Pic of the day


Click to enlargeBrett Gundlock/Boreal Collective

Drivers stuck in traffic in Mexico City lately have found themselves being buzzed by a fleet of sign-toting drones. “Driving by yourself?” some scolded in Spanish. “This is why you can never see the volcanoes” — a reference to the smog that often hovers over the mega-city and obscures two nearby peaks.

It wasn’t exactly a plea for environmentalism, though — it was an ad for UberPOOL, part of Uber’s big push into markets across Latin America. As Bloomberg points out, Uber already does more business in Mexico City than any other city it operates in, and Brazil is its third-largest market after the U.S. and India. Uber sees Latin American countries as generally easier targets for expansion than either of its top two markets…And that, apparently, involves accosting drivers in gridlock with a swarm of drones.

In the US, someone would already have been busted for shooting at the critters.

Climate change is making Mexico City unbearable and unbreathable


Lovely view of Iztaccihuatl Mountain

MEXICO CITY — On a sweaty May morning in this sprawling mountain capital, residents heard a painfully familiar warning on the radio and TV.

Air pollution was at dangerous levels, environmental authorities said. People were advised to stay indoors as much as possible and avoid exercise. Asthma sufferers should take particular care.

On the city streets, this pollution could be seen in dirty clouds hanging amid grid-locked traffic.

The “environmental pre-contingency” on May 9 was the fourth so far this year, compared to three in all of 2014. The warnings are a reminder of the long uphill battle against dirty air in North America’s largest city — which has been a laboratory for pollution in megacities around the planet.

This rise comes after years in which Mexico City air has been getting cleaner, thanks to concerted campaigns. But while some problems have been resolved, others appear.

One issue is that Mexico is getting steadily hotter, apparently due to global warming. Last year was the hottest in Mexico since records began, with average temperatures of 71.78 degrees Fahrenheit.

Higher temperatures mean that pollutants release faster into the air…

By 2010, when Mexico City hosted a UN climate change conference, it was hailed as a poster child for anti-pollution measures. Lead in the air had dropped by 90 percent over two decades, environmental authorities reported.

Yet despite the giant steps, pollution persists and is exacerbated by new problems, including the rising temperatures…

While cars have gotten cleaner they have also gotten more numerous. There are now 275 cars per 1,000 people in Mexico, according to the World Bank. In the Mexico City urban sprawl with 20 million residents, this would mean about 5.5 million automobiles.

“Air is very democratic,” Jose Agustin Garcia of Mexico’s Center for Atmosphere Science says. “The same air goes into rich and poor neighborhoods alike.”

Of course, scumbags like the Koch Bros and their Mexican equivalents can afford to live anywhere. They can manage their polluted empires from a resort or their favorite palacio in another country altogether.

People are one of the cheapest component of their corporate profits.

New James Bond flick gets “tax breaks” instead of bribes to film in Mexico City

Spectre-clapper-board

Mexican officials have reportedly offered millions in tax incentives for Sony and MGM to shoot the next James Bond installment in Mexico.

A report posted on the American website Tax Analysts, shows emails of Mexico offering up to $20 million in tax incentives for filmmakers to change their script, cast “a known Mexican actress” and shoot Mexico in a positive light to combat the country’s negative image…

The original script included an assassin named Sciarra, who had his sights on the mayor of Mexico City, however, Mexican officials insisted that the villain “cannot be Mexican” and requested his target be changed to an international leader instead.

In exchange for their financial incentives, Mexican officials also reportedly demanded that Stephanie Sigman be given a Bond role, which seems to have been secured with the announcement last week. Sigman will be playing the character of Estrella.

The studio admits Mexico’s changes to the script went beyond what governments typically allow in film deals, however, they apparently allowed Mexico to “make casting decisions, dictate characters’ ethnicities, and even change the occupation of an unnamed character that never appears on-screen or figures into the story outside of the opening scene.”

I’m not certain how lasting the script changes will be in pop culture. The fact remains that most of the news finding its way out of Mexico remains couched in terms of which innocent citizens were killed by drug gangs, which innocent citizens were killed by drug gangs in cahoots with local police – or which drug gangs were killing each other while the police stood by waiting to see who was left alive to pick up the tab for their cooperation in killing innocent citizens.

Darwin Award candidate

A Mexican veterinarian accidentally shot himself dead as he posed for a Facebook selfie with a pistol, police said.

Oscar Otero Aguilar, 21, had reportedly been drinking with pals in Mexico City last weekend when he pointed the loaded gun at his face for the snap…But the 0.45 caliber weapon discharged – and he was hit in the temple by the bullet.

Neighbors heard the gunshot and called cops.

Officers arrived to find him still alive, but they lost a battle to save him – and he was declared dead at the scene soon after…

Abner Campos Vives, with whom Aguilar was drinking, was detained for questioning…Another friend, known only by his nickname “El Paco,” went on the run soon after the incident.

I’d worry about any kind of doctor who couldn’t tell his left hand from his right.

Mexico City claims world record zombie walk – WTF?


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Nearly 10,000 people have paraded in Mexico City dressed as zombies in what organisers claim is the biggest “zombie walk” ever held. Wearing ghoulish make-up and rags splattered with fake blood, the “undead” shambled and groaned through the heart of the capital.

The current Guinness world record is held by Asbury Park in the US, where 4,093 zombies marched in 2010…

The craze for dressing up as the “living dead” has been fuelled by movies, television, video games and literature…

Cultural critics have variously suggested the phenomenon may be linked to economic austerity or a critique of consumerism. They are idiots.

Participants usually say they are doing it for fun.

Correspondents say the craze has particular resonance in Mexico, where the “Day of the Dead” is a national celebration and where brutal killings by drugs gangs dominate the news.

Elsewhere in Latin America, Lima in Peru, Santiago in Chile and Sao Paulo in Brazil have all staged zombie walks this year.

Probably healthier than swallowing live goldfish or trying to see how many people can be crammed into a Fiat 500.

Mexico City considers renewable marriage licenses

The Roman Catholic Church reacted harshly [predictably]… to a bill proposed by Mexico City legislators that would require all couples to sign a prenuptial agreement specifying how to handle child custody and other issues in case of divorce — and estimating how long the marriage is expected to last.

Sponsors of the bill submitted this week in the city council say the proposal aims to cut down on the lengthy, nasty divorce proceedings choking the capital district’s courts, by making potential couples decide about monetary and custody issues by mutual agreement before they get married.

But the bill also says “the duration of the marriage will be bound by the terms that the couple negotiate in the familial agreement, which shall not be less than two years…”

“People can specify terms of 99 years, or ’til death do us part,’ if they think the marriage, or their lives, are going to last that long,” Carlos Torres said.

Catholic leaders don’t see it that way…

“This is a proposal made by people who do not understand the nature of marriage,” Valdemar said. “It is not a commercial contract; it is a contract between two people for a life project, and the creation of a family.”

“This denigrates the concept of the family … and makes it more like a pact between friends,” he said…

Equal friends at that. Interested in running their own lives as they see fit – instead of leaving everything in the hands of a sectarian rulebook from the 14th Century.

We are looking for solutions to problems that are seen every day in family courts … in which there is emotional blackmail, or the children are used as pawns,” Torres said. “This would cut down of the torturous proceedings at the time of a divorce.”

The bill is meant to solve a big problem in the city of 8.9 million people, where divorce proceedings are so costly, painful and time consuming that many people just skip them and start a new family.

The Roman Catholic church has always opposed democracy and the freedom of individuals to order their own lives. The obvious decline of their power and profits speaks volumes of how that opposition has failed.

That the proposed legislation also allows for parents to agree beforehand on what religious education – if any – their children might endure is another challenge to the church’s political power. As it should.

Mexico’s attorney general fires hundreds for corruption


Mexican Attorney General Marisela Morales

Less than four months in office, Mexico’s attorney general has overseen the firing of 140 police officers and investigators and has more than 280 others under investigation.

Attorney General Marisela Morales told reporters this week that 424 personnel were in dismissal proceedings, and a report obtained by CNN confirmed that 140 have already been let go. The shake-up at the attorney general’s office, which plays a pivotal role in the country’s fight against the drug cartels, is the most public show of transparency in recent history.

The last time there was a purge at the agency, known by its Spanish initials PGR, was 2008, when 35 agents belonging to the anti-organized crime unit were fired. Some 600 agents were fired between then and March of this year, but those personnel changes were made quietly.

Eighteen officials were fired because they face criminal charges for things such as organized crime, murder, robbery and extortion, the report said. Another seven were let go because they were convicted of crimes such as kidnapping, murder and extortion…

“These are positive steps that they are taking to clean up the police force,” Andrew Selee, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, told CNN.

The PGR has been notoriously ineffective because of penetration from organized crime, Selee said, and for that reason a question worth asking is if they are firing the right people. Is the agency capable of finding and rooting out the bad apples?

A majority of those already fired belonged to the federal ministerial police — the agency whose officers gather evidence to use in trials. Because of that key role, theirs is a unit ripe for cartels to target with bribes, Selee said…

Nice to see this level of transparency over the firing of officials and bureaucrats. I guess it will help.

I hope it will help. The Mexican people can use all the help they can get.

More than 40 dead in 24 hours of violence in Mexico


El Sabino Gordo bar where 20 were killed

Authorities in the northern Mexican city of Torreon said Saturday that they found 10 “mutilated” bodies inside the back of a truck…

The seven men and three women appear to have been killed several days ago in various locations outside the city and then later brought in, Notimex reported.

The news agency said authorities also had reports of human heads, found throughout Torreon, but it was not immediately clear whether those heads belonged to the bodies in the truck.

Separately, gunmen entered a downtown bar in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey and shot 20 people dead, police told the state-run news agency Saturday.

A preliminary investigation suggests that attack was sparked by a dispute between organized crime groups for control of the El Sabino Gordo nightclub, where drugs are allegedly sold, said Jorge Domene Zambrano, a public safety spokesman.

In a third incident, the bodies of 10 men and a woman were found Friday afternoon on the eastern outskirts of Mexico City, a Valle de Chalco municipal government official said in a statement.

The public security official, Javier Garcia, said the victims — all of whom were in handcuffs and bound with tape — had been shot.

Nationwide, there have been some 35,000 drug-related deaths since President Felipe Calderon began a crackdown on the cartels in December 2006, the Mexican government says.

So, uh, what numbers are meaningful? These deaths are generally characterized as being members of drug gangs – killing each other off. How much of the nation’s population is working for these gangs?

The numbers don’t seem to diminish. The killings don’t seem to slow down, week by week, month by month. I don’t have a personal stake in the slaughter in Mexico except when it slops over into New Mexico – which happens often enough to be accepted as part of the “local” drug scene.

Is Calderon’s war on gangs an effective weapon? If so – when is there to be a qualitative change?