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Mexican narcos: ‘The Italian mafia’s best students aren’t the Colombians, they’re the Mexicans’ | International

Voice Of EU



Sinaloa is synonymous with El Chapo Guzmán, narcotrafficking and terror. In Culiacán, the capital of the Mexican state, an open door and a bare staircase lead to the headquarters of Ríodoce, the newspaper founded by Ismael Bojórquez. It is a modest space with polished stone floors, a few computers and piles of dusty newspapers. The weekly newspaper is about to mark 20 years of denouncing the rot of corruption and violence. It was the workplace of the internationally acclaimed journalist Javier Valdez, who was on his way to the office when he was shot and killed in 2017. He became a symbol of all the journalists killed in the country. Posthumous homages to Valdez still abound, and reporters hold up his image as a referent for their ongoing struggle. Bojórquez continues to fuel the fire of Valdez’s memory. Five journalists continue to work in the Ríodoce office. Below on the street, as Bojórquez poses for photos, everyone seems suspicious: the man eating a sandwich in a dilapidated black car; the driver that speeds past; the workers sitting on the sidewalk. The handgun could appear at any moment.

Question. Mexico is tragically known for the murders of journalists. There have been nine this year so far, and the country is about to break a record. How have we gotten here?

Answer. This evolved along with the narcoviolence. A significant part of crimes are committed by the narcos in coordination with politicians or vice-versa. This problem didn’t exist 20 years ago, but everything got worse with the death of Francisco Ortiz Franco in Tijuana, and Alfredo Jiménez Mota’s disappearance a year later. He worked with me at Noroeste. Everything started to devolve for the press then. In Tamaulipas, in Veracruz, nothing could be published that wasn’t authorized by the narco, not even a death. That’s when the concept of silent zones started to develop. Publishing information could cost you your life. Impunity motivated many of those murders. And we’re still in the same place. With Andrés Manuel [López Obrador, the current president], we were hopeful, but things are even worse, with the added aggravation that the president is complaining about the media all the time, a permanent aggression that adds to this context of impunity for violence against journalists. The government observes that in 45% of crimes someone from the state is involved: municipal police, mayors, officials, a devious local politician. That explains the levels of impunity. If someone who sits at the decision-making table, or a representative who’s looking to get to Congress, is involved, the investigation in the prosecutors’ offices doesn’t move forward.

Q. Who is winning the war?

A. The press isn’t winning, nor is the freedom of speech. The narco is winning. When the media stays quiet, they achieve their goal. There’s no general conspiracy by organized crime to silence the press. They are cases that, put together, give you a general panorama. Now there is less reporting on the street, because people are afraid to go out, and they’re horribly paid.

Q. Why are people still doing journalism in Mexico?

A. Almost everyone does other things. They’re taxi drivers, or riders on motorcycles who take a photo and sell it. Or they work simultaneously for three media outlets. There is a real problem of labor abuses that hasn’t been addressed. The narrative has focused on the insecurity, but there is also frightening abuse by media outlets that have a lot of money while the journalists don’t even have social security.

Q: Why did you become a journalist?

A: I started when I was old, in 1990. I was really involved in the left, in the revolutionary struggle, but the Berlin wall fell and I found my trenches in journalism. I love the profession.

Q: How do you see the immediate future?

A: We don’t see this as inevitable. This didn’t exist three decades ago, so it doesn’t have to be like this forever. There need to be ways for journalists to work safely, but that’s true for any profession. In Mexico, more journalists and taxi drivers and women and lawyers are killed than journalists. We need public policy. Crime is not being fought. Andrés Manuel says that we have to go to the root causes. For him, that means giving 3,000 pesos [€142] to a working-class person, but it turns out that if you follow a military convoy, behind them there are three or four men on motorcycles, without license plates, with their radios, warning the narco boss where the convoy is going. These are the people receiving those 3,000 pesos from the president, and that doesn’t make them stop working for the cartel as well. The root causes need to be attacked, yes, but crime needs to be fought right now. We need a holistic policy. Andrés Manuel preferred hugs over bullets, and these three years have been like a truce for the narco. During truces, armies re-arm themselves and reorganize.

Bojórquez in Culiacán, Mexico, on May 30.
Bojórquez in Culiacán, Mexico, on May 30.CLAUDIA ARÉCHIGA

Q. Are there any political parties that are harder on crime?

A. All of them have adapted. This started 80 or 100 years ago. The revolutionary governments also benefited from the narco, in the 1950s, in the 1960s. It was the era of opium gum, heroin, marijuana. In past elections, in Sinaloa, the PRI tried to kidnap the Morena candidates and the Morena candidates kidnapped the PRI in two towns. We reported on that. Everyone is deep into the shit. No one is outside of it.

Q. This reality seems to be making Mexicans pessimistic.

A. The panorama is devastating. I don’t want to lose hope, because you become useless, but it is devastating.

Q. In this power-play between politicians, the justice system, the narco, businesspeople, is the Church free of the rot?

A. No. There are churches built by drug lords. When the film The Crime of Father Amaro came out in 2002, a boy passed out flyers here in Culiacán to tell people not to go to the movies. The priest Ernesto Álvarez, now dead, took Amado Carrillo Fuentes [the drug trafficker nicknamed the Lord of the Skies] to a Via Crucis in Jerusalem.

Q. So nobody is clean.

A. There is not a single sphere in society that isn’t infiltrated by the narco. Not one. The main library in Culiacán is the central library of the UNAM university. It was built in part with money from [drug tzar] Miguel Félix Gallardo. Everything is infiltrated, the economy, agriculture, the electoral processes.

Q. You don’t have a bodyguard.

A. No, they offered me one when Javier was killed and I am grateful for that. I have this panic button. But whenever they want to do something, they’re going to do it. I like my freedom too much. A bodyguard would take it away.

Q. What’s happening is like the Italian mafia.

A. The Italian mafia’s best students aren’t the Colombians, they’re the Mexicans. We have this dynastic, family aspect, the way they’ve gotten into the public spending. They don’t just go after drug money anymore, now they put people in government agencies so they can get to the treasury. This is really common, and that idea comes from Italy. The cartel wants to control the police, because that’s basic, but now they also want to control the head of public works, the city treasurer and the human resources official, because they will then put 20 of your guys on the payroll, the city will pay them and they will watch the corners for you.

Q. In Mexico, there are hundreds of journalists who are heroes, who are putting their lives at stake for four pesos. Then there are others who are embarrassing to hear in the president’s daily press conferences, praising him endlessly and attacking their journalist colleagues. Is there any middle ground?

A. The press in Mexico was distorted in the 1940s and 50s thanks to government bribes. Government allowances became part of the system, and they were used to weaken journalism, mostly with the PRI but also later. That’s clear now with those people at the press conferences. It hasn’t changed with Andrés Manuel.

Q. Are there journalists within the narco too?

A. There are a lot. They start going undercover with the police, then they get involved, then they want to carry a gun. Even though they’re not narcotraffickers, they receive payments from the narco.

Q. And do they get killed too?

A. Yes, a lot of them. I don’t dare to say which, but there must be cases in which they’re killed because they’re involved in the organization.

Q. What do you think of when I say the word narco?

A. Corruption. Pyramidal organizations don’t really exist anymore. They are families, yes, but the narco is now more horizontal. Everyone could be involved in it. Some of the last families that you’d expect are now involved in it. They have co-opted everything.

Q. There are television series where the narcos are the handsome ones, the good guys. It’s a good whitewashing of their image.

A:.Those who make TV shows are trying to make money. It’s their job.

Q. Shouldn’t someone say something to them?

A. And who would do it?

Q. Journalists?

A. [laughs]

Q. You said that these times remind you of the birth of Ríodoce, almost 20 years ago.

A. Yes, because Ríodoce was founded under a very authoritarian Sinaloan government led by Juan Millán. He liked to control the press. He boasted about that. One of his officials told me one that Millán’s strategy was to make the press die of hunger, the same thing that Alejandro Moreno, the leader of the PRI, has said in audio recordings that are going around.

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Brazilian woman and fake seer con elderly mother out of $142 million | International

Voice Of EU



A woman was arrested on August 10 by Rio de Janeiro police who charged her with conning her mother out of millions. In a strange story of greed abetted by fake psychics, Sabine Boghici and her accomplices stole more than $142 million in money, jewelry and artwork from Boghici’s mother over a two-year period.

Geneviève Boghici, the widow of a major art collector and dealer named Jean Boghici, was walking out of a bank in January 2020 near the famous Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) when she was approached by a supposed psychic prophesying her daughter’s imminent death unless she underwent “spiritual therapy.” They walked together to Boghici’s apartment, where the psychic threw some shells in a mystical ritual that confirmed the tragic prophesy. The 82-year-old victim knew that her daughter suffered from psychological problems, and her affinity for the supernatural swayed her to transfer $980,000 to the swindlers.

Soon after the two-year con began, the elderly woman became suspicious and halted the money transfers when her daughter started to isolate her from friends. Sabine would not allow her mother to use the phone and dismissed all the domestic workers, justifying them as Covid-19 precautions. Yet Sabine and her cronies entered freely to loot her mother’s home of its valuables. Several psychics took items from the home, saying they were “cursed” and needed to be “prayed over.” The increasingly suspicious Geneviève tried to resist, but Sabine began threatening her life. According to the police, she wouldn’t allow her mother to eat and put a knife to her throat.

Police recover 'Sol Poente' by Brazilian painter, Tarsila do Amaral.
Police recover ‘Sol Poente’ by Brazilian painter, Tarsila do Amaral.Policia Civil de Rio de Janeiro (EFE)

The victim told the police that her daughter had some sort of relationship with one of the supposed psychics, Rosa Stanesco Nicolau, who practiced her trade in Rio de Janeiro as “Mãe Valéria de Oxossi” (Mother Valeria), and was a known con artist. Starting in September 2020, under constant threat from her daughter and accomplices, the elderly woman made another 38 bank transfers to the thieves.

Sabine and her cohorts stole 16 paintings and sculptures, and sold them all to art galleries or private buyers. Two of these works – Elevador Social (Social Elevator) by Rubens Gerchman, and Maquete para o menú espelho (A model for my mirror) by Antonio Dias – were bought by Eduardo Costantini, owner of the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires (Argentina), for his private collection. The São Paulo (Brazil) gallery owner who brokered the deal said he was not suspicious because he had known the family for a long time and the seller was the daughter of the deceased art collector. Constantini released a statement saying that he bought the paintings in good faith and was in direct contact with Genevieve Boghici.

In 2012, a fire in the Boghici’s Copacabana apartment destroyed part of their valuable collection, including Di Cavalcanti’s Samba and Alberto Guignard’s A Floresta (The Forest). Sol Poniente (Setting Sun), painted by Tarsila do Amaral in 1929, is one of the most valuable works in the Boghici collection ($49 million). It survived the 2012 fire but not the rampant greed of their daughter. The stolen painting was found under a bed by police, who arrested Sabine and three other people, including the fake seer. In a final twist to the whole bizarre story, the scamming psychic was apprehended trying to escape through a window.

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India’s HIV patients say shortages leaving hundreds of thousands without drugs | Global development

Voice Of EU



Hundreds of thousands of people living with HIV in India are struggling to access treatment because of a shortage of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, according to campaigners.

Up to 500,000 people have not been able to get hold of free ARVs from government health centres and hospitals over the past five months, they say, as the country experiences stock shortages of key drugs.

ARVs that are available in privately run pharmacies and shops can be prohibitively expensive. Some people have been given alternative drugs, but others have stopped taking any medication.

“Does the government even realise that at least 500,000, or one-third of the patients, are affected by this? Some adults are being given 11 doses of paediatric medicine to compensate,” said Loon Gangte, president of the Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+), an NGO that works to improve the treatment and facilities for people living with HIV and Aids. “We only demand an uninterrupted monthly supply. This treatment is our right.”

According to Gangte, who has been protesting with about 30 others outside India’s National Aids Control Organisation (Naco) in Delhi for 22 days, at least 12 other states, including Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab, are facing ARV shortages. He said several state governments have asked patients to change their longstanding drug regimes.

“The [Covid-19] pandemic had already broken our backs. Now this shortage is pushing us further into penury,” Gangte said.

Kedar Nath, a 30-year-old street vendor taking part in the protest, said he has not taken his ARVs on several occasions over the past two months. He cannot afford the £50 a month it would cost to buy the drugs on the open market.

“I have been taking these drugs for the last 13 years. They have helped me continue with my life despite the virus in my body. But the recent shortage has turned my life upside down since I can neither find the strength to work, nor have any savings to live off,” he said.

According to government figures, 2.35 million people in India are HIV-positive. About 1.5 million people are on antiretroviral therapy, far lower than the World Health Organization’s “90-90-90 target” – under which 90% of people with HIV are diagnosed, 90% are on ARV treatment, and 90% are no longer infectious.

India says it aims to end the HIV epidemic by 2030. In 2019, an estimated 58,900 Aids-related deaths were reported in the country.

The government has refuted Gangte’s claims of a shortage. The Indian health ministry said it had “reviewed the entire situation and held a series of meetings with the protesters. ARV drugs are being provided for [a] duration of less than one month, but at no point in time has there been any shortage of drugs for any of the PLHIV [patients living with HIV]. There is adequate stock nationally for 95% PLHIV.”

Naco did not wish to comment. However, in a letter seen by the Guardian that was dated 30 May, Naco asked all state Aids prevention and control societies, which oversee HIV testing and treatment in each state, to switch to other regimes “to tide through the crisis situation as an interim arrangement”.

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J&J Stops Global Sales of Scandalous Talc-Based Powder After 130 Years

Voice Of EU




MIA „Rosiya Segodnya“


Tim Korso

Tim Korso



Sputnik International


MIA „Rosiya Segodnya“

Sputnik International


MIA „Rosiya Segodnya“

business, johnson & johnson



Once one of its top products for families, J&J’s talc-based powder has been haunted by claims of causing cancer in recent years even as the company consistently denied what it has called rumors and “misinformation”.

Johnson & Johnson has announced it will be ceasing the sales of its talc-based powder, two years after stopping them in the US and Canada, after keeping it in its product line for 130 years. The company will be replacing the product with a cornstarch-based powder.

“As part of a worldwide portfolio assessment, we have made the commercial decision to transition to an all cornstarch-based baby powder portfolio,” the company’s statement said.

The J&J talc-based powder has been at the epicenter of several lawsuits claiming it caused ovarian cancer due to the presence of a known cancer-causing material – asbestos. However, the company has repeatedly denied these allegations, despite losing $3.5 billion in these lawsuits.

As the firm announced the retirement of the talc-based powder, it once again repeated its long-held position on the controversial product’s safety.

“Our position on the safety of our cosmetic talc remains unchanged. We stand firmly behind the decades of independent scientific analysis by medical experts around the world that confirms talc-based Johnson’s baby powder is safe, does not contain asbestos, and does not cause cancer,” the statement said.

Apart from losing a number of lawsuits, J&J faced tough questions following a 2018 Reuters investigation, which claimed the company knew about the asbestos contamination since at least 1971 but failed to act on it. As the veins of asbestos are often found in talc deposits, the extracted talc used to make the powder can be contaminated with the cancer-causing mineral.

A view of the Supreme Court in Washington, U.S. January 19, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.06.2021

Pay Up: Supreme Court Rejects J&J’s Request to Appeal $2 Bln Verdict in Talc Cancer Case
Despite continuing to maintain its innocence, J&J stopped selling talc-based powder in the US and Canada in 2020, citing the harm done to the sales by the “misinformation” about its safety. However, the company continued to distribute it around the world alongside the cornstarch-based alternative, which will now completely substitute it.

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