Category Archives: Resources

R. Cobb and Tom Bates, a study in contrast

To esnl, R. [Ron] Cobb was America’s best cartoonist of the 1960s, surpassing even the estimable Paul Conrad.

Cobb never won a Pulitzer, unlike Conrad, no doubt because Cobb worked for an underground paper, the late, lamented Los Angeles Free Press [“the Freep” to fans] while Conrad drew for the Los Angeles Times.

But, like Conrad, the earthiness of Cobb’s characters and his skill with the pen [remember those?] imparted a power to his images that makes them as relevant today as when he drafted them a half-century ago.

We periodically surf the Web in search of “new” Cobb cartoons [meaning those offerings which haven’t appeared online before], and today we found several, including one especially relevant for Berkeley in the second decade of the 21st Century, featuring a figure who could well be esnl on Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley, circa 2030, though the notion that the city might provide a bench is ludicrous:

BLOG RCobbBerkeley

My primary beat during the six years I spent reporting for the late, and also lamented, Berkeley Daily Planet was land use — which was the one issue dominating a cash-strapped city government headed by a mayor and city council majority whose election campaigns were primarily funded by the real estate development sector.

Mayor Tom Bates, himself a one-time developer and subsequently state legislator, never met a development he’d didn’t love, nor a developer who wasn’t an instant BFF as well as a near-certain future campaign contributor.

Bates also prides himself on being a Cal Bears Rose Bowl starter in 1959, and his alumni status has been exploited by UC Berkeley’s real estate development arm as the school increasingly builds and leases off-campus, removing property from property tax roles [even that leased property is stricken form the rolls for the duration of the lease], while other administrators press for more high-rise apartment buildings, driven by the end of construction of new university-owned student housing.

In addition, Bates has thoroughly backed the push for the destruction of the city’s last industrial district to pave the way for university-spawned corporate startups.

The next result is a push for downtown high-rise proliferation, eased measures for destroying landmark buildings, and a push for gentrification of the city’s few remaining lower-income neighborhoods housing the folks needed to keep all those glistening new erections working.

Berkeley is losing its historic character, and the latest monstrosity planned for the city center will actually block the view of San Francisco Bay from the university’s signature campanile, which was designed by architect John Galen Howard to offer an unimpaired view of the world-renowned Golden Gate. The project is being ramrodded by Mark Rhoades, formerly the city’s Land Use Planning Manager.

The end result is that the city loses character and rich developers get richer building costlier apartments that force students deeper into debt to pay enrich all those developers and the former public servants on their payrolls and help them bankroll elections to make them even richer.

Meanwhile, Bates and his allies regularly reduce requirements for fixed percentages of low-income housing in new buildings as developers plead poverty.

Ain’t it grand?!

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, pollution, climate, nukes

And a whole lot of Fukushimapoocalypse Now!, this being four years to the day since disaster struck.

First, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the latest measles numbers for the U.S.:

BLOG Measles

Al Jazeera America has some Canadian numbers:

Health officials confirm 119 measles cases in Quebec

  • Children from Lanaudiere, Quebec caught measles at Disneyland and spread the disease to other unvaccinated people

Canadian public health officials said Wednesday that there are 119 confirmed cases of the measles in Lanaudière, Quebec (PDF), a town about 50 miles north of Montreal.

The first case of measles in the region was reported to Lanaudière’s public health agency on Feb. 10, according to the Toronto Sun newspaper, but the infection spread to people who hadn’t been vaccinated for the disease.

The spread of measles to Lanaudière is the result of visits by two families to the Disneyland resorts in California, where they were exposed and brought the measles back with them to Quebec, according to the Montreal Gazette newspaper. The infected children as well as classmates and staff who came into contact with them have been ordered to stay home for two weeks, the newspaper said.

And from Outbreak News Today, good numbers in the Philippines:

Philippines reports 200 measles cases in January

After reporting more than 58,000 suspected and confirmed measles cases in 2014, including 110 fatalities, the Philippines saw only 201 suspected and confirmed cases during the first month of 2015, according to a recently published World Health Organization Measles-Rubella Bulletin.

The 33 lab-confirmed measles cases reported in January is a dramatic decrease compared to the 9,549 confirmed cases in January 2014. There were no deaths related to measles reported in January.

The measles outbreak in the Philippines last year was implicated in imported measles cases and outbreaks in a number of countries including the United States and Canada.

From Reuters, warnings of an outbreak to come:

Mutating H7N9 bird flu may pose pandemic threat, scientists warn

A wave of H7N9 bird flu in China that has spread into people may have the potential to emerge as a pandemic strain in humans, scientists said on Wednesday.

The H7N9 virus, one of several strains of bird flu known to be able to infect humans, has persisted, diversified and spread in chickens across China, the researchers said, fuelling a resurgence of infections in people and posing a wider threat.

“The expansion of genetic diversity and geographical spread indicates that, unless effective control measures are in place, H7N9 could be expected to persist and spread beyond the region,” they said in a study published in the journal Nature.

The Guardian covers a finding:

Homeopathy not effective for treating any condition, Australian report finds

  • Report by top medical research body says ‘people who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments’

Homeopaths believe that illness-causing substances can, in minute doses, treat people who are unwell.

By diluting these substances in water or alcohol, homeopaths claim the resulting mixture retains a “memory” of the original substance that triggers a healing response in the body.

These claims have been widely disproven by multiple studies, but the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has for the first time thoroughly reviewed 225 research papers on homeopathy to come up with its position statement, released on Wednesday.

“Based on the assessment of the evidence of effectiveness of homeopathy, NHMRC concludes that there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective,” the report concluded.

From Medical Daily, a diabetes breakthrough hinted:

Diabetes Treatment May Soon Involve Psychedelic Ayahuasca; Chemical Harmine Triples Beta Cell Count

The role of psychedelics like LSD and magic mushrooms in modern medicine is being uncovered more than ever these days, with their uses ranging from easing anxiety to treating post-traumatic stress disorder. But, as a new study shows, their role isn’t only limited to psychiatric conditions but chronic diseases as well. In this case, a chemical in the Amazonian psychoactive brew ayahuasca may actually promote the growth of insulin-producing beta cells in people with diabetes.

Ayahuasca, which is also the name for the Banisteriopsis caapi vine it’s made from, is commonly associated with the indigenous tribes of the Peruvian Amazon, where shamans brew it with other psychedelic plants to induce an hour’s long trip full of spiritual revelations, often viewed as a reawakening. In the U.S., the drug is classified as a schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which defines it as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” They’re considered “the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”

The psychoactive chemical that makes ayahuasca a schedule 1 drug is dimethyltryptamine, more commonly known as DMT. Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City believe that if they can figure out a way to bypass the effects of this chemical, they’ll be able to tap into the effects of another chemical in the ayahuasca plant called harmine. In their new study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, they found this chemical was the only one out of over 100,000 the ability to reproduce insulin-producing beta cells in diabetic mice, thus normalizing glycemic control.

From the San Jose Mercury News, the toxicology of beauty:

Santa Clara County targets ‘toxic trio’ used in nail salons

They’re known as the “toxic trio,” the worst of the bottled bad boys that can likely be found at any given nail salon, and Santa Clara County is hoping to run the gang out of town.

Supervisor Cindy Chavez led the charge to join a handful of local governments that are encouraging salon owners to switch away from products containing chemicals known to cause an array of health disorders, and with unanimous support from her colleagues, a Healthy Nail Salon Recognition Program was enacted on Tuesday.

“What’s key is that wherever people work, they should be safe,” Chavez said. “I’m looking at a group of women of childbearing age, working in shops that sometimes aren’t very well ventilated. This is good for them and good for the customer.”

In the gang of three, there’s the well-known carcinogen formaldehyde and the neurological agent toluene, which causes headaches, dizziness and nausea. Rounding them out is dibutyl phthalate — or DBP — a particular threat to pregnant women that’s been banned in Europe.

Big Agra flexes muscle, via the Associated Press:

INFLUENCE GAME: Meat industry fights new dietary proposal

The meat industry is seeing red.

Meat companies have tried to rehabilitate an image tarnished in recent years by health and environmental concerns. Now the industry is swiftly and aggressively working to discredit a proposal for new dietary guidelines that recommends people eat less red and processed meat.

The proposal last month by a government advisory committee also relegates the health benefits of lean meat to a footnote to the main recommendations.

“We’ve been put in a position over the years to almost be apologizing for our product, we’re not going to do that anymore,” said Barry Carpenter, the president and CEO of the North American Meat Institute.

So why keep whaling anyway?, via JapanToday:

Japan dumps Norwegian whale meat after finding pesticide

Whale meat imported into Japan from Norway has been dumped after tests found it contained up to twice the permitted level of harmful pesticide, the government said Wednesday.

The announcement came after Western environmentalists first exposed the issue, in the latest salvo of a battle that pits Japan against many of its usual allies, such as Australia and New Zealand.

An official at Japan’s health ministry said whale meat was subject to extensive routine tests before and after import. “We conduct strict checking because whales tend to collect contaminants in the environment such as pesticides and heavy metals,” he said.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, a call for help for an oceanic critter:

Massive starfish deaths prompt calls for emergency help

With millions of starfish dying all along the West Coast, Washington state Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives say it’s time for Congress to intervene and find out why.

The outbreak, first noticed in the state by rangers in Olympic National Park in June 2013, has hit 20 species of starfish, also known as sea stars.

After getting lesions on their bodies, the sea stars begin curling up and soon lose their legs, shriveling up and disintegrating into mush. Researchers fear the epidemic may be the result of a virus caused by climate change, with the disease showing its fastest progression in warmer ocean waters.

From the Ecologist, collusion coal-escing:

Coal industry setting its own air pollution standards

Coal is Europe’s biggest source of mercury and sulphur pollution, writes Kyla Mandel, killing tens of thousands of people a year. So how come more than half the members appointed by EU governments to set air pollution standards for coal plants are industry representatives?

The UK is one of several European governments allowing energy industry representatives to help draw up the European Union’s (EU) new air pollution standards, a Greenpeace investigation has found.

The EU is currently in the process of drafting new standards to limit pollution from coal-fired power stations. However, this “once-in-a-decade opportunity” has been captured by the coal industry Greenpeace claims and could result in “extremely lax” emission limits.

“Not only would most of the existing plants be allowed to pollute several times more than could be achieved by adopting the best clean technologies available”, the environmental NGO said, “but EU standards would also be significantly weaker than those imposed in other parts of the world, including China.”

From the Los Angeles Times, an admission of failure:

Agencies admit failing to protect water sources from fuel pollution

The agencies charged with overseeing oil production and protecting California’s ever-dwindling water sources from the industry’s pollution all fell down on the job, one state official told a panel of peeved lawmakers Tuesday.

During a testy two-hour oversight hearing, officials from the California Department of Conservation, the department’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources and the state Water Resources Control Board promised senators a top-down overhaul of their regulation of the disposal of oil field wastewater.

But after a handful of recent embarrassing revelations about the division’s history of lackluster regulation, lawmakers questioned how they could trust agency officials to follow through, characterizing longstanding agency practices as corrupt and inept.

After the jump, Koch brothers stonewall senators on climate skeptic funding, odds on the next Golden State megaquake jump, the grass-is-always-greener syndrome sends waterway fertilizer contamination soaring, seeking Dutch help for Olympian pollution in Rio, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with a warning from Japan’s top nuclear regulator, contaminated soil shipments to interim storage near, tons of ‘hot’ water escape into the soil awaiting an underground ice wall that might not work, yet another proposal to recover fuel that melted through the reactor, one Japanese in five leery of Fukushima-grown food, the government heads back to the reconstruction planning drawing board, questions surround the country’s other aging nuclear plants, the Angela Merkel/Shinzo Abe Fukushima response divide, meanwhile, aftershocks continue, Fukushima’s American-born reactor and plant construction, while the nation’s food supply was protected after the disaster, and Shinzo Abe’s pro-nuclear government holds applications to restart 21 plants. . . Continue reading

EbolaWatch: Predictions, politics, and medicines

We begin with a prediction, via the New York Times:

Ebola Outbreak Could Be Ended by Summer, U.N. Says

The Ebola outbreak that has claimed nearly 10,000 lives over the past 15 months could be halted by the summer, but only if international financial support is sustained, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.

“This crisis can be stopped completely,” Dr. Bruce Aylward, who is leading the organization’s response to the epidemic, told reporters in Geneva. “It should be possible to stop transmission by the middle of the year.”

He cautioned, however, that “there’s a need for reinvestment and reinvigoration of the program if we are to get this finished.”

More from the World Health Organization:

WHO and World Food Programme join forces to reach zero Ebola cases

WHO and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) are combining their forces in a new partnership in the Ebola-affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The arrangement combines the logistics strength of WFP with WHO’s public health expertise to help get the current Ebola outbreak down to zero cases in West Africa. The platform also establishes an alert and response infrastructure for future crises.

“This partnership increases both agencies’ abilities to reach, monitor and respond to the needs of all people touched by Ebola,” says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “It helps us deploy and maintain technical teams with expertise in infection prevention and control, epidemiology, and contact tracing, enabling dedicated health workers in the deep field to do their best work. The partnership is also a learning opportunity for the future, informing our capacities to launch joint operations during large scale emergencies.”

“Over the past seven months, partnerships have been crucial in fighting this devastating outbreak. WFP has worked with our partners to respond to communities’ most basic needs — making sure food is reaching everywhere that the Ebola virus has hit.

Our logistical support to WHO and the wider humanitarian community has enabled affected people to receive the urgent care and support they need,” says WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin. “We are making progress, however we must remain vigilant. The Ebola crisis will not end until we identify, reach and successfully treat every last case. Recognizing this goal, the WHO-WFP partnership – a joint technical and operational force – will continue providing the support required to achieve zero cases.”

From the Los Angeles Times, the downside to the upside:

New Ebola cases are declining: Why that’s bad news for a cure

After killing at least 9,936 people and infecting more than 24,202, the Ebola epidemic appears to be running out of steam. And for some medical researchers, this hard-won progress poses a problem.

The Ebola virus has retreated so dramatically in recent months that it may be too late to determine the effectiveness of the many experimental drugs and vaccines that have been rushed into production.

Unless the outbreak explodes again, potential cures such as ZMapp can’t be given to enough patients to accurately determine their effect. Nor is the virus infecting enough people to let researchers test the efficacy of two potential vaccines that are being given to about 18,000 health and emergency workers in Liberia.

Even proposals to treat patients by transfusing into them blood serum from Ebola survivors have become impossible to test with scientific rigor.

Agence France-Presse covers a vaccine trial:

Ebola: first vaccine trials underway in Guinea

Program notes:

Tests of an anti-Ebola vaccine are underway in Guinea on volunteers to assess its effectiveness before being put on the market.

And a new drug trial, via Science:

New Ebola drug trial starts in Sierra Leone

Researchers in Sierra Leone today started a new phase II trial of an experimental drug in Ebola patients. The first participant received an injection of the therapeutic, called TKM-Ebola, this morning at an Ebola treatment unit in Kerry Town. The trial may expand to other sites; the study team hopes to have an answer fast so that it can either move on to another drug or start a phase III study of TKM-Ebola.

Produced by Tekmira Pharmaceuticals in Burnaby, Canada, TKM-Ebola is made of synthetic, small interfering RNAs packaged into lipid nanoparticles. The RNAs target three of Ebola’s seven genes, blocking the virus’s replication. TKM-Ebola has been shown to work well in monkeys; the efficacy trial in humans is only starting now because there was not enough of the drug available earlier. Also, the RNAs have been adapted to the strain circulating at the moment.

The study does not have a placebo arm; all patients at the trial site are eligible for the drug, and researchers hope to determine whether it works by comparing them with patients treated elsewhere.

From the Guardian, another European afflicted:

UK military health worker tests positive for Ebola in Sierra Leone

  • Public Health England confirms case but will not say where the individual was working, as discussions are under way about whether to fly them to Britain

A UK military healthcare worker has tested positive for Ebola in Sierra Leone, Public Health England has confirmed. No details about the individual have been released.

Discussions are now under way as to whether to fly the healthcare worker back to the UK for treatment in the specialist unit at the Royal Free hospital in London. Two healthcare volunteers, Will Pooley and Pauline Cafferkey, were both repatriated and successfully treated at the Royal Free.

PHE will not say where the latest healthcare worker to be infected was working, but it is likely to have been in the military-run Ebola unit, which is situated in the grounds of the Kerry Town treatment centre run by Save the Children. It was at Kerry Town that Cafferkey was infected, probably during the process of taking off her face mask, which was of a different design to that worn by the rest of the volunteers.

On to Sierra Leone, first with an accountability fund, via the Sierra Leone Concord Times:

US$178,000 project to enhance citizens’ trust in Ebola response

A consortium of civil society organisations has been formed to revive citizens’ trust and confidence in the governance and management of the emergency and recovery phase of the Ebola response.

With support from Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), the organizations – Campaign for Good Governance, Center for Accountability and Rule of Law, Center for the Coordination of Youth Activities, Democracy Sierra Leone, ActionAid Sierra Leone, Institute for Governance Reform, and Budget Advocacy Network – last Friday (6 March) unveiled a project titled: ‘Enhancing Trust between Citizens and Government in Sierra Leone’s Ebola Response’, worth US$178,300.

According to ActionAid’s Governance Advisor, Beatrice Serry, the overall purpose of the project is to strengthen state-citizens relationship through promoting transparency and accountability in the allocation and use of Ebola resources.

The Christian Science Monitor covers a change in direction:

As Ebola threat abates, Sierra Leone turns attention to survivors

  • Having lost family members themselves, Ebola survivors often face discrimination when they return to their communities. They also suffer from unexpected health side-effects from the virus.

Since the start of the outbreak, Sierra Leone has had 8,353 confirmed cases of Ebola, according to the National Ebola Response Center. Of these, 3,086 individuals, or 37 percent, survived, yet now face social discrimination, neglect, and possible life-long health problems.

The government is now turning its attention towards this population and their needs, while it continues to work towards zero new Ebola cases. There is no specific plan in place, but the rollout of support groups and free access for survivors to healthcare could be key indicators of how well the country can rebound from the disease.

The initial government support comes in the form of reintegration packages, worth $200, that provide each survivor with items like food, a mattress, and condoms. It provides a first step for many who have lost everything in a nation that barely a decade ago emerged from a decades-long civil war.

From the Sierra Leone Concord Times again, pledging allegiance:

President Koroma vows to support Chinese policies

While thanking the Chinese government and people for the provision of a fixed level 3 bio-safety laboratory which he described as a great opportunity in the promotion of the health sector, President Ernest Bai Koroma has vowed to support the policies of China in Sierra Leone.

President Koroma noted that, “Our journey with China started 40 years ago and every step has seen evidence of support in development. The journey has been long but very interesting and every step shows significant milestone.”

He said the relationship between China and Sierra Leone was put to test during the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease, noting that Beijing responded promptly and adequately with the provision of financial, logistics and personnel support to fight the scourge.

On to Liberia, first with a commemoration from the Associated Press:

Liberia holds church service for Ebola victims

Liberians held a church service Wednesday for Ebola victims to mark the country’s 99th National Decoration Day, a holiday normally set aside for people to clean up and re-decorate the graves of their lost relatives.

More than 4,100 people have died in in Liberia since the outbreak began about a year ago in West Africa. The vast majority of those victims were cremated, so the gathering at a Presbyterian church in the capital, Monrovia, was held to remember those without graves.

Nearly 20 barrels of ashes from about 3,000 victims will eventually be buried on a plot bought by the government as a cemetery for Ebola victims. Some bodies of suspected victims were buried Wednesday in a new grave site on the outskirts of Monrovia.

And a concession, via the New York Times:

Liberian Leader Concedes Errors in Response to Ebola

The president of Liberia acknowledged on Wednesday that she had erred in ordering a tough security crackdown at the height of the Ebola crisis last year, describing the deadly virus as an “unknown enemy” that had frightened her.

The president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel peace laureate, said that in hindsight, her deployments of troops and police officers to seal off a vast neighborhood in her nation’s capital — which set off skirmishes with residents, fueled distrust of the government and led to the death of a teenager — had been counterproductive.

“It did not take long to know that did not work,” she said in an interview with the The New York Times Editorial Board. “It created more tension in the society.”

MexicoWatch: Cartels, murder, politics, and more

We begin with our Ayotzinapa proest image, this time via Noticias Ayotzinapa, and marking the days and months since the students were disappeared:


Next, teleSUR covers a notable arrest in Guerrero:

Leader of the Acapulco Drug Cartel Arrested in Mexico

  • Various news reports say the drug trafficker is the cousin of the former Guerrero governor, who resigned due to the Ayotzinapa case.

The Mexican Ministry of the Interior confirmed Wednesday that Federal Police officers arrested the leader of the so-called Independent Acapulco Cartel (CIDA). Victor Aguirre Garzon, who is said to be the cousin of the former governor of the violent state of Guerrero, Angel Aguirre, who resigned due to the case of the 43 Ayotzinapa students.

The CIDA is one of the drug gangs that is warring to control the sale and traffic of narcotics in Guerrero and the neighboring state of Morelos, which are under the control of the Beltran Leyva brothers and the United Warriors or Guerreros Unidos. It was members of the Guerreros Unidos allegedly received the 43 Ayotzinapa students from local police on the night of Sept. 26 before supposedly burned them to unidentifiable ashes ashes.

According to unnamed sources by newspaper Excelsior, Aguirre Garzon is a former federal police agent, “who is pointed out by the Sinaloa cartel to be the sole provider of drugs to inmates in the Acapulco state penitentiary with the complacency of state officials.”

Borderland Beat covers a related development:

G.U. turncoats: ‘Sierra Unida’ group cleans up Iguala Plaza for ‘Los Rojos’

  • Sierra Cartel challenging the weaken cartel Guerreros Unidos for the all important Iguala territory

Media interest in the case of the missing normalistas of Guerrero has diminished.

The worldwide audience once hungry of any detail of the shocking case may assume that the situation in Iguala, Guerrero has improved after the events of last September 26th and 27th.

After all, the malevolent mayor Jose Abarca and his wife are imprisoned. Same goes for the municipal police, who acted on orders from the mayor’s office, to kidnap and kill the normalistas group.

And the leadership of the Guerreros Unidos Cartel are either dead or incarcerated.

Federal forces have taken over policing of Iguala, one would hope security of the city would be exponentially better.

But according to the people of Iguala, that is far from the reality. In fact things are worse. Violence has exploded, and according to residents, the federal Gendarmerie is not doing much to control the situation.

For example; In separate incidents, four members of a family, and a taxi driver were killed last two days of February and first week of March recorded in the city of Iguala where the Federal Police Gendarmerie Division took over security after the slaughter and disappearance of the 43 missing normalistas Ayotzinapa.

From Reuters, a murder in Guerrero:

Mexican mayoral candidate decapitated in violent Guerrero state

A 42-year-old woman running for mayor in a violent southwestern Mexican state that sparked the biggest crisis of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s administration has been kidnapped and decapitated.

State prosecutors said on Wednesday the body of Aide Nava was found in northern Guerrero, where 43 trainee teachers were abducted and almost certainly massacred last year, sparking an international outcry over criminal violence in Mexico.

A spokesman for the prosecutors said Nava, a candidate from the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), was kidnapped on Tuesday in the town of Ahuacuotzingo, the municipality she hoped to become mayor of in June elections.

And The adds some context:

Opium turns Iguala violent

  • Mexican gangs export nearly half of heroin in US

To the residents of Iguala, violence was part of life in before local police allegedly disappeared 43 college students in September, and it remains so now.

The violence continues because Iguala’s most lucrative business still thrives: the opium trade. The city sits on a flat plain halfway between Mexico City and Acapulco in the state of Guerrero, surrounded by steep mountains where farmers milk fields of poppies for opium paste. Rural highways radiate out of mountain valleys toward Iguala, funneling the opium through a key crossroad on the journey north to the United States.

According to one federal case in the United States, heroin dealers on the streets of Chicago have numbers in their cellphones with the Iguala area code.

“Iguala is the route and that hasn’t changed, nor will it,” said Marina Hernandez de la Garza, a city councilwoman. “The bad guys haven’t left. They’re parked here.”

While Latin Correspondent covers another Guerrero development:

Coca Cola plant reopens in Guerrero, Mexico

Mexico’s largest Coca Cola bottler has reopened a distribution plant that it had closed in the southern state of Guerrero after protesters seized trucks, merchandise and company employees.

Coca Cola Femsa said in a statement that distribution was resuming from the facility in Chilpancingo, the state capital.

Two company employees were briefly seized in February by protesters demanding the release of colleagues detained for robbing merchandise from Coca Cola trucks. The anti-government protesters and the employees were quickly released.

From Fox News Latino, a political vigilante/vigilante politician:

Fresh from prison, Mexican vigilante leader Hipólito Mora mulls running for congress

Hipólito Mora, one of the founding members of the “autodefensa” citizen militia group that rose up in the southwestern Mexican state of Michoacán during 2014 to battle cartel gunmen, is ready to start a new chapter in his life.

Mora, an unassuming middle-aged man who wears frameless glasses and usually trims his grey-specked beard into a neat goatee, rose to prominence after convincing a group of his neighbors to take up arms against the notorious Knights Templar cartel that seized control of a wide swath of Michoacán during the administration of former Mexican president, Felipe Calderón.

He battled Templar gunmen, and also “autodefensa” allies, whom he viewed to be compromised by connections to organized crime groups. In a strange on-again, off-again relationship with Mexico’s government, he’s been jailed twice after gunfights between his followers and gunmen loyal to Luis Antonio Torres, a fighter who goes by the nickname “The American.”

Latin Correspondent covers a launch:

Mexico media launch MexicoLeaks platform to combat corruption

A group of Mexican media outlets and civil society groups have launched MexicoLeaks, a digital platform to receive information leaks that could lead to corruption investigations.

Representatives of the effort said Tuesday that those wanting to leak information can do so anonymously. Information and tips will be investigated and confirmed before anything is published.

The effort includes two civil society organizations and six media outlets, including Mexico’s weekly magazine Proceso, the website Animal Político and the investigative unit of journalist Carmen Aristegui.

From BuzzFeed News, hints of smoke and mirrors:

Mexico’s Huge Justice Reforms Are Scrambling To Cross The Finish Line

President Enrique Peña Nieto’s much-hyped reforms depend on a key judicial overhaul. Now, experts are worried that the slowly-moving overhaul will not stand the test of time, or culture.

An overhaul of the judicial system, passed in 2008 and slated to be completed by June 2016, aims to increase transparency in judicial investigations and make courtroom proceedings public and speedy. Oral trials, like the one in the unfinished justice building in Durango, are the backbone of the new system.

Passed under former President Felipe Calderón, the revamp is doing away with the partial inquisitorial system, in which a judge both investigates the facts and renders a decision, in favor of an adversarial one, where both parties in a trial must gather evidence and argue their case before a neutral judge.

The revamp is also instituting a system of alternative justice, which offers accusers and the accused an opportunity to mediate and negotiate a solution before having to take their cases to court. In theory, this will reduce jail populations and ensure that judges can focus on the most contentious cases.

But with only 15 months left before the deadline, implementation remains piecemeal. Only four states are operating under the new system completely. Twenty-five states have managed to partially put the changes into place — others not at all. Courthouses are under construction and thousands of people involved in the judicial process — police, investigators, lawyers, prosecutors, and judges — are yet to receive formal training.

From the Latin American Herald Tribune, rushed to judgment:

Medina Mora Voted to Mexico High Court, Steps down as U.S. Ambassador

Eduardo Medina Mora, who has been voted by lawmakers to Mexico’s Supreme Court, has submitted his resignation as ambassador to the United States, the Foreign Relations Secretariat said.

The secretariat notified the U.S. State Department that Alejandro Estivill Castro, deputy head of mission at the Mexican Embassy in Washington, will take over as charge d’affaires until a new ambassador is designated and confirmed.

Medina Mora, who submitted his resignation to President Enrique Peña Nieto on Tuesday, “contributed to maintaining excellent ties of friendship and cooperation between Mexico and the United States,” the secretariat said.

And some background, via teleSUR English:

Mexico: New Supreme Court Justice linked to police repression

Program notes:

Mexico’s Senate voted on Tuesday to approve the nomination of a major human rights violator to the Supreme Court, according to human rights groups. Eduardo Medina Mora, nominated by President Enrique Peña Nieto to fill a vacant space, has frequently been accused of orchestrating violent police operations against public protests in 2006 and initiating a drug war strategy that has left up to 100,000 people dead. His tenure as Supreme Court Justice will last 15 years. Clayton Conn reports from Mexico City for teleSUR.

EnviroWatch: Health, toxins, water, and nukes

We begin with veggie woes, via Medical Daily:

Salmonella Food Poisoning Most Common In Vegetables, Not Meat

We tend to be wary when it comes to the meat or dairy products in our refrigerator, but rarely err on the side of caution when it comes to our vegetables. A report issued by the Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC), a partnership of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has revealed the top sources of foodborne illnesses, and it appears we have to be more vigilant in the vegetable aisle at the supermarket.

According to the CDC, 48 million people — or one out of every six Americans — suffer from a foodborne illness each year. An additional 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die. Estimating illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths caused by foodborne illnesses remains an important health practice. This is the first time all three federal agencies have combined data on food safety.

IFSAC researchers focused on the four most common and severe pathogens, including E.coli O157, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Listeria. These four pathogens result in 1.9 million cases of foodborne illnesses in the U.S. each year. Data included around 1,000 foodborne illness outbreaks that occurred between 1998 and 2012. “The pathogens were chosen because of the frequency or severity of the illnesses they cause, and because targeted interventions can have a significant impact in reducing them,” the FDA said in a statement.

Newswise covers a lingering toxic legacy:

Exposure to Endocrine Disruptors during Pregnancy Affects the Brain Two Generations Later

Prenatal exposure to low doses of the environmental contaminants polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, change the developing brain in an area involved in metabolism, and some effects are apparent even two generations later, a new study finds. Performed in rats, the research was presented Friday at the Endocrine Society’s 97th annual meeting in San Diego.

Hereditary effects included increased body weight, but only in descendants of females—and not males—exposed to PCBs in the womb, said study co-author Andrea Gore, PhD, professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

“These endocrine-disrupting chemicals affect the developing brain differently in males and females,” Gore said.

From EcoWatch, what the frack?!?!:

Analysis of California’s Fracking Wastewater Reveals a Slew of Toxic Chemicals Linked to Cancer and Other Illnesses

California is currently the only state that requires chemical testing of fracking wastewater and public disclosure of the findings. That’s good. What’s not so good is what the testing and disclosure reveal.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has completed an analysis of data released by the state during the first year of new reporting requirements. It found that the high levels of the carcinogen benzene in California’s fracking wastewater isn’t the only thing Californians have to worry about from the state’s extensive oil and gas fracking operations and the injection of chemical-laced wastewater back into the ground once drilling is completed.

The study, Toxic Stew: What’s in Fracking Wasterwater, revealed the presence of hundreds of chemicals, including many linked to cancer, nervous system damage and reproductive disorders. Among the chemicals found in up to 50 percent of the samples were chromium-6, lead and arsenic, all linked to cancer and/or reproductive damage. The samples also contained thousands of times more radioactive radium than the goals set by the state, along with high levels of nitrate and chloride ions. And an another analysis last month by the Center for Biological Diversity found that 98 percent of the fracking wastewater samples tested exceeded federal and state water safety levels for benzene.

“We have long suspected that California’s fracking wastewater was full of harmful chemicals, and the first publicly available data not only confirms our suspicions but reveals just how toxic this wastewater is,” said EWG senior scientist Tasha Stoiber, the report’s co-author.

From the Houston Chronicle, cellular cellulite:

Your cell phone could be making you fat — but probably not in the way you think

Researchers at the University of Houston have found a possible link between use of electronic devices and obesity. But it’s not that our beloved devices keep us glued to their screens, thereby avoiding exercise.

Instead, the fault may lie with flame retardants that keep cellphones and computer tablets from overheating, according to findings by the University of Houston’s Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling.

Research on two common flame retardants, conducted on sibling zebra fish, found that the fish exposed to the compounds became heavier and longer, compared with their untreated brothers and sisters in the control group, the university said.

The Los Angeles Times covers a legislator’s plea:

State Senate leader urges regulators to close Exide plant in Vernon

California’s senate leader is demanding that state regulators immediately close and begin cleaning up an embattled Vernon battery recycling plant that has spewed lead and arsenic into surrounding neighborhoods over decades of operation.

In a letter sent Friday, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) urged the state Department of Toxic Substances Control “in the strongest terms” to deny a full permit to Exide Technologies.

The state has allowed the plant — which has been idle since March 2014 because it could not comply with air quality rules — to operate for more than three decades under “interim status.” The toxic substances department is now deciding whether to issue Exide a full permit. A new state law requires the department to either grant the company a permit or shut the facility down by the end of the year. Officials expect a decision within a few months.

From Newswise, more psychedelic benefits demonstrated:

Psychedelic Drug Use Could Reduce Psychological Distress, Suicidal Thinking

U.S. adults with a history of using some nonaddictive psychedelic drugs had reduced likelihood of psychological distress and suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts, according to data from a nationwide survey

While these psychedelic drugs are illegal, a Johns Hopkins researcher and study author recommends reconsidering their status, as they may be useful in treating depression

Some people have serious adverse reactions to these drugs, which may not stand out in the survey data because they are less numerous than positive outcomes

A history of psychedelic drug use is associated with less psychological distress and fewer suicidal thoughts, planning and attempts, according to new research from Johns Hopkins and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

In a national survey of over 190,000 U.S. adults, lifetime use of certain psychedelic drugs was associated with a 19 percent reduced likelihood of psychological distress within the past month, a 14 percent reduced likelihood of suicidal thinking within the past year, a 29 percent reduced likelihood of suicide planning within the past year and a 36 percent reduced likelihood of attempting suicide within the past year. These results were published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

The findings suggest that some nonaddictive psychedelic drugs, while illegal, may hold promise for depression, and that these psychedelics’ highly restricted legal status should be reconsidered to facilitate scientific studies, says study author Matthew W. Johnson, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins.

From the University of California, a sweet deal — or not:

‘Sugar Papers’ reveal industry role in 1970s dental program

A newly discovered cache of industry documents reveals that the sugar industry worked closely with the National Institutes of Health in the 1960s and ‘70s to develop a federal research program focused on approaches other than sugar reduction to prevent tooth decay in American children.

An analysis of those papers by researchers at UC San Francisco appears March 10, 2015 in the open-source scientific journal, PLoS Medicine.

The archive of 319 industry documents, which were uncovered in a public collection at the University of Illinois, revealed that a sugar industry trade organization representing 30 international members had accepted the fact that sugar caused tooth decay as early as 1950, and adopted a strategy aimed at identifying alternative approaches to reducing tooth decay.

Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health had come to the conclusion in 1969 that focusing on reducing consumption of sucrose, “while theoretically possible,” was not practical as a public health measure.

Thus aligned, the sugar industry trade organization and the NIH worked in parallel and ultimately together on developing alternative research approaches, with a substantial portion of the trade organization’s own research priorities — 78 percent — directly incorporated into the 1971 National Caries Program’s first request for research proposals from scientists.

After the jump, a bureaucratic stumbling block to drought crisis handling, woes ahead for the Great Barrier Reef, Brazil’s Amazonian rainforest logging surges ahead, polluted Olympic waters in Brazil, on to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with an anniversary, lessons still unlearned, Fukushima’s lessons for the United States, and yet another major leak reported. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Fueling conflict, protests, and pols

We begin with a very interesting story from Al Jazeera America:

Terror in Coahuila: Gas reserves beneath turf war in northern Mexico?

  • Texas researchers link spike in murders and disappearances to land grab in energy-rich Burgos Basin

Mexico’s northern border area is full of semidesert lands with small cities, towns and ranches dedicated to livestock and forage crops. Under this inhospitable surface lies the world’s fourth-largest reserves of shale gas and 95 percent of Mexico’s coal.

The cycle of great violence began here — as in the nearby states of Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas and Veracruz — in 2009. From 2005 to 2009, there were 788 homicides in the state. In 2010 and 2011, Coahuila reported 1,067 homicides, according to the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System.

The prevailing explanation for the violence is that the ruthless Zetas cartel established control of the area while overwhelmed authorities did little to oppose them. But growing analysis links the violence to a corrupt group of government officials in whose jurisdiction lie millions of pesos in hydrocarbons.

“Energy Reform and Security in Northeastern Mexico,” a report published by the Mexico Center at Rice University, places the regional violence in the context of powerful economic interests. It is not the government’s version, that of a war among cartels for routes to the U.S., nor is it the concept of la plaza, or territorial control by criminal organizations. Rather, the struggle is for control of the more than 70,000 square miles of the Burgos Basin and its enormous gas reserves.

From the Latin American Herald Tribune, questions and reassurances:

Mexican AG: Outside Experts Have Resources Needed in Missing Students Case

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, or IACHR, experts investigating the disappearance of 43 education students in the southern city of Iguala last year have all the resources they need to do their work, Mexican Attorney General Arely Gomez said.

“We are providing all the facilities so they can carry out their work plan,” Gomez told Radio Formula.

Gomez said that after taking office last week, she met with the IACHR experts, who are from Spain, Chile, Colombia and Guatemala. The IACHR team arrived in Mexico last week to investigate the disappearance of the 43 students, who went missing on Sept. 26.

And from teleSUR, an occupation:

Ayotzinapa Families ‘Occupy’ Mexican TV Station

  • The parents of the disappeared 43 students protested against television giant, Televisa, demanding ethical coverage of their movement.

Parents and family of the disappeared 43 Ayotzinapa students led a march in the Mexican Capital to symbolically occupy the headquarters of the private television giant, Televisa, demanding that the media company offer them a so-called “right of reply.”

According to the families of the youth, Televisa, which owns more than 70% of the televised market in Mexico, has portrayed them and their movement under an editorial line that “criminalizes” them.

The families demand that a commission of parents be given access to the broadcaster to make more visible their movement to secure truth and justice in the enforced disappearance of their children which occurred in September in Iguala, Guerrero.

Via Rebeluis, our Ayotzinapa image of the day, featuring one of the mothers of the missing students:

BLOG Ayotz

Reuters covers a release:

Mexico court frees vigilante leader involved in fatal firefight

A judge in the violent Mexican state of Michoacan has ordered that a jailed vigilante leader involved in a firefight late last year that killed 10 people should be freed, a spokeswoman for the state judiciary said on Monday.

Hipolito Mora and his followers clashed in mid-December with a band led by Luis Antonio Torres, alias “El Americano,” a former vigilante leader turned rural police commander.

The shootout took place in La Ruana, a town about 150 miles (240 km) from Morelia, the state capital. Both men and 35 others were arrested in January and they have been behind bars ever since. Mora’s son was among the 10 killed in the shootout.

On Monday, a Michoacan state judge ordered that Mora and his 26 followers should be released, arguing they had acted in legitimate self-defense, said the spokeswoman, who asked not to be identified.

And from the Latin American Herald Tribune, an assassination foiled:

Gunmen Try to Kill Mayor of Mexican Border City

Matamoros Mayor Leticia Salazar Vazquez was not hurt in an attack by gunmen over the weekend, Mexican officials said. Four suspects have been arrested in connection with the attack, the Tamaulipas Coordination Group said.

Salazar Vazquez was “entering Matamoros from the western sector” around 8:10 p.m. Sunday when she was attacked, the security agency said.

The gunmen, who were riding in an automobile and an SUV, opened fire “on a vehicle carrying her bodyguards,” the Tamaulipas Coordination Group said.

The covers another problem:

Mexico open to eradicate torture

Mexico government reaffirmed its commitment to “prevent and eradicate cases of torture and mistreatment” and “punish all those who disobey their obligations to enforce human rights,” said Mexico’s permanent representative to the United Nations offices in Geneva, Jorge Lomónaco.

Juan Méndez, the United Nations Special Investigator Against Torture, submitted a report Monday to the Human Rights Council detailing his findings during his visit to Mexico between April 21 and May 2. He recommended that the Mexican government publicly recognize the size of this problem.

According to Méndez, whose report was debated in the Council Monday, torture and mistreatment “are generalized” in Mexico and occur “during the moments following detention and before standing trial,” with the purpose of “punishing or extracting confessions or information.”

And to close, via teleSUR English, another sellout temporarily halted:

Mexico: Vote delayed on water privatization law

Program notes:

A vote in Mexico’s House of Representatives on the new water administration and distribution bill scheduled for Tuesday has been delayed for the official purpose of clearing up “doubts and misunderstandings.” Critics say the initiative backed by private industry, especially the mining and energy sectors, is an attempt to privatize the resource. At issue is the practice of hydraulic fracturing, which requires enormous amounts of water. A protest demonstration was organized outside the House of Representatives today. Clayton Conn reports from Mexico City for teleSUR.

Charts of the day: Renewable energy in the EU

From Eurostat [PDF], a look first at the overall tend in renewable energy use as a percentage of total energy consumption:

Mall för pressemeddelande

Then a look at renewables a a percentage of each EU member state’s total energy consumption:

Mall för pressemeddelande