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With Journalists Targeted In Mexico's Drug War, Social Networks Step In



MEXICO CITY – Ciudad Victoria, a city in one of the most dangerous states in Mexico today, Tamaulipas, was recently flooded with brochures offering money for information on the people behind a project called "Valor por Tamaulipas" (Courage for Tamaulipas).

The project is indeed courageous, aiming to diffuse information regarding violence in the state, through social networks, like Facebook and Twitter. Valor por Tamaulipas offers practical information about what streets or neighborhoods to steer clear, the place where people are being mugged, reports of extortion or information about missing people. The project has into a veritable local media outlet that reflects the situation of insecurity in the state.

La Crónica reports that the brochures that appeared throughout Ciudad Victoria read: “600,000 pesos for the people who will bring us information regarding the owners of the website Valor por Tamaulipas or in that case, any of their family members.”

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“Social networks without a doubt have become an information apparatus, while journalism is cornered and silenced” said Darío Ramírez, director for “México y Centroamérica de Artículo 19”, an organization that defends freedom of expression in Mexico and Central America.

Mexico is the second most dangerous country for journalists according to Reporters Without Borders. Since 2000, 93 journalists have been murdered in Mexico, 76 since 2006, when ex-president Felipe Calderón declared the “frontal fight against drugs,” the Press Emblem Campaign recently reported.

In July 2012, El Mañana, Nuevo Laredo’s Daily announced that they would stop publishing information regarding violent acts produced by criminal gangs after their headquarters was attacked with grenades for the second time in the year.

El Excelsior reports that faced with such a scenario, the anonymity granted by the Internet provides an alternative for people eager to inform and be informed about violence in their cities. Dozens of websites, blogs and social media profiles have sprung up to cover many events that traditional media may find difficult to report.

Unfortunately, the identity of the people behind these new media outlets is never 100% safe either. In late 2011, four people were murdered in the city of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas for denouncing organized crime actions through a blog. Two of them were hung from a bridge and another two decapitated with messages that read: “for typing too much”.

Given the situation, Valor por Tamaulipas, responded “I will not play hero, I play the hopeful believer that is clinging to the hope that one day this will change.”

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In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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