In 2011 I set off with a camera to explore a mental asylum in Mexico run by its own patients. The place is just beyond the last junkyard on the curdled fringe of Juárez, the world’s most violent city. On one level these people shared common purpose in that they dressed each other, cleaned each other, fed each other. But then there were many other levels, many other worlds. The tragicomedy of Beckett was everywhere, I can’t go on, I’ll go on, while the infantile grotesqueness of Jarry’s Ubu Roi was never far away. The more I filmed, the less I understood and the more curious I became.
I met a man called Josué who was managing the asylum. Five years previously he’d lost his mind and the ability to walk but I found him in a reflective mood. He told me his dream. After two visits and many hours of material my editing was frustrated by a desire to present the mystery I’d encountered while needing a story to hang it on. Then Josué’s dream came true. His daughter in LA emailed me to ask what her father was doing in a mental asylum. She’d seen a trailer for the film I’d posted online. She hadn’t seen her father in 22 years and had been told he was dead. Two more visits and I managed to put Josué and his daughter together and filmed the reunion.
The film, titled Dead When I Got Here, is due to be finished later this year and we’ve launched a Kickstarter to help fund its completion. Read the rest
When Joaquín Guzmán Loera, leader of Mexico's notorious Sinaloa Cartel, wants to dine out, he engages some rather extreme security measures:
In 2005 on a Saturday evening, Guzmán reportedly strolled into a restaurant in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, with several of his bodyguards. After he took his seat, his henchmen locked the doors of the restaurant, collected the cell phones of approximately 30 diners and instructed them to not be alarmed. The gangsters then ate their meal and left – paying for everyone else in the restaurant.
Later that year, Guzmán was reportedly seen in Culiacán, Sinaloa, repeating the same exploit at a restaurant. According to a witness, in November 2005 Guzmán entered the restaurant in Culiacán with 15 of his bodyguards, all of them carrying AK-47s. The restaurant was known as "Las Palmas", a lime-green eatery with an ersatz tile roof on a busy street. A man in the restaurant told those present the following:
"Gentlemen, please. Give me a moment of your time. A man is going to come in, the boss. We will ask you to remain in your seats; the doors will be closed and nobody is allowed to leave. You will also not be allowed to use your cellulars. Do not worry; if you do everything that is asked of you, nothing will happen. Continue eating and don't ask for your check. The boss will pay. Thank you."
Joaquín Guzmán Loera
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Disney has filed for trademarks on "Dia de Los Muertos"
in a wide variety of goods and services -- candy, snacks, cosmetics, toiletries, perfumes, gadgets, jewelry and jewelry boxes, and more. This would be a good time for people to tell the USPTO that there are innumerable products in those categories that already use the term, and that no exclusive association exists (or should exist) between the Disney company and the traditional Mexican holiday. Not even if the next Pixar movie is called "Dia de Los Muertos."
) Read the rest
In various cities in Mexico on Sunday, journalists from newspapers and independent online news organizations marched
to protest "violence that has claimed the lives of co-workers and silenced news media in parts of the country." Demonstrators chanted “Justice!” and “Solution!,” and demanded that authorities investigate a string of murders, kidnappings and threats—like the unsolved brutal attack that claimed the life of muckraking reporter Regina Martinez
. [LA Times, WaPo] Read the rest
In the Washington Post, an extensive report by Dana Priest on the changing role of the U.S. in Mexico’s intelligence war on drug cartels
. The article includes extensive details on how closely intertwined the CIA and other US agencies have become with Mexican law enforcement entities:
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) Read the rest
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.
Nenetl of the Forgotten Spirits by Vera Greentea
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An animated short on the escalating drug cartel violence on the US-Mexico border.
A powerful documentary film about the risks for journalists operating in Mexico.
Mexican drug cartels, notably the Zetas, kidnap skilled radio engineers and force them to build out elaborate communications networks.
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.
Blimp networks guard US troops - Boing Boing
Forget the Hindenburg: What I learned on board a zeppelin - Boing ...
Canadians vow mass-mooning of US spy-blimp - Boing Boing
Pentagon plans to build giant spy zeppelin - Boing Boing
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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:
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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."
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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 a Washington Post
op-ed, Google's executive chairman (and former CEO) Eric Schmidt and Google Ideas director Jared Cohen argue the case for technology as a tool to aid citizen activists in places like Juarez, Mexico. Schmidt and Cohen recently visited the drug-war-wracked border town, and describe the climate of violence there as "surreal."
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. Read the rest
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.
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Three journalists were killed this week in the Mexican state of Veracruz, just a week after another reporter was murdered. More on the latest violence at SouthNotes. (via Shannon Young) Read the rest
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.
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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.
Seized weapons sit on racks in a warehouse at the Secretary of the Defense headquarters in Mexico City.
(Thanks, Fipi Lele!) Read the rest