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Good Friday quake tested region's readiness for the big one

           By Erik Vance / Scientific American

Last week’s 7.2-magnitude Good Friday earthquake in Mexico City sent people scurrying out into the streets as chandeliers and other objects spun wildly in houses. 

Mexico City’s earthquakes are unique. Unlike other shaky cities, such as San Francisco or Tokyo, Mexico City is nowhere near a major fault. Still, Mexico’s unusual rock and soil allow its residents to experience potentially powerful shaking. And while this has led to catastrophic events, it also provides unique opportunities to study earthquakes and prepare for the future.

By all reasonable expectations, the force of such distant earthquakes should peter out long before they hit the city. But Mexico City—which in Aztec times was actually a small island in the middle of a sprawling lake—is mostly landfill and loose sediment. Such sediment amplifies tiny tremors the same way a cup amplifies the sound of a voice traveling along a string.

Mexico's energy reforms: Putting flesh on the skeleton

The Economist

The laws fleshing out Mexico's constitutional reforms last year are grinding slowly and messily through Congress. 

The last and most important one, on energy reform, is likely to be sent to Congress next week — requiring probably two extraordinary sessions of Congress to approve in May. The content of the legislation will be a measure of how committed the government is to ending the 75-year-old oil monopoly of Pemex.

n an interview this week, Lourdes Melgar, the deputy-minister for oil and gas, said there would be "no surprises.” 

Let's hope that means no disappointments. So far, watching tortuous Congressional wrangling over other bits of secondary legislation, such as telecommunications, has been as enticing as watching sausages being made.

The biggest question is how much the government will seek to safeguard Pemex, the national champion, when for the first time it faces private competition.

After protests, Mexico steps back from telecom, internet limits

By Juan Montes

Wall Street Journal

A Senate panel in Mexico proposed late Tuesday modifications to key aspects of a telecom bill presented by President Enrique Peña Nieto, after some opposition leaders and Internet activists argued that the proposal gives disproportionate powers to the government to control TV content and Internet access.

Several groups of Internet users and activists took to social networks in recent days to protest against Peña Nieto and his proposal. On Monday, the hashtag "EPNvsInternet" was a world-wide trending topic, cited more than 400,000 times and reached more than 58 million Twitter users, according to an application that tracks trending topics around the world.

Civil organizations that defend freedom of expression, such as Internet para Todos and Artículo 19, and popular Internet users in Mexico such as Sopitas, who has 575,000 Twitter followers, have voiced objections to the bill. Several hundred protesters demonstrated Tuesday in front of the Senate building.

"The president's bill is very ambiguous and discretionary. That opens the door to political persecution, something that has been very present in Mexico's history," said Francisco Alanis, also known as Sopitas. "We want the bill to limit the power of the government and be much more explicit regarding the rights of Internet users."


The government denies the telecom bill would violate the privacy of Internet users. In a recent interview, Deputy Communications Minister José Ignacio Peralta said it was necessary for the government to have some powers for national security purposes and to prevent cybercrime.

After protest, Mexico steps back from telecom, internet limits

By Mark Stevenson

Associated Press

Mexico's governing party appeared to step away on Wednesday from a proposal that would authorize officials to block Internet and telecom signals, pulling back a day after anti-censorship protests that ended in clashes in Mexico City.

Sen. Emilio Gamboa, leader of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party in the Senate, said proposed communications legislation would be changed to avoid a distracting debate over issues that he said were never central to the proposal.

A draft of the bill that his party supports in the Senate has provisions permitting authorities to "temporarily block, inhibit or annul telecommunications signals at events and places deemed critical for the public safety."

Gamboa promised such clauses would be deleted. At present, authorities block cellphone signals in some sensitive areas, like prisons, but the proposed bill appeared to vastly widen that power.

"Any other additional power ... like the blocking of signals for national or public safety will be excluded from the reform," Gamboa said at a news conference.

Gamboa said the bill's rather broad language requiring telecom providers to provide data on users would be limited to measures already in effect to permit authorities to locate a user and obtain telephone records for criminal investigations in cases like kidnappings.


The bill's Internet-blocking provisions sparked a march by hundreds of protesters through downtown Mexico City on Tuesday.

U.S. rules against Mexico and Turkey in steel rebar dispute

By Hope Yen

Associated Press

President Barack Obama's administration on Monday sided with American steel producers in a politically charged international trade dispute, ruling that imported steel reinforcing bar from Mexico and Turkey unfairly undercuts U.S. prices.

The preliminary decision by the U.S. Department of Commerce means companies in Mexico and Turkey will be subject to immediate duties. 

Within a week, the U.S. government will stop distribution at the nation's borders of the imported steel reinforcing bar, which is known as steel rebar and is used to reinforce concrete, until a cash bond or deposit is posted in the amount of the newly imposed duties. U.S. Customs and Border Protection may impose retroactive duties for up to 90 days before the ruling due to the seriousness of the violations, Commerce said.

The amount of duties ranges from 10 percent to 66 percent for Mexican companies. For Turkish companies, the duties were roughly 2 percent.

Steel producers in Turkey and Mexico have denied they are violating trade laws. Companies in Mexico also have urged the Department of Commerce to avoid what they consider to be unnecessary trade disputes with Mexico, arguing American steel companies control the vast majority of U.S. market share.


Final rulings in the cases will be issued this summer.

Debate over food labeling in Mexico gets bitter over sugar

           Associated Press

Mexico’s new food labeling rules were supposed to help fight an obesity epidemic, but activists and experts say they might actually encourage the public to consume high levels of sugar.

The debate over sugar has grown bitter, in a country with one of the highest obesity rates in the Western Hemisphere.

But the labels assume that an average acceptable daily consumption of sugar is about 360 calories, equivalent to about 90 grams of sugar.

The World Health Organization has proposed a sugar intake of as little as 100 calories or about 25 grams per day.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, conjurer of literary magic, dies at 87

            By Jonathan Kandell / New York Times

Gabriel García Márquez, the Colombian novelist whose “One Hundred Years of Solitude” established him as a giant of 20th-century literature, died on Thursday at his home in Mexico City. He was 87.

García Márquez, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, wrote fiction rooted in a mythical Latin American landscape of his own creation, but his appeal was universal.

His books were translated into dozens of languages. He was among a select roster of canonical writers — Dickens, Tolstoy and Hemingway among them — who were embraced both by critics and by a mass audience.

IBM sued by Iusacell for $2.5 billion over deal gone wrong

By Bob Van Voris and Alex Barinka 


International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) was sued by Iusacell, Mexico’s third-biggest mobile-phone provider, for $2.5 billion in lost profits tied to a 2010 deal that failed. IBM claims the lawsuit is intended to avoid arbitration over the contract.

Iusacell consulted with IBM in connection with a multiyear plan to increase market share and revenue, the company said in a heavily redacted complaint filed in Manhattan federal court. Iusacell alleged IBM made fraudulent misrepresentations that caused it to suffer damages and lose profits.

“IBM both knowingly misrepresented and wrongfully concealed from Iusacell material facts both before and during the parties’ relationship,” Iusacell said in the complaint. The public version of the filing doesn’t explain the alleged wrongdoing.

IBM said that Iusacell and IBM Mexico entered into a “long term contract under which IBM Mexico made significant investments in Iusacell’s business operations” that resulted in “major improvement to Iusacell’s information technology infrastructure and growth in Iusacell’s revenues.”


The matter is in arbitration, said Doug Shelton, an IBM spokesman.

Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez dies at 87

           By Todd Leopold, CNN

García Márquez, the influential, Nobel Prize-winning author of "One Hundred Years of   and "Love in the Time of Cholera," has died, his family and officials said.

He was 87.

The literary giant was treated in April for infections and dehydration at a Mexican hospital.

García Márquez, a native of Colombia, is widely credited with helping to popularize "magic realism," a genre "in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination," as the Nobel committee described it upon awarding him the prize for literature in 1982.

Luxury pet business booms in Mexico with rise of middle class

           Associated Press

The growth of Mexico's middle class is creating a new market for fancy goods and services for dogs. Those include clothing and accessory boutiques, spas and restaurants with doggie snacks cooked by a pastry chef.

It's a startling cultural shift in a country where a dog's life has long meant days chained to the roof of the house.

Mexico has an estimated 20 million dogs or more, many of them roaming the streets hunting for food in the trash or spending their days shut up in apartments by owners who see them simply as living burglar alarms.

But many of the estimated 40 million middle-class Mexicans are having fewer children than their parents did and, also have more disposable income.

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