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Short, Cities lag in climate change measures

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flood
Flooding is seen in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia after the remnants of Hurricane Ida, September 2, 2021. AP photo by Matt Rourke.

Cities worldwide aren’t adapting to climate change quickly enough

by John Rennie Short, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Climate change is magnifying threats such as flooding, wildfires, tropical storms and drought. In 2020 the U.S. experienced a record-breaking 22 weather and climate disasters that each caused at least US$1 billion in damage. So far in 2021, the count stands at 18.

I study urban issues and have analyzed cities’ relationship with nature for many years. As I see it, cities are quickly becoming more vulnerable to extreme weather events and permanent shifts in their climate zones.

I am concerned that the pace of climate change is accelerating much more rapidly than urban areas are taking steps to adapt to it. In 1950, only 30% of the world’s population lived in urban areas; today that figure is 56%, and it is projected to rise to 68% by 2050. Failure to adapt urban areas to climate change will put millions of people at risk.

 

Extreme weather and long-term climate zone shifts

As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows in its latest report, released in August 2021, global climate change is widespread, rapid and accelerating. For cities in temperate latitudes, this means more heat waves and shorter cold seasons. In subtropical and tropical latitudes, it means wetter rainy seasons and hotter dry seasons. Most coastal cities will be threatened by sea level rise.

Around the globe, cities will face a much higher probability of extreme weather events. Depending on their locations, these will include heavier snowfalls, more severe drought, water shortages, punishing heat waves, greater flooding, more wildfires, bigger storms and longer storm seasons. The heaviest costs will be borne by their most vulnerable residents: the old, the poor and others who lack wealth and political connections to protect themselves.

Extreme weather isn’t the only concern. A 2019 study of 520 cities around the world projected that even if nations limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius (about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial conditions, climate zones will shift hundreds of miles northward by 2050 worldwide. This would cause 77% of the cities in the study to experience a major change in their year-round climate regimes.

Boy in bathing suit standing next to fountain.A boy cools off in Seattle’s Yesler Terrace spray park in June 2021 during a record-setting Pacific Northwest heat wave. AP Photo/John Froschauer.

For example, the study authors predicted that by midcentury, London’s climate will resemble that of modern-day Barcelona, and Seattle’s will be like current conditions in San Francisco. In short, in less than 30 years, three out of every four major cities in the world will have a completely different climate from the one for which its urban form and infrastructure were designed.

A similar study of climate change impacts on more than 570 European cities predicted that they will face an entirely new climate regime within 30 years – one characterized by more heat waves and droughts, and increased risk of flooding.

Mitigating climate change

Cities’ responses to climate change fall into two broad categories: mitigating (reducing) emissions that drive climate change, and adapting to effects that can’t be averted.

Cities produce more than 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from heating and cooling buildings and powering cars, trucks and other vehicles. Urbanization also makes people more vulnerable to climate change impacts.

For example, as cities expand, people clear vegetation, which can increase the risk of flooding and sea level rise. They also create impermeable surfaces that don’t absorb water, such as roads and buildings.

This contributes to flooding risks and produces urban heat islands – zones where temperatures are hotter than in outlying areas. A recent study found that the urban heat island in Jakarta, Indonesia, expanded in recent years as more land was developed for housing, businesses, industry and warehouses.

But cities are also important sources of innovation. For example, the inaugural Oberlander Prize for landscape architecture was awarded on Oct. 14, 2021, to U.S. landscape architect Julie Bargemen for re-imagining polluted and neglected urban sites. And the prestigious Pritzker Architectural Prize went this year to French architects Anne Lacaton and Jean-Phillipe Vassal for creating resilient buildings by transforming existing structures instead of demolishing them to make room for new construction.

Just 25 of the world’s cities account for 52% of total urban greenhouse gas emissions. This means that focusing on these cities can make a huge difference to the arc of long-term warming.

Cities worldwide are pursuing a rich variety of mitigation measures, such as electrifying mass transit, cooling with green buildings and introducing low-carbon building codes. I see these steps as a source of hope in the medium to long term.

The mayors of Los Angeles, Paris and Accra, Ghana, along with Mumbai’s environment minister, talk about how climate change is affecting their cities and what they are doing about it.

Adaptating too slowly

In contrast, adaptation in the shorter term is moving much more sluggishly. This isn’t to say that nothing is happening. For example, Chicago is developing policies that anticipate a hotter and wetter climate. They include repaving streets with permeable materials that allow water to filter through to the underlying soil, planting trees to absorb air pollutants and stormwater runoff, and providing tax incentives to install green roofs as cooling features on office buildings. Similar plans are moving forward in cities around the world.

But reshaping cities in a timely manner can be extremely expensive. In response to levee failures that inundated New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the U.S. government spent more than $14 billion to build an improved flood control system for the city, which was completed in 2018. But many other cities around the world face similar threats, and few of them – especially in developing countries – can afford such an ambitious program.

Time is also a critical resource as the pace of climate change accelerates. In the European Union, about 75% of buildings are not energy efficient. A 2020 report from the European Commission predicted that it would take 50 years to make those buildings more sustainable and resilient to shifting climate conditions.

[Over 115,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletter to understand the world. Sign up today.]

At best, urban infrastructures that were built for previous climate regimes and less extreme weather events can only be changed at a rate of about 3% per year. At that rate, which would be difficult even for the wealthiest cities in the world to maintain, it will take decades to make cities more sustainable and resilient. And the most vulnerable city dwellers live in fast-growing cities in the developing world, such as Dhaka, Bangladesh, Lagos, Nigeria, and Manila, Philipines, where local governments rarely have enough resources to make the expensive changes that are needed.

Remaking cities worldwide quickly enough to deal with more extreme weather events and new climate regimes requires massive investments in new ideas, practices and skills. I see this challenge as an ecological crisis, but also as an economic opportunity – and a chance to make cities more equitable for the 21st century and beyond.The Conversation

John Rennie Short, Professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

 

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Ocasio-Cortez, Burnout

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AOC

My tips on burnout

by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Earlier this week, I posted an AMA — Ask Me Anything — on Instagram, and received a question about burnout.

Burnout, especially in these times, seems to have become extremely common. When there is so much happening in the world around you and in your direct sphere of influence, it can be especially overwhelming. That’s why I wanted to share some of the tips I’ve learned here about recovering from and preventing burnout.

First off, if you’re feeling burnout — I’m sorry. Burnout is awful, and especially hard to manage because it’s hard to figure out that 1) you’re burnt out and 2) what to do about it. I’ve experienced burnout in both big and small episodes, and having been there and back a few times, here’s what I’ve learned:

It’s important to create healthy expectations and compassion for yourself when recovering from burnout. This sucks, but burnout can take a long time to recover from. In some cases it can take weeks, months, or even years — but don’t panic. No matter how burnt out you are, you can recover.

Burnout has a lot of contributing factors — it’s not just working long hours (though that can be a contributor). It’s much deeper than that. Think of your whole self as a cup. Participating in certain activities that are physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally demanding means that you’re pouring from your cup. These may be activities you choose and even love, but you’re still pouring from your cup to participate in them.

A healthy balance is when you both fill and pour from your cup. When you do things you’ve always wanted to do, or that bring you joy and are just for you — you fill your cup. But when you’re obligated to fulfill mentally, physically, spiritually, or emotionally demanding work that crowds out any time or energy for you to do things that fill your cup, your cup runs dry — and that’s burnout.

It can happen over months and years, or during shorter but highly traumatic periods. So what do you do?

Recovering and healing from burnout is really hard, because while you may be able to get some rest — rest alone won’t heal it. You need to start doing the opposite of what got you here: which means you’ve got a prescription for indulgence and strong boundaries.

For the indulgence piece, recovering from burnout is about replenishing your energy and carving out time for YOURSELF. You need to refill your energy bar — both physically and spiritually/mentally. If you’re physically exhausted, you need to spend time being a total potato in bed for hours and not feel guilty about it. But if you’re spiritually/mentally drained, then you need to write a list of things you selfishly want to do just for you.

They could be small things like cooking a nice meal, getting your nails done, or playing hooky with a friend for a day, or big things like scratching off a bucket list item. And start prioritizing them. Put them on your schedule. Cancel other things so you can do these, because if you don’t start refilling your cup, things will only get worse. Filling your cup is your job now.

On boundaries, there’s a lot of stuff we do because we feel like we have to, even if we don’t actually have to do it. Some of this “have to” comes from ourselves and the pressure we put on ourselves, but some of it also comes from other people who may use guilt to get things from you. Feeling guilty is intense, and it can feel much easier in the moment to pour from your cup in order to avoid guilt, so we just say “yes” to everything. Not anymore. Your standard for saying yes just got much higher. You need to delegate, cancel, and ask for help. Get those things off your calendar. You might upset some people, but that’s something you need to get used to.

I say this for myself as well, because I get guilted into doing things too. It’s my theory that women and people of all genders who are raised and programmed to give, get burnt out more because we’re not taught to say “no.” People will always feel entitled to you and your time to either avoid pouring from their own cup or to fill theirs up. Sometimes they have no idea it’s your last drop. That’s why you need to learn to say “no.” If you continue to say “yes” and you betray yourself to pour more from your cup, eventually your body will say “no” for you — you could get sick or have an accident. Your health is more important.

When you’re burnt out, you need to consciously be working to fill your cup more than you pour out. It can be hard, but you need to try to get to a 1-to-1 ratio. Here’s my advice: don’t think of work or other commitments as one big pour. We make lots of decisions at work or for our families. Start with microscopic decisions that reduce the pour. Does that meeting really need to be 30 minutes, or could 15 minutes or maybe an email suffice? If you don’t have a desk job and instead work shifts, can you start committing to an after-shift activity for yourself that’s not happy hour? Can a family member be doing more? Do your kids need you to do something for them, or have they gotten used to you doing something for them?

Just start to ask these questions and assess. You need to be like the IRS in spiritually auditing the use of your time and energy. It may feel ruthless and selfish at first, but consider the alternative of potentially developing a chronic illness or a panic attack.

Also, no matter what you do, you always need to have something to look forward to. Having nothing to look forward to creates real despair. So schedule that haircut, book a yoga class, or put a “Do not disturb 8-9PM” on your door when you get home and just watercolor, journal, or whatever you want. You need scheduled things to look forward to. I found that when I’ve pre-planned time off, blocked it off on my calendar and scheduled around it, my life started to feel way more manageable. When I started to let that practice slip, it felt overwhelming again.

And make sure you communicate where you’re at with the people asking for things from you, so that they can understand and start to help you out.

Like I said, recovering from burnout may not be easy, but it is possible. Carve out that time for yourself and fill your cup. You can do this.

Cedalise hace una denuncia

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Magistrado Cecelio Cedalise. Foto por el Órgano Judicial.

Cedalise se queja de la filtración de su borrador de dictamen para desestimar los cargos de espionaje contra Martinelli

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Editorials, To defend democracy in Panama — and the USA

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march
Lots of people with different outlooks on life will be marching tomorrow. The are fairly united about some things that they don’t want, but have big disagreements among themselves about what they want. A lot of what they say they want gets expressed in terms of procedure rather than in terms of law or social or economic policy.

To meet the threat in Panama

The National Assembly have made asses of themselves and they know it. They have done so during the deadliest crisis in the history of the Republic of Panama. They have done so expensively.

It’s not as if the other branches of government are so well behaved, but what we are seeing is a legislature facing the prospect of an angry electorate ousting most of its members, so trying to arrange things so that, even in the likely event that the PRD is succeeded in the presidency by somebody from some other party, most of the deputies will keep their seats and continue to ride the gravy train.

When you look at how the election rules are to be tweaked — barring a veto of part or all of the legislature’s changes by the president or the intervention of the courts — the thinking goes something like this:

  • The PRD will continue to get its more or less one-third of the vote, and even if an annoyed electorate coalesces around some other party to succeed President Cortizo, that third or so of the vote will be a plurality.
  • The scandal-plagued Cambio Democratico and RM parties will either unite behind a Ricky Martinelli if he can buy his way out of multiple prosecutions, or continue as a squabbling alliance of at least three factions to be a major player in the National Assembly. They think that they can win it all, but the “(s)he stole but got things done” routine will not work in the harsh glow of these hard times that will still be with us in early 2024.
  • The Panameñistas will recover a bit, even if their own long-running Odebrecht scandals are just beginning to show up in court. They are a traditionally a major party but like all the others these days it’s had to say just for what, other than the fortunes of their leaders and a few luck members, they might stand. 
  • MOLIRENA and perhaps the Partido Popular may grab a few seats with which to bargain, depending on power balances. Third parties are a business these days. They have not been ideological pressure groups for a long time.
  • FAD will probably get on the ballot but remain irrelevant in elections by annoying everyone else on the left with their “we’re the vanguard and you’re the front” Leninist pretensions. Such sectarian stuff on the left is why Colon sends people like Bolota Salazar rather than the late Thelma King to the National Assembly
  • The independents? They will elect a few people but in the anomalous “proportional representation” formula of quotients, half quotients and residues they will only take a few seats. Or so its is figured, one of the suppositions there is that MOVIN, an essentially rabiblanco formation, will decide who runs as an independent and find too few “respectables” to put together a full and credible slate. They might get the Electoral Tribunal to help them with such a power play.
  • Last time’s leading independent, Ricardo Lombana, has a new party that might even win the presidency, but won’t have a competitive slate running for the legislature.

So their theories go.

However, if there is a full slate of independents running for the legislature — real independents, who are all over the map on many a question, and not just white guys in suits and a few expensively dressed women — then by the formula that the legislature passed they might surpass the PRD in total votes and thus run off most of the incumbents.

If Ricardo Lombana can put together a slate that does something like that, the math would work like that, too. To change the legislature an opposition party needs to muster more votes that the PRD will.

To run this crop of incumbents out of office, a proposition for which there is strong sentiment, two things have to happen. First, people have to vote against the incumbents as individuals, and second people have to coalesce around either independents as such or for some other new alternative to the PRD and rest of the traditional parties.

What could possibly go wrong? Everything. We have a political culture in which many people believe that if you win elected office and don’t put all your relatives on the payroll, you have betrayed your family.

A post-PRD National Assembly is possible under the rules that the legislators passed, but it would be this zoo without a majority. It would not, however, be Benicio Robinson’s zoo.

Panama really does need a new constitution, and en route to that a massive adult education class in things like electoral math and ethics in public office. Otherwise you get the very rich backing demagoguery like the notion that fewer legislators mean less corruption, when what it really means is larger constituencies in which to run and thus on the rich or those backed by the rich can afford to run.

Tomorrow — Wednesday the 20th — various factions that don’t much like each other will be marching to oppose something that they all dislike. Between now and the 2024 elections can these groups and individuals maintain their beliefs and identities and still come to some campaign season understandings that work in politics? It could be something like how ivermectin works on intestinal worms, but it’s a long shot.

 

  

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To meet the threat in the USA

Vote suppression laws, armed vigilantes, police forces with members tied to groups like the Klan? The United States has seen this sort of thing before and in many times and places it has worked. Between tne Republican filibuster of voting rights legislation and a far-right Supreme Court, 2022 may be another election cycle when these factors come into play.

We get some inklings, but not a definitive preview, in two weeks. Virginia and New Jersey have statewide elections, there are a few congressional special elections, and there are local elections in a number of places. If the GOP takes the Virginia governor’s race, that would be an eye-opener. It’s a state in which a lot of people who trace roots through Panama live and vote, most of them in the northern parts near Washington DC.

There is gerrymandering ongoing in both Democratic and Republican states, while states with independent commissions or governors and legislators of different parties tend to have a bit less of this. Some of the deep red states are already as gerrymandered as they can be, plus some of the redistricting is based on expectations that may be at odds with reality. Big turnouts by younger voters, for example, may mess up the best-laid plans.

Texas gains two seats this time — but its population growth has mostly been among the Hispanic communities. The gerrymandering there is to make its congressional delegation whiter and is so extreme that it may not hold up in court. As in the state’s 40 percent white population getting a lock on two-thirds of the seats – if whites can be counted upon to vote along racial lines. White Power as the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse, with Pestilence leading the posse? It may not work the way that Governor Abbott wants it to work.

The main way in which things like this can be dealt is to overwhelm the white supremacists with huge turnouts among demographic groups that usually turn out in small percentages, so as to return more solid Democratic majorities to both House and Senate. Then, as the Blue Dogs disavow them, Manchin and Sinema might be smitten with the rolled-up newspaper of popular justice. As in a Congress that ends the filibuster, expands the US Supreme Court and passes voting rights legislation that goes way beyond the 1965 act that has been gutted by the high court. And gives these two senators the worst and least powerful committee assignments.

It would take a tremendous amount of grassroots work to generate such a nationwide turnout to do this. It can be done.

What will work in the Democrats favor, however, is that Donald Trump and his entourage will be constantly on trial before a number of panels in the next year. We should expect him to be a convicted felon for sleazy tax fraud in New York or so on by Election Day next year. Worse for him, he incited the January 6 riot and is leaving his convicted followers to twist in the wind. If we see more terrorism from that quarter it will be even worse for Republican chances.

A year is forever in politics, but notwithstanding the historical trends Democrats are leading the generic congressional ballot polls for next year, with events and passions likely to work in our favor. If Dems can limit the bashing of one another to the primary season and come out united in the fall of 2022 there is an excellent chance of a president’s party picking up seats in a midterm election, even if that has been rare.

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Annie Besant, theosopher, national liberation activist in Ireland and India.

Sunshine does not cease to warm you because you may not know anything of the constitution of the sun. Fire does not cease to burn you, because, unknowing its fierceness, you thrust your hand into the flame. It is the security of human life and human progress that the laws of nature are ever working and carrying us on with them, whether we know of them or not. But if we know them, we gain a great advantage.

Annie Besant

Bear in mind…

Education must not simply teach work – it must teach Life.

W.E.B. Du Bois

When life seems hard, the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat; instead, they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future.

Queen Elizabeth II

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

Seneca

 

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The Panama News blog links, October 18, 2021

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The Panama News blog links

a Panama-centric selection of other people’s work
una selección Panamá-céntrica de las obras de otras personas

Canal, Maritime & Transportation / Canal, Marítima & Transporte

Seatrade, Panama container ports traffic up

Thrillist, New Delta flights to Panama

La Prensa, Logran acuerdo para traer vuelos ‘chárter’ desde Colombia

gCaptain, Shipping disruptions keeping coffee prices high

Mundo Marítimo, China avanza en la “Ruta Marítima de la Seda”

Seatrade, China – US West Coast transit time more than doubles

The Hill, Buttigieg: supply chain troubles could last into next year

Economy / Economía

Bloomberg, US labor unions are having a moment

Baker, High-paid media types are unhappy workers are demanding fair wages

The Washington Post, Strikes sweeping the US labor market

Reuters, China’s plunging construction starts

El Siglo, Productor chiricano denuncia negociado en Merca

Metro Libre, Mides lanza proyecto de granjas en Madugandí

Medios rabiblancos y rusos, Banquero lanza campaña para Bitcoin

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Science & Technology / Ciencia & Tecnología

Los Angeles Times, California records driest year in a century

Eureka Alert, Amazon plant declared a new species after years of baffling scientists

Mongabay, Inland mangroves: tumultuous climatic past and hint at our future

MIT Technology Review, COVID conspiracy stuff recruits for anti-Semitism

AP, EPA pushes tougher regulations for toxic ‘forever chemicals’

Aeschlimann, Ivermectin is a Nobel Prize-winning wonder drug – but not for COVID-19

News / Noticias

Metro Libre, Anuncian marchas en rechazo a las reformas electorales

Telemetro, CCIAP denuncia opacidad en debate de las reformas electorales

EFE, US Undersecretary of State visits Darien

Temblor, Realizan exhumación de fosas comunes de la invasión de 1989

NBC, Texas school administrator: balance Holocaust books with ‘opposing’ views

The Guardian, Kenosha police accused of ‘deputizing’ militia vigilantes

BBC, España autoriza la extradición de la enfermera de Hugo Chávez a EEUU

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Opinion / Opiniones

Han, The smartphone is a tool of domination

Ivereigh, You don’t dialogue with the devil

Bernstein, The United States is in a constitutional crisis

Sirota, Call their bluff right now

Hilkinger, The dangers of dismissing anti-Asian racism in Latin America

Castañeda Patten: Conspiraciones, ocio y vacunas

Montenegro, El espíritu de Yolanda Pulice en la Asamblea

Blades, Los comicios de 1994

Turner, En el Día Internacional de la Niña

Sagel, Sindrome de taxista

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Culture / Cultura

Remezcla, Guillermo del Toro monsters that will keep you up at night

Harrod, Has less sex in real life led to more raunch on our screens?

Video: Pick a fight with Shang-chi? Not smart!

Telemetro, Bandas de colegios e independientes se presentarán en el Rommel Fernández

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Tribunal Electoral, Rechazo al proyecto de ley 544

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To fend off hackers, organized trolls and other online vandalism, our website comments feature is switched off. Instead, come to our Facebook page to join in the discussion.

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WHAT? He’s not an aristocrat who politely asks to bite your neck?

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pliz gkindly pormit me to biyjt djour nack
Modern vampires like Dracula may be dashing, but they certainly weren’t in the original vampire myths.
Archive Photos/ Moviepix via Getty Images

More ‘disease’ than ‘Dracula’ – how the vampire myth was born

Stanley Stepanic, University of Virginia

The vampire is a common image in today’s pop culture, and one that takes many forms: from Alucard, the dashing spawn of Dracula in the PlayStation game “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night”; to Edward, the romantic, idealistic lover in the “Twilight” series.

In many respects, the vampire of today is far removed from its roots in Eastern European folklore. As a professor of Slavic studies who has taught a course on vampires called “Dracula” for more than a decade, I’m always fascinated by the vampire’s popularity, considering its origins – as a demonic creature strongly associated with disease.

Explaining the unknown

The first known reference to vampires appeared in written form in Old Russian in A.D. 1047, soon after Orthodox Christianity moved into Eastern Europe. The term for vampire was “upir,” which has uncertain origins, but its possible literal meaning was “the thing at the feast or sacrifice,” referring to a potentially dangerous spiritual entity that people believed could appear at rituals for the dead. It was a euphemism used to avoid speaking the creature’s name – and unfortunately, historians may never learn its real name, or even when beliefs about it surfaced.

The vampire served a function similar to that of many other demonic creatures in folklore around the world: They were blamed for a variety of problems, but particularly disease, at a time when knowledge of bacteria and viruses did not exist.

A 19th-century engraving depicts men in coats and hats shooting at a vampire in a cemetery in Romania.
Soldiers witnessing vampire hysteria in Eastern Europe – such as people desecrating the graves of suspected vampires – carried tales back home. Leemage/ Corbis Historical via Getty Images

Scholars have put forth several theories about various diseases’ connections to vampires. It is likely that no one disease provides a simple, “pure” origin for vampire myths, since beliefs about vampires changed over time.

But two in particular show solid links. One is rabies, whose name comes from a Latin term for “madness.” It’s one of the oldest recognized diseases on the planet, transmissible from animals to humans, and primarily spread through biting – an obvious reference to a classic vampire trait.

There are other curious connections. One central symptom of the disease is hydrophobia, a fear of water. Painful muscle contractions in the esophagus lead rabies victims to avoid eating and drinking, or even swallowing their own saliva, which eventually causes “foaming at the mouth.” In some folklore, vampires cannot cross running water without being carried or assisted in some way, as an extension of this symptom. Furthermore, rabies can lead to a fear of light, altered sleep patterns and increased aggression, elements of how vampires are described in a variety of folktales.

The second disease is pellagra, caused by a dietary deficiency of niacin (vitamin B3) or the amino acid tryptophan. Often, pellagra is brought on by diets high in corn products and alcohol. After Europeans landed in the Americas, they transported corn back to Europe. But they ignored a key step in preparing corn: washing it, often using lime – a process called “nixtamalization” that can reduce the risk of pellagra.

Pellagra causes the classic “4 D’s”: dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia and death. Some sufferers also experience high sensitivity to sunlight – described in some depictions of vampires – which leads to corpselike skin.

Social scare

Multiple diseases show connections to folklore about vampires, but they can’t necessarily explain how the myths actually began. Pellagra, for example, did not exist in Eastern Europe until the 18th century, centuries after vampire beliefs had originally emerged.

Both pellagra and rabies are important, however, because they were epidemic during a key period in vampire history. During the so-called Great Vampire Epidemic, from roughly 1725 to 1755, vampire myths “went viral” across the continent.

As disease spread in Eastern Europe, supernatural causes were often blamed, and vampire hysteria spread throughout the region. Many people believed that vampires were the “undead” – people who lived on in some way after death – and that the vampire could be stopped by attacking its corpse. They carried out “vampire burials,” which could involve putting a stake through the corpse, covering the body in garlic and a variety of other traditions that had been present in Slavic folklore for centuries.

Meanwhile, Austrian and German soldiers fighting the Ottomans in the region witnessed this mass desecration of graves and returned home to Western Europe with stories of the vampire.

But why did so much vampire hysteria spring up in the first place? Disease was a primary culprit, but a sort of “perfect storm” existed in Eastern Europe at the time. The era of the Great Vampire Epidemic was not just a period of disease, but one of political and religious upheaval as well.

During the 18th century, Eastern Europe faced pressure from within and without as domestic and foreign powers exercised their control over the region, with local cultures often suppressed. Serbia, for example, was struggling between the Hapsburg Monarchy in Central Europe and the Ottomans. Poland was increasingly under foreign powers, Bulgaria was under Ottoman rule, and Russia was undergoing dramatic cultural change due to the policies of Czar Peter the Great.

This is somewhat analogous to today, as the world contends with the COVID-19 pandemic amid political change and uncertainty. Perceived societal breakdown, whether real or imagined, can lead to dramatic responses in society.The Conversation

Stanley Stepanic, Assistant Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Virginia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

 

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Panamanian justice: if they hurt you when they rob you

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ouch
The heaviest blow doesn’t especially show. I got hit on the left temple by someone with a rock held in the fist, and it was a knockdown, probably a KO. I also took some dings from fists, feet and thrown rocks and beer cans, but following a bad teenage martial arts habit I interposed my left arm or hand between my head and what was about to hit it in most of these instances. Afterward, was it the head injury or the depression that most slowed my work? Hard to say. Beyond my budget to properly evaluate. In any case it has been getting better.

A crime injury for a Panagringo
on the informal economy here

by Eric Jackson

Panama has a bifurcated socialized medicine system, alongside a private system, and more or less has had this since the late 1930s. We also have this predatory, opportunistic business culture, some features of which have us on the European Union’s financial blacklist.

The notion here is that foreigners with money are encouraged to park their money via anonymous corporations in numbered bank accounts, and to buy overpriced real estate in upscale gated communities or condo towers. For ordinary health care, the existence of the public Social Security and Ministry of Health hospitals and clinics keeps prices in the private side down, for the most part. But for medicines, for nursing home care and for expensive things like cancer treatment, there are “gringo prices” and generally poor services on the private side. For a lot of things, if you do not qualify – are uninsured for the Social Security system, or are not a citizen to qualify for full use of the Ministry of Health system – you can just walk in and pay for services, which tend to be quite affordable.

Me? I was born here to American parents. I grew up colonial in the old Canal Zone until age 13, then came back in my early 40s. By circumstances of birth I am a dual citizen of Panama and the United States. Now, one of the rallying cries of neofascism here is to strip people whose parents were not Panamanian of our citizenship. In 1941, a previous Nazi symp regime stripped every Panamanian of West Indian, Middle Eastern or Asian ancestry of his or her citizenship. That provision, and that government, was cut short by a coup instigated by one Franklin D. Roosevelt. But xenophobia is on the rise and manifests itself among some Panamanians.

If you die here, we have a legal system and a culture that encourages the looting of your estate. For all practical purposes, there is no legal recourse for somebody injured by medical malpractice here, and there is no disbarment of unethical lawyers.

What would you pay in the States if you walked into an emergency room with dengue fever? At the public policlinica near where I lived, I did that and paid $18 for all of the services and medicines, and had a free follow-up visit.

But my stepfather who was not a Panamanian citizen? He was afflicted with Alzheimers and ended up with private care in a for-profit nursing home, a hellhole where he died of septicemia from infected bed sores.

My brother who was not a Panamanian citizen? He was an alcoholic and developed liver disease. The family paid for his initial hospitalization and stabilization at a Ministry of Health facility. At the point where it was thought that he might have liver cancer and needed tests to determine if that was the case, he was told that this service is unavailable for foreigners, that he had to leave Panama and go back to the United States in order to get further treatment. He did so, and died of hepatitis in Colorado at great expense to Uncle Sam about a year later.

My latest medical emergency here in Panama? A gang of young thugs had been breaking into my house to steal things, and into the homes of other senior citizens in the neighborhood to do likewise. They weren’t just picking on the one ethnic American and one of the few white people in the neighborhood. They were picking on those whom they thought to be easy victims. The police were informed but declined to send anyone out, for me nor anyone else being hit by this wave of break-ins. Got these War on Drugs priorities you see, plus worthy people pay for private protection.

They would often hang out next door. On June 4 they escalated, smashing a hole through my bedroom wall and stealing things, with a return visit to take more every time I went out. I called them out about it in public, which was a crazy old gringo sort of thing to do. Yeah, well – among the people upon whom they picked was not only a manic depressive, but an agitator and an observant journalist. Smash into a bipolar’s home and you will generally elicit a manic rage.

On June 22 a gang of five maleantes (thugs in Panamanian Spanish) assembled in front of my house, throwing stones and beer cans at the house, at the dogs and at me. I was put in a choke hold – which I broke by biting the guy on the forearm – beaten by five people (one of whom hit me in the temple with stone in hand), robbed of the remaining tools of my journalist trade (computers and cameras) and had my house smashed up some more. And some neighbor women who saw and heard called the cops. This time the police came and the maleantes fled. But they did find the guy who put me in a choke hold wandering the streets, and he did have this identifying bite wound on his forearm.

The cops took me to the town’s clinic, where the doctor took a look at me and said that I needed to go to the provincial hospital and get a CAT scan and an EEG scan. Another couple of cops came and took me not to the hospital, but to the prosecutor’s office where the receiving prosecutor held me for more than six hours of questioning, insinuated that I’m a racist, repeatedly warned me about the penalties for filing a false police report. She was done in the wee hours and instead of taking me to the hospital, she had a prosecutor van take me to my smashed up home and told me to await more prosecutor visits the following day. Repeatedly, at the Public Ministry I produced my Panamanian cedula – official government ID that everyone must have – but they kept on demanding a US passport. (Which is one of the things missing as I have taken inventory of what’s gone from my messy guy cave after this crime spree. It was expired anyway and I don’t have plans to travel, but I do plan to vote for in US congressional elections next year and Michigan may require an up-to-date passport for me to do so.)

The police saved the day by arresting the assailants, recovering a cheap Nokia “dumb phone” of mine from one of them. The lieutenant confided in me that one of the things they did was parade the suspects in front of the neighbors in handcuffs. So back to the receiving prosecutors’ office, where she presented me with the phone in a plastic bag and I said it looks like mine but I’d have to check. She objected but her superior, with a cop standing nearby, overruled her, the phone was taken out, I turned it on and there was the call log that included my mother. Positive ID, although the lady was sniffing about broken chain of custody.

New prosecutor on the case, four of my five attackers in preventive detention for aggravated robbery. Trial next year. Perhaps five-year sentences in Panama’s hellish prisons. No cause for glee on my part.

FINALLY, more than two days after the attack, I was taken to the hospital. There was a CAT scan, and various other tests were taken. The EEG was unavailable. Another police lieutenant questioned me under sedation. I was told “cerebral hematoma,” not bleeding anymore so I would not die, and prescribed five medications, which under the rules of when cops bring crime victims to the hospital, are supposed to be free at the public pharmacy. The provincial hospital pharmacy only had one of them. The others I had to pay $68 to a private pharmacy to buy.

My laptops were surreptitiously returned – I believe by the family of one of the maleantes but can’t be sure. Readers of The Panama News, which publishes on donations, helped me patch the holes in my house, improve the fencing and resume work.

I am still not entirely recovered, but get better day by day. I lack the resources to pay the specialists I’d need to more closely examine the post-concussion situation. I resort to my garden for the herbal cure – teas of the cecropia leaf and the turmeric root – and let time reconnect the synapses. I had the honor to meet Muhammad Ali a couple of times after his boxing days, so I do know that time doesn’t necessarily heal all, but then I was a big fan when he was fighting and know for sure I took nothing like the punches he did.

Life goes on at 9°N. It would be so much better if there was a US-Panamanian treaty that ensured something like Medicare for Panamanian citizens in the USA and for US citizens in Panama. And better to spend American dollars on medicines for public hospital pharmacies than on “The War On Drugs,” in my opionion.

 

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Panamanian justice: a garden variety morning in court

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Peno
A man greets you at the front desk of the courthouse in Penonome, but on this occasion women ran the show, as they increasingly do in this country’s district courts. Do we want to talk indigenous roots here? In the Embera culture justice and the maintenance of order in the village are considered women’s work, so that if you get sentenced to the disgrace of being put in the cepo, it’s a female elder who orders it. And the name of this provincial seat? It is said to derive from “Aquí penó Nomé” — Nomé was punished here — a reference to the execution of a leader of the indigenous resistance to the Spanish Conquest. Courthouse photo by the Organo Judicial.

My morning in court

by Eric Jackson

In front of the judge at eight in the morning. What a beastly hour! Maybe set according to the principle of getting unpleasant things out of the way first thing.

For this writer, deadline stuff to get the Friday playlist finished and posted, get washed and dressed, and be out the door and through the rustic streets of El Bajito to the bus stop. Deadline me, but some fretting about whether they’d bar me from court for being dressed like a bum. Getting as presentable as I could, the concern shifted to whether I would get there on time.

But first, a friendly greeting to remind me of my earlier concern. One of my shared canines followed me to the bus stop, playing with a friend along the way. I had to issue her a stern warning. ‘Don’t you DARE jump on me with those muddy paws!’ She desisted, as did her friend, a little guy who looks like a tiny German shepherd and lives with the Evangelical hotel worker who lives along the way. Both dogs did poke me with wet noses and got the muzzle and ears scritch responses.

A few minutes later I got on a San Juan de Dios to Anton bus, getting of at the entrada to hop on an Anton to Penonome bus, and then hailing a cab at the edge of downtown to take me out to the judicial complex in Miraflores de Penonome. Signed in with 10 minutes to spare was told to sit.

I watched. I saw some demographics and occupational roles which, although not uniformly applicable throughout the system, gave much instruction about what all this fuss about gender parity in the Electoral Code is about.

Everyone sweeping or mopping was female. All of the cops were male. The guys who checked my name against the schedule and wrote me down on their lists were men. As were those who told me to sit, and then that it was time to go upstairs.

In the courtroom, the judge, her clerk, the prosecutor and the public defender were all women. That’s increasingly how the Panamanian courts, and the legal profession as it works, look. For a number of years the law schools – and really, just about all faculty departments from which professionals emerge – graduate a lot more women than men.

The COVID epidemic has disrupted our 2020 census and the publication of whatever partial results, leaving me with a demographic question. Is Panama still one of those relatively rare male-majority countries? The women here have long been on the whole better educated but lesser paid than the men. For a long time a very common solution was for women to marry foreigners and leave Panama. With the closure of US bases one great source of that was reduced. But if marrying an American soldier is less of a possibility, for the best of our female students a scholarship to study abroad became a way to move elsewhere, marry someone there and never come back. In the early 2000s the changes had reduced but not eliminated the male majority and drained away many of our brightest brains.

You know how lawyers carry on – or maybe you don’t. The insults and intellectual scuffling were still there, but subdued not only because this was a hearing to ratify a pre-arranged deal. The glance, the gesture, the raised eyebrow these were the “sounds” of legal battle being done on this morning.

Being the one man in the room, I was called upon to state my name, so that the record might reflect my presence. No speeches. Two guys came in by video from the jailhouse, to say who they were, and acknowledge that they accepted a plea bargain that would send them to prison for years on an aggravated robbery charge.

A third defendant was to virtually appear, but in her case the video connection from the women’s lockup was down so that part of the hearing was put off until November 1. Another defendant remains at large.

(I have limited my published statements about this case, to avoid prejudicial pretrial publicity. I won’t give a fugitive such deference.)

I’m increasingly deaf, and the masks get in the way of the lip-reading by which I had been faking it for so long. This particular courtroom made it worse, as I was seated in front of an air conditioning unit that made plenty of white noise. And the video screen? A small one, at the judge’s side. She moved it around a bit so that I could also see, but this new courthouse really does need some large screens on the walls behind the judges and some better speakers if there is to be fuller public observation of and participation in the various proceedings.

One thing I did hear was reference to myself as the “estadounidiense,” although I was born in Colon, carry a cedula that reflects this and have lived in Panama for most of my life. In a lot of courtrooms around the world thugs are not allowed to be humored by any references to the ethnicity of their victims. But then, once upon a time when Mayín Correa was mayor of Panama City one of the thugs she appointed as corregidora accepted an argument by this guy who would very intentionally set off his car alarm under my bedroom window in the wee hours of the morning that “If he doesn’t like it he can move to some other country.”

The morning’s business was done mostly efficiently, mostly cordially, mostly in the interests of justice – if prisons ever do serve that purpose well. I did not leave the courthouse in a joyous mood.

Life goes on. Mine and those of the incarcerated.

And what about this stuff about how Panamanian justice is broken? Well, it is. But not all of its parts. At the lower levels the attorneys and judges are far more likely to be excellent, and decisions are far less likely to be sold. Not that I or anyone else in El Bajito have that sort of money anyway.

I can see things to improve, but nothing left me with a bad impression of any of the people working at the courthouse this morning.

 

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¿Wappin? No llores / Don’t cry

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CM
Carla Morrison, foto Wikimedia por Gabriel.

The old, the new and things to learn
Lo viejo, lo nuevo y cosas para aprender

Adele – Easy On Me
https://youtu.be/U3ASj1L6_sY

Carla Morrison – Contigo
https://www.youtube.com/hashtag/contigo

Sech – 911
https://youtu.be/9Tx16O9E0D8

Four Tops – Reach Out
https://youtu.be/oVFLw4ZTl4A

Mon Laferte – Algo Es Mejor
https://youtu.be/wYw7PvvnyyQ

Bob Marley – No woman, no cry
https://youtu.be/55_eCsTAo5Q

Bruce Springsteen – The River
https://youtu.be/gYnqJHXoboY

Avril Lavigne – Knockin’ on heaven’s door
https://youtu.be/j2MSVwtQJI0

Rubén Blades & Lin Manuel Miranda – Pedro Navaja
https://youtu.be/y0JCWhvGtn4

Kafu Banton – Tu Vas A Saber
https://youtu.be/-38MQv4VWEc

Mighty Sparrow – Only a fool
https://youtu.be/Z42epfm_9Ig

Kany García & Camilo – Titanic
https://youtu.be/UaxdgjPpipU

Stevie Wonder – Global Citizen Festival in Central Park
https://youtu.be/mMEwbRm02jo

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To fend off hackers, organized trolls and other online vandalism, our website comments feature is switched off. Instead, come to our Facebook page to join in the discussion.

Para defendernos de los piratas informáticos, los trolls organizados y otros actos de vandalismo en línea, la función de comentarios de nuestro sitio web está desactivada. En cambio, ven a nuestra página de Facebook para unirte a la discusión.

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