Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Pop star freed but Mexican attitudes still on trial

Photo

Mexican pop star Kalimba, accused of raping a 17-year-old girl in December, walked free on Thursday after a judge ordered his release for lack of evidence. For fans of the dreadlocked singer and dj, it was a justice of sorts, given that 73 percent of Mexicans believe he was innocent, according to a poll in leading newspaper Reforma. MEXICO/

Guilty or not, the case gave Mexico a bit of homegrown celebrity gossip over the past few weeks in a country where relentless news of horrific drug killings is daily fare. Seeing the singer arrested in El Paso, Texas, where he was recording a new album, then dressed in a orange jump suit and imprisoned in a Mexican jail and then crying on his release, made top news and created plenty of  chat both in Mexican homes and on the Internet.

Did the voice behind local hits such as “Tocando Fondo” (Hitting Bottom) and Disney’s Spanish language version of “The Lion King” really sexually abuse the minor after hosting a show in the Caribbean coastal city of Chetumal in Quintana Roo state on Dec.19, or was the girl just creating a stink to get some attention?

MEXICO/What’s most revealing about the case is what it says about the dysfunctional Mexican justice and prison systems, partly responsible for feeding Mexico’s brutal drug war that has killed more than 34,000 people since December 2006, not to mention the racism against black Mexicans that remains deeply embedded in the country’s culture.

“Collateral damage” grows in Mexico’s army-led drug war

Photo

I heard the bursts of gunfire near my house in Monterrey as I was showering this morning. Then the ambulance sirens started wailing, and as I drove my kids to school about 20 minutes later, a convoy of green-clad soldiers, their assault rifles at the ready, sped by us. In northern Mexico, where I cover the drug war, it has become a part of life to read about, hear and even witness shootouts, but today I shuddered at the thought: what if those soldiers accidentally ever shot at me?

MEXICO-DRUGS/DEAD

It was in February 2007 that Amnesty International raised concerns over Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s decision, two months earlier, to send thousands of troops across the country to control Mexico’s spiraling drug violence. Echoing worries voiced by the United Nations, the rights group warned that sending the army onto Mexican streets to do the job of the police was a bad idea. Even individual soldiers have commented to Reuters, off the record of course, that they feel very uncomfortable about their new role. MEXICO-DRUGS/

Adios to Mexico’s marijuana haul

Photo

TMEXICO-DRUGS/he black smoke could be seen across Tijuana as Mexico’s biggest-ever marijuana haul went up in flames.

The equivalent of more than 250 million joints were soaked in gasoline and set on fire, with the smell of the drug soon overpowering the acrid smell of the fuel.

In Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez, new police are charged with stopping the violence

Photo

It is difficult to imagine things getting much worse in Ciudad Juarez, the manufacturing city across from El Paso that has become one of the world’s most dangerous places. Extortions, beheadings, bombs in cars, daylight shootouts and kidnappings are all daily fare in the border town once better known as a NAFTA powerhouse and party zone for fun seeking Americans. Even the Mexican army stands accused of abusing the trust citizens once placed in it, carrying out possibly hundreds of wrongful arrests and illegal house raids. MEXICO/

Things are so bad that business leaders are calling for a state of emergency to be called in the city on the Rio Grande with nighttime curfews in a bid to control the violence.  Around 10,000 businesses have closed in Ciudad Juarez over the past two years. A military-enforced curfew doesn’t resound much with residents who want the thousands of troops sent in by President Felipe Calderon to leave town for good. More than 6,700 people have died in drug killings since the army arrived in early 2008 and locals say the army-led crackdown on gangs has only provoked more violence across the city and its surrounding Chihuahua state.  (Click here for full Mexico drug war coverage)

from Tales from the Trail:

Qat joins al Qaeda as Yemen threat

YEMEN-QAT/U.S. lawmakers, convening a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the threat posed by al Qaeda in Yemen, found themselves focused on another problem stalking the impoverished Arab country:  the mild drug qat, which permeates Yemeni society.

Rep.  Howard Berman, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, launched the discussion of Yemen's drug problem in his opening remarks, noting that qat was "a narcotic plant that produces feelings of euphoria and stimulation, but ultimately undermines individual initiative -- sort of like being in Congress."

Swine flu vaccination finally starts

  Swine flu vaccination is under way in the US, although the CDC admits it is a bumpy start .

 The World Health Organization is worried that people may believe rumors about the safety of the vaccine and avoid it .  What could happen with H1N1 anyway?

A costly U.S.-Mexico border wall, in both dollars and deaths

Photo

By Robin Emmott

Securing the United States’s border from illegal immigrants, terrorists and weapons of mass destruction “continues to be a major challenge,” says the United States Government Accountability Office in a new report. It is also proving to be expensive in both lives and money.

In dollar terms, the outlay is substantial. Every time someone breaks a hole in the U.S.-Mexico border wall, it costs about $1,300 to repair. The estimated cost of maintaining the 661-mile (1,058 km) double-layered fence along part of its 2,000-mile (3,000 km) border with Mexico over the next 20 years is $6.5 billion, the GAO report says. 

from Africa News blog:

Nigeria’s image problem

For anyone who has seen the hit film District 9, it’s no surprise a Nigerian minister would be upset by it.

The science fiction film, set in South Africa, is an allegory on segregation and xenophobia, with alien life forms cooped up in a township of the type that grew up under apartheid and victimised and despised by humans of all descriptions.

from Maggie Fox:

Where scientists go to learn about swine flu

Usually, at a forum on swine flu, all the experts stand up, present a bunch of general background material, a few new findings, and leave. The learning curve on H1N1 is so steep that by the time you fill in the background, you are out of time, and there's no point in hearing the next presenter speak to a general audience

But this week's Institute of Medicine  meeting was different. Epidemiologists - the people who specialize in how disease spreads - were talking to molecular geneticists. Keiji Fukuda of the World Health Organization filled in the bench scientists on how negotiating to get vaccines and drugs for poor countries was taking up everyone's valuable time. Veterans of the 1976 swine flu vaccine mess told their stories. Every scientist sat there raptly listening to the other's presentations. Much of the material had not yet gone through the time consuming peer-review process needed for publication in a medical journal, so it was a little raw, but that much more useful and timely to an educated audience.

from Maggie Fox:

Is swine flu an investment opportunity?

You can prevent swine flu by washing your hands and keeping away from sick people, but how do you make money off of it?  Some smaller companies such as Vical and Novavax hope the pandemic might make a short cut for them.

In general vaccines are not lucrative money-makers but this could change.

And then there are always the big antiviral makers. CDC's new guidelines do not offer hope for much more market for them, however. They recommend preserving these drugs for people who really need them.

  •