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El Universal is a leading Mexican daily newspaper published in Mexico City. Founded in 1916, it has positioned itself in the political center since current director Juan Francisco Ealy Jr. took the helm in 1969.
Cafe Florian reopened in June, but it's future is very much in doubt
Benjamin Witte

Six Iconic Landmarks That May Be Shuttered By COVID-19

Founded a century (or centuries) ago, these businesses survived world wars and economic depressions. Now the pandemic could close them forever.

PARIS — New York City's Roosevelt Hotel, a midtown mainstay that first opened to the public in the roaring 1920s, is now a not-so-distant memory after closing its doors — permanently — just before Christmas.

Like so many businesses around the world, the nearly century old facility — famous, among other things, as the place where then New York state governor Thomas Dewey erroneously declared victory over President Harry Truman in the 1948 U.S. presidential election — is a victim of the times. The grand old hotel survived the Great Depression but not, as it turns out, the revenue loss caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The economic and financial costs of the current health crisis are being felt far and wide. But there's something particularly poignant about the demise of businesses that enjoy true landmark status, places that are cultural cornerstones in our communities.

Owners and employees pay the heaviest cost, of course. But for clients, culture and the public as a whole, what's at stake in each case is also a tangible piece of history that, once gone, is gone for good:

Is the festa in Venice over forever?

By the time the Roosevelt Hotel opened, in 1924, Venice's venerable Café Florian had already been going strong for more than 200 years. And this past December, it officially reached the three-century mark. That's a lot of candles!

But rather than mark the milestone with some kind of celebratory festa, all was eerily quiet. Sadly, the doors of Café Florian's elegant lounge — whose famous clients included Nietzsche, Grace Kelly and Margaret Thatcher — were closed to the public, as ordered by the government. More troubling still is that they could remain that way even if Italy's current lockdown measures are lifted.

"We pay around a million (euros) a year in rent to a private landlord and the State. The private sector has exempted us from half of the part of it, the State nothing," the owner told La Vanguardia. "We will stay open as long as we can, but more than that we cannot guarantee."

A Mexican treasure

Across the Atlantic, the pandemic has also forced the closure — for now at least — of another historic hangout spot with a penchant for attracting celebrity guests.

Mexico City's Sálon Los Angeles, the country's oldest dance hall, was founded in the 1930s during the height of the swing and Charleston dances, and its famous patrons include Diego Rivera, Leon Trotsky and Celia Cruz.

The ballroom was redecorated in the late 1940s — the era of chachachá and mambo — with mirrored columns and neon colors. Then owner Miguel Nieto Hernández also gave the sálon its iconic motto: "Who does not know Sálon Los Angeles, does not know Mexico."

And yet, there's real concern now that the place may not survive. Current owner Miguel Nieto is struggling to keep up with expenses, despite receiving some aid money from the government. Dedicated customers are also helping in the form of small donations. "In the Sálon Los Angeles, we have learned that we must live life as intensely as if we were to die tomorrow and as prudently as if we were going to survive," Nieto told the Mexican daily El Universal.

The meter is running in London

Survival is also the name of the game these days for London's iconic black cabs, which were facing an existential crisis even before the pandemic due to stiff competition from ride-hailing apps like Uber.

Now, with few tourists and many Londoners working from home, they're struggling even more. According to the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, the number of active black cab licenses has fallen from more than 18,000 to just over 14,300 since June.

London black cab — Photo: Hanno Rathmann

The so-called "army of black cabs' is now pinning its hopes on the UK's vaccine rollout — and in more ways than one. As reported in the Financial Times, drivers are offering fixed price-rides for vulnerable and elderly to medical centers.

So far it's unclear if the government will take them up on the offer. The other question mark is just how long the classic cabs can hold out. "I can't even begin to describe it to you; dead is underplaying it," Howard Taylor, a taxi driver for 33 years, told the newspaper. "The city is bereft, it is desolate. It is like tumbleweed."

Going down the drain in Hungary

London isn't the only place lamenting the loss of tourists. Hungary is hurting too, especially its network of thermal baths, which have been an integral part of the country's culture since the Romans invaded.

Now, with border closures limiting the number of foreign visitors, and older clients reluctant, for safety's sake, to return, as many as two thirds of these spas might be facing closure.

"By the summer, 40% of our yearly revenue was gone, and by the end of the year, 70% of the revenues will disappear at some of the spas," Attila László Boros, head of the Hungary Spa Association, told the Chinese media outlet CGTN. Estimates are that of the 18,000 people employed in the industry, up to 4,700 face layoffs.

A San Francisco treat

Across the world, the COVID-19 outbreak has also pushed countless restaurants over the proverbial precipice, including the famous Cliff House Restaurant in San Francisco, California.

Known for its stunning view of the Pacific Ocean, the iconic eatery weathered many storms since it first opened more than 150 years ago. It even caught fire — twice — including once on Christmas Day.

But what it couldn't cope with, in the end, was the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Unable to sell it's high-priced seafood, the Cliff House closed its doors for good last month. More than 100 gathered to watch the restaurant's iconic sign being taken down. Somewhere, Mark Twain, who dined there on multiple occasions, is turning in his grave.

The future of the building itself is unclear, and will depend on the National Park Service, which had leased the land to the Cliff House owners since the 1970s.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California is lobbying for the structure to be preserved. In a statement, she encouraged "the National Park Service to explore all possible opportunities to maintain the historic role of this building as a restaurant and visitor destination. Our history is too important to set aside so readily."

True indeed. Even if responding to today's emergency is the first priority, we should remember that history can never be rewritten.

A teacher giving an online class in an empty school in Lalitpur, Nepal
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

How The World's Teachers Handled 1.5 Billion Kids On Lockdown

Learning can never stop, despite the schools being closed. Teachers around the world were forced to get innovative to overcome the lockdown.

When 63 million teachers found themselves confined at home last spring (along with at least 1.5 billion students in 191 countries), they had to start getting creative. The closure of schools around the world served to exasperate existing educational inequalities, especially for those who already had fewer opportunities, including girls, those with learning disabilities and those living in poverty. As around half of the out-of-school students did not have access to a computer and over 40% did not have internet at home, online learning only provided a solution for some. Nevertheless, around the globe, educators found innovative solutions to reach even the most vulnerable students to make sure a pandemic didn't halt their education.

India: In one of the countries worst hit by coronavirus, the majority of students have been left out of online learning. Only 8% of households have both a computer and internet connection. But regional governments and nonprofits have found effective solutions using cheap, available resources that don't rely on technology.

• The nonprofit Diganta Swaraj Foundation took on a low-tech mass education approach, using a loudspeaker to deliver lessons to 1,000 students in six villages in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. In southwestern India, the state of Kerala set up temporary classrooms for students who couldn't tune into online or televised lessons.

• Education apps have also skyrocketed in popularity, given that a growing percentage of the Indian population do have cell phones. In early March, Bengaluru-based education startup Byju decided to offer free access to its interactive education app, which has since seen a 60% rise in student usage.

• Ironically, many American families have turned to tutors in India to help their children through the challenges of online learning. This raises the question of how these well-trained educators could potentially reap equitable economic benefit teaching students in their own country.

Denmark: The Nordic country was one of the first to close its schools and then reopen them this past spring. Two key principles — holding outdoor lessons and maintaining smaller class sizes — have had unexpected benefits.

• Forest schools have long been popular for young students in Denmark, with around 1 in 10 pre-schoolers learning outside in nature. In the coronavirus era, these outdoor spaces can alleviate indoor virus spreading and allow students to spread out and socially distance, as reported in the daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

• The model is catching on throughout Europe, especially in Germany and Norway. Studies show that students are calmer and can concentrate better when they're not sitting at desks. This model also benefits their physical health.

• Like in many countries, some Danish schools have also switched to a part-time model to lower class sizes. While kids might have less time with their educators and peers, this isn't necessarily a downside. "We can see now very clearly that smaller groups bring a higher degree of wellbeing for the kids, and give the teachers more contact with the kids during the day," Dorte Lange, vice-president of the Danish Union of Teachers, tells The Guardian.

• Lange says this may have long-term benefits: "We are looking at whether we can continue this and maybe shorten our school day a bit, with fewer lessons but with a higher degree of contact with students."

In a Barcelona classroom in October — Photo: Jorge Franganillo

Mexico: When Mexico decided to keep its public schools closed this academic year, it was clear that online learning would be impossible for many, so the government turned to a different media platform.

• About half of Mexico's 31 million school-age children live in poverty according to UNICEF. Just 56% of households have internet access and in rural parts of the country, service is shaky at best.

• But there was a solution: As a full 93% of households have a television, an ambitious program named Aprende en Casa (Learn at Home) was set up to broadcast educational content 24/7 for students pre-kindergarten through high school, as reported in El Universal. Educational radio programs have also been delivered across 18 stations in Spanish and indigenous languages.

• "It's challenging," fifth grade teacher Omar Morales tells CNN about filming his lessons. "It's no longer 40 kids in a class where I know their names, passions, their favorite games. Here, I'm locked in a set, but I know there's millions of kids out there who still need that knowledge."

• Aprende en Casa does have serious limits, particularly in rural communities and for female students, many of whom might not return to school after the pandemic. Some students have also found the education boring and want more engaging material, according to Reforma. But hopefully, the program will provide a strong and much needed push toward using distance learning to reach underserved populations.

LGBT+ seniors have a higher risk of being isolated
Rozena Crossman

Out Of The Closet And Into Old Age: Caring For LGBT+ Seniors

Around the world, the first generations of openly LGBT+ people are arriving at a point in life where nursing homes and geriatric care become a real issue.

PARIS — As he started walking down the hallway of a nursing home in France, Victor Castanet, a journalist for Le Monde, came across the haunting image of an elderly man calling out for a loved one: "Eléonore! Eléonore! Eléonore!" It was a forlorn and, unfortunately, stereotypical snapshot of care homes in many countries. But at the end of the hallway, Castanet discovered a different microcosm of the geriatric world, just as universal yet not quite as visible.

"It was the portrait of a passion that defied the laws of aging, bodily decline and ‘social norms': two women, aged 89 and 100, curled up together in a tiny nursing bed," recounts Castanet in an article on LGBT+ individuals in nursing homes.

The two women met and fell in love in their care home; today they spend their time knitting, practicing laughter yoga and singing karaoke hand in hand. Yet the life they created together is in spite of a system that is not particularly LGBT+ friendly. "You should have seen the staff's reaction when I announced they were a couple," recounted their former caretaker to Castanet. "Classic love stories are already unthinkable in nursing homes. Because we're old and ugly, apparently we don't have the right to fall in love. But two women! You can't imagine it."

I've been fabulous throughout my life and I want to be fabulous till the very end.

While "gay friendly" retirement homes exist in the United States, Canada, Germany, Denmark and Sweden, the widespread isolation of LGBT+ seniors remains problematic. In 2016 a lesbian couple were turned away from a retirement community in the U.S. due to their sexual orientation, and Castanet cites multiple examples of queer French seniors encountering mockery and scathing remarks from both their nurses and peers. Isolation is already a problem in the aging population, and multiple studies have found that the risk is higher for those who identify as LGBT+.

Today's LGBT+ seniors are one of the first generations to have lived openly queer lives — Photo: Alex Boyd

Being a queer senior is not exactly news. What is new is that in some countries, the now-aging population are the first to have lived openly queer lives and they are unwilling to accept compromises. "I've been fabulous throughout my life and I want to be fabulous till the very end of my life," an Irish-American man named David told the LGBT+ media PinkNews. He relocated to Spain in anticipation of the new queer-focused retirement home that is planned to open later this year in Madrid. In a country where homosexuality was cause for imprisonment until 1979, the government-funded care home is an enormous step forward for LGBT+ rights.

In New York City, a metropolis with a rife history of LGBT+ activism, a public housing project for LGBT+ elders is scheduled to open at the same time of the 50th anniversary of the homophobic, New York-based Stonewall Riots, illustrating the leaps in queer rights that have unfolded during the lifetime of these New York seniors.

What is being hailed as the first "shelter for the elderly" service in Latin America opened last year in Mexico City with the name "Laetus Vitae" or "Happy Life" in Latin, reports El Universal daily. "Since (our) community has been discriminated against, here the doors are open to everyone," says Samantha Flores, an 87-year-old transgender woman and founder of the shelter. Like so many elderly "these are people who are alone, and need company and someone to talk with."

Even in cities like Manchester — which holds the second-highest LGBT+ population in Britain — local reports have indicated that queer seniors suffer higher levels of loneliness and isolation. Their city council is in the process of creating residences for queer seniors in a diverse, bustling part of the city to help residents maintain their independence. Scotland is also weighting the importance of creating an LGBT+-friendly care home in a downtown location; In this case, it's an Anglican church in Dumfries. The new center would fund the church, help an at-risk group and bring more citizens to the town.

"There is not much of a social life which is why LGBT+ people have always gravitated to cities because there is a kind of "critical mass' almost," Dr. Belle Doyle, who is leading the project in Dumfries, explained to the BBC. "If there is a large enough group you become the majority, you are taken seriously at that point. It is not just one or two people and they are isolated and you can bully or intimidate them." Dyfrig Hywel, a member of the project board, added: "We have got other people who come out of the closet in their 60s when their parents die. Despite the huge progress in society they are still really, really vulnerable people."

Prostitutes in the marketplace of La Merced, Mexico City, Mexico
Giacomo Tognini

Another Consequence Of Venezuela Crisis: A Sex Trafficking Boom

The economic collapse has created opportunities for Colombian gangs to exploit Venezuelan women and transport them abroad.

SAN JOSE — Their nightmare begins in Venezuela, where the economic crisis ravaging their country makes the young women and girls — some as young as 11 or 12 — particularly vulnerable. Colombian gangs and paramilitary groups take advantage to manipulate them, and then shuttle them across the border to the El Dorado international airport in Bogota, where they're boarded on planes to be trafficked as sex workers in a range of countries across Latin America.

This is the fate that has befallen tens of thousands of Venezuelans in recent years, according to an investigation carried out recently by the Mexican newspaper El Universal. A large number of the victims end up in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama. In Mexico, traffickers pay between $700 and $950 to immigration officials at Mexico City's international airport to allow Venezuelan women into the country, the newspaper found.

The information gathered by El Universal coincides with a report published in March by two Venezuelan civil society organizations in conjunction with the British Embassy in Caracas. The study points to a vast web of criminal connections in Colombia that help support the trade — from drugs and weapons traffickers to corrupt policemen, soldiers, and border officials.

The Venezuelan study, co-written by attorneys Beatriz Borge and Lilian Aya, suggests that in the past two years, the number of trafficked women has skyrocketed, from just over 60,000 in 2016 to almost 200,000 this year. They fear the number could rise to 600,000 by 2020, representing nearly 2% of Venezuela's population.

Many indigenous women are forced into hard labor from a young age, and then coerced into the sex trade.

Traffickers target some of the poorest states in Venezuela and entice the women with promises of well-paying work, only to sell them into the sex trade in Colombian cities or to an ever increasing number of countries, including Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and Peru, the authors found.

Among the most vulnerable in Venezuelan society, the situation is even worse. Many indigenous women are forced into hard labor from a young age, and then coerced into the sex trade, Borge and Aya revealed. Adolescents are often forcibly recruited by Colombian paramilitaries operating on Venezuelan territory.

The report also looked at the conditions of sex workers who willingly entered the trade, seeking a better life outside Venezuela only to find themselves exploited by traffickers. Some victims have gone on to become recruiters themselves, convincing other women to join them. But even they remain trapped, unable to return home and under the control of the traffickers.

"These gangs offer to pay for their ticket, clothes, food, and lodging, so the women never escape this vicious cycle and remain indebted," Borge told El Universal. "It's modern slavery."

At the National Autonomous University of Mexico
Giacomo Tognini

Drug Cartels Battle Over Mexico’s Top University Campus

Open battles between major drug outfits are behind a series of recent killings at the National Autonomous University Of Mexico.

MEXICO CITY — On February 23rd, two people were shot dead on the historic campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in the heart of the country's capital. According to Mexico City-based newspaper El Universal, the long-running drug war has reached the streets of the capital as three cartels battle for control of the drug trade in the area surrounding the country's most prestigious university.

Cartels began moving in for access to the student population and for the campus' lack of police officers and checkpoints. The Tláhuac cartel, born in the eastern Mexico City neighborhood of the same name, had long dominated the drug trade at UNAM, operating more than 20 dealers in the area. But that reign came to an end in January after the death and capture of two key cartel leaders, Felipe de Jesús Pérez Luna El Ojos and Uriel Isaac El Cochi.

The group's demise led to a violent turf war with two new arrivals: the Tepito cartel from the eponymous barrio in the capital's north, and the Los Rodolfos cartel from Xochimilco in the south. That war is bringing shootouts to the streets of the UNAM campus, founded in 1950 and recognized as architectural patrimony by UNESCO.

Los Rodolfos, led by Rodolfo Rodríguez Morales La Gorda, was once a Tláhuac ally before seizing on its downfall to move into UNAM for itself. The group took control of key drug trafficking routes into the area, allowing it to earn up to $11,000 a week. The temporary alliance with the Tepito cartel was broken in January when Tepito operatives began selling drugs in the Los Rodolfos-controlled area near the department of Philosophy and Letters.

He is not your friend.

Armed clashes began at the end of January leading to the February 23rd double homicide, which sent a signal that the two cartels are escalating their fight over control of the trade in marijuana, cocaine, crystal meth, and LSD on the UNAM campus.

The university has rejected calls to hire armed guards to protect students on campus. "We will never consider armed vigilance as a solution to this problem," UNAM rector Enrique Graue told El Universal. "Instead we will opt for improving our campaign of peaceful dissuasion and vigilance."

The university newspaper Gaceta de la UNAM is part of that strategy. One week after the deadly shooting, the paper ran a stark warning on its front page imploring students to report known drug traffickers. In block letters plastered over a black silhouette, the headline declared "he is not your friend, he is a drug trafficker."

Protesting violence against women in Ciudiad Juarez
Giacomo Tognini

The Most Dangerous City In Mexico For Women

Ciudad Juárez, once torn by drug wars, experienced a 34% spike in femicides this year.

In late November, three sisters aged 10, 11 and 12, were raped as they lay sleeping in their beds, and the eldest, Nahomí Galindo, was killed. The girl's murder brought this year's femicide total in Ciudad Juàrez, the most populous city in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua, to a grisly 86.

Although the city has managed to improve its violent image in recent years, the Mexico City-based daily El Universal reports that Ciudad Juàrez is now Mexico's most dangerous place for women. Since 2010, more than 900 women and girls have been murdered there, and if anything, the problem is getting worse. The 2017 femicide tally marks a 34% increase over last year.

On Nov. 23, a day after the Galindo family's tragedy, Chihuahua Governor Javier Corral opened a memorial to victims of femicide in the city. As he spoke, another woman was shot dead in her apartment on the other side of town. A day later, as demonstrators read out the names of victims at the site of a 2012 mass killing, a man in northern Ciudad Juárez shot his wife dead before taking his own life.

Civil society groups and families of femicide victims have joined forces to demand a stronger reaction from the authorities.

Society reproduces and justifies aggression against women and criminalizes the victims.

"Violence exists everywhere, but it's primarily driven by the social sphere and a culture of impunity," said Imelda Marrufo, director of the association Red Mesa de Mujeres, according to El Universal. "Society reproduces and justifies aggression against women and criminalizes the victims, and the judicial system foments impunity."

While Ciudad Juárez has fewer murders of women and girls than does the Mexico City suburb of Ecatepec, it reports the highest rate of sexual assault in the country. Every 20 hours, a woman in the city files a complaint with the police for sexual assault.

Many more cases go unreported, including one by a woman who later told police she had been assaulted by the same man who attacked Nahomí Galindo and her sisters. Afraid of repercussions, she declined to file a complaint against the assailant, but offered to help the police identify him.

Mexico's National Geography and Statistics Institute (INEGI) estimates that more than 93% of assaults go unreported. Sadly, Ciudad Juárez's 86 femicides may just be a fraction of the true scale of violence that women face in the city.

Surveying damage after recent earthquake in Mexico City
Giacomo Tognini

Mexico Asks: Does Fracking Raise Earthquake Risk?

As September's duo of deadly earthquakes made so painfully clear, Mexico is a highly seismic country. Sadly, there's no accounting for the dangers of plate tectonics. But could human activity also be contributing to Mexico's propensity for earth-shaking events? Quite possibly, according to the Mexico City-based newspaper El Universal, which reports that oil exploration in the northern state of Nuevo León has led to stronger and more frequent earthquakes over the past decade.

Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," is a drilling technique used to exploit oil trapped in shale stone. Research by the Autonomous University of Nuevo León suggests that fracking in the state caused 304 earthquakes from 2006 to 2016. While most were relatively weak, a 4.5 magnitude earthquake in November 2013 caused damage in several towns.

The first wells were drilled in 2006 in the Agua Nueva and Pimienta rock formations. Since then, the years with the highest numbers of new wells also recorded the highest numbers of earthquakes. "We found a direct relationship between fracking and the earthquakes reported since 2006," UANL department head Dr. Juan Manuel Rodríguez Martinez told El Universal.

The federal government recently approved new fracking guidelines for oil companies and expanded the areas where they could drill for oil. The new guidelines could allow fracking in blocks just 30 km from the state capital of Monterrey, home to more than 4 million people.

Beyond the temblors caused by fracking, the practice could also contaminate the water supply in the state's most populous areas. Fracking requires millions of liters of water to be mixed with chemicals and pumped into the ground, and researchers are concerned that the process will pollute local rivers without adequate treatment. "More than 60% of the state is now open to fracking," said UANL biology researcher Antonio Hernández Ramírez. "There is a real possibility that our water could be affected."

2,400 tweets later
Benjamin Witte

The World Marks One Year Since Trump Elected


A political neophyte who launched his presidential campaign by railing against Mexican "rapists' and "murderers' was never supposed to win, especially against a seasoned stateswoman backed by her party's establishment. Add to that unthinkable episodes, like his mocking a disabled reporter or the revelation of the infamous "grab ‘em by the p***y" recording, and a continued refusal to divulge his tax history. In a normal campaign, any single such element would almost surely have derailed his White House ambitions.

Yes, exactly one year after Donald Trump's stunning victory, on Nov. 8, 2016, over Hillary Clinton, the world is still asking how it happened. Twelve months and 2,400 "sulfurous tweets' later — to borrow a term from the French daily Sud Ouest — the world now also seems to ask itself how the brash billionaire is still president of the United States. No toning things down, no acting "more presidential," as many expected or at least hoped: Trump clearly has no intention to abandon his divisive, campaign-mode approach.

For the president's countless detractors, the past year has felt like a lifetime.

That, note analysts from around the across globe, is his strategy, and he's sticking to it. "Donald Trump has never changed his method," writes Frédéric Autran from France's Libération. "The billionaire thrives in chaos. It has served him." Key to the approach, Autran adds, is never apologizing. That, and responding to every bit of criticism with a counter-attack, usually via Twitter — at an average rate of six per day, various news sources have pointed out.

Needless to say, Trump's Twitter tirades and other off-the-wall antics are highly polarizing. They're also counterproductive — at least according to conventional wisdom. The president's overall approval numbers continue to decline, calls for his impeachment grow louder by the day, and even would-be allies in Congress are at odds with the oddball leader who has struggled to to pass basic legislation despite having Republican majorities in both houses of the U.S. legislature.

And yet, none of that seems to really bother Mr. Trump. As Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics told the Spanish daily El País, the U.S. leader is sticking with the same "divide and conquer" approach he successfully employed in the campaign: "Trump has abandoned the presidential tradition of reconciling the American people."

Andrew Selee, a former executive vice president of The Mexico Institute, notes that the President is "both a symptom and a cause" of U.S. political polarization. "He didn't create the country's ideological and ethnic divisions," Selee writes in Mexican daily El Universal. "But he's continued feeding and deepening them with his postures and statements."

Critics can take some satisfaction in Trump's low approval ratings and obvious failures on the legislative front. But they should be wary of dismissing him off-hand, warn analysts like Oliver Georgi, politics editor with Frankfurter Allgemeine. He's still the president, after all, and his impact, be it through executive orders or as an instigator of deeper political polarization, is undeniable. Trump's adversaries tend to "underestimate" him to a fault, overlooking the fact, for example, that he did follow through on threats to remove the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on climate change and undo parts of Obamacare, at least by executive order, Georgi notes.

"From Promises To Reality, One Year Of Trump" — Publico"s Nov. 8 front page

The boastful business mogul also has the benefit of a booming U.S. economy, as Maximilian Cellino of the Milan-based financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore points out. "Not only have Wall Street markets risen 20%, reaching record levels and defying the laws of gravity of financial markets, but also the drop in the dollar and perilous rise in bond yields that some predicted have not come to pass," Cellino writes.

The Italian writer is among those who argue that the U.S. economy would have fared well with or without the new president, thanks to a strengthening recovery in Europe and continued low interest rates. Still, Trump is more than happy to take credit for the boom. And to the degree that American voters are swayed by the state of their wallets, positive economic indicators could translate into pro-Trump votes in the next election cycle and beyond.

Not that there's any way Trump could be reelected.


For the president's countless detractors, the past year has felt like a lifetime. Little wonder that hundreds of people are planning to "howl" their frustrations today in Dallas, Texas.

Still, the world should plan for at least three more years for Trump to serve the rest of his first term. But four more years after that? Impossible. Impossible? John Zogby, founder of the U.S. polling firm Zogby Analytics told Chile's La Tercera, Trump's approval numbers — between 37% and 41% — aren't good. "And he never had his post-election honeymoon period," the pollster explained. "But so far he's kept his base. And given that no one else on the national scene has better numbers, Trump could in fact be re-elected."

Giacomo Tognini

Fleeing Violence, Central American Child Migrants Flock Into Mexico

MEXICO CITY — As the Trump administration threatens to expel nearly a million undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children, Mexico is seeing a spike in arrivals of children fleeing violence in Central America.

Over the past four years, the number of unaccompanied minors from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador seeking asylum in the country surged by 350%, the Mexico City daily El Universal reports.

Many of those children seek to migrate further north to the United States, a journey made more perilous by Washington's anti-immigration crackdown. One of them is Eduardo, who decided to flee San Pedro Sula in Honduras three months ago, when street gangs in the neighborhood he worked threatened to kill him and his family. He still has his sights set on crossing the U.S. border but will stay in Mexico if he has to. Either way, he has no intention of going back home.

"If I returned they would sink their claws into me," Eduardo told El Universal, referring to the gangs, known locally as maras or pandillas.

Since 2013, 90% of the people offered asylum in Mexico hail from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador — Central America's so-called "Northern Triangle" — where rampant gang activity and heavy-handed police repression have sent homicide rates soaring. COMAR, the agency that processes such requests, received over 6,000 applications in the first half of this year, more than the total for 2016.

Fearing the possibility of deportation from the United States, more child migrants, it appears, are choosing to end their journey here.

Mexican police patrol in Jalisco.

How Mexico’s Jalisco Drug Cartel Is Muscling Into U.S. Cities

MEXICO CITY — The Jalisco New Generation Cartel, or CJNG, has long controlled the drug trade in nine states in Mexico's south and west. But in recent months, the cartel has edged out Mexican and Colombian rivals to conquer the narcotics market in the U.S.

Writing for Mexico City daily El Universal, investigative journalist Laura Sánchez reports that the CJNG infiltrated criminal networks on the West Coast of the U.S. in 2015 before expanding to the East Coast last year. A recent report published by the Drug Enforcement Administration or DEA identified the cartel as "one of the most powerful and fastest growing" since the decline of the once-dominant Sinaloa Cartel in 2010, previously headed by the infamous Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán.

The CJNG is led by Nemesio Oseguera and Jorge Luis Mendoza, better known by their nicknames "El Mencho" and "La Garra". The gang has wrested control of American city streets in places Atlanta, Georgia, and Gulfport, Mississippi, and it's now aiming to take over Miami — the stronghold of the waning Sinaloa cartel.

While Sinaloa retains about 60% of the market in Miami, the CJNG is cutting into its share by providing purer e-drugs with lower prices and faster deliveries, El Universal reports. As the battle against El Chapo's men raged on last year, the CJNG entirely displaced another Mexican rival — the Beltrán Leyva cartel — to gain control of the drug trade further north in Virginia and South Carolina.

Colombian drug traffickers have long dominated the drug trade in Miami and the southeast since the 1980s, sharing their power in recent years with the Sinaloa cartel. That has changed in the last 12 months when the CJNG cast them out of the region.

El Universal's Sánchez reports that the CJNG expanded from the Pacific to the strategic Mexican cities of Nuevo Laredo and Ciudad Juárez on the border with Texas in 2015, enabling it to challenge its competitors further east. According to the DEA report, the cartel now dominates the U.S. market, spreading to 13 cities last year alone.

The cruelty that characterized the cartel's rise to the top in Mexico is being replicated in its push to dominate the U.S. market. There are no signs of that violence abating anytime soon.

Day of the dead (languages?)

Mexico And Its Multitude Of Disappearing Languages

MEXICO CITY — Mexico is one of the world's most linguistically diverse countries, but many of its indigenous tongues are in serious danger of extinction. And unless efforts are undertaken to preserve them, about 50 of those languages could disappear within the next 20 years, the Mexico City-based daily El Universal reports.

There are a staggering 364 different languages spoken in Mexico, about half of which are in no immediate danger of extinction. But there were more than 500 before the arrival of Spanish colonists in the late 15th century, and Mexico's linguistic diversity is still in grave danger. Mexico's National Institute of Indigenous Languages (INALI) suggests that 43 indigenous tongues are at "high risk" of disappearing with another 72 at "moderate risk."

Jorge Toledo, president of the Senate's Commission of Indigenous Affairs and a son of indigenous parents, stresses the institutional nature of the challenge faced by Mexico's dying native languages. "We need education reform to build a plan that strengthens and respects these languages," says Toledo, who speaks Zapoteco, an indigenous tongue used along Mexico's eastern coast. "The structure of the Mexican state always pushed a monolingual Spanish education."

Despite being a multilingual country, Mexico has always strongly prioritized Spanish. An education reform bill passed in 2013 sought to overhaul the Mexican education system but failed to challenge the inferior status of native languages. Another bill — a telecommunications reform pushed by the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto — enshrined Spanish as the only language to be used in mass communication.

Even today, many speakers of indigenous languages report fear of discrimination as a major reason for not speaking or promoting their native tongues. "When they hear you speaking an indigenous language they won't think you're bilingual, they'll just think you're indigenous," says Javier Galicia, a Mexico City-based academic and activist for Nahuatl, Mexico's most widely spoken indigenous tongue with 1.5 million speakers. "But if they hear you speak German or English, they'll be in awe."

The few people left who do speak the country's most at-risk languages are aging and unable to pass the tongues on to future generations. El Universal writes that the National Geography and Statistics Institute (INEGI) often over-estimates the true number of people who still speak indigenous languages. In the heavily indigenous southern state of Chiapas, for example, locals report only 70 speakers of Mocho". INEGI claims there are 134.

"You don't see many Mocho" speakers around these days," says Hilario, an 85-year-old resident of the city of Motozintla. "People would ask what "us natives' were talking about, so we stopped speaking it in public."

Speakers of disappearing languages like Mocho", Kiliwa, Oluteco, Odami Tepehuano and Kaqchikel, all of which number less than 100, neglect to promote their languages for fear of racism and discrimination. But there is only one way to save these ancient elements of culture and community from extinction, according to Senator Toledo. "We must be proud to speak our native tongues," he says.

Woman walking in Guadalajara, Mexico

Mexico Violence: Femicide 'State Of Alert' In Guadalajara

GUADALAJARAMexico"s state of Jalisco is experiencing a violent crime wave against women.

Mexico City-based daily El Universal reports that the number of murders of women, also known as femicides, rose to 150 there in 2015, part of a troubling rise in killings since 2009, when only 58 were recorded.

While the notoriously violent northern city of Ciudad Juárez was once the epicenter of gender-based crime, the problem has since spread to Jalisco, the country"s third most-populous state and home to Guadalajara, Mexico's second-largest city.

Jalisco Gov. Aristóteles Sandoval has decreed a state of alert in eight municipalities across the state, including Guadalajara and the popular tourist centers of Zapopan and Puerto Vallarta.

"Not only do they take their lives, but there is extreme violence against their bodies," gender expert Guadalupe Ramos Ponce said of the perpetrators of these crimes against women. "There is a system that promotes and allows misogynist violence."

It's no coincidence that the troubling trend coincides with a decrease in state funding for violence prevention and aid to victims. According to the Jalisco Institute for Women (IJM), austerity policies have led to deep cuts, with prevention funds slashed by 91% from 2012 to 2015.

In the first three months of this year, there have already been 28 murders of women in Jalisco. The state government is responding to the crisis by implementing a search program for missing women and children. The state of alert for violence against women also includes the equivalent of $1.5 million to tackle Jalisco's femicide crisis.

Even as they devise policies to combat the wave of crime, other state governments are facing similar challenges. Nonetheless, Ponce believes the issue runs far deeper. "Violence against women is tolerated," she says. "It is a socially accepted phenomenon."