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Reported $80 million arms transfer to Libyan warlord: who backs Eric Prince?

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EP
Erik Prince has “been linked to the Trump administration, the Emirati leadership, and the Russians,” noted one expert. Prince is the brother of former education secretary Betsy DeVos and founder of the mercenary firm Blackwater. Photo by The Oxford Union/REX Shutterstock.

UN: Prince sent weapons to a warlord in
violation of a United Nations arms embargo

by Brett Wilkins — Common Dreams

Erik Prince, the founder and former CEO of the mercenary firm Blackwater and a close ally of former President Donald Trump, sent weapons to a Libyan warlord in violation of a United Nations arms embargo, according to a confidential UN document reported Friday by The New York Times.

The UN report, which investigators sent to the Security Council on Thursday, reportedly details how Prince sent foreign mercenaries armed with attack aircraft, gunboats, and cyberwarfare capabilities to support renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar during a major 2019 battle in eastern Libya.

According to the UN report, the mercenary operation cost $80 million and included a plan to form a hit squad to locate and assassinate commanders opposed to Haftar.

Haftar, a one-time CIA asset considered Libya’s most powerful warlord, has fought to overthrow the North African nation’s internationally recognized government during the country’s second civil war since the overthrow of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in the 2011 Arab Spring revolts. Haftar has enjoyed various degrees of support from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia. British, French, US and UAE warplanes have also assisted his forces.

Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater, brother of Betsy DeVos and prominent supporter of Donald Trump, violated a UN arms embargo on Libya by sending weapons to a militia commander who was attempting to overthrow the internationally backed government. https://t.co/uYY1ly4Nkf

— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) February 19, 2021

In 2019, Trump reportedly granted permission for Haftar—who stands accused of ordering his troops to commit war crimes—to launch an air campaign against the UN-backed Government of National Accord, attacks which killed hundreds of civilians in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.

The UN report raises questions about whether Trump was complicit in Prince’s violation of the international arms embargo against Haftar’s forces.

Anas el-Gomati, director of Libyan think tank Sadeq Institute, told Al Jazeera that using mercenaries allows leaders to “outright refuse that you have any knowledge of what’s going on.”

“To what degree did Trump help facilitate this war alongside Erik Prince?” asked el-Gomati, who also wondered whether “Erik Prince was coordinating with Russian Wagner Group mercenaries in Libya, and has helped them establish a foothold in the way he helped the United Arab Emirates establish a foothold in Libya.”

Another unanswered question is who funded Prince’s $80 million operation. Wolfram Lacher, a Libya expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, told the Times that Prince has “been linked to the Trump administration, the Emirati leadership, and the Russians.”

“For me, the question is who is tacitly backing him?” asked Lacher.

BREAKING: A UN report says Betsy DeVos’ brother Erik Prince violated an int’l arms embargo on Libya by deploying a force of mercenaries to help a militia leader try to overthrow the gov’t, according to reporting by @nytimes. Here’s what else you need to know about the Trump ally pic.twitter.com/VTxqYVTsPN

— NowThis (@nowthisnews) February 19, 2021

Prince, a former US Navy SEAL, founded Blackwater — now called Academi after being sold twice — in 1997. He rose to prominence during the George W. Bush administration and the so-called War on Terror, in which the US relied heavily upon private contractors. On September 16, 2007, Blackwater guards massacred 17 men, women, and children in Nisour Square in Baghdad, Iraq.

Last December, Trump pardoned four of the Nisour Square killers, who had been sentenced to 12 years to life in prison for crimes including first-degree murder.

Trump and Prince have long enjoyed warm relations. Prince was a major Trump donor whose sister, Betsy DeVos, was confirmed as secretary of education in 2017.

This isn’t the first time Prince has been accused of breaking domestic and international laws against weapons transfers. In 2012 his anti-piracy security force in Somalia was accused by the UN of “the most brazen violation of the arms embargo by a private security company.” Prince was also reportedly the target of an FBI investigation last year for weaponizing crop dusters.

 

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PDC

¿Wappin? Roots reggae night / Noche de reggae de raíces

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U-Roy to meet Jah

Irie concerts

U-Roy, Gregory Isaacs, Frankie Paul & Lloyd Parks – Sunsplash 2005
https://youtu.be/be2lF0ZJM4c


Gondwana – Buenos Aires 2010
https://youtu.be/lJ_3Ze0qfN4


Black Uhuru – Montego Bay 1982
https://youtu.be/y4DYDPBiHiI


Cultura Profética – Luna Park
https://youtu.be/eGYiTRmFXkY


Aisha – High Priestess
https://youtu.be/ktAc7QZrauE


Lee “Scratch” Perry & Mad Professor – Black Ark Experryments
https://youtu.be/DxswfHiHCto

 

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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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Editorials, Deep into the SENNIAF scandal; and The Democrats’ agenda

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Prez
President Cortizo and the minister of social development cut the ribbon on a rural center for children at risk. Better to have such facilities than not, but there are also some harder things that the president and ministers must do. Photo by the Presidencia.

Nito, SENNIAF and us

The president has finally spoken about the SENNIAF foster care home scandals. It was in a thread of seven Twitter tweets. He said essentially the same stuff in a televised statement a short time later.

The president just went after the emotional part of it on the surface, in a superficial sort of way. He’s outraged at crimes against kids. He’s for exemplary punishment. He wants the government agency involved, SENNIAF, to file its own criminal complaints.

There seem to have been some adult foster care abuses here, too. Is the calculation that it’s best not to talk about mentally disturbed people chained up in a religious institution? Plus, Nito heads a government that fired two social workers for reporting on the abuses and he has nothing to say about justice for them.

A huge cultural issue here is the way that Panamanians tend to treat any person with any sort of disability. The people most egregiously wronged here are by and large kids with special needs that can’t be met by parents or extended families. Or maybe they could be met, but the families are annoyed or embarrassed by someone with disabilities among them. Yes, there are government policies that need to be reviewed, but there also needs to be a lot of social and individual introspection about our attitudes. The notion that life is one big competition with a few winners, those who work for them and a bunch of throwaways to be sent to places that people don’t see really does need to be examined and seen for what it is.

Lurking at the edges, and one of the driving issues for the religious right even as they are repelled by church-related organizations playing villainous roles in all of this, is the matter of abortion laws. Some of the protesters out front of SENNIAF believe that a mentally disabled girl impregnated by some man whose job was to protect her should be forced to bear the rapist’s baby, and that even before the birth the fetus should be adopted with legal protection for the “rights” of the purchasers. Meanwhile in many a country fewer children are born disabled because prenatal testing can detect problems and these pregnancies are aborted – as are, in some benighted societies, fetuses with the “defect” of being female. Abortion is an emotional subject, but can we talk about it in terms of real people and real situations, rather than abstract principles?

Adoption laws, the discredited international adoption market and the implications for the rest of Panama’s children if “the more adoptable” babies get exported need to become subjects of national debate. It should not be a discussion driven by lawyers with a financial stake, nor shoppers for babies whether foreign or domestic.

Then there are structural issues about how the government is run, first of all the push and pull between civil service versus political patronage systems, and then the whole neoliberal philosophy of government outsourcing its functions to private contractors whenever possible. The relationship between church and state is implicated, as it has been in myriad ways in every government since the start of the Spanish Conquest.

Those whose job is to protect vulnerable people who abuse their positions to rape them are subject to some stern laws, which ought to be enforced. But all the focus on the cruel punishments that ought to be meted out degrades both those who talk that way and the serious set of discussions that needs to take place.

The lives of human beings without much power to defend their own interests hang in the balance. The people living in those shelters should be the main concern. Not business reasons, the protection of reputations, the vindication of belief systems nor the images of institutions.

   

MR
It’s a wonderful campaign mash-up, but in the 2022 mid-term elections this sort of pitch will not substitute for concrete economic relief for Floridians nor for a troubled nation. Florida Democrats’ meme.

Democrats need to deliver on campaign promises

How much does Joe Biden owe Senate Republicans, to whom a generation ago he used to reach across the aisle to get things done? How much does he owe the Republicans on a Supreme Court that doesn’t look or act like the one in place when he presided over the Senate Judiciary Committee? How much does he owe the “Never Trump” Republicans like the Lincoln Project?

Very little. Common courtesy, ordinary decency, respect for their fundamental legal rights – those are either required by his oath or in keeping with his personality. But Joe Biden doesn’t owe it to Republicans to let Americans starve, freeze or die of diseases just because the GOP insists on blocking whatever he might do.

In his presidential campaign, and especially in the Georgia runoff for two Senate seats, Joe Biden made some promises to the people of Georgia and the United States. If the Republicans insist that he deliver little or nothing on those commitments, Democrats in Congress and the American people at large demand that he deliver a lot more.

The Republicans played their hand on January 6. Now it’s time for a Democratic administration and Congress to play theirs in the face of deadly crises and a moribund economy. If Democrats don’t do that, it will be but a short respite from all that Trump stood for, even if the man might be in prison for fraud by then. Revenge and ridicule may actually have their proper places, but right now those are tiny concerns, dwarfed by the need for relief.

 

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Bear in mind…

Oh! Do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch.

Jane Austen

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.

George Orwell

We only do well the things we like doing.

Colette

   

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Movimiento Democrático Popular, The “dialogue”

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MDP

The deceptive start of the so-called Social Security dialogue

by the Movimiento Democrático Popular

The installation of the Plenary Table of the misnamed “Dialogue for the Social Security Fund,” which took place on Monday, February 8, has exposed the shameless maneuvers of the government to impose the will of the business groups, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and risk rating companies, aimed at deepening the privatization of pension funds. To do this they need to merge the system of individual accounts, the retirement subprogram called exclusively defined benefit (solidarity), and the mixed fund of individual contributions.

They also require a modification of the organic law that allows a single system of individual accounts, as well as the installation of a “managerial” board of directors that can decide the delivery of said funds to private companies dedicated to the administration of retirement funds. This would turn out to be an extraordinary business for employers and a catastrophe for retirees, who would receive pensions well below 50% of the average of their last best 10 years of salary.

In this way, the economically dominant sectors would acquire full control over the
Social Security Fund. If they are prevented from applying such measures, they will follow the path of the so-called parametric measures: increase in the retirement age, the number of required payments and amount of the quota, in addition to the reduction of the percentage of the salary at the time of retirement.

To achieve these purposes they have had to limit as much as possible the participation of workers, public servants, doctors, nurses, health technicians and teachers’ unions, as well as retirees and patients of the CSS, who combined add up only 33.4% of the members of the negotiating table. People from the executive branch of government, representatives of the political parties, legislators and business groups account for 66.6% of the seats. That is the immense gap that they open between citizens and the political and business sectors, which control the government for their exclusive benefit, justifying this by taking radically neoliberal positions.

Even so, and fearful that their disgraceful intentions will not find the necessary support around the table, they have hand-picked as the facilitator of the dialogue Joaquín Villar García, a person identified with alleged very serious ethical and legal faults, such as the evasion of quotas of Social Security and infringement of legally required maternity benefits. As if that were not enough, Mr. Villar is a member of the National Council of Private Enterprise (CoNEP) and rector of a private university. In other words he’s a representative of the privatizing business associations. This unprecedented impudence can only be explained by the difficulty in finding someone to lend himself or herself to carry out the perverse intentions that will materialize in the slick dialogue that private companies, the government and political parties are orchestrating. They’re the cream of the crop among the neoliberal forces that control the country.

On the other hand, the workers have proposed that participation in the dialogue should be limited to representatives from the government, private companies, labor unions, educators, health workers, and retirees, since they are the main protagonists in the Social Security Fund. Also, that the facilitator be chosen by all the participants of the table. And that the discussion focus on the return to the solidarity system. These proposals have been Olympically ignored.

This dire panorama, which shows us the way to Hell for wage earners in need of a dignified and fair retirement, makes it clear that there is nothing to do at that table. That’s why we call on people not to participate in this farce and thus avoid legitimizing the intentions to do business with the suffering of the Panamanian people.

Since the most elementary democratic guarantees for participation do not exist, at least on an equal footing, and without considering the possibility of discussing the return to the solidarity pension system, the representatives of the true owners of the pensions should have nothing to do with that table. Especially since we will soon make known to all of society our counter-proposal to return to the solidarity regime, and provide scientific foundations to support this.

 

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The Panama News blog links, February 17, 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

El Panamá América: Canal, Tocumen SA y ENA son degradados por Fitch
The Guardian, Rail bosses plan to build Northern Ireland to Scotland tunnel
MundoMarítimo, ¿Qué ocurre con los contenedores perdidos por la borda?
Seatrade, Florida’s Jaxport completes berth expansion
gCaptain, ITF calls on shipping companies to save seafarers stranded off China

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It’s Black History Month in the USA. Properly taught and understood, it’s not a list of African-American persons but rather history – the history of everything – as seen from the perspective of black people in the USA. And here we have a bit of economic history, from the days of chattel slavery when black people were treated as property like cattle or swine. Panama had slavery, too, but there were different legal and religious treatments of it here. This is an 1853 newspaper ad in search of a runaway slave, a young carpenter who was considered valuable property.

Economy / Economía

El Siglo, Pandemia también golpea a los municipios
TVN, Crisis en las finanzas públicas
Radio Temblor: El diálogo sobre la Caja de Seguro Social, ¿a quién favorece?
ICIJ, Consulting giants’ cash windfall under Angolan billionaire Isabel dos Santos
Stern & Stiglitz, Getting the social cost of carbon right
Baker, Wealth inequality – should we care?

Science & Technology / Ciencia & Tecnología

La Prensa, Panamá ya creó y diseñó dos ventiladores mecánicos
Heaven, No matter which data they use predictive policing is still racist
Science Daily, Tropical paper wasps babysit for neighbors
NPR, What really killed the dinosaurs?
Detroit Free Press, ‘UK strain’ of COVID-19 races through a Michigan prison

3
The bad guys – COVID-19 viruses under an electron microscope.

News / Noticias

Metro Libre, Junta Directiva del Senniaf solicitó el cierre inmediato de los albergues
La Estrella, Niña escapa de un albergue en medio del escándalo por el abuso
La Estrella, Mides otorga subsidios sin criterios técnicos
Telemetro, Rechazan intento por Ricardo Martinelli Linares de cambio de jueces
Relato, Sexo, licor y privilegios: los Martinelli en la cárcel de Guatemala
The Guardian, Anger over Bolsonaro making guns easier to get
Reuters, Trump’s presidential acts are ‘fair game’ for regular prosecutors
TechXplore, Tech companies as the government?
The Intercept, Aaron Swartz prosecutor gets her final comeuppance

Opinion / Opiniones

Malley & Pomper, How America enables war in Yemen
Amnesty International, Spanish rapper’s jailing for songs and tweets disproportionate
Noriega, ¿Por qué perdió Donald Trump el juicio político?
Blades, Repuestas a preguntas del público
Bernal, Diagnóstico
Turner, La población debe evaluar el funcionamiento de la CSS

5
A very old issue raised again by Panama’s far left for the first time in a long time. Howard has been used since 2000 as a US Air Force “forward operating location” with a dedicated hangar staffed by mercenaries. Likewise, the US Navy and the US Coast Guard have from time to time since the formal end of US military bases used the piers at Rodman, which is a Panamanian National Aeronaval Service (SENAN) base. Now the plan is for a formally international US and Panamanian base here, the specifics of which have not been revealed and will not be submitted to the National Assembly for any debate or disclosure. It’s thus bound to be an irritant to Panamanian nationalists of various political stripes. This is a FRENADESO Twitter post.

Culture / Cultura

Remezcla: Meet Boza, a sweet & savage Panamanian artist
The Guardian, From RuPaul to Pose: queer community TV through the lockdown
Sardon, Lo que tienen en común el ballet y matemáticas

5
The religious right protests outside of SENNIAF headquarters, about abuses at foster homes for both children and adults that the government oversees. It’s an issue about which there is general indignation among Panamanians of all political and religious hues. Why such a small crowd? Social distancing and the Carnival holidays may have something to do with it. This movement usually mobilizes church congregations for much larger crowds, but it turns out that some of the places where there were abuses were run by or affiliated with churches. Both Catholic and Evangelical institutions have been vaguely identified by a legislative committee so far.
 

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Dinero

Rector de la Universidad de Panamá, Poner fin al abuso de menores

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Flores
 

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Amnesty International: New dimensions in Nicaraguan repression

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Nica
A woman waves a Nicaraguan flag behind a barricade. It’s a VOA photo but the woman and the photographer are anonymous – it could be unpleasant for them if either were identified.

Nicaraguan government tactics to silence criticism
and social demands deepen human rights crisis

by Amnesty International

Since the current human rights crisis erupted in Nicaragua in 2018, the government has clamped down on all forms of dissent or criticism. The authorities have pursued a policy of eradicating, at any cost, activism and the defence of human rights, said Amnesty International in a new report published today.

In Silence at any cost: State tactics to deepen the repression in Nicaragua, Amnesty International exposes the strategies used by the Nicaraguan authorities responsible for one of the darkest chapters in the country’s recent history, where anyone who opposes government policies may lose their freedom and even their lives.

“For almost three years, Daniel Ortega’s government has shown time and again that it is willing to do anything to prevent human rights from becoming a reality in Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan authorities must stop continuously trampling on the dignity of thousands of victims of repression,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

“When images of the violent crackdown on mass protests, which broke out in response to a series of reforms to the social security system, made the front pages of major newspapers around the world in 2018, it seemed that the human rights crisis in the country had reached its peak. Yet the nightmare continues.”

Local organizations continue to criticize the government’s use of the justice system to imprison activists following arbitrary proceedings. At the end of November 2020, when the report was finalized, more than 100 people remained behind bars solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

People detained for their activism continue to report ill-treatment and harassment in prisons, as additional punishment measures. The COVID-19 pandemic aggravated long-standing problems related to prison conditions in Nicaragua and has caused alarm among the families of those held and human rights organizations concerned about the conditions for detainees.

Local organizations interviewed by Amnesty International reported that dozens of people detained for political reasons suffer from medical conditions that put them at particular risk from COVID-19. According to statements gathered by Amnesty International, despite some detainees having shown symptoms that could be consistent with the virus, testing is practically non-existent, as are medical treatment and health care.

Even after leaving prison, their situation does not improve significantly. Released activists and their families report that the level of harassment experienced after they return home is such that it prevents them from carrying out their daily activities, such as working or studying, and that continuing their activism entails a high risk to their lives and freedom.

Types of harassment have included excessive checks by immigration and police officials at the borders with neighbouring countries, a heavy police presence at religious events, continuous surveillance of their homes by police officers, arrests, physical attacks, direct verbal threats from police officers, their homes being daubed with threats and attacked, and damage to their belongings and livelihoods.

In December 2020, local organizations estimated that 31 people who had been released were rearrested and detained for exercising their rights.

Journalists and human rights defenders are living in an environment of permanent harassment by the authorities. For many, this includes the cancellation of their legal registration, seizure of their property and, recently, the destruction of their premises. In addition, in October 2020 the state began a process to approve a package of laws that threaten the exercise of human rights, including the right to freedom of association and freedom of expression.

“What they are approving are instruments of repression to legalize all the attacks that, for a long time, have been committed against human rights,” Vilma Nuñez, a human rights defender at the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, told Amnesty International.

The constant threats and harassment have caused hundreds of thousands of people, including journalists and human rights defenders, to flee to other countries to safeguard their freedom and lives. “The options were: jail, the cemetery or exile,” Gonzalo Carrión, a human rights defender who now lives outside Nicaragua, told Amnesty International.

Human rights defenders fear the worst is yet to come. They maintain that, in the run-up to the November 2021 presidential elections, human rights violations, which have not stopped, will intensify as the government seeks to silence any form of opposition or criticism.

“Achieving justice in Nicaragua seems impossible. The international community must take decisive steps to put an end to the nightmare in which the population is living and take action to provide full support to all those who continue to fight for a Nicaragua free of repression. We will not stop our work exposing this until the Nicaraguan government is held accountable for its actions and puts an end to human rights violations,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.

 

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Valentine’s Day music for the more approximately saintly

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ST Valentine
This day is for a healer and death row inmate, according to the legends.

Everything and everybody you love…

Frankie Lymon – Why Do Fools Fall In Love?
https://youtu.be/2sAHiR0rkJg

The Supremes – Baby Love
https://youtu.be/BO_zEzrJRuE

Mark Dinning – Teen Angel
https://youtu.be/KG_VIcoiCFA

Los Beachers – Love In A Cemetery
https://youtu.be/u_2N7lmMyfs

Mercedes Sosa – Yo Vengo A Ofrecer Mi Corazón
https://youtu.be/ALdIEvHij7g

Zoé & Denise Gutiérrez – Luna
https://youtu.be/6W4L2O-JQ-w

Bob Marley – No Woman, No Cry
https://youtu.be/IT8XvzIfi4U

Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms
https://youtu.be/7dBRQvXe91g

Patti Smith – Because the Night
https://youtu.be/uoGdx3I3dPE

Erika Ender – Despacito
https://youtu.be/HnYf6mSx7xo

Chi-Lites – Oh Girl
https://youtu.be/LwjsVD23Z3E

John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
https://youtu.be/ll3CMgiUPuU

 

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Dinero

Valentine’s Day noir

0

Valentine’s Day for bad kids

 

  

  

  

  

  

  

 

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MINSA: We have yet not found the South African COVID strain here

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Gorgas
Genetic sequencing at the Gorgas Institute / Secuenciación genética en el Instituto Gorgas. Foto por MINSA.

Todavía no hemos encontrado la cepa de COVID sudafricana aquí

2

   

Editor’s note: A couple coming into Tocumen Airport from South Africa by way of  The Netherlands tested positive for COVID-19 and went into quarantine. There was immediate concern and speculation, given that the newer South African strain of the virus appears to be a bit deadlier than others. 

(But what is “deadlier?” If someone who catches the strain first identified in South Africa is a few percentage points more likely to die than someone who catches the strain first identified in the United Kingdom, does it make the former more deadly than the latter, which appears to be far more contagious than other strains? There could be more deaths caused by the greater number of infections from the “UK strain” than the more individually lethal “South African strain.” And let’s take what we now know or think we know as preliminary, as effective treatments or preventives for newer strains may yet be coming.)

In any case, in the above communique the Ministry of Health says that the government’s Gorgas Memorial Institute for Health Research has gene-sequenced samples taken from the infected South African couple and found that they had neither the South African nor the British varieties of COVID-19. It does not mean that these strains are not already here. We may have people in Panama who are  infected with them yet remain undetected. Nor does it mean that if not here, they won’t make future appearances on this isthmus.

Also set aside both anti-scientific conspiracy theories and garden variety naivete: Panama’s Ministry of Health is not an infallible source. It is subject to political manipulation. However, its statements about the science of this epidemic have proven to be generally reliable.

 

Contact us by email at / Contáctanos por correo electrónico a fund4thepanamanews@gmail.com

 

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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