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A visit to John Douglas’s Lazy Man’s Farm II

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Douglas farm
So THAT’S what a dragon fruit looks like! This and other photos on this page by Eric Jackson.

The easier and healthier way
to grow your living

by Eric Jackson

John Douglas has been a private sector agronomist for some time now. When, as a subcontractor he worked to set up a park in Panama City? A few years back, and he was never paid. He taught organic permaculture for Uncle Sam as a Peace Corps volunteer and otherwise, but now he holds forth in his second farm near Penonome, smaller and a bit closer to town than the previous one, with the back of his property on the Zarate River. There are various aspects to the business, but subsistence agriculture and the teaching of sustainable farming without all the chemicals are the main things. As a side gig for some of the neighbors, he gives some English lessons. He’s not set up to do it as a main business, but you might be able to get a plant, a cutting or some seeds to start growing your own stuff.

These days John’s truck has died, he’s an octogenarian and he generally gets around by public transportation. People find their ways to his farm out on Via Sonadora north / northeast of the Penonome town center, across from the Catholic Church in the corregimiento of Pajonal. It’s along the back roads that meander from Penonome to El Valle, a little ways up from the historic battlefield where Victoriano Lorenzo’s Liberal guerrillas defeated the Conservatives in a trench warfare episode of the Thousand Days War, setting the stage for Lorenzo to take Penonome and Aguadulce. Sonadora’s a somewhat sparsely populated, prosperous neighborhood these days. It’s part of a scenic drive from El Valle to Penonome or vice versa.

map

 

At one point the government was into “agricultural tourism,” which was one of the premises for the first Lazy Man’s Farm, but in recent times “tourism promotion” is about subsidies to ad agencies and tax incentives to build redundant hotels. And agricultural promotion? The people who import and sell agro-chemicals, not the organic farmers, are the ones with the political influence. Still, healthy farming has its many fans and practitioners here.

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In the background, the Catholic church in Sonadora provides the across-the-road landmark to find The Lazy Man’s Farm.

 

3
John and his assistant have been celebrating a new success in composting papaya trees.

 

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Mother and son drop by for an English lesson.

 

5
Flowers and medicinal plants, too…

 

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There is an ethic that goes along with this. You wouldn’t want a perfectly good planter go into a landfill just because it no longer serves its original intended use.

 

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TEACHING — that’s the ticket.

 

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Every well-appointed organic permaculture farm should have a wonder dog.

 

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Physicians sound a fraud alarm about Medicare Advantage

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hmmmmm
“The time has come to declare MA a failed experiment,” write the authors of a new paper. Stock photo.

A $600 billion swindle: study makes the
case to ‘abolish’ Medicare Advantage

by Jake Johnson — Common Dreams

A new academic analysis published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine details the enormous sums that privatized Medicare Advantage plans have cost US taxpayers in recent years and calls for the abolition of the program, which has been massively profitable for the insurance giants that dominate it.

Citing the nonpartisan Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, the paper notes that Medicare Advantage (MA) plans have overcharged the federal government to the tune of $612 billion since 2007—and $82 billion last year alone.

MA plans—now used by more than half of the eligible Medicare population—utilize a range of tactics to reap larger payments from the federal government, which provides insurers a lump sum for each Medicare Advantage patient. The size of the payment depends on the enrollee’s health, which MA plans are notorious for portraying as worse than it is in order to receive heftier government payments.

“Paradoxically, despite those overpayments, MA plans spend 9% less on medical services than [fee-for-service] Medicare spends for comparable enrollees,” reads the new study. “If MA plans pay for less care, where do the overpayments go? Some pay for supplementary benefits, although plans do not disclose how much they spend on them, and MA enrollees do not get significantly more dental care or incur lower out-of-pocket dental costs than those in FFS Medicare. Instead, overhead and profit eats up the lion’s share.”

The study’s authors estimate that MA plans’ overhead from 2007 to 2024 was $592 billion, which is “equivalent to 97% of taxpayers’ $612 billion overpayments to them during that period.”

Medicare Advantage plans have, in effect, stolen hundreds of billions from taxpayers

Dr. Adam Gaffney, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the lead author of the new study, said in a statement that “Medicare Advantage is a bad deal for taxpayers.”

“Money that could be used to eliminate all copayments or shore up Medicare’s Trust Fund is instead lining insurers’ pockets,” said Gaffney. “And the private insurers keep Medicare Advantage enrollees from getting needed care by erecting bureaucratic hurdles like prior authorizations and payment denials.”

Gaffney and study co-authors Drs. Stephanie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein—co-founders of Physicians for a National Health Program (PHNP)—argue based on their examination of Medicare Advantage’s decadeslong history that “the time has come to declare MA a failed experiment and abolish it.”

“Medicare Advantage plans have, in effect, stolen hundreds of billions from taxpayers,” says David Himmelstein, a lecturer at Harvard Medical School and a research associate at the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. “And the private plans’ schemes also raise seniors’ Part B Medicare premiums. Even seniors who don’t choose to enroll in Medicare Advantage are subsidizing the private plans’ profits.”

The study’s authors observe that the elimination of Medicare Advantage would allow the federal government to use the roughly $88 billion in estimated MA overpayments for the coming year to instead “upgrade benefits for all Medicare beneficiaries.” Traditional Medicare typically does not cover dental, vision, or hearing services, which often leads people to choose MA plans.

“A smarter, thriftier way to expand benefits and lower out-of-pocket costs is possible for all Medicare beneficiaries, but first, we must eliminate MA and double down on traditional Medicare, covering all enrollees in an expanded and improved Medicare program,” the analysis concludes. “That would be a good deal for patients and taxpayers.”

Wendell Potter, a former insurance executive who has become a trenchant critic of Medicare Advantage, told Common Dreams that he agrees with the study’s authors that MA “should be eliminated.”

“Not only has it never saved taxpayers a dime since it was created during the George W. Bush administration, but it has cost us $592 billion over the last 17 years because of the high administrative costs inherent in the program and the way insurers have rigged the system to get paid excessively every year,” said Potter, president of the Center for Health and Democracy.

“The program is so entrenched, and the companies have so much political influence over Democrats as well as Republicans through campaign contributions and lobbying, that eliminating the program will be a heavy lift, at least in the near term,” Potter added. “That means that proposals to reform MA that address overpayments and abuses like prior authorization are essential and important for reform advocates to support.”

 

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¿Wappin? The Endless Cycle / El Ciclo Sin Fin

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(s)he's back
Mein Gott! Der Kommissar is back in town! Photo by biphop, Lyon 2007.

Haven’t we been here before?
¿No hemos estado aquí antes?

Rubén Blades & Roby Draco Rosa – Patria
https://youtu.be/ql0G312R2IQ?si=chCBf30reouJ48O7

Cyndi Lauper et al – Big Yellow Taxi
https://youtu.be/CoqSZktN5PU?si=z4s6pHB2N3n1YJzb

REM – Losing My Religion
https://youtu.be/xwtdhWltSIg?si=w4tHvVePrrjtj4xC

Combos Nacionales Mix By DJ Markito 507
https://youtu.be/7Ks_aSiDIUE?si=-ij_ilIg_For078-

Righteous Brothers – Unchained Melody
https://youtu.be/blNvxiilC3s?si=fMrGntgV4kOyINNb

Los Mozambiques – El Presidiario
https://youtu.be/uzjXVTQ6C9U?si=l7JDywt71fEU50Hp

Four Tops – I Can’t Help Myself
https://youtu.be/7LwjipizvKQ?si=B39USkEc0uh5_RFf

After The Fire – Der Kommissar
https://youtu.be/vBfFDTPPlaM?si=lTsnDkFKKWFEruLp

Sia – Courage to Change
https://youtu.be/p5QfyF9pkHU?si=Z-B1Nv_C-xvoP32E

Danny Rivera y Yomira John – Concierto Siempre Amigos
https://youtu.be/1pku4P1M7pg?si=g1sF-jZqRcWm4xj9

Aisha – So Broken
https://youtu.be/aJT_0BOcv4k?si=8TBSczpcPBf5L7Zu

Michael Bolton – Never Say Goodbye
https://youtu.be/92T9pVBNG0c?si=0WDG7q-tMxXceeOo

Lauryn Hill – Doo Wop That Thing
https://youtu.be/Njcj4-bc4DQ?si=-OkaXM2S9oPNz78J

Solinka – Desdén
https://youtu.be/OCuPiiaoLDE?si=2bOIB75la1LMpqB5

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Beluche, Un libro para inspirar

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book
Muchos panameños, por nuestra gran variedad de razones, hicimos historia el año pasado. Es importante que contemos y preservemos nuestra historia y no contemos con que los intereses corporativos y políticos que se nos opusieron lo hagan por nosotros.

Un libro para inspirar la lucha
que continúa contra la minera

por Olmedo Beluche

El colega, compañero de luchas y amigo Abdiel Rodríguez Reyes ha publicado un libro, pequeño en formato, pero profundo en contenido: “El despertar de un pueblo: Ensayo sobre cómo un pequeño país se enfrentó (y ganó) a una gran transnacional”. En este libro el profesor Rodríguez hace una recuento pormenorizado de lo que fue la victoriosa lucha contra el contrato antinacional entre el gobierno de Cortizo y First Quantum Minerals por la mina de Donoso.

Un aporte invaluable para comprender aquella gran gesta de octubre y noviembre de 2023, que nos prepara intelectualmente para las luchas que se vienen cuando los agentes de la minera enquistados en el nuevo gobierno de José Raúl Mulino intente burlar la voluntad popular y el fallo de la Corte Suprema de Justicia.

Este ensayo está enriquecido con los aportes de dos jóvenes intelectuales comprometidos con las causas populares, en particular en defensa del ambiente: Rekha Chandiramani (Prólogo) y Carlos J. Bichet-Nicoletti (Epílogo).

De inicio, Abdiel Rodríguez Reyes, lanza dos afirmaciones sustanciales: la lucha contra “la Ley406 fue, en realidad, muchas luchas”; y, “a pesar del estruendo, la estructura capitalista quedó intacta”. Respecto a la primera afirmación asegura el autor que la lucha fue jurídica, fue política y fue ideológica. Sobre la segunda, es evidente que no solo el capitalismo panameño sigue incólume, sino que no existe una concepción acabada del pueblo sobre lo que es el extractivismo. Además de que las elecciones del 5 de mayo demostraron que un gran sector del electorado no termina de hilar la relación entre minería y política.
El libro está dedicado a los mártires de la lucha contra la Ley 406: Tomás Cedeño, Iván Mendoza y Abdiel Díaz. Está dividido en diez capítulos que van desde: ¿Qué es Minera Panamá S. A.?; Las consecuencias de la actividad minera; La gota que derramó el vaso; Vía inconstitucional; Multitud y pueblo; Guerreras y guerreros del mar; Racismos; El viejo macartismo de siempre; Inconstitucionalidad de la Ley 406; El día después.

Uno de los aspectos más interesantes es en el cual el profesor Rodríguez Reyes reflexiona sobre las supuestas diferencias entre quienes marchaban convocados por “Sal de las Redes” hacia la cinta costera, y quienes lo hacían bajo la convocatoria y banderas de la Alianza Pueblo Unido por la Vida y ANADEPO. Aquí el autor rescata un debate entre los conceptos de las ciencias sociales: pueblo y multitud.

También amerita análisis su reflexión final sobre un “Nuevo Pacto Social”. Lo que alude a la necesidad de la reestructuración del país sobre nuevas bases. ¿Cuáles? ¿Pacto entre quienes? La fórmula me parece válida por ser una ecuación abierta y con cierta incógnita, lo que permite movilizar en común acuerdo a diversos sectores políticos. Pero al definir el autor que el nuevo pacto sólo puede ser “feminista, interculturalista,ecologista, sindicalista, de clase…”, y que “no puede ser misógino, homofóbico, extractivista, racista, xenofóbico…”, para mí dice bastante.

Es un deber de la vanguardia militante leer el libro de Abdiel Rodríguez Reyes sobre la gesta histórica antiminera de 2023, porque nuestras acciones siempre deben estar inspiradas, en la pasión, pero sobre todo: en la razón.

 

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Reich, Who and what Samuel Alito is

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Anti-Alito in 2007
“What we believed we knew is now confirmed.” Back in 2007, these protesters saw it coming. Photo by Danny Hammontree.

We shouldn’t need a secret tape
to know who Samuel Alito is

by Robert Reich

I’m no fan of secret recordings designed to entrap public officials into saying things they’d rather not have the public hear, but Justice Samuel Alito’s remarks to filmmaker Lauren Windsor at the Supreme Court Historical Society dinner on June 3 — released Monday — confirm everything I assumed about Alito’s approach to the law.

After Windsor told Alito that, as a Catholic, she couldn’t see herself getting along with liberals in the way that needs to happen for the polarization to end, and that the Supreme Court should be about “winning,” Alito responded:

I think you’re probably right. On one side or the other — one side or the other is going to win. I don’t know. I mean, there can be a way of working — a way of living together peacefully, but it’s difficult, you know, because there are differences on fundamental things that really can’t be compromised. They really can’t be compromised. So it’s not like you are going to split the difference.

When Windsor said people must fight to return our country to a “place of godliness,” Alito said, “I agree with you. I agree with you.”

As you know, Alito wrote the opinion for the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, issued June 24, 2022, which overruled the court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that established a woman’s right to an abortion.

Alito’s opinion began by noting that “Abortion presents a profound moral issue on which Americans hold sharply conflicting views,” and then went on to hold that “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely—the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. That provision has been held to guarantee some rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution, but … the right to abortion does not fall within this category.”

Alito spent the next 75 pages (including 69 footnotes) seeking to justify his decision. But not once did he admit that his personal religious convictions influenced him. Nowhere did he say that America should be a place of godliness. At no point did he convey his belief that there is no room for compromise on such a fundamental moral issue.

Alito’s secretly recorded remarks about his true beliefs will come as no surprise to anyone. The remarks signaling his religious bias are like the flags flown in front of his houses signaling his political partisanship.

But what is lost in these revelations is the naive hope that justices of the Supreme Court put reason over personal bias, logic over religious preference, and public duty over partisanship. This hope is invaluable in maintaining public confidence in the Supreme Court.

The other cynical consequence of the secret recording of Alito’s remarks is to besmirch the legitimate roles played by journalists and investigative reporters. Windsor posed as a conservative to bait justices into saying things they would otherwise never say in public and secretly record them. Windsor later said she felt justified in doing so because the court is “shrouded in secrecy, and they’re refusing to submit to any accountability in the face of overwhelming evidence of serious ethics breaches.”

She is right, but it is still a shame we have come to this.

(The recordings were published by Rolling Stone and Windsor’s activist site The Undercurrent and on X.)

 

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Editorials: Times change; and Being prudent about climate change

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A mixed message? President-elect José Raúl Mulino with the new sash he’ll wear on July 1, flanked by former President Mireya Moscoso and soon-to-be First Lady Maricel Cohen de Mulino. Mulino, who rode in with a minority in the presidential race and less than that support for his legislative caucus, will take over from a spectacularly failed PRD administration to lead a country whose voters are mostly annoyed with the political caste in general. The next president has taken a long, roundabout journey through the political scene and has many old friendships in addition to his emphasized ties with Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal.

Times change – let’s hope that you didn’t bet that they wouldn’t

On paper at least, the Panamanian government is taking a turn to the right. It’s unwise to get too stereotypical about that, or to take all of the campaign and post-election rhetoric at face value. We can more or less know/ what has gone before, but now is a different time. We can notice what President-elect Mulino said en route to the day when he puts on the presidential sash, but only partially know the pressures that he’s under now and will be under when he takes office. Best to wait and see.

Once upon a time someone in the gringo community here wrote a book in which she argued that Panama’s elite families and the business and political leaders they produce tend to be lazy, incompetent and dishonest, but to get by in this country you should suck up to them. What to do now, if you attached your hopes and dreams to a powerful person who was unceremoniously dumped by the voters on May 5?

If you are not a Panamanian citizen, be respectfully polite but not fawning in dealings with Panama’s truly or pretend powerful. Get by as best you can without depending on their sponsorship. A constant chase to be in with the in crowd is neither a secure nor a rewarding way to live.

 

Take prudent notice

Our El Niño drought and the water problems both for households and the canal seems to have run its course. Meanwhile, sea levels are rising. A whole community on one of the San Blas Islands has been forced to move to the mainland.

This is not like some annual land crab migration. Gardí Sugdub had been inhabited for more than 500 years.

This is not a time to accept climate change denial in high places. We might laugh at the readiness to accept all of the worst ideas from the USA, but this is no laughing matter.

Ask archaeologists where in Panama the evidence of the great migration across the Bering Straits and through the Americas down to Tierra del Fuego might be found and the usual answer is underwater. Those who made the trek on foot would likely have walked along the beaches and back in those times sea levels were significantly lower than they are now.

Look at the places that flood now, and figure that it will get worse.

So, as somebody’s signature development at public expense, do we put a railroad on low, coastal ground or do will build uphill just a bit, so that 20 years from now we may have to spend some more money to detour around new flood plains? Do we want to build new residential communities on beaches next to rising seas? Will “tourist development” become synonymous with “throwaway architecture?”

Panama’s debt crisis is real and serious, but it will be short-lived compared to our climate crisis. The latter problem, however, can be demoted from a “crisis” to just a fact of life to which we can adjust with some prudent planning.

 

Clara
Clara González de Behringer, a public domain archive photo. As a student she was a founder of the National Feminist Party. At the age of 27, in 1925, she became the first woman to practice law in Panama and later was this country’s first juvenile judge. She spent parts of her life in the United States and married an American civil engineer. She taught criminology, family law and juvenile law at the University of Panama, where she is honored by a monument on the central campus.

 

Feminism is the struggle of women to achieve the fullness of their lives, or the supreme effort of women to acquire all the rights that by nature belong to them on equal terms with men.

Clara González

Bear in mind…

A nation that draws too broad a difference between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools.

Thucydides

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

James Baldwin

Some third person decides your fate: this is the whole essence of bureaucracy.

Alexandra Kollontai

 

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Barrio Cortes & Benito Sánchez, Los problemas médicos del envejecimiento

0
rawk!
Hombre caminando con un cochecito. Foto de stock por PickPic.

Caídas, fragilidad, insomnio, depresión y demencia:
los problemas del envejecimiento y cómo reducirlos

por Jaime Barrio Cortes y Beatriz Benito Sánchez

La población de edad avanzada está creciendo desmesuradamente. En 2019, el número de personas mayores de 60 años ascendió a 1 000 millones en todo el mundo y se espera que para 2050 esta cifra se duplique, alcanzando los 2 000 millones.

Ahora que superar los sesenta años es tan común, el fenómeno del envejecimiento poblacional es una realidad innegable a la que contribuyen el aumento de la esperanza de vida en la vejez, la disminución de la tasa de natalidad y el progreso socioeconómico de las últimas cinco décadas.

Más enfermedades crónicas, discapacidad y dependencia

A medida que envejecemos, nuestro cuerpo experimenta una serie de cambios fisiológicos que nos hacen más propensos a desarrollar enfermedades crónicas, discapacidad y dependencia.

Los síndromes geriátricos son afecciones médicas comunes en la población de edad avanzada, caracterizados por una combinación de problemas médicos, psicológicos y sociales, en lugar de síntomas o enfermedades específicas. Los más destacados son:

    • Fragilidad: disminución de la reserva fisiológica y la capacidad de recuperación, que aumenta el riesgo de discapacidad y muerte.
    • Caídas: tendencia recurrente a caer, pudiendo resultar en lesiones graves y pérdida de autonomía.
    • Inmovilidad: la persona mayor tiene dificultades para moverse y esto puede llevar a la pérdida de masa muscular, debilidad y otros problemas de salud.
    • Incontinencia: pérdida del control de la vejiga o los intestinos, pudiendo tener un significativo impacto negativo en la calidad de vida y la autoestima.
    • Demencia: engloba varias enfermedades neurodegenerativas que afectan la memoria, el pensamiento y la conducta, como pueden ser la enfermedad de Alzheimer o la demencia vascular.
    • Polifarmacia: comúnmente se define como la toma de cinco o más medicamentos simultáneamente, que se asocia a un aumento del riesgo de interacciones medicamentosas, efectos secundarios y complicaciones.
    • Desnutrición: por ingesta inadecuada de alimentos, malabsorción de nutrientes o problemas de salud que afectan al apetito y al metabolismo, lo que puede debilitar el sistema inmunológico y aumentar el riesgo de enfermedades.
    • Sarcopenia: pérdida progresiva de masa y fuerza muscular que impacta sobre la calidad de vida y la independencia funcional.
    • Dolor crónico: causado por enfermedades crónicas reumatológicas o lesiones o condiciones osteomusculares degenerativas, y que afecta la calidad de vida y la capacidad funcional.
    • Pérdida de audición y visión: son comunes en la vejez y pueden tener un impacto significativo en la calidad de vida, la comunicación y la seguridad.
    • Depresión y/o insomnio: los problemas del estado de ánimo y los problemas para conciliar o mantener el sueño son frecuentes en personas mayores, y contribuyen al desarrollo de problemas de salud física y mental.

¿Qué es el envejecimiento saludable?

El envejecimiento saludable implica que, a medida que las personas envejecen, puedan mantener su capacidad para hacer las cosas por sí mismas, sin necesitar mucha ayuda. Así logran mantenerse de forma activa y autónoma con una buena salud física, mental y social.

Los síndromes geriátricos dificultan el envejecimiento saludable, pero pueden ser reversibles –o ralentizarse su progresión– si se detectan a tiempo.

Se ha demostrado que las intervenciones centradas en la actividad física son efectivas para retrasar e incluso revertir la fragilidad y otros síndromes geriátricos. También pueden ser efectivas otras intervenciones que incluyan cambios en la alimentación para aumentar la ingesta de proteínas y nutrientes, así como abordar la polifarmacia y la prescripción inadecuada de medicamentos. Además, son muy importantes las intervenciones psicológicas y sociales.

Todo esto se refleja en el Documento de consenso sobre prevención de fragilidad y caídas en la persona mayor elaborado por el Ministerio de Sanidad español, que incluye recomendaciones para la detección precoz de la fragilidad, tanto el ámbito sanitario como en el no sanitario y comunitario.

De él se desprende lo importante que es adaptar los sistemas de atención médica para prevenir la disminución de las capacidades en las personas mayores que provocan los síndromes geriátricos y evitar su evolución hacia la dependencia. Esto implica un enfoque centrado en el individuo que promueva un envejecimiento saludable y activo.

La monitorización domiciliaria mediante sensores es parte de la respuesta

Las tecnologías de la información y la comunicación (TIC) pueden ayudar a prevenir y a tratar muchos de los síndromes geriátricos a través de la monitorización domiciliaria mediante sensores que midan variables con alto poder predictivo de eventos adversos: peso, velocidad de la marcha, potencia de extremidades, tensión arterial, frecuencia cardíaca o saturación de oxígeno.

El uso de esta tecnología facilita las intervenciones dirigidas a evitarlos y proporciona mecanismos que habilitan una comunicación ágil entre los actores involucrados (diferentes profesionales sanitarios de atención primaria, hospitalaria, pacientes y cuidadores).

Un ejemplo es Integra-CAM, usada en la Comunidad de Madrid, que desarrolla un ecosistema tecnológico pionero que revoluciona el cuidado de las personas mayores. Permite la monitorización domiciliaria y el seguimiento de su capacidad intrínseca y parámetros clínicos, además de ofrecer recomendaciones de ejercicio y alimentación, materiales didácticos, recordatorios de medicación o sistemas de alertas.

La aplicación de sistemas digitales que favorecen la monitorización remota acercan el proceso del cuidado de la persona mayor a su domicilio e integran a todos los actores relevantes (paciente, cuidador y profesionales de la salud de atención primaria y atención hospitalaria). De esta manera, se favorece la ayuda en la toma de decisiones clínicas y se aumenta la calidad de vida y el bienestar físico, emocional y social de las personas mayores y de su entorno.

Además, estos sistemas innovadores de telemonitorización en personas mayores pueden contribuir a avanzar en la sostenibilidad del sistema sanitario, pues prometen una reducción del 10 % en los costes relacionados con la hospitalización, la atención de urgencias y especializada, lo que se traduciría en una disminución del 3 % en los costes totales de salud anuales.The Conversation

Jaime Barrio Cortes, Médico de familia e investigador senior en Fundación para la Investigación e Innovación Biosanitaria en Atención Primaria (FIIBAP). Director del Máster en Salud Escolar y docente en Facultad de Salud, Universidad Camilo José Cela y Beatriz Benito Sánchez, Investigadora científico-técnica en Fundación para la Investigación e Innovación Biosanitaria de Atención Primaria (FIIBAP), Servicio Madrileño de Salud

Este artículo fue publicado originalmente en The Conversation. Lea el original.

 

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NAACP takes an antiwar stand on Gaza

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Haifa in may
Unattributed photo that was in Haaretz, of a protest march on May 4, 2024 in Haifa. The protests have become more massive and combative since.

NAACP urges Biden to limit weapons shipments to Israel and help end the war

by Manuel Castro-Rodríguez

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which is the largest US civil rights organization, urges Biden-Harris administration to stop shipments of weapons targeting civilians to Israel and push for ceasefire. in a White House statement published on June 6, the administration pointed out:

Over Memorial Day weekend… Israel launched airstrikes into Rafah Refugee Camp in the south of Gaza City, resulting in the deaths of 45 Palestinians and leaving over 200 people, many of whom were young children, injured. The airstrikes occurred despite an order from the top United Nations court for Israel to halt its operation there. The White House has described the weekend’s attacks as more than tragic. Following the attack on southern Israel that killed around 1,200 people, reports from the UN note the total death toll of Gazans has reached over 36,000 with another 81,000 injured. Nearly 500 Palestinians in the West Bank, including 117 children, have also been killed. On Friday, May 31, the White House issued a three-stage proposal to define the path to a permanent ceasefire and return of the hostages currently held by Hamas.

NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson shared the following response:

The NAACP has and continues to express our profound sympathy to civilians whose lives have been unjustly impacted in the crossfire of conflict. What happened on October 7 was a tragedy, and it is our hope that those with loved ones still in captivity are reunited as expeditiously as possible.

As the nation’s leading civil rights organization, it is our responsibility to speak out in the face of injustice and work to hold our elected officials accountable for the promises they’ve made. Over the past months, we have been forced to bear witness to unspeakable violence, affecting innocent civilians, which is unacceptable. The most recent statement from the Biden administration is useful but does not go far enough. It is one thing to call for a ceasefire, it is another to take the measures necessary to work towards liberation for all. Decades of conflict reflect that factions inside Israel and Hamas actively work against resolution of the conflict. The latest proposal must clarify the consequences of continued violence. The United States and the international community must be willing to pull the levers of power when appropriate to advance liberation for all.

The Middle East conflict will only be resolved when the US government and international community take action, including limiting access to weapons used against civilians. The NAACP calls on President Biden to draw the red line and indefinitely end the shipment of weapons and artillery to the state of Israel and other states that supply weapons to Hamas and other terrorist organizations. It is imperative that the violence that has claimed so many civilian lives, immediately stop. Hamas must return the hostages and stop all terrorist activity. Israel must commit to an offensive strategy that is aligned with International and Humanitarian laws. Peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians can only align when the humanity and common needs of people within the region are respected. Centuries of conflict reflect that violence results in more violence. The spillover effect in the United States is more racism, Anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia.

The current state of Gaza and the latest bombing of Rafah complicates an already dire humanitarian crisis. Relief workers have also been killed while attempting to administer aid and support to the people of Gaza. The NAACP strongly condemns these actions and calls for an immediate and permanent ceasefire so that resolution of the conflict towards a two-state solution can begin.

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Manuel Castro-Rodríguez, a native of Cuba and for a time a resident of Panama, lives in and reports from the Miami area.

 

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Polychroniou, What are the European Parliament elections about this time?

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EU
A minor side note for them, maybe a big deal for us: do they become a nest of sticky-fingers who all want to squirrel their loot away in a Panamanian shell company with a numbered bank account, or does Europe get adamant against that sort of thing? Flags in front of the European Parliament. European Parliament photo.

What’s at stake in the 2024 European Parliament elections?

C. J. Polychroniou, interviewed by Alexandra Boutri – Common Dreams

Europeans go to polls this week to vote for parliament. What is at stake? Is the future of the European Union at risk on account of the surge of the far right? But is the EU even a democratic institution worth saving? And why is the left in crisis across Europe?

Political economist and political scientist C. J. Polychroniou tackles these questions in an interview with the French-Greek independent journalist Alexandra Boutri.

Alexandra Boutri: Elections for the European parliament are taking place this week from Thursday 6 June to Sunday 10 June. Some 373 million citizens across the 27 members of the E.U. are eligible to vote, but it remains to be seen whether the “surge” in participation in 2019 will continue in 2024. Let’s talk about participation in the world’s only transnational elections because the general impression is that Europeans do not take the European Parliament (EP) elections very seriously.

C.J. Polychroniou: Participation in EU elections has always been low. We saw a “surge” in participation in the 2019 EP elections in which just slightly over 50% of EU citizens cast a vote. And this was the highest turnout in 20 years. So, yes, it’s obvious that Europeans are not as excited about EU elections as they are about national elections. Votes to the European Parliament also tend to be uncorrelated to national elections in the various member states. They are really low-turnout protest votes. And the reason that Europeans do not take the EP elections seriously is because they are fully aware of the EU’s democratic deficit.

Unfortunately, there is much to be said about the EU being in essence a corporate-driven entity with power vested in an unelected and unaccountable elite.

The EP is the only directly elected EU body, yet its authority is extremely limited. Unlike national parliaments, it cannot initiate legislation. What it does is simply debate legislation and can pass or reject laws. It can also make some amendments. It is the European Commission that is solely responsible for planning, preparing, and proposing new European laws. Those laws are then debated and adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union which consists of one government minister from each member state (and is not to be confused with the European Council which consists of the heads of government of every EU country). Essentially, we are talking about a rubber-stamping exercise on the part of the EP with regard to legislation. The European Commission is the EU’s executive body, surrounded by some 32,000 permanent bureaucrats, but the European Council is the highest political entity of the union. The commission president is proposed by the European Council and then approved by the Parliament.

In sum, the EP is not a normal legislature and is clearly the weakest of the three main institutions of the EU. Brussels is also the home of European lobbying. There are more than 30,000 lobbyists in town, most of whom represent the interests of corporations, and they work very closely with EU bureaucrats and politicians. Lobby groups are involved at all levels of lawmaking. So, unfortunately, there is much to be said about the EU being in essence a corporate-driven entity with power vested in an unelected and unaccountable elite. By the same token, countries like Germany, Europe’s economic and political powerhouse, have a lot to answer for. Germany has refused to “think European” with regard to EU reform, particularly on economic restructuring, solidarity, and social cohesion. Its policies have created a major rift between Northern and Southern Europe that is having far-reaching effects on the nature of the mission of the Union.

Alexandra Boutri: There is a general feeling however that this year’s EU elections are different. They matter because of the surge of far-right ideology across Europe. What’s at stake with the 2024 European Parliament elections, and why is the far right thriving across Europe?

C. J. Polychroniou: What one hears from European heads of government and EU enthusiasts in general is that the 2024 EU elections are crucial because they will have an impact on the EU’s response to the increase in democratic backsliding. To be sure, there is serious democratic backsliding across Europe. And I am not talking about the usual suspects like Hungary under Prime Minister Viktor Orban. We have seen, for instance, how so-called liberal European democracies like Germany responded to people protesting Israel’s mass killings in Gaza. The German government has cracked down on pro-Palestine protests, raided the homes of activists, and banned speakers from the country. In Greece, its right-wing Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis publicly boasted that his government will not tolerate university students setting encampments in support of Palestine and even took the outrageous step of trying to deport students from the UK and European Union member states that took part last month in a pro-Palestinian demonstration rally at Athens Law School. It is quite an irony indeed to hear European leaders urging citizens not only to cast a vote but to act “responsibly” in this year’s EU elections. For them, apparently, democracy exists only when citizens align their views with existing government positions on domestic and foreign affairs!

Having said that, the surge of the far right across Europe is a very serious and dangerous matter. The far right poses a threat to the survival of democracy in every country in which it happens to have a large presence. I am less concerned about its threat to the EU than the threat that the far-right ideology poses to the democratic development of domestic society.

The rise of the far right in Europe is driven by several factors. The first is fear of economic insecurity. There has been a fundamental shift in recent decades away from the social policies of the post-war era to a ruthless form of capitalism that exploits insecurities, produces staggering inequality, and exacerbates people’s anxieties about the future. The far right taps into people’s fears, insecurities, and grievances with promises of a return to a golden past and a restoration of “law and order.” It uses everywhere it flourishes ultra-nationalist and xenophobic language but in many, though not all, cases uses the context of an economic policy platform which is against austerity and open to social public spending for working-class people. The radical right-wing parties in France, Italy, and Finland, for example, are hostile to neoliberalizing reforms and EU-level austerity. In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally has managed to create the image of being a “working-class” party.

The second factor is disillusionment with the EU and with established policies. For many European voters, both the EU and mainstream political parties (center-right and center-left political parties) work directly against the interests of the common people and serve instead the interests of the few. Another factor is of course Europe’s failed migration policies, though there is no mechanical link between immigration and the surge of the far right.

Alexandra Boutri: Can you elaborate a bit on this? Because there is a widespread impression that immigration is the cause behind the surge of the far right.

C. J. Polychroniou: Immigration is having an effect on right-wing and extreme right-wing voting. That’s an undeniable fact. But the whole issue is quite complicated. It’s not a clear-cut case that immigration itself is what’s driving support (which is strongest, incidentally, among people of low income and with few educational opportunities) for the far right. For instance, some studies have shown that unskilled workers feel threatened by the presence of unskilled or low-skilled immigrants from outside of Europe simply because they feel unprotected but that “high-skilled immigration from non-European countries has a negative impact on extreme right-wing parties.” Thus, the formation of anti-immigrant sentiments may be related to the degree of economic and social integration of immigrants.

It appears that in times of economic downturn, voters turn to the right, not to the left, for solutions to their problems,

But there is an irony here. The EU as such has no integration policy. What it has is a strategy of migrant containment, and “integration” depends entirely on the member states, with national governments defining and applying the term differently.

Other studies have shown that certain demographic factors, such as emigration (the movement of people out of a region) may also be fueling the spread of anti-immigrant far-right parties. As young people leave the smaller towns in which they grew up for better opportunities in major cities, the regions they leave behind experience a rise in support for extreme right-wing parties due to the negative effects of local population decline and the subsequent deterioration of these regions. Sweden, not long ago dominated by the Social Democratic party, seems to provide the perfect example for the link between emigration and the surge of the far right.

Alexandra Boutri: European left-wing forces are in crisis. Why is that, especially since the socioeconomic environment in Europe is quite depressing? Shouldn’t one expect the radical left, and not the far right, to be thriving under dire economic conditions?

C. J. Polychroniou: The mainstream left is clearly in decline. By that I mean social democratic and socialist parties. That’s your mainstream left. But then the question is what do we mean by “radical left?” Do we include parties like Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain in the camp of the “radical left?” I think it would be a crude joke to do so. Some anti-systemic movements of the left are out there, but they are very small and fractured. In Greece, there are scores of radical left parties and organizations, but with few followers and yet it’s impossible to get them to agree to the formation of a United Front. You encounter the same phenomenon in many other European countries. It is a sad and disconcerting state of affairs.

The reasons for the crisis of the left are political and ideological in nature and scope, and they deserve an in-depth discussion which cannot be done here. However, I think there is a real misunderstanding on the part of the left about economic uncertainty and political preferences. Scholars who have studied the effects of economic crises on voting behavior found that it is extreme right-wing parties that tend to benefit from the effects of macroeconomic shocks. Of course, there are other variables at play when examining individual case studies where economic crises lead to political support for the extreme right, such as the nature of the political culture in place and the organizational skills of left parties and movements in existence. But, on the whole, it appears that in times of economic downturn, voters turn to the right, not to the left, for solutions to their problems.

Today this is even more understandable when the left has nothing concrete to offer to Europe’s citizens. In France, people cite inflation and security as their main concerns. And opinion polls show that the National Rally has a lead ahead of the EU vote. But I am not sure to what extent the left understands why it is failing to convince citizens why they should vote for it, and not the forces of reaction.

 

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¿Wappin? Getting into June / Entrando en junio

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Kafu Banton from his Facebook page
Kafu Banton, from his Facebook page.

Waiting for the afternoon’s soothing rain
Esperando la lluvia relajante de la tarde

David Bowie – Five Years
https://youtu.be/8gPSGrpIlkc?si=J11xLH-YFlyIX17r

Samy y Sandra Sandoval – Amor Escondido
https://youtu.be/gANNUorTljI?si=7t5h3ZTsslOfA-9W

B-52s – Give Me Back My Man
https://youtu.be/oD3W9CaiX8A?si=xlmH6HQLC5rp5Fak

Pedro Altamiranda – Concierto en ATLAPA 1984
https://youtu.be/BlCZ7kVl1wA?si=B18d53_aepRXlCkh

Cultura Profétca – Lollapalooza Chile 2022
https://youtu.be/iekFR6bsvsk?si=cwNMCXVrw2AcxceY

Erika Ender & Roberto Carlos – Despacito
https://youtu.be/-bCoFRsKpww?si=ETlNEaeI6M4GTY0P

Kafu Banton – Los Papeles
https://youtu.be/77uqTH7ksx0?si=QCAf7hirRLtgzB-m

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – When the Levee Breaks
https://youtu.be/pi4_t5-5IiY?si=M7rXRYBgUedw_BMX

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