Quote of the day: Putting the Gasolinazo in context


The New Year saw a dramatic increase in gasoline prices south of the border, with the government ordering gasoline prices raised to about four dollars, or what an average Mexican minimum wage worker earns in a day.

The result, as he have reported extensively, has been a wave of massive protests, looting, and violence.

But the protests, dubbed El Gasolinazo, have their roots in a deeper agenda art work in the government of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, the most unpopular incumbent in recent history.

From Luis Rangel and Eva María, writing in Jacobin:

What’s happening right now in México is a result of an accumulation of offenses by the regime led by Peña Nieto. For one, Ayotzinapa (one of the thousands of cases of disappeared people, as is the case of Raquel Gutiérrez, the disappeared daughter of our comrade Guillermo Gutiérrez), as well as massacres such as that of Tlatlaya or Nochixtlán, and the seven femicides per day reported in our country that, for the most part, go with impunity.

Politically, Peña Nieto’s government has killed the constitution of 1917 (which came out of the revolution) and the Mexican state’s “social pact” that was created in the twentieth century.

Additionally, with the new energy reform, oil, until now under state control, has been newly sold to the transnational companies expropriated under Cárdenas. If we add to this the surreal cases of corruption, the mining concessions (at least 20 percent of the national territory), the invitation to Trump to come to México when he was just a presidential candidate (!), among other things, what we are seeing is not only the little credibility this government has, but also the deep crisis that the regime is facing as an “oligarchic-neoliberal” state which substituted the “Bonapartist sui generis” of the twentieth century.

Thus, “el Gasolinazo” isn’t a last drop in the bucket, but part of a climate of constant crisis and mass uprisings in México.

And massive protests continue throughout Mexico

The latest from teleSUR English:

Thousands of protesters from various organizations gathered Sunday in Mexico City’s main square to reject the increase in gasoline prices, which came into effect at the beginning of 2017, while similar protests took place in other parts of the country.

Shouting “Peña Out,” in reference to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and demanding “social justice,” thousands gathered at the Plaza de la Constitucion to denounce a double-digit spike in fuel prices known as the “gasolinazo” which is also set to raise the cost of basic food staples like tortillas by up to 20 percent.

Other groups of protesters gathered in front of the National Palace as well as other government buildings in the city to protest against the measure. No official figures were available but EFE news agency reported that at least 7,500 people were at the main square.

Another large mobilization took place in Guadalajara, the capital of the western state of Jalisco, where some 10,000 people from local unions, nongovernmental organizations and civil society groups walked the main streets of the city in rejection of the government’s economic policies.

Protests also took place in Villahermosa, the capital of Tabasco state, Morelos state capital Cuernavaca and Sinaloa’s capital, Culiacan. The large nationwide demonstrations united around the demand of calling for the resignation of the president and rolling back hikes in fuel prices.

Peña Nieto’s government hiked gasoline prices by 20 percent on the first day of 2017, insisting that the move corresponds to international prices and is not a result of his neoliberal reforms.

Want to live longer? Just eat those hot peppers


As a child growing up in a small Kansas farm town, our died consisted in large part of something we came to call holy food, because mom boiled the hell out of all the vegetables, reducing everything from cauliflower to green beans to something of the consistency of mush.

As for spices, almost none was used, save for small sprinkles of salt and black pepper.

But then we discovered Mexican food, comestibles with real flavor, and a love of piquant spices ensued, the more eye-watering the better, leading our mother to conclude humorously that we must’ve been switched at birth.

But now a new study [open access] confirms that our love of the hot pepper has some real real value [emphasis added]:

In this large prospective study, we observed an inverse relationship between hot red chili pepper consumption and all-cause mortality, after adjusting for potential confounders. Adults who consumed hot red chili peppers had a 13% lower hazard of death, compared to those who did not.

More from the University of Vermont:

Like spicy food? If so, you might live longer, say researchers at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, who found that consumption of hot red chili peppers is associated with a 13 percent reduction in total mortality – primarily in deaths due to heart disease or stroke – in a large prospective study.

The study was published recently in PLoS ONE.

Going back for centuries, peppers and spices have been thought to be beneficial in the treatment of diseases, but only one other study – conducted in China and published in 2015 – has previously examined chili pepper consumption and its association with mortality. This new study corroborates the earlier study’s findings.

Using National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) III data collected from more than 16,000 Americans who were followed for up to 23 years, medical student Mustafa Chopan ’17 and Henry and Carleen Tufo Professor of Medicine Benjamin Littenberg, M.D., examined the baseline characteristics of the participants according to hot red chili pepper consumption. They found that consumers of hot red chili peppers tended to be “younger, male, white, Mexican-American, married, and to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and consume more vegetables and meats . . .  had lower HDL-cholesterol, lower income, and less education,” in comparison to participants who did not consume red chili peppers. They examined data from a median follow-up of 18.9 years and observed the number of deaths and then analyzed specific causes of death.

“Although the mechanism by which peppers could delay mortality is far from certain, Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels, which are primary receptors for pungent agents such as capsaicin (the principal component in chili peppers), may in part be responsible for the observed relationship,” say the study authors. There are some possible explanations for red chili peppers’ health benefits, state Chopan and Littenberg in the study. Among them are the fact that capsaicin is believed to play a role in cellular and molecular mechanisms that prevent obesity and modulate coronary blood flow, and also possesses antimicrobial properties that “may indirectly affect the host by altering the gut microbiota.”

“Because our study adds to the generalizability of previous findings, chili pepper – or even spicy food – consumption may become a dietary recommendation and/or fuel further research in the form of clinical trials,” says Chopan.

Mr. Fish: Under New Management


From Clowncrack, his blog of abducent alienation:

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And Mr.Fish was also present at Saturday’s march in Washington, both in person and graphically:

Mr. Fish: Death March

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He writes:

Amazing and beautiful day in D.C. marching among a million signs condemning racism, misogyny, systemic thuggery, sith politics and celebrating pussy power, human dignity and dissent against moneyed douche bags and their apologists.  Here’s a shot of a Mr. Fish cartoon sighted at the protest, made large and hoisted proudly by some amazing and smart hell-raising ladies from Santa Fe.  Dig it.

And it’s not the first time Mr. Fish’s work has appeared at massive protests.

Back in February 2011 we posted this image of a Mr. Fish cartoon combining iconic images of Che Guevara and King Tut, held aloft by a protester in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in the days leading up to the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak:

BLOG 7 February Fish in Cairo

Want to run over a protester? Try North Dakota


New legislation proposed in north Dakota because of those pipeline protests would, among other things, bar the wearing of masks in public [what about Halloween and costume parties?] and, uh, make if legal for folks to “accidentally” run over or injure protesters with their cars.

An ominous report from RT America:

Proposed protest laws in North Dakota would let drivers run them over

Program notes:

Protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline are shocked over new measures introduced by GOP lawmakers which would criminalize road protests, restrict what protesters can wear, and allow the federal government to sue to cover enforcement costs. RT America’s Alexey Yaroshevsky reports.

Headlines of the day: It’s sorta like gilding a turd


From the Washington Post:

Challenged on falsehoods, adviser says Trump team has ‘alternative facts’

  • President Trump’s aides are under fire after his press secretary made easily disproved claims about the size of the inauguration crowd. Chief counselor Kellyanne Conway sparred on “Meet the Press” with Chuck Todd who said, “Alternative facts are not facts.”

And some reaction to all that infantile umbrage from the New York Times:

Even Top Aides Are Troubled by Trump’s Rocky First Weekend

  • President Trump spent his first two days in office lashing out about crowd sizes and rewriting the history of his dealings with intelligence agencies.
  • His lack of focus, at a time when a new president can maximize his leverage, frustrated some senior members of his circle who had urged him to move on.

And from the Independent:

And as for that crowd size, where Donald Trump claimed the largest crowd ever to witness a presidential inauguration and said he personally “saw” between one and one-and-a-half million people standing before him when he spoke. a side by-side comparison of crows at the first Obama inauguration [right] and Saturday’s swearing-in [left] tell a vastly different tale. From the Independent:

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And there was an even bigger turnout for another event in Washington that dwarfed the Trump throngette, reported the New York Times:

The women’s march in Washington was roughly three times the size of the audience at President Trump’s inauguration, crowd counting experts said Saturday.

Marcel Altenburg and Keith Still, crowd scientists at Manchester Metropolitan University in Britain, analyzed photographs and video taken of the National Mall and vicinity and estimated that there were about 160,000 people in those areas in the hour leading up to Mr. Trump’s speech Friday.

They estimated that at least 470,000 people were at the women’s march in Washington in the areas on and near the mall at about 2 p.m. Saturday.

UPDATE: And, of course, Trump tweeted his own response for the anti-inaugural protests [and we feature one response as well]:

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And things get even more petty. . .

UPDATE II: From CNN:

After the National Park Service retweeted messages that negatively compared the crowd sizes at Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration to Donald Trump’s inauguration Friday, representatives from the new administration asked the Interior Department’s digital team to temporarily stop using Twitter — a decision the agency now claims was out of a concern the account was hacked.

The National Park Service Twitter account retweeted this observation from New York Times reporter Binyamin Appelbaum on Friday: “Compare the crowds: 2009 inauguration at left, 2017 inauguration at right.” The tweet contained images from both events showing an apparent difference in crowd size. The retweet has since been deleted.

After the retweet began to get attention, a career staffer at the Interior Department instructed employees that the “new administration has said that the department and all bureau are not supposed to tweet this weekend and wait for guidance until Monday.”

The message continued, “Please make sure that any scheduled tweets are no longer scheduled,” and referred all questions to another career staffer at the department.

On Saturday, the National Park Service called Friday’s retweets “mistaken.”

UPDATE III: We just spotted this from the editorial cartoonist of the Los Angeles Times:

David Horsey: Trump loathing unifies the diverse

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Chart of the day: The online partisan news divide


While television continued to dominate as the primary news source for voters in Campaign 2016, online news is playing an increasing role as the major source of news for voters, as just as the televisual medicascape has become sharply polarized, so too with its online counterpart.

From the Pew Research Center:

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Image of the day: The inauguration’s billionaires’ row


From the Intercept, a dramatic look at some of the billionaires greeting Donald Trump on the platform as he walked to the podium.

Intriguingly, the one allowed closest access to Trump is fellow hotel/casino mogul and reactionary back of Israeli revanchist claims Sheldon Adelson. Another billionaire hotel mogul standing nearby is Steve Wynn, like Adelson a Las Vegas-based plutocrat:

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