Category Archives: Community

Protesters win Mexican gas price hike delay


Following privatization of large parts of the state-owned national oil company, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto gave his people a New Year’s present — a twenty percent hike in the price of gasoline.

First, some background.

Big Oil is still smarting over the 18 March 1938 decision of Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas to nationalize foreign oil company holdings in the midst of a sometimes violent strike by Mexicans employed by U.S. and Anglo-Dutch oil companies.

The result was the creation of Petróleos Mexicanos, better known as Pemex.

In recent decades, as the neoliberal ideology metastasized, aging infrastructure and politically backed corruption took their toll, as new corporate extraction technologies and aging oil fields caught Pemex in a double bind.

Neoliberalism dictated the solution: Privatize.

So in 2014 Peña won congressional backing to sell off the rights to all new oil fields, leaving Pemex with the aging existing fields and those rapidly obsolescing pipelines and refineries.

Stuck with the increasingly costly side of the deal, Peña ordered the price hike.

The gasolinazo [gasoline punch], which now meant a tank of gas cost more than a minimum wage worker’s daily pay, sent Mexicans pouring into the streets, blocking off roads, barricading the U.S. border, and engaging in violent, sometimes lethal, confrontations with police and the military.

And now their actions have borne fruit.

From teleSUR English:

The Mexican government announced late Friday that it would postpone a second scheduled hike in gas prices, known as the ‘gasolinazo’, in response to the massive protests which have taken place since the first price hike at the start of January.

The Secretariat of Finance and Public credit declared that for the next two weeks the maximum prices for both regular gasoline and diesel fuel will remain the same since prices here hiked upwards of 20 percent on Jan. 1 2017.

The announcement came after protests continued to rock Mexico this week over the massive spike in gas prices which has crippled much of Mexico’s economy and led to massive social upheaval.

Since the Jan. 1 ending of fuel subsidies which led to the price hike, more than 500 people have been arrested throughout the country during protests which saw tens of thousands of people taking the streets, hundreds of gas stations closed, and a reported 250 stores looted.

Protests continued Friday and more were expected for Saturday in anticipation of the hike.

“The austerity measures already announced by the Government of the Republic, as well as the recent evolution of the exchange rate and the international price of gasoline, have created the conditions to keep the maximum prices unchanged during the indicated period,” the secretariat said in a statement release on Friday.

Critics have accused Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto and other government officials of ransacking Mexico’s state oil company, Pemex, which has undergone a gradual privatization process in recent years that has broken up the longstanding monopoly.

Lack of health insurance can shatter communities


Lack of health insurance isn’t just bad for the health of individuals and familieies  without it. It can also increase tensions within communities and shatter social cohesion.

From sociologist Tara McKay, Assistant Professor of of Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt University, writing in The Conversation, an open source academic written for lay readers.

All links in the article are, unfortunately, to paywalled academic journals:

Dismantling the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without a replacement plan is projected to increase the nation’s uninsured population by 18 million in the first year after repeal and by 32 million in 2026, according to recent estimates by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). As lawmakers and the American public consider repealing portions of the ACA, it is an important time to reflect on what limiting access to health insurance might mean for Americans and their communities. If a repeal occurs, not only individuals, but also their communities, could be affected.

Whether we like it or not, health insurance affects our lives in significant ways. Sometimes these effects are very direct, determining whether we can afford to see a doctor when we need to. At other times, health insurance affects us in less direct ways by shaping whether providers hire that extra nurse or relocate to a wealthier area of town.

One of the things we’ve paid a lot less attention to is whether the effects of health insurance go beyond things like health and costs to shape other aspects of our social lives. My new study with Stefan Timmermans of UCLA addresses this gap by examining the consequences of uninsurance for cohesion and trust in Los Angeles communities during the 2000s.

Using longitudinal data from the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey (L.A. FANS), we find that people living in communities with lower levels of insurance are less likely to feel connected to and trust their neighbors, even after controlling for several other neighborhood and individual factors that might affect people’s perceptions of and engagement with their communities.

We also test whether broader access to health insurance through a policy like the ACA could strengthen communities over time. This analysis demonstrates that people’s perceptions of their neighbors and communities improve as more people gain access to insurance in their community.

Consequences beyond health care

How does this work?

When large groups of people don’t have health insurance, this places unique financial and organizational strains on individuals, providers and health care markets. Research demonstrates that a lack of access to health insurance negatively affects health, health care access and quality, utilization of preventative services and out-of-pocket costs for the uninsured.

These effects also frequently spill over to the insured, negatively affecting the health and out-of-pocket costs for people living or receiving care alongside large groups of uninsured. Such spillovers come about as providers try to lower their exposure to a large uninsured population by reducing, dropping or redistributing staff and services that are disproportionately used by the uninsured, such as emergency care.

These provider strategies also go on to affect access to health care, quality of care and trust in health care providers for everyone living in a community, not just the uninsured.

Given the particular pressures that uninsurance places on individuals, providers and health care markets, it’s not surprising that we find the consequences of uninsurance go beyond health and health care.

We specifically measured the consequences of living in a community with high levels of uninsurance on residents’ reports of social cohesion, or their feelings of trust, mutual obligation and reciprocity toward their neighbors. Moving from a community where almost everyone has health insurance to one where more than half are uninsured results in a 34 percent decrease in residents’ perceptions of social cohesion in their community, we found.

We tested many possible explanations for this decrease, including differences in the composition of these communities over time, but this result is persistent. There is a social cost for communities that carry a larger burden of uninsured. This 34 percent difference in social cohesion is a substantial difference that has important consequences for other individual and community outcomes pertaining to health, political engagement and more.

New tensions created in communities

There are two primary ways that a lack of health insurance might affect communities.

First, in battles over state and local budgets, attempts to cover the uninsured through the redistribution of new or existing funds may run into political barriers or be forced to compete with other public services such as education and law enforcement. These battles can create competing interests and goals within a community that contribute to the breakdown of social cohesiveness, trust and reciprocity among community members over time.

Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: Slouching toward Bethlehem


Two headlines form the London Daily Mail, starting with this:

More than 2.5 MILLION people across the U.S. march against President Trump with millions more showing solidarity across the world

  • More than 2.5million people across the U.S. took to the streets for the Women’s March against Trump during his first full day in office with millions more around the globe demonstrating
  • One million of those alone gathered in the new president’s backyard in Washington DC on Saturday
  • The Women’s March on Washington is expected to be largest inauguration-related protest in US history
  • More people are believed to be on the National Mall for the DC march than came for Trump’s inauguration
  • In total there are 600 sister marches throughout the country and across the world

And then this, starring the Material Girl:

Secret Service WILL investigate Madonna after singer says she wants to BLOW UP the White House in expletive-filled rant at women’s march

  • The Secret Service has allegedly said it will open an investigation into Madonna after her DC speech
  • The pop icon said she’d thought a lot about ‘blowing up the White House’
  • An estimated one million people participated in the Women’s March on Washington in DC on Saturday 
  • There were also 600 sister marches throughout the country and across the world
  • Pink p***yhats – knitted beanies with cat ears – became the accessory of the march in reference to Trump’s quote ‘grab her by the p***y’ 
  • America Ferrera, Scarlett Johnasson, Michael Moore and Alicia Keys also spoke at the DC event 
  • Their speeches were a call of action to the crowd, asking them to run for office, fight for reproductive rights
  • However, Ashley Judd and Madonna raised eyebrows with their controversial contributions 
  • Judd read a poem saying Trump has ‘wet dreams  infused with his own genes’

Headline of the day: They’re voting with their feet


From the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Huge turnout for women’s march dwarfs Trump inauguration crowd

  • Hundreds of thousands of people streamed into the nation’s capital Saturday to attend a massive march in support of women’s rights and civil rights, the largest of dozens of marches in the United States and around the world that signaled the rocky road ahead for President Donald Trump a day after his inauguration.
  • Washington’s public transportation system nearly ground to a halt as heavy crowds massed toward the Women’s March on Washington on the National Mall, the largest inauguration-related march in U.S. history.
  • Throngs joined marches and rallies in Boston, New York City, Chicago, St. Louis, Denver and dozens of other U.S. cities, and women’s rallies also unfolded in global capitals like London, Paris, Sydney, Ottawa and Nairobi. Estimates of the worldwide turnout topped 2.5 million people.

Peña plunges, crime rises, woes, and a win


A summary of events south of the border. . .

Peña plunges in the polls

The digits are so low he’d envy Trump’s numbers.

From teleSUR English:

Only 12 percent of Mexicans approve of the performance of President Enrique Peña Nieto, a new poll by newspaper Reforma found Wednesday, the lowest approval rating for a Mexican president since the paper began polling in 1995. At the beginning of his term in December 2012, Peña Nieto had a 61 percent approval rating.

His approval ratings hit a record low this month following the economic crisis and accusations of corruption, human rights violations and plagiarism. Most recently, his decision to raise gas prices by 20 percent has caused deadly riots and looting across the country.

The poll also shows 27 percent of voters favor the opposition leftist Morena party of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in next year’s presidential election, compared with 24 percent for the conservative National Action Party and only 17 percent for Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party.

The discontent with the ruling party also comes with the president’s decision to ignore public opinion claims regarding issues like the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students and the mounting human rights violations during his administration.

Peña Nieto and his political allies have been plagued by corruption allegations throughout his tenure while Mexico has endured escalating rates of violence, drug trafficking and forced disappearances.

More murders, this time in Cancun

Cartel violence is claiming bodies in a favorite venue for young U.S. tourists.

From El País:

Two shootouts in two days this week that left nine people dead and at least 15 people injured have shattered the calm of Cancún, threatening the beach resort’s position as the jewel in the crown of Mexico’s tourism industry.

On Monday, a man opened fire in the Blue Parrot nightclub in nearby Playa del Carmen, which was hosting the BPM electronic music festival. Five people died, among them a Canadian, US national and an Italian, and 15 were wounded in the attack, footage of which was posted on social networks.

The following day, armed men attacked the State Attorney General’s office in Cancún, killing a policeman. Four of the attackers were gunned down and five others arrested.

Security analyst Alejandro Hope says that the incidents were a spillover from mounting tension between criminal gangs fighting for control of the drugs trade, extortion and other illegal activities in the area.

“Things have been getting worse for several months; last summer there were attacks on massage parlors and brothels, but this has made the news because the shootout took place at an international event and there were foreign victims, while the attack on the State Attorney’s office is a direct challenge to authority,” he says.

TrumpOnomics™ worries in Mexico

And it’s not the cost of the wall that’s the biggest concern.

It’s jobs.

From teleSUR English:

Concerns about the policies to be pursued by the incoming Trump administration have caused a freeze on new investment in maquiladoras on the Mexican side of the border, where thousands of workers in that industry face an uncertain future.

Case in point is Ciudad Juarez, a city across from El Paso, Texas, where the first of the maquiladoras — plants where goods are assembled for export — was installed in 1968 and the maquila industry accounts for more than 60 percent of the local economy.

Trump, who takes office Friday, has said he will impose tariffs of up to 35 percent on U.S. companies who move operations to Mexico with the idea of selling their products back to the U.S. market.

Amid pressure by Trump, Ford made a surprise announcement early this year that it would cancel plans for a US$1.6 billion plant in Mexico and instead invest that money in Michigan.

That would mark an abrupt shift away from the current climate of virtually tariff-free U.S.-Mexico trade for qualifying goods under the North American Free Trade Agreement, which the president-elect says must be renegotiated.

Mass movement halts water privatization

Delightful!

And exemplary.

From teleSUR English:

A privatizing water law in the Mexican state of Baja California was repealed Tuesday following mass demonstrations against further privatization.

The state’s Governor Francisco Vega issued the decree Tuesday but would not answer press questions, only stating that the decision will benefit the people of Baja California.

The head of Infrastructure and Urban Development Edmundo Guevara, who was the main target of protests for proposing to privatize potable water services, was also in attendance.

Meanwhile, protesters are blocking state facilities in the state capital to demand the resignation of the local president and the deputies who voted in favor of the water law.

They also demanded the state eliminate the gas tax and immediately pay salaries and benefits kept from state employees.

Chart of the Day: European celebratory isolation


blog-drinks

From Eurostat, which reports:

13.0% of the population aged 16 or over living in the European Union (EU) reported in 2014 not being able to get together with friends/family for a drink or meal at least once a month due to lack of resources, while 17.8% could not afford to regularly participate in a leisure activity.

Working age people (aged 25 to 64) were slightly more affected. The shares in this age group stood at 13.9% and 19.6% respectively, while they were 11.0% and 16.3% for young people (aged 16 to 24) and 11.2% and 13.5% for the elderly (aged 65 or over).

Around one third of the population in Hungary (36.5%), Romania (35.7%) and Bulgaria (30.0%) said they could not afford to get together with friends/family for a drink/meal at least once a month. High shares were also observed in Greece (20.7%), Malta (19.2%), Ireland (18.4%) and Lithuania (17.4%). The elderly in Romania are particularly affected: in the age group over 65, the share there reaches 43.0%. In Hungary, the share is higher among the young (40.0%).

At the opposite end the scale, the share was below 1% in all age groups in Sweden. Less than 5% of the population feel unable to get together with friends/family for a drink/meal at least once a month also in Finland (1.5%), Denmark (3.2%), the Netherlands (3.3%), the Czech Republic (3.4%) and Luxembourg (4.1%).

Army says it won’t evict Dakota pipeline protesters


Some good news, for the moment for protesters attempting to blockade the Dakota Access Pipeline [previously].

From Deutsche Welle:

The US Army Corps of Engineers said Sunday it has “no plans for forcible removal” of protesters who have been camping in North Dakota to protest the pipeline. The Corps had notified tribal leaders Friday that all federal lands north of the Cannonball River would be closed to public access December 5 out of “safety concerns.” The move sparked fears of a violent confrontation with law enforcement officials as they attempted to evict thousands of activists from the Oceti Sakowin camp erected in April.

Protesters and local law enforcement have regularly clashed over efforts by activists to disrupt final construction of the 1,172-mile (1,885-kilometer) pipeline that would move crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois.

But in a statement the Army Corps’ district commander in Omaha, Nebraska clarified that federal agencies aren’t planning to forcibly evict protesters.  “I am very concerned for the safety and well-being of all citizens at these encampments on Corps-managed federal land, and we want to make sure people are in a safe place for the winter,” Colonel John Henderson said.  “We fully support the rights of all Americans to exercise free speech and peacefully assemble, and we ask that they do it in a way that does not also endanger themselves or others, or infringe on others’ rights.”

The Standing Rock Sioux have challenged the project in federal court, saying the pipeline’s more than 200 water crossings, including one less than a mile upstream of the reservation, would imperil drinking water for more than 8,000 tribal members and millions downstream. Activist organizers told a news conference on Saturday at the main protest site where about 5,000 people are camped that they had no intention of moving. There are smaller camps on land not subject to the planned restrictions, including an area south of the Cannonball River where the Corps said it was establishing a so-called “free-speech zone” by authorities.