Monday, October 30, 2023

What is a ‘Mexican’? Huge genetic database untangles a complex history


Sounds like these scientists found gold per this fascinating read on pathbreaking work on the Mexican genome. The Mexico Biobank (MXB) is an exciting development for geneticists as, according to Nature, this is "the most diverse collection of genetic information in the Global South." Also,

"The results of these genetics studies will also have takeaways for people of Mexican descent in other countries. “The population genomics of Latin America is also the genomics of the United States.”

For the record, "Mexican" is a Nahuatl term that comes into existence with the emergence of the nation state, upon the winning of independence from Spain in 1821. "Mexico" gets its name from the Nahuatl-speaking "Mexica" who are otherwise known as "Aztecs" still today.

The MXB holds much promise for improving health care for people on the continent, as well as connecting Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and the Indigenous peoples of Mexico, the U.S. and beyond to a genetically diverse past.

-Angela Valenzuela


Mexican people, like these walking through an evening market in Coyoacán, in Mexico City, have a diverse mix of ancestries in their genome.LIGHTWORKS MEDIA/ALAMY

In 2000, Mexico’s health authority asked more than 40,000 rural and urban residents to donate blood as part of a massive, ongoing effort to create a nationally representative health database. For the first time that year, the survey also asked people for consent for their data to be used in future genetic studies.

Now, more than 20 years later, that effort is paying off. Researchers have used these data to create what they’re calling the Mexico Biobank (MXB). The repository, described today in Nature, represents the most diverse collection of genetic information in the Global South.

A second paper, also published today in Nature, describes findings from a project called the Mexico City Prospective Study (MCPS). Here, researchers combed through samples from more than 140,000 individuals from Mexico City to discover genetic variants associated with their ancestry and health, making it the largest such database of genetic data of people from Latin America.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

A hurricane flattened a city of one million, leaving no food or water and the dead to rot.

As a follow-up to my previous post from today, here is a much-needed critical piece on the press's lack of focus on the devastating effects of our current climate emergency, including it's impact on a million people in Acapulco, Guerrero that took the brunt of a Category 5 hurricane with virtually no warning at all. 

People are wandering the streets right now trying to find their loved ones. Children looking for parents, and parents looking for their children and family members. There was no warning of this unprecedented Hurricane and the people of Acapulco are desperate for water, food, electricity, gasoline, and other resources. 

The image below of Mexico's president Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) stuck in the mud in the outskirts of Acapulco when he should have flown in on a helicopter will end up being, I trust, an iconic image of his failed presidency.

Thanks to journalist, Pakalolo, for this visual archive of colossal proportions together with his much-needed critique of the press. Why this silence? Are they, too, bought out by the oil companies. 

Geez, people have infants to take care of with even the most basic of supplies like pampers, formula, bottles, clothes, and the like going unheeded.

A most appropriate quote from this piece below:

“An empty stomach knows no morality.” 

- Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

If anyone hears of any credible places to donate money, please post at the bottom of this post.

-Angela Valenzuela

A hurricane flattened a city of one million, leaving no food or water and the dead to rot.

by Pakalolo | Sunday, October 29, 2023

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of Mexico military vehicle gets stuck in the mud. The 69 year old walked approximately 3 miles to see damage in the interior. Attribution: Twitter

I have said it before, and I will say it again: the US media is useless and incapable of today's challenges with the rapidity and fury of the climate emergency. One would think that an unprecedented category-five windstorm that flattened a resort city of one million people on Mexico’s Pacific coast might be mentioned at least below the fold of mainstream media cable and print outlets. In general, it has not.

Granted, there is a lot of ugly and lethal violence occurring in the Middle East. Here at home, non-stop reporting on the mass murder of people living their lives in Maine. Heck, even Ukraine coverage is relatively quiet. And climate? It is always on the back burner of coverage despite us being at the beginning of the greatest existential crisis life across the planet has ever faced.

But Mexico is our neighbor; shouldn’t we know what happened to the victims left behind and discuss what we can do to help them? Where is the curiosity, the articles on suffering? Where are the Americans flying in to save the day?

People had little or no time to prepare. When I lived in hurricane country, we had a few days of warning to prepare a week's worth of food and three gallons of water per person daily. With the rapid intensification of cyclonic storms like Hurricane Otis, that may become more difficult, as the Acapulco windstorm laying waste to Mexico’s State of Guerrero clearly shows.

This diary is visual in order to get the attention of the media and shame them toward reporting on a climate crisis; it is necessary to show the destruction and suffering.


Yale Climate Connections writes on the aftermath:

Damage from Otis is going to reach many billions of dollars. Global reinsurance broker Gallagher Re estimated today that total economic damages from Otis would top $10 billion USD. Their chief scientist, Steve Bowen, commented, “As climate change research continues to conclude that we should expect more high-end tropical cyclones – and this research is being regularly validated – we need to be making smart decisions on how we’re better preparing for this growing risk. This includes a smarter approach to how and where we build, making strategic investments around infrastructure modernization, and ensuring more financial protection for citizens in the aftermath of events.” Typhoon Mirelle in Japan from 1991 ($22 billion 2022 USD) is the most expensive non-U.S. tropical cyclone in history. 

Apart from the stunning damage in the high-rises of central and coastal Acapulco, there has been immense suffering and destruction in the city’s more modest neighborhoods, including communities east of downtown and on the hills just above the core city. Details remain limited from these areas, in part because of ongoing enormous challenges in transportation and communication. 

Otis is the strongest hurricane on record to hit Mexico from the Pacific, and Mexico has now seen two of its top-10 strongest hurricane landfalls on record this month, as Otis was preceded by the landfall of Category 4 Hurricane Lidia on October 10. Three hurricanes even stronger than Otis have hit the nation from the Atlantic side. Here are the strongest landfalling Mexican hurricanes (by sustained wind speed at the time of landfall).

Otis is the world’s ninth Cat 5 storm of 2023, using ratings from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center and National Hurricane Center. The 1990-2022 average globally for an entire calendar year is 5.3 Cat 5s, so 2023 is well above average, tied for third-highest since 1990. The record is 12 Cat 5s in a year, set in 1997. The strongest Cat 5 of 2023 was Super Typhoon Mawar in the Western Pacific, which peaked with 185 mph winds in May.

The BBC:

Some 17,000 soldiers and police have been deployed in the Mexican resort city of Acapulco, where there has been widespread looting since a powerful hurricane hit the region.

Videos show people taking food and water from shops, while others walk away with expensive electronic items and clothes from shopping centres.

Thirty-nine people are now known to have died in Hurricane Otis.

Hundreds of thousands of people remain without power and water.

Authorities have no way of moving the dead. The morgues are full, no electricity or communications, and roads are blocked with mounds of debris everywhere. Bodies are still being pulled out of the ocean. Relatives and neighbors are placing bodies in garbage bags and covering them to minimize the stench of the decay,

Looting — the grocery stores are empty, and looters are taking flat-screen TV’s and other valuables. There is little police presence.

“An empty stomach knows no morality.” - Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

From USA Today:

Hurricane Otis intensified into a Category 5 storm before making landfall near Acapulco, Mexico Tuesday night with maximum sustained winds around 165 mph.

According to AccuWeather, Otis grew from a tropical storm with 50-mph winds at 5 p.m. ET Monday to a Category 5 hurricane with 165-mph winds by 1 a.m. Wednesday.


Desperation after Acapulco hurricane: 'We no longer have food or water, and no one is helping us'

My heart is sick as I contemplate from various news sources what is happening in Acapulco right now in the wake of Category 5 Hurricane Otis. This level of devastation is unprecedented. Just as tragically, Mexico's President Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) had also previously eliminated FONDEN, the country's natural disaster fund. How dull-witted is this?!

As recently as last month in September, presidential candidate, Xóchitl Gálvez, advocated for the creation of the Agencia Mexicana de Manejo de Emergencias (AMME) that we can think of, analogously to the U.S., as "Mexico's FEMA." If only she were Mexico's president right now...

My family is from the Southern state of Guerrero, Mexico, including family that live in Acapulco. I understand that all have been located thankfully, albeit still with precious little information from them on how they are actually doing. 

"Es un chaos total," total chaos, another cousin of mine has shared when trying to get food and resources to our family in Acapulco. 

With the power down, folks can't even get gas so they're stealing it out of people's cars. One can't even get money out of the ATM machines, a source tells me, as they have been destroyed, and looted, as well. My cousin says it's dangerous with impassable streets due to downed buildings, trees and power lines. The local and federal government leadership are no shows, abandoning the city and surrounding areas to the detriment of the people. This leaves so many who are desperate for food, water, electricity, and gasoline. 

Looting is rampant. Grocery and pharmacy stores have been gutted and what now, the victims are wondering? Many people's jobs and livelihoods have vanished and getting even basic resources like food and water is difficult. Here is a post from Pablo De La Rosa (@pblodlr) on  Twitter that gives you a good, if frightening, sense of the people's anguish and suffering—particularly for the working class people of Acapulco—many of whom eked an existence from tourism.

Although I hear that Univision has a program focused on Acapulco this evening at 7PM CST/8PM EST, precious little media is in fact covering the devastating impact of this storm on this resort city and economic port of one million people. Without any doubt, many Americans are there, caught in the mayhem that even our government and news media here in the U.S. seems to care little about. 

If anyone hears of any credible places to donate money, please post at the bottom of this post.

-Angela Valenzuela

Two days after an extraordinarily powerful hurricane lashed Acapulco, causing widespread damage and at least 27 deaths, residents and tourists here were growing increasingly desperate.

On the highway approaching this beleaguered city, dozens of residents lined the road Friday with signs begging for aid.

"We're hungry," said one sign. "We need food," said another. "Please help us," said a third.

"No one has come. The government has done nothing," said Hisaele Saucedo Bernal, 58. She said her home had flooded up to her waist when Hurricane Otis slammed the coastline as a Category 5 storm early Wednesday morning, cutting a wide path of destruction.

"I am very hungry; we have not eaten," said Maria Luisa Tabares, 78. "We no longer have food or water, and no one is helping us."

A quarter-million homes remained without electricity, and food, gasoline and clean water were in short supply. With little aid distribution and few if any shopping establishments open for business, many in this city of nearly 1 million resorted to taking goods from shattered storefronts.

On streets blocked by downed power poles, mangled palms and other debris, others were jammed into storm-damaged vehicles and attempting to flee.

Margarita Ibáñez navigates her way through debris Thursday after Hurricane Otis ripped through Acapulco, Mexico. The hurricane that strengthened swiftly before slamming into the coast early Wednesday devastated the resort city. (Marco Ugarte / Associated Press)

Read more: 'Two hours of hell:' At least 27 are dead in Mexico after Hurricane Otis pounds Acapulco

Government officials said thatmore than 13,000 federal troops had been deployed to the city and that 7,500 portions of food supplies had been distributed, along with 7,000 liters of water.

On Friday, officials said 40 tons of additional supplies would be delivered by plane to a recently reopened airport.

In parts of the city on Friday, soldiers were clearing roads and utility company employees were at work repairing downed power lines. But there were few signs of food or water distribution or medical care. And many on the ground said they were frustrated that the government appeared largely absent.

Read more: A stone, a bullet, a burial. A Palestinian boy's death in the West Bank signals wider unrest

"The president says there are people helping us here, but there's nobody," said one sobbing woman in a video widely circulated on social media Friday. “And there are many dead, many more than they say."

While the official death toll stood at 27, there was growing evidence that there may be additional casualties not yet accounted for.

At the city's once-elegant yacht club, hulking boats had been lifted from the waves and tossed ashore, and six bodies wrapped in fabric were lined up on a patch of grass.

Local journalists reported seeing bodies in other parts of town that probably also had not yet been counted, and a correspondent for National Public Radio wrote on X that the bodies of about 50 fishermen had been dragged from the sea.

There were also growing concerns that more people may have died in remote areas north of the city that are still largely without communication.

Acapulco's popular tourist area was battered by the unexpected Category 5 storm. ( Luis Gutierrez / Norte Photo via Getty Images)

Speaking at his daily news conference Friday, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he believed Mexico had been "lucky" to have survived the hurricane with so few deaths.

"Everything indicates that ... there were not so many," he said. "Fortunately we are not registering many losses of human life."

He downplayed accounts of disorder and fear in the streets, saying the government was attending to residents and would continue to do so.

"We will not leave Acapulco until it’s reestablished and has returned to normal," said López Obrador.

He said that he thought the city could be rebuilt in "little time," and that government officials were meeting Friday with representatives of the hotel industry, who say 80% of hotels in the city were damaged by the storm.

The vast panorama of damage has stirred deep fears about Acapulco’s future.

Disaster modeler Enki Research predicts that the economic impact may top $15 billion, and some here worry that recovery of the coastal resort city, once favored by Hollywood stars but in recent years tarnished by drug violence, could drag on for years.

Despite its loss of international luster in recent years, Acapulco's economic engine had remained what is now a broken tourist industry.

Many residents came here for work from other parts of Guerrero state, which is among Mexico’s poorest and most violent states.

“Some people said things would be back to normal in two months, but — seeing the extent of the damage — it’s going to take a lot longer,” predicted Elizabeth Barreto, 40, who works as a restaurant cook in the stylish Caleta Beach district.

The coming Christmas season is already lost, she said. “Maybe next Christmas? Who knows?”

She was taking stock of the damage during a coastline walk with her two children, 16 and 11, and her husband, Pedro Juarez, who makes a living selling tickets for boat tours.

“Acapulco lives off tourism; it always has,“ said Juarez, 50, glancing at the coastal view of battered buildings and collapsed beach bars. “This is going to make life difficult for all of us for some time.”

While some have criticized the government for not doing more to warn residents about the hurricane, the president reiterated that the storm's ferocity took everyone — even weather experts — by surprise.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, looking out the passenger's window as his vehicle is stuck in the mud, visited the Kilometro 42 community near Acapulco on Wednesday. (Rodrigo Oropeza / AFP via Getty Images)

"Ask the hurricane centers if this wasn't an extraordinary phenomenon," he said.

Indeed, just 24 hours before the deluge, Otis was categorized as a tropical storm. But after hitting a patch of warm ocean water, it grew rapidly into what the U.S. National Hurricane Center warned would be a "potentially catastrophic Category 5 hurricane."

Scientists say it was the fastest-growing hurricane ever observed in the eastern Pacific Ocean. As oceans warm due to human-driven climate change, similarly super-charged hurricanes are likely to occur more frequently, they say.

In downtown Acapulco, stranded tourists wandered the streets in a daze.

Amalia Garrido, 63, was one of dozens of visitors camped out Thursday night near a closed gas station along Acapulco's famed coastal boulevard, Avenida Costera Miguel Alemán.

Once lined with sleek hotels, nightclubs and seafood restaurants, the road was nearly unrecognizable: strewn with glass, twisted metal and other debris. Hotels and high-rise condos were disfigured, their balconies sheared away as though a malevolent giant had clawed through the city.

"It makes you want to cry, because everything is so ugly, so destroyed," said Garrido, who had arrived in Acapulco on Monday with seven family members to celebrate her grandson's birthday.

Their hotel was severely damaged, and they and other guests had been forced out onto the streets. She and her relatives had no idea how to exit the city, and no clue where to sleep.

"The truth is that I am afraid," Garrido said. "There is no water here; there is no food."

José Castro, a 29-year-old graphic designer, had arrived in Acapulco on Monday and said he'd been swimming in the ocean just hours before the hurricane hit. He said he was shocked that the government hadn't done more to prepare those in danger as it became clear that the storm was strengthening.

"On Tuesday we were on the beach and there was no warning of danger," he said. "How is it possible that no authority warned us that there would be a hurricane?"

"Nobody has helped us," said Castro. "Really, this has been the worst experience of my life."

McDonnell reported from Acapulco and Linthicum from Mexico City. Special correspondent Cecilia Sanchez Vidal in Acapulco contributed to this report.

Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.