Category Archives: Politics

ISIS emulates the GOP in destroying history


Hoe is ISIS like the Grand Old Party?

Consider the following ISIS video, depicting the destruction of 4,000 years of history in the museum of Mosul, Iraq, located in the region of the world that served as cradle of  Western Civilization:

The story, via Newsweek:

ISIS Smashes Thousands of Years of History at Museum

Ultra-radical Islamist militants in northern Iraq have destroyed a priceless collection of statues and sculptures from the ancient Assyrian era, inflicting what an archaeologist described as incalculable damage to a piece of shared human history.

A video published by Islamic State on Thursday showed men attacking the artifacts, some of them identified as antiquities from the 7th century BC, with sledgehammers and drills, saying they were symbols of idolatry.

“The Prophet ordered us to get rid of statues and relics, and his companions did the same when they conquered countries after him,” an unidentified man said in the video.

Lamia al-Gailani, an Iraqi archaeologist and associate fellow at the London-based Institute of Archaeology, said the militants had wreaked untold damage. “It’s not only Iraq’s heritage: it’s the whole world’s,” she said.

“They are priceless, unique. It’s unbelievable. I don’t want to be Iraqi any more,” she said, comparing the episode to the dynamiting of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Afghan Taliban in 2001.

The action follows the destruction of thousands of manuscripts and books in libraries in ISIS-occupied areas of Iraq and Syria.

Even before we learned to write our own name in cursive, we insisted that our teacher help us write out the word “archaeology,” and between the years five and eighteen, we were resolved to become an archaeologist working on digs in Mesopotamia, the land between the rivers.

After witnessing firsthand the vicious pettiness that all too often marks the world of academic politics, we surrendered our trowels and camel hair brushes to dig in more contemporary dirt as a journalist.

But we never relinquished our first love, and have kept abreast from afar of some of the remarkable discoveries made since we wrote our first newspaper story a half-century ago.

In covering politics, we discovered that fundamentalist zealots are ever eager to annihilate a past that contradicts their version of events, along with the artifacts and institutions that would remind them of a time when things were different.

While ISIS seeks to annihilate five thousand years of history and purge culture of anything reminding them of that “idolatrous” past, the GOP seeks similarly to purge America of the institutions and creations evolved under a different vision of humanity in the form of the institutions of the relatively mild social welfare state implemented by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight David Eisenhower, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Just as ISIS smashes statues, the GOP would destroy Social Security, Medicare, the Post Office, public schools, public land, public health, and so much more. And along with government institutions, they would also smash our historical legacy in the form of the architectural creations of the past, eager to build those stark, cheaply built high rises and McMansions they so deeply love.

Similarly, GOP radicals would purge classrooms and school libraries of thousands of books contradicting their own versions of religious, pseudoscientific, and political beliefs.

The one notable difference between the GOP radicals and ISIS lies in the domain of honesty, where ISIS holds all the cards.

Very few in the GOP are so frank, knowing that even with their control of campaign money and much of the media, frank expression of their real agenda would turn off even many in their own party — people with children and parents who benefit from those very programs the Koch-heads would annihilate in order to increase their already dominate control of the world’s money and resources.

We’ll leave the last word to Bernie Sanders:

Pope Francis

Map of the day: Global religious restrictions


From a new report from the Pew Research Center [PDF], a look at religious freedoms around the world:

BLOG Religion

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

EbolaWatch: Numbers, cases, fears, & cases


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

BLOG Ebola

From the Guardian, an enduring presence:

Ebola endemic risk remains in west Africa, scientists warn

  • Virus remains in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia after more than a year, causing concern among health experts

Scientists are warning of a real risk that the Ebola virus disease could become endemic in west Africa if efforts to end the epidemic slacken as the number of cases falls.

All previous outbreaks of Ebola were stamped out within months and the virus disappeared from the human population each time. Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, however, have been in the grip of the virus for more than a year. While the numbers of cases dropped dramatically in December and early January, they have now plateaued and there are fears that the disease may not be totally eradicated.

“There is that risk,” said Prof Mike Turner, head of infections at the Wellcome Trust. “You can’t quantify how great that risk is but that risk is there. It is not going to be a smooth ride.”

Another alarm from Britain, via the London Telegraph:

British health worker monitored for Ebola after Sierra Leone needle-stick injury

  • Public Health England says worker who may have had contact with deadly virus in Sierra Leone transferred to Royal Free Hospital in London after returning to UK

A British health worker has been brought back to the UK for monitoring after potentially being exposed to Ebola from a needle-stick injury.

Public Health England (PHE) said the worker, who may have had contact with the deadly virus in Sierra Leone, does not currently have any symptoms.

After arriving back in the UK on Wednesday, the worker was transferred to the Royal Free Hospital in London for assessment and they will continue to be monitored for signs of the disease.

From BBC News, on to Sierra Leone and a notable casualty:

Ebola crisis: Sierra Leone’s Augustine Baker dies

A Sierra Leonean who worked with children orphaned by Ebola has died of the disease himself. Augustine Baker had been admitted to an Ebola treatment centre after becoming ill last week.

He had worked for an orphanage run by a UK charity on the outskirts of Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown.

Thirty-three children and seven staff at the St George Foundation orphanage have been in quarantine since Mr Baker was diagnosed with the deadly virus.

From StarAfrica, a change contemplated:

S/Leone govt contemplating re-opening border

The Sierra Leone government is on consultation as to whether to re-open its borders with neighboring Liberia, an official was quoted saying Wednesday.”I’m sure there are consultations, perhaps at State House,” Deputy Minister of Information, Mr Theo Nicol, told the bi-weekly Politico newspaper.

He said whenever a decision was taken, it will be announced.

This followed reports that Liberia which like Sierra Leone was ravaged by the Ebola epidemic last year, re-opened its land borders after over year.

And from AllAfrica, help enlisted:

Sierra Leone: Traditional and Religious Leaders to Champion New Ebola Vaccine Study in Sierra Leone

Tribal Heads, Religious Leaders and Ward Councillors in the Western Area have been briefed about the new Ebola Prevention Vaccine (marklate) to be introduce in Sierra Leone in March this year.

Addressing the stakeholders meeting at the Miatta Conference Hall in Freetown on Thursday February 2015, the Acting Provost, Principal College of Medicines and Allied Health Sciences and Principal Investigator, Dr. Mohamed Samai told his audience that the vaccine is important because it might help protect people from getting Ebola during this outbreak and future ones in helping to save lives.

The goal of the study in Sierra Leone, Dr. Samai said, aims at evaluating how well an Ebola prevention vaccine helps protect people from getting Ebola, and to expand the safety profile of the vaccine from previous smaller studies. This and other Ebola prevention vaccines he said are being studied in other African countries, the USA, Canada and Europe.

On to Liberia and a campaign begun, via the Liberian Observer:

ABIC Launches Ebola Awareness in Bong County

As Ebola continues to decline in Liberia, the Angie Brooks International Center for Women’s Empowerment (ABIC) has launched a two-week anti-Ebola awareness campaign for marketers and residents in Gbarnga, Bong County.

The launching last Sunday brought together market women, town chiefs and community dwellers.

ABIC’s Project Manager, Mrs.  Henrietta Tolbert, said the awareness campaign is focusing on market women in the county’s capital, Gbarnga, and in remote parts of the County. The aim is to educate women about the dangers of the virus and show them the preventive measures that will keep them safe.

From the New Dawn, the latest chapter in a sadly familiar story:

Ganta Ebola Taskforce demands benefits

Members of the Ganta Ebola taskforce in Nimba County are demanding allowance and benefits from Government. The aggrieved taskforce members in Ganta claim the Government has given other Ebola affected counties some money, so they need their share.

Most of the staff members at the Ganta Ebola taskforce are non-medical personnel assigned in the Ebola Treatment Unit or ETU.

The Ganta ETU attracted hundreds of jobseekers, mainly motorcyclists, school teachers and farmers, among others during the peak of the outbreak last year.

During the heat of the Ebola outbreak, Ganta was one of those areas in the county that were highly affected with residents migrating from the commercial city into the bushes.

From the Liberian Observer, Ebolaphobia in Canada:

Ebola Stigma Deprives Liberian Student in Canada

  • Over 500 Petition Canadian Gov’t

There are clear signs that the fight against the Ebola virus disease (EVD) is being won in Liberia. The fight, however, does not end there.  Despite all the gains here on the ground, Liberians in other parts of the world are being stigmatized, hampering even their educational pursuits.

Indeed, the other battle after the initial success of the containment of the deadly virus has to do with discrimination and stigmatization against citizens of the three worst affected countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The world, therefore, needs to gear up to begin this other battle.

Citizens from these three countries, especially those who were resident before the outbreak of the scourge, have been ostracized and discriminated against with travel bans, rejections at universities and intimidation in public places. Several have also been detained at foreign airports and left unfed for days.

From StarAfrica, another needed initiative:

Liberia: Ebola Psychological Support Project launched

The Liberian government and the World Bank Group in partnership with the government of Japan, Wednesday launched a new $3 million project to address the psychological effects caused by the Ebola epidemic and promote psychosocial health among its citizens.

The project, Supporting Psychosocial Health and Resilience in Liberia, is funded by Japan through the Japanese Social Development Fund (JSDF), a trust fund administered by the World Bank.

According to a World Bank statement issued on Wednesday, the Carter Center will implement the three-year project which is expected to benefit approximately 18,000 people in Montserrado which hosts the capital Monrovia and Margibi counties.

World Bank Liberia Country Manager Inguna Dobraja said: “the Psychosocial Health and Resilience project will respond to the most urgent psychosocial and mental health needs of the Ebola crisis, and will contribute to building psychosocial resilience at the individual and community level.”

And from the New Dawn, training:

IPC trains 7,000 health workers

The Infection and Prevention Control (IPC) taskforce at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has trained over 7,000 health care workers across the country.

The IPC is a taskforce within the Ministry of Health that is tasked to support government’s initiatives in eradicating the Ebola Virus Disease. According to the IPC, during the peak of the deadly Ebola virus, many health practitioners rushed into ETUs without sufficient knowledge of the virus.

Speaking Tuesday, February 24, 2015 at the daily press briefings hosted by the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism in Monrovia, the chairperson for the Infection and Prevention Control, Madam Catherine Cooper, said, the IPC is a special taskforce set up by the Government through the Health Ministry last September to respond to various diseases in the country.

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.