Category: Crime

Why should Americans care about protests – and murder – in Mexico?


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Christy Thornton is earning a doctorate in Latin American history at New York University and is a board member of the North American Congress on Latin America.

In early October, I attended a rally outside the Mexican consulate in New York City to protest the disappearance of a group of students taken by police in the state of Guerrero two weeks earlier. On a busy midtown Manhattan street, a dozen people gathered to call attention to the missing students and demand their return. A passerby, puzzled by the commotion, stopped a protester to ask what they were shouting about. When he was told what had happened, he asked incredulously, “But they were Mexican students? Killed in Mexico? Why should we care here?”

Indeed, why should ordinary Americans care about the rampant corruption, extrajudicial violence and culture of impunity that has overtaken Mexico in the eight years since then-President Felipe Calderón declared war on the drug cartels? Why should they care about 100,000 dead and at least 20,000 disappeared, some of whose remains are being uncovered in a quickly metastasizing map of mass graves? Why should they care about the 43 teachers in training, rounded up by police and turned over to a gang of killers who, it is alleged, burned their bodies and dumped what remained in a local river? Why should they care about the surging protests, the tens of thousands marching in the streets of Mexico’s cities and towns, calling for the renunciation of President Enrique Peña Nieto and declaring “Fue el estado” (It was the state)?

Here’s why Americans should care: We are collectively funding this war. Our tax dollars, in the form of security aid, provide the equipment, weapons and training to state security forces responsible for an ever-lengthening rap sheet of human rights abuses. U.S. drug habits, in the form of an insatiable market for narcotics, marijuana and amphetamines, provide the liquid cash that has proved so corrosive when it has come into contact with every level of the Mexican state.

This is our war, on our drugs. We have created the Mexico from which we now distance ourselves — but we can’t afford to turn our backs any longer.

Since 2007, the U.S. government has spent roughly $3 billion on security aid to Mexico, through the George W. Bush–era Mérida Initiative, which was extended indefinitely by President Barack Obama, and through counternarcotics programs run by the Defense and Justice departments. Those funds served to militarize the war on drugs and contributed to the extraordinary increase in violence under Calderón…

The aid provided by the U.S. government pales compared with the estimated $30 billion a year that the sale of drugs in the United States sends to Mexico. And it is that money that is coursing through Mexico’s political veins, infecting everyone from small town mayors and state governors to federal security officials, rotting the Mexican state from within and leaving the protesters without recourse. Small wonder that many in Mexico have taken up the slogan that brought down the Argentine government in 2001: Que se vayan todos (Throw them all out).

The U.S. government’s response to the demands of the Mexican people for respect, answers and justice has been tellingly quiet. No word from Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry. So far, we have only the pleas of a State Department spokeswoman for “all parties to remain calm.” This statement was triggered by fears that the protests will turn violent, an outrageous worry, given the scale and brutality of state violence that provoked them.

The White House continues the great American tradition of deciding for the rest of the world whose violence counts and whose doesn’t. If people rise up to strike out against corruption that has nothing to do with the management of official America’s response. As usual, money talks. Policy set in motion decades ago by some of the most useless politicians in our history – are accepted as holy writ.

Thanks, Mike

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Okinawa votes once again to kick US military off the island


Messages tied to fence around the US military base by Okinawa citizensToru Yamanaka/AFP/Getty Images

A politician who wants a U.S. Marine base moved out of Okinawa won election as governor of the southern Japanese island chain…

Takeshi Onaga was set to win a sweeping victory after exit polls late yesterday indicated he had almost twice as many votes as Hirokazu Nakaima, incumbent and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s favored candidate.

Onaga, 64, is seeking to reduce the military burden on Okinawa, which hosts about three quarters of the U.S. bases in Japan, while boasting only 0.6 percent of the nation’s land area. Nakaima, 75, last December agreed to allow the Futenma U.S. Marine base to be shifted to a less densely populated area of the prefecture — a move that appeared to end nearly two decades of wrangling over the issue.

“Based on this victory, I will go to the government, the U.S. government and even the United Nations to tell them the people are against it,” Onaga said yesterday in a televised interview broadcast after the exit polls were published. Nakaima’s decision had “sent the wrong message,” he said…

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Nov. 14 that the government would stick to its policy of trying to close the Futenma base within five years regardless of the election result. Abe has lifted an effective ban on arms exports and reinterpreted the constitution to allow Japan to defend other countries — including the U.S., its only formal ally…

“Defending other countries” being Washington doublespeak for “Japan remains our leading flunky in Asia”.

Local residents complain of crime, pollution, accidents and noise associated with the U.S. bases and anger peaked in 1995 when a 12-year-old girl was gang-raped by three U.S. servicemen. Polls show 80 percent of local people want to move the facility out of the prefecture.

Boasting a unique culture and language, as well as white sand beaches and clear waters, Okinawa has become a tourist hot spot. Visitor numbers from both Taiwan and mainland China doubled in September from a year earlier, while visits totaled 3.72 million people in the six months through September.

…Onaga said in an Oct. 31 interview with Bloomberg that while he doesn’t want all the bases removed, the economic incentive for hosting them has faded. They account for just 5 percent of Okinawa’s economy and about 9,000 jobs, and their removal would free up land for tourist development.

Peaceful commerce with China doesn’t mean much of anything to Japan’s militarists. They may not march at the front of election parades; but, they still pull the same old strings from their comfortable couches within corporate Zaibatsu skyscrapers.

Meanwhile, Uncle Sugar wants to retain Okinawa to be available as a rock-solid launching platform for the next time we decide to invade any part of Asia — the role that the prefecture played during the years we spent trying to return VietNam to Western subjugation.

Heart donated from 5-year-old — shot while sitting in grandpa’s lap

The heart that belonged to Laylah Petersen, the 5-year-old Wisconsin girl shot in the head in her living room last week, will go on beating for another child.

Laylah was killed Thursday as she sat in her grandfather’s lap when an unknown gunman sprayed their Milwaukee home with about a dozen bullets…

“Quite frankly, at this point we’re befuddled as to motive for this crime,” said Capt. Aaron Raap, commander of the Metropolitan Investigations Division. “Normally when we respond to shootings of individuals in most circumstances that victim is the intended target of that shooting.”

“In this case, at this point, we believe that this bullet read ‘to whom it may concern.’ And that concerns all of us and it should concern everybody in our community.”

Still, investigators believe the shooting was targeted because all 12 bullets they believe were fired hit just one house. Police say it’s possible the shooters had the wrong house.

The Milwaukee branch of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said there was a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

No word, yet, on a statement from the NRA. We expect something like their usual…”if she was only carrying a Smith & Wesson handgun this never would have happened.”

It’s especially important to mention one of the brands they pimp for.

“Enough, I’m tired” – Mexico’s politicians still trying to ignore a massacre

mexico demonstrations

The office of the Mexican president has been set alight as public anger intensifies over the government’s response to the apparent murder of 43 trainee teachers by a drug gang.

The violence comes after the country’s attorney general caused fury among the public with his throwaway remark about the case.

Jesus Murillo Karam, speaking at a press conference on Friday, fielded questions on the case for an hour, before saying, “Ya me canse” or, “Enough, I’m tired”.

Within hours the phrase was trending on Twitter and other social media sites. It is now being used as a rallying call for those who are demonstrating against the government’s handling of the case…

On Saturday evening what had been peaceful protests in Mexico City turned violent when the National Palace, which houses the office of the president, was set on fire by demonstrators carrying torches.

Protesters had earlier used a metal police barricade as a battering ram to try to enter the building. Police eventually pushed them back, before they breached the doors…

Before the attorney general’s ill-judged attempt to wrap up his conference, he had told the press that suspects had led authorities to rubbish bags that are believed to contain the incinerated remains of the abducted students.

Since the disappearance of the students in September, from a rural college in Guerrero state, Mexicans have reacted with outrage at the government’s response and its inability to fully explain what happened.

The case has proved a focal point for citizens’ anger in a country where almost 100,000 people have died in the past seven years due to organised crime.

This is a long and detailed, painfully accurate article. Not the best intellectual, political fare for a Monday morning. Which is exactly why you should read it.

Corruption, the absence of rule by law, the dominance of neighborhood by neighborhood, provincial, regional rule by gangsters, vicious killers wholly insulated from justice by bought-and-paid-for coppers – this is the stuff of daily life in Mexico. It lies at the core of my personal boycott of our southern neighbor. And, yes, it is also key to my contempt for jingoist, Amerika First Republicans, cruel conservatives who don’t understand commerce and base their definition of economic justice on bigotry.

Thanks, Mike

Safe sex in the slammer

“Do you guys want condoms?” Deputy Javier Machado, of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, asks a dormitory full of prisoners in the Men’s Central Jail. “If you want condoms you need to get in line. If not, I need you on your bunk.”

A worker with the county’s Public Health Department places a box full of brightly colored condoms on a table and begins to hand them out, three at a time. Waiting in line, one prisoner loudly declares that he’s getting the condoms “for someone else,” drawing laughter from the others. The distribution takes only a matter of minutes, but the weekly act is hardly typical.

While Los Angeles has been handing out condoms in the county jail for more than a decade, it remains one of just a handful of jail and prison systems that do so. In September, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown took a step toward making condoms more widely available, signing a bill that will introduce them at the state’s 34 adult prisons. As in most states, the jails in California are short-term facilities run by county sheriffs, while the prison system, which holds prisoners after they’ve been sentenced, is managed by the state government.

With its new law, California is only the second state, after Vermont, to distribute condoms to inmates in state prisons…

Providing condoms to prisoners is controversial because many state laws prohibit sex between inmates…But some prisons and jails have decided to allow prisoners to have condoms as a way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

“It definitely is a balance,” says Capt. Joseph Dempsey at the Men’s Central Jail. “The Sheriff’s Department has taken the position that public health outweighs the concerns about sex in jail.” According to Dempsey, if prisoners are caught having sex, a criminal report will still be filed. But if the sex is consensual, he says, it is “not very likely” the district attorney will prosecute the inmates involved.

If it’s going to happen, you might as well make it be safe.’

I’m not close enough to California to know if good sense will prevail. The Morality Police are certainly active on the Left Coast even if they don’t rule as much as they might, say, in Texas or Mississippi.

But, like Captain Dempsey said, “If it’s going to happen, you might as well make it be safe.”

Feel better about your healthcare provider – the number of serial killers is down!


I do not like thee, Doctor Fell,
The reason why – I cannot tell;
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell.

The number of serial killings committed by healthcare providers has leveled off in the U.S. in recent decades, although it is rising internationally, Eindra Khin Khin, MD, said here at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.

According to the literature, the number of cases of healthcare serial killings overall rose from 10 in the 1970s to 21 in the 1980s, 23 in the 1990s, and then to 40 in the years 2000 to 2006, said Khin Khin, who along with her colleagues presented a poster on the topic.

One reason the rates of healthcare serial murders are rising internationally, but not in the U.S., is electronic medical records (EMR), Khin Khin, of George Washington University in Washington, told MedPage Today in a phone interview. She noted that several serial killers, including physician Michael Swango, first got into trouble in the U.S. and then went overseas…

“At least in the [United] States, because of incidents in 1990s and 2000s, we’ve really beefed up on the credentialing system, and institutions have started to communicate with each other better,” she continued. “People are not shedding enough light on the international phenomenon, and the global community has a little bit to catch up on in implementing guidelines and regulatory measures.”

In terms of the site, the vast majority of killings (72%) occurred in a hospital, with the remainder occurring in nursing homes (20%), patients’ homes (6%) and outpatient settings (2%)…

As to the method used, the majority of killings — 52% — were done via lethal injection, followed by unknown methods (25%), suffocation (11%), and water in the lungs (4%). Air embolus and oral medications were each used in another 3%, while equipment tampering and poisoning accounted for 1% each.

Followed by an entertaining segment describing motivation and telltale signs you may have a serial killer onboard.

The researchers recommended several steps for preventing healthcare serial killings, such as educating staff members on the issue, designating a national or international regulation and monitoring body, routine institutional monitoring of high-alert medication use and monthly mortality/cardiac arrest rates, and consensus guidelines for managing suspicious situations.

I imagine that the Feds can data mine the ACA digital record-keeping protocols for serial killers just as they now do for rip-off artists hustling Medicare. Every little bit helps, eh?

Lawsuit focuses on “charities” funding Israeli nuclear weapons


Israeli nuclear facility outside DimonaPhoto/Reuters

The Institute for Research Middle Eastern Policy (IRmep) has filed federal lawsuit that seeks to disclose a report about how Israeli charities and educational organizations in the United States help funding secret nuclear weapon development program.

…IRmep says that an unclassified 1987 study conducted for the Department of Defense named “Current Technology Issues in Israel” discovered that three Israeli charitable and educational institutes were researching nuclear weapons programs. The organizations were tax-exempt at the time, meaning they were receiving a form of subsidy by the U.S. government…

- Technion University was developing nuclear missile re-entry vehicles and working at the Dimona nuclear weapons production facility;

- Hebrew University scientists were working at the Soreq nuclear facilities to develop “the kind of codes which will enable them to make hydrogen bombs”; and

- Israel’s Weizmann Institute “studied high energy physics and hydrodynamics needed for nuclear bomb design, and worked on lasers to enrich uranium, the most advanced method for making the material dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.”

IRmep says that the three institutions raised significant amounts of tax-exempt, charitable funding through affiliates in the United States. According U.S. Internal Revenue Service, the three organizations raised a combined $172 million in annual U.S. tax-exempt funding.

This “tax gap” was paid by U.S. citizens.

Of curse, they could have followed the usual route for our government subsidizing Israel. The Israeli government normally relies on “loans” courtesy of Congress and the White House – which are forgiven the following year or so.

Thanks, Mike

Retailers who don’t want Apple Pay have already been hacked

MCX hacked

You can’t make this stuff up.

MCX, the retailer consortium behind Apple Pay competitor CurrentC, has already been hacked, according to an email sent out to those people who have signed up for, or downloaded, the CurrentC app…

A spokeswoman confirmed that the email is real.

MCX, which is a consortium of dozens of retailers including Walmart, Best Buy, Target, Kohl’s and CVS, say that no other information has been taken but that the investigation is continuing. The “unauthorized third parties” were able to access email addresses of people who were part of the app’s private beta testing program as well as email addresses of people who simply signed up to access the app when it launches publicly…

MCX confirmed this morning that its member companies have promised to only support CurrentC. MCX was formed in large part to create a mobile app that would persuade shoppers to pay through their phone with their checking account or store-branded plastic. The retailers’ goal here was to cut down on the transaction fees it has to pay banks and credit card networks on traditional credit card purchases. That is likely a big reason why it opposes Apple Pay, which supports those traditional cards.

But the hack now raises big questions about whether shoppers will trust CurrentC app with their sensitive financial information when it launches; the app asks for users’ social security number and driver’s license information if they want to link their bank account with the app. The app does not currently let users pay with their traditional credit card accounts, though an MCX blog post published this morning said it would eventually support credit cards, though it didn’t provide details on which kinds. Until CurrentC launches, customers shopping at MCX stores will be left with the choice of using cash or traditional magstripe cards which have proved to be easy to clone.

By banning Apple Pay, which is built into the new line of iPhones, merchants are choosing to ban a more secure payment method. Apple Pay customers can use a wide range of credit and debit card accounts to make purchases. Users have to authorize a transaction by pressing their finger against the phone’s fingerprint sensor. The phone then sends payment information to a store’s checkout equipment, though it comes in the form of a stand-in string of characters known as a token and does not include an actual credit or debit card number.

Our household has already switched over to ApplePay. More than anything, we love the anonymity and security. No one gets to see our credit card number. Not even our name.

Utah coppers raid Halloween party — because of dancing! WTF?

This is absolutely not a joke. Police in St. George, Utah raided a family fun center that was hosting a Halloween party because the event included (gasp!) dancing:

The “Monster Mash” was an event organized by the Heart of Dixie event group that advertised unlimited access to the bumper boats, go-karts, mini golf and a dance party. The event was to run from 9 p.m. Friday to 1 a.m. Saturday.

Sometime between 9:30-10 p.m., around five-six St. George Police officers arrived on scene instructing that no dancing was to take place, said Brett Crockett, owner of Fiesta Fun Center…

The city issued a permit. We applied for a special event permit for a “dance”. It was issued. Then when they had no way to shut it down they produced additional pages to the permit that we were not given on which they had hand written that the dance was not allowed. Not to mention we were on private property, it is a first amendment right to dance, we weren’t playing music loud enough to be heard off the property and when the police were there NO ONE was dancing. They sent 6 officers to make sure no one was dancing! DANCING IS NOT A CRIME.

Did you think that “Morality Police” were only limited to fundamentalist countries in the Middle East? Welcome to the heavenly land of Utah.