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Geopolitics

Mexico's "Most Powerful Woman" Arrested For Stealing Million From Teachers' Union

EL UNIVERSAL, MILENIO (Mexico)

Worldcrunch

TOLUCA - Forbes magazine named her the “most powerful woman in Mexico” in 2012, but now Elba Esther Gordillo, 68, is under arrest for embezzling more than $156 million dollars from the country's main teachers union.

Esther Gordillo, former head of Mexico's long-ruling PRI party and longtime teachers union chief, was arrested late Tuesday, a day before the government submitted major educational reforms aimed at limiting her power. She is accused of running up a million-dollar tab at Neiman Marcus, and using embezzled funds to pay for plastic surgery.

Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam stated: “We are looking at a case in which the funds of education workers have been illegally misused for the benefit of several people, among them, Elba Esther Gordillo.”

She was officially detained with criminal charges of illegal operations of “illicit origin”, which amount to 2.6 billion pesos (around $125 million), and cannot be released under bail.

Esther Gordillo is accused of having used some of the funds to pay for cosmetic surgeries, two residences in California, trips on private jets, shopping in expensive luxury stores and art galleries, with the help of corrupt collaborators who helped “triangulate” the resources.

El Universal reports that the “teacher” as they call her, declared 1.1 million pesos (around $86,000) in revenue from 2009 to 2012, while, in reality, she spent around 80 million pesos (around $6 million). The Attorney General declared that between March 2009 and January 2012, there were money transfers to Neiman Marcus totaling $2.1 million.

President Enrique Peña Nieto has pushed forward the reforms that seek to change a system dominated by Esther Gordillo as direct and indirect President of the Teachers Labor Union (SNTE) since 1989, in which it was widely known that teaching positions could be sold or inherited.

Esther Gordillo was also Secretary General of the PRI party from 2002 to 2005, and served in both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies.

Milenio reports, that she was arrested yesterday around 7:00 pm in the airport of Toluca and spent the night in the women’s correctional center of Santa Martha Acatitla.

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Society

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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