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.