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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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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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Editorial, We could build a soundproof cell; and We need help to do our part

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Whether or not there were fisticuffs or a kick in an alleged altercation inside, this sort of stuff tends to lead to bail revocation for harassment or intimidation of witnesses in most places. And would anyone in his family be offended by one of the lawyers’ homophobic epithets?

It’s time for Panama to insist that it ends

It should end in a padded cell with a 24/7 video watch for the guards, but where the other high-security inmates don’t have to listen to his rants. Convicted criminals do, after all, retain certain human rights.

His antics need to end, his ill-gotten media empire needs to be taken away and broken up, a bunch of his more unethical lawyers need to be driven out of the profession. Then, both when we have some new Supreme Court magistrates ratified and working, and ultimately as Panama considers a new constitution, we need to take stock of what is happening and has happened.

This case has been a revelation of easily seen abuses. A guy who fled the country to avoid prosecution getting out on bail? A mind-boggling succession of dilatory tactics? Along the way some favorable court rulings — later overturned — that it’s hard to conceive were not purchased? Harassment of a prosecution witness in an altercation, or via yellow journalism in the defendant’s media? How is this, beyond a Ricardo Martinelli scandal, not a Panamanian judiciary scandal?

It has been more than seven years since people voted down Martinelli’s bid for a proxy re-election. That was done after many online media that Martinelli didn’t own were the targets of hacker attacks leading up the the May 2014 elections. We voted that stuff down despite the purchase of votes from our less ethical neighbors, carefully organized using lists apparently compiled at least in part with material stolen from confidential government databases. Then, right after that defeat, Martinelli went before the deputies elected on his ticket and told them that they had to do what he said because he has a file on every one of them. Then he fled Panama to lead the upscale Miami self-exile mansion life, until Uncle Sam extradited him.

In that extradition process the US courts were abused, but not for long. They traditionally have not put up with that sort of dilatory stuff — although perhaps in the US legal profession and courts there are those who look at the games that get played here in Panama with envy.

Let’s finish this eavestropping case to an honest conclusion, let’s officially notify EVERYBODY whose intercepted communications showed up in the case file, and let’s move on to the next of many criminal cases pending against Ricardo Martinelli.

Meanwhile, let’s revoke his bail.

 

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One in five of the new migrants are minors, and there have been some 19,000 kids so far this year. Here, in a Defensoria del Pueblo archive photo, a group of mainly Haitian migrants are about to be moved downriver from the Embera-Wounaan Comarca to a migrant camp in Meteti. Part of the Defensoria’s job is human rights eduction — first, assuring the people in this indigenous community that newcomers will not be given any of their land, and moreover warning that the police will get involved if anyone gets the idea that these migrants are convenient targets for crime.

They would go to the USA. They’re here.
That doesn’t shift all responsibility.

Panama is trying to be a good neighbor on the migration issue. It’s hard. We have few resources to spare. But at least we don’t have A leader separating off and trying to sell the kids. Cruelty to asylum-seekers is against international law and we should be glad that it’s not the Panamanian government’s present policy.

Just what is Nito’s policy? A few things can be seen, but we don’t know the content of all the diplomatic communications. We don’t know what promises have been made, the nature or maker of any threats, the amounts of international payments pledged or paid to defray our costs. It would be naïve to suppose that inter-governmental talks about migrants crossing the Darien Gap are not ongoing. However, the press and public are by and large not parties to such discussions.

These people, like the Venezuelan migrants, are fleeing from hellish conditions at least in part created in or by the United States. They have come into Panama. It’s a small corner of a global migration crisis and thus a global problem, but the United States and Panama have some special responsibilities here.

We should expect internationally supervised or assisted migrant camps in many countries for a long time, and some of them in Panama. This country can’t afford to bear all the costs, or even most of them. The world has a responsibility here. Any attempt to impose all the burden on us would surely incite the worst ugliness that we find among us and aggravate many problems on which Panama needs to spend some money.

SOME of these people we may want to accept among us as permanent residents and eventually citizens. Those among us whose senses of entitlement are much greater than their talents or work ethics would surely complain. However, this is The Crossroads of The World. It’s to Panama’s long-term benefit if we live up to both the better part of the reputation and the serious responsibility inherent in that.

 

 

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Frank Zappa in Hamburg in 1974. Photo by Heinrich Klaffs.

 

                    Progress is not possible without deviation.

Frank Zappa                    


Bear in mind…

 

The reason there are so few female politicians is that it is too much trouble to put makeup on two faces.

Maureen Murphy

 

It is the early morning in the Amazon, just before first light: a time that is meant for us to share our dreams, our most potent thoughts. And so I say to all of you: the Earth does not expect you to save her, she expects you to respect her. And we, as Indigenous peoples, expect the same.

Nemonte Nenquimo

 

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave; it is merely a loose misapplication of the word.

Mark Twain

 

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Bernal, Pandora

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Pandora
OF COURSE those who fancied themselves scribes of the gods blamed the woman for opening the box.

Pandora’s boxes to open

by Miguel Antonio Bernal V.

Once again in Panama, the power brokers demonstrate the old Asian proverb that warns that “when they show you the moon with their finger, the fool looks at the finger” predominates among a population that’s overwhelmed by its social and economic situation.

The content of the so-called Pandora Papers is hardly known here in Panama. Those who look at the finger when shown the moon, now emerge from among the ranks of top officials, party “leaders,” media personalities, business groups and an endless et cetera.

However, despite their ignorance about what’s in the Pandora Papers, these power brokers spare no effort to close ranks among themselves and, once again, pretend that they are not what they are. They would like to appear as the world’s most pristine players.

In reality, what they seek to achieve is to avoid, at all costs, is citizens assume their role as controller. They don’t want people to open the other Pandora’s boxes, stored and sealed over decades, whose contents would expose the reality of why so much inequality in this country we call home.

The other Pandora’s boxes, made in Panama, are guarded by the militaristic constitution that has been in effect for half a century now. In turn, those who guard the constitution imposed by the dictatorship continue to impose their objectives. They prevent the democratization of political power and the construction of a democratic constitutional rule of las. The block or divert citizen actions in favor of transparency and accountability prevail. If everybody knew and those who enriched themselves off of this sytem had to account for it, their privileges and perks would immediately end.

The other Pandora’s boxes are in sight: the electoral system, the social security fund, the administration of justice, the public debt, unemployment, the housing deficit, the education and health systems, agriculture that needs reform, militarization, low wages, crime. …

To try, once again, to cover the sun with the little finger, is absolutely authoritarian and demagogic. It is first and foremost a mistake. Pandora in Panama is more than a message or a sign. It is, above all, the overwhelming confirmation of the serious and growing damage that the consensual corruption and impunity sponsored by those in power has done.

For those of us who love Panama and fight for it to occupy a worthy place in this globalized world, the arrival of Pandora is another “deja vu” that, far from allowing the “patriotic” voices to rerun their well-known demagoguery, should lead us to react with greater determination and dignity. We need to stop being spectators and act as citizens. We need to make the decision to banish the vices and the vicious, those truly responsible for making Panama look responsible for THEIR many excesses.

To open Pandora’s boxes is to revive hope for a country that’s for everybody. A constitutional referendum is urgently needed, in order to convene a constituent process and give us a new constitution, one that’s for all of us!

 

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Beluche, Los mitos habituales sobre Victoriano Lorenzo

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shooting VL

Mentiras sobre Victoriano Lorenzo y la separación de 1903

por Olmedo Beluche

El diario La Prensa, entre cuyos accionistas están algunos de los tataranietos de los llamados “próceres” de 1903, publica el 12 de octubre de 2021 (¿Casualmente?), un artículo plagado de falacias sobre Victoriano Lorenzo y la separación de Colombia de 1903. El artículo titulado “El general guerrillero”,firmado por Nelvin Chettani Giusti, quien dice ser “investigador histórico”, está plagado de los cuentos habituales en los medios panameños cuando llega el “mes de la patria” pretendiendo culpar de su muerte a “los colombianos”.

Lo único cierto de las afirmaciones de Chettani es que Victoriano fue la primera víctima de la separación de Colombia, pero no por las razones que aduce, ni por los culpables que menciona, sino todo lo contrario: los responsables del fusilamiento de Victoriano Lorenzo no fueron los “colombianos”, sino los panameños del Partido Conservador que controlaban la ciudad de Panamá, entre ellos Manuel Amador Guerrero y José A. Arango, ambos senadores y colaboradores del gobierno colombiano de entonces.

Quien presidió el juicio sumario contra Victoriano fue el “prócer” Esteban Huertas. Quien lo trajo arrestado a Panamá, luego de la firma del Tratado del Wisconsin, fue Eusebio A. Morales, redactor del Manifiesto de la Independencia de 1903. Dicho por el prominente intelectual panameño, Rafael Ruiloba, en su artículo “El doble fusilamiento de Victoriano Lorenzo”:

“Como en la mañana había pueblo protestando, al mediodía vino la turba conservadora agitada por Francisco de La Ossa, cuñado de Manuel Amador Guerrero, quien llamaba a los Chanis, a los De la Guardia, a los Arias, a los Arosemena, a los Díaz, a los de Obaldía, Boyd, Lefevre, etc., para que llevaran su gente a neutralizar las protestas por el fusilamiento. Este grupo fue denunciado en 1904 por Belisario Porras, como la camándula de la traición. De La Ossa según la testigo “subía y bajaba Las Bóvedas gritando: Vengan a ver morir a un perro”.

Y así lo trató la oligarquía PANAMEÑA, lo enterraron en una fosa sin lápida para que el pueblo no fuera a rendirle homenaje, y hasta los años 70 la historia oficial PANAMEÑA lo trató como a un bandido, salteador y violador.

¿Por qué la oligarquía PANAMEÑA ordenó la muerte de Victoriano Lorenzo? Por dos motivos: venganza, porque durante la Guerra de los Mil Días atacó Penonomé, cuna de los latifundistas de la época quienes les robaban las tierras a los indígenas; en segundo lugar, porque era el único capaz de alzar en armas al pueblo contra la intervención extranjera, pero no la “colombiana” como dice Chettani, sino la de Estados Unidos, que ya tramaba la separación de Panamá de Colombia porque el Tratado Herrán Hay estaba siendo rechazado por el pueblo colombiano y panameño.

Justamente el 15 de mayo de 1903, Belisario Porras, gran líder liberal panameño y colombiano, además gran amigo de Victoriano Lorenzo, publicó en un diario de Cartagena “Reflexiones Canaleras o la Venta del Istmo”, denunciando al tratado y la conspiración para separar a Panamá.

Sí, Victoriano fue sacrificado por los que traicionaron doblemente a la patria, a la colombiana y a la panameña, los próceres que avalaron el Tratado Hay – Bunau Varilla, firmado 15 días después de la “separación”. Por eso Changmarín decía: “Victoriano combatiente, /tu muerte el yanqui exigió; / la traición te condenó/ por unas cuantas monedas/ pero tu recuerdo queda…/ El pueblo no te olvidó”.

Bibliografía

Beluche, Olmedo. ¿Por qué luchó Victoriano Lorenzo? La Prensa. Panamá, 11 de mayo de 2017. https://www.prensa.com/opinion/lucho-Victoriano-Lorenzo_0_4753774705.html

Beluche, Olmedo. Victoriano Lorenzo el Emiliano Zapata panameño. UNAM. Archipiélago Vol 24, No 94 (2016). http://www.revistas.unam.mx/index.php/archipielago/article/view/78231

Beluche, Olmedo. Victoriano Lorenzo, el “Cholo Guerrillero”. Panamá, 13 de mayo de 2019. https://rebelion.org/victoriano-lorenzo-el-cholo-guerrillero/

Changmarín, Carlos Francisco. Décima a Victoriano Lorenzo. https://www.radiotemblor.org/decima-a-victoriano-lorenzo-por-changmarin/

Changmarin, C. F. (2001). El guerrillero transparente. Panamá, Panama: Manfer

Chettani Giusti, Nelvin. El general guerrillero. La Prensa. Panamá, 12 de octubre de 2021.

Jurado, Ramón H. Desertores. Manfer, S.A. Octava Edición. Panamá, 1974. https://docplayer.es/78371519-Ramon-h-jurado-desertores-novela-n-manfer-s-a.html

Ruiloba, Rafael. El doble fusilamiento del general Victoriano Lorenzo. http://filosofiaysociedadpanama.blogspot.com/2016/04/el-doble-fusilamiento-del-general.html

Vásquez Vásquez, Claudio. Mis memorias sobre el General Victoriano Lorenzo. Relatos de viva voz del Tte. Coronel Juan José Quirós Mendoza 1900-1902. Imprenta ARTICSA. Panamá, 2003. https://bidigital.binal.ac.pa

 

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Oxfam unimpressed with global tax deal

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“It is a mockery of fairness that robs pandemic-ravaged developing countries of badly needed revenue,” the global anti-hunger group says.

Oxfam denounces the global tax deal as
“dangerous capitulation” to corporate dodgers

by Jake Johnson — Common Dreams

A global tax deal reached Friday by 136 countries was widely hailed as a “historic” step toward a more just and equitable economic order.

But global humanitarian groups and policy experts warned that a closer look at the agreement reveals it to be a “shameful and dangerous capitulation” to corporate tax dodgers and the countries that enable them.

“It is a mockery of fairness that robs pandemic-ravaged developing countries of badly needed revenue for hospitals and teachers and better jobs,” Susana Ruiz, tax policy lead at Oxfam International, said in a scathing statement. “Calling this deal ‘historic’ is hypocritical and does not hold up to even the most minor scrutiny.”

Announced just days after the massive “Pandora Papers” leak prompted renewed scrutiny of tax havens worldwide—including in the United States—the two-pillar deal proposes a 15% global minimum corporate tax rate, a measure designed to prevent businesses from shirking their obligations by moving profits to low-tax countries.

Experts have repeatedly warned in recent months that a 15% rate would be far too low to meaningfully crack down on corporate tax dodging, which costs governments hundreds of billions of dollars a year in revenue.

The other pillar of the deal — which is the culmination of years of negotiations — aims to ensure that multinational tech giants such as Amazon, Google, and Facebook pay taxes where their products and services are sold, not just where they’ve established a physical presence.

To take effect, the tax agreement must be approved by the legislatures of the 136 signatories — a tall task around the world, including in the United States, where Congress is narrowly divided. Supporters of the deal set 2023 as the target year for the tax changes to take effect.

“While the agreement would likely survive the failure of a small economy to pass new laws,” the Wall Street Journal noted, “it would be greatly weakened if a large economy — such as the US — were to fail.”

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who helped jump-start stalled negotiations over the global tax framework, said in a statement Friday that the new agreement represents “a once-in-a-generation accomplishment for economic diplomacy.”

Tax justice campaigners, however, argued that the deal’s numerous loopholes and last-minute concessions granted to win the support of holdout countries — such as low-tax Ireland — threaten to render the framework toothless.

“At the last minute, a colossal 10-year grace period was slapped onto the global corporate tax of 15%,” Ruiz noted, referring to a provision secured by Hungary.

As the New York Times reported: “Hungary has long offered a 9% corporate tax rate to lure investment. It wrested an exemption that would let multinationals reduce profits subject to the minimum tax for a transition period of 10 years, rather than the five years originally proposed.”

To appease Ireland, a prominent tax haven, negotiators also agreed to drop the “at least” from the proposed minimum corporate tax rate of “at least 15%.”

“This deal is an unacceptable injustice,” said Ruiz. “It needs a complete overhaul.”

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Group of 20, she added, “must bring fairness and ambition back to the table and deliver a tax plan that won’t leave the rest of the world to pick up their crumbs and scraps.”

Alex Cobham, chief executive of the Tax Justice Network, echoed Ruiz’s assessment, arguing that “the negotiations have failed to deliver for the people of the world who continue to face the pandemic with public health systems that are badly underfunded.”

“It’s no wonder that Ireland and other havens have embraced the deal, especially after obtaining various concessions,” said Cobham. “As it stands, it will neither curb profit shifting effectively, nor provide substantial revenues to more than a handful of OECD member countries. Everyone else has been left out — especially lower-income countries which lose the greatest share of their current tax revenues to corporate tax abuse.”

 

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Smoking turns out not to have protected against COVID

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Smokers were never really protected from COVID, despite what early studies claimed

Mark Shrime, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, researchers stumbled on an unexpected finding: smokers seemed to be protected from COVID’s worst effects. Initially discovered on a review of hospitalized patients in China, this “smoker’s paradox” was later reported in studies from Italy and France.

But it turns out that this wasn’t true, as a massive study out of Britain showed last month. Smokers were 80% more likely to be hospitalized than non-smokers. So what happened, and how did science get things so wrong?

The mathematician Pierre-Simon Laplace once said: “The more extraordinary a fact is, the stronger proof it needs.” The American cosmologist, Carl Sagan, famously reworded this as: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” And, let’s face it, for smokers, whose lungs get ravaged by tobacco, to have better outcomes in a respiratory disease is pretty miraculous.

Unfortunately, extraordinary proof is slow, complex and kind of boring. Public attention, on the other hand, is especially eager to latch on to the extraordinary.

Let’s dissect what happened.

The first issue is that science is uncertain, a fact that makes us humans quite uncomfortable. Take a weather forecast: if you’re told there’s a 10% chance of rain, you’ll probably forgo the umbrella. I would. And nine out of ten times, I’d be right. But the other time, I’d regret my choices – and I’d complain about how wrong meteorologists can be.

The problem isn’t meteorologists, though. It’s my need for certainty. It’s my subconscious translation of “there’s a 10% chance of rain” into “it won’t rain today.”

This penchant is everywhere: in political polling, in presidential predictions – and even in doctors’ visits. I want the doctor to tell me what my sore throat is, not what it could be.

Everything is a probability

And that’s how science works. Everything is a probability, and every new piece of information makes us update our probabilities. There’s a famous example of this in statistics, first posed by the mathematician Joseph Bertrand (I promise I’ll get back to the smoker’s paradox in a second).

French mathematician Joseph Bertrand.French mathematician Joseph Bertrand. Wikimedia Commons

Say you have three identical boxes. One contains two gold coins, one contains two silver coins, and the last contains one gold and one silver coin. Pick one of the boxes at random (let’s call it Box A). What are the chances that it has the two silver coins?

Exactly one-third.

Now, without looking in the box, take one coin out of it. If that coin is gold, what happens to the chance that Box A was the box that contained two silver coins?

It drops to zero. New information triggered an immediate probability update.

Which (finally) brings me back to COVID. In January 2020, we knew little about this virus. As good evidence trickles in, our probabilities update. It’s why we’re no longer sanitizing our mail but still recommending masks. No one can ever be 100% sure these recommendations are right – new evidence may emerge – but they reflect the best information we have.

The same goes with the smoker’s paradox: before the pandemic, the evidence was that smoking did nothing good to your lungs. With new – good – information, probabilities could have updated, shifting toward the extraordinary claim that smoking was protective.

And that’s the second point: was this even good evidence?

It wasn’t.

First, when they were reported, most papers on the smoker’s paradox had not been reviewed by other scientists (peer-reviewed.) While a good number have gone on to peer-reviewed publication, others have been retracted after it became clear that they had been funded by the tobacco industry. Pre-publication release is great for getting information out rapidly; it isn’t great for making sure that information is sound.

Second, most of these studies were small. Although this isn’t a death knell, it means that the evidence should be treated with caution. In other words, probabilities can update, just not a lot.

This makes intuitive sense: if you get 999 heads on 1,000 coin flips, you’d be pretty sure the coin was rigged. If you got two heads on three flips, you’d be a lot less sure. The studies suggesting the smoker’s paradox had sample sizes in the teens to hundreds. The British study disproving it had 421,000.

Finally, and most subtly, the smoker’s paradox studies asked a different question than they should have. They asked: “Of people currently in the hospital, how many smoke?” This is different from: “Compared with non-smokers, how likely are smokers in the population to be hospitalized?”

The first question looks at people who have already been admitted and have survived long enough to be studied. In other words, just like in Bertand’s coin boxes, admission has already happened, and there are many reasons that smokers weren’t included in that group. Maybe they died faster than non-smokers, so weren’t available to be counted. Maybe they were discharged to hospice at a different rate. The British study, on the other hand, studied the entire population, taking away this bias.

I’d argue, then, that science didn’t get the smoker’s paradox wrong. It was an interesting finding that led to a widely reported extraordinary claim. And if COVID teaches us nothing else, it should teach us to hold extraordinary claims – about smoking, vitamin D, zinc, bleach, gargling iodine, or nebulizing hydrogen peroxide – to high standards.

Science moves slowly. Extraordinary claims do not. To paraphrase Jonathan Swift, they fly along, while evidence comes limping after them.The Conversation

Mark Shrime, Chair of Global Surgery, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences

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

 

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STRI, Buenas noticias para los manglares

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Foto dentro del Manglar de Juan Díaz 2021 mostrando la gran cantidad de plantulas de manglar.
Foto por Steven Paton — STRI.

Los manglares de Juan Díaz se recuperan

por STRI

Los manglares cerca del corregimiento de Juan Díaz son uno de los muchos bosques de manglares que se encuentran a lo largo de las costas de Golfo de Panamá desde Los Santos hasta la provincia de Darién.

Los manglares tienen la capacidad única, entre otras especies de plantas, de tolerar el agua salada de los océanos. Las especies de mangle más comunes en la Bahía de Panamá, incluidas las de Juan Díaz, son: el mangle negro (Avicennia germinans), el mangle rojo (Rhizophora mangle), el mangle piñuelo (Pelliciera rhizophorae) y el mangle salado (Avicennia bicolor). Cada especie tiene una combinación única de características, incluyendo; la tolerancia a la sal, las inundaciones, los sedimentos y la sequía, la dispersión de sus semillas en el agua (hidrocoría), además de la capacidad de colonizar nuevas áreas costeras donde hay sedimentos finos, frescos e inestables.

Los manglares son un ecosistema de vital importancia, no solo para una amplia gama de especies de plantas y animales que viven entre, encima e incluso debajo de los árboles de manglar, sino también para los humanos debido a su importancia en la protección de las costas ante la erosión y las marejadas ciclónicas, así como su papel como zonas de crianza y alimentación para muchas especies marinas de importancia comercial, como camarones y peces, que pasan al menos parte de sus vidas entre las raíces de los manglares.

Durante los últimos 50 años, desde 1972, Panamá ha perdido casi el 50% de sus manglares, principalmente debido a la expansión urbana y la conversión de manglares en tierras agrícolas. Muy recientemente, se ha dado a conocer una nueva amenaza: la sequía severa. Durante el 2015-16, Panamá experimentó una de las sequías más severas de su historia. Los datos de la Autoridad del Canal de Panamá (ACP) y del Instituto Smithsonian de Investigaciones Tropicales (STRI por sus siglas en inglés) muestran que las precipitaciones durante este período estuvieron un 26% por debajo del promedio. La sequía fue el resultado de uno de los eventos de El Niño más severos en la historia moderna. Al mismo tiempo, los primeros reportes comenzaron a aflorar; una misteriosa pérdida de hojas fue observada en los manglares frente a los corregimientos de Panamá Viejo y Juan Díaz.

Los primeros reportes de defoliación de manglares fueron hechos por el Patronato Panamá Viejo e investigadores de la Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá (UTP) a fines del 2015. La noticia del fenómeno se extendió rápidamente a la Secretaría Nacional de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación de Panamá (SENACYT), STRI y a la Universidad de Panamá (UP). Se realizaron varias reuniones y el resultado fue un proyecto para monitorear el área, financiado por SENACYT, denominado: “Estudio y Monitoreo de los Manglares de la Bahía de Panamá”. Entre el 2016 y 2019, este proyecto involucró un consorcio único de investigadores nacionales e internacionales que proporcionaron la primera información científica sobre uno de los eventos más grandes de muerte regresiva de manglares jamás documentados en Panamá, y posiblemente en toda la región del Pacīfico oriental.

El proyecto tenía la tarea de responder a tres interrogantes: ¿qué tan generalizada fue la mortalidad, qué tan gravemente se vieron afectados los manglares y qué causó la muerte de los árboles?

Para responder a la primera pregunta, Steven Paton, líder del Programa de Monitoreo Físico de STRI, y Luz Cruz de la SENACYT, organizaron una serie de vuelos fotográficos. Se realizaron un total de cuatro vuelos (uno con el apoyo del Servicio Nacional Aeronaval de Panamá, SENAN) entre noviembre del 2016 y abril del 2018. Durante cada vuelo, Paton tomó cientos de fotografías georreferenciadas y de alta resolución de toda la línea costera entre la Ciudad de Panamá y La Palma en la provincia de Darién. Una composición de varias de estas imágenes muestra cuán gravemente se había visto afectado el manglar de Juan Díaz a fines del 2016.

Las fotografías de estos vuelos revelaron varias cosas. Primero, los manglares más afectados fueron los más cercanos a la ciudad de Panamá, desde el barrio de Costa del Este hasta aproximadamente 10km al oeste del aeropuerto de Tocumen, así como una segunda zona aún más grande junto al Río Maestra en la provincia de Darién. Las estimaciones iniciales mostraron que, en algunas zonas, las tasas de mortalidad llegaban al 80%. Las fotografías con drones tomadas por el Dr. Alexis Baules, profesor de la UTP, proporcionaron una confirmación adicional de las observaciones de Paton.

Para investigar qué tan gravemente han sido afectados los manglares y porqué, investigadores del Instituto de Investigaciones Científicas y Servicios de Alta Tecnología (INDICASAT-AIP), la UTP, UP, PNUD, el TOTH Research Lab y el Smithsonian, con el invaluable apoyo de SENACYT, Ciudad del Saber y CENAMEP-AIP, estudiaron los manglares cercanos a la ciudad, así como el manglar cerca del Rió Maestra durante los 2 ½ años de duración del programa. Un informe final fue publicado y presentado al Ministerio de Ambiente de Panamá en el 2019.

En ese informe, los investigadores concluyeron que, contrariamente a la creencia popular en ese momento, los estudios del Dr. Alonso Santos Murgas de la Universidad Panamá mostraron, casi con certeza, que los manglares no habían muerto por causa de insectos, ni la extinción estaba directamente relacionada a los impactos humanos como la contaminación y las altas tasas de sedimentación. En cambio, los investigadores plantearon la hipótesis de que la sequía prolongada impulsada por El Niño probablemente había sido la causa principal y que la mayoría de los árboles muertos pertenecían a una sola especie, Avicennia germinans, una de las especies de manglares de más rápido crecimiento, pero también sensible a la sequía, en la región.

En el 2020, se inició un nuevo proyecto de manglares con el objetivo de continuar la investigación sobre las causas específicas de la extinción de estos; particularmente ¿por qué tantos árboles de la misma especie murieron, mientras que otros no? Este proyecto está financiado por el banco francés PARIBAS y es parte de un gran proyecto de investigación internacional conocido como Coastal and marine biodiversity resilience to extreme events in Central America and the Caribbean (CORESCAM) cuyo objetivo es estudiar cómo los ecosistemas costeros como los manglares, los arrecifes de coral y los pastos marinos responden a impactos importantes como huracanes, sequías e inundaciones. Este nuevo proyecto, dirigido por Steven Paton de STRI y Omar López Alfano, investigador asociado a STRI y profesor de UP, se centra en los manglares de Juan Díaz. El proyecto combina fotografía aérea e investigación sobre el terreno. López y Paton están trabajando para establecer una serie de parcelas de monitoreo permanente en los manglares de Juan Díaz donde investigarán las tasas de mortalidad de los manglares, la regeneración, así como una amplia gama de variables que esperan les permitan comprender mejor qué factores fueron los más importantes para determinar qué sobrevivió a la sequía de El Niño, y qué no.

Además de su agenda de investigación principal, López y Paton también esperan documentar la eventual recuperación de los manglares, ya que están muy contentos de informar que finalmente ha iniciado. Por primera vez desde que murieron tantos manglares entre el 2015-16, pueden informar que algunas áreas que se habían llenado en su mayoría con árboles muertos y en descomposición hasta el año pasado, ahora están llenas de miles y miles de nuevas plántulas y árboles jóvenes. Algunos de los árboles jóvenes más grandes han crecido más de dos metros en menos de dos años. Un vuelo fotográfico aéreo en marzo de este año financiado por la Universidad de McGill como parte de un proyecto denominado Panama Research and Integrated Sustainability Model (PRISM, https://prism.research.mcgill.ca/es/index.html) y en colaboración con el Centro Regional para el Hemisferio Occidental (CREHO), brindó evidencia de que la recuperación de los manglares no se limita solo al área de Juan Díaz. López y Paton están optimistas de que, dada la oportunidad, los manglares lucirán como nuevos en solo unos pocos años más.

López y Paton actualmente están trabajando arduamente para asegurar fondos adicionales para monitorear y documentar este evento único en la vida: la recuperación de un manglar después de una muerte masiva. Esta nueva investigación será importante, no solo para comprender la recuperación actual de los manglares de Juan Díaz, sino también para comprender la muerte regresiva y las recuperaciones futuras que pueden volverse más frecuentes en el futuro como resultado del cambio climático.

 

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Foto Aérea del Manglar de La Maestra 2016 mostrando mortalidad de los árboles de manglar.
Foto por Steven Paton — STRI.

 

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Foto dentro del Manglar de Juan Díaz 2016 mostrando mortalidad de los árboles de manglar.
Foto por Steven Paton — STRI.

 

Foto Aérea del Manglar de Juan Díaz.
 

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