba’s organic movement evolved and the challenges of the country’s food subsidy system. Abby then speaks with agricultural co-op founder, Miguel Angel Salcines Lopez, about how Cuba’s cooperative and food system works. Abby then talks to Ernesto Blanco, owner of La Fontana restaurant in Havana, about the difficulties of operating a private business in Cuba and how entrepreneurs are being impacted by recent economic reforms. Abby then speaks with Ricardo Alarcón, Cuba’s former minister of foreign affairs and president of the People’s National Assembly of Power, about the normalization process with the US and the biggest hurdles still remaining in the negotiations.

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, water woes, food, nukes


The Guardian the latest measles hot spot:

Las Vegas confirms three new cases of measles linked to casino restaurant

  • Two staff members and patron of seafood restaurant at MGM Grand affected
  • Cases not linked to Disneyland outbreak that began in December

Three new cases of measles have been confirmed in Las Vegas, in people believed to have been infected by a contagious worker at an upscale MGM Grand Hotel and Casino seafood restaurant, Nevada public health officials said on Friday.

The newly diagnosed patients, two staff members and a patron of Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House at the MGM Grand, bring to nine the total number of measles cases reported in Clark County, the Southern Nevada health district spokeswoman, Jennifer Sizemore, said.

None of those cases are believed to be linked to an outbreak of measles that began at Disneyland in December, she said.

And from the Oakland Tribune, a measles alert about one of esnl’s favorite local eateries:

Person with measles dined at Berkeley restaurant, health officials warn

A person infected with measles dined at La Mediterranee restaurant in Berkeley last week, exposing hundreds of fellow diners to the infectious virus, a city health spokeswoman said Thursday.

The adult, a San Mateo resident, visited the popular Berkeley restaurant Feb. 20, between 6:45 p.m. and 8 p.m. Health officials said the person had not developed the telltale rash and was unaware of the infection. Symptoms can develop between 7 and 21 days after exposure to the virus.

Also on Thursday, BART officials warned that more than 1,000 riders may have been exposed to measles when an infected person rode the train last week, getting on a Richmond-bound train at Millbrae and getting off at Civic Center. The person was also described as a San Mateo resident, although privacy laws make it impossible to know if it is the same one.

From the Associated Press, fingering a Bosnian culprit:

Experts blame anti-vaccine lobby for Bosnia measles outbreak

Medical experts warned Friday the anti-vaccination lobby is growing in Bosnia, using scientifically discredited arguments to stoke parental fears in the worst-affected country in Europe’s measles outbreak.

This trend — combined with a generation that could not be immunized because of lack of vaccines during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war — has led to 5,340 measles cases in Bosnia, according to the World Health Organization.

“I am increasingly hearing from parents about their fears due to the stuff they read on the Internet,” Dr. Gordana Banduka, a pediatrician from Pale, near Sarajevo, told The Associated Press.

Bosnia’s immunization rate has fallen to just 87 percent, chief epidemiologist Jelena Ravlija said, below the 95 percent rate needed to prevent outbreaks.

Some good news about another lethal virus, via Medical News Today:

Researchers identify antibodies to fight Marburg virus

Two new studies have demonstrated how human antibodies can neutralize the Marburg virus, a highly lethal virus related to Ebola.

Antibodies have been found to bind to the surface of the virus, which could lead to future antibody treatments and vaccines to target Marburg and other viruses in the family.

Marburg virus is up to 90% lethal. Just like the Ebola virus, it can cause hemorrhaging and organ failure. An outbreak of the virus in Angola in 2005 was responsible for the deaths of 329 people, and the worry is that an even bigger outbreak could occur in the future.

“The good news is, humans do make antibodies when they are infected that can kill these viruses… which suggests that vaccines should work,” says Dr. James Crowe, lead author of one of the two studies published in Cell.

From the New York Times, and they’re surprised?:

U.S. Push for Abstinence in Africa Is Seen as Failure Against H.I.V.

The $1.3 billion that the United States government has spent since 2005 encouraging Africans to avoid AIDS by practicing abstinence and fidelity did not measurably change sexual behavior and was largely wasted, according to a study presented on the last day of an AIDS conference here.

The study, done by a second-year student at Stanford Medical School for a professor with an expertise in cost-benefit analyses, caused a major stir in the room where it was presented.

The researcher, Nathan Lo, analyzed records showing the age of people having sex for the first time, teenage pregnancy and number of sexual partners in international health surveys that have been paid for by the State Department since the 1970s.

And then there’s another health threat, via the Guardian:

Three cases of leprosy in eastern Florida ‘linked to armadillos’

  • Experts stress public has little cause for alarm
  • ‘There’s more interaction with armadillos than you might think’

Health officials on the east coast of Florida have diagnosed three cases of leprosy in the last five months, linking two of the cases to contact with armadillos. The small armored mammals are known to harbor the disease in the southern US.

The cases were confirmed in Volusia County, Florida, which is home to about 500,000 people and tourist cities such as Daytona Beach. Health officials believe the three cases developed independently.

Though such a cluster of cases of leprosy is uncommon, experts say the general public has little to worry about. About 95% of the population is not susceptible to leprosy, also called Hansen’s disease, which can be cured with antibiotics. Also, only the nine-banded armadillo carries leprosy. The common five-banded armadillo does not.

Another epidemic spreads, via Outbreak News Today:

Diphtheria surge in Sumatra city prompts vaccination drive

Health officials with the West Sumatra Health Agency have reported a surge of the very serious vaccine-preventable disease, diphtheria, in the city of Padang over the past month prompting a mass vaccination campaign.

“During the last four weeks, 28 cases of children with suspected diphtheria have been found, six of which tested positive for the diphtheria bacteria,” West Sumatra Health Agency head Rosnini Savitri said to the Jakarta Post.

In addition, two of the 6 confirmed cases died from the disease.

The health agency is targeting 254,000 children and adolescents aged between 2 months and 15 years for vaccination against diphtheria, the report notes.

Latin Correspondent covers a war declared against Big Food:

To fight diabetes crisis, Mexican civil society takes aim at junk food, Coca-Cola

With one-third of Mexican children likely to develop diabetes during their lifetime, a group of civic associations known as the Alliance for Healthy Food have called for the removal of junk food and related marketing from children’s lives.

The Alliance for Healthy Food’s mass media campaign, entitled “What did your children eat today?” aims to raise awareness of this health crisis, which is being fueled largely by excessive consumption of junk food and sugary drinks.

The campaign is targeted at parents, to encourage them to make better dietary choices for their children, and at lawmakers, to persuade them to pass more stringent legislation against junk food and sugary drink advertising that targets Mexican children.

Al Jazeera America covers an American economic health threat:

Suicides among middle-aged spiked after 2007, tied to economic downturn

  • Study shows that financial and legal troubles were increasingly a factor in US suicides after Great Recession

A sharp increase in suicide rates among middle-aged Americans in the years after 2007 is linked to economic troubles brought about by the financial crisis, according to a study published Friday in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The number of Americans age 40 to 64 who take their own lives has risen by 40 percent since 1999, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And suicide rates for the age group have picked up markedly since the onset of the Great Recession, according to the report.

The increase comes despite the number of suicides leveling off over the same time frame for other age groups.

From JapanToday, Big Pharma behaving badly once again:

Novartis Japan hit with suspension failing to report drug side effects

Japanese health authorities said Friday that they have ordered the local unit of Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis to temporarily suspend its operations for failing to report drug side effects.

The health ministry’s 15-day suspension—reportedly a first for a pharmaceutical firm operating in Japan—means the company will not be able to sell most of its drugs during that period, which is to start from March 5.

Tokyo-based Novartis Pharma KK in December admitted it failed to promptly report more than 3,000 cases of adverse effects from about two dozen company drugs. Drugmakers are required to report serious side effects to the ministry within 15 to 30 days.

After the jump, a drug wars plan would deny a critically needed Third World medicine, another down side to digital media [What’s that? We can’t hear you. . .], California farmers denied water as drought drags on and what ground water there is faces illegal fracking and oil drilling waste contamination, Olympic-sized water woes in Rio, Americans see the climate change as a moral cause, the challenge of separating natural cycles from human causation in climate change, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, starting with soaring levels of radiation in the latest leaks, irradiated dirt transfers to commence, high radiation levels find in ocean fish near the site, and Kyoto signs a pact over a reactor restart, plus an avian threat to a Dutch town. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Protests, politics, plans, graphics


We begin with protest, first from The News.mx:

Nationwide protests for students continue

Five months after the disappearance of the 43 students from the Rural Teachers College of Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, thousands of protestors, led by relatives of the students, marched from the Ángel de la Independencia to the Los Pinos official presidential residence in Mexico City Thursday.

Teachers from the State Coordination of Guerrero Education Workers (CETEG) in Acapulco marched to demand the students be brought back alive and to protest the death of retired teacher Claudio Castillo Peña.

Manuel Salvador Rosas, from the Political Commission of the CETEG, said that the federal police apprehended at least 11 teachers on Feb. 25 who have not yet been released. Thirty other teachers have been hospitalized, 15 with serious injuries, he said.

Next, a video report from teleSUR English:

Mexico: Omar Garcia, “the 44th,” of Ayotzinapa, demands justice

Program notes:

Omar Garcia is one of the 43 student teachers in Ayotzinapa who was able to escape with his life from the attack on September 26th. He says that he is a living symbol of the fact that anyone in Mexico could be “the 44th.” Surviving the violence against the students by municipal police, Garcia has become one of the group of full-time activists who travel the country to seek support for the demands of Ayotzinapa: the safe return of the missing students, and the punishment for those responsible.

More protest news from the Latin American Herald Tribune:

Mexican Teachers Protest Police Repression

Some 1,000 teachers marched in this Pacific resort city on Thursday to protest the police response to a protest here earlier this week that left one demonstrator dead.

The marchers, most of them members of the State Coordinator of Education Workers of Guerrero, or CETEG, union, held a rally outside the Federal Police offices in Acapulco to demand an investigation into the death Tuesday of 65-year-old retired teacher Claudio Castillo Peña.

Federal authorities say Castillo was struck by a vehicle, but CETEG rejects that explanation.

“We will not let them come to us now and say our comrade didn’t die from the direct blows he suffered,” one teacher said Thursday. “May they not try to deceive the people, may they not try to deceive Mexico, may they accept responsibility for the death.”

And a change of tactics, via Mexico News Daily:

Stopping elections parents’ new objective

  • Marches aren’t enough, says spokesman, as only 3,000 people turn out

The protest marches are not enough, says the spokesman for the parents of the missing students of Ayotzinapa, so the new plan is to prevent the mid-term elections from being held June 7.

Felipe de la Cruz made the statement after yesterday’s ninth day of global action for Ayotzinapa, for which only 3,000 people turned out in Mexico City, according to estimates by the Federal District government. That’s a big drop from the more than 15,000 who marched in the first event held to draw attention to the violence in Guerrero on September 26, when the 43 students disappeared.

Their families refuse to accept the findings of the official investigation.

De la Cruz said it was the job of all Mexicans to organize, “neighborhood by neighborhood, municipality by municipality,” to ensure there are no elections this year.

And a dose of politics form the Associated Press:

Mexico to replace embattled attorney general

Mexico’s embattled attorney general is leaving the post to take a new cabinet-level job as head of urban and rural development.

Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam had weathered scathing criticism over his handling of the Sept. 26 disappearance of 43 students in southern Guerrero state.

Murillo Karam had also been criticized for being slow to investigate evidence that soldiers killed between 12 and 15 criminal suspects after they surrendered in June.

To close, another protest graphic, this time from Creators:

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EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, pollution, water, nukes


We begin with consequences of an Indian outbreak, via the Guardian:

Swine flu fears cause Indian city of Ahmedabad to ban public gatherings

  • City of 3.5m will not allow more than four people to meet in public in an attempt to stop spread of potentially deadly virus

A west Indian city has banned most public gatherings in an attempt to halt the spread of swine flu, which has claimed at least 926 lives nationwide in 11 weeks.

Officials prohibited gatherings of five or more people in Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat state with a population of more than 3.5m.

Marriages and funerals are exempt from the ban, but participants will need to wear protective masks, officials said.

From the Guardian, toxic fowl:

Three-quarters of supermarket chickens carry food poisoning bug

  • Nearly one in five samples highly contaminated and none of major supermarkets met targets for reducing campylobacter

Three-quarters of fresh chickens on sale in supermarkets and butchers are contaminated with the potentially lethal food poisoning bug campylobacter, according to the latest results of food safety tests by the Food Standards Agency.

The worst contamination rates were found in Asda, where eight in 10 birds tested positive for the bug and nearly a third of fresh whole chickens were heavily contaminated.

But none of the major supermarkets met targets for reducing campylobacter and Tesco, where 68% of chickens tested positive, was the only retailer with results for heavy contamination below the industry average at 12%.

Another diseased fowl story from Environmental News Service:

Ticks Carrying Lyme Disease Discovered on California Birds

Ticks bearing the bacterium that causes Lyme disease are populating Northern California’s birds that then fly them into suburban areas, finds new research from the University of California, Berkeley.

Lyme disease is spread to humans through the bite of infected ticks. The black-legged deer tick, Ixodes scapularis, transmits the bacterium B. burgdorferi in the eastern and north-central regions of the United States, while the western black-legged tick, Ixodes pacificus, spreads the bacteria in the West.

Ticks usually infest animals such as white-footed mice, voles, other small rodents and deer. The UC Berkeley study reveals birds as an important newly-found reservoir in the western United States for the corkscrew-shaped bacterium.

“The role of birds in the maintenance of Lyme disease bacteria in California is poorly understood,” said the study’s lead author Erica Newman, a UC Berkeley PhD student in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management.

From Newswise, another deadly processed food problem:

Widely Used Food Additive Promotes Colitis, Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome, Research Shows

Emulsifiers, which are added to most processed foods to aid texture and extend shelf life, can alter the gut microbiota composition and localization to induce intestinal inflammation that promotes the development of inflammatory bowel disease and metabolic syndrome, new research shows.

The research, published Feb. 25 in Nature, was led by Georgia State University Institute for Biomedical Sciences’ researchers Drs. Benoit Chassaing and Andrew T. Gewirtz, and included contributions from Emory University, Cornell University and Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, afflicts millions of people and is often severe and debilitating. Metabolic syndrome is a group of very common obesity-related disorders that can lead to type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular and/or liver diseases. Incidence of IBD and metabolic syndrome has been markedly increasing since the mid-20th century.

The term “gut microbiota” refers to the diverse population of 100 trillion bacteria that inhabit the intestinal tract. Gut microbiota are disturbed in IBD and metabolic syndrome. Chassaing and Gewirtz’s findings suggest emulsifiers might be partially responsible for this disturbance and the increased incidence of these diseases.

“A key feature of these modern plagues is alteration of the gut microbiota in a manner that promotes inflammation,” says Gewirtz.

“The dramatic increase in these diseases has occurred despite consistent human genetics, suggesting a pivotal role for an environmental factor,” says Chassaing. “Food interacts intimately with the microbiota so we considered what modern additions to the food supply might possibly make gut bacteria more pro-inflammatory.”

From the National Geographic, the problem with plastics. . .all plastics:

Chemical in BPA-Free Products Linked to Irregular Heartbeats

  • New ingredient in plastic bottles, receipts has same effect on lab animals as the old chemical does

Many consumers avoid products that contain bisphenol-A (BPA) because the estrogen-imitating chemical has been linked to an array of health effects in people and animals. But new research published Thursday suggests that an ingredient that has replaced BPA in many items may have a similar effect on the heart.

BPA-free labels have been popping up on many plastic bottles, cash register receipts, food packaging, and other products.

Although the label implies a sense of safety, “our research suggests that BPS and potentially other BPA substitutes aren’t necessarily free of health problems,” said Hong-Sheng Wang, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Exposure to BPS, or bisphenol-S, caused irregular heartbeats in female lab rats, according to the study by Wang and colleagues published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The findings were “remarkably similar—if not identical to—what we find in BPA,” Wang said.

From Newswise, some of the costs incurred from all those plastics and similar toxins:

Exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Costs EU Billions Annually

  • Simulcast press conference highlights economic burden of exposure to EDCs

Human exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) likely contributes to a number of diseases and health conditions in the EU, with costs estimated between €150-260 billion per year (1.2-2.0% of Gross Domestic Product), according to a new series of studies to be published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

EDCs are chemicals that interfere with hormone action and are commonly found in food and food containers, plastic products, furniture, toys, carpeting, building materials and cosmetics. EDCs include chemicals such as bisphenol A (water bottles, can linings), certain phthalates (various plastic products and cosmetics), and pesticides such as chlorpyrifos (used on a wide variety of food crops). They are often released from the products that contain them and enter the bodies of humans and wildlife through dust or through the food chain.

In these studies, researchers used available epidemiologic and toxicologic evidence to assess the economic burden of potential outcomes to EDC exposure, including: infertility and male reproductive dysfunctions, birth defects, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and neurobehavioral and learning disorders.

From the New York Times, waist watchers:

Food Waste Is Becoming Serious Economic and Environmental Issue, Report Says

With millions of households across the country struggling to have enough to eat, and millions of tons of food being tossed in the garbage, food waste is increasingly being seen as a serious environmental and economic issue.

A report released Wednesday shows that about 60 million metric tons of food is wasted a year in the United States, with an estimated value of $162 billion. About 32 million metric tons of it end up in municipal landfills, at a cost of about $1.5 billion a year to local governments.

The problem is not limited to the United States.

The report estimates that a third of all the food produced in the world is never consumed, and the total cost of that food waste could be as high as $400 billion a year. Reducing food waste from 20 to 50 percent globally could save $120 billion to $300 billion a year by 2030, the report found.

The Sacramento Bee covers killer air in the heart of the Golden State:

Exposure to small particle pollution linked to heart-disease death

Data from about 8,000 women living in the Sacramento metropolitan area were used in a major study – released Wednesday – that linked death from heart disease to exposure to soot found in car exhaust, cooking smoke and diesel pollution.

The study, one of the most comprehensive to date, used data from the tracking of 100,000 middle-aged women in California between 2000 and 2007.

The study was conducted by the state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, as well as UC Davis and other institutions. It found an association between areas where there are high levels of fine particle pollution, and shorter life spans and a risk of heart disease death.

From BBC News, a spreading amphibian disaster:

Killer frog disease: Chytrid fungus hits Madagascar

A devastating disease that has wiped out amphibians around the world has been discovered in Madagascar, scientists report.

A survey has found that the chytrid fungus is present in numerous sites, although it is not clear whether it is infecting frogs yet. The island is home to 500 frog species, and researchers fear they could be at significant risk.

The findings are published in the journal Scientific Reports. One of the authors, Goncalo Rosa, from the Zoological Society of London, said he was worried about the impact that the fungus could have.

“It is heartbreaking, especially when you have an idea of what is happening elsewhere in other tropical areas – you see the frogs are gone,” he told BBC News.

After the jump, GMO advocates launch a push in the U.K., toxic algae spread in freshwater lakes, China enacts a temporary [sadly] ivory ban, a new rhino protection patrol begins in South Africa, a fracking ban push abandoned in the Centennial State, dangerous methane craters erupting in the Arctic, then on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, starting with a cynical leak apology, full approval for a temporary radioactive waste dump, nuclear power protesters hit with massive fines, radioactive disaster evacuation advice revised, and the tragic costs of mining reactor fuel. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Protests, violence, politics, laws


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

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Next, from teleSUR, marking an anniversary:

Mexico Protests Mark 5 Months Since 43 Students Disappeared

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anger Continues In Guerrero Mexico After Protester Is Killed

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

From teleSUR, more revelations:

Mexico: Photos Shed Light on Military Role in Ayotzinapa 43

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

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

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

From teleSUR again, more protests planned:

Mexican Teachers Union Preparing for Civil Disobedience

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

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

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

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

Anti-corruption plan approved by deputies

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

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

It was approved by 409 of the 500 deputies.

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

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

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