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February 2013. Things are a bit HOT around the world….
The chili pepper (also chile pepper or chilli pepper, from Nahuatl chīlli [‘t͡ʃiːlːi]) is the fruit of plants from the genus Capsicum, members of the nightshade family, Solanaceae. The term in British English and in Australia, New Zealand, India, Malaysia and other Asian countries is just chilli without pepper.
Chili peppers originated in the Americas. After the Columbian Exchange, many cultivars of chili pepper spread across the world, used in both food and medicine.
The five domesticated species of chili peppers are:
Capsicum annuum, which includes many common varieties such as bell peppers, wax, cayenne, jalapeños, and the chiltepin
Capsicum frutescens, which includes malagueta, tabasco and Thai peppers, piri piri, African birdseye chili, Malawian Kambuzi
Capsicum chinense, which includes the hottest peppers such as the naga, habanero, Datil and Scotch bonnet
Capsicum pubescens, which includes the South American rocoto peppers
Capsicum baccatum, which includes the South American aji peppers
Immature chilis in the fieldThough there are only a few commonly used species, there are many cultivars and methods of preparing chili peppers that have different names for culinary use. Green and red bell peppers, for example, are the same cultivar of C. annuum, immature peppers being green. In the same species are the jalapeño, the poblano (which when dried is referred to as ancho), New Mexico (which is also known as chile colorado), Anaheim, serrano, and other cultivars.
Peppers are commonly broken down into three groupings: bell peppers, sweet peppers, and hot peppers. Most popular pepper varieties are seen as falling into one of these categories or as a cross between them.
Solanaceae are a family of flowering plants that includes a number of important agricultural crops, although many species are toxic plants. The family is also informally known as the nightshade or potato family. The name of the family comes from the Latin Solanum “the nightshade plant”, but the further etymology of that word is unclear. Most likely, the name comes from the perceived resemblance that some of the flowers bear to the sun and its rays, and in fact a species of Solanum (Solanum nigrum) is known as the “sunberry”. Alternatively, the name has been suggested to originate from the Latin verb solari, meaning “to soothe”. This presumably refers to soothing pharmacological properties of some of the psychoactive species of the family.
The family includes Datura, Mandragora (mandrake), Atropa belladonna (deadly nightshade), Lycium barbarum (wolfberry), Physalis philadelphica (tomatillo) , Physalis peruviana (Cape gooseberry flower), Capsicum (chili pepper, bell pepper), Solanum (potato, tomato, eggplant), Nicotiana (tobacco), and Petunia. With the exception of tobacco (Nicotianoideae) and petunia (Petunioideae), most of the economically important genera are contained in the subfamily Solanoideae.
Many members of the Solanaceae family are used by humans, and are important sources of food, spice and medicine. However, Solanaceae species are often rich in alkaloids whose toxicity to humans and animals ranges from mildly irritating to fatal in small quantities.
Solanaceae is known for having a diverse range of alkaloids. As far as humans are concerned, these alkaloids can be desirable, toxic, or both.
One of the most important groups of these compounds is called the tropane alkaloids. The term “tropane” comes from a genus in which they are found, Atropa (the belladonna genus). Atropa is named after the Greek Fate, Atropos, who cut the thread of life. This nomenclature reflects its toxicity and lethality.
Tropane alkaloids are also found in the Datura, Mandragora, and Brugmansia genera, as well as many others in the Solanaceae family. Chemically, the molecules of these compounds have a characteristic bicyclic structure and include atropine, scopolamine, and hyoscyamine. Pharmacologically, they are the most powerful known anticholinergics in existence, meaning they inhibit the neurological signals transmitted by the endogenous neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. Symptoms of overdose may include dry mouth, dilated pupils, ataxia, urinary retention, hallucinations, convulsions, coma, and death.
Despite the extreme toxicity of the tropanes, they are useful drugs when administered in extremely small dosages. They can reverse cholinergic poisoning, which can be caused by overexposure to pesticides and chemical warfare agents such as sarin and VX. More commonly, they can halt many types of allergic reactions. Atropine, a commonly used ophthalmological agent, dilates the pupils and thus facilitates examination of the interior of the eye. Scopolamine is used as an antiemetic against motion sickness or for people receiving chemotherapy. Atropine has a stimulant effect on the central nervous system and heart, whereas scopolamine has a sedative effect.
An infamous alkaloid derived from Solanaceae is nicotine. Like the tropanes, its pharmacology acts on cholinergic neurons, but with the opposite effect (it is an agonist as opposed to an antagonist). It has a higher specificity for nicotinic acetylcholine receptors than other ACh proteins. Nicotine occurs naturally in the Nicotiana or tobacco genus.
Another class of toxic substances found in this family are the glycoalkaloids, for example solanine which has occasionally been responsible for poisonings in people who ate berries from species such as Solanum nigrum or Solanum dulcamara, or green potatoes.
The chemical in chili peppers responsible for the burning sensation is capsaicin. Capsaicin affects only mammals, not birds. Pepper seeds can survive the digestive tract of birds; their fruit becomes brightly colored once its seeds are mature enough to germinate, thereby attracting the attention of birds who then distribute the seeds. Capsaicin extract is used to make pepper spray, a useful deterrent against aggressive mammals.
Atropa belladonna or Atropa bella-donna, commonly known as Belladonna or Deadly Nightshade, is a perennial herbaceous plant in the family Solanaceae, native to Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia. The foliage and berries are extremely toxic, containing tropane alkaloids. These toxins include scopolamine and hyoscyamine which cause a bizarre delirium and hallucinations, and are also used as pharmaceutical anticholinergics. The drug atropine is derived from the plant.
It has a long history of use as a medicine, cosmetic, and poison. Before the Middle Ages, it was used as an anesthetic for surgery; the ancient Romans used it as a poison (the wife of Emperor Augustus and the wife of Claudius both were rumored to have used it to murder contemporaries); and predating this, it was used to make poison-tipped arrows. The genus name “atropa” comes from Atropos, one of the three Fates in Greek mythology, and the name “bella donna” is derived from Italian and means “beautiful woman” because the herb was used in eye-drops by women to dilate the pupils of the eyes to make them appear seductive.
Petróleos Mexicanos or Pemex (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈpemeks], Mexican Petroleum) is a Mexican state-owned petroleum company. Pemex has a total asset worth of $415.75 billion, and is the world’s second largest non-publicly listed company by total market value, and Latin America’s second largest enterprise by annual revenue as of 2009. However, the majority of its shares are non-publicly listed and under control of the Mexican government. The value of its publicly listed shares totalled $102 billion in 2010, representing approximately one quarter of the company’s total worth.
Main article: Mexican oil expropriation
Asphalt and pitch had been worked in Mexico since the time of the Aztecs. Small quantities of oil were first refined into kerosene around 1876 near Tampico. By 1917 commercial quantities of oil were being extracted and refined by subsidiaries of the British Pearson and American Doheny companies, and had attracted the attention of the Mexican government who then claimed all mineral rights for the state as part of its Constitution.
In 1938, President Lázaro Cárdenas sided with oil workers striking against foreign-owned oil companies for an increase in pay and social services. On March 18, 1938, citing the 27th article of the 1917 constitution, President Cárdenas embarked on the state-expropriation of all resources and facilities, nationalizing the United States and Anglo–Dutch operating companies, creating Pemex. In retaliation, many foreign governments closed their markets to Mexican oil. In spite of the boycott, Pemex developed into one of the largest oil companies in the world and helped Mexico become the fifth-largest oil exporter in the world.
In 1979, Pemex’s Ixtoc I exploratory oil well in the Bay of Campeche suffered a blowout resulting in one of the largest oil spills in history. Pemex spent $100 million to clean up the spill and avoided most compensation claims by asserting sovereign immunity as a state-run company.
Pemex’s offices in Mexico City.Despite its current $80.6 billion in revenue, Pemex pays high taxes that contribute a large portion of the budget of the federal government. In recent years the company has only been able to make ends meet through massive borrowing, so that it now owes a staggering $42.5 billion, including $24 billion in off-balance-sheet debt because the Mexican government treats the company as a major source of revenue. The state-owned company pays out over 60% of its revenue in royalties and taxes, and those funds pay for 40% of the federal government’s budget. In 2005, with record-breaking oil prices, the company saw an unexpected excess of funds. This trend continued in 2006, but these funds have been used to pay salaries of bureaucrats and current costs, instead of being invested in projects of exploration and production; during the President Fox administration, these funds represented around 70 billion dollars, yet the administration said there was not enough money to pay the debts. The lack of investments prevent adequate refining capacity to be added. While exporting crude oil, Mexico imports expensive gasoline.
To help capitalize the company, former President Vicente Fox brought forward the possibility of making shares of Pemex available to Mexican citizens and pension funds, to complement a current project-specific investment setup known as “Proyectos de Inversión Diferida En El Registro del Gasto” (Deferred Investment Projects in the Expenditure Registry); this proposal, along with alleviating Pemex’s heavy tax burden and a substantial budget increase, have met opposition in Congress. President Calderón made clear at the beginning of his presidency that he would try his best to open up the sector to private investment. Pemex is Latin America’s second largest company measured by revenues, according to a ranking of the region’s 500 largest companies by Latin Business Chronicle, only behind, Brazilian oil company Petrobras. In June 2009, Pemex has asked for an extra $1.5 billion state aid to finance oil fields investments, reported Bloomberg.
On August 11, 2009, the U.S. Justice Department reported that U.S. refineries have been buying vast quantities of stolen oil from Mexican government pipelines. Criminals, especially drug gangs, tap remote pipelines and sometimes build their own pipelines to siphon off hundreds of millions of dollars worth of oil each year. One oil executive has been charged and has pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. The U.S. Homeland Security Department will return $2.4 million to Mexico’s tax administration – the first batch of money seized during a binational investigation into smuggled oil that authorities expect to lead to more arrests and seizures. The President of Houston-based Trammo Petroleum is set to be sentenced in December after pleading guilty in May.
President Felipe Calderón is calling for change in Mexico’s oil industry after output at Pemex fell at the fastest rate since 1942. His comments came after Petrobras and London-based BP said they made a “giant” oil find of as much as 3 billion barrels (480×10^6 m3) in the Gulf of Mexico southeast of Houston. According Mexican Energy Minister Georgina Kessel, Mexico may seek to emulate Brazilian Oil rules that strengthened Petroleo Brasileiro SA as it considers regulation changes to revive the oil industry.
In an interview on the oil news website  in November 2005, a Pemex employee spoke anonymously of the company’s inability to grow production, stating that the company and country is at Hubbert’s Peak. The person interviewed believed export levels could not be recovered once peak had passed, as the size of current fields that have been discovered or are coming online represent a fraction of the size of the oilfields going into terminal decline. Annual production has dropped each year since 2004. Furthermore, it has been reported the 2005-2006 daily oil production was down by approximately 500,000 barrels per day (79,000 m3/d) (a large proportion of the country’s 4,500,000 barrels) on the previous year. Pemex averaged 3.71 MMBPD in 2006. Pemex has never produced 4 MMBPD or higher for a yearly average. Pemex has been replaced as Latin America’s largest company by Petrobras, according to the latest Latin Business Chronicle ranking of Latin America’s Top 500 companies.
National Hydrocarbons Commission, created in 2008 by the Mexican Congress to increase regulatory oversight, has increased scrutiny over Pemex in 2012.
On January 31, 2013, an explosion occurred at the administrative offices of Pemex in Mexico City. At least 25 people were killed and at least 101 were injured. There were also 30 still trapped. The cause has not been confirmed. Local media reported that machinery exploded in the basement of an administrative center next door to the 52-story Pemex tower.
 See also Mexico portal
Petroleum industry in Mexico
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