Category Archives: Video

MexicoWatch: Politics, protests, murder, a probe


We begin with politics, via The News.mx:

PAN requests Iguala update

National Action Party (PAN) Senators asked that Luis Raúl González Pérez, president of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), attend a session of the Senate so that he can present the progress on the Iguala case.

PAN Senators Francisco Salvador López Brito, Mariana Gómez del Campo Gurza and Jorge Luis Lavalle Maury want to hear the CNDH’s position with respect to the disappearance of the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College. This request comes after the parents of the missing students rejected the findings of the Attorney General’s Office.

“The students were deprived of liberty, life, burned and thrown into San Juan River,” said Attorney General Jesus Murillo on Jan. 27. The parents and relatives have steadfastly refused to believe the account offered by the government.

The PAN senators said the results of investigations carried out by the CNDH need to be brought before the Senate as quickly as possible in order for the legislators to have time to make recommendations.

And a protest, via teleSUR:

UK Welcomes Controversial Mexican President Amid Public Protest

  • Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was welcomed with fanfare in London, despite intense controversy about his human rights and corruption history in Mexico.

President Enrique Peña Nieto arrived in London this week to meet for talks with Prime Minister Dave Cameron and members of British royalty amid protests against his visit.

London’s Mexico Solidarity Society held protests outside the prime minister’s residence in Downing Street, which they said hundreds attended:

Human rights campaigners are using Peña Nieto’s visit to highlight what NGOs have described as “out-of-control” torture in Mexico. The Mexican president has faced growing pressure and massive protests – some of which have turned out violent – over the handling of the enforced disappearance and alleged murder of the 43 trainee teachers.

A graphic response to the visit, via Plokkeas:

BLOG Ayotz

A political protest, via Reuters:

Mexico calls on U.S. to probe police killings of its nationals

Mexico’s government on Monday called on the United States to investigate a string of killings of its nationals by American police, voicing “profound consternation and irritation” at what it called a presumed excessive use of force.

The Mexican foreign ministry said it had asked the U.S. Department of Justice to help investigate the fatal shooting of Mexican citizen Ernesto Javier Canepa Diaz on Feb. 27 by police in Santa Ana, California.

It was the third fatal shooting of Mexicans by U.S. police in under a month, the Mexican government said.

And a murder, via Fox News Latino:

Leftist politician’s body found in western Mexico

The body of a leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD, councilman who disappeared last month in the western Mexican state of Michoacan was found at a trash dump, state prosecutors said.

Ruben Magaña’s body was discovered near the municipal dump in Penjamillo on Sunday afternoon, the Michoacan Attorney General’s Office said.

The 67-year-old politician’s body did not have any visible “signs of violence,” the AG’s office said in a statement.

Mexico News Daily exposes:

Corruption uncovered in auditor’s office

  • Legal director dismissed for taking bribes from malfeasant mayors

Not even the agency whose purpose is to keep a watchful eye on government expenditures can be trusted to resist the temptation of corruption.

An official in the Oaxaca State Auditor’s Office has been relieved of his duties after it was found that he had been bribed by malfeasant mayors to hide the illegal diversion of public funds.

Legal director Adán Córdova was suspended along with 10 internal auditors suspected of delaying inquiries, withholding or filtering confidential information from investigators and altering the results of audits.

Another allegation of corruption, via The News,mx:

Party members file graft complaint against leader

ational Action Party (PAN) senators and deputies filed several corruption complaints against PAN President Gustavo Madero before the Federal Election Institute (IFE) and the PAN National Election

Organizing Commission Thursday. Madero has not officially decided whether he will run for an unprecedented second term as PAN party president or not. He has been facing graft allegations made by his contender Ernesto Cordero, who has said that “the party could still be saved” by drowning Madero.

The charges brought before the IFE accuse Madero of violating article 134 of the Mexican Constitution by being involved in using public resources — both human and financial — to promote his personal image.

The Latin American Herald Tribune covers a major sign of impending crisis:

Mexico Records 43.5% Fall Year on Year in Oil Revenues

Oil revenues in the Mexican public sector fell to $3.86 billion in January, a drop of 43.5 percent in real terms compared to the same month in 2014.

According to the Mexican Secretariat of Finance and Public Credit (SHCP) in its report released Monday on public finances and debt in January, total public sector income for the month stood at $24.33 billion, 3.4 percent less than the same month in 2014.

The Secretariat attributed the fall in oil revenues to lower production of crude oil (-6.5 percent) and natural gas (-3.6 percent), and the lower average export price for Mexican oil blend, at $52.4 per barrel against $91.8 in the same period of last year.

Fox News Latino covers a replacement:

Mexican Senate confirms new attorney general

The Mexican Senate voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to confirm Arely Gomez as the nation’s new attorney general.

Gomez, who was nominated last Friday by President Enrique Peña Nieto, sailed through on a vote of 105-5 with one abstention and was immediately sworn-in.

She succeeds Jesus Murillo Karam, who resigned last week at the behest of the president and is now secretary of Agrarian, Territorial and Urban Development.

Murillo Karam leaves the AG’s office amid controversy over his handling of the investigation of last September’s disappearance of 43 students in the southern state of Guerrero.

And to conclude, a teleSUR English report on the start of a major investigation into the fates of the Ayotzinapa students:

Inter-American Commission on HR to investigate Ayotzinapa case

Program notes:

Officials of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights met with the parents of the 43 Ayotzinapa students who were forcibly disappeared last September. The Commission officials announced that they will open an investigation into the case, which will last six months. The parents of the missing students said that President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration should not have closed the case.

EbolaWatch: Numbers, a conclave, measures, pols


First, the latest case counts form the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

BLOG Ebola

Next, a conference commencing, via the Liberian Observer:

EU Conference on Ebola Affected Countries Begins Today

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her delegation will today participate in a major conference, organized by the European Union (EU) in Brussels, Belgium to discuss the way forward in the economic and social recovery of countries affected by the deadly Ebola virus.

President Sirleaf, according to a statement from the European Union, will serve as a spokesperson on behalf of the three Mano River Union countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Presidents and Ministers of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Togo as well as representatives of the African Union Commission, the UN, the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) and the European Union will all be attending.

The Conference is taking place at the historic Egmont Palace in Brussels, and will be attended by Queen Mathilde .

A video report from CCTV Africa:

Rebuilding Ebola-Hit States

Program notes:

Governments and international organizations are due to meet on Tuesday to work out how to rebuild three West African nations whose economies have been shattered by Ebola. The number of newly detected cases of Ebola virus infection has been dropping sharply in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia in recent weeks. But the three countries are still reeling from the impact of the outbreak

From the Los Angeles Times, a reckoning:

Isolation can take emotional toll on volunteers at risk of Ebola

Medical workers and their reentry into everyday American life became a concern last fall after two Dallas nurses and a New York physician volunteer fell ill following close contact with Ebola patients.

Some officials called for mandatory quarantines for returning medical workers. Others wondered whether such restrictions would stigmatize volunteers and discourage them from heading to Africa, where they were sorely needed to stop the spread of Ebola. In a report released Thursday, a presidential bioethics panel cited such concerns and urged public health organizations to “employ the least restrictive means necessary” based on scientific evidence.

In Los Angeles and throughout the U.S., state and local health departments, using U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines as a starting point, are responsible for deciding how to monitor travelers coming from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Imposing varying levels of restriction, staff members track anyone who may have been exposed to Ebola, keeping tabs on them throughout the virus’ 21-day incubation period and looking out for fevers and other symptoms of illness.

The Associated Press reports a return:

Ebola survivor leaves US after recovery to return to Africa

An American missionary who survived the Ebola virus is returning to the West African country where she was infected last year.

A spokesman for the North Carolina-based charity SIM said Monday that Nancy Writebol is returning to Liberia with her husband. SIM spokesman George Salloum says David Writebol is taking over as the charity’s country director.

He says the Charlotte couple are due to arrive in Liberia in a couple of weeks after attending a conference in Thailand.

Nancy Writebol last summer became the second American infected with the Ebola virus while working at a hospital SIM supports in the Liberian capital of Monrovia.

From the Guardian, a message:

Ebola epidemic is ‘wake-up call’ for investment in universal healthcare

Improving health systems in three Ebola-hit African countries would have cost a third of relief effort there, says new Save the Children report

Up to 30 countries are vulnerable to an Ebola-style epidemic, unless the world sits up and helps get urgent investment into universal healthcare, a report (pdf) has found.

Improving the health systems in the three Ebola-hit African nations would have helped to prevent the epidemic and cost a third of the relief effort, says Save the Children in a new investigation of the epidemic that has claimed more than 9,500 lives.

It found that £2.8bn had been spent on aid, compared with the £1bn it would have cost to improve basic healthcare in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

On to Liberia and some good news from the News:

Liberia: No Ebola Case for Seven Days

The Liberian Government acting spokesperson says for more than seven days Liberia has not reported a single confirmed case of Ebola.

Acting Information Minister Isaac Jackson said statistics emanating from the Incidence Management System (IMS), showed that there are 116 Ebola contacts, 98 of which are in Montserrado and 18 in Margibi counties, while all of the 19 ETUs in the country only have two confirmed Ebola patients.

“Grand Cape Mount County has completed two incubation periods without a new Ebola case, which means that all counties, except Montserrado and Margibi, have gone 42 days or more without a confirmed Ebola case,” Jackson quoted the IMS report

A quarantined hospital cleared, via FrontPageAfrica:

Quarantined S.D. Cooper Hospital Declared Ebola Free

Over 33 workers – local, international and other employees of one of Liberia’s renowned private health facilities, the Seventh Day Adventist Cooper Hospital who were quarantined after a woman treated at the hospital was diagnosed of Ebola were released on Saturday after successfully completing 21 days confinement.

Amanda Blad, a lady was treated at the hospital but soon afterward she was diagnosed with the deadly virus, prompting fear and resulting in the imposition of quarantine as a preventive measure against further spread of the Ebola virus which is now on the decline in Liberia.

Amanda was treated at the hospital for infection where she was believed to have interacted with several other people exposing local and international health workers to the EVD. Those quarantined for 21 days were set free by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW), Centers for Disease Control and the Administration of the hospital.

After the jump, Liberia tightens the borders, Ebola as an enduring problem, conflicting views on a vaccine trials, on to Sierra Leone and an admonition, a mixed message, blood export reassurance, and medicine men versus Ebola in Guinea, plus North Korea eases Ebolaphobic measures. . . Continue reading

MexicoWatch: Investigations, murders, & pols


We begin with an investigation, via teleSUR English:

Independent Ayotzinapa investigation begins

Program notes:

The 5-member Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will begin an independent analysis of the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students, meeting with family members and lawyers as a first step. Clayton Conn reports from Mexico City for teleSUR

From Mexico News Daily, one investigation challenges another:

Fire experts confirm Ayotzinapa findings

  • They dispute UNAM physicist’s claims regarding the fuel required

How much fuel — such as wood and tires — does it take to turn 43 bodies to ash?

Of the doubts that have been sown over the official version of what took place on the night of September 26 in Iguala and Cocula, Guerrero, the most credible is that concerning the incineration of the 43 bodies of the missing students of Ayotzinapa.

A physicist at the National Autonomous University (UNAM) has disputed the official findings, claiming that the fire would have required 33 tonnes of four-inch-diameter tree trunks — or 995 tires — to achieve the required temperature of 900 degrees C for a sufficient length of time to completely burn the bodies.

But the newspaper Milenio reports today it has consulted two international experts in the behavior of fire and its effects on the human body. One of the them, American forensic anthropologist Elayne Juniper Pope, has actually conducted experiments on bodies, burning them on the surface of the ground and inside excavated pits.

The verdict: yes, it would be possible to incinerate that number of bodies within 24 hours and without the volume of fuel suggested by researcher Jorge Antonio Montemayor of UNAM. Pope said subcutaneous body fat alone is a fuel source that can feed a fire for hours.

From VICE News, and not surprising:

Human Rights Crisis Threatens to Overshadow Mexican President Peña Nieto’s Visit to UK

Mexico’s beleaguered President Enrique Peña Nieto touched down in London on Monday for a three-day state visit intended to strengthen trade and cultural ties between Mexico and the United Kingdom.

Peña Nieto has been lauded on the international stage for passing an array of market-friendly reforms and jailing some of Mexico’s top drug lords, including Servando “La Tuta” Gomez, the head of the Knights Templar cartel, who was captured on Friday after an eight-month manhunt.

However, his image has been tarred by recent corruption scandals and the likely massacre of 43 teachers college students last September, which caused the United Nations to condemn Mexico’s record on forced disappearances last month.

Murders, via teleSUR:

14 New Murders in Town Where 43 Mexican Students Disappeared

  • The fresh bloodbath took place over 72 hours.

Bloodshed has returned to the Mexican town of Iguala, where 14 murders took place in less than 72 hours last week.

In the the same town where 43 students were kidnapped by police after protesting in September last year, more than a dozen people were killed in the space of a few days last week.

The scope of victims in the town in the ultra-violent state of Guerrero was broad and apparently indiscriminate: a pregnant woman stabbed to death; a doctor gunned down; an official killed outside his home; two young men killed in plain view in the middle of the town.

More murders from Borderland Beat:

Dozens of Catholic Priests murdered by Organized Crime during Calderon-Peña Administrations

The fact that Mexico is one of the most dangerous places on earth for reporters is well known, what is far less written about is the violence perpetrated against  Catholic Priests.

Mexico is officially now the most dangerous place on earth for Catholic Priests.  While long in the top group of most dangerous places for priests, Mexico is now its leader.  For the sixth consecutive year, Mexico tops the list in murders and disappearances of Catholic priests in Latin America.

What must be established, murders and kidnappings of priests receive little attention outside regional reporting hubs.  It is a perplexing, how a story of dozens of  priests being murdered by cartels during  2 administrations goes unrecognized, or for example, a story  about 5 priests being killed in November–December of 2013 in Tamaulipas and Veracruz,  is but a tiny blip on the media radar.

And some controversy, via teleSUR:

Controversy Hovers Over Mexico’s New Attorney General

  • Arely Gomez is set to take the country’s highest law enforcement post, yet her connections to a private media company is shadowing her credentials.

Gomez is the sister of a vice president of media giant, Televisa, a company that owns more than 70 percent of Mexico’s television market.

In recent years Televisa has been accused of playing an influential role in Mexican politics. During the 2012 presidential campaign, the company was accused of giving favorable coverage and airtime to then candidate Peña Nieto. Meanwhile the president’s wife, First Lady Angelica Rivera, is a former soap opera actress who worked on Televisa productions.

Arely Gomez’s appointment will be voted upon by the entire Senate Tuesday.

More controversy, via the Latin American Herald Tribune:

Former Mexico City Mayor Quits PRD

Former Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard has resigned from the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD.

The former mayor said in a letter to PRD chairman Carlos Navarrete that was posted on Twitter this weekend that his successor, Miguel Angel Mancera, had blocked his efforts to run for the presidency and the PRD had moved too close to the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.

Ebrard, who served as the Mexican capital’s mayor from 2006 to 2012, said his resignation was final and “irrevocable.”

“The progressive alignment of the party’s leadership with (Mexican President) Enrique Peña Nieto” and the PRI “is incompatible with the political objectives and duties of the Mexican left,” Ebrard said.

And our graphic of the day, featuring the names of Aytozinapa students, via Puro Pinche:

BLOG Ayotz

John Oliver takes on failing U.S. infrastructure


Yep,  John Oliver takes on the nation’s rapidly aging bridges, dams, and highways, along with the singular unwillingness of the nation’s political elite to repair them and stave off the threat of potential disaster.

And he does it with the help of an all-star cast, including Edward Norton, Vincent D’Onfrio, Steve Buscemi, Dan Hedaya, and more.

From HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Infrastructure

Program notes:

America’s crumbling infrastructure: It’s not a sexy problem, but it is a scary one.

Quote of the day: Netanyahu, liar for lebensraum


There is no world leader more arrogant than Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, as he demonstrated in a secretly recorded discussion with illegal Israeli settlers on occupied Palestinian land is 2001, in which he openly bragged about controlling the U.S. political process and lying to Israeli voters in the 1996 Israeli parliamentary elections when asked about whether or not he would abide by the Oslo Peace Accords:

“I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won’t get in their way.

“They asked me before the election if I’d honor [the Oslo accords],” he said. “I said I would, but … I’m going to interpret the accords in such a way that would allow me to put an end to this race back towards the 1967 borders. How do we manage to do this? Nobody said what defined military facilities are. So I defined them as security zones;. The entire Jordan Valley for me, is a security zone. . .Yes, like the entire Ben Sh’ean Valley. You See? Go figure.”

Here’s the video:

:

We leave the last word to Gideon Levy, columnist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz:

These remarks are profoundly depressing. They bear out all of our fears and suspicions: that the government of Israel is led by a man who doesn’t believe the Palestinians and doesn’t believe in the chance of an agreement with them, who thinks that Washington is in his pocket and that he can pull the wool over its eyes.

EnviroWatch: Outbreaks, GMOs, toxins, nukes


We begin with an Indian outbreak, via BBC News:

Swine flu: India health minister urges calm

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

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

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

A parallel development from Outbreak News Today:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The New York Times covers a vaccination crackdown:

Pakistani Officials Issue Arrest Warrants Over Refusals of Polio Vaccine

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

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

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

And BBC News conforms a diagnosis:

Distinct stages to chronic fatigue syndrome identified

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

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

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

From BBC News again, the human condition:

Leukaemia mutations ‘almost inevitable’, researchers say

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

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

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

China Daily covers a crusade:

Former celebrity TV anchor on crusade against pollution

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

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

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

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

From CCTV America, a related story:

Chinese government investigation uncovers high polluting factories

Program notes:

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

From Al Jazeera America, the impact of skepticism:

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

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

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

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

A related story from the Guardian:

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

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

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

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

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

From the Los Angeles Times, public disservants:

LAFD failed to inspect hundreds of hazardous sites, state says

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

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

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

Another firefighter crackdown, via BBC News:

Argentina fire chief sacked over Patagonia blaze

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

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

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

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

Mexico Moves to Save Endangered Porpoise

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

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

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

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

Nuclear watchdog takes TEPCO to task for delay in leakage report

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

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

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

Next, a visitor, via Kyodo News:

Abe views Fukushima site for radioactively contaminated waste

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

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

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

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

Entire Joban Expressway set to open with completion of Fukushima stretch

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

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

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

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

IAEA: Japan needs more anti-nuclear terror steps

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

So sit back and enjoy a remarkable work of journalism.

From Breaking the Set:

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

Program notes:

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

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

Program notes:

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

Cuba Part III: The Evolution of Revolution

Program notes:

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