“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov
El Salvador is set to eclipse Honduras as the country with the highest homicide rate in the world. By the end of September 2015, there had been around 5000 murders in a country of just over 6 million.
The staggering death toll follows the breakdown of a truce between powerful, rival gangs and the government. El Salvador’s murder rate is now the highest it’s been since the end of the country’s brutal civil war. There is on average one murder an hour.
Police and military are now combatting the gangs head-on and gang members are being charged with a new crime — membership of a terrorist organization.
VICE News correspondent Danny Gold headed to El Salvador to investigate what many are now calling a war between gangs and police.
CHICAGO – In 2006, 18-year-old Terrell Bosley, who played the bass in several church bands, was helping a friend unload his drum set from his car when shots rang out outside of a church on Chicago’s far South Side.
His mother, Pam Bosley, was preparing dinner while her husband was helping their two other sons with their homework when she got the call that her son had been shot.
“We ran to the church,” she said. “Police was everywhere.”
Later that night, Terrell died at a nearby hospital.
“[Terrell] didn’t do anything wrong. He was in college and working a job, doing so much, doing all the right things,” she said. “And at church, a place that’s supposed to be safe.”
This year, Chicago has had nearly 400 homicides, with most of the victims being young and black. After the bullets, their friends and families are left to heal – and to try to move forward.
Sabrina De Sousa is one of nearly two-dozen CIA officers who was prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced by Italian courts in absentia in 2009 for the role she allegedly played in the rendition of a radical cleric named Abu Omar. It was the first and only criminal prosecution that has ever taken place related to the CIA’s rendition program, which involved more than 100 suspected terrorists and the assistance of dozens of European countries.
But De Sousa, a dual US and Portuguese citizen, said she had nothing to do with the cleric’s abduction and has been wrongly accused. For the past decade, she has been on a global quest to clear her name. VICE News met up with De Sousa in Lisbon, Portugal–and other key figures connected to the case–for an exclusive interview about the steps she’s now taking in an effort to hold the CIA accountable for one of the most notorious counterterrorism operations in the history of the agency.
TOKYO — It’s been over a month since Japan’s largest organized crime group, the Yamaguchi-gumi, split into two rival factions, and, ever since, people here have been waiting for something to go bump (or be bumped off) in the night.
But it appears the first victim in the looming gang war is nothing more or less than the gang’s annual Halloween festivities, which had become a yearly event at the Yamaguchi-gumi headquarters in Kobe.
Each October 31, the gangsters famous for their permanent costumes (tattoos, missing digits and the like) invited ordinary citizens, mostly small children in “scary” outfits, to have fun with extortion, demanding Japanese candies and snacks.
In front of the Yamaguchi-gumi headquarters—and yes, all of Japan’s designated mafia groups have well-known headquarters—a sign has been posted in Japanese noting the cancellation of the annual trick-or-treat exchanges:
Every year on October 31st, as per custom, we have held a Halloween [event], but this year, due to various circumstances, the event has been called off. We realize this is causing great regret to those parents and children who looked forward to this, but next year we absolutely will hold the event, so please look forward to it. In great haste, we humbly inform you of this.
The 6th Generation Yamaguchi-gumi headquarters.
The Sankei Shimbun was the first to report these unhappy tidings on October 21, but all through Kobe, certainly, the sad news was reverberating.
It might surprise many in the West that a notorious syndicate which makes its money through blackmail, racketeering, extortion, and other crimes distributed candy to the neighborhood children each year, but the custom fits a pattern.
The Yamaguchi-gumi has been in business since 1915, when it first began as a temporary staffing agency on the docks of Kobe, a port city. The Yamaguchi-gumi has always tried to cultivate good relations with the locals, hosting an annual rice-cake-making event at the start of the year in which the gang distributes food and booze to the locals.
That we are living in an era of major conservative backlash is not news. From the wholesale assault on reproductive rights to the dramatic increase in restrictions on voting to the bizarrely enduring Donald Trump campaign, the evidence everywhere suggests that right-wing America is freaking out and lashing out. They can feel their control over the country, which has a black president and legal gay marriage now, slipping out of their fingers.
The temper tantrum has grown so massive it’s threatening even the Republican party, which is being torn apart by purity tests and fury over even the slightest hint of cooperation with liberals, who are seen as a subversive threat to be stomped out instead of fellow citizens to work through your issues with.
So it’s really not a huge surprise that, with right-wing anger levels so high, a small number are taking it to the next level and setting fire to churches and clinics. Unfortunately, this isn’t really getting the media attention it deserves.
The summer’s church burnings got a smattering of coverage, but less than the debate over the Confederate flag. The fire bombings and arson attacks that have hit four Planned Parenthood clinics since interest renewed in attacking the organization have barely registered in the national media, according to a report by Media Matters. These St. Louis burnings are so frequent and close together that they are getting more national media coverage, but it has barely gone beyond bare bones reporting to dig into the deeper issue of the connection between the rise in right wing radicalism and the rise in domestic terrorism.
Hundreds of illegal hunters of the rhinoceros in South Africa’s Kruger national park have been shot dead by rangers in the past five years, but the temptation of a rich reward to end an impoverished life in Mozambique keeps them coming
The well-heeled tourists filing through the modest airport at Hoedspruit – Afrikaans for Hat Creek – look carefree and expectant. Guides are standing by to transport them to luxurious bush lodges offering spa treatments, campfire dinners and dawn and dusk game drives offering a potential glimpse of Africa’s “big five”.
But something is different from the safaris enjoyed by the privileged generations of the past. At the 36,000-acre Moditlo private game reserve near Kruger national park, for example, the rhinos do not have horns – they have been removed for their own safety. And during night safaris on dirt tracks under the majesty of a star-studded sky visitors are warned not to use torches, lest they be confused with poachers. When guests – usually affluent and white – gaze from air-conditioned bedrooms into the perfect darkness of the bush, few are likely to consider the murderous chase taking place there between poacher, ranger and rhino. For the poachers – usually poor and black – the risks are immense, but so are the rewards.
“When you look at the impoverished communities around us and the unemployment rate in South Africa, you’d have to be naive to think it’s not going to explode,” said Tim Parker, a warden managing Moditlo and Thornybush Nature Reserve, where anti-poaching costs have gone up 500% in the past three years. “Soon there are going to be gun battles. I can see it coming.”
South Africa has more than four-fifths of the world’s rhino population. Poaching is at an unprecedented level, driven by demand in countries such as Vietnam, where horns, used in traditional medicine or as a middle-class delicacy, fetch up to $65,000 (£42,000) a kilo, more expensive than gold. A record 1,215 rhinos were killed last year, almost treble the 448 lost in 2011. As of late August this year, 749 rhinos were known to have been poached – 544 of them in Kruger park, where officials estimate 6,000 well-armed poachers are at large.
But there is another, less reported death toll. Nearly 500 poachers from neighbouring Mozambique alone have been shot dead by rangers in Kruger park over the past five years, it was claimed recently. Joaquim Chissano, Mozambique’s former president, said 82 alleged poachers from the country were killed in the first half of this year, describing them as “destitute, poor people recruited by crime networks who make the real money … Each of these dead Mozambicans means more poverty for his family, because they can no longer count on him to fight for better living conditions,” Chissano noted.