The World Today for October 12, 2016

NEED TO KNOW

Cops for Hire

Mexico is taking lawlessness to whole new levels.

Gangs and drug money suffuse the Mexican police, courts and other government institutions to the point where many victims believe they’ll never find justice without help from outside the country.

Citing a recent report by the federal Executive Commission for Attention to Victims, the Associated Press reported that Mexican gang bosses in the Zetas cartel used local police to kill potentially hundreds of people in the border town of Allende in 2011.

In a move designed to intimidate potential informants, the cartel ordered 60 gunmen to descend on the town and kill anyone with the family name Garza. The gunmen encouraged neighbors to loot the Garzas’ homes before bulldozing more than 30 houses. The alleged massacre was revenge and an object lesson for anyone who might consider emulating Luis Garza and Héctor Moreno – two former Zetas who stole from and informed on the cartel, Vice reported.

Yet Mexican investigators didn’t look into the massacre until 2014. They still haven’t reached any conclusions or filed charges. Around 300 people died.

“It’s horrifying because it was all so blatant,” a human rights activist who advised the commission told investigative news website Pro Publica. “This wasn’t a hidden crime. It all happened out in the open, and not one government agency did anything to stop it.”

The massacre brings to mind the Mexican government’s failure to come up with leads on the September 2014 abduction and now-presumed-murder of a group of students from Ayotzinapa traveling in buses.

In April, an international report found that the government had “misplaced, disregarded and fabricated evidence” in the case, raising questions about whether gangsters or law enforcement were responsible, the New York Times opined.

A crossroads in highways leading north to Texas, Allende has a population of about 23,000 people. It’s a perfect pit stop on the south-to-north drug route. The Zetas reportedly pay cops $5,000 a month to turn a blind eye or help out in the gang’s operations, the AP reported.

Violence and the border seem intertwined.

On Tuesday, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear a plea to revive a Mexican family’s civil rights lawsuit against a US Border Patrol agent who was on the Texas side of the border when he fatally shot their 15-year-old daughter on the Mexican side, according to Reuters.

Gang shootouts have sent bullets flying into US territory to harm Americans, too.

What’s more, the violence shows little signs of abating. Corruption, organized crime, drugs, bribery and murder are a robust business.

Growing in power, the relatively new Jalisco New Generation Cartel has already muscled into the territory of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel lord who escaped prison but was then recaptured earlier this year.

Reuters described the cartel’s rise using the same language that might be applied to a popular tech gadget or stock pick: “The speed of its ascent shows how quickly power can shift in Mexico’s multi-billion-dollar drugs trade.”

WANT TO KNOW

Houthi Dunnit

American officials say evidence is mounting that the Iran-backed Houthi rebels fighting Saudi-backed government forces in Yemen were responsible for Sunday’s attack on a US Navy destroyer off the coast of the country.

The rebels appeared to use small skiffs as spotters to help direct a missile attack on the warship, Reuters reported unnamed US officials as saying. They are also investigating whether a radar station under Houthi control “painted” the USS Mason to facilitate a missile strike.

Though neither of the two missiles hit the US vessel and the Houthis have denied any role in the strike, the incident may trigger the first direct attack by US forces on the rebels.

“Anybody who takes action, fires against US Navy ships operating in international waters, does so at their own peril,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporters on Tuesday.

Attack of the Drones

The Islamic State (IS) has a new weapon that should look familiar to US soldiers: A drone.

Kurdish soldiers fighting the jihadists in northern Syria shot down a model-airplane-sized drone they thought the enemy was using for reconnaissance last week, the New York Times reported. But the drone exploded as they were attempting to dismantle it, killing two Kurdish soldiers in what is believed to be the terror group’s first successful use of a drone laden with explosives to kill soldiers on the battlefield.

IS has made at least two similar attempts over the past month, prompting US commanders to warn troops to treat all drones – however small – as possible explosive devices

Checkmate

In what might prove to be a bigger victory than his win over Deep Blue, international chess star and Russian opposition leader Garry Kasparov has checkmated Russian President Vladimir Putin – this time in the European Court of Human Rights.

On Tuesday, the seven judges of the court ruled unanimously that Russia illegally detained Kasparov in 2007, when he was seeking to fly from Moscow to Samara, in western Russia, for a protest march against Putin’s regime, NPR reported.

The judges said the detention amounted to “interference with his right to freedom of assembly.”

Though Kasparov will no doubt have to wait a long time indeed for restitution or an apology, the ruling adds credence to his long campaign against Putin – whom he accused not only of rigging the 2007 election but “raping the democratic system.”

DISCOVERIES

Silky Strong

Silk has been woven into luxurious wares for centuries.

But now scientists have adapted the smooth, naturally spun fabric to more modern purposes – by feeding graphene to silkworms.

Often classified as a “wonder material,” graphene is a one-atom-thin, laboratory-made material hailed for its unsurpassed flexibility, conductivity and strength. This “material of superlatives” is extremely versatile.

“For many years, people have been looking for graphene applications that will make it into mainstream use,” Ravi Silver, a graphene researcher at the University of Surrey, told Newsweek.

And now scientists have discovered a means to facilitating such applications, albeit in an unexpected locale: within the silkworms themselves.

Scientists have naturally enhanced the properties of silk before by introducing additives to the silkworms’ diet, resulting in color changes and increased strength in the grubs’ silken weaves.

But researchers at Tsinghua University in Beijing took the process a step further, spraying the silkworms’ meal of mulberry leaves with an aqueous solution of graphene.

The result was a chimera: A fabric smooth to the touch, but durable and conductive like graphene, meaning the fibers could be used for anything from reinforced textiles to medical implants.

Silky smooth, meet silky strong.

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