Tortured bodies being left in streets of Tijuana

Dudley Althaus
Houston Chronicle
MEXICO CITY — In the latest grim twist to this nation’s drug wars, at least six bodies have been left this week on the streets of a major border city bearing signs warning people against participating in an army program for informing on traffickers.Many of the bodies found since Monday in Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, Calif., bore signs of torture. Several of the men were strangled. One victim was a police officer.

Index fingers of at least four victims were mutilated — a traditional signal that the dead man was an informant. Placards attached to all the bodies carried variations of a warning: “Continue informing. Yes, we are following through.”

The warning referred to a Mexican army program launched last month urging citizens to use a telephone hot line and e-mail addresses to tip off authorities to the identities of traffickers.

The Spanish equivalent of “Yes, we are following through” is an e-mail address to send information to the local military command.

“It’s very dramatic,” said Victor Clark, a veteran human rights campaigner in Tijuana. “There is a constant search in the underworld to find a new way to intimidate, to control, to send a message to authorities.”

“Putting a warning sign on a body is not the same as putting it on a tree.”

Officials were quick to assure the public that the identities of the informers were kept secret.

Clark said it was uncertain if those killed had indeed participated in the army program.

Rather, he said, the drug gangsters could simply be using people killed for any reason as a means of terrorizing soldiers and citizens alike.

“I doubt it will have much impact because things have been so bad,” Clark said of the warnings. “It’s not that we have become accustomed (to such violence,) it’s just that it has become part of daily life.”

Violence has been escalating in Tijuana. Last month, six kidnapping victims were killed by their captors during a three-hour shootout with troops in a residential neighborhood.

Similar violence has racked Reynosa, Matamoros and other cities bordering the Lower Rio Grande Valley this year, despite the presence of thousands of federal police and soldiers. Troops have seized arsenals of weapons, including grenade launchers and automatic rifles.

Other weapons caches have been seized from suspected gangsters in Mexico City, as well, including one Wednesday that authorities are linking to the drug trafficking organization based in the Pacific Coast state of Sinaloa.

“We are in a new stage of criminality,” Clark said. “We are very close to narco-terrorism appearing.”

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Journalists in some countries face challenges everyday because of corrupt political system, wars and a lack of freedom for the press, a basic right to Americans, protected in the Constitution. Nearly a hundred journalists have died in the war-torn country of Iraq. But what’s not as well-known is how many journalists have died for what they’ve written in Mexico. Problems for Mexican journalists stem far into their history, facing an uphill battle with shady politicians and corrupt law enforcement officials. But they now face one of their biggest challenges as Mexican Drug cartels fighting over territory spill more blood on the streets.I tried looked to understand the difficulties Mexican journalists face. But as I did my research, I learned that many times, the journalists were not corrupt, nor were they exploring something they weren’t supposed to. They were simply doing their jobs, and it was costing them their lives. Threats and the murders of reporters and television crews are mainly in the northern states of Mexico, on the United States border, but violence toward journalists has spread into other parts of the country, especially Oaxaca, where most of the fighting in the southern areas has occurred.Much of my research relied on newspaper articles from around Mexico and from border cities in the U.S. where the violence is spilling over. Web sites, such as the Committee to Protect Journalists and Inter American Press Association, provided a lot of background information and ideas they hope will alleviate the situation.

After analyzing the information, I could see that the threats and murders would not change unless more drastic measures were taken to prevent them. A new law enforcement that cannot be bribed or bullied is needed to help the fight against the drug cartels, those who are most responsible for the deaths of journalists and thousands of others. Temporary and immediate asylum into the United States for threatened journalists is necessary to save lives. Finally, newspapers have to take extra precautions to ensure the safety of their staff while they are in their offices, using extra security and, perhaps, planned escape routes.

Read the rest of my report on the attached link: Democracy for Mexico’s Press?

This has nothing to do with the subject of this blog, but I really liked this story. In my opinion, about time someone said something to Hugo Chavez! 

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — The king of Spain told Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to “shut up” Saturday during a heated exchange at a summit of leaders from Latin America, Spain and Portugal.

Chavez, who called President Bush the “devil” on the floor of the United Nations last year, triggered the exchange by repeatedly referring to former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar as a “fascist.”

Aznar, a conservative who was an ally of Bush as prime minister, “is a fascist,” Chavez said in a speech at the Ibero-American summit in Santiago, Chile. “Fascists are not human. A snake is more human.”

Spain’s current socialist prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, responded during his own allotted time by urging Chavez to be more diplomatic in his words and respect other leaders despite political differences.

“Former President Aznar was democratically elected by the Spanish people and was a legitimate representative of the Spanish people,” he said, eliciting applause from the gathered heads of state.

Chavez repeatedly tried to interrupt, but his microphone was off.

Spanish King Juan Carlos, seated next to Zapatero, angrily turned to Chavez and said, “Why don’t you shut up?”

The Venezuelan leader did not immediately respond, but later used time ceded to him by his close ally Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to answer Zapatero’s speech.

“I do not offend by telling the truth,” he said. “The Venezuelan government reserves the right to respond to any aggression, anywhere, in any space and in any manner.”

The Charlotte Observer’s own Andria Krewson touched on a subject that I’m sure is on the minds of many baby boomers in the newsroom: traditional journalism and those who represent it. It was interesting to see how a young boomer talk about her concerns for new journalism, when, as a young journalist, I worry whether I’ll ever be as good enough as the generations before me. Will I ever make them proud?

Boomers came into journalism inspired by Watergate, I came in inspired by Barbara Walters and Peter Jennings. Boomers came in hoping to make a difference in the world, I came in hoping to tell a story people wouldn’t dislike. But the media has been too slow to improve the ways Boomers can handle the new forms of journalism. The journalism world seems to be changing so fast every day, I can’t imagine having to see it change so much from when I was younger. As a younger journalist, the Internet has always been a part of my career, but since Boomers were my journalism teachers, I was still taught the old way of journalism and I have a sincere love and admiration for it.

I guess instead of a reaction to Andria’s post, I wanted to share the idea that Boomers aren’t alone in worrying about how the world of journalism is changing. Younger journalists are also, and we’re helping ring out this new form of storytelling. There are so many things to do, so many ways to screw up and it’s frightening. I admire the Boomers in my newsroom, the ones who’ve been doing this for decades, the ones who seem to know what they’re doing. I love hearing the stories about how it used to be because those stories allow me to see the changes that have been made and get advice on how to move on from here. So, to all the older journalists, share your ideas! And if a younger journalist is unwilling to hear it, share anyway. Maybe one day they’ll be older journalists and know exactly what you felt like and remember something you might’ve said.

Reaction: Nutrition Facts

November 9, 2007

My classmate, Marcie Barnes, took on the problems with the nutrition facts in our foods for her EOTO project. Her concerns include misleading information on nutrition labels, such as food being able to make the “trans-fat free” claims even when they have a small amount in their ingredients. With obesity with such a rise in America, I think more people should start paying attention to what’s in their food. So much food has ingredients that we can’t even pronounce, so now onw really knows that’s in it. I think we should take time to find out. Research what every ingredient is, learn what you are putting into your body. Learn what that hydrogenated oil will do to your heart!

But Marcie makes a point when she says not everything is revealed in the nutrition labels, this is why we have to take that extra step ourselves. She suggests getting more organic food, which I completely support… if I could afford it. That is one of organic foods’ drawbacks, it’s expensive. I can buy a half-gallon of milk for $2.50, or a half-gallon of organic milk for $3.50, which would I choose if I had a tight budget? I know organic milk is better for me and for the cows, but that an extra dollar. How can families with small incomes afford healthier food? Organic food has to be cheaper. I know it costs more to make, but if you’re making it to begin with, you’re doing it for the good of the people and money should not matter as much. But how do you tell a farmer that? How do you tell him that he won’t make as much money making organic foods and expect to still make them?

Josh Vorhees made me laugh for a moment as I read his blog about privacy in the online world. While reading his reasons to fear how much of our private information is being accessed by foreign parties, he mentioned how “Big Brother” could ever get too much of our information and use it against us, such as his example of health insurance providers having access to our credit card statements and taking into account how much we drink or smoke to determine premiums. I laughed at the thought of what health insurances would think if they saw what I bought, or maybe I laughed because my health insurance premiums are going to be a ridiculous high amount next year and I’d like to see them try to get higher. But what if United HealthCare or Aetna decided that they’d take into account that I used to buy cigarettes more often than food, or that my bar tabs used to run a little on the high side? What if they saw that I bought a surfboard and could continuously hurt myself trying to learn? I want to scream out, “That’s none of your damn business what I do!” But it is their business. It’s their business to insure me for my health problems or accidents. Maybe in a way, they should know. Shouldn’t I pay more for insurance that a girl who’s never smoked a day in her life and doesn’t do much of anything that would require visits to emergency rooms? But then where would it stop? Would they then look at every aspect of my life? Would they ask how clumsy I am on insurance applications (9 out of 10, 10 being so clumsy it’s a miracle that I get out of bed without injuring myself every morning)? Would they make me paying ungodly amounts of money every month because my grandfather died of heart disease and my aunt has breast cancer? These diseases run in my family and I could eventually cost my health insurance more money than I’ve ever given them.

So, yeah, after laughing at the thought of insurances looking at my credit card statements, my mind ran with the idea and now I’m scared that my health insurance will find out I like to swim, because my drowning will cost them money they don’t want to pay or that I’m Band-Aid’s biggest customer. Big Brother scares me.

While reading Jessica’s Blog, From the Middle of Nowhere to Everywhere, I came across her concerns for the great digital divide. As I read through, her concerns about technology not reaching all parts of the parts of the world, mainly Africa, are very real and need to be address soon. Her main fears, or concerns, include: the rest of the world not caring about those in desperate need of technology to make their lives better; language barriers and the inability to use the technology anyway, due to lack of equipment and power. What can we do to help? And how have other places with the same problems found a way to solve them?

Jessica gave a good example of how to deal with the electricity issue: solar energy. Solar energy is one of the most powerful resources we have. Computers that were mentioned in class discussion that only cost $100 for children around the world rely on solar energy for recharging. Organizations are providing solar energy to many countried in Africa now. Solar Energy for Africa is one of them. Their Web site says 25,000 homes, hospitals, schools and other important buildings have used solar energy in the last decade in Eastern Africa. The National Solar Power Research Institute says Africa is good place for solar energy due to how much land is along the equator.

Not only will solar energy provide so much power to the poorer people of Africa, but it will also keep pollution down. Electricity causes pollution. You can actually see how much pollution you cause at this “pollution calculator” site. By typing in how much you paid in electricity this month and your state, it can give you details about your estimated annual electricity usage and how many pounds of greenhouse gases are let into the atmosphere because of you. It’s enough to make me want to type by candlelight.

My classmate, David Shabazz, has a very interesting topic on his blog, Write for Freedom, right now. He examines liability for defamatory postings, citing major examples of where the terms distributor and publisher had to be clearing marked. To begin with, I love communication law, so I loved this subject! Way to go, David!

David examines two cases where the courts made two separate rulings. In Cubby Inc. v. CompuServe in 1991, courts said CompuServe was not liable for comments made on their Journalism Forum because they were a distributor of information, not the publisher. But in Stratton Oakmont v. Prodigy Services in 1995, Prodigy was held accountable for comments made on it’s discussion boards because Prodigy had the means to control the content and has automatic screening for such comments, thus making them a publisher, someone who knows what’s going to be read and should have an idea over whether it’s defamatory.

Congress has since taken steps (including creating the Telecommunications Act of 1996) to protect distributors and publishers in lawsuits regarding defamatory postings.

Defamation of character has always been a hot issue, but the popularity of the Internet has made it harder to control that. If you’re one of the four people who forward a defamatory e-mail to another four people, are you liable? Are we publishers or distributors? How would be know the information is not true?

If we link a post from our blog to another blog that contains defamatory comments, are we liable? What if we know it’s not true, but link it anyway under false pretenses?

Tech Web sites: 

‘Technology and Generation Gap’

www.llrx.com/node/1889/print

This Web site examines the difference of experience in technology between the generations. The younger people are impatient with the older people’s inability or reluctance to grasp the new world, while the older generation don’t understand what makes the communicating technology (like Facebook) so attractive. But the older people are getting online, learning to pay their bills and banking from home. They are also sharing photos.

  Understanding the Technological Generation Gap

www.technostress.com/tnp45.htm

Larry D. Rosen of The National Psychologist writes about the different kinds of generations who are more likely to benefit or suffer from the technology advances, especially people trying to build relationships.

Generation Gap Exists between kids, parents over back-to-school technology

http://www.redorbit.com/news/technology/207407/generation_gap_exists_between_kids_parents_over_backtoschool_technology/ 

How technology is creating a bigger gap between school-age children and their parents, and how they have different views at what is useful for education, like iPods and laptops. 

Older Generation, Newest Technology Come Together at Cyber-Training Cafe

http://www.cyberseniors.org/artman/publish/article_25.shtml 

An article about a company called Cyberseniors.org who provide Internet cafes and training to senior citizens trying to learn how to use computers and the Internet. The organization is a hit and they are planning on expanding. 

Recycle-Free


http://www.recyclefree.com/mobile.htm

What can I do with all the old cell phones and pagers I had? Many sites offer services for where you can recycle your old devices. “According to market analysts, by the end of 2007, the number of mobile phones stockpiled in the United States is expected to exceed 750 million, and that number is projected to grow by an additional 150 million per year thereafter.”

Donate Old Cell Phones
http://www.cellphonefacts.com/pages/donatephones.html

Places you can donate your phones at and what they will be used for, including giving them to soldiers and battered women.

Society has found ways to communicate throughout history, from symbols on cave walls to flags on ships. In modern days, we have cell phones, e-mail, radio, television and friend-finding Web sites. And while I understand how important technology has become, my issue with it is how the generations before the “Net Generation” are adapting to the new forms of communication. And what harm does this new technology do to our environment? 

One of the things I fear is how the oldest generations are adapting to the sudden surge of technology. What happens in an emergency when a grandmother can’t call her doctor because her new cell phone has 20 different features and she keeps taking photos and video of her feet? This could be the same woman who has trouble setting her VCR but her son bought her a TiVo. There are steps that need to be taken to relieve the added stress that the new technology is creating for senior citizens. 

Technology is also creating a larger gap between parents and children. When in the past parents only had to deal with television and friends distracting their children, they now have to face cell phones, the Internet and a real lack of communication skills. The younger generation, known as the “net generation”  because it’s never known a world without the Internet, is used to interacting with people through e-mail, text messages and cell phones. They no longer know to socialize in person, which is very different from how their parents grew up and causing the communication gap between parent and child to get bigger. The perfect example of this is the cell phone commercial where a mother questions a daughter about her excessive text message usage and is replied back with letters and incomplete words that is somehow supposed to replace an actual conversation. 

How much do children really need these technologies in school? Laptops are becoming essential in the learning process and some schools districts (like a few in New Mexico) are providing them for their students. The Internet is vital to education now, becoming the first source of research for many. But are cell phones and iPods needed as much as students say they are? iPods were at the top of many back-to-school lists, things students say they need to be productive.  

It’s just not the oldest generation that is being held back with the news way to communicate. Baby boomers in the workplace are being replaced with a generation that only knows how to deal with technology. Known as “Gen Xers,” these younger people like to keep busy with something that intrigues them, don’t like meetings and do a lot of their social networking online, through Web sites like Facebook. The attitude is a vast difference from how the boomers grew up, who were coached by their parents to respect their privacy. 

The last issue I have with the new communication technology is the waste it’s creating. People are getting new cell phones at an average of once a year, so what happens to their old one? What happened to all of the pagers that were so popular in the 90s? While many are being recycled, too many are being thrown away, collecting in landfills. We must find a place for all of the used cell phones, pager and computers to go. 

My recommendations 

I’d like to see more senior citizens learn more about the new technology. It would open doors of communication to their grandchildren, offering them a chance to write e-mails to sending photos. More programs like cyberseniors.org, which provide computer training to senior citizens, are necessary around the country. Also, there should be more phones available at major wireless companies that are much simpler to use and only have the major functions: making and answering phone calls and programmed phone books. Most of the available phones today are much too complicated. 

I also think it would be best to find new ways to recycle your old communication tools. Use the parts to create new cell phones or to build something else. Many places offer to recycle such material. There are also groups that collect old cell phones to give to people in desperate need, like soldiers and charities. Some organizations ask for cell phone donations to give to battered women so they can call for help instantly. There should be displays for these causes everywhere, like there are for aluminum and newspaper. 

My last suggestion is one I was not comfortable making because of the generation I grew up in. Last month, the Charlotte Observer’s newsroom employees were invited to attend a meeting where they learned about Facebook. In a world where alternative forms of communication are being found very often, it’s important that every generation learns these new tools. While at first I found it awkward that my supervisors were on the site, I knew it was the best step forward they could make to become part of the global social network online. More employers could find similar steps for their older employees, to provide the tools they need to make it in the modern world.