Category Archives: Latin America

Bill O’Reilly: The Anti-Zelig with a very big mouth


Remember Zelig? If not, it’s a delightful and must-see 1983 Woody Allen film about the fictional Leonard, an otherwise nobody who funds himself in the center of many of the seminal events of the 20th Century by virtue of being the human equivalent of a chameleon:

BLOG Zelig

Leonard Zelig, Allen’s nebbish-protagonist, was actually there with Babe Ruth, Herbert Hoover, and even Adolf Hitler:

BLOG Zelg Hitler

Unlike Zelig, Bill O’Reilly, the anti-nebbish, lies when he places himself at the center of global events. And now that he’s been outed as a serial sociopathic liar, the hits just keep on coming.

Not content to interject himself in various scenes of international peril, he’s also interjected himself in that most seminal of 20th Century American events, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

And as with his accounts of the Falklands War in 1982 and of witnessing the murders of nuns in El Salvador a year earlier, O’Reilly’s claims about the Kennedy assassination have been exposed as sheer, ego-aggrandizing fabrications.

Now comes another instance.

Take it away Cenk Uiygur of The Young Turks:

O’Reilly’s Lee Harvey Oswald Lie Proves His Lying Goes Back Decades

Program notes:

“Conservative TV host Bill O’Reilly has been caught repeatedly lying about being present at the suicide of a key JFK assassination investigation witness, a week after he was accused of exaggerating the dangers he faced reporting from the Falklands War.

“Bill O’Reilly’s a phony, there’s no other way to put it,” Tracy Rowlett, who worked with O’Reilly at a local Dallas WFAA station during the alleged incident, told Media Matters, an online news website.

The suicide victim is George de Mohrenschildt, a picaresque Russian émigré, who was on friendly terms with both the family of Jackie Kennedy and the assassin of John F. Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald. He reportedly cooperated for decades with the CIA.

The proof of O’Reilly’s fabrication was first revealed two years ago by JFK Facts, a website devoted to the study of the Kennedy assassination, which posted the actual recordings of O’Reilly’s calls to assassination investigator Gaeton Fonzi on 30 January 2013:

A recording of three phone conversations between Fonzi and O’Reilly on March 29, 1977, confirms Fonzi’s account. Fonzi’s widow, Marie Fonzi, shared the tape with JFK Facts.

“Gaet liked O’Reilly and did lots to help him,” Marie Fonzi said in an email. “He hired him in the early ‘70s when editor of Miami Magazine at $25 a month to write movie reviews. He wrote letters of reference for him and was instrumental in getting him his first TV shot.”

But she adds, “I know O’Reilly was in Dallas” on March 29, 1977. “There is no question about it.”

O’Reilly is right about one thing. He was indeed pursuing George de Mohrenschildt in March 1977, but he did not reach his doorstep in Palm Beach on March 29, 1977, and he certainly did not hear de Mohrenschildt’s demise with his own ears. When the fatal shot rang out, O’Reilly was in his office at the WFAA studios in Dallas, Texas, more than 1,200 miles away.

So why do people still hang on the pompous blowhard’s pustulent posturing?

Let us quote someone who was a master of of propaganda:

[I]n the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying. These people know only too well how to use falsehood for the basest purposes.

You may have guessed the author, a guy named Hitler, writing in a book called Mein Kampf.

InSecurityWatch: Leaks, spooks, hacks war, more


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

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

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

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

The decision is significant.

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

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

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

Spy Cables: Inside South Africa’s Spy Agency

Program notes:

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

From the Guardian, domestic snooping:

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

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

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

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

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

From the Guardian, a Russian Al Queda warning:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Guardian has another leak story:

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

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

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

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

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

SecurityWeek covers snoopery north of the border:

Canada Monitoring Citizens’ Emails to Government: Media

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

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

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

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

From RT, dis-Dane-ful:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ex-lawyer jailed again for Holocaust denial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

British police investigated over attempts to recruit activists as spies

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turkish Police Arrested and Accused of Wiretapping President Erdogan

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

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

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

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

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, toxins, climate, nukes


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

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

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

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

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

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

Vastly unvaccinated in Africa, via the Liberian Observer:

70% Un-vaccinated children at Risk for Measles

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

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

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

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

Tuberculosis drug candidate begins clinical safety trial

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

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

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

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

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

Increased risk from toxoplasmosis

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

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

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

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

From Outbreak News Today, another outbreak:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warming climate accelerates spread of vector-borne diseases

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

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

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

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

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

From BBC News, a death toll reevaluation:

Tobacco ‘kills two in three smokers’

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

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

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

From Environmental Health News, polluting the poor:

EPA to investigate North Carolina for civil rights violations

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

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

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

FrontPageAfrica covers medical fraud in Liberia:

High Risk Zone for Fake Drugs: Pharmacy Under Scrutiny

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

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

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

From United Press International, another kind of medical fraud:

Iowa scientist pleads guilty to fraud in AIDS vaccine study

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

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

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

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

MexicoWatch: Pope, protests, violence, arrests


We begin with an ongoing search, via AJ+:

Searching Every Inch Of Mexico For The Missing

Program notes:

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

Borderland Beat covers a notable arrest:

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

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

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

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

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

From the Associated Press, a violent protest:

In Mexico, protesters drive bus into police lines

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

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

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

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

Followed by lethal violence, via teleSUR:

Mexican Teacher Killed After Police Attack Protestors

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

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

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

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

A later development, via Fox News Latino:

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

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

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

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

From VICE News, analysis:

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

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

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

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

And from neomexicanismos, an image:

BLOG Ayotz gun

The Los Angeles Times covers a papal apology:

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

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

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

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

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

Fox News Latino covers the acceptance:

Mexico: Any differences with pope now “completely settled”

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

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

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

From teleSUR English, organizing:

Mexican youth mobilize in support of Ayotzinapa

Program notes:

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

MexicoWatch: Protests, artists, and politicians


We begin with the protests, first from teleSUR English:

Mexicans call for another global action day in support of Ayotzinapa

Program notes:

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

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

BLOG Ayotz

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

Violence on the Rise in Mexico Under Peña Nieto

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

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

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

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

From Mexico News Daily, a reasonable move:

PRD rejects candidate: her husband’s in jail

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

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

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

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

And from the Washington Post, politics by other means:

Mexican party turns to lottery to pick candidates

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

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

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

Reuters covers a complaint:

Mexico complains about remarks attributed to pope over drug image

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

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

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

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

Poppy cultivation grows with demand

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

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

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

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

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

BLOG Ayotz 2

And from teleSUR, the response:

Mexico Ruling Party on Defensive over Inarritu’s Oscar Comments

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

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

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

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

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

BLOG Ayotz 3

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, climate, fuels, nukes


We begin with a measles death, via Agence France-Presse:

Toddler dies as measles outbreak hits German capital

A toddler suffering from measles has died in the German capital, health authorities said Monday, amid the country’s worst outbreak in years and a debate about vaccinations.

The 18-month-old boy died on February 18, the first known fatality among more than 570 recorded measles cases since October in the German capital, a Berlin health department official told AFP.

The resurgence of the preventable disease in Germany, as well as in parts of the United States, coincides with a movement among some parents to refuse to vaccinate their children.

From the Guardian, a response:

Measles death in Germany prompts calls for mandatory vaccinations

  • Death of 18-month-old boy is the first fatality among 574 reported cases in the country’s worst measles outbreak in more than a decade

A senior German health official has called for mandatory measles vaccinations after an 18-month-old boy died of the disease amid the country’s worst outbreak in more than a decade.

The Berlin health minister, Mario Czaja, confirmed on Monday that the child – who had not been immunised against measles – died in hospital on Wednesday, the first fatality among 574 cases reported since the outbreak began in October.

The death has intensified a debate in Germany over whether parents should be forced to have their children immunised. Czaja said: “This case shows that measles is a very serious disease. I am in favour of mandatory vaccination.”

A killer bug with a broad turf, via Outbreak News Today:

CRE ‘nightmare bacteria’ not unique to UCLA

The Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), or “nightmare bacteria” as CDC director Dr Tom Frieden once called them, is not unique to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, despite all the media coverage.

Since first being detected in a North Carolina hospital in 2001, only Maine, Idaho and Alaska have not reported a confirmed CRE case caused by the KPC enzyme and about a third of states have reported CRE cases caused by the NDM enzyme.

In fact, according to a report by Charlotte, NC press, the Carolinas HealthCare System- Lincoln (CHS) has reported 3 cases since the beginning of the year.

The latest casualties, via Al Jazeera America:

‘Superbug’ kills 2 in North Carolina

  • Hospital officials confirm at least 18 cases of same antibiotic-resistant bacteria found at UCLA medical center

Health officials at the Carolinas HealthCare System confirmed that an antibiotic-resistant “superbug” — the same one that killed two people in California earlier this year — has claimed the lives of two people in North Carolina in recent months.

Health officials on Sunday afternoon said that two residents of the Charlotte, North Carolina area have died in recent months from carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE. Three people acquired CRE while in Carolinas HealthCare System hospitals this year, and about 15 people with existing infections have been treated in the hospitals, the officials said.

The Charlotte-based hospital system is screening for people with CRE and is isolating those who are infected, according to Dr. Katie Passaretti, who is in charge of infection prevention at Carolinas HealthCare.

RT America covers consequences of historically unprecedented home sanitation:

For healthier kids, skip the dishwasher, just hand wash – study

Program notes:

A new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics reports on the link between using your dishwasher and the health of your child. The study says that parents who reported using the dishwasher were more likely to have children with asthma and eczema.

From the Washington Post, a notable debunking:

Marijuana may be even safer than previously thought, researchers say

  • New study: We should stop fighting marijuana legalization and focus on alcohol and tobacco instead

Compared with other recreational drugs — including alcohol — marijuana may be even safer than previously thought. And researchers may be systematically underestimating risks associated with alcohol use.

Those are the top-line findings of recent research published in the journal Scientific Reports, a subsidiary of Nature. Researchers sought to quantify the risk of death associated with the use of a variety of commonly used substances. They found that at the level of individual use, alcohol was the deadliest substance, followed by heroin and cocaine.

And all the way at the bottom of the list? Weed — roughly 114 times less deadly than booze, according to the authors, who ran calculations that compared lethal doses of a given substance with the amount that a typical person uses. Marijuana is also the only drug studied that posed a low mortality risk to its users.

The Post’s accompanying graphic:

BLOG Cannabis

While the Guardian covers the ongoing consequences of a tragedy largely spared the U.S. by the effort of one diligent FDA employee [and what better proof of the high value of regulatory oversight of Big Pharma?]:

German thalidomide survivors continue fight for compensation

  • Government accused of hindering disabled people born with the effects of Contergan drug from accessing promised money

Christiane Seifert takes a visitor around her ground-floor flat in Hamburg. She opens a window with her shoulder, the patio door with her bare foot. At her computer, she sits bolt upright and uses her toes to type her emails. With a pointed chin she flicks off the light as she leaves the room. The 54-year old deftly demonstrates just a few of what she calls the “tricks” she uses to manage her everyday life.

Born without arms in January 1961, Seifert is a thalidomide survivor. Her mother was prescribed the drug, which was first marketed in the late 50s in West Germany under the name Contergan, to counteract the effects of morning sickness, with devastating consequences. Seifert was one of up to 7,000 born in Germany with phocomelia, or malformation of the limbs, 60% of whom died.

More than half a century later, Seifert, who is loquacious and funny, is still struggling for recognition for her plight.

“If even one person had ever come to visit me in that time to see how I cope with life, to assess my needs, or even invited me to go and show them what I can or cannot do,” she said. “But no one has ever even asked”.

From teleSUR English, allegations of a a dramatic spike in war-caused cancers in Gaza:

Cancer cases increase in Gaza due to Israeli enriched uranium

Program notes:

The cases of cancer in the Gaza Strip have increased alarmingly due to the use of enriched uranium and white phosphorus in Israeli weapons. The situation is aggravated by Israeli restrictions on the entrance of equipment and medicine for treating cancer, which force Palestinians to go abroad to receive medical treatment.

And from News Corp Australia, climate change accelerating gaseous reuptions in Siberia:

More Siberian methane blowholes found in permafrost

SIBERIA’S blowholes are exploding in numbers: Up to 20 have now been located, raising new fears the warming permafrost is releasing its deadly methane reserves.

A new report in the Siberian Times has backed up the discovery of four enormous craters in the Siberian tundra last year with news of up to 20 more, smaller vents.

“It is important not to scare people, but this is a very serious problem,” Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky of the Russian Academy of Sciences told the Times. “We must research this phenomenon urgently to prevent possible disasters. We cannot rule out new gas emissions in the Arctic and in some cases they can ignite.”

After the jump, climate changed blamed in the European grain production stall, the Brazilian water crisis deepens, the Keystone controversy continues, pseudo-regulation in a gas pipeline disaster. Shell calls a halt to a tar sands project, Canadian declares its oil train upgrades inadequate, the largest Amazon deforester busted, and a leak sought in Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: An anniversary, allegations, & art


From teleSUR English, an anniversary nears:

5 months since Ayotzinapa students forcibly disappeared

Program notes:

Family members and activistis continue to demand the return of the 43 Ayotzinapa forcibly disappeared last September 26. Instead of helping the families, the entire political system has affected their lives for the worse, says lawyer Vidulfo Rosales.

Mexico News Daily covers a curious story:

‘Journalists on payroll of Coahuila criminals’

  • Fake videos meant to discredit elite police unit, says government official

Some journalists in Coahuila are being paid by organized crime gangs, and the state’s government secretary says he has a list to prove it.

Victor Zamora says some reporters and media outlets are being paid by criminals to broadcast videos designed to discredit the efforts of a tactical police unit known as GATE.

The latest such video shows what appears to be members of that unit and soldiers engaged in executing civilians in a pickup truck. Several shots are fired but none of the officials appears worried about getting hit as they are seen milling around the truck.

But all the videos showing GATE officers have been analyzed and found to be fake, said Zamora, adding that there was a campaign under way by Los Zetas and their followers against tactical police units in Coahuila.

From Mexico News Daily, a textbook case:

Union’s textbooks replace official ones

  • Michoacán’s dissident teachers reject ‘neoliberal model’ and its school texts

Textbooks supplied by the federal Secretariat of Public Education (SEP) are being removed from schools in Michoacán and replaced by books produced and printed by the teachers’ union.

About 150,000 students in preschool, primary and secondary levels will be provided with texts that do not teach “a neoliberal model,” says Section 18 of the National Coordinator of Education Workers, or CNTE.

The SEP said last year it had distributed 97% of the books required by state schools, but all are to be discarded, said the union, which warned last year that its teachers would not use them.

The new books are accompanied by a letter from the union to parents: “The education project of neoliberal governments is not designed to respond to the needs and interests of the vast majority of the country. To achieve its purpose workers who have attained higher levels of study are not required, and intelligent human beings with a transforming spirit are needed even less.”

And to close, a graphic from graficamazatl:

La Victoria es Nuestra // Victory is Ours.

La Victoria es Nuestra // Victory is Ours.