Condolences to the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize recipients

What’s to say about Malala Yousafzai & Kailash Satyarthi jointly winning the Nobel Peace Prize for their “struggle against the suppression of children & young people”? Their reputations may never recover from receiving this odious honorific. It’s hard to tell what either one has actually done for kids but one hopes it’s a lot more than Henry Kissinger (who won the damn thing in 1973) has done for peace or Obama (who got it in 2009) who is orchestrating seven wars.

Since it’s inauguration as a prestigious award the thing has been tainted & full of baloney but when Kissinger got it whilst the US was raining bombs on Vietnam it became the moral equivalent of used toilet paper. The Nobel Peace Prize Committee owes this year’s two winners an apology. We send our condolences. From now on they won’t be welcome in the better venues.

Commemoration of Che Guevara on the 47th anniversary of his murder

Che in Chiapas Oct 10 2014

We cannot let the 47th anniversary of the murder of Ernesto “Che” Guevara pass without tribute to the contributions he made to human freedom. His murder in Bolivia on October 9, 1967 by CIA agents is documented & not a matter of speculation.

Whether to cash in on his glory or neutralize him as a pop cultural icon, his image gave rise to a fashion called “Che chic” & his image has for years appeared on tee shirts & other garments. This has created controversy among less than great thinkers who want him denounced in the most scurrilous way or by those who think a tee shirt image unworthy of his contributions. To the former, we say “Eat your heart out!” & to the latter we say, “Lighten up!”

One of the most inspiring things about his tee shirt image is that it appears on the front lines of struggles across this globe over & over again–because whatever political misjudgments he might have had (& guerrilla warfare would be the first of them), he stood for & he championed the very best in human beings & he acted on his convictions. He believed in social transformation & in the ability of human beings to achieve it. And for that, he will always be honored.

Here his image shows up on a banner at a march in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico on October 8th. The Zapatista movement mobilized tens of thousands of Mayan farmers, teachers, students, & others to stand in solidarity & demand justice for the six murdered & 43 missing students in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico. The banners read “Your Pain is Ours”, “Your Dignified Outrage is also Ours”, & “You are not alone”. That is the heritage of Che Guevara & that is why his image will always be on the front lines of struggles against tyranny.

(Photo from Schools for Chiapas / Escuelas para Chiapas)

Massacre of students by police in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico

Mexico City on Oct 8 (Omar Torres:AFP:Getty Images) Oct 10 2014

An unspeakable crime has been committed in the city of Iguala, Mexico in the state of Guerrero. On September 26th, municipal cops & members of a criminal gang (the distinction is false) ambushed & opened fire on buses of students from a local teachers college returning from a class trip to solicit donations for school supplies. It is likely not an irony that the students were also raising funds to finance a trip to Mexico City to participate in the annual protest commemorating the Tlatelolco massacre of October 2, 1968 when Mexican troops gunned down 300 protesting students in Mexico City.

It was a gruesome attack in Iguala & after the initial gunfire, dozens of students reportedly fled. Those who didn’t flee & waited for authorities to arrive were fired on three hours later by another vigilante group. A nearby busload of soccer players was also fired on, apparently mistaken for the same group of students. Six students were murdered (one of them was 15-years-old) & 43 remain missing from a massacre Guerrero authorities claim has no known motive. The mayor of Iguala, previously accused of links to criminal vigilantes, claimed on radio he knew nothing about the attacks because he & his wife were dancing. It’s uncertain why the Los Angeles Times reported on October 8th that the 43 students vanished “after clashing with police.” How does an ambush constitute a clash?

Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto dispatched federal troops to take over Iguala & arrested 22 municipal cops. (They ought to dance that mayor off to jail with them.) One media report suggests the vigilantes are linked to leftist guerrilla movements. Some tried to impute the students in drug trafficking. Nothing like grasping at straws for explanation. There is other media speculation the vigilantes were drug traffickers but the distinction between drug traffickers, Mexican cops, the Mexican government, US Banks, & the US Pentagon is becoming difficult to make. Even the governor of Guerrero acknowledged that the majority of cops in the state were coopted or infiltrated by organized crime. Why he excluded Pena Nieto from that indictment is less a matter of speculation than self-preservation.

Since the massacre, 28 bodies have been recovered from several mass graves. The perpetrators had doused the graves & set them on fire so it is uncertain if the remains are among the 43 missing. No quick assumptions can be made without forensic investigation & DNA evidence since mass murder & burial of undocumented immigrants from Central America by vigilantes is so common in Mexico.

The anniversary of the Tlatelolco massacre might have been the worst political timing for another student massacre. Thousands of people, including teachers in the capital of Guerrero, protested in cities all over Mexico with banners proclaiming “Indignation takes the streets” & with images (as in this photo) of the 43 missing students.

Our fullest solidarity with the protestors in their demand for justice for the students murdered & missing.

(Photo by Omar Torres/AFP/Getty Images)

A tribute to medical personnel treating the Ebola epidemic

Ebola doctor Oct 10 2014 (John Moore:Getty Images)

We should take a moment to honor the doctors & nurses treating the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, Sierra Leone, & Guinea. Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) has 2,000, including 200 volunteers; last week Cuba dispatched 165 medical staff to Sierra Leone & will be sending 296 more to Guinea & Liberia when they finish training in how to deal with Ebola.

A medical degree in almost any country affords a comfortable life & for men & women to put that aside for dangerous humanitarian missions merits only the highest respect. With the exception of a photojournalist & Thomas Duncan, the man who contracted Ebola & died in a Dallas hospital, those affected thus far are medical personnel. We witnessed the same extraordinary humanity among doctors & nurses in Gaza during Israel’s barbarous Operation Ethnic Cleansing.

In ignominious contrast, Israel at first refused to send medical personnel to West Africa for fear of contamination. After realizing this only added to their growing image problem, they reneged & will be sending a few mobile units. The US feels no shame in sending 4,000 men with guns in place of doctors & nurses.

Rebukes aside to the hundreds of countries who haven’t lifted a finger to address the epidemic, we honor those men & women who express the most decent & glorious qualities of humankind by risking their own lives to serve.

This is a Doctors Without Borders health worker in Paynesville, Liberia. The little girl & her mother showed symptoms of Ebola & are waiting test results.

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

The military response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa

Ebola:Liberia (Jerome Delay:AP) Oct 3 2014

Media (& not just in the US) has hijacked the story of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa which the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates could affect 1.5 million by early next year. The story has now become about the threat of Ebola to the US & European countries & alarmist speculations about purposely infected ISIS operatives on suicide missions & terrorists using bags of Ebola vomit for bioterrorism. This tops in burlesque all the anti-communist scares of the McCarthy era combined & would be comical were it not for the 1.5 million people in West Africa threatened with devastating disease.

Partly the intention is switch & bait so we don’t notice nothing is being done to medically address the disaster. But it can only be pulled off convincingly with the grotesque mind-set of white supremacy & includes suggestions that Liberians are foiling attempts to provide treatment due to ignorance.

During the Ethiopian famine of 1974, deranged Harvard academics applied the medical model of triage & claimed it more merciful to leave famine victims die. We don’t know if the genocide model of triage is being applied to West Africa; we only know nothing is being done to address the catastrophe. Coming out of the “zero population” crowd, there have always been warped people who promoted this crap–of course only for countries with brown & black populations. It would be unthinkable to suggest this for nations considered primarily white because the outrage would be thunderous.

There are also the religious nutcases & talk radio hosts who claim famine & epidemic are divine punishment for violating their catalog of sins. And there are the sociopaths who claim famine & epidemic are nature’s way of trimming population. Add to this cacophany the libertarians like Mike Adams of Natural News who claim the Ebola epidemic is a conspiracy, that Ebola was invented in a laboratory.

You don’t need to devise conspiracy where there is no evidence. You don’t need to see divine retribution or any other crazy-assed misanthropic explanation when neoliberal healthcare (i.e., the almost complete absence of healthcare) alone indicts. Liberia, the epicenter of the epidemic in West Africa, not only does not have Ebola treatment centers; it doesn’t have primary health care facilities because the president & Nobel Peace Prize winner, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is investing millions in a military arsenal.

When Obama deployed 4,000 troops of the 101st airborne division to Liberia it was under the guise of humanitarian aid. It was claimed they were going to supervise the construction of 17 treatment centers of 100 beds each & to train medics. But the 101st airborne division is a combat unit that may include medics but is distinct from the medical corps. If the CDC projects 1.5 million Ebola victims in the next four months what the hell will 1,700 beds do to address the disaster? Why do they need a division of elite combat-trained soldiers to stand around watching construction? Why aren’t they deploying hundreds of doctors & nurses instead of a few medics? There’s little evidence the 101st airborne division is or ever has been deployed for humanitarian purposes. The only people who believe the Pentagon sends soldiers for humanitarian purposes are those who’ve watched too many WWII movies.

There are confusing reports about the development of an Ebola vaccine to prevent the spread of the disease. Many reports conflate a vaccine for prevention with a serum to treat those already afflicted. The few who contracted Ebola & were treated in US hospitals were given experimental serums not yet cleared by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for mass production.

There are apparently universities under contract with the CDC engaged in research for a vaccine & for a serum. There are, more significantly, three Canadian companies contracted to develop a vaccine by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), a division of the US Department of Defense. The function of the DTRA is to counter weapons of mass destruction (including biological weapons) & provide combat support. Tekmira Pharmaceuticals, a Vancouver company, was contracted for $140 million by the DTRA to develop an Ebola vaccine. In March 2014, Tekmira was granted a Fast Track designation from the FDA but in July, as the epidemic developed in West Africa, the FDA placed a full hold on clinical trials. That full hold was modified to a partial hold in August. Information is too sketchy to make accusations but it certainly appears fishy, maybe even criminal, for the FDA to fart around on the development of a vaccine when over a million human lives are at stake.

What the hell kind of world is this where millions of human beings are denied basic medical care? Where epidemics are militarized? Where millions of lives are jeopardized? Where people with the good sense to distrust corrupt governments are portrayed as ignorant & causing their own demise? This is the world of neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism, where human life is deemed expendable in the pursuit of monumental wealth for the few.

This little girl is 9-year-old Mercy Kennedy in Monrovia, Liberia grieving her mother who died after being taken away in an ambulance to an Ebola ward the previous day. Mercy walked around in a daze in her nightgown & flip-flops & was found by neighbors following the sound of her wailing. This small child’s grief is only a fraction of the cost of indifference, racism, & neoliberal colonialism.

What can we do to resist this? We can demand Obama withdraw the troops from West Africa & deploy medical personnel.

(Photo by Jerome Delay/AP)

Politics of the Ebola epidemic

Liberia Ebola (Jerome Delay:AP) Oct 5 014

There are so many questions posed but not answered about the Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Sierra Leone, & Liberia, three of the poorest countries in the world. Where thorough investigation is required, we get piecemeal reports that don’t add up to a coherent narrative. This is when you see US media expose its real character because while health organizations project the spread of Ebola in West Africa to potentially 1.5 million people by early next year, US media is focused on a couple US citizens who contracted the disease & is scare-mongering about ISIS suicide agents coming across the US border to terrorize with biochemical warfare. This is where white supremacy dovetails with propaganda & a grand switch & bait to distract from the travesties & abominations of neoliberal healthcare in Africa–& possibly the application of the racist triage theory where elite academics & politicians consider it more merciful to let people without a function under neoliberal plunder simply die miserably.

The ecology of Ebola is not well known, or at least is not consistently elaborated. But the first reported breakouts were in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1976. There have been 34 episodes since then in several central & western African countries with an estimated death toll of over 4,000 deaths (certainly a lowball estimate). The reported death toll in Western Africa during this episode is nearly that figure now. The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) calls this epidemic “the largest in history”; the World Health Organization (WHO) calls the current epidemic “a public health emergency of international concern.”

We haven’t heard from any public health agencies in the affected countries because even primary healthcare is in a shabby state under neoliberal regimes. Liberia has two treatment centers for Ebola victims, one with only eighteen beds. Mostly people have been dumped in squalid quarters without beds & no medical personnel. Or they’ve been left to die in their homes & in the streets. The Nobel Peace Prize winning president of Liberia is too busy building up a military arsenal to provide for public health. In nearly 40 years of Ebola episodes, no public health agencies comparable to the CDC have been established in the affected countries so that pronouncements about Ebola come from Geneva (WHO) & the US (CDC).

Many articles describe the reluctance of Liberians to go for treatment as though it were ignorance & superstition. Photojournalists show government teams going out to communities to educate & bully. (Would that people in the US were as “superstitious” about their own regime!) If you know victims are simply dumped in empty buildings without medical treatment, are sprayed down with some kind of decontaminant like they were livestock, are left to die in the streets, & corralled into guarantine, that “superstition” is the height of wisdom & self-preservation.

Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders), who have been treating Ebola epidemics in Africa for 20 years, issued two reports (July & August 2014) excoriating in the frankest diplomacy the criminal failures of what they term the “humanitarian system” to address this epidemic. Their report titled “Where Is Everyone?” takes everybody in that system out, including the UN, WHO, the so-called “international community”, & NGOs. They said without batting an eyelash in apology: “the UN is “at the heart of the dysfunction.” NGOs are no-show & government humanitarian aid has been promised but not delivered.

Their damnation is worth quoting in whole. In the past 20 years, they say “operational capacities in the United Nations system have been gradually reduced through reforms. For example, the restructuring of the World Health Organization in Geneva has led to the closure of its viral hemorrhagic fever unit. Member states should be held accountable for an unceasing reduction of response capacity. A destructive spiral has materialised, leading to what we see today: lack of leadership, deficient coordination and, last but not least, a striking absence of operational capacity. This is compounded by the fact that the international community simply doesn’t feel responsible for responding to what is happening in regions that are not perceived as politically or economically interesting.” In other words, no one is doing a damn thing to address the suffering & save the lives of millions of people in central & west African countries. That’s where the media switch & bait comes in: to disguise this treachery behind alarmism about Dallas being taken out by Thomas Duncan & ISIS coming over the border with bags of Ebola vomit.

This little girl is 9-year-old Nowa Paye being taken to an ambulance after showing symptoms of Ebola infection in a village 30 miles north of Monrovia, Liberia (Sept 30th). Can you imagine what it’s like for a small child to be carted off by some stranger in a space suit with no certainty for her family she will ever return or that she will receive medical treatment!?

(Photo by Jerome Delay/AP)