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Murciélagos con gustos extraños

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chomp
Aproximación hipotética de un murciélago de labios de flecos, Trachops cirrhosus hacia un jacobino de cuello blanco dormido, Florisuga mellivora. Ilustración de Amy Koehler.

ADN en el excremento de murciélago de labios con flecos revela hábitos alimenticios inesperados

por STRI

El excremento está lleno de secretos. Para los científicos, indagar en las heces brinda información sobre las dietas de los animales y es muy útil para comprender a las especies nocturnas o raras. Cuando los animales comen, el ADN de su presa viaja a lo largo de su tracto digestivo hasta que vuelve a salir. El excremento contiene información muy precisa sobre las especies de presas que consumen. En el Instituto Smithsonian de Investigaciones Tropicales (STRI), un equipo exploró los hábitos alimenticios del murciélago de labios con flecos (Trachops cirrhosus) a través de su excremento.

Los murciélagos cazan de noche. Esto hace más difícil observar sus comportamientos de forrajeo. El análisis del ADN presente en el guano de murciélago ofrece una forma más precisa de explorar cómo se alimentan en la naturaleza y de estudiar cómo cambia el comportamiento de los murciélagos según sus hábitos alimenticios.

“Debido a que los murciélagos se alimentan de noche en el bosque denso, no se puede observar lo que comen de la misma manera que se puede con un ave o mamífero diurno”, comentó Patricia Jones, ex becaria de STRI, profesora asistente de biología en Bowdoin College y autora principal del estudio. “Es trascendental, por lo tanto, echar un vistazo a la dieta de esta especie de la que pensábamos que sabíamos tanto y descubrir que están comiendo presas que no teníamos idea que formaban parte de su alimentación”.

El murciélago de labios con flecos, también conocido como murciélago come ranas, está bien adaptado para cazar ranas. Su audición está adaptada a los llamados de apareamiento de las ranas, y se cree que sus glándulas salivales pueden neutralizar las toxinas en su piel. Estos murciélagos también se alimentan de insectos, pequeños reptiles o aves y otros murciélagos. Los investigadores ya sabían que estos murciélagos a menudo encuentran a sus presas espiando en sus llamados de apareamiento, pero se desconocía si podían detectar presas silenciosas.

Como era de esperar, la mayor parte del ADN recuperado de las muestras de excremento en el estudio pertenecía a especies de ranas y muchas lagartijas, pero los investigadores también encontraron evidencia de que los murciélagos se estaban comiendo a otros murciélagos e incluso a un colibrí. En experimentos adicionales, los murciélagos de labios con flecos capturados en la naturaleza, expuestos a grabaciones de sonidos de presas y modelos de presas estáticas pudieron detectar presas silenciosas e inmóviles, así como presas que emitían sonidos.

Esto llevó a los investigadores a concluir que este murciélago es más capaz de localizar presas por ecolocalización de lo que se pensaba.

“Esto es interesante porque no sabíamos que estos murciélagos eran capaces de detectar presas silenciosas y quietas”, comentó May Dixon, becaria de STRI, estudiante de doctorado en la Universidad de Texas en Austin y coautora del estudio. “Se cree que la detección de presas silenciosas y quietas en la espesa jungla es una tarea realmente difícil para la ecolocalización. Esto se debe a que cuando los murciélagos utilizan la ecolocalización en la jungla, los ecos de todas las hojas y ramas rebotan junto con los ecos de sus presas, y ‘esconden’ a la presa”.

Estos resultados pueden abrir una nueva línea de investigación sobre las habilidades sensoriales y la ecología de forrajeo de T. cirrhosus. También se suma a un creciente cuerpo de trabajo que sugiere que, en los trópicos, los murciélagos pueden ser importantes depredadores nocturnos de animales dormidos como las aves. El equipo también encontró especies de ranas inesperadas entre sus presas comunes.

“Descubrimos que T. cirrhosus a menudo se alimentaba de ranas del género Pristimantis”, comentó Jones. “Creo que esto abrirá nuevas vías de investigación con T. cirrhosus, porque Pristimantis llama desde el dosel y sus llamados son difíciles de localizar, por lo que si T. cirrhosus los está consumiendo, significa que se alimentan de manera diferente de lo que solíamos creer”.

En el futuro, esta nueva combinación de análisis de ADN dietético con experimentos de comportamiento puede ser utilizada por otros ecólogos interesados ​​en los comportamientos de forrajeo de una amplia gama de especies animales.

“Es realmente emocionante ver las puertas que se abren cuando el comportamiento animal se combina con el metabarcoding”, comentó Rachel Page, científica de STRI. “Aunque hemos estudiado al Trachops intensamente durante décadas, en realidad sabemos muy poco sobre su comportamiento en la naturaleza. Fue completamente sorprendente ver aparecer presas que nunca anticipamos en su dieta, como especies de ranas cuyos llamados de apareamiento parecían carecer de los parámetros acústicos necesarios para la localización y, lo que es más sorprendente, presas que parece que los murciélagos deben haber detectado solo por ecolocalización, como colibríes. Este trabajo nos hace repensar los mecanismos sensoriales que subyacen en el comportamiento de forrajeo de este murciélago y abre todo tipo de nuevas puertas para futuras interrogantes”.

Los miembros del equipo de investigación están afiliados a STRI, Bowdoin College, SWCA Environmental Consultants y la Universidad de Texas en Austin. La investigación fue financiada por el Smithsonian, la Fundación Nacional de Ciencias DDIG # 1210655 y un Premio académico P.E.O.

Jones, P., Divoll, T., Dixon, M.M., Aparicio, D., Cohen, G., Mueller, U., Ryan, M.J., Page, R. (2020). Sensory ecology of the frog-eating bat, Trachops cirrhosus, from DNA metabarcoding and behavior. Behavioral Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/araa100

El murciélago de labios de flecos (Trachops cirrhosus), también conocido como murciélago come ranas, está bien adaptado para la caza de ranas. Foto por Marcos Guerra.

 

Las becarias de STRI Patricia Jones (arriba) y May Dixon (debajo) se sorprendieron al encontrar especies de ranas inesperadas entre las presas de Trachops cirrhosus y al descubrir su capacidad para detectar presas silenciosas y quietas en la espesa jungla. Fotos por  Rachel Page y Sean Mattson.
 

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Bernal, Panabrecht

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Odebrecht MP
From a Panamanian Public Ministry graphic. They would lead you to believe that it’s a Brazilian problem, not a Panamanian one.

From Odebrecht to Panabrecht

by Miguel Antonio Bernal

Throughout his tenure, Varela and his Public Ministry, through the attorney general, tried to make us believe that Odebrecht only bribed Martinelli and his children. The Cortizo admionistration and its Public Ministry, hand in hand with the Supreme Court, have gone much further in their cohabitation with impunity for corruption.

Based on the confessions of Marcelo Odebrecht himself and of more than 150 executives of the criminal mega-company, not to mention from investigationd by the Brazilian, American, Swiss, Colombian, Dominican, Guatemalan, Mexican, Peruvian, Venezuelan, Ecuadorian, etc. authorities, there is no room left for doubt about the scope of the crimes perpetrated via the surcharges, bribes, percentages, kickbacks and extortion by those who paid and those who received bribes.

The number of presidents, ministers, deputies, senators, mayors and other officials investigated, prosecuted and jailed in many countries leaves no doubt that the mega criminal enterprise. Nor that its tentacles extended beyond the construction company.

Meanwhile in Panama, the inept governmental and, especially the judiciary (the problems of which are unceasingly covered up by exclusion of all citizen participation), are debased. By all means available, the corrupt continue doing what they feel like doing. The complicity with this criminal enterprise is an example.

Over the past seven years, the “Odebrecht corruption orgy,” as Brazilian prosecutors described it, has dominated all the branches of the Panamanian government. It has managed to strike down the puny public institutions with its stab of death. Contracts and addenda are the buttons that they push.

In the Panama version of the Odebrecht case prosecutors, attorneys general, judges, magistrates, ministers, deputies, mayors, comptrollers and four presidents have zealously sown and harvested disbelief and mistrust, both from the governed towards those who govern, and among the governed against each other.

What credibility can the Public Ministry, the Supreme Court of Justice, the Comptroller General, the Court of Accounts, etc. have today? The chain of failures in the prosecution of crimes has no parallel throughout our history as a republic. They have become a matrix the cradles of corruption and sponsors of impunity. It’s not only in the Odebrecht case, but also in public contracting, legislators’ circuit funds, the representantes’ juntas comunales, ventilators, hospitals, Seguro Social, the universities, to mention just a few examples of this sorry show.

The mega-corruption promoted by the administrations from 2006 to date are living proof of an ongoing affront to our dignity. They mock us with lies and deceit. The main achievement has been to poison the roots of the tree of our national identity.

Those administrations are responsible for this mega-scandal, in which Panama has ceased to mean an abundance of fish, trees and butterflies, and instead to mean an abundance of corruption, impunity, extortion and ineptitude. That is, Panabrecht.

 

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Zimmerman, How Trump is losing senior citizens’ votes

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raaaawk!
In lieu of a plan for the virus, the president keeps assuring audiences that “only” older people will die. Shutterstock photo.

Trump to seniors: Drop dead!

by Mitchell Zimmerman – OtherWords

I’m of the generation that was born during World War II.

We’re now in our mid-to-late 70s. We were a little pre-boomer, but many of us joined or led the rights revolutions of the 1960s, struggled against the Vietnam War, and hoped to make the world more just, generous, and joyous.

That was then.

Now, inexplicable though this seems to me, we usually tilt Republican. But that may be changing. Polls now show the president trailing Joe Biden by double digits among seniors.

Why? Perhaps it’s because, for Donald Trump, we’re simply expendable.

As President Trump’s bungled response to the pandemic has become more evident, our cohort, even including the conservatives among us, has seen that the price of Trump’s failure of leadership is death.

It was March when Texas Republican leader Dan Patrick set out the GOP’s go-gently-into-the-night approach to elders. He proposed it would be noble for us to take our chances on death by coronavirus if that’s what it takes to keep the economy humming, which Trump and the Republicans saw as the key to re-election.

What could possibly be more important?

At the time, fewer than 500 Americans had died of COVID-19. Now, seven months later, well over 220,000 Americans have succumbed due to Trump’s mishandling of the contagion. Eighty percent of the dead were over 65.

When a deadly infection flames across an entire nation like a wildfire, the times demand leadership. Trump ran the other way.

When difficulties arose with our coronavirus testing, he declared: “I don’t take responsibility at all.” When shortages of PPE and medical materials plagued the states, he told governors on a conference call this spring: “Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves. We’re not a shipping clerk.”

Trump had no plan for the pandemic then, and he doesn’t have one now. He recently told supporters in Arizona he was “tired” of talking about the pandemic.

But then no plan is needed, in Trump’s considered opinion, since the pandemic is a “hoax.” The virus, he has counseled, is “totally harmless” in 99 percent of cases. “Don’t be afraid of COVID-19,” he offered. “When you catch it, you get better.”

Of course, 220,000 people died and will never get better. Such people are, in the presidential view, apparently not worth thinking about.

Trump explained this last month: Coronavirus “affects elderly people. Elderly people with heart problems and other problems . . . That’s it. You know, in some states, thousands of people, nobody young.”

His words of comfort to younger voters: It’s only your parents and grandparents who will die.

But Trump’s response is even worse than ignorant denial, neglect, and indifference. For months Trump aggressively campaigned against the efforts of public health authorities to control the virus, dividing the country and sabotaging their efforts to control the pandemic.

Doctors, epidemiologists, and public health officers all prescribed social distancing, wearing masks, and business and school suspensions as the way to prevent millions of deaths.

But Trump instructed his fervid followers not to bother observing the precautions, even encouraging armed demonstrations against public health rules. He recruited and deployed tens of millions of potential carriers of contagion.

A nation divided between those doing what it takes to contain an epidemic and those who selfishly flout necessary precautions cannot hold a pandemic in check. And so the coronavirus expands. Recently, the 12 states with the highest seven-day averages of new cases were all states that had voted for Trump in 2016.

Out here in the real world, COVID-19 is very much to be feared. There is no magic cure and no vaccine. Injecting disinfectant won’t stop it. Neither will denial. And we elders are the likeliest to die because the president is a reckless misleader.


Mitchell Zimmerman is an attorney, longtime social activist, and author of the anti-racism thriller Mississippi Reckoning.

 

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Moody’s lowers Panama’s sovereign debt rating to negative

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Moody’s changes Panama’s outlook to negative, affirms Baa1 ratings

by Moody’s Investor Service — October 21,. 2020

Moody’s Investors Service, (“Moody’s”) has today changed the outlook on the Government of Panama’s ratings to negative from stable. Moody’s has affirmed the long-term issuer and senior unsecured debt ratings at Baa1, and Panama’s senior unsecured shelf ratings at (P)Baa1.

The key driver for the change in outlook to negative is the consideration that, absent meaningful fiscal consolidation and a sustained economic recovery, the sharp deterioration in fiscal and debt metrics will continue to undermine Panama’s credit profile in the coming years. A continued rise in the government’s debt and interest burdens would bring Panama’s fiscal metrics in line with Baa peer medians, materially eroding a credit strength that supported the upgrade of Panama’s ratings to Baa1 in 2019.

The Baa1 rating incorporates the sovereign’s still-present underlying credit strengths, including trend growth in excess of 4%, which has been above that reported by most Baa-rated peers. Additionally, Panama’s ability to access market funding at relatively low borrowing costs keeps government liquidity and refinancing risks contained.

Panama’s long-term foreign-currency bond and deposit ceilings remain unchanged at A2. The short-term foreign-currency bond and deposit ceilings are unchanged at Prime-1.

Ratings rationale

Rationale for changing the outlook to negative from stable

Panama’s rating upgrade to Baa1 in March 2019 was driven by strong government debt metrics relative to peers and trend growth above that of most Baa-rated sovereigns. Subdued economic growth in 2019 as GDP expanded by 3.0% compared to Moody’s initial 5.5% projection, fiscal slippage at the end of the previous administration, and the new government’s decision to clear arrears amounting to 2.6% of GDP led to a larger-than-expected increase in the government’s debt burden. Still, Moody’s pre-coronavirus projections assumed debt metrics would remain relatively stable in 2020 and thereafter, at levels still more favorable than those of its rating peers.

The coronavirus shock will lead to a severe economic contraction of about 10% in 2020, as the pandemic affects several economic sectors. Even though a reopening of the economy is underway, Moody’s expects a gradual recovery in the second half of the year, with GDP growth of 4.5% in 2021 followed by average annual growth of around 4% in the coming years.

The economic shock caused by the pandemic is weighing materially on government revenue. Central government current revenue fell 30% year-on-year through September and the authorities expect total revenue will be 25% lower in nominal terms for the year, about $3 billion below 2019 levels. Moody’s forecasts a widening in the fiscal deficit to around 8% of GDP in 2020 and anticipates that a recovery in revenue next year combined with efforts to limit the growth in spending will lead to a narrowing of the fiscal deficit. Nonetheless, the fiscal shortfall will remain high.

These dynamics will lead to an increase in the government’s debt and interest burdens. Moody’s forecasts the debt burden to rise above 60% of GDP by 2021 from 46% in 2019, bringing the debt/GDP ratio in line with the Baa peer median. The fall in revenue will push the interest/revenue ratio to 15% and Moody’s expects the ratio to stabilize at this level over the coming years, which is significantly above the Baa median of 8%.

In the absence of a substantive and credible fiscal consolidation program, including raising government revenue levels that are low on a comparative basis relative to regional and rating peers, Panama’s fiscal metrics will remain weaker than those of Baa1-rated peers. The government will also have to deal with rising fiscal pressures coming from the weaker financial standing of the social security system, as its numbers have deteriorated more rapidly than what authorities had initially anticipated due to the pandemic.

Rationale for affirming the ratings at Baa1

The rating affirmation takes into account Panama’s fundamental credit strengths, including a dynamic, service-based economy with investment as its main growth driver, and the government’s low liquidity risk.

Robust medium-term growth prospects remain a key factor supporting Panama’s credit profile. The authorities and the International Monetary Fund maintain an estimate of potential growth of around 5%-5.5%, but Moody’s expects trend growth of around 4% after 2021. Given its role as a global trade hub and also its strategic location, Panama will continue to attract foreign investment, especially in the logistics sector. However, because the lack of largescale projects has weighed on Panama’s growth performance since 2018, new projects would have to emerge to provide the support required to maintain sustained economic growth above 4%.

Another key support factor for Panama’s credit profile is the sovereign’s strong market access. The government has been able to fund itself in the external and local markets at low rates in spite of recently facing higher-than-normal financing needs. Panama now has the fourth lowest government bond spread in Latin America. While its bond spread rose in March and April it has since come down; borrowing costs are currently more favorable than just before the pandemic shock. Despite a higher debt burden, the weighted average cost of debt (i.e. interest/debt ratio) in 2020 is 4.2%, down from 4.5% in 2018.

Environmental, social, governance considerations

Environmental considerations currently exert limited influence on Panama’s credit profile. A hurricane has never made landfall in Panama, but the sovereign is somewhat exposed to weather events. Previously, excessive rains have prompted the authorities to request exceptions for complying with the fiscal rule. More recently, the Panama Canal has reported very low water levels, disrupting transit through the waterway and energy generation. However, Moody’s sees these events more as medium-term risks for the sovereign, which could increase if the performance of other important economic sectors is affected.

Social considerations are not material for Panama’s credit profile. Demographics are still favorable for the sovereign in terms of population growth and population dynamics. However, despite having one of the highest per capita GDPs on a purchasing power parity basis in Latin America, Panama has high income inequality, which adds downward pressure to Moody’s political risk assessment. Moody’s also regards the coronavirus pandemic as a social risk under its ESG framework, given the substantial implications for public health and safety.

In terms of governance, control of corruption is one of Panama’s most pressing challenges. Panama scores poorly in this aspect of institutional strength, as measured by the Worldwide Governance Indicators. In addition, the country has a weak track record of complying with its fiscal rules, which also limits Moody’s assessment of institutional effectiveness for the sovereign.

GDP per capita (PPP basis, US$): 26,822 (2019 Actual) (also known as Per Capita Income)

Real GDP growth (% change): 3% (2019 Actual) (also known as GDP Growth)

Inflation Rate (CPI, % change Dec/Dec): -0.1% (2019 Actual)

Gen. Gov. Financial Balance/GDP: -3.1% (2019 Actual) (also known as Fiscal Balance)

Current Account Balance/GDP: -5.2% (2019 Actual) (also known as External Balance)

External debt/GDP: 33.5% (2019 Actual; Non-financial public sector only)

Economic resiliency: baa2

Default history: No default events (on bonds or loans) have been recorded since 1983.

On 15 October 2020, a rating committee was called to discuss the rating of the Panama, Government of. The main points raised during the discussion were: The issuer’s economic fundamentals, including its economic strength, have materially decreased. The issuer’s fiscal or financial strength, including its debt profile, has materially decreased.

Factors that could lead to an upgrade or downgrade of the ratings

Given the negative outlook, a rating upgrade is unlikely. The outlook could return to stable if Moody’s were to assess that debt metrics would stabilize – or improve – after 2021 as a result of both the authorities’ fiscal consolidation efforts and continued strong economic growth. Additionally, measures to support the improvement in the fiscal accounts related to the social security system and the government’s low revenue intake would be credit positive.

On the other hand, if Moody’s were to conclude that fiscal consolidation measures adopted by the authorities would be insufficient to preserve or recover Panama’s fiscal strength, it would consider a rating downgrade. Additionally, should economic growth come below estimates incorporated in Moody’s baseline scenario, weighing on the fiscal accounts, this would pressure Panama’s credit profile and its sovereign rating. Inability to effectively address rising pressures stemming from the social security system would also be credit negative.

The principal methodology used in these ratings was Sovereign Ratings Methodology published in November 2019 and available at https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_1158631. Alternatively, please see the Rating Methodologies page on www.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

The weighting of all rating factors is described in the methodology used in this credit rating action, if applicable.

Regulatory disclosures

For further specification of Moody’s key rating assumptions and sensitivity analysis, see the sections Methodology Assumptions and Sensitivity to Assumptions in the disclosure form. Moody’s Rating Symbols and Definitions can be found at: https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_79004.

For ratings issued on a program, series, category/class of debt or security this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to each rating of a subsequently issued bond or note of the same series, category/class of debt, security or pursuant to a program for which the ratings are derived exclusively from existing ratings in accordance with Moody’s rating practices. For ratings issued on a support provider, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the credit rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular credit rating action for securities that derive their credit ratings from the support provider’s credit rating. For provisional ratings, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the provisional rating assigned, and in relation to a definitive rating that may be assigned subsequent to the final issuance of the debt, in each case where the transaction structure and terms have not changed prior to the assignment of the definitive rating in a manner that would have affected the rating. For further information please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page for the respective issuer on www.moodys.com.

For any affected securities or rated entities receiving direct credit support from the primary entity(ies) of this credit rating action, and whose ratings may change as a result of this credit rating action, the associated regulatory disclosures will be those of the guarantor entity. Exceptions to this approach exist for the following disclosures, if applicable to jurisdiction: Ancillary Services, Disclosure to rated entity, Disclosure from rated entity.

The ratings have been disclosed to the rated entity or its designated agent(s) and issued with no amendment resulting from that disclosure.

These ratings are solicited. Please refer to Moody’s Policy for Designating and Assigning Unsolicited Credit Ratings available on its website www.moodys.com.

Regulatory disclosures contained in this press release apply to the credit rating and, if applicable, the related rating outlook or rating review.

Moody’s general principles for assessing environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks in our credit analysis can be found at https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_1133569.

The Global Scale Credit Rating on this Credit Rating Announcement was issued by one of Moody’s affiliates outside the EU and is endorsed by Moody’s Deutschland GmbH, An der Welle 5, Frankfurt am Main 60322, Germany, in accordance with Art.4 paragraph 3 of the Regulation (EC) No 1060/2009 on Credit Rating Agencies. Further information on the EU endorsement status and on the Moody’s office that issued the credit rating is available on www.moodys.com.

 

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STRI learns more about ancient Mayan sweat baths

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Mayas
The remains of a juvenile skeleton were recovered from the steam house offering, suggesting an early understanding of the structure as a place of human birth and creation. Photo by David Del Cid.

New evidence found of the ritual significance of a classic Maya sweat bath in Guatemala

by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Sweat baths have a long history of use in Mesoamerica. Commonly used by midwives in postpartum and perinatal care in contemporary Maya communities, these structures are viewed as grandmother figures, a pattern that can also be traced to earlier periods of history. At the site of Xultun, Guatemala, a Classic Maya sweat bath with an unusual collection of artifacts led archaeologists from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), the Archaeology Program at Boston University and other collaborating institutions to gather new evidence of these beliefs and an early example of the related ritual practices.

Indigenous people of Mesoamerica see the natural world as a place populated by ancestors and supernatural beings, many of whom live within natural features and ancient buildings. This was certainly the case for the Classic Maya. Dating to the Early Classic period (250-550 A.D.), the sweat bath at Xultun, named Los Sapos, appears to have been embodied by an amphibian goddess. Outside the sweat bath, the scientists encountered a representation of this little-known Classic Maya deity, possibly “ix.tzutz.sak.” The goddess is depicted squatting in a toad-like position with legs ornamented with iguanas and cane toads (Rhinella marina).

“No other structure in Mesoamerica–sweat bath or otherwise–looks like this building,” said STRI archaeologist Ashley Sharpe, co-author of the study. “It would seem that when someone enters the front of the structure, they are entering the amphibian goddess who personified the sweat bath.”

“Although this goddess’ name remains undeciphered, proposed readings suggest she was responsible for gestation cycles, both of time and human life,” said Boston University archaeologist Mary Clarke, main author of the study. “Linking notions of birth to reptilian figures, however, is not uncommon among the Classic Maya as they express the verb ‘to birth’ as an upended reptilian mouth glyph. What we see at Xultun is an example where this reptilian goddess, as well as the ideas and myths she embodied, are expressed as a physical place.”

The Los Sapos sweat bath was an active part of the Xultun community for about 300 years. Around 600 A.D. an adult individual was interred within the doorway, after which the entire building was buried, even though the Maya continued living at Xultun for several more centuries. About 300 years later, the buried building was revisited, the majority of human remains removed and a new and unusual offering was presented to the structure, including a human child, juvenile animals including a puppy and birds, several complete cane toads and iguanas, and numerous stone tools and ceramic sherds.

The deposited items had varying degrees of heat damage. The Maya built a fire within the vacated tomb, where they began placing their offerings. For the authors, the selection of artifacts may have been associated with the sweat bath’s identity as a grandmother figure and the early understanding of the structure as a place of birth and human creation.

“Maya archaeologists often find artifact concentrations like these that were likely dedications to structures, but there is rarely an obvious link between the objects and the structure,” Sharpe said. “Because of the iconography on the outside of Los Sapos and because we know it was a sweat bath, we have a rare case where we can associate the offerings–an infant, figurines of women, and frogs and iguanas–with the role the structure played in the community.”

The Los Sapos deposit suggests that the sweat bath’s historical role in Xultun continued centuries after the building had been buried. As the goddesses related to sweat baths throughout Mesoamerican history are described as holding sway over the conditions for life on Earth, the offering was likely an attempt at requesting assistance from the goddess embodying the Los Sapos structure. This could have been a last effort to please the supernatural entity and prevent losing hold of their lands, which were abandoned soon after, around the Maya Collapse of 900 A.D.

“This supernatural figure is a ferocious embodiment of the Earth,” Clarke said. “When displeased, she may take revenge or withhold the things people need to survive. The offering at Los Sapos was both an attempt to appease this goddess and an act of resilience. Rather than seeing a population succumbing to collapse, we see them trying to negotiate with this goddess for their survival.”

 

Members of the research team are affiliated with STRI, Boston University, California State University Chico, University of Miami, Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala and Skidmore College. Research was funded by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Boston University and the National Geographic Society.

 

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Reich, Stop thief!

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What happens if Trump
contests the election?

by Robert Reich

It’s no secret that Donald Trump is pulling out all the stops to remain in power. He’s setting the stage to dispute the election results by spreading lies about mail-in voting, launching legal attacks against expanding voting access, and sowing distrust in the electoral process.

But there’s one strategy he could employ that no one is talking about: Contesting the election in the House of Representatives.

“We have the advantage if we go back to Congress. I think it’s 26 to 22 or something because it’s counted one vote per state.” That’s what he said in late September at one of his rallies. So what’s he talking about?

Congress has decided contested elections only three times in US history, in 1801, 1825, and 1877. But we might face another because Donald Trump will stop at nothing to retain his power.

That’s why it’s even more critical for you to vote.

We have 14 days left to make this a blowout victory for Joe Biden and Democrats down the ballot, and stop Trump from stealing this election.

We can’t waste a second.

 

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Editorials: Permission to defend the Caribbean?; Say WHAT?; and Vote Blue

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Vene ship
The FSO Nabarima, listing from a flooded engine room in Venezuelan waters, not far from Trinidad. Photo by Fishermen and Friends of the Sea.

Political delay of sea rescue threatens fisheries of at least two nations

The Panamanian-flag tanker Ícaro, after having received US permission to avoid being blacklisted, is headed to the Gulf of Pariato offload oil from the stricken floating bunker oil ship FSO Nabarima. The ship has been in distress since at least early August, and were she to sink her cargo would ruin not only part of Venezuela’s fishery, but also that of Trinidad and Tobago, as the island of Trinidad is less than 10 miles away.

The ship is a partnership deal between Venezuelan and Italian companies. So why no Italian tankers to the rescue? It’s because US sanctions blacklist any ship that takes on oil at Venezuela. Donald Trump has taken his time granting an exception and has risked the fisheries of at least two countries just he’s that capricious. He doesn’t even care about the health of the American people, let alone the viability of a Caribbean fishery that feeds nations that he scorns.

Panama is also a Caribbean nation. It has happened in years past, for example, that medical wastes illegally dumped off of Venezuela have been carried by a current that runs along the shore from there to Yucatan have ended upon the beaches of Colon province. The health of the Caribbean Sea is a national security issue for Panama.

Boycotts that answer to the claims, even the whims, of other nations are a national sovereignty issue for Panama. Because the main line of defense for the Panama Canal is a neutrality that allows all nations of the world to use the waterway, our facile and servile embrace of other countries’ boycotts can also become a national security issue for us.

It’s good that a Panamanian-flag vessel comes to the rescue of the Caribbean Sea, and bad that there are floating oil depots like the FSO Nabarima that pose inherent threats to many nations. It’s a matter of international law that needs to be taken up at the United Nations. It’s a matter of Panamanian law with respect to which activities we allow in our national waters. In no case should unilateral US sanctions be allowed to impede the defenses of an ocean planet.

  

  

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Long lines of people before sunrise to vote early in Marietta, Georgia. Yes, the Republicans are out in force. But Democrats are, too, and usually that is not the case. Every possible trick will be pulled, but white supremacy may take a surprise beating in that state. Anonymous photo from Twitter.

Not just Trump who needs to go

Things are not going well in the polls for Donald Trump and he’s acting that way. His base will turn out to vote in force. He will lose a few usual Republican votes over objections to his performance in office. Republicans almost always do vote and that gives him some hope. Huge turnouts by registered Democrats and independents in the early voting of places like Georgia, North Carolina and Texas are the main indicator that’s out of the ordinary in this plague year election. That’s what gives Trump reason for despair.

Joe Biden is not a candidate for sainthood but he is clearly the best viable candidate for president of the United States. His idea that American needs to be built back better after a long decline, a disastrous presidency and an ever more catastrophic epidemic is the basic orientation that the United States needs, while Trump just offers lies and insults.

But would Biden be elected, only to be stymied by a Republican US Senate and Supreme Court? That would happen if the Republicans retain control of the senate, or even if they lose but it’s close enough that they can get a Democrat vote or two to continue their blocks against all Democratic legislation.

Two weeks out, polls suggest that Democrats have a good chance to take 10 seats in the US Senate from the Republicans, while only two Democratic seats appear vulnerable. There can and probably will be movement either way. How people vote will be distorted by Donald Trump’s and the Republicans’ vote suppression tactics – from the destruction of some 700 mail sorting machines so as to exclude properly sent absentee ballots, to gunmen showing up at polling places to intimidate voters, to myriad laws and practices designed to make it harder to vote.

There is a need for a new Voting Rights Act. No democracy should have to put up with the stuff that Trump and his party are pulling. But such reform we will not get if it’s not a landslide sweep that drives the Republicans to the political wilderness for years to come. Which is what ought to happen. Vote blue, and bring some other people to vote blue, too.

For those voting from abroad, it’s past time to get your ballot in via the embassy mailbox. If you are registered to vote, you can get your ballot to the clerk in a “vote by mail” jurisdiction by sending it DHL. Some places even let you register on election day. In about half the states, you can register and vote by email or fax. Click on Vote From Abroad if you need help with this.

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Bear in mind…

 

Lying increases the creative faculties, expands the ego, and lessens the frictions of social contacts.

Clare Booth Luce

 

A wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends.

Baltasar Gracian

 

Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.

George Orwell

 

 

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