The administration of former president Felipe Calderon had granted high-flying U.S. spy planes access to Mexican airspace for the purpose of gathering intelligence. Unarmed Customs and Border Protection drones had flown from bases in the United States in support of Mexican military and federal police raids against drug targets and to track movements that would establish suspects’ “patterns of life.” The United States had also provided electronic signals technology, ground sensors, voice-recognition gear, cellphone-tracking devices, data analysis tools, computer hacking kits and airborne cameras that could read license plates from three miles away.(HT: Shannon Young)
Vera Greentea and Laura Muller's "Nenetl of the Forgotten Spirits" is an indie comic (funded by a very successful Kickstarter) that spans four issues. The first issue, just out ($6), is a nice, deceptively gentle entree into what promises to be a proper kick-in-the-teeth bit of horror about the Mexican Day of the Dead.
Nenetl of the Forgotten Spirits is a spirited horror story about a ghost searching for her family during the festival of the Day of the Dead, while dodging ambitious exorcist apprentices. Vera Greentea (Recipes for the Dead, To Stop Dreaming of Goddesses) and talented artist Laura Müller (Mega Man Tribute, Subway to Sally Storybook) collaborate to create an autumn-friendly tale of skulls and hope. The first issue introduces the vivacious but forgotten ghost girl, Nena, as she explores the labyrinthine streets of Mexico during its most eerily evocative celebration and Bastian, the first of the exorcists speeding after her – completely for the wrong reason.
Jess Bachman at Visual.ly says,
We just produced this animated short on the escalating drug cartel violence on the US-Mexico border. This is some horrific stuff that is a lot closer than Afghanistan and Syria and something we play a much larger role in, yet it get's no national coverage. Additionally its not even mentioned as part of the gun control debate. Mexico has strict gun laws... where do the cartels arm themselves? Imported from the U.S. of course. Our gun policy is not just a domestic one. Here's to hoping we can keep the drug war at the forefront this term.
For a limited time at PBS.org, you can watch the full-length version of "Reportero," an incredible documentary film about Jesús Blancornelas and Héctor Félix Miranda's long-running Mexican newsweekly, Zeta. The environment in Baja California is so hostile -- it is certainly one of the most dangerous places in the world for reporters -- that the paper is printed across the border in Southern California to ensure its survival, and that of the people who run it.
Read the rest
Read the rest
On Wired Danger Room, Robert Beckhusen tells how Mexican drug cartels, notably the Zetas, kidnap skilled radio engineers and force them to build out elaborate communications networks -- one comprised 167 antennas. The engineers are kidnapped and usually never seen again, and are presumed to have been murdered.
For at least six years, Mexico’s cartels have relied in part on a sophisticated radio network to handle their communications. The Zetas hide radio antennas and signal relay stations deep inside remote and hard-to-reach terrain, connect them to solar panels, and then link the facilities to radio-receiving cellphones and Nextel devices. While the kingpins stay off the network — they use the internet to send messages — the radio network acts as a shadow communication system for the cartels’ lower-level players and lookouts, and a tool to hijack military radios.
One network spread across northeastern Mexico and dismantled last year included 167 radio antennas alone. As recently as September, Mexican marines found a 295-foot-high transmission tower in Veracruz state. And while the founding leadership of the Zetas originated in the Mexican special forces — and who might have had the know-how to set up a radio system — relatively few of the ex-commando types are still active today.
One engineer, named Jose Antonio, was kidnapped in January 2009 while talking on the phone with his girlfriend outside a mechanics shop. He worked for ICA Fluor Daniel, a construction company jointly owned by U.S.-based Fluor Corporation and ICA, Mexico’s largest construction firm. Antonio’s family contacted the authorities, but were instead visited by a man claiming to be an ICA employee along with two Zetas. “They said they were going to help us, and that our contact would be ICA’s security chief,” said the kidnapped engineer’s mother. But the group’s message was implicit: Don’t pursue this, or else. The cartel members were later arrested, but Antonio never returned.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. military and border-patrol officials are teaming up on a new initiative to bring dozens of surveillance blimps from Afghanistan war zones to the Mexican border.
Over the next few weeks, the military will oversee a test in south Texas to determine if a 72-foot-long, unmanned surveillance blimp—sometimes called "the floating eye" when used to spot insurgents in Afghanistan—can help find drug runners and people trying to cross illegally into the U.S.
The project is part of a broader attempt by U.S. officials to establish a high-tech surveillance network along the border and find alternative uses for expensive military hardware that will be coming back from Afghanistan, along with the troops.
In other words, hardware recycling. Read more: Battlefield Blimps to Patrol U.S.-Mexico Borders (WSJ).
Image: REUTERS. A US military blimp carrying surveillance imaging equipment flies over eastern Afghanistan, September 2011. Devices like this are being tested along the US-Mexico border.
Princeton's alumni magazine has an excellent profile of Douglas Massey, Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs and director of Princeton’s Office of Population Research. Massey studies patterns of US migration, particularly illegal immigration from Mexico. His research is the only rigorous census of Mexican-American illegal immigration flows, and its conclusions are that the US perception of Mexican migration is completely backwards, and that the major immigration problems are the result of bad policy, not changes in volume:
The MMP’s reports are freely available to anyone through its website, http://mmp.opr.princeton.edu. But statistics can be sterile things. Get Massey going, and one gets an earful about the true state of affairs along the border. To wit:
* We are not being flooded with illegal Mexican migrants. The total number of migrants from Mexico has varied very little since the 1950s. The massive influx many have written about never happened.
* Net illegal migration has stopped almost completely.
* Illegal migration has not stopped because of stricter border enforcement, which Massey characterizes as a waste of money at best and counterproductive at worst.
* There are indeed more undocumented Mexicans living in the United States than there were 20 years ago, but that is because fewer migrants are returning home — not because more are sneaking into the country.
* And the reason that fewer Mexican citizens are returning home is because we have stepped up border enforcement so dramatically.
Mull over that last point for a minute. If Congress had done nothing to secure the border over the last two decades — if it had just left the border alone — there might be as many as 2 million fewer Mexicans living in the United States today, Massey believes.
John Carlos Frey investigates the deliberate cruelty of the US Border Patrol agents who work on the US-Mexican border. A humanitarian relief group called No More Deaths used hidden cameras to record smiling Border Patrol agents destroying water-caches left in areas where migrants have died of exposure. A former senior agent who left after witnessing horrific acts of torture and cruelty describes the way that Border Patrol agents delight in sadistic brutalizing of captured migrants. These accounts have been corroborated by the Red Cross and Doctors of the World.
My grandparents -- Red Army deserters -- deliberately destroyed their papers after WWII in order to become "displaced people" so that they could make their way from a camp in Azerbaijan to the DP boats in Hamburg. I don't see any difference between that sort of "illegal" migration and the sort that the US BP is currently fighting. Back then, the US, UK and Canada used very similar rhetoric about the way that migrants would take badly needed jobs, bring criminality, and fail to assimilate. But as Elie Weisel said, "there is no such thing as an illegal human being."
In his nine years working the border near Tucson, Ariz., and earning the rank of senior agent, Cruz says he frequently saw agents physically abusing detainees and denying food and water to those who were in obvious need. He also saw “individuals being crammed into cells twice beyond the posted capacity. Standing room only. I mean, you couldn’t even lie down on the floor.” This was done, he says, even when empty cells were available nearby. In 2003, he began warning his supervisors of this pattern of abuse. When his spoken complaints didn’t elicit a response, he began to write letters. “I started at the unit level,” Cruz says. “I went to the sector chief, office of inspector general — via phone calls and faxes of those memorandums. Went on to the commissioner of the Customs and Border Protection, who’s over the U.S. Border Patrol Agency. And then felt the need to move on to Congress.” Cruz left the force in 2007 without ever hearing a response.
In Juarez, we saw fearful human beings — sources — who need to get their information into the right hands. With our packet-switching mind-set, we realized that there may be a technological workaround to the fear: Sources don’t need to physically turn to corrupt authorities, distant journalists or diffuse nonprofits, and rely on their hope that the possible benefit is worth the risk of exposing themselves.
Technology can help intermediate this exchange, like servers passing packets on the Internet. Sources don’t need to pierce their anonymity. They don’t need to trust a single person or institution. Why can’t they simply throw encrypted packets into the network and let the tools move information to the right destinations?
In a sense, we are talking about dual crowdsourcing: Citizens crowdsource incident awareness up, and responders crowdsource justice down, nearly in real time. The trick is that anonymity is provided to everyone, although such a system would know a unique ID for every user to maintain records and provide rewards. This bare-bones model could take many forms: official and nonprofit first responders, investigative journalists, whistleblowers, neighborhood watches.
I'll be interested to hear what people in Juarez, and throughout Mexico, think of the editorial. The notion that crypto, Tor, or other anonymity-aiding online tools might help peaceful observers is not a new one, and not one that activists in Mexico need outsiders to teach them about. There are plenty of smart geeks in Mexico who are well aware of the need for, and usefulness of, such tools. But Google execs speaking directly to the conflict, and how widely-available free tools might help, is a new and notable thing. Red the rest here. (thanks, @martinxhodgson)
Here's a photo of the Jewel Caterpillar (Acraga coa), snapped by Gerardo Aizpuru near Cancun, and submitted to Project Noah. Be sure to click through for other views. Wow.
Photo take in a mangrove area , found this Stoning translucent caterpillar lay on a Red Mangrove tree leaf this morning early. Just can believe there is some species like this around the world. looks like made of glass whit small red mushroom inside every pic. about 3 cm long.
Above, Alin Nava (C) stands in a checkout line at a supermarket in Monterrey April 5, 2012. Nava, 25, is dressed in the so-called "Lolita" fashion style (ロリータ・ファッション Rorīta fasshon), a fashion subculture from Japan influenced by clothing from the Victorian or Rococo eras. The basic style consists of a blouse, petticoat, bloomers, bell-shaped skirt and knee-high socks. Nava is the co-founder of the "Lolitas Paradise" club in Monterrey and for members of the club, the Lolita style is not only a fashion statement but also a way to express their loyalty, friendship, tolerance and unity.
The AP's Eduardo Verdugo captured a remarkable image from Mexico's drug war: a bristling rack of seized guns with their muzzles face on to the camera. Just looking at it makes me want to duck. Shown here, a downsized thumbnail. Click below for the whole image on the WashPo.
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.