Wednesday Oct 22nd, 2014
She Tweeted Against the Mexican Cartels. They Tweeted Her Murder.
No newspaper dares to publish the truth about the drug lords in Tamaulipas. Those who break the silence on Twitter and Facebook are marked for death.
By Jason McGahan [THE DAILY BEAST]
MEXICO CITY—She was a crusading Twitter journalist in a bastion of organized crime who chose a photograph of Catwoman as her online avatar and christened herself Felina. Like a comic-book avenger, her alter ego defied the forces of evil in her real-life Gotham of Reynosa, a border city in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas located a short drive from McAllen, Texas. Tamaulipas is notorious as a state caught in the iron grip of organized crime. Extortion, kidnappings, shootouts, arson, bodies excavated from arid pits, all of this happens in Tamaulipas, practically on a daily basis, but hardly any of it gets reported because of a media blackout the cartels decreed four years ago that is as strictly enforced as martial law after a coup.
Two rival drug cartels in Tamaulipas, the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas, have final say over what gets printed or broadcast in the local media. By necessity the people of the state increasingly have turned to social media to share information about organized crime and its infiltration of the government. They are referred to as citizen journalists and have received international attention for their innovative use of sites like Facebook and Twitter to defy the imposition of the blackout.
Felina was an administrator for Valor por Tamaulipas (which means Courage for Tamaulipas), the most popular citizen news hub in the state, with more than 100,000 followers on Twitter and over half a million on Facebook. A sampling of the site’s content varies from the sensational to the specific. There are photos of young teenagers holding military-grade firepower with captions or comments that identify them as members of organized crime. There are posters of missing persons and news alerts about violence that are timely and specific: “At 10am there were isolated gunshots heard coming from Unidad Obrera”; “Since 12:25a.m. Explosions and machine gun fire at Cañada/Fuentes, and pickup trucks passed at high speed on 20th Street”; “In Balcones sector 2 white Ford pickup with 3 armed Men on Everest Street and Seventh.” Soldiers at the Mexican army base in Reynosa also post news alerts to the site about violent confrontations between the army and the narcos.
Felina posted under the handle @Miut3 and was best known for her posts of danger alerts that pinpointed the location of violent incidents in real time. People sent her bits of information as a way for them to resist the hegemony of the cartels. She also wrote posts pleading with victims of crime not to remain silent, to file a police report even if it meant having to brave reprisals. She would post emergency telephone numbers as a way to try to help.
Understandably the narcos wanted to know the real identities of Felina and hercompañeros at Valor por Tamaulipas. A year and a half ago, a cartel had hundreds of leaflets distributed throughout Tamaulipas offering a reward of 600,000 pesos (about $48,000 at the time) for anyone who would divulge the names of the site’s administrators. At around the same time there were videos posted online of executions of individuals alleged to be contributors to the site. The founder shut it down and left the state, hoping that time away would diminish the danger. But when Valor por Tamaulipaswent back online the situation only intensified: The number of followers to the site quadrupled and the threats resumed.
On Oct. 8, Valor por Tamaulipas received the following tweet: “We’re coming very close to many of you watch out felina.” The sender’s account was a shell but the message had the feel of authenticity. It was one in a series of posts that arrived on the same day. Each had an exasperated tone, demanding to know why the supposed generosity of the narcos toward people of low income went unreported, and why the focus on the Gulf Cartel but nothing on the crimes of soldiers and police? The concluding message defamed the site’s administrators as liars and threatened war on each of them by name, or at least by handle: “This is for you bandolera, felina, valor and all the rest who make things up.”
The founder of Valor por Tamaulipas, whose identity remains unpublished, said the need for secrecy had become greater than ever before. But he said Felina could not be convinced to alter her behavior to account for the increased danger. In a post on the site the founder described her as someone “who moved heaven and earth” for anyone in need. Her activity as a citizen journalist had fed into a larger vision of building a supportive community in Tamaulipas. She raised money; she organized blood donations, and helped people find affordable housing and free medical care. She listened but did not heed warnings from her peers that by raising her public profile in the community she risked being discovered. The founder removed Felina as an administrator after one last argument about helping someone in need of orthopedic shoes.
Felina nevertheless continued to post a high volume of news alerts to the site at the hashtag #ReynosaFollow. Until early in the morning of Thursday, Oct. 16, when this message from Felina @Miut3 was posted:
# reynosafollow FRIENDS AND FAMILY, MY REAL NAME IS MARÍA DEL ROSARIO FUENTES RUBIO. I AM A PHYSICIAN. TODAY MY LIFE HAS COME TO AN END.
The next message, sent moments later, is supposedly her warning friends and family not to make the same mistake she did, using social media to report on organized crime, because “there is no point.” The message after that is a warning to her followers and to three prominent citizen journalists that the cartels “are closer to us than you think.” The last message sent from Felina’s account is not written but rather consists of two photos: in the first, a middle-aged woman keeps her hands folded in front of her and looks directly at the camera; in the second the same woman is lying on a dirty floor with a coup de grace bullet wound in the face. The founder of Valor por Tamaulipas confirmed that the photos are of Felina. Twitter has since shut down her account.
How was Felina’s identity discovered? She may have been kidnapped, at first, for another reason completely. Staff at the Tierra Santa Clinic in Reynosa witnessed armed men riding in two pickup trucks pull into the parking lot and kidnap Del Rosario at between the hours of 10 and 11 a.m. after she had completed her shift last week. She was kidnapped along with another physician and a nurse.
The motive, according to a report in Zócalo Magazine, was revenge for the death of a 4-year old boy whose teenage parents had brought him to the clinic for treatment that morning. According to the report, Del Rosario administered a dose of Diazepam to treat the boy for a seizure and complications ensued, leading her to have him transferred to a hospital, and he died en route. But when the kidnappers went through the doctor’s cellphone, according to the Zócalo story, they saw her Twitter account, realized she was Felina, and executed her. With her cellphone, they were able to terrorize her followers with the photos and messages.
The founder of Valor por Tamaulipasdisputes this version of events and has characterized it as disinformation. Meanwhile, fellow citizen journalists who knew her personally have had to change their cellphone numbers and delete old correspondence with her for fear the cartel will use it to track them down.
The state prosecutor’s office in Tamaulipas confirmed that a Dr. María del Rosario Fuentes Rubio was reported kidnapped on the day before the photos and messages were posted to Felina’s Twitter account. Officially the case remains a kidnapping because, according to the coroner’s office, the body of the woman in the photographs has yet to be recovered.
The founder of Valor por Tamaulipasposted a statement on the site expressing grief at the loss of “an angel who gave everything, her life, her future, her safety and peace, she gave it all for the good people of our state.”
“Today Miut3 ceased to report,” the founder said. “But what the criminals don’t know is that Miut3 is part of our soul and she will never permit us to surrender to organized crime. She will never surrender, and how disappointed she would feel knowing that a single one of all those whom she helped were to succumb.”
UK man faked coma for 2 years to avoid court
by JILL LAWLESS [AP via Yahoo]
LONDON (AP) — He might have got away with it if it hadn't been for his supermarket loyalty card.
A British fraudster who pretended to be quadriplegic and sometimes comatose for two years to avoid prosecution has been convicted after police caught him on camera driving and strolling around supermarkets.
Alan Knight of Swansea, Wales, stole more than 40,000 pounds ($64,000) from the bank account of an elderly neighbor with Alzheimer's disease, prosecutors said.
When police began investigating, the 47-year-old Knight claimed to be quadriplegic and so sick he sometimes fell into a coma. He checked himself into a hospital to avoid court appearances, saying he was having seizures.
The South Wales Evening Post reported Wednesday that the suspect's wife, Helen Knight, had written to the newspaper saying her husband had obtained a doctor's letter certifying he was "quadriplegic and in a comatose condition, bed-bound at home" after a neck injury.
"We've been through absolute hell and we're still going through hell," she wrote, according to the newspaper.
Knight's deceit was uncovered when police tracked the use of his supermarket card, and produced surveillance camera footage of him walking and driving.
Warned that the trial would go ahead whether he was present or not, Knight arrived at Swansea Crown Court Tuesday in a wheelchair and neck brace. Faced with the video evidence, he pleaded guilty to 19 counts of forgery, fraud and theft.
Judge Paul Thomas said Knight was "a very accomplished and determined actor ... and the conditions he claims to be suffering from are simply nonexistent."
"His illnesses coincide with impending court appearances. I do not believe the symptoms are genuine," the judge was quoted as saying by the South Wales Evening Post.
Knight is due to be sentenced Nov. 7.
Couple die within 28 hours of each other after being married for 73 years
An American couple have died within 28 hours of each other after being married for 73 years.
By LIZZIE DEARDEN, [THE INDEPENDENT]
An American couple have died within 28 hours of each other after being married for 73 years. When Helen Auer, 94, died in her chair last week, her husband gave her a final kiss goodbye and whispered to her: “Call me home”, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
He died the next day aged 100, leaving their nine surviving children, 16 grandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren and 1 great-great-grandchild.
The couple, from Cincinnati, were married in 1941 and their funeral is being held at the same church today.
Their love story started in the midst of the Second World War, when Joe left with the US Army while Helen was pregnant with their second child, Judy.
For the three years he was away from home, he carried a photo his wife managed to send of her with their two children at all times.
He managed to keep it safe even through the Normandy landings at Utah Beach on D-Day and it remained, battered and smudged, in his wallet until the day he died.
After his return to the US, he worked as an engraver and Helen worked in the cafeteria of a local school.
Mary Jo Reiners, one of their daughters who retired early to help care for them, told the Cincinnati Enquirer her parents “lived a blessed life”.
“[My mother] loved her family and her friends. She loved being busy with her family,” she said.
“Dad thought of his children as a gift from God, that was a responsibility for him.”
Their son, Jerry Auer, described them as humble people who “wanted northing and got everything in return”.
“If somebody were thinking of getting married, they could do a lot worse than to look at my parents,” he added.
In August, another American couple died within hours of each other after the same day after being married for almost 63 years.
Doctors have identified a condition dubbed "broken heart syndrome" where the stress of grief can temporarily cause symptoms similar to a heart attack.