Guacamole “Toast-Munching Hipsters” Can Relax: Gene Edited Avocados Would Thrive Under Global Warming

(p. B1) Last month, a team of scientists in the United States and Mexico announced that it had mapped the DNA sequences of several types of avocados, including the popular Hass variety. That research is likely to become the foundation for breeding techniques and genetic modifications designed to produce avocados that can resist disease or survive in drier conditions.

Whether they realize it or not, this could be big news for toast-munching hipsters. Already, rising temperatures are disrupting the avocado supply chain, causing price increases across the United States that have also been exacerbated by trade uncertainty.

“Because of climate change, temperature might not be the same, humidity might not be the same, the soil might be different, new insects will come and diseases will come,” said Luis Herrera-Estrella, a plant genomics professor at Texas Tech University who led the avocado project. “We need to be prepared to contend with all these inevitable challenges.”

. . .

(p. B5) “There are avocados that grow in very hot places with little water, and there are avocados that grow more in rainy places,” Dr. Herrera-Estrella said. “If we can identify genes that confer heat tolerance and drought tolerance, then we can engineer the avocados for the future.”

For the full story, see:

David Yaffe-Bellany. “Genes Ripe for Editing.” The New York Times (Saturday, September 28, 2019): B1 & B5.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was last updated on Sept. 30 [sic], 2019, and has the title “Avocado Toast, Meet Gene Editing.”)

In 1596 Luis de Carvajal Was Burned at the Stake for “Observing Jewish Practices”

(p. C1) It is perhaps the most significant artifact documenting the arrival of Jews in the New World: a small, tattered 16th-century manuscript written in an almost microscopic hand by Luis de Carvajal the Younger, the man whose life and pain it chronicled.
Until 1932, the 180-page booklet by de Carvajal, a secret Jew who was burned at the stake by the Inquisition in Spain’s colony of Mexico, resided in that country’s National Archives.
. . .
(p. C6) De Carvajal was a Jew who posed as Catholic in New Spain, now Mexico, during a period when the Inquisition ruthlessly persecuted heretics and false converts with deportation, imprisonment, torture and grisly public executions.
. . .
In 1596, after having been found guilty again of observing Jewish practices, he was burned at the stake. He was 30.

For the full story, see:
JOSEPH BERGER. “A Jewish Treasure in Fine Print.” The New York Times (Weds., JAN. 4, 2017): C1 & C6.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date JAN. 1, 2017, and has the title “A Secret Jew, the New World, a Lost Book: Mystery Solved.”)

Carvajal’s writings were translated into English and published in:
Carvajal, Luis de. The Enlightened; the Writings of Luis De Carvajal, El Mozo. Translated by Seymour B. Liebman. Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami Press, 1967.

Annual Benefits of NAFTA: Canada $50 Billion, United States $127 Billion, Mexico $170 Billion

(p. 249) Gary Clyde Hufbauer, Cathleen Cimino, and Tyler Moran evaluate “NAFTA at 20: Misleading Charges and Positive Achievements.” . . . “Ample econometric evidence documents the substantial payoff from expanded two-way trade in goods and services. Through multiple channels, benefits flow both from larger exports and larger imports. . . . The (p. 250) channels include more efficient use of resources through the workings of comparative advantage, higher average productivity of surviving firms through ‘sifting and sorting,’ and greater variety of industrial inputs and household goods. . . . As a rough rule of thumb, for advanced nations, like Canada and the United States, an agreement that promotes an additional $1 billion of two-way trade increases GDP by $200 million. For an emerging country, like Mexico, the payoff ratio is higher: An additional $1 billion of two-way trade probably increases GDP by $500 million. Based on these rules of thumb, the United States is $127 billion richer each year thanks to ‘extra’ trade growth, Canada is $50 billion richer, and Mexico is $170 billion richer. For the United States, with a population of 320 million, the pure economic payoff is almost $400 per person.” Peterson Institute for International Economics, May 2014, Number PB14-13. http://www.piie.com/publications/pb/pb14-13.pdf.

Source:
Taylor, Timothy. “Recommendations for Further Reading.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 28, no. 3 (Summer 2014): 249-56.
(Note: first ellipsis added; other ellipses in original.)

Zambrano Was Cement Process Innovator

(p. A22) Beginning in 1992, Mr. Zambrano bought up far-flung producers to create the third-largest cement company in the world. He remade each new acquisition, introducing high technology and logistical efficiencies that made Cemex the subject of business school case studies at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
From his own computer Mr. Zambrano could monitor any Cemex operation in more than 50 countries, said Rossana Fuentes-Berain, a Mexican journalist who wrote a 2007 book about Mr. Zambrano, “Grey Gold.”
What distinguished him was “the technology, the management and the hunger to prove that you can be as good as anybody in the market,” Ms. Fuentes-Berain said.

For the full obituary, see:
ELISABETH MALKIN. “Lorenzo Zambrano, 70, Leader of Cemex, Dies.” The New York Times (Thurs., May 15, 2014): A22.
(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date MAY 13, 2014, and has the title “Lorenzo H. Zambrano, Head of Cement Giant Cemex, Dies at 70.”)

The biography mentioned above, as of this posting, is only available in Spanish:
Fuentes-Berain, Rossana. Oro Gris: Zambrano, La Gesta de Cemex y la Globalizacion en Mexico. Aguilar, 2007.

Mexicans Abandon Government Subsidized Housing Developments

(p. A5) ZUMPANGO, Mexico — In an enormous housing development on the edge of this scrappy commuter town, Lorena Serrano’s 11-foot-wide shoe box of a home is flanked by abandoned houses. The neighborhood has two schools, a few bodegas and a small community center that offers zumba classes.
There is very little else.
“There are no jobs, no cinema, no cantina,” said Ms. Serrano of the 8,000-home development, called La Trinidad. Her husband’s commute to the capital, Mexico City, about 35 miles south, takes two hours each way by bus and consumes a quarter of his salary, she said. “We’re in the middle of nowhere.”
Ms. Serrano, 39, is among more than five million Mexicans who, over the past decade, bought houses through a government program that made mortgages available to low-income buyers.
The program, initially hailed by some experts as the answer to Mexico’s chronic housing deficit, fueled a frenzy of construction and helped inspire similar efforts in Latin America and beyond, including Brazil’s “My House, My Life,” which aims to build at least 3 million homes by this year.
But the concrete sprawl around Mexico City and other big towns grew faster than demand. Commutes proved unbearable, and residents abandoned their homes.

For the full story, see:
VICTORIA BURNETT. “ZUMPANGO JOURNAL; They Built It. People Came. Now They Go.” The New York Times (Tues., SEPT. 9, 2014): A5.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date SEPT. 8, 2014.)

Mexican Universal Health Care: “There Are No Doctors, No Medicine, No Hospital Beds”

(p. 6) A decade ago, half of all Mexicans had no health insurance at all. Then the country’s Congress passed a bill to ensure health care for every Mexican without access to it. The goal was explicit: universal coverage.

By September, the government expects to have enrolled about 51 million people in the insurance plan it created six years ago — effectively reaching the target, at least on paper.
The big question, critics contend, is whether all those people actually get the health care the government has promised.
. . .
The money goes from the federal government to state governments, depending on how many people each state enrolls. From there, it is up to state governments to spend the money properly so that patients get the promised care.
That, critics say, is the plan’s biggest weakness. State governments have every incentive to register large numbers, but they do not face any accountability for how they spend the money.
“You have people signed up on paper, but there are no doctors, no medicine, no hospital beds,” said Miguel Pulido, the executive director of Fundar, a Mexican watchdog group that has studied the poor southern states of Guerrero and Chiapas.
Mr. Chertorivski acknowledges that getting some states to do their work properly is a problem. “You can’t do a hostile takeover,” he said.
The result is that how Mexicans are treated is very much a function of where they live. Lucila Rivera Díaz, 36, comes from one of the poorest regions in Guerrero. She said doctors there told her to take her mother, who they suspected had liver cancer, for tests in the neighboring state of Morelos.

For the full story, see:
ELISABETH MALKIN. “Mexico Struggles to Realize the Promise of Universal Health Care.” The New York Times, First Section (Sun., January 30, 2011): 6.
(Note: the online version of the story is dated January 29, 2011 and has the title “Mexico’s Universal Health Care Is Work in Progress.”)
(Note: ellipsis added.)

How Bacardi Fought Predatory Taxation in Pre-Castro Cuba

BacardiAndTheLongFightForCubaBK2011-02-05.jpg

Source of book image: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/21/business/21shelf.html?_r=1

(p. W6) When it comes to chronicling the Bacardi rum dynasty, the best model may be “Buddenbrooks” or some other novelistic attempt to capture the experience of a family business trying to survive across generations. Tom Gjelten’s “Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba” — though fact-driven history and far more upbeat that Thomas Mann’s tale of dynastic decline — feels very much in this literary tradition.
. . .
Perhaps the most fascinating figure in the Bacardi tale is José Bosch, called Pepín, a young businessman who also married into the Bacardi family and was an early opponent of Gerardo Machado’s corrupt rule in the 1920s. Machado made Bacardi, one of Cuba’s most successful companies, a target of predatory taxation, but a proposed rum tax was more than the distiller could stand. Bacardi opened new facilities in Mexico and threatened to move its operations there if the tax was enacted. The Cuban legislature dropped the idea — and Bacardi soon found itself with a Mexican distillery it didn’t need, trying to sell a liquor to tequila- quaffing public that didn’t want it.
Bosch was dispatched in 1933 to shut down the Mexican facility, but instead he saved it. “Noticing that Mexicans drank a lot of Coca-Cola,” Mr. Gjelten writes, Bosch urged the company to promote Bacardi-and-Coke cocktails. Observing the rich tradition of Mexican handicrafts, he also suggested that the locals would be more inclined to drink rum if it was sold in the sort of wicker-covered jugs often used for it in Cuba. Sales in 1934 doubled.

For the full review, see:
ALVARO VARGAS LLOSA. “The Family Spirit.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., September 12, 2008): W6.
(Note: ellipsis added.)

The book being reviewed, is:
Gjelten, Tom. Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause. New York: Viking Penguin, 2008.

Some Hispanics Support Arizona Immigration Law

StoletoSpousesDisagreeArizonaLaw2010-11-14.jpg“Shayne Sotelo opposes Arizona’s new immigration law, while her husband, Efrain, supports it.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. 28) PHOENIX — Arizona’s immigration law, which politicians have debated in the Legislature, lawyers have sparred over in the courtroom and advocates have shouted about on the street, has found its way up a driveway in central Phoenix, through the front door and right onto the Sotelo family’s kitchen table.
. . .
That such a divisive social issue would divide some families is not surprising. But what makes the Sotelos stand out is that they are both Latinos, he a Mexican immigrant who was born in the northern state of Chihuahua and she a descendant of Spanish immigrants who grew up in Colorado.
While polls show that a vast majority of Latinos nationwide side with Mrs. Sotelo in opposing Arizona’s law, that opposition is not uniform. “All Latinos are not opposed to this law — that’s too simplistic,” said Cecilia Menjivar, an Arizona State University sociologist. There are other Mr. Sotelos out there, including an Arizona state legislator, Representative Steve B. Montenegro, a Republican who immigrated from El Salvador and became the only Latino lawmaker to vote in favor of the bill.
. . .
[Mr. Sotelo] thinks his adopted state has been unfairly maligned since the law passed. “I’m a Hispanic, and I don’t have any issues walking the streets,” he said. “They make it seem like the police or sheriff are out there checking everyone’s papers, and that’s not so.”

For the full story, see:
MARC LACEY. “One Family’s Debate Shows Arizona Law Divides Latinos, Too.” The New York Times, First Section (Sun., October 31, 2010): 28.
(Note: ellipses added; bracketed name added to replace “He.”)
(Note: the online version of the article is dated October 30, 2010 and has the title “Arizona Immigration Law Divides Latinos, Too.”)

Legalizing Drugs in U.S. Would Reduce Mexican Crime Wave

FoxVicente2010-08-29.jpg

Vicente Fox. Source of photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. 14) Is there anything to be done about the drug wars that are terrorizing Mexicans today and that have reportedly caused 25,000 deaths in the past three years?
That has to be dealt with together by the United States and Mexico. It’s a joint problem and a joint challenge. The U.S. provides the markets and guns that come back to Mexico and allow the cartels to be active.

You think the United States is causing Mexico’s crime wave?
Absolutely, yes. The cartel gangs are nourished through the drug consumption in the United States. That’s why my position is that we should move as fast as possible into legalizing drug consumption.

For the full interview, see:

DEBORAH SOLOMON. “QUESTIONS FOR VICENTE FOX; Border Rap.” The New York Times, Magazine Section (Sun., July 25, 2010): 14.

(Note: bold in original, to indicate questions by Deborah Solomon.)
(Note: the online version of the interview is dated July 23, 2010.)

.

U.S. Jobs Lost Due to Law Restricting Mexican Truck Drivers

CarbonlessPaperMachine2010-05-20.jpg“Carbonless paper comes off a coating machine at Appleton Papers in March. Mexican tariffs have hit sales.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A5) APPLETON, Wis.–Congress’s vote last year to keep Mexican truck drivers south of the border was good news for DuWayne Marshall.

Mr. Marshall, 49 years old, owns a truck and hauls loads all over the U.S. from his home in Wisconsin. “Why should I have to compete against Third World drivers within my own borders?” Mr. Marshall asked during a break on a run to San Diego. “By closing down the borders, we are saving American jobs.”
Elizabeth Villagomez, 38, isn’t so sure. A single mother of two teens, she has worked at a paper plant in this community near Green Bay for 15 years. After the Mexican government retaliated against the trucking ban by slapping $2 billion in tariffs on U.S. paper, produce and other goods, orders plunged and managers began slashing shifts and overtime for the unionized work force.
“The company has done all it can to cut costs,” Ms. Villagomez said. “I’m at the bottom of the list if they have layoffs. It’s kind of scary, not knowing if you’re going to have a job.”
. . .
At Appleton Papers Inc., the fight over who can drive a truck across a border 1,600 miles away has translated into falling wages and rising anxiety.
Rick Bahr, head of the United Steelworkers union local that represents more than 500 employees at the Appleton plant, said six shifts have already been cut, cutting down on overtime.
“The battle ends up union versus union, truckers versus the paper workers,” Mr. Bahr said. The national steelworkers’ union has been supporting the Teamsters on the issue of Mexican trucks in the U.S.
Nearly half the company’s revenue, about $420 million last year, comes from carbonless paper sales. Its largest foreign customer is Mexico. After Mexico put a 10% tariff on carbonless paper, revenue from Mexico fell to $37 million in 2009 from $46 million in 2008.
Now, more Mexican customers say they will look for alternative suppliers to avoid having to bear part of the tariff costs. Just last month a major customer told Appleton it was going to get its carbonless paper from a European producer.
Even before the tariffs were imposed, the company had seen business hit by the economic slowdown and had cut its work force in 2008 and stopped other benefits, such as reimbursing tuition and matching workers’ contributions to their 401K retirement plans. Company officials said it was hard to quantify what part of the business downturn could be blamed directly on the tariffs, but they noted that Appleton sold 18% fewer tons of carbonless paper in the U.S. last year, compared with 2008. The number of tons sold to Mexican customers was down 24%.
Inside the plant, the machine that coats 4,000-pound rolls of paper to make it carbonless was idle one recent afternoon. Once run 24 hours a day, it is now used only half that time.
Kevin Bunnow, 50, a 33-year veteran of the plant, said the reduction in shifts had meant a wage cut of several thousand dollars last year.
“When elephants fight, the grass loses,” he said. “It didn’t take me long to realize, we’re the grass.”

For the full story, see:
GARY FIELDS. “Trade Dispute Divides Workers; It’s ‘Union vs. Union’ as Ban on Mexican Trucks Cheers Drivers, Triggers Cut in Hours at Paper Plant.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., April 6, 2010): A5.
(Note: ellipsis added.)

Calderón’s Decision Is Bigger than Reagan’s Firing of Air Traffic Controllers

ElectriciansProtestMexico2009-10-29.jpg“The Mexican Union of Electricians protests the government’s decision to liquidate the state-owned electricity company in Mexico City.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A19) Eight days ago, just after midnight on a Sunday morning, Mexican President Felipe Calderón instructed federal police to take over the operations of the state-owned electricity monopoly, Luz y Fuerza del Centro (LyFC), which serves Mexico City and parts of surrounding states. The company’s assets will stay in the hands of the government but will now be run by the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), a national state-owned utility and the major supplier of LyFC’s energy.

The net effect of the move is to dethrone 42,000 members of the Mexican Union of Electricians, which had won benefits over the decades to make Big Three auto workers in Detroit blush. When the liquidation is complete, it is expected that the company will employ about 8,000. To appreciate the magnitude of Mr. Calderón’s decision, think of Ronald Reagan’s firing of the air traffic controllers–only bigger. As one internationally renowned Mexican economist remarked on Sunday, it is “the most important act of government in 20 years.”

For the full commentary, see:
MARY ANASTASIA O’GRADY. “Mexico’s Calderón Takes on Big Labor; Its state-owned electricity company was bleeding the national treasury dry.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., October 19, 2009): A19.