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Editorials: An independent existence; and A bankrupt OAS

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1964
To the extent that Panama enjoys any measure of dignified independence, we owe a great deal to this 1964 generation of student protesters and to an earlier one who marched against a demeaning proposed treaty in 1947.

After the parades

The Panama News recently heard a rumor, via a reader who said that she heard it from an employee of a subcontractor. A major part of of Panama’s vital electrical grid would soon be sold to “The Chinese.” If there’s any truth to that, it couldn’t be confirmed by The Panama News.

Well, WHAT IF some great power acquired the ability to switch off our lights in the instant of a political decision? Don’t at least eight countries in this world have the power to fry out not only our electrical grid but most of the things that run on it, by setting off an electro-nuclear pulse bomb in space above our atmosphere? And as a nation don’t we have a legal system and a political caste who are still trying to slip away from coming to grips with the wholesale bribery of our political system – ALL major parties and players — by a state-sponsored Brazilian corporation? Don’t we still allow great powers to give us orders about which small nations can or can’t be our friends?

After parades without proper health measures in epidemic times, after the unveiling of many a sculpture (some of them truly ugly), after all the oddly evasive speeches about our history, isn’t there something else for Panama should  do to celebrate its independence?

How about EXERCISING it? How about becoming a proud and free nation of people who don’t sell one another to operatives giving out bags of groceries at election time or to corporations passing money under the table and promising jobs for some of those who don’t get any of that money?

We should not take pride in anything that an opaque administration has slapped the word “bicentennial” upon. Least of all the wretched “dialogues” aimed at lowering the standards of living of everybody but the very rich.

Let’s celebrate Panamanian independence by living that way, as a country and as individuals.

 

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Yet another OAS libel against an election result that some in
Washington didn’t want to see. From the OAS Twitter feed.

The OAS needs to transform or die

Yeah, yeah – ‘In The Big Picture you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet’ and all that. So the dozens of journalists, the dozens of environmentalists, the dozens of indigenous land and water rights defenders who were slain by the death squads of the US-backed Honduran regime were expendable. And if the whole in-crowd was coked out – more on the money from the trade than necessarily on the drug itself – Uncle Sam will consider his annoyance well enough demonstrated by US justice grabbing the president-by-fraud’s brother and getting him sentenced to life in prison.

US policy in Honduras may go without notice by the great number of Americans who couldn’t find the place on a map, but educated people throughout the Americas know rather exactly what has been going on.

Now the folks who were thrown out of power and made criminals by the 2009 coup have resoundingly won the Honduran elections, and here we have the Organization of American States – which is supposed to be the voice of the Americas – putting out scurrilous denials on its Twitter feed, in essence demanding yet another election fraud in Honduras.

Panama shouldn’t follow the OAS lead, it should say goodbye to the OAS.

After its performances in Bolivia and Honduras, responsible media should not play “he said, she said” with the OAS and somebody disputing its assertions, they should just ignore the OAS as an unreliable source.

It doesn’t mean that every country and every politician who does not get along with the OAS is all sweetness and light, but to promote peace, justice and democracy, and to represent the consensus of the hemisphere, that organization is not just deficient, it’s counter-productive.

How to move forward in an imperfect region of an imperfect world? A challenging set of questions. But now we know another of whom isn’t fit to answer them.

 

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                 Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine.

Elvis Presley                 

 

Bear in mind…

 

The history of men’s opposition to women’s emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of emancipation itself.

Virginia Woolf

 

We get a lot of strength from many principles including reciprocity (you are me and I am you) and that gives us strength as women and this connection with life and the web we have among each other.

Aura Lolita Chávez

 

We come nearest to the great when we are great in humility.

Rabindranath Tagore

 

 

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A long weekend Monday stroll in downtown Anton

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Anton public market
It has been taking forever, but a big epidemic will disrupt a public works project. Plus, there is a sneaking suspicion that the economic fallout will mean that a lot of the old vendors will lack the resources to set up shop again and an economy that will remain weak for some time to come will make it hard for those who do come back. All that said, the renovated public market is looking good. The electric meters are yet to be installed and there are still plastic bags covering the exterior lights, but the sparkling if unoccupied interior looks much easier to clean, with more space to do business.

The town of Anton on the Monday after Independence Day

by Eric Jackson

It’s a slow return to work, a bus ride there and a bus ride back, with stops for cat food and bread, then a walk this reporter had not taken for many months.

At the bus stop that I usually use at the entrance to El Bajito, SOMEBODY had been busy with a chainsaw over the holiday weekend. Had the maleantes not taken many of my tools I’d have on the way back grabbed a piece of teak from which to make something. Actually, all the way to the turnoff from the Pan-American Highway to the back entrance to El Valle — via Juan Diaz, San Juan de Dios and Altos de La Estancia — there were a bunch of places where people had been busy sawing down trees over the previous few days. Plus there was some significant progress on a few new houses along the way. Would there have been enough discarded teak to make some cool paneling or furniture for these new brick, concrete and plaster places? I doubt that such would have been the plan.

Turning onto the highway and heading toward the town of Anton, a new and an old feature begged questions. Souith of the road there is now a municipal farm. Seems like a local answer to the primordial national security challenge, to keep the people fed. Who works it, where the food goes, what agreements and chains of commerce or distribution, those I don’t know.

A little way farther, on the north side of the highway, there is a project that looked set to go before the epidemic hit, a warehouse of some sort. It looks finished from the outside, but may not be inside. More surplus real estate inventory, which might turn busy and profitable but may represent somebody eating a big loss before that might happen? Recall that economists were talking about the excess inventory issue as Nito Cortizo took office in mid-2019. Who eats such losses? A more pervasive question now than it was then.

On the way from the bus into town to my grocery shopping and then onward, some of the produce vendors’ places were now empty, but there were others. Is it intended that as many such micro-businesses as possible are to be moved to the refurbished market if they are to continue?

Taking a shortcut through the bus terminal, and there was a lady cooking and serving breakfast from a kitchen set up at the back of a van, inside the Anton to Panama bus station.

Not a whole lot new, other than a resurfaced street, walking from the bus station into the town center. There are, however, some notable vacancies, some with renovation clearly intended, and an few more homes than before that appear to be recently emptied fixer-uppers. Land tenure is a mess in Cocle province, but perhaps there are bargain in-town housing solutions to be had for the price of an inexpensive shell of a building plus the cost of renovation along the left side of this street. For years, there have been unrealized thoughts about what to do on a bigger scale behind that corrugated metal fence on the right.

So, for retirees seeking to settle down in the town of Anton, what’s an old buzzard to do? Well, on this morning, to take the first left going up the street above at the Juzgado Municipal, kitty-corner across the street there was a pile of illegally dumped garbage bags and an enthusiastic flock of black vultures feasting on their contents. People come to shop in Anton, and buzzards come sniffing for something gross to eat.

On this day the bars were closed, a lot of barbershops and small stores were open but without customers, and at the city gym, which had been host to an inter-provincial tournament over the weekend, a coach was instructing a team of pre-teen boys.

Past that, no domino players at the corner set aside for the old men who pass their time that way. But in a modest apartment a guy who fit the profile for that crowd was getting a pedicure on his front porch. The young woman massaging his feet is surely part of the informal economy. Did she, like so many others, fall into that niche during the epidemic. The government doesn’t count very much about the informal economy, but from household surveys it knows that these micro-business sectors that now account for most of Panama’s work force have grown.

Turn the corner and the banner across the alley sternly warns about dumping your refuse on city property. A little way past, and it’s the city Christmas tree. Will some politician soon be using the modest shrine to hand out K-pop makeup kits to the girls and plastic Shang-Chi action figures to the boys — or will it be the other way around?

The municipal Christmas tree — no dirty, dangerous and low-paid North American jobs involved.

In the town square’s gazebo, two young men with laptops. Students doing a homework assignment together? A creative collaboration without benefit of an institution? I might have asked but they looked like they were working and concentrating on what they were doing. Just past the gazebo, an old man asked me what country I was from. When I told him I was born in Colon and live in Juan Diaz de Anton he took the hint that this was not to be an informal tour guide customer. Were it not such hard times I might have slipped him a dollar or so — but then he might have been off pursuing some better-paid occupation.

The plaza sits among institutions of church and state, the latter institutions more recently painted. About 125 years ago, this municipal district was perhaps not as devastated as Penonome next door, but the province was Ground Zero for the most ferocious religious warfare between the secular Liberals and the Catholic establishmentarian Conservatives. You can tell this in various ways in many of Anton district’s corregimientos, but it seems that nobody told anyone about it in the town center.

Catholicism is not just a congregation with a house of worship in Anton. The church is also the center of many smaller cultural, academic, service and social institutions housed nearby.

Walking away, a athletic looking young woman carrying a full backpack and wearing no mask hurried on her way. She fit the stereotype of a German backpacker but my mask and her lack of one kept us going in our different directions. These cultural divides cross all sorts of borders and ethnic lines. They will continue to do so, even after the epidemic is over.

Turning back by the courthouse, which was closed on this day, the only crowd I saw was composed of vultures. As my 69th birthday approaches next month, a Panamanian classic from a scene amidst which I grew up came to mind.

Heading back to get the bus home, in the same place and same pose as before. It was a slow day.

 

 

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CUCO, A patriotic agreement

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ray of hope

A pact for dignity and peace

by CUCO

We find ourselves on an accelerated and unstoppable descent down the slope that leads us towards the abyss of uncertainty and hopelessness. This, by virtue of the unconsciousness and irresponsibility of an incompetent government, marked by corruption and impunity. The situation demands, as never before before, control of emotions, so as not to incur impulsive reactions, which, far from favoring the agreement of alternatives with the lowest social cost, allow us to overcome such a complex scenario, and not worsen it.

The critical and overwhelming situation demands the greatest wisdom, to promote dialogue and debate ideas, which, in the context of peaceful actions, facilitate the best solution. Therefore, we, Citizens United for the Constituent Assembly, CUCO, summon all citizens to a pact for dignity and peace, based on the organization in each and every one of our communities, neighborhoods, social circles, etc. Let’s propitiate, with our reflections and proposals, the construction of a constituent process that’s genuinely democratic and inclusive. It’s the only way to legitimize the exercise of public power.

Democracy is, above all, participation and debate, not manipulation or exclusion, much less deception. We recognize that the objective is a challenge. However, crossing our arms in the face of folly and the institutionalization of violence, would be the worst decision that as a people, we could assume. What’s at stake is the well-being of those present, and the future of several generations, who otherwise would inevitably face a new slavery, with greater economic and social inequalities, and more exploitation of the majority, only for the benefit of those who insist on preventing the will of the citizen from being expressed.

 

 

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WHO, Naming and evaluating Omicron

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it
The Omicron variant of COVID-19. Graphic by iSO-FORMS LLC.

Classification of Omicron (B.1.1.529):
SARS-CoV-2 Variant of Concern

by the World Health Organization (WHO)

The Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE) is an independent group of experts that periodically monitors and evaluates the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 and assesses if specific mutations and combinations of mutations alter the behavior of the virus. The TAG-VE was convened on 26 November 2021 to assess the SARS-CoV-2 variant: B.1.1.529.

The B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on 24 November 2021. The epidemiological situation in South Africa has been characterized by three distinct peaks in reported cases, the latest of which was predominantly the Delta variant. In recent weeks, infections have increased steeply, coinciding with the detection of B.1.1.529 variant. The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November 2021.

This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa. Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to detect this variant. Several labs have indicated that for one widely used PCR test, one of the three target genes is not detected (called S gene dropout or S gene target failure) and this test can therefore be used as marker for this variant, pending sequencing confirmation. Using this approach, this variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage.

There are a number of studies underway and the TAG-VE will continue to evaluate this variant. WHO will communicate new findings with Member States and to the public as needed.

Based on the evidence presented indicative of a detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology, the TAG-VE has advised WHO that this variant should be designated as a VOC, and the WHO has designated B.1.1.529 as a VOC, named Omicron.

As such, countries are asked to do the following:

• enhance surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants.

• submit complete genome sequences and associated metadata to a publicly available database, such as GISAID.

• report initial cases/clusters associated with VOC infection to WHO through the IHR mechanism.

• where capacity exists and in coordination with the international community, perform field investigations and laboratory assessments to improve understanding of the potential impacts of the VOC on COVID-19 epidemiology, severity, effectiveness of public health and social measures, diagnostic methods, immune responses, antibody neutralization, or other relevant characteristics.

Individuals are reminded to take measures to reduce their risk of COVID-19, including proven public health and social measures such as wearing well-fitting masks, hand hygiene, physical distancing, improving ventilation of indoor spaces, avoiding crowded spaces, and getting vaccinated.

For reference, WHO has working definitions for SARS-CoV-2 Variant of Interest (VOI) and Variant of Concern (VOC).

A SARS-CoV-2 VOI is a SARS-CoV-2 variant:

• with genetic changes that are predicted or known to affect virus characteristics such as transmissibility, disease severity, immune escape, diagnostic or therapeutic escape; AND

• that has been identified as causing significant community transmission or multiple COVID-19 clusters, in multiple countries with increasing relative prevalence alongside increasing number of cases over time, or other apparent epidemiological impacts to suggest an emerging risk to global public health.

A SARS-CoV-2 VOC is a SARS-CoV-2 variant that meets the definition of a VOI (see above) and, through a comparative assessment, has been demonstrated to be associated with one or more of the following changes at a degree of global public health significance:

• increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology; OR

• increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation; OR

• decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics.

NOTE ON NAMING

Two letters were skipped- Nu and Xi – because Nu is too easily confounded with “new” and Xi was not used because it is a common surname and WHO best practices for naming new diseases (developed in conjunction with FAO and OIE back in 2015) suggest avoiding “causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups.”

 

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Beluche, Diez cosas sobre la independencia de 1821

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borracho
Giuseppe di Buonaparte, hermano mayor de Napoleón, varias veces ridiculizado como Pepe Botella, Pepino o Pepe El Borracho, en realidad jugó un papel importante en la independencia de América Latina. Instalado en el trono español como el rey José por su hermano de 1808 a 1813, este presunto alcohólico pomposo interrumpió la relación de España con la Iglesia Católica y destrozó muchos de los lazos españoles ya desgastados en las Américas. Probablemente no era un borracho. Tras el final de la era napoleónica se refugió en Estados Unidos.

La independencia de 1821

por Olmedo Beluche

1) La independencia hispanoamericana, que en la mayoría de los países de la región se formalizó en el año 1821, no fue un proceso nacional sino regional. El proceso no se puede entender desde una perspectiva nacional, como pretenden algunos historiadores, porque no existían las actuales naciones hispanoamericanas y porque no se trató de un acontecimiento local sino la descomposición política del régimen monárquico de los borbones.

2) La perspectiva oficial actual de las actuales entidades nacionales peca de dos graves defectos: uno, comete anacronismo, porque traslada los valores, creencias e identidades del presente hacia el pasado que se regía por otros criterios; dos, padece de historicismo, pues pretende tratar los hechos pasados como una predestinación que forzosamente nos traían al presente actual, a las naciones actuales y a sus clases dirigentes actuales. Al hacer esto, las historias oficiales se convierten en instrumento de dominación ideológica al servicio de las clases gobernantes actuales. La historia al servicio de la ideología nacionalista como instrumento de cohesión política.

3) En 1821 no existían las actuales identidades nacionales. Durante buena parte de la crisis y guerras civiles, que va de 1808 a 1821, la identidad de la clase social conocida como “criollos”, es decir, los grandes hacendados, dueños de minas y comerciantes de origen local, era denominarse a sí mismos como “españoles de América”. Identidad que probablemente permeaba hasta parte de la población “mestiza”, las llamadas “castas”, pero no a las naciones indígenas originarias y mucho menos a los esclavos de origen africano.

4) El espacio de actuación política tenía dos niveles: el grande, que era el virreinato, capitanía o provincia; y el local, que era el ayuntamiento o cabildo de las ciudades. Por eso los pronunciamientos tendían a hacerse por cabildos y las juntas de gobierno también. No existían formalmente ni Argentina, México, Colombia o Panamá, en lo que hoy se llama naciones. Estos estados son posteriores a la independencia y la construcción de sus identidades es posterior a su consolidación. Colombia era un concepto recién inventado, primero por Francisco de Miranda (para referirse a toda Hispanoamérica) y luego (1819) por Simón Bolívar (para identificar al nuevo estado que surgiría de la fusión entre el Virreinato de la Nueva Granada y la capitanía de Venezuela).

5) Para mejor comprender esto, conviene repetir que el concepto nación tiene dos acepciones: nación-estado, es decir, una población, un territorio y un gobierno (cuya población regularmente es heterogénea culturalmente); y, nación-cultura, o “identidad”, que es una construcción ideológica por la cual se pretende que las “naciones” se constituyen a partir de algunos rasgos culturales comunes (lengua, folklore, religión, etc.), excluyendo a quienes no encajan en esos criterios. En el caso de Hispanoamérica, las guerras de independencia tuvieron como producto el nacimiento de los actuales estado-nación y, posteriormente, las clases dirigentes, principalmente la liberal-positivista fabrica una ideología de “identidad nacional” para cada república para asegurar la cohesión social.

6) Pero la independencia no empezó como un esfuerzo de construir “naciones independientes”, ni mucho menos “identidades nacionales”. Las guerras de independencia inician como una lucha por ampliar la participación democrática frente a la monarquía absolutista de los borbones, que entra en crisis y desaparece cuando, en 1808, Napoleón invade España y arresta a Carlos IV y a Fernando VII, e impone en el trono de Madrid a su hermano José Bonaparte.

7) La lucha en Hispanoamérica se da entre: a. Los ultraconservadores monárquicos (españoles y americanos) que no querían que nada cambiara y se mantuvieran las jerarquías anteriores (virreyes, capitanes generales, curia); b. Los criollos ricos moderados, que apenas aspiraban a ser incluidos en las juntas de gobierno, pero no deseaban mayores cambios (lo cual expresaron en sus reiterados juramentos de lealtad a Fernando VII); c. Sectores de capas medias, intelectuales, abogados, oficiales, comerciantes de formación ilustrada quienes eran republicanos consecuentes y aspiraban a romper con la monarquía española; d. El pueblo, las castas, los indígenas y esclavos negros que dependiendo de las circunstancias se movilizaron a favor de uno u otro bando, y cuando se volcaron con los republicanos dieron fuerza al proceso de independencia.

8) El hecho de que los criollos no aceptaran a José Bonaparte indica claramente que no tenían una vocación ilustrada, ni estaban inspirados por las ideas de la Revolución Francesa, sino todo lo contrario. En la medida en que la Revolución Haitiana, que destruyó la esclavitud, dio libertad e igualdad a los negros y concretó la independencia de Francia, se produjo en 1804, se convirtió en el gran fantasma que temían los criollos hispanoamericanos, que no querían que esas ideas permearan a sus esclavos, indígenas y castas. Por eso, la primera parte de la llamada Guerra de Independencia es contra José Bonaparte y los franceses.

9) La crudeza de la guerra y su enorme cantidad de muertos, tanto en Nueva España (México), como entre los virreinatos de Perú y el Río de la Plata, así como en Nueva Granada y Venezuela, nos habla de una revolución social en el que muchas veces el campesinado y los indígenas no peleaban por abstracciones (“la nación”) sino por la tierra como sustento vital de las familias y los pueblos. En otros casos se contraponían ciudades comerciales monopolistas (como Lima) con ciudades librecambistas (como Buenos Aires). En otros caos los pueblos sentían los abusos con los impuestos (como el diezmo) por parte de las autoridades monárquicas. En fin, se trató de guerras y revoluciones sociales y políticas, más que “nacionales”.

10) Al final del proceso de guerras de más de 15 años, después de toda la sangre derramada, fue derrotado el absolutismo monárquico con la instauración de las repúblicas hispanoamericanas. Hecho al que contribuyó notablemente, aunque no suele mencionárselo, la sublevación del general Riego en Madrid, que obligó por tres años a Fernando VII a aceptar una monarquía con poderes recortados, y que decidió ceder en la guerra de este lado del mar. El resultado final de las revoluciones fue inconcluso: se logró instaurar sistemas republicanos pero no muy democráticos; y socialmente, los criollos se negaron a ceder derechos sociales, con lo que persistió la esclavitud y la discriminación y explotación de los indígenas. Hacia fines del siglo XIX, las élites criollas locales no solo habían estancado el avance democrático y social, sino que se supeditaron a nuevos imperios: Inglaterra y Estados Unidos. Por lo cual, continúa planteada la necesidad de la lucha por una Segunda Independencia.

 

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STRI, George R. Angehr (1951-2021)

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George Angehr
El BioMuseo de Panamá es un monumento a la abundante biodiversidad de Panamá: George Angehr seleccionó exhibiciones en el museo sobre la geología, paleontología, arqueología, antropología y riqueza biológica de este Istmo que une dos continentes. Foto por Brian Gratwick.

Recordando a George R. Angehr

por STRI

El Instituto Smithsonian de Investigaciones Tropicales lamenta la pérdida del historiador natural y colega George Angehr.

Antes de que “googlear” fuera un verbo, cada vez que nos encontrábamos en la oficina de comunicaciones de STRI con una pregunta aparentemente incontestable sobre la naturaleza de Panamá, la respuesta era un simple “pregúntale a George”. Pero a partir del 24 de noviembre de 2021, uno de los historiadores naturales más brillantes y enciclopédicos de Panamá, George Angehr, ya no está con nosotros. Sus roles oficiales como “Investigador Asociado en el Instituto Smithsonian de Investigaciones Tropicales (STRI)” y “miembro activo de la Sociedad Audubon de Panamá” no abarcan la totalidad de sus contribuciones a Panamá y el mundo como explorador, ornitólogo, autor, conservacionista, ilustrador científico, museólogo, guía y amigo.

George es mejor conocido como coautor de la mejor guía de aves de Panamá y como una de las principales fuerzas intelectuales y artísticas detrás de las monumentales exhibiciones del BioMuseo de Panamá. Era un incansable explorador que llegó a Panamá como estudiante y nunca se fue, dedicando sus innumerables talentos a hacer que la información científica estuviese disponible para todos, desde niños en edad escolar hasta embajadores.

Originario del Bronx (y ávido fanático de los Yankees de Nueva York), George se interesó por primera vez en la observación de aves cuando tenía 12 años. Poco después de terminar una licenciatura en biología en la Universidad de Cornell en 1973, comenzó su investigación doctoral en la Universidad de Colorado, Boulder, y llegó a Panamá en 1977 para estudiar la ecología de los colibríes en Isla Barro Colorado (BCI). Cuando terminó su tesis doctoral en 1980, estaba obsesionado con las aves.

Estaba orgulloso de haber sido el padre fundador del “Premio Tropical Derelicts” otorgado en la estación de investigación del Smithsonian en Isla Barro Colorado, al estudiante que cada año pasara más tiempo en el campo. Los premiados recibían una caja con una camiseta en desintegración, firmada por los premiados anteriores y una vela encendida en ambos extremos, entre otros tesoros. Trabajando con otros estudiantes de posgrado en BCI, George ilustró la primera guía en español de árboles en el Parque Nacional Soberanía: Guía de los Árboles Comunes del Parque Nacional Soberanía, Panamá.

Su siguiente proyecto, para desarrollar la exhibición itinerante internacional “Parting the Green Curtain”, que contaba la historia de la exploración tropical en Panamá, viajó a Washington, DC y luego a otros lugares en los trópicos, convirtiéndose en una gran herramienta de diplomacia internacional para STRI y ayudando al Instituto a abrir las puertas a las relaciones con nuevos socios institucionales. El texto de la exhibición también se publicó en forma de folleto en 1989.

Por un breve tiempo, George dirigió el Centro de Ciencias Forestales del Trópico, que desde entonces se ha convertido en la red ForestGEO del Smithsonian con 73 sitios de monitoreo forestal a largo plazo en 28 países.

A menudo, el “pregúntale a George” era seguido de un “¿Dónde está George?” Se involucró cada vez más en estudios de aves, tanto en áreas inexploradas de Panamá como más allá. George viajó a la Serranía de Jungurudó y las estribaciones del Cerro Piña y la Serranía de Majé, dos macizos aislados en el poco explorado este de Panamá, donde avistó once aves de rango restringido que solo se encuentran en las tierras altas de Darién. Con equipos internacionales de biólogos, caminó por arroyos y senderos, capturó aves con redes de niebla y grabó vocalizaciones. Se enviaron muestras al Museo de Vertebrados de la Universidad de Panamá y al Museo Americano de Historia Natural de Nueva York. En la década de 1990, participó en una evaluación de la biodiversidad de aves en la región del río Urubamba bajo en Perú como parte de un proyecto de la Institución Smithsonian.

A medida que se acercaba el traspaso del Canal de Panamá de los EEUU a Panamá, George trabajó en varios proyectos para establecer un punto de referencia de las condiciones naturales en la Zona del Canal antes del traspaso.

Esto resultó en contribuciones a La Cuenca del Canal: Deforestación, Urbanización y Contaminación, editado por Stanley Heckadon-Moreno y Roberto Ibañez en 1999 y publicaciones adicionales en Bioscience and Environmental Monitoring and Assessment.

Después de la celebración del traspaso del Canal de Panamá el 31 de diciembre del 1999, George continuó organizando y participando en estudios que proporcionaron la justificación científica para el establecimiento y conservación de áreas protegidas. Por ejemplo, contribuyó sustancialmente a conceptualizar la red de “rutas patrimoniales” que formaron el marco del plan de “Turismo, Conservación e Investigación” de Panamá. En el 2001 publicó un estudio con STRI y CEASPA: La importancia del área protegida de San Lorenzo para la integridad del corredor biológico mesoamericano.

A partir del 2000, George trabajó con un equipo creativo de la oficina del arquitecto Frank Gehry, Bruce Mau Design, y el Instituto Smithsonian de Investigaciones Tropicales para desarrollar exhibiciones sobre la biodiversidad, geología, paleontología, arqueología y antropología de Panamá para el BioMuseo, un museo afiliado al Smithsonian. El museo representa un tributo icónico a la biodiversidad de Panamá, y ahora recibe a miles de residentes y turistas cada año.

También escribió textos para exhibiciones en el museo de antropología de Panamá.

Para un país de su tamaño, la diversidad de aves de Panamá es extraordinaria. Las puntas de América del Norte y del Sur se encuentran aquí, las aves migratorias usan Panamá como puente y Panamá es el hogar de su propio conjunto de aves endémicas que no se encuentran en ningún otro lugar de la Tierra.

George no solo se convirtió en un organizador habitual y participante en los conteos halcones y buitres migratorios que pasan sobre el Istmo en octubre, si no que junto a Dodge y Lorna Engelman, George escribió por primera vez Where to Find Birds in Panama, a Site Guide For Birders, publicado en 2006 por la Sociedad Audubon de Panamá. A esto le siguió la publicación de A Bird-Finding Guide to Panama en 2008. En ese momento, la única guía de campo completa para ornitólogos era A Guide to the Birds of Panama de Robert Ridgely y John A. Gwynne, publicada por primera vez en 1976. La guía de Ridgely estaba repleta de información de los tres volúmenes del explorador del Smithsonian Alexander Wetmore, The Birds of the Republic of Panama y de notas descriptivas proporcionadas por el ornitólogo panameño, Eugene Eisenmann, entre otras fuentes.

George se dio cuenta de la necesidad de una guía más portátil adaptada a las necesidades de los biólogos de campo y guías turísticos. Con Robert Dean, creó The Birds of Panama: A Field Guide en el 2010. En la nueva guía, las descripciones de las especies y los mapas de distribución se presentan junto a las ilustraciones de las aves, lo que facilita la identificación rápida de las aves en el campo. Recientemente, ayudó a crear una guía de aves para guías turísticos locales en la comarca indígena de Panamá, Guna Yala.

Continuó siendo invitado como ornitólogo en expediciones en África y Nueva Zelanda, así como en las Américas. En 2008, George y sus colegas informaron sobre una nueva especie de petirrojo africano de Gabón.

George era una persona clave para la oficina de Fomento de STRI porque siempre estaba dispuesto a guiar a los visitantes VIP. No solo identificaba las aves, sino que también llenó los momentos aburridos con asombrosas anécdotas de historia natural y divertidas historias. Estas son algunas de las mismas cualidades que distinguieron a George como un buen colega y amigo: tranquilo y sonriente, humilde y de voz suave. A menudo invitaba a observar aves a personas que eran nuevas en Panamá y a estudiantes nuevos en los trópicos.

En el 2013, Partners in Flight, un grupo internacional de conservación de aves, le otorgó a George un Premio a la Trayectoria. El premio reconoce a las personas que contribuyen significativamente a la gestión, conservación y restauración del hábitat para la conservación de las aves terrestres y el monitoreo de aves en la antigua Zona del Canal de EEUU como parte de un programa de Partners in Flight financiado por el programa Legacy de EEUU.

A partir del 2015, George ofreció sus talentos para el desarrollo del Centro de Exploración de Café en Boquete, Panamá, que abrió en el 2017. Más recientemente, estaba trabajando en un nuevo Centro de Visitantes en El Valle de Antón. Según Mercedes Morris, su colaboradora en esos proyectos, y también sus amigos observadores de aves de la Sociedad Audubon, se sintió muy afectado por la estricta cuarentena impuesta durante la pandemia, que lo confinó en su apartamento en la ciudad de Panamá.

Hoy, una búsqueda en Google proporciona una respuesta rápida a “¿Cuántas especies de aves hay en Panamá?” en iNaturalist: 1002. George sabía esto, pero sabía mucho más y podía integrar y sintetizar información de manera brillante, y presentarla de una forma que el público pudiera entender: cuáles fueron los descubrimientos más recientes y quién los hizo, qué especies solo se encuentran aquí y cuáles son las más amenazadas. Extrañaremos profundamente su experiencia y su generosidad, especialmente en este momento de la historia en el que no solo está en juego el futuro de las aves, sino también la integridad de todo el mundo natural.

 

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

 

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Preiser et al, How the new COVID-19 variant was found

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it
Scientists find variants by sequencing samples from people who have tested positive for the virus. Shutterstock.

The hunt for coronavirus variants: how the new one was found and what we know so far

by Wolfgang Preiser, Stellenbosch University; Cathrine Scheepers, University of the Witwatersrand;
Jinal Bhiman, National Institute for Communicable Diseases; Marietjie Venter, University of Pretoria,
and Tulio de Oliveira, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Since early in the COVID pandemic, the Network for Genomics Surveillance in South Africa has been monitoring changes in SARS-CoV-2. This was a valuable tool to understand better how the virus spread. In late 2020, the network detected a new virus lineage, 501Y.V2, which later became known as the beta variant. Now a new SARS-CoV-2 variant has been identified, known as B.1.1.529. To help us understand more, The Conversation Africa’s Ozayr Patel asked scientists to share what they know.

What’s the science behind the search?

Hunting for variants requires a concerted effort. South Africa and the UK were the first big countries to implement nationwide genomic surveillance efforts for SARS-CoV-2 as early as April 2020.

Variant hunting, as exciting as that sounds, is performed through whole genome sequencing of samples that have tested positive for the virus. This process involves checking every sequence obtained for differences compared to what we know is circulating in South Africa and the world. When we see multiple differences, this immediately raises a red flag and we investigate further to confirm what we’ve noticed.

Fortunately South Africa is well set up for this. This is thanks to a central repository of public sector laboratory results at the National Health Laboratory Service, (NGS-SA), good linkages to private laboratories, the Provincial Health Data Centre of the Western Cape Province, and state-of-the-art modelling expertise.

In addition, South Africa has several laboratories that can grow and study the actual virus and discover how far antibodies, formed in response to vaccination or previous infection, are able to neutralise the new virus. This data will allow us to characterize the new virus.

Viruses on a white background
3d Variants of Covid-19 Virus (Sars-COV-2). Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta in white background. Shutterstock

The beta variant spread much more efficiently between people compared to the “wild type” or “ancestral” SARS-CoV-2 and caused South Africa’s second pandemic wave. It was therefore classified as a variant of concern. During 2021, yet another variant of concern called delta spread over much of the world, including South Africa, where it caused a third pandemic wave.

Very recently, routine sequencing by Network for Genomics Surveillance member laboratories detected a new virus lineage, called B.1.1.529, in South Africa. Seventy-seven samples collected in mid-November 2021 in Gauteng province had this virus. It has also been reported in small numbers from neighboring Botswana and Hong Kong. The Hong Kong case is reportedly a traveler from South Africa.

Whether B.1.1.529 will be classified as a variant of interest or of concern, like beta and delta, has not been decided by the World Health Organization yet. We expect that it will be given a Greek name soon.

Why is South Africa presenting variants of concern?

We do not know for sure. It certainly seems to be more than just the result of concerted efforts to monitor the circulating virus. One theory is that people with highly compromised immune systems, and who experience prolonged active infection because they cannot clear the virus, may be the source of new viral variants.

The assumption is that some degree of “immune pressure” (which means an immune response which is not strong enough to eliminate the virus yet exerts some degree of selective pressure which “forces” the virus to evolve) creates the conditions for new variants to emerge.

Despite an advanced antiretroviral treatment program for people living with HIV, numerous individuals in South Africa have advanced HIV disease and are not on effective treatment. Several clinical cases have been investigated that support this hypothesis, but much remains to be learnt.

Why is this variant worrying?

The short answer is, we don’t know. The long answer is, B.1.1.529 carries certain mutations that are concerning. They have not been observed in this combination before, and the spike protein alone has over 30 mutations. This is important, because the spike protein is what makes up most of the vaccines.

We can also say that B.1.1.529 has a genetic profile very different from other circulating variants of interest and concern. It does not seem to be a “daughter of delta” or “grandson of beta” but rather represents a new lineage of SARS-CoV-2.

Some of its genetic changes are known from other variants and we know they can affect transmissibility or allow immune evasion, but many are new and have not been studied as yet. While we can make some predictions, we are still studying how far the mutations will influence its behavior.

We want to know about transmissibility, disease severity, and ability of the virus to “escape” the immune response in vaccinated or recovered people. We are studying this in two ways.

Firstly, careful epidemiological studies seek to find out whether the new lineage shows changes in transmissibility, ability to infect vaccinated or previously infected individuals, and so on.

At the same time, laboratory studies examine the properties of the virus. Its viral growth characteristics are compared with those of other virus variants and it is determined how well the virus can be neutralized by antibodies found in the blood of vaccinated or recovered individuals.

In the end, the full significance of the genetic changes observed in B.1.1.529 will become apparent when the results from all these different types of studies are considered. It is a complex, demanding and expensive undertaking, which will carry on for months, but indispensable to understand the virus better and devise the best strategies to combat it.

Do early indications point to this variant causing different symptoms or more severe disease?

There is no evidence for any clinical differences yet. What is known is that cases of B.1.1.529 infection have increased rapidly in Gauteng, where the country’s fourth pandemic wave seems to be commencing. This suggests easy transmissibility, albeit on a background of much relaxed non-pharmaceutical interventions and low number of cases. So we cannot really tell yet whether B.1.1.529 is transmitted more efficiently than the previously prevailing variant of concern, delta.

COVID-19 is more likely to manifest as severe, often life-threatening disease in the elderly and chronically ill individuals. But the population groups often most exposed first to a new virus are younger, mobile and usually healthy people. If B.1.1.529 spreads further, it will take a while before its effects, in terms of disease severity, can be assessed.

Fortunately, it seems that all diagnostic tests that have been checked so far are able to identify the new virus.

Even better, it appears that some widely used commercial assays show a specific pattern: two of the three target genome sequences are positive but the third one is not. It’s like the new variant consistently ticks two out of three boxes in the existing test. This may serve as a marker for B.1.1.529, meaning we can quickly estimate the proportion of positive cases due to B.1.1.529 infection per day and per area. This is very useful for monitoring the virus’s spread almost in real time.

Are current vaccines likely to protect against the new variant?

Again, we do not know. The known cases include individuals who had been vaccinated. However we have learnt that the immune protection provided by vaccination wanes over time and does not protect as much against infection but rather against severe disease and death. One of the epidemiological analyses that have commenced is looking at how many vaccinated people become infected with B.1.1.529.

The possibility that B.1.1.529 may evade the immune response is disconcerting. The hopeful expectation is that the high seroprevalence rates, people who’ve been infected already, found by several studies would provide a degree of “natural immunity” for at least a period of time.

Ultimately, everything known about B.1.1.529 so far highlights that universal vaccination is still our best bet against severe COVID-19 and, together with non-pharmaceutical interventions, will go a long way towards helping the healthcare system cope during the coming wave.The Conversation

Professor Wolfgang Preiser, Head: Division of Medical Virology, Stellenbosch University; Cathrine Scheepers, Senior Medical Scientist, University of the Witwatersrand; Jinal Bhiman, Principal Medical Scientist at National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), National Institute for Communicable Diseases; Marietjie Venter, Head: Zoonotic, Arbo and Respiratory Virus Programme, Professor, Department Medical Virology, University of Pretoria, and Tulio de Oliveira, Director: KRISP – KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform, University of KwaZulu-Natal

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

 

 

 

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¿Wappin? Black Friday without shopping

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AA
Ignore all commercial gods and consider who was real: Ahmaud Arbery.

If your heart beats red and your soul still functions
Si su corazón late en rojo y su alma aún funciona

Boney M – Rivers of Babylon
https://youtu.be/c5cR82JPxQY

Boza – Hecha Pa’ Mi
https://youtu.be/S58E4lkL0ok

Chaka Khan & Gloria Estefan – Through the Fire
https://youtu.be/jQazMQ9gbrU

Solinka – Bemba Colora
https://youtu.be/95rsC8Gqbpo

Zahara – Loliwe
https://youtu.be/Z5jZu-y91VM

Susana Baca – Hasta la Raíz
https://youtu.be/VM72i0OyWV4

Sevana – If You Only Knew
https://youtu.be/ftS3jGAwdCQ

Sam And Dave – I Thank You
https://youtu.be/pREa20AgVMo

Sister Aisha – Guide & Protect
https://youtu.be/RER54uxuoS0

Ben E. King – Stand By Me
https://youtu.be/einn_UJgGGM

Burning and Looting – Bob Marley
https://youtu.be/2dvxhlPt32g

Joshue Ashby – Andy Blues
https://youtu.be/siy_I19iwwU

Archie Shepp – Attica Blues
https://youtu.be/xzcaO1CfBlo

Victor Boa – Arroz sin sal
https://youtu.be/92gJDq7bHsw

The Golden Gospel Singers – Oh Freedom!
https://youtu.be/nqPZUnV-vrw

 

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

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Jackson, An open holiday email to my congresswoman

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totalitarian
He follows me, and lets everyone who pays attention “know” that “all” (who count) are with him.

From an Ypsilanti voter who writes from afar, Happy Thanksgiving and my concerns

Dear Representative Dingell,

(Or more likely, some long-suffering and hard-working aide who gets to see this and perhaps pass it along.)

It has been a rough year for me — and for so many of my neighbors — here in El Bajito de Juan Díaz de Antón, in the Republic of Panama’s Coclé province. Let me not get low-down and dirty and personal and sing you too many of my particular blues on this holiday season. I may need to do so, just in order to cast my vote for you next year, but leave that aside for a moment.

I write about computer crimes, privacy in our times, impunity of the privileged and US foreign relations. Perhaps my concerns might add to an amendment to some legislation that may be percolating.

Consider the possible legislative implications of these tales:

Today they tell of some poor woman stalked by a jerk of some sort, thanks to the miracle of Apple technology:

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2021/11/22/2065607/-Bottom-feeder-in-Arkansas-put-an-Apple-AirTag-on-a-woman-s-car

~

Understand the “defense” here, perhaps in light of the Yamashita case if you get into controversial old legal decisions: It could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Martinelli personally ordered this. Consider also that as someone whose electronic communications with members of the 150-person enemies list — my lawyer, a regular columnist for The Panama News, an attorney whom I would ask off the record journalist questions about Panamanian court cases in the news, someone with whom I had a business association — I was one of surely thousands of people whose communications, at least with those people, were intercepted:
 
 
~
 
Mark Zuckerberg’s operation deleted this editorial about fascism and warned me about hate speech. This was shortly before I got a three-day stay in Facebook jail for posting this, AFTER WHICH they said that it did not violate their rules but that if I did it again they’d ban me for 30 days. (Facebook has or had at the time a specific exception from the ban on nudity for protests — but also an ill-concealed favoritism toward right-wing regimes in Latin America.)
 
 

~ ~

Is the solution some legally mandated online version of a “fairness doctrine,” so that we get the likes of MSN’s current news feed that gives space for both Tucker Carlson and the truth? That is, if from media owned by rich enough individuals or corporations?

Do we go for a twisted “market solution” of freedom, which ignores what Facebook and Google have done by monopolizing the advertising market, effectively killing the advertising-based business model for most media, thus shutting down many a newspaper, throwing many a journalist out of work, concentrating decisions about what’s fit to print into the heads of ever fewer and ever more divorced from the everyday lives of most people individuals?

Do we just blow off the massive collection of data about people and their use of the internet by private companies — not just Facebook and Google but especially them — and say that what they do is just a private matter for “the market” to sort out? Do we let some Arkansas private eye sell data about an individual’s movements to criminals? Have we already had the first gangland hit using Apple tracking? Wouldn’t THAT be a business triumph for the Dark Web? Don’t militant sexists just LOVE this new technology?

Do we pretend that the use of US telecommunications satellites and cables by foreign governments or political actors to oppress their own citizens and here and there US citizens or permanent residents is their sovereign business? (Note the graphic — I could but choose not to blockPerson-1from my Twitter account for various reasons. And, using a translator program if need be, note his long-running stated intentions.)

Do we pretend, under the excuse of protecting sources and methods, that the NSA does not have a fairly damning record of internet crimes committed around the world?

~ ~ ~

What to do, honorable congresswoman?

  • Support the efforts of some of your House colleagues, and some folks in the Senate, to revive the spirit and letter of the New Deal in our times, by subjecting Facebook and Google to antitrust laws.
  • Move to declare eminent domain and nationalize the Google search engine and the main Facebook platform, devolving them — perhaps on a revocable contractual basis — to an entity or entities which are not for profit, have no particular partisan alignment and most probably which are international. After Poletown and Putin’s online propaganda, could anyone really be shocked at such a bold thing?
  • Make it explicit that computer offenses against US citizens or residents committed anywhere in the world give rise to a federal cause of action, which can’t be tossed out on grounds of forum non conveniens and, given the power and pervasiveness of many governments’ secrecy, has no statute of limitation or a very long one. 
  • Support comprehensive privacy legislation — looking at but not swallowing whole what the European Union has tried to do — which prohibits “surveillance capitalism,” the business of collection or sale of data on individuals.
  • Find the funds to support or buy out and make more comprehensive the Wayback Machine Internet Archive — maybe with an assist from the NSA — so that when guttersnipes like Ricardo Martinelli — or Mr. Xi, or … —  hack and erase stuff from the Internet it is preserved.

Eric Jackson
one of your constituents
long ago an Ypsilanti city council member
past chair of Democrats Abroad Panama
this old hippie journalist and subsistence farmer

 

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Today is the International Day Against Violence Against Women

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PAHO

16 days of activism against
gender-based violence

by the Pan-American Health organization

From 25 November to 10 December, PAHO joins governments, civil society, the UN system, and other partners in marking the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.

This year, the theme of the 16 Days is “Orange the world: End violence against women now!”, drawing attention to the urgency for action.

We know that violence is devastatingly pervasive in the Region, with enormous consequences for women’s and girls’ health and well being.

Evidence suggests 1 in 3 women and girls have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime, mostly by an intimate partner. And this was before the pandemic. In the context of COVID-19, risks of domestic violence, especially against women and girls, have increased while access to needed support has decreased, including services provided by the health sector.

Call for action

Now more than ever, we must take action. The International Day and the 16 Days of Activism are a timely opportunity to raise awareness for the health and social consequences of violence against women and strengthen our commitment to collective action.

We know that violence against women and girls can be prevented, and its consequences can be mitigated. While preventing and responding to violence against women and girls requires a multi-sectoral approach, the health sector has an important role to play.

This is not a new topic for the Region – there is much that we can learn from each other to keep advancing this agenda. NOW more than ever is time for change and collaboration.

 

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