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Firefly femme fatales

File 20180206 14083 tcllf7.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
“Hello there, handsome…” Photo by knoelle44/flickr.

Why some fireflies become femme fatales in their race for survival

by Prayan Pokharel, University of Giessen

Fireflies are the flashy stars of the insect world. At night, you can see them coming because each little bug shines like a lamp – and, appropriately, they belong to the beetle family Lampyridae.

The “lamplight” of fireflies is generated by an enzyme inside the bugs’ abdomens called luciferase, which reacts with other elements and compounds to produce a cold light. This turns each individual firefly into a bioluminescent beauty.

Their glow is also used for courtship. Males of different firefly species use different flash patterns to attract potential mates. A male firefly will flash in a certain pattern for a particular length of time; he knows whether the female he’s spotted is interested based on how long it takes her to “flash” in reply.

This all sounds very romantic and beautiful. But there’s a dark secret lurking behind the facade: some female fireflies dupe the males with false flash patterns – then, when their amorous would-be partners approach, they attack and eat them. The femme fatales aren’t doing this from malice or hunger: they’re trying to ingest a toxin that will keep them safe from predators.

“Come closer…”

This lethal mating ritual happens in two genera of fireflies, Photinus and Photuris. Both of the fireflies are native to North America.

The Photuris female is able to mimic Photinus’ flashing patterns; with this deception, she answers the flash patterns of a Photinus male. He comes closer, hoping to consummate their new relationship. Instead, she captures and eats him.

Predation in fireflies: Photuris versicolor preys on Photinus pyralis


Why? Because, as the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” In this case, the Photuris female eats the Photinus male to get chemical defenses that are present in his blood. The toxins can be used to fight off predators like birds, spiders, ants and others.

When the Photinus male is under attack, the toxins are released as tiny droplets. By eating the male, the Photuris female absorbs that toxic power and makes herself safer from predation. The powerful toxins are called lucibufagins, which are steroids similar to the heart poison generated from the foxglove plant, Digitalis.

When a firefly is attacked its outer skin, called the cuticle, ruptures and bitter tasting blood loaded with lucibufagins oozes out. Predators release the firefly because they can’t stand the taste.

A firefly (Photuris) exuding the poisonous fluid from its body when disturbed. Photo by Thomas Eisner, 1997

Avoidance tactics

When a female Photuris eats a Photinus male and absorbs his lucibufagins, she is also protecting her young. The females are able to pass on this toxic defence mechanism to their offspring.

The Photinus males try to protect themselves from being eaten by Photuris females. They take their time looking for the real thing: a female of their own species. One study, in a laboratory showed that Photinus males took more than seven nights to find a female of its own species, while a Photinus female of the same species took less than six minutes to attract a male for mating.

The Photinus males also change their light emitting patterns in a bid to mislead their nemesis or – if they’re quick enough – simply fly away as soon as they are realize they’ve been drawn into a trap.


Prayan Pokharel is a doctoral student at the Institute for Insect Biotechnology, University of Giessen

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


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RSF, Mexico’s inaction in the face of journalist disappearances

Carlos Domínguez Rodríguez, a veteran journalist who was stabbed to death in broad daylight in the center of Nuevo Laredo, a border town in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, on this past January 13 — the first Mexican journalist slain this year.

Inaction by Mexican authorities in 21 disappearances of journalists since 2000

by Reporters Without Borders

On the tenth anniversary today of Mexican journalist Mauricio Estrada Zamora’s disappearance, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the appalling level of impunity in Mexico, where there have been at least 21 unsolved disappearances of journalists since 2000.

Aged 38, Estrada lived in Apatzingán, in the western state of Michoacán, where he was a crime reporter for a local daily, La Opinión de Apatzingán. He left the newspaper on the evening of 12 February 2008 and was never seen again. His car with found later that night with the lights on and the doors open in the nearby town of Buenavista, colleagues told RSF at the time.

Two days later, the newspaper’s management accused a Federal Investigation Agency police officer known as “El Diablo” (The Devil) of kidnapping Estrada. Three weeks before his disappearance, Estrada had written a story that reflected badly on this police officer, creating a conflict between the two. El Diablo was subsequently transferred to Mexico City.

Ten years later, Estrada’s disappearance is no longer being actively investigated. The failure to identify those responsible has been unbearable for Estrada’s wife, María Dolores Barajas. “I don’t understand,” she said. “How is it possible that no leads have been pursued? My life is full of questions without answers.”

Barajas complains of a lack of support, including judicial support, from the Executive Commission for Attention to Victims (CEAV), from which she has been seeking assistance since 2011. She is now threatened with eviction from her home for failing to make payments on the mortgage contracted by her husband.

Of the at least 21 journalists who have disappeared in the past 18 years, at least eight have missing for more than ten years, according to Mexico’s National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH).

With 12 journalists murdered since the start of 2017, the Mexican authorities are clearly already failing in their duty to protect media personnel,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America bureau.

At the same time, they don’t assume their responsibility to conduct thorough investigations into the many cases of missing journalists or to ensure that the families of the victims get adequate compensation. The federal prosecutor’s office must redouble its efforts to provide concrete responses to the disappearance of Mauricio Estrada Zamora and all the other cases of journalists missing in Mexico.”

The involvement of state agents has been suspected in most of these cases, because the missing journalists were covering stories linked to local politics, corruption or public security. This is unbearable for the families, because the perpetrators are often able to pressure witnesses and investigators, and even get investigations closed.

The most recent case of a journalist disappearing is that of Agustín Silva Vázquez, 22, a resident of Matías Romero, in the southern state of Oaxaca. This young crime reporter for El Sol del Istmo, a regional daily, was last seen on January 21.

A few days before he disappeared, he covered a military operation resulting in the seizure of firearms and the arrests of three persons. Silva’s father said an individual identifying himself as the lawyer of the three detainees had asked Silva to testify in their defense, and Silva had refused.

Mexico is ranked 147th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.


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US Jewish groups: Stephen Miller should not be in the White House



Jews being deported from Marseille in January of 1943 by soldiers of Nazi Germany and its puppet Vichy French regime. Bundesarchiv photo.

Jewish groups’ letter to the White House: Stephen Miller must be removed

by 17 US Jewish organizations

February 8, 2018

General John F. Kelly
White House Chief of Staff
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear General Kelly:

We, the undersigned Jewish agencies and organizations, are writing to share our deep concern that Senior Policy Advisor Stephen Miller does not belong in national leadership due to his extreme viewpoints and advocacy of racist policies.

As Jews, we are in solidarity with immigrants and refugees and believe that our nation must be a refuge and welcoming home for new Americans. Our people have been persecuted too many times in history for us to do otherwise. Not only our history but our holy texts teach us this: we are commanded by the Torah to welcome the stranger, for we were once strangers in the land of Egypt. We believe that we are all made b’tzelem Elohim, or “in the image of God.” Every person is deserving of a dignified and safe life, regardless of race, religion, nationality or any other identity.

Stephen Miller’s views on immigration are extreme and dangerous, and he has been an obstacle to passing widely-supported, bipartisan, popular, badly-needed immigration policy changes throughout his time in the administration. There will be no forward motion for immigrants and refugees while he advises the president, despite bipartisan support, to the detriment of all who live and work in this country. Immigrants are a vital part of American society and crucial to our country’s businesses. They are also human beings deserving of a decent life, out of the shadows.

Miller’s views are anathema to our Jewish and American values. They’re outside the mainstream, and they have no place in the White House. Throughout his professional career, Miller has made no secret of his belief that immigration should be restricted and that immigrants are bad for our country. With then-Senator Sessions, Miller helped orchestrate the defeat of comprehensive immigration reform in 2014. He worked closely with Breitbart Media, a platform for the alt-right and white supremacist movements, and was a reliable media presence to comment on anti-immigrant and nativist policies. During the 2016 election, Miller was a frequent warm-up act at Trump’s campaign rallies, revving up the crowd by invoking the image of immigrants as criminals, telling rally attendees “We’re going to build [the wall] out of love for every family who wants to raise their kids in safety and peace.”

During his time in the White House, Miller’s hard line stance against immigrants has informed and even directed the administration’s policies. Miller was the architect of the first and second Muslim and Refugee bans, which blocked people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. He orchestrated cuts to the refugee program, resulting in the lowest admissions number in modern history during the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Miller helped author the now infamous list of the administration’s immigration priorities, which include building a border wall, defunding sanctuary cities, eliminating the diversity visa program, and changing the nation’s entire immigration system from one based on family unification to one based on speaking English and being light-skinned. These priorities have been cited as a prerequisite to any immigration negotiations. They are grotesquely anti-immigrant, and against the values of most Americans and certainly the Jewish community which our organizations represent.

Miller’s racist views should be enough to disqualify him from the White House, and his sway over President Trump has made it nearly impossible for Congress to move forward on a bipartisan deal to protect Dreamers — which 70-80% of Americans support. Senator Lindsey Graham held up Miller as an outlier even within their own party, and other Members of Congress point to Miller as a barrier to any type of agreement on immigration.

Our organizations, and the millions of Jews we represent, are in solidarity with immigrants and refugees as a reflection of our Jewish values and our American values. When our nation opens its doors, our families, communities, schools, and congregations thrive. Unlike Miller, we believe that the Statue of Liberty, by which so many of our own families passed during their journeys to the United States, is a potent symbol of the best our country has to offer — welcome and hope.

Stephen Miller opposes the beliefs we hold dear, and while he advises President Trump there will be no forward movement on immigration — to the detriment of this great nation founded by immigrants. We urge you to remove Miller from your team and the White House as soon as possible.


American Jewish World Service
Americans for Peace Now
Bend the Arc Jewish Action
Habonim Dror North America
J Street
Jewish Community Action
Jewish Council on Urban Affairs
Jewish Labor Committee
Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ)
Jews United for Justice
National Council of Jewish Women
Open Hillel
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
The Workmen’s Circle


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Beluche: Ética, familia y sociedad


photo by Eric Jackson Pride 2017

Ética, familia y sociedad

por Olmedo Beluche

La resolución de la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, sobre el matrimonio igualitario, para parejas del mismo sexo, ha abierto un interesante debate sobre ética, moral, valores, religión, familia y derecho.

Los valores emanan de la realidad social y cambian con el tiempo

La primera afirmación que corresponde hacer es que la ética, la moral, los valores y el derecho, como en general el mundo de las ideas y la cultura, no caen del cielo, sino que son producto de la sociedad. El grado de desarrollo tecnológico y la existencia o no, y de qué tipo clases sociales, que posea una sociedad determinada, produce el orden moral que calza con sus necesidades. Como dijera Carlos Marx, “el ser social determina la conciencia”.

Lo que quiere decir que, en términos generales, en una sociedad dividida en clases sociales los valores prevalecientes serán los que impongan los grupos dominantes y sus intereses. Aquí la moral es un mecanismo de control social tan efectivo como el aparato represivo del Estado. Por supuesto, los grupos dominados también pueden forjar valores alternos que salen a flote eventualmente por algunos “resquicios”, pero la moral prevaleciente siempre será la que convenga a la clase dominante, la que cuenta con el derecho y el Estado para imponerla.

Claro que la frase de Marx no debe ser interpretada en sentido mecanicista, pues puede haber individuos de la clase dominante que desarrollen criterios éticos confrontados con el interés de su clase, así como de hecho hay elementos de las clases dominadas que asimilan los valores que sirven a sus explotadores.

La segunda afirmación general que debemos hacer es que los valores, el derecho y los tipo de familia, cambian conforme cambian las sociedades, no son eternos. Y se nos dirá que esto es una “locura” pues hay valores fundamentales que son inherentes al ser humano. A lo cual responderemos que esos valores son interpretados acorde con la situación del momento y nunca han sido tomados por la sociedad de manera absoluta.

Por ejemplo, “no matarás”. Pareciera que estamos ante el valor más absoluto, pues lo dicta la preservación de la especie y, sin embargo, las sociedades siempre lo han relativizado. La autopreservación y el dominio de algunos pueblos o grupos sociales sobre otros siempre las ha permitido “justificar” la muerte de los contrarios. Es la ley de todas las guerras. La propia Iglesia católica y evangélica, defensora de los “diez mandamientos”, muchas veces justificó la muerte de los “infieles” en nombre de la Fe. Quien lo dude que repase la historia de la Conquista de América, de las Cruzadas o la lucha entre la Reforma y la Contrarreforma.

La religión no es terna, también cambia

La religión misma, generadora y transmisora de valores, cambia con el tiempo. No siendo igual las religiones animistas de los pueblos primitivos, basadas en la absoluta incomprensión y el estado de impotencia frente a las fuerzas de la Naturaleza; que las religiones de las primeras civilizaciones, mucho más volcadas al control de las sociedades, en que gobernantes y sacerdotes, reyes y dioses, se confundían en las mismas personas; que las religiones modernas, mucho más sofisticadas.

Incluso dentro del propio cristianismo hay múltiples variantes, surgidas históricamente por claras razones sociales: ortodoxos y católicos romanos, dos vertientes surgidas de la división del imperio romano; el cisma protestante nacido al calor de los nuevos valores capitalistas confrontados con el catolicismo medieval, etc.

Así mismo podríamos decir que, aun dentro del catolicismo, no es lo mismo el Opus Dei que la Teología de la Liberación; como tampoco se puede reducir a todos los musulmanes a sinónimos de talibanes. Cada versión depende del contexto social que le ha dado origen.

No hay un “diseño natural de familia”

Las formas de familia también han variado con el tiempo: en muchas comunidades primitivas, como las estudiadas por el antropólogo L. H. Morgan (citado por F. Engels en su libro “El origen de la familia, la propiedad privada y el Estado”), en las que prevalecía ciertos tipos de promiscuidad sexual; a la familia patriarcal heredada de la antigüedad romana, en la que “famulus” era sinónimo de esclavitud o propiedad del “pater”; a la sociedad moderna capitalista, en la que las mujeres, luchando, han pasado de subordinadas legales a sus padres, hermanos y maridos, a lograr espacios de igualdad legal.

Ni hablemos de sociedades como la Grecia clásica, tan querida de los defensores de la cultura occidental, de cuyas ideas se nutrió el cristianismo, en la que prevalecía tal grado de obcecación patriarcal que, los matrimonios heterosexuales, sólo servían para la reproducción, puesto que la mujer era considerada inferior.

Por ende, el verdadero amor (“platónico”) solo era posible entre iguales, es decir, entre hombres. Donde era común que los hombres de las élites tuvieran amantes jóvenes varones (efebos). De manera que siempre han existido parejas del mismo sexo, lo único que ha cambiado es la moralidad pública, que a veces acepta y otras rechaza, las relaciones homosexuales, las cuales siempre han existido de hecho.

En ningún lado ha existido algo como “el diseño natural” de familia, ni siquiera en la Biblia, donde se aprecian todo tipo de familias, patriarcales, por supuesto. Desde Abraham, que tenía dos mueres, a Salomón que tuvo más de doscientas, de acuerdo al libro sagrado. Lo que tienen en común la Biblia, como El Corán, es la descripción de un tipo de familia, prevaleciente en la Edad Media, en la que la mujer se supedita a la voluntad omnímoda del marido. Una época en que la Iglesia, la nobleza y el Estado se fundían.

Sobre el “matrimonio civil”

Ese tipo de familia pertenece al pasado. Desde la Revolución Francesa, la Independencia de Estados Unidos y la de Hispanoamérica, y a lo largo del siglo XIX, los valores de la modernidad capitalista han ido sacando a la religión y a la Iglesia de las relaciones entre “civiles” y con el estado.

El derecho civil moderno, impuesto en Europa por Napoleón, establece que es el Estado, mediante la Ley, el que regula las relaciones entre civiles, quitándole ese poder que en la Edad Media tuvo la Iglesia católica. La educación, los registros de nacimiento y defunción, además del matrimonio son regidos por el Estado a través de autoridades designadas por la ley.

De manera que el matrimonio que no se hace en una iglesia, sino ante un juez o notario debidamente autorizado por la ley, es un MATRIMONIO CIVIL.

Por ende, que las iglesias católica y evangélica pretendan que las parejas homosexuales pueden tener una “unión civil”, pero no un matrimonio, es una falacia lógica, porque toda unión de parejas regulada por el Estado es un “matrimonio civil”.

Por supuesto, las iglesias tienen el derecho de negar al “matrimonio religioso” a parejas del mismo sexo si eso contraviene sus convicciones. Pero las iglesias no pueden pretender imponerle al Estado sus valores religiosos para regular las relaciones civiles, eso sería retroceder a la Edad Media, en materia de ética, moral y derechos.

Eso es lo que debiera defender cualquier estadista o político que se jacte de “liberal”, para no decir “progresista”, menos de izquierda. Pero en la actual crisis moral de este capitalismo decadente, en que los principios no valen nada, y lo que impera es la corrupción y el oportunismo, los supuestos liberales y progres juegan con el silencio o se inclinan ante las Iglesias a ver si así ganan votos a costa de lo que sea.

La “crisis de valores” y la familia

En este sentido, la llamada “crisis de valores” de la sociedad moderna no es más que el reflejo de la crisis de la sociedad misma. Crisis compleja, donde elementos arcaicos chocan con la modernidad “globalizada” del capitalismo, así como con incipientes esfuerzos por una sociedad nueva, que chocan contra los dos anteriores. Es decir, hay un conflicto de valores provenientes de varios planos distintos de la realidad.

Por ejemplo, se habla de la crisis de la familia como el origen de la crisis de los valores, lo que supuestamente es germen de diversos males sociales como la delincuencia, la drogadicción, la sexualidad libre, etc.

Frente a los descarnados valores capitalistas, centrados en el lucro y el dinero por encima de todo, algunos añoran la familia, y la sociedad tradicional, supuesto modelo de felicidad y encarnación de valores estables. Si los jóvenes se vuelcan a las pandillas o la delincuencia, se culpa a sus familias, por descuidar su crianza. Si las jóvenes se convierten en madres adolescentes, se culpa de su desenfreno a sus padres, y en especial a sus madres, por no moldearlas en los valores de la castidad y la continencia.

Pero este enfoque es doblemente equivocado. Por un lado, porque exonera de responsabilidad al verdadero causante de los males sociales y de la crisis de la familia, el sistema capitalista, sustentado en la explotación y la ley de la ganancia. Si padres y madres no pueden criar y atender a sus hijos, no se debe a que el “mal” se haya entronizado en sus mentes, sino porque el capitalismo los obliga a trabajar desaforadamente para arañar algo del sustento diario.

Por otro lado, la familia tradicional estaba lejos de ser el emporio del amor y comprensión mutua entre sus miembros. La familia tradicional, apoyada por la religión y el Estado era un centro de la opresión de los hijos y la mujer, donde padre era el “rey de la casa”.

Las conquistas democráticas de la modernidad están mediatizadas por el capitalismo

La modernidad y sus valores es un fruto contradictorio. Por un lado, ha significado la conquista de derechos y nuevos valores democráticos para sectores sociales anteriormente subordinados, como la mujer. El divorcio, la anticoncepción, la ciudadanía y el derecho al trabajo son conquistas de las mujeres que la sociedad, la familia y los valores tradicionales les negaban. Son conquistas, no depravaciones, ni antivalores.

El aspecto negativo de la modernidad es que sigue siendo una sociedad escindida en clases, donde la clase dominante obtiene su riqueza y poder de la ganancia capitalista. Entonces todas las conquistas democráticas y los nuevos valores positivos están mediatizados por el lucro. La familia se ha vuelto esclava del trabajo, la sexualidad se ha convertido en objeto de consumo, la democracia un instrumento de los ricos, y por encima de todo reina el dinero venerado como ídolo.

Cambiar esta situación no puede resolverse en el mero plano de los valores, menos mediante la restitución de dudosos valores arcaicos, sino transformar la sociedad para que, sobre una base de equidad social puedan prevalecer nuevos valores centrados en la solidaridad humana.


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Avnery, What the Hell?

Uri Avnery. Photo from a Gush Shalom video.

What the Hell?

by Uri Avnery – Gush Shalom

What the Hell am I?

An Israeli? A Jew? A peace activist? A journalist? An author? An ex-combat soldier in the Israeli army? An ex-terrorist? A…?

All of these and more.

OK. OK. But in what order? Which is the most important component?

First of all, of course, I am a human being, with all the rights and duties of a human being. That part is easy. At least in theory.

Then I am an Israeli. Then I am a Jew. And so on.

An Australian man of English extraction would have no trouble answering such a question. He is first and foremost an Australian, and then an Anglo-Saxon. In two world wars he rushed to the aid of Britain, for no practical reason. But in the second war, when his own homeland was suddenly in danger, he rushed back home.

That was quite natural. True, Australia was created mainly by British people (including deported convicts), but the Australian’s mental world was formed by the geographical, political and physical environment of Australia. In the course of time, even his (and her) physical appearance changed.

Once I had a discussion about this with Ariel Sharon.

I told him that I consider myself an Israeli first, and a Jew only second.

Sharon, who was born in pre-Israel Palestine, retorted heatedly: “I am first of all a Jew, and only then an Israeli!”

This seems an idle discussion. But it has a very practical relevance for our daily life.
For example, is this a “Jewish” state, how can it exist without the dominance of the Jewish religion?

Israel was founded by very secular idealists. Most of them looked upon religion as a relic of the past, a handful of ridiculous superstitions that must be discarded in order to clear the way for a healthy, modern nationalism.

The founding father, Theodor Herzl, whose picture hangs in every Israeli schoolroom, was completely non-religious, not to say anti-religious. In his ground-breaking book, “Der Judenstaat” (The Jewish State), he declared that in the future Zionist state, the rabbis would be kept in the synagogues, without any influence on public affairs.

The rabbis answered in no uncertain terms. They cursed him outright, using the most extreme language. They believed that God Almighty had sent the Jews into exile as a punishment for their sins, and only God Almighty had the right to bring them back by sending the Messiah.

Even the German reform rabbis, a small minority at the time, condemned him. Only a handful of rabbis joined the Zionist movement in the early days.

In Jerusalem, an important group of Orthodox rabbis, who called themselves Neturei Karta (“Guardians of the City”), were openly anti-Zionist. Much later, I often met them in Arafat’s office. Other Orthodox rabbis, a bit less radical, insisted on being non-Zionist while still accepting Zionist money. They are now members of the governing coalition.

David Ben-Gurion, the leading Zionist when the State of Israel came into being, despised the religious. He believed that they would disappear by themselves in time. Therefore (and in order to gain the support and money of orthodox Jews abroad) he made all kinds of concessions to them, which allowed the religious community to grow out of all proportion. Now they endanger the very existence of our secular state.

Although representing only about a fifth of Israel’s population, the Orthodox of various shades now constitute a powerful force in Israeli politics. From being a moderate force for peace they have turned to a radical nationalism, often a religious fascism. Their influence on daily life is becoming more and more pervasive.

Lately they succeeded in passing a law that forbids the opening of supermarkets on Saturday (Shabbat). The extreme Orthodox wing forbids its sons to serve in the army, demanding that all female soldiers be removed altogether, or at least be prevented from having any contact at all with their male comrades.

Since most Israelis see the army as (perhaps) the only unifying force left in Israel, this results in a perpetual crisis. Other Orthodox wings take the contrary view: they see the army as God’s instrument for cleansing all of the Holy Land of non-Jews.

Arab citizens of Israel — more than 20% of the population — do not serve in the army, with some exceptions. How could they be counted on to fulfill the designs of the God of Israel?

If Ben-Gurion and all the dead soldiers of my generation could hear about this situation, they would turn in their graves.

THIS IS only one of the manifestations of the Jewish-first ideology. Another is the question of Israel’s place on the region. Jewish-first dictates a quite different outlook than Israeli-first.

I was just 10 years old when my family fled from Nazi Germany to Palestine. On the ship from Marseille to Jaffa I cut myself off completely from the European continent and connected with the Asian one.

I loved it. The sounds, the smells, the environment. I wanted to embrace it all. When at the age of 15 I joined the underground liberation struggle against the British overlords of Palestine, I felt that we were a part of the general struggle of a new world against Western domination.

At the time, a linguistic usage was accepted by all of us, even without noticing. We all started to distinguish between “Jewish,” by which we meant the Jews of the Diaspora (“exile Jews” in Zionist terms), and “Hebrew,” by which we meant everything local, home-grown.

“Jewish” were the religion, the Ghettos, the Yiddish language, everything over there. Hebrew were we, the renewed language, the new community in our country, the Kibbutzim, everything local. In time, a small group of young intellectuals, nicknamed “Canaanites,” went much further and asserted that we Hebrews had nothing in common with the Jews, that we were a new nation altogether, a direct continuation of the Hebrew nation which was dispersed by the Romans some 2000 years ago.

(This picture, by the way, is denied by many non-Jewish historians, who assert that the Romans exiled only the intelligentsia, and that the simple people remained, adopted Islam and are now the Palestinians.)

When the truth about the Holocaust came out, a wave of remorse swept the Hebrew community here. Jewish became the dominant self-definition. Since than, a steady process of re-Judaization of Israel has been in progress.

When the State of Israel was founded, the term “Israeli” replaced the term “Hebrew.” The question is now: “Jewish” first or “Israeli” first? It has a direct bearing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Herzl had no problem. He was a convinced Westerner. In his book he wrote the fateful words: “For Europe we would constitute (in Palestine) a part of the wall against Asia, we would become an outpost of culture against barbarism.” (My translation.)

In other words, the founder of Zionism conceived the future Jewish state as a bastion of European imperialism against the native peoples. More than 120 years ago, the present situation was already envisioned. Zionism has followed this line consistently.

Could it have been different? Could we have re-integrated ourselves in the region? I don’t know. When I was young, I believed so. I was 22 years old when I founded a group called “Young Eretz-Israel” (and in Arabic and English “Young Palestine”) which was generally known — and detested — as the “Struggle-Group,” because we published an irregular paper by that name. When Jawaharlal Nehru convened an Asian-African congress in New Delhi, we sent him a congratulatory telegram.

After the 1948 war, I founded a group called “Semitic Action,” devoted to the idea of Israel’s integration in the “Semitic Region.” I chose the term “Semitic” because it included all Arabs and Israelis, by descent and language.

In 1959 I met Jean-Paul Sartre in Paris. He had hesitations about the term, because it sounded racist to him. But I succeeded in convincing him and he published an article I wrote on this subject in his Temps Modernes.

The more “Jewish” Israel becomes, the wider the abyss between it and the Muslim world. The more “Israeli,” the higher the chance of an eventual integration in the region, an ideal much more profound than just peace.

Therefore I repeat: I am Israeli first, Jewish second.


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Editorials: One reasonable solution here; Wait and watch up there



Panama’s crisis is bad and it can only get worse:
the way out is to call a constitutional convention

Based on raw power politics, the PRD and CD caucuses, which have the votes, are not going to let President Varela choose his people for the Supreme Court. And why should they? Three witnesses and a paper trail say that Varela took millions from Odebrecht. First he denied, then he said it was a donation to his party. In the latter case it would still be an election law violation for a party to take money from a foreign corporation, and the way it was done would probably also be money laundering. So the PRD wants to reconfigure the legislature’s Credentials Committee to reduce Varela’s Panameñistas to the two of nine seats due to them rather than the present four, making it nearly impossible for Varela to block anything or pass anything on that committee. It raises the real possibility of an impeachment.

But the price of a PRD deal with CD probably means giving in to the latter’s demands for impunity for the Martinelista crime wave. And a move to impeach the president would polarize and paralyze the country, without any clear and good alternative waiting in the wings.

The Supreme Court is running mostly on alternates and people temporarily holding their posts as they await replacement. It’s a despised and discredited institution. The National Assembly is held in similarly low esteem by most Panamanians.

A witness says that the minister of canal affairs took a bribe — which he denies. Meanwhile two members of the Panama Canal Authority board are fugitives from justice, a third hardly ever shows up anymore, and the legislature’s ex oficio board member may have a legal excuse for the millions he took from Odebrecht — they were legal fees, he says — but it’s terribly compromising under the circumstances.

Now the Blue Apple revelations indicate that almost everyone doing public works construction in Panama was playing the same sort of bribery and kickback game that Odebrecht was. All major political parties and many of the illustrious surnames are involved.

It’s time to call an election for a constitutional convention. That’s not a panacea, but it’s the most peaceful, orderly and democratic way out of the growing impasse in Panamanian public affairs.


The USA should wait and see, but keep up its guard

Does irrational mean stupid? Does it mean unconvincing?

Often enough it means neither of these things. Some of the most twisted minds are also brilliant ones. Pitches to irrational fears and hatreds have propelled many a politician to power in many a place. Devin Nunes and Donald Trump put out a press release that they say absolves the president and proves that there was no collusion between his campaign and Russian attempts to affect the 2016 election. It’s a total non sequitur, but Trump did get an upward bump in the polls.

There is too much out there on Trump and his entourage that is easily proven — lies to the FBI and Congress, efforts to obstruct justice, years of money laundering for an international rogues’ gallery who bought units in Trump buildings for that purpose, various sorts of fraud in Trump businessess — quite apart from the question of whether there was direct and active collusion between the Russian propaganda mill and the Trump campaign. In any case, collusion as such might not actually be a crime.

Let’s wait and see what the special prosecutor has to say, and what of it he can prove. But Americans should be on guard against a coup, whereby the special prosecutor is fired, this year’s elections are rigged and the United States goes the way of the banana republics. It’s a clear and present danger.


Bear in mind…


Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him.
Fyodor Dostoevsky


Fear not those who argue but those who dodge.
Marie Ebner von Eschenbach


POLITICIAN, n. An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared. When he wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive.
Ambrose Bierce



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Primeros genomas de vertebrados panameños han sido exitosamente secuenciados

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Anolis auratus. Foto por Kenro Kusumi (ASU).

¿Por qué hay tantos tipos de lagartijas?

por STRI

Las lagartijas tienen súper-poderes. Las aves y los mamíferos que pueden regenerar su piel y sus plumas evolucionaron a partir del mismo ancestro que las lagartijas, que pueden regenerar estructuras enteras como sus colas. Extendiéndose por las Américas, un grupo de lagartijas, las anolis, evolucionaron como los pinzones de Darwin, adaptándose a distintas islas y a diferentes hábitats en el continente. Hoy hay más de 400 especies.

Al construir un árbol genealógico para cuatro especies de lagartijas, tres colectadas en Panamá en el Instituto Smithsonian de Investigaciones Tropicales (STRI) y una en el sudeste de EEUU, los científicos de la Unversidad del Estado de Arizona (ASU por sus siglas en inglés) compararon los genomas de las lagartijas -todo su código de ADN- con los de otros animales. Los genomas revelaron que los cambios en los genes involucrados en el diencéfalo (el sitio donde está la glándula pineal y otras glándulas endocrinas), que gobiernan la visión de colores, las hormonas y la colorida papada que los machos despliegan para atraer a las hembras, pueden contribuir a la formación de límites entre especies. Los genes que regulan el desarrollo de las extremidades también evolucionaron particularmente rápido.

“Esta es la primera vez que el código genético completo -el genoma- de cualquier especie de vertebrado de Panamá ha sido secuenciado y analizado”, comentó Oris Sanjur, coautora y Directora Asociada para la Administración Científica de STRI. “La información de estas tres especies es una contribución importante para nuestra comprensión de la biodiversidad y la evolución de nuevas especies”.

Los científicos estiman que hay 40 especies de lagartijas anolis viviendo en Panamá, en comparación con solo una en los Estados Unidos. Un equipo de ASU colectó tres especies con el permiso del Ministerio de Ambiente de Panamá, (MiAmbiente): el anolis gigante de América Central, Anolis frenatus, vive alto en los troncos de los árboles; el anolis de la hierba, A. auratus, se posa sobre los arbustos o sobre la vegetación herbácea y el anolis delgado, A. apletophallus, que se encuentra solo en Panamá y que cuelga más abajo en los troncos de los árboles o en el suelo.

Los investigadores del School of Life Sciences (Escuela de Ciencias de la Vida) de ASU alinearon las secuencias de ADN de las lagartijas con las secuencias de ADN de otros 31 animales: el pez con aletas lobuladas y los grupos de animales de cuatro patas que evolucionaron a partir de ellos. También examinaron cuidadosamente los genes que codifican las proteínas: más de 22,000 genes en el anolis verde, A. carolinensis, vs. alrededor de 20,000 cada uno en A. auratus y A. frenatus y 13,000 en A. apletophallus.

“Aunque algunos reptiles como las tortugas cambiaron notablemente poco durante millones de años, las lagartijas anolis evolucionaron rápidamente, resultando en una diversidad de formas y comportamientos”, comentó Kenro Kusumi, autor y profesor de la Facultad de Ciencias de la Vida de ASU. “Ahora que secuenciar genomas completos es más barato y más fácil, descubrimos evidencia genética molecular para una evolución rápida que puede explicar las sorprendentes diferencias entre los cuerpos de los animales que viven en diferentes ambientes”.

El laboratorio de Kusumi está especialmente interesado en cómo los genomas de los reptiles dan forma a su capacidad de regenerarse y desarrollar una diversidad de formas corporales, trabajando con colegas de la Facultad de Medicina de la Universidad de Arizona-Phoenix.

Una explicación obvia para una tasa de evolución más rápida es la velocidad de reproducción de las lagartijas anolis. Las anolis suelen aparearse en su primer año de vida, mientras que otros reptiles tardan mucho más en alcanzar la madurez sexual. También se reproducen con muchos otros individuos, por lo que las mutaciones que dificultan la supervivencia de los individuos se eliminan con bastante rapidez.

La primera y única otra lagartija anolis que se secuenció previamente fue la anolis verde, A. carolinensis, la única especie anolis residente en los EEUU Fue secuenciada por Jessica Alföldi en el Instituto Broad de Massachusetts del Instituto de Tecnología de Massachusetts y sus colegas, quienes estaban particularmente interesados en comparar el genoma de lagartija con el genoma humano.

El genoma de A. carolinensis mostró evidencia de una evolución más reciente y de la pérdida de antiguos elementos repetidos en la parte del ADN que no codifica las proteínas. En este sentido, era importante secuenciar las tres especies panameñas, ya que las especies de EEUU podrían no ser las más representativas del grupo diverso de anolis.

“Durante 15 años, se invirtió una cantidad impresionante de tiempo y dinero en descubrir los genomas de los mamíferos, motivados por nuestro deseo de comprender la evolución humana y buscar curas para enfermedades. Aunque los reptiles escamosos incluyen más de 10,000 especies, casi el doble del número de especies de mamíferos, un solo genoma no fue suficiente para comprender la variabilidad dentro de este grupo”, comentó el autor principal del informe, Marc Tollis, investigador postdoctoral en ASU. “Al comparar estos cuatro genomas de lagartija anolis, comenzamos a comprender cómo uno de los más diversos grupos de vertebrados se regenera, se desarrolla y se diversifica”.

Este estudio fue financiado por STRI, ASU y la Fundación Nacional de Ciencias de EEUU y fue posible gracias a un acuerdo de colaboración de ASU/STRI en el 2010.

Vea: Tollis, M., Hutchins, E.D., Stapley, J. et al. 2018. Comparative genomics reveals accelerated evolution in conserved pathways during the diversification of anole lizards. Genome Biology and Evolution. Doi:10.1093/gbe/evy013/4817506

gecko action 2
                                         Anolis apletophallus. Foto por Kenro Kusumi (ASU).


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MAP, No a la presencia militar estadounidiense en Panamá

drone warfare
Un dron Predator estadounidense dispara un misil Hellfire. Foto por la USAF.

El MAP condena presencia militar de EEUU en Panamá

por el Movimiento Alternativa Popular (MAP)

El Movimiento Alternativa Popular (MAP), condena los ejercicios militares norteamericanos sobre suelo panameño. Desde el 2 enero de 2018, están desembarcando tropas en Panamá, en diferentes provincias. Es un claro mensaje del imperio de Washington contra cualquier política panameña, que no se subordine a los intereses de ese país. Además, coloca al gobierno panameño en el centro de los planes imperiales de invadir militarmente al país hermano de Venezuela. Esta semana pasada, el Secretario de Estado norteamericano, Rex Tillerson, realizó una gira por cuatro países latinoamericanos, para preparar el ataque contra el pueblo hermano de Venezuela. La presencia militar de ese país en Panamá, es un mensaje de sus verdaderas intenciones.

El periodista Eliécer Navarro, del diario Crítica, de la capital panameña, informó que el “gobierno panameño permitirá que hasta 415 miembros de la Fuerza Aérea de EEUU ocupen territorio nacional durante la primera mitad de 2018 vistiendo uniforme militar y portando armas”. El acuerdo es parte de los ejercicios llamados “Nuevos Horizontes”.

Estas condiciones fueron solicitadas por la Embajada de EEUU, el 11 de diciembre de 2017. La nota respuesta aceptando la ocupación militar fue trasmitida el 4 de enero de 2018. Las tropas norteamericanas entraron a Panamá, el 2 de enero, dos días antes de la nota de la Cancillería. Aparentemente, EEUU tenía previsto ocupar el territorio panameño, con o sin la autorización del gobierno. Los ejercicios Nuevos Horizontes se realizarán en las provincias de Darién, Veraguas, Coclé y “cualquier otro lugar aprobado por el gobierno de Panamá y la Embajada”, según el acuerdo. No se mencionan las provincias de Panamá y Colón, donde se encuentra el Canal de Panamá.

Las tropas norteamericanas tendrán una “condición equivalente a la que se otorga al personal técnico y administrativo (diplomática) de una Embajada”. En otro punto, según el periodista Navarro, “el Gobierno panameño acepta asumir responsabilidad y eximir al Gobierno de EEUU de “cualquier demanda que se entable (contra) personal de EEUU con relación a su misión en Panamá”. En caso de demandas de terceros por muertes no relacionadas al combate del personal militar, EEUU pagará de conformidad a las leyes estadounidenses.

Hace pocos años un soldado asesinó a una joven panameña. El militar fue sacado del país por la embajada de EEUU y posteriormente juzgado en ese país. Los familiares aún piden justicia, sin que el gobierno panameño asuma sus responsabilidades en este caso.

En su gira, el ministro norteamericano le recordó a las cancillerías latinoamericanas que “América Latina no necesita de nuevos poderes imperiales que solo miran por su interés “. Mensaje que los panameños podemos traducir como una amenaza frente a los acuerdos del presidente Varela con la República Popular China.

El Movimiento Alternativa Popular, MAP, rechaza categóricamente ” Nuevos Horizontes”, porque los mismos violan la Constitución Política de Panamá, ya que los acuerdos que permiten la ejecución de esas maniobras, debieron ser aprobados por la Asamblea y no por simple acuerdo de ambos gobiernos, además recordemos que el art. 310, señala claramente que Panamá no tendrá ejército, por lo que no se justifica tropas extranjeras en nuestro territorio y menos, del país que nos invadió en 1989.

Dichas maniobras violan el Tratado de Neutralidad, ya que Panamá permite la presencia de fuerzas armadas de otro país, con lo cual se parcializa a favor de EEUU en detrimento del resto del mundo.

Pero lo más grave, es que coloca a Panamá, como objetivo militar de las fuerzas y grupos adversarios a EEUU, No olvidemos que Panamá, es el único país de América Latina, que forma parte de la Coalición Internacional contra el Estado Islámico.

El MAP, responsabiliza al gobierno panameño por los daños que se le causan y se le puedan causar al pueblo panameño y exige al gobierno del Señor Varela, una postura firme y patriótica, rechazando esas maniobras, que además de ilegales, ponen en peligro la seguridad de quienes vivimos en este territorio y mancillan la dignidad nacional.


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Antillean Fair, this Carnival Saturday and Sunday at ATLAPA

Yes, it’s about traditions, with senior citizens doing the quadrille. But it’s also about younger folks, many sorts of music and dance and the most gorgeous young queens in Panama City’s Carnival festivities.

The Antillean Fair: people with a history and a future throw a family-oriented party

photos by Eric Jackson and from history

African people were brought here as slaves starting in the 16th century. The ones who stayed to do the building and the heavy lifting are hardly ever recognized. You don’t see markers on Panama’s oldest building saying that “This was built by slaves,” although invariably that is the case. Those who ran off to the jungle found Cimarron villages on a West African model are a bit better remembered in our culture. Their masks, congo dancing traditions and way of life as distinctive icons of Panama.

The West Indians, however, are a different community, one that began to arrive in the middle of the 19th century with the building of the Panama Railroad. In both the French and American canal construction efforts, they provided the bulk of the work force, and to the west in Bocas and Chiriqui formed much of the crews who creaated the banana plantations. They came here mostly poor, but not as slaves and not for the most part, as some might suppose, uneducated or unskilled. Some stayed to work for the canal or the US military bases, some scattered about the planet. In Brooklyn, in London, in Kingston, in Bridgetown, in Bluefields and wherever the US Army is stationed, you can run into people who trace West Indian roots back through Panama. And over the generations people have come and gone, such that thsoe who talk about an “expat community” — meaning mostly white people from North America often living in upscale gated communities — generally won’t recognize that there are plenty of American citizens in Rio Abajo, too.

Every year on Carnival Saturday and Sunday — this year from noon to 8 p.m. each day — the community gets together to celebrate. People come from abroad, some of them old folks with their grandchildren in tow to show them something of their roots, for the party.

Drunken vulgarity? You can do that for Carnival, too. But the Antillean Fair is something else.

Where has the community been? Many through a segregated Canal Zone, in which at one time black West Indians were paid in silver and white Americans in gold, and they had to shop in different parts of the commissaries. The discrimination and separation never completely ended but it did ease, mostly because of the community’s insistence but also because there were some key friends along the way — people like Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was stationed here as a US Army officer after World War I, got to know and like the Canal Zone’s Antillean community and agreed to end some of the more egregious discrimination when he became president. People like Judge Guthrie Crowe, who tried to bring a greater measure of justice into a Canal Zone system where the US Constitution did not necessarily apply.
Is it a terribly racist thing to opine that generally the Carnival queens at the Antillean Fair are more beautiful than the city’s other queens? When you consider that beauty is a social construct, and that for a long time a rabiblanco ad cartel has impressed the message upon Panama’s girls that “White is beautiful and you’re not, so you’re not,” the argument to the contrary can be made. Yet black people greatly outnumber white people here. To people with concepts of beauty that are not warped by race, the pool of gorgeous potential Carnival queens among the city’s black population is a lot bigger than the pool of young white women who have more or less comparable qualifications.
It’s about the scholarly tradition of waves of migrants to Panama who in general were more literate the population of the isthmus to which they came, and in which to this day parents tend to insist that their kids study hard and learn in school. This is an English-language school in San Miguel, circa 1935.
It’s about living history, living scholarship, torches being passed on — for example by these and other books that will be on sale at the fair. Melva Lowe de Gooden, the author of the history shown in English and Spanish versions here? She was the head of the English department at the University of Panama.
Once upon a time, black canal workers and their families were treated in a different part of what was Colon Hospital than were white canal workers and dependents. That sort of segregation changed,, and out of the community were raised many fine physicians both in Panama and in the United States.
Are you one of these folks underwhelmed by the blandness of most Panamanian food? The West Indians spice it up, in their classical way, and you can get the good stuff to do that at the fair, along with a sampling of things cooked that way.
The French surnames have dropped out of usage over the generations, but a lot of the women brought in to do the laundry and clean the hospital wards were from the French Caribbean, places like Martinique and Guadeloupe.
The fair is a benefit for the Museo Afroantillano, which is being renovated. They have a display of construction era women’s fashions at the museum, but at the fair you will find more recent fashion trends.
These were hard and dangerous jobs, especially working at the bottom of Culebra Cut, where landslides could and occasionally did bury people alive in an instant. The men working down at the bottom were not all West Indian blacks. There were also some white folks and Asians from Caribbean lands, and many Spaniards, Italians and Greeks on the silver payroll.
A West Indian gathering in Panama without Jamaican-style buns? Unthinkable!
You dig? they did.
This being a US election year, and quite a few US citizens — mostly dual US and Panamanian citizens — attending the Antillean Fair, there will again be voter registration information and help for folks eligible to register and vote. Generally it’s by absentee ballot in the last place in the USA where one lived, or if one has never lived there but has an American passport by virtue of parentage, by where an American parent last lived. Such voting assistance will be by local Democrats but is available to anyone regardless of political views or affiliations.


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