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Photojournalist (and author) Erin Siegal has a wonderful photo-essay up on the The Reuters Photographers Blog about "Fast Friends," a group that adopts/rescues "retiring" greyhound dogs that have been used in racing in Tijuana, Mexico. On Erin's personal blog, there are more photos that didn't fit in. What beautiful creatures.
Mexican tattoo star Maria Jose Cristerna, better known as "La Mujer Vampiro" (Female Vampire), poses during the Venezuela Tattoo Expo in Caracas, January 27, 2012.
She is a 35-year-old attorney. 98 percent of her body is covered in tattoos. She also has prosthetic fangs, and platinum implants in her forehead.
"The 'Vampire Woman' was not something I thought of, it was a name that one of Mexico's major television stations baptized me with," she tells ABC News in one interview from the tattoo expo. "It doesn't necessarily bother me because it has helped me transcend to a new level. Yes, I do like vampires but they are only a dream, a fantasy."
She says the body modification project was a form of self-expression she sought after being the victim of domestic violence in a former marriage.
Here's a brief article from a June 2011 number of the NYT by Damien Cave detailing the bizarre improvised tanks used by Mexican drug gangs:
Over the weekend, Mexican authorities found two more of these makeshift road warriors in Tamaulipas, the same northern border state where the first armored vehicle appeared in April after a battle between the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas gang. In the latest case, the Mexican Defense Department said, the armored trucks were found in a metalworking shop in Camargo, which also held at least two other partly modified monsters and 23 additional trucks.
The completed versions were bigger than what has been found before. Built on three-axle truck beds, they had room for 20 armed men, one official said. They were covered with inch-thick steel, which could withstand 50-caliber fire, and each had been equipped with insulation.
(Image: a cropped thumbnail from an AP/Sedena image)
[Ed. note: A Mexican Twitter user was detained by the government last week, after he posted a tweet that referenced a recent helicopter crash that killed a top official. Below, guest contributor Wookie Williams in Mexico shares more.—Xeni Jardin]
"How many tweets does it take to bring down a plane?"
That was the joke yesterday, circulating around outside of the PGR offices in Mexico City where Mario Flores was being held. Mario is often funny in his twitter account, he's an all around nice guy who's worst crime is working in publicity (aside from the often juvenile prank he performed with his posse when he was younger) and, let's face it, a dorky guy who loves comics and Batman, and probably wishes he had superpowers.
On 2008, he had the bad luck of working in the building right next to where Secretary of State Juan Camilo Mouriño's plane went down. He was given the afternoon free amid the chaos that reigned the whole neighborhood (the whole country really), something very uncommon for those poor lab rats that work for one of those huge publicity firms.
So on the afternoon of Thursday, November 10th, not five days ago, when he was given the afternoon free, he remembered that fateful day three years ago and took it to his account, @mareoflores. "Not since Mouriño's plane went down was I out of the office this early.
Take care, flying officials", he tweeted. ("No salía tan temprano del trabajo desde que se cayó la avioneta de Mouriño. Anden con cuidado, funcionarios voladores" is the original tweet).
On a cruel twist of fate, and a very strange coincidence, last Friday, a helicopter carrying Secretary of State Francisco Blake Mora crashed into a hill. All passengers were killed, leaving the country wondering how such bad luck could occur twice during the same President's tenure, specially in a country so entrenched in conflict as Mexico is right now, and specially when both Mouriño and Blake were close personal friends of Felipe Calderon.
There was a landslide of tweets regarding the crash, some in very poor taste, others asking what had happened and demanding an investigation.
There's no evidence of foul play in the death today of Mexico's Interior Minister José Francisco Blake, but amid the country's raging drug war, there's plenty of suspicion. The helicopter carrying the country's top domestic security official and seven others crashed in the southern part of Mexico City en route to a meeting of prosecutors in nearby Morelos state. The cause of the crash is unknown.
Blake's death is seen as a symbolic blow to the government's military-directed assault on organized crime. 40,000 Mexicans have died in the drug war over the last five years.
The accident occurred almost exactly three years to the day after Mexico’s previous interior minister Juan Camilo Mouriño was killed in the crash of a small plane, also near Mexico City.
Another mysterious detail: Blake's last tweet before the crash was a nod to the anniversary of his predecessor's death.
Reports circulated early today that Mexican president Felipe Calderon had been scheduled to travel in the very same helicopter that crashed, but the administration later issued a statement denying. (via Andrés Monroy H.)
UPDATE: One media outlet in Mexico reports that there is no proof that the man killed in Nuevo Laredo on Wednesday was a social media user. Police say they are still investigating. Unlike in previous cases involving administrators/contributors to the online message board in question, the newspaper affiliated with that forum has not come forward to confirm the identity of the dead.
UPDATE 2: Nuevo Laredo Live reports that the man killed is "not one of our collaborators," but "a scapegoat" whose murder serves to send a message of fear.
The moderator of an online discussion forum about local cartel-related crime is reported to have been killed in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Near the corpse, a "narco manta," or sign taking responsibility for the murder, was found and points to the ultraviolent cartel known as the Zetas.
Wired News reports that the victim was a 35-year-old man who went by the nickname “Rascatripas” or “Scraper” (literally, “Fiddler”) on the web-based chat network Nuevo Laredo en Vivo where he served as a community moderator. The body was handcuffed, with signs of torture, and was decapitated and was placed next to a monument for Christopher Columbus about a mile south of the Texas border. That same site has previously been used as a dumping ground for victims of this form of crime.
The discussion board in question is the same one at the center of the near-identical murder of two other Nuevo Laredo residents two months ago. They were outed as active participants in the site's crime-tip forum, and they were gruesomely murdered as "snitches." Their bodies were dumped in the same location, with a sign indicating that their killing should serve as a warning for others who share information about cartel activities on the internet.
Below the man’s body was a partially obscured and blood-stained blanket. Written on the blanket in black ink: “Hi I’m ‘Rascatripas’ and this happened to me because I didn’t understand I shouldn’t post things on social networks.”
The discovery of the body Wednesday morning brings the total number of bloggers and social media networkers apparently killed in the past three months by organized crime in Mexico — and in the border city of Nuevo Laredo — to four.
One important caveat: some who cover this news beat point out that there are insufficient confirmed details to report the identity of the victim as fact just yet. Neither the police, the family of the deceased, nor the operators of the web forum have validated early online reports. It is possible that the victim's actual identity is not what the sign next to the body states. It is possible that the killing was staged by the Zetas or some other individual or entity for any number of purposes.
Given the nature of cartel-related crime in the region, those facts may take time to confirm. But the message delivered seems clear.
[Video Link] Over the last few days, word has spread of a purported #antisec operation by Anonymous against the most brutal of all Mexican drug cartels, Los Zetas. One element in the story is this video, above. Weeks after it came out, George Friedman's Austin Texas-based consulting firm Stratfor issued this report, and media gobbled it up. A story was born: "Anonymous is taking on the most feared drug cartel in the world, for great justice."
What was unusual about the way this story spread was the speed at which it was amplified by credulous reports from larger media outlets, despite a dearth of confirmable facts. This op got lots of press, fast. Faster, in fact, than it got support from Anons.
Geraldine Juarez and Renata Avila were two of the earlier voices I read expressing doubt about the prevailing storyline—a report by Juarez is here. Some I spoke to within Mexico wondered if the Mexican government (no bastion of purity) might be involved.
Over at Wired News, a must-read piece by Quinn Norton that cinches the deal for me (and in it, she references the aforementioned Global Voices item). Quinn's been covering Anonymous extensively for some time, and I trust her spidey sense on this one.
(Eric Holder. Photo: REUTERS)
A congressional subpoena directed to Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to be issued soon, according to CBS News, and will order him to hand over documents to lawmakers showing when he became aware of "Fast and Furious," a "gunwalking" operation that supplied guns to Mexican drug cartels. Snip from CBS:
CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports the the subpoena will come from the House Oversight Committee, led by Republican Darrell Issa. It will ask for communications among senior Justice Department officials related to Fast and Furious and "gunwalking." The subpoena will list those officials, says Attkisson - more than a dozen of them - by name.
In Fast and Furious, the ATF allegedly allowed thousands of assault rifles and other weapons into the hands of suspected traffickers for Mexican drug cartels. The idea was to see where the weapons ended up, and take down a cartel. But the guns have been found at many crime scenes in Mexico and the U.S., including the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry last December.
In related news, the very latest in a series of reports at the Los Angeles Times about "Fast and Furious" reveals that guns from that covert US operation were found literally inside the home of a narco boss in violence-plagued Ciudad Juarez, Mexico:
High-powered assault weapons illegally purchased under the ATF's Fast and Furious program in Phoenix ended up in a home belonging to the purported top Sinaloa cartel enforcer in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, whose organization was terrorizing that city with the worst violence in the Mexican drug wars.
Photo, Los Angeles Times: The arsenal uncovered by police in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, which included weapons from the ATF's ill-fated "Fast and Furious" operation. Note the highly classy "Scarface"-dollar-bill poster above the bookshelf, a favorite motif among gangsters worldwide.
Photo: A relative reacts after his arrival at a crime scene where a man was shot dead in Acapulco two days ago. According to local media, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a DVD and music salesman. The next day, the charred and headless remains of five people were found in the same city. And today, five disembodied heads, presumably the same victims, were discovered near a primary school nearby. [REUTERS]
In the Mexican city of Acapulco, where violence related to drug cartels has been escalating in recent weeks, police today found five decomposing human heads outside the Benito Juarez primary school [Google Maps link]. Armed men placed a wooden box outside the school early Tuesday, with a white cloth sack inside containing the severed heads and four handwritten cards inside threatening local officials and drug traffickers. The earliest reports appeared at the Milenio news website.
Prensa Latina reports that teachers in Acapulco schools have increasingly become the target of extortion demands, prompting the closure of schools and causing many teachers and children to stay away in fear. Just 200 feet from where the gruesome discovery was made today, a group of Mexican federal troops are stationed. More from news.com.au:
The discovery occurred in full view of young students and pedestrians, sparking fear in the area. Soldiers and police removed the remains and cordoned off the location.
Yesterday in the same city - a major port and tourist resort on Mexico's Pacific coast - police found five decapitated bodies: three badly burned inside a pickup truck, and two others outside the vehicle.
(Photo: Javier Trujillo/Millenium; via Warren Ellis)
Back in July, I went to Mexico City to moderate a panel at the Campus Party conference, a massive LAN party/campout/hackathon/tech policy event. It was a long, long way to go, but it was worth it: my panelists were Tim Berners-Lee (who invented the Web), Vint Cerf (one of the most important figures in the invention of the Internet) and Al Gore (who, despite sneering misquotations, *was* very, very important to the formation of the Internet as we know it today).
We had a wide-ranging discussion, but kept circling back to the threats and promises for the net -- copyright wars, privacy wars, government and grassroots. It was a lot of fun, and quite an honor, and I'm happy to see they've got the video online.