Sales still dropping in Mexico’s 2nd Year taxing soda — ¡Olé!

sugary-death

❝ In the first year of a big soda tax in Mexico, sales of sugary drinks fell. In the second year, they fell again…

The finding represents the best evidence to date of how sizable taxes on sugary drinks, increasingly favored by large American cities, may influence consumer behavior. The results could have consequences for public health. But they also matter for policy makers who hope to use the money raised by such taxes to fund other projects. Philadelphia, San Francisco, Oakland, Calif., and the Illinois county that contains Chicago have recently passed taxes similar in size to the tax in Mexico.

❝ Mexico’s soda tax took effect in 2014, and applied to all beverages that included added sugar, including carbonated soft drinks, fruit drinks and sweetened iced teas. The effort was pushed by public health advocates who argued that liquid sugar was contributing to the country’s high burden of obesity and diabetes.

❝ Studies on the first year of the tax found that sugary beverage consumption fell substantially, with the biggest decreases among low-income Mexicans — the group at highest risk of obesity-related diseases. But industry analysts and anti-tax advocates had argued that the one-year results could just be a blip that would reverse as companies retooled their products, or as consumers adjusted to higher prices for their favorite drinks.

❝ The new study, published online Wednesday in Health Affairs, shows that the results of such a tax may be far more long-lasting. The research, based on shopping data from a large sample of urban Mexican households, showed that the first year’s consumption declines continued during the second year. Over all, sugary drink sales fell by 5.5 percent in 2014 compared with the year before, and by 9.7 percent in 2015 — again compared with 2013…Once again, the largest reductions were among the poorest Mexicans…

The article ends with the All-American requirement for sophistry. Let’s present the obverse understanding as if it bears equal weight. Hogwash. I’ll waste time worrying about the profits of the beverage industry and sugar producers right after I decide to vote for politicians advocating for higher profits for the drugs and pharma corporate sluggos.

Which is never.

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Mexico drafts legislation to respond to Trumpublican xenophobia


Reuters

❝ Miriam Grunstein is an attorney and former advisor to the Mexican Senate on energy and international law. Legislation has been proposed at the Mexican Senate that bans the use of public funds on any project that is “against the country’s interest.” That’s widely taken to mean the wall.

“Just because of, you know, tantrums, we could really waste a golden opportunity of uniting,” Grunstein said.

❝ The proposed Mexican legislation would lead to a review of some of the most fundamental treaties between the two countries, among them the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe. The treaty ceded Texas and California, as well as parts of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming to the U.S.

❝ The bill also states, “in cases where the assets of our fellow citizens or companies are affected by a foreign government, as Donald Trump has threatened, the Mexican government should proportionally expropriate assets and properties of foreigners from that country on our territory.”

Translated that means that should Trump follow through on threats to expand the wall, withdraw U.S. participation in NAFTA or stop remittances, Mexico could target U.S. assets in Mexico. Assets estimated by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative at over $100 billion.

Trump’s blather seems to have drawn a film of ignorance over the brains of many papier-mache journalists. Favorite example? Financial analysts who wonder why housing construction “suddenly” lacks sufficient skilled and/or experienced labor to meet demand.

Reason 1: Greedy contractors who put Mexican immigrant labor to work for cheaper than trained native workers. Driving the latter from that jobs market a couple of decades ago.

Reason 2: The Great Bush Recession killed many of those jobs. Folks went back to Mexico. Harder to return, now – especially since many of those who returned to Mexico now have jobs back home. Why come here to get their chops busted all over again?

100,000 dead, 30,000 missing — Mexico’s war on drugs turns 10 years old

Ten years after Mexico declared a war on drugs, the offensive has left some major drug cartels splintered and many old-line kingpins like Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in jail, but done little to reduce crime or violence in the nation’s roughest regions.

❝ Some say the war has been a crucial, but flawed, effort. Others argue the offensive begun by then-President Felipe Calderon on Dec. 11, 2006, unleashed an unnecessary tragedy with more than 100,000 people dead and about 30,000 missing – a toll comparable to the Central American civil wars of the 1980s.

In some places, homicide rates have lessened. In others, the killings continue unabated. The drawn-out conflict has also had a profound effect on those close to the cross-hairs of suffering: youths inured to extreme violence; adults so fed-up with poor and corrupt policing that they took up arms as vigilantes; and families who banded together in the face of authorities’ inability to find their vanished loved ones…

❝ Mexico’s armed forces have increasingly been pulled into the conflict because police forces are often corrupt or unreliable. That has had its own toll on the troops, who are frequently ambushed and accused of illegally executing detained cartel suspects in some cases.

Defense Secretary Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos noted that the army’s involvement was only supposed to be temporary while policing was reformed.

“Ten years ago it was decided that the police should be rebuilt, and we still haven’t seen that reconstruction,” Cienfuegos said. “This isn’t something that can be solved with bullets. It requires other measures, and there has not been decisive action on budgets to make that happen.”…

❝ “Things are the same as far as crime,” said Hipolito Mora, the founder of one of the first “self-defense” militias. “The government has to do more to combat the corruption in itself. If they don’t do that, nothing is going to work. It is the corruption within the government that creates tolerance for organized crime.”…

Corruption, large and small, flourishes because it continues as part of the culture of the political rulers of Mexico. Public efforts to clean up even local government generally are little more than window dressing. There are exceptions. They are in spite of the national government – not because of aid from the government.

Moving from Globalization 2.0 to 3.0

While seemingly elegant in theory, globalization suffers in practice. That is the lesson of Brexit and of the rise of Donald Trump in the United States. And it also underpins the increasingly virulent anti-China backlash now sweeping the world. Those who worship at the altar of free trade – including me – must come to grips with this glaring disconnect.

Truth be known, there is no rigorous theory of globalization. The best that economists can offer is David Ricardo’s early nineteenth-century framework: if a country simply produces in accordance with its comparative advantage (in terms of resource endowments and workers’ skills), presto, it will gain through increased cross-border trade. Trade liberalization – the elixir of globalization – promises benefits for all…

In the US, Trump’s ascendancy and the political traction gained by Senator Bernie Sanders’s primary campaign reflect many of the same sentiments that led to Brexit. From immigration to trade liberalization, economic pressures on a beleaguered middle class contradict the core promises of globalization…

In short, globalization has lost its political support – unsurprising in a world that bears little resemblance to the one inhabited by Ricardo two centuries ago. Ricardo’s arguments, couched in terms of England’s and Portugal’s comparative advantages in cloth and wine, respectively, hardly seem relevant for today’s hyper-connected, knowledge-based world. The Nobel laureate Paul Samuelson, who led the way in translating Ricardian foundations into modern economics, reached a similar conclusion late in his life, when he pointed out how a disruptive low-wage technology imitator like China could turn the theory of comparative advantage inside out…

Of course, this isn’t the first time that globalization has run into trouble. Globalization 1.0 – the surge in global trade and international capital flows that occurred in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries – met its demise between World War I and the Great Depression. Global trade fell by some 60% from 1929 to 1932, as major economies turned inward and embraced protectionist trade policies…

Similarly, the means of Globalization 2.0 are far more sophisticated than those of its antecedent. The connectivity of Globalization 1.0 occurred via ships and eventually railroads and motor vehicles. Today, these transportation systems are far more advanced – augmented by the Internet and its enhancement of global supply chains. The Internet has also enabled instantaneous cross-border dissemination of knowledge-based services such as software programming, engineering and design, medical screening, and accounting, legal, and consulting work.

The sharpest contrast between the two waves of globalization is in the speed of technology absorption and disruption. New information technologies have been adopted at an unusually rapid rate. It took only five years for 50 million US households to begin surfing the Internet, whereas it took 38 years for a similar number to gain access to radios…

Unfortunately, safety-net programs to help trade-displaced or trade-pressured workers are just as obsolete as theories of comparative advantage…

The design of more enlightened policies must account for the powerful pressures now bearing down on a much broader array of workers. The hyper-speed of Globalization 2.0 suggests the need for quicker triggers and wider coverage for worker retraining, relocation allowances, job-search assistance, wage insurance for older workers, and longer-duration unemployment benefits.

Stephen Roach cautions, “the alternative – whether it is Brexit or America’s new isolationism – is an accident waiting to happen.” Globalization is not only inevitable, the most recent wave is complete. The backwash is populated with opportunist capitalists jumping ship this time for a 10% wage advantage instead of greater – some fleeing China to Mexico for the second time. Replicating the short lurch that followed the passage of NAFTA in the Clinton years.

What comes next in emerging markets, newly-developed and developing economies will be friendly competition and cooperation. That already is a central point of advocacy in China and ASEAN nations. Obama and President Hillary [probably] are stuck with the stereotypical American political solution of playing the blame game to unemployed and underemployed constituents – while Congressional know-nothings continue their death spiral-dance with religious conservatives hoping to retain their seat-of-the-pants veto of any legislation that might aid American workers. We’re faced with the potential of nothing changing in Washington until the elections of 2022 and 2024.

OTOH — If Americans are bright enough to remove bigots-pretending-to-be-conservatives from Congressional power in the November election, there may be an opportunity to implement the sort of safety net Dr. Roach suggests. We’ll see. Part of being both an optimist and cynic is my confidence in science and knowledge aiding our species in solving the problems we create. Just not in my lifetime.

Mexico’s human rights agency says police murdered 22 at ranch

Federal police killed at least 22 people on a ranch last year, then moved bodies and planted guns to corroborate the official account that the deaths happened in a gunbattle, Mexico’s human rights commission said Thursday.

One police officer was killed in the confrontation in the western state of Michoacan on May 22, 2015. The government has said the dead were drug cartel suspects who were hiding out on the ranch in Tanhuato, near the border with Jalisco state.

The National Human Rights Commission said there were also two cases of torture and four more deaths caused by excessive force. It said it could not establish satisfactorily the circumstances of 15 others who were shot to death…

Mexico’s national security commissioner, Renato Sales, who oversees the federal police, denied the accusations, holding his own news conference before the rights commission had finished its own…

“The use of weapons was necessary and proportional against the real and imminent and unlawful aggression,” Sales said. “That is to say, in our minds they acted in legitimate defense.”

Thirteen of the 22 people the commission said were killed had been shot in the back…

Law and order in our southern neighbor. A police state is a police state – even when they’re killing criminal suspects – without a trial.

The perfect example of Mexico’s corruption

Here is the roadmap. Here is the method. Here is the tested formula for carrying out the looting. Veracruz is the model for what happens in the rest of Mexico, state after state, governor after governor. The looting carried out weekly, monthly, every six-year term. Javier Duarte is the archetype of the greed of many who govern a rich country peopled by millions of poor. Javier Duarte is the stinking example that shows how an administration can become a plunderer. An omnipotent governor becomes an unpunished looter. He is accused, criticized, exposed and still untouched.

He remains immune from the magnificent report published in the Animal Politico website with Mexicans Against Corruption, detailing what he did, how he did it, when he did it. The corruption is described step by step. The government of Veracruz delivered US$35 million to a network of 21 companies allegedly to buy blankets, school supplies and shoes. These supplies did not reached their destination. The money was allegedly paid to “partners” who are residents of shantytowns who signed [incorporation] documents in exchange for promises of support. The scheme was created with made-up tenders for bids and direct contract awards, with corrupt officials and manipulated people, with a governor who promoted corruption and benefited from it. It was a network of shell companies and apocryphal partners, thanks to which Duarte and his people pocketed millions from the public treasury. It’s the Veracruz model.

It’s the Mexican model. RTFA for details, examples, a tale that goes back through decades of official corruption.

The Pope will be pissed when he learn hustlers are selling tickets to Ciudad Juarez mass


Click to enlargeStreet vendors during Pope’s visit to Philippines

The local Mexican governments in Chiapas and Chihuahua have been accused of wrongfully profiting from Pope Francis’ visit by selling tickets to the masses he will be holding in both locations for as much as US$200…

“The Nunciature of Chihuahua handed over thousands of tickets to the local government in Ciudad Juarez and the state government of Chihuahua to pay for the altar for the pope’s mass which cost 20 million pesos (US$1.1 million),” economist, journalist and writer Marco Torres told teleSUR…

The Mexican Catholic Church’s office in charge of the pope’s visit has refused to respond to messages and phone calls by teleSUR asking about the sale of tickets and for the list of people who will be occupying the front rows at the Basilica…

According to the Ciudad Juarez municipal government spokesman, Carlos Castaño, there will be 20,000 seats for about 200,000 people who are expected to attend the mass on Feb. 17, the last day of the pope’s visit to Mexico which is to begin Feb. 12…

Chihuahuan journalist Alejandro Fernandez provided teleSUR with an advert announcing the sale of tickets to the pope’s event in Tuxtla, Chiapas.

teleSUR called Farmacias del Ahorro in Tuxtla and a person who identified herself as Tatiana Vazquez said that initially they were told they would be selling tickets to Pope Francis’ event in that city, but that they were later told the sale of passes would be handled by other companies.

Vazquez was unable to say where the tickets were available for purchase, but according to their advert, tickets were to cost over US$200 in the Diamond Zone. The ad also announces VIP tickets for about US$150, and US$110 for tickets to a general area…

Recently, however, the Catholic church and Mexican officials denounced that there were scammers who were selling fake tickets to see the pope and warned people against purchasing them.

Sounds more and more like a rock concert every day. The quest for scarce goods.

Marijuana legalization in the US making Mexican drug gangs poorer

We’re still not sure of the full impact of marijuana legalization, in terms of pot use and abuse, in the states that have legalized. But a report from Deborah Bonello for the Los Angeles Times shows one way that legalization for recreational and medical purposes is working:

The loosening of marijuana laws across much of the United States has increased competition from growers north of the border, apparently enough to drive down prices paid to Mexican farmers. Small-scale growers here in the state of Sinaloa, one of the country’s biggest production areas, said that over the last four years the amount they receive per kilogram has fallen from $100 to $30.

The price decline appears to have led to reduced marijuana production in Mexico and a drop in trafficking to the U.S., according to officials on both sides of the border and available data.

As Bonello reports, the drop in price — and competition from higher-quality US-made marijuana — is hitting drug cartels, too. So now they have to look to other opportunities, or look for ways to deal in high-quality cannabis, to make up for lost profits, or just accept the hit in their finances.

This was a predictable outcome of legalization, but still a big deal and welcome news. One of the major arguments for legal pot is that it will weaken drug cartels, cutting off a major source of revenue and inhibiting their ability to carry out violent acts — from mass murders to beheadings to extortion — around the world. And cannabis used to make up a significant chunk of cartels’ drug export revenue: as much as 20 to 30 percent, according to previous estimates…

❝Will this be enough to completely eliminate drug cartels? Certainly not. These groups deal in far more than pot, including extortion and other drugs like cocaine and heroin.

Still, it will hurt. As the numbers above suggest, marijuana used to be a big source of drug cartels’ revenue, and that’s slowly but surely going away…But it’s a potentially huge win for Mexico and other Latin American countries.

Which is exactly what was predicted by the example of other nations more enlightened than Congress and the average flavor of American politicians. This is what anyone who examines the results of prohibition – and the end of prohibition – around the modern world would expect.

The rest is silence – and cowardice.

Customs coppers save us all from smuggled tamales


Click to enlarge

Customs officials announced Wednesday that they seized 450 pork tamales smuggled from Mexico to Los Angeles in luggage earlier in the month.

The traveler, who was not named, admitted having food on a declaration form but denied it was pork products when questioned, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Inspectors then found hundreds of tamales wrapped in plastic bags.

“Although tamales are a popular holiday tradition, foreign meat products can carry serious animal diseases from countries affected by outbreaks of Avian Influenza, Mad Cow and Swine Fever,” said Anne Maricich, acting director of field operations for Customs.

Uh-huh. What’s the first country you think of when you hear about avian flu, mad cow disease and swine fever? I think most times when I’ve blogged about an outbreak of these – it’s been here in the GOUSA.