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A long weekend Monday stroll in downtown Anton

The Panama News - Tue, 30/11/2021 - 02:34
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

The Panama News - Mon, 29/11/2021 - 11:02
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

The Panama News - Sun, 28/11/2021 - 01:56
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

The Panama News - Sat, 27/11/2021 - 13:45
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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Categories: Papua Nuova Guinea

STRI, George R. Angehr (1951-2021)

The Panama News - Sat, 27/11/2021 - 05:07
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.

 

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

The Panama News - Fri, 26/11/2021 - 20:37
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

The Panama News - Fri, 26/11/2021 - 19:04
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

 

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Jackson, An open holiday email to my congresswoman

The Panama News - Thu, 25/11/2021 - 23:53
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:   https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/11/10/panamas-ex-president-gets-second-acquittal-in-phone-tapping-case       ~   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.)   http://www.thepanamanews.com/2019/07/editorial-fascism/  

~ ~

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 block “Person-1” from 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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Categories: Papua Nuova Guinea

Today is the International Day Against Violence Against Women

The Panama News - Wed, 24/11/2021 - 17:48
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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Luis Enrique Martinelli doesn’t get bail, even as his lawyer plays up his songs

The Panama News - Wed, 24/11/2021 - 16:55
The Martinellis – from the Presidencia archives, the former president Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal with his sons Ricardo Martinelli Linares on the left side of the photo and Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares on the right. Busting up family solidarity seems to be part of the US Department of Justice strategy. For one thing, both of the Martinelli Linares brothers stood to be extradited from Guatemala at the same time but Uncle Sam opted to bring Luis Enrique to face US courts in Brooklyn alone on November 15. Luis Enrique Martinelli loses bail appeal
(of course!) yet some mysteries remain
by Eric Jackson

Who is this guy who flees the country, fights extradition and once returned, asks for bail? A Martinelli, of course, but that counts for precious little in the US courts. Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares remains in detention at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn?

On November 15 US marshals, with an assist from the New York City SWAT team, took custody of Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares, 39, in Guatemala and brought him via a chartered jet and a heavily guarded caravan to Brooklyn. The next day he had a bail hearing before US Magistrate Marcia M. Henry, who ordered him held without bail. Martinelli appealed, and that motion was heard by US District Judge Raymond J. Dearie on November 23.

At that hearing Martinelli’s lawyer, James G. McGovern, complained that his client was being held in isolation. In the days leading up to it there were allegations floated in social media here as to the conditions of this, both by supporters and detractors of the Martinelli family enterprise. The Metropolitan Detention Center is a federal facility for those awaiting trial or sentencing, or being held for probation violations. It was built in the early 1990s to hold 1,000 prisoners, but now holds more than 1,600. For those who get into superlatives about how bad it is, in New York City the consensus worst lockup for those who know is the grotesquely overcrowded jail at Riker’s Island. But set the comparative horrors aside and time spent at the MDC is no fun.

It was an odd request and an odd expectation, perhaps. But then, the defendant is one of those characters who can afford to blow money on frivolous legal motions with little chance of success. The difference between there and here is that the judge who can be bribed is much more common in Panama than in the USA, and that while Panama in effect has no disbarment, US lawyers may be penalized for making pleadings and motions that aren’t justified by fact or law.

However, as bad as it was that a defendant with resources to flee again who had run from US justice was asking for bail, Martinelli Linares’s lawyer did have a few things to say for his client. First, there was the assertion that ICE had been pressing to arrest and deport the ex-president’s son from the United States and one standard way to avoid all that is to voluntarily leave the country. The second was the attorney’s confirmation of what had long been rumored, that the son was singing about the father’s racketeering.

Said counsel for the defense: “There has been a long relationship between US DOJ and Mr. Martinelli. Perhaps some of this should be sealed. This is a sophisticated chess game to charge Person-1, the unnamed person in the indictment.” The context of the indictment leaves no doubt that “Person-1” is former Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal.

Judge Dearie, however, was left unimpressed. “I’m generally in favor of bail. This case is unusual. “Mr. Martinelli’s lawyer calls it a long relationship with DOJ, but I would call it a courtship which has not yet led to any action. I’m reminded of the old bromide: Fool me one, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Being in the MDC is unfortunate. But there are boats to the Bahamas, chartered flights, false diplomatic credentials – he is a demonstrated flight risk.”

The case at hand is, according to the feds, about the laundering of some $28 million in bribes from the hoodlum Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht. In a November 15 press release, the Justice Department thanked the governments of Brazil, El Salvador and Guatemala for assistance in the case. Earlier Switzerland had frozen a sum in nine figures in bank accounts attributed to the Martinelli Linares brothers and their father. Much of the tale of the Martinelli-Odebrecht connection has been aired before prosecutors and judges in Spain.

The US government hesitates to admit, let alone introduce into open court, the sorts of incriminating evidence that the American electronic spying apparatus, the National Security Agency, would bring to bear. If we are to believe revelations made year ago by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and other fact that have come out over the years, it would be reasonable to estimate that the US government would be in possession of all the data from all electronic banking transfers by the Martinellis, and very likely the internal banking records from when any cash transfer by a courier was registered in the bank’s database. What Uncle Sam wants is testimony that can be used in open court, albeit that some lawyer might challenge it as “fruit of the poisoned tree” evidence indirectly procured by way of unwarranted electronic surveillance.

Odebrecht bribes were not just a Martinelli administration phenomenon, but also went on in the Varela administration and probably also in the PRD administration of Martín Torrijos. Prosecutors in Panama won’t look at Torrijos era stuff because that administration left office in 2009, so that statutes of limitations have run for anything that happened in its term, bar exceptional crimes like murder. Odebrecht made its public works contracting debut in Panama during the Torrijos years, starting with an irrigation project and most famously with the first part of Panama City’s Cinta Costera. An irrigation project? For most of the Torrijos administration one Laurentino Cortizo Cohen, now the president of Panama, was the agriculture minister.

Under US law, a long running conspiracy, with characters moving in and out of it, does not end for the purpose of statutes of limitations beginning to toll until that conspiracy concludes. Defense lawyers would try to segment the timelines, but don’t put it past US authorities to try to reach back for more than a decade with respect to Odebrecht schemes. They may want information from Luis Enrique Martinelli about how those operated in his time, so as to provide analytical guides and casts of characters to prior and subsequent actions. They also may not be so interested in bringing cases about those other thing, but in having detailed blackmail material for foreign policy or other purposes.

Nor would the US interest in Luis Enrique Martinelli’s information necessarily be limited to the Odebrecht affair. An overpriced construction contracts with kickbacks “in miniature” case comes to trial here next year – the Blue Apple affair, which would nail most of the main construction companies in Panama and also Ricardo Martinelli Linares. Blue Apple would necessarily implicate the former Panamanian president and also involves a Costa Rican firm MECO, which currently has six Tico mayors and the president of that company facing Costa Rican criminal charges. Then there is the similar series of cases in which the Spanish company FCC ran graft schemes on the Panamanian people.

Nor would Martinelli scams necessarily be limited to the Panamanian government. Ricardo Martinelli Linares was acting Australian consul in Panama, also handling visa affairs for Papua New Guinea in that role. A crooked Panamanian shaking down applicants for extra payments for such things might not concern US justice, but on the other hand it might in the instance where a US citizen was subjected to that “no se puede” song and dance.

So WHAT IS the interest of the United States in these matters? Officially, in a Justice Department press release, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Breon Peace, said that: “The extradition of Luis Martinelli Linares to the Eastern District of New York is a significant first step in holding him accountable for allegedly laundering millions of dollars in bribe payments through bank accounts in New York and elsewhere. Combatting bribery and money laundering by extraditing and prosecuting corrupt foreign actors like Martinelli is a priority of the Department of Justice.”

Other than crimes committed in the USA? There are lots of reasons for speculation there.

In any case, the bottom line from Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares’s appeal of his initial bail denial? “The proposed conditions do not assure the court of this gentleman’s return. I enter a permanent order of detention for Mr. Martinelli,” Judge Dearie ordered.

But keep your ears open for some interesting tunes from the Martinelli brother that the feds think most likely to talk. As his father seeks a return to the Panamanian presidency, such songs might just prove to be a useful US foreign policy implement.

Might throwing a monkey wrench into the gears of THIS campaign be one of the US policy aims? As conspiracy theories go, that one is not so outlandish. Ricardo Martinelli campaign propaganda from his Twitter feed.  

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Apple sues Israeli spyware company

The Panama News - Wed, 24/11/2021 - 14:36
The controversial court decision just said that Ricardo Martinelli was not proven to have ordered, it, not that Pegasus spyware was not used against Panamanians. It was, and the equipment and programs used were stolen and may have been what were used for the “Varela Leaks.” Panama’s biggest national security problem at the moment is the COVID epidemic and its economic consequences, but the tracking and recovery of Martinelli’s spy system ought to be considered a major national security challenge here. Pixabay graphic. Apple sues Israel’s NSO Group in effort to protect iPhone users from Pegasus spyware by Kenny Stancil — Common Dreams

On November 23 Apple sued NSO Group, accusing the Israeli company—widely criticized for selling surveillance technology to repressive governments around the globe—of infecting targeted iPhones with Pegasus spyware, which has been used to crack down on dissidents and journalists.

In its lawsuit, the US tech giant accused the Israeli surveillance company of violating its terms and conditions as well as US federal and state laws.

“To prevent further abuse and harm to its users, Apple is also seeking a permanent injunction to ban NSO Group from using any Apple software, services, or devices,” Apple announced in a press release. “The lawsuit also seeks redress for NSO Group’s flagrant violations of US federal and state law, arising out of its efforts to target and attack Apple and its users.”

Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, said that “state-sponsored actors like the NSO Group spend millions of dollars on sophisticated surveillance technologies without effective accountability. That needs to change.”

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) celebrated Apple’s lawsuit, which comes just over two weeks after researchers from Amnesty International’s Security Lab and the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab revealed that before the Israeli government outlawed six Palestinian human rights groups, the cellphones of activists from those organizations were infected with Pegasus spyware.

“Spyware is a critical Israeli export,” JVP noted. “It’s about time they are forced to be held accountable.”

2

Apple’s Federighi said that “Apple devices are the most secure consumer hardware on the market—but private companies developing state-sponsored spyware have become even more dangerous.”

NSO Group used a new invasive technology “to attack a small number of Apple users worldwide with dangerous malware and spyware,” according to Apple, which said that its complaint “provides new information on NSO Group’s FORCEDENTRY, an exploit for a now-patched vulnerability previously used to break into a victim’s Apple device and install the latest version of NSO Group’s spyware product, Pegasus. The exploit was originally identified by the Citizen Lab, a research group at the University of Toronto.”

Citing Apple’s complaint, The Verge explained how the attack worked: “Using the Apple IDs it created, NSO would send data to a target via iMessage (after determining that they were using an iPhone), which was maliciously crafted to turn off the iPhone’s logging. That would then let NSO secretly install the Pegasus spyware and control what was being collected on the phone.”

In its press release, Apple commended “groups like the Citizen Lab and Amnesty Tech for their groundbreaking work to identify cyber-surveillance abuses and help protect victims,” and added that “to further strengthen efforts like these, Apple will be contributing $10 million, as well as any damages from the lawsuit, to organizations pursuing cyber-surveillance research and advocacy.”

Apple’s lawsuit comes two years after Facebook became the first company to sue NSO Group, which it did in 2019 for targeting WhatsApp users. As The Verge noted Tuesday, “Apple and WhatsApp aren’t alone in their push against NSO Group in court, as last year, tech companies including Microsoft and Google filed a brief supporting Facebook’s lawsuit.”

The New York Times, which first reported Apple’s lawsuit, said that the new complaint “represents another consequential move by a private company to curb invasive spyware by governments and the companies that provide their spy tools.”

“Apple executives described the lawsuit as a warning shot to NSO and other spyware makers,” the Times noted. Ivan Krstic, head of Apple security engineering and architecture, told the newspaper that “this is Apple saying: If you do this, if you weaponize our software against innocent users, researchers, dissidents, activists or journalists, Apple will give you no quarter.”

Alluding to Pegasus’ zero-click infection scheme—which NSO carried out after creating over 100 fake Apple IDs—Heather Grenier, Apple’s senior director of commercial litigation, told the Times that “this was in flagrant violation of our terms of service and our customers’ privacy.”

“This is our stake in the ground, to send a clear signal that we are not going to allow this type of abuse of our users,” Grenier added.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration blacklisted NSO Group and Candiru, a similar firm, in a development the Times called “the strongest step an American president has taken to curb abuses in the global market for spyware, which has gone largely unregulated.”

The Commerce Department’s ban, which prohibits US organizations from working with the pair of Israeli surveillance companies, came less than four months after the Pegasus Project, a media consortium of more than 80 reporters from 17 news outlets in 10 countries, analyzed a trove of leaked data and exposed how NSO Group’s hacking tool “has been used to facilitate human rights violations around the world on a massive scale.”

The investigation, published in July, also identified the phone numbers of over a dozen heads of state on a leaked list of more than 50,000 potential targets of Pegasus. The findings were met with widespread condemnation from human rights experts, including Agnès Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International, and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

While Bachelet advocated for stricter regulation of surveillance technologies to prevent human rights abuses, whistleblower Edward Snowden—who has lived in Russia with asylum protections since leaking classified materials on U.S. government mass surveillance in 2013—called for an end to the spyware trade. Less than a month later, three U.N. special rapporteurs demanded a global moratorium on the sale and transfer of spyware.

Moody’s, the ratings agency, has warned that NSO Group’s “$500 million of debt and severe cash flow problems” put the company “at risk of default,” according to the Times. “Digital rights experts said Apple’s suit threatened NSO’s survival.”

“NSO is now poison,” Ron Deibert, director of Citizen Lab, told the newspaper. “No one in their right mind will want to touch that company. But it’s not just one company, this is an industrywide problem.”

“Steps like this are useful, but incomplete,” he added. “We need more action by governments.”

 

 

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The Panama News blog links, November 22, 2021

The Panama News - Tue, 23/11/2021 - 01:50
The Panama News blog links a bilingual Panama-centric selection of other people’s work
una selección bilingüe Panamá-céntrica de las obras de otras personas If you are not bilingual Google Translate usually works
Si no eres bilingüe, el traductor de Google generalmente funciona Canal, Maritime & Transportation / Canal, Marítima & Transporte

Seatrade, PanCanal hires US Army Corps of Engineers as water consultant

Denver Business Journal, Copa resumes flights to and from Denver

Hellenic Shipping News, Euronav jobs for Panamanian seafarers

Seatrade, Container shipping Q3 profits surpass tech giants

Economy / Economía

La Prensa, Movimientos en la Zona Libre de Colón crecen

EFE, La OCDE cree que Panamá debe mejorar el intercambio de información fiscal

La Estrella: Intermediarios en la cadena de la carne elevan los precios, dice Anagan

BBC, ¿Por qué Argentina no supera su problema de inflación?

Galbraith, Whipping up America’s inflation bogeyman

Roach, The Fed must think creatively again

CEPR, Biden makes the right call on Powell and Brainard

2 Science & Technology / Ciencia & Tecnología

PNAS, Deep geothermal exchange between Panama and the Galapagos?

BBC, Will printable solar cells reshape buildings?

Lillo, Los filtros de luz azul para pantallas ni cuidan la vista ni ayudan a descansar

BBC, La carrera científica para encontrar a las personas resistentes a la covid-19

News / Noticias

SouthCom, US Army South commander visits Panama

Radio Panamá, Martinelli Linares tendrá audiencia de fianza el 23 de noviembre

DHS, US Customs and Border Protection visits Panama

DA, USA grants citizenship to children born abroad to same-sex American parents

DW, Argentina’s president set back in midterm elections

El Mundo, La relación de entre Estados Unidos y El Salvador está ‘en pausa’

BBC, Chile presidential poll goes into polarizing run-off

AFP, Candidatos presidenciales cierran campaña en Honduras

Axios, Countries refuse to take migrants back

The New York Times, NY Assembly: Cuomo engaged in sexual harassment

3 Opinion / Opiniones

De la Cuadra, La amenaza neofascista y la contención democrática

Scahill: From Bush to Obama, and Trump to Biden, US militarism is the great unifier

Santamaría, Residuos o constituyente

Sagel, Una actitud incomprensible

Fisher, El furor del ser panameño

Gómez, El rapto de la República

4 To see the video click here / Para ver el video toque aquí Culture / Cultura

TVN, ‘Chico Heron y el último 42’ triunfa en el Sport Film Festival

NPR, Meet Latin Grammys winner Ruben Blades

ColLive, Why the rabbi removed his shoes on a NYC subway

Valovic, We should reject Zuckerberg’s dehumanizing vision of a “Metaverse”

BBC, Lin-Manuel Miranda on the ‘dirty secret’ hidden in Tick, Tick… Boom!

Aramayo, ¿Seguimos viviendo bajo los principios de propaganda de Goebbels?

Guardia, Estudiar en un palacio: el Instituto Nacional y la Escuela Normal de Santiago

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McCarthy’s rant

The Panama News - Fri, 19/11/2021 - 14:42
“McCarthy has now shown more anger about making child care affordable than he has about the insurrection on January 6th,” said the Democratic representative from New York, Mondaire Jones. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks on the House floor on November 19, 2021. Photo taken from House TV. Kevin McCarthy derided over “unhinged” speech against the Build Back Better Act by Jake Johnson — Common Dreams

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is drawing widespread ridicule for his rambling, marathon floor speech against the Build Back Better Act, which the California Republican characterized as the “single most reckless” spending bill in US history despite it being a fraction of the cost of the tax cuts he championed just four years ago.

McCarthy’s speech—delivered with a group of Republicans seated in the House chamber and packed with strange personal anecdotes and irrelevant asides—began late Thursday as Democrats moved to vote on the roughly $1.75 trillion reconciliation bill, which includes billions in funding for climate, child care, housing, and other priorities.

The GOP leader’s speech—which continued into the early hours of Friday morning—forced Democrats to recess and delay the planned vote.

“Imagine being this upset about Americans having lower drug prices, paid family leave, affordable child care, healthcare, universal pre-K and extended child tax credits,” Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN), the whip for the Congressional Progressive Caucus, tweeted late Thursday. “McCarthy must only hate prosperity for families, because he joyfully passed $2 trillion in corporate giveaways.”

Reprentative Mondaire Jones (D-NY) called the California Republican’s remarks “unhinged” and argued that “McCarthy has now shown more anger about making child care affordable than he has about the insurrection on January 6th.”

After McCarthy finally left the House floor Friday morning after eight and half hours, Representative Don Beyer (D-Va.) tweeted that Democrats are “still focused on lowering drug prices, reducing child and healthcare costs, fighting climate change, and cutting child poverty.”

Democrats are now expected to hold a final vote on the Build Back Better package at 8:00 am ET Friday, hours after the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the legislation would add $160 billion to the federal budget deficit over ten years.

By contrast, the CBO in 2017 projected that the GOP’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would add $1.4 trillion to the deficit over a decade.

In a statement released late Thursday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen argued that “the combination of CBO’s scores over the last week, the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates, and Treasury analysis make it clear that Build Back Better is fully paid for, and in fact will reduce our nation’s debt over time by generating more than $2 trillion through reforms that ask the wealthiest Americans and large corporations to pay their fair share.”

“A particularly salient aspect of the revenue raised by the legislation,” Yellen added, “is a historic investment in the IRS to crack down on high-earners who avoid paying the taxes that they owe, which Treasury estimates would generate at least $400 billion in additional revenue.”

The small group of right-wing House Democrats who held up the reconciliation package earlier this month over purported—and, according to progressives, bad-faith—concerns about its costs appeared satisfied with the CBO’s assessment and indicated they would support final passage.

“There is a lot of good in this bill, and as a pragmatic Democrat who wants to deliver for my constituents, I am never one to let the perfect become the enemy of the good,” said Representative Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), who in September joined several other corporate-backed Democrats in voting against allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies.

If the House passes the Build Back Better Act on Friday, it will head to the evenly divided Senate amid questions over whether Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) will vote yes. In recent weeks, the two senators have helped cut the legislation’s top-line price tag in half, slashing the proposal’s pre-K funding and removing key climate provisions such as the Clean Energy Performance Program.

Thanks to such changes, the second most expensive component of the reconciliation bill is now a $285 billion tax cut that would predominantly benefit rich households. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is currently working on a compromise proposal that would limit the provision’s benefits for the wealthy.

Another obstacle in the Senate could be the unelected parliamentarian, who is set to hand down opinions on whether crucial elements of the bill—including Democrats’ proposed immigration reforms and plans to lower drug prices—comply with arcane reconciliation rules.

Despite Manchin and Sinema’s repeated threats to tank the measure and other potential roadblocks ahead, Reprentative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) expressed confidence late Thursday that the Build Back Better Act will soon clear both chambers of Congress and reach President Joe Biden’s desk.

“I believe that we will have 51 votes in the Senate,” Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in an appearance on MSNBC.

 

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¿Wappin? A friend cries to heaven ~ Un amigo llora al cielo

The Panama News - Fri, 19/11/2021 - 10:35
El Campeón stood guard, with a friend backing him up. And in the end… / Y al final… Joss Stone – Never Forget My Love
https://youtu.be/T8b2u10BnQw Yomira John & Galu – Goe Massi, Goe Bunor
https://youtu.be/ADYfqU9xVjM Pablo Alborán – Si Hubieras Querido
https://youtu.be/PO7Q7SD1JSk Atahualpa Yupanqui – Preguntitas Sobre Dios
https://youtu.be/Z81bPPknxDU Adele – My Little Love
https://youtu.be/zIF70l1zUKU Ruben Blades & Lin Manuel Miranda – Pedro Navaja
https://youtu.be/y0JCWhvGtn4 Mon Laferte – No Soy Para Ti
https://youtu.be/iZ-wJJH0phU U2 with Mick Jagger & Fergie – Gimme Shelter
https://youtu.be/1T2w2HiG4cE Natalia Lafourcade – Lo Que Construimos
https://youtu.be/RS6CRP_OoQA David Bowie – Heroes
https://youtu.be/bsYp9q3QNaQ Allen Stone & Alessia Cara – Bed I Made
https://youtu.be/4y2EwbIzfeo Marc Anthony – Mala
https://youtu.be/kjqMFOcRpuI Zahara – Nyamezela
https://youtu.be/pps3E1GPsE8 Sin Bandera – Ahora Sé
https://youtu.be/XXZIqFHFadQ Beth Hart – Caught Out In The Rain
https://youtu.be/lzdJf7Hqttk Led Zeppelin – Dazed and Confused
https://youtu.be/ZQgYn23Xvck Grateful Dead – Live at Buckeye Lake 1993
https://youtu.be/YDgqP_4Q_fM

 

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Editorials: The Mob in high places; and Imperial hubris in Miami

The Panama News - Wed, 17/11/2021 - 02:32
Left to right: Raúl Pineda, the late Agustín Lara, and Laurentino Cortizo. 2019 campaign trail photo. Mobbed up politics

NOW, we have the brother of slain Registro Civil deputy director, PRD activist, former candidate for legislature and law partner of legislator Raúl Pineda, Agustín Lara, accusing legislator Leandro Ávila of behind behind his sibling’s gangland-style assassination.

Pineda? There have been relatives of slain intra-PRD rivals who have accused him of being behind assassinations, but never have such allegations stuck. Nor have drug smuggling activities that involved his aides, associates or automobiles ever been pinned on him.

National Police director John Dornheim says that the investigation is on to go after the intellectual author of the Lara hit, he’s not going to say too much, but at the outset he opined that Lara was gunned down as part of a dispute between drug gangs.

PRD secretary general Pedro Miguel González points the finger at gang infilitration of Panamanian politics and says it needs to end.

Do we accuse González of misdirection, that it’s something wrong with his party, not anybody else’s? That would be a bogus allegation. The corruption in our political system reaches into all factions and all levels and branches of government.

November 15 was the ninth anniversary of the disappearance of Securities Market Superintendency investigator Vernon Ramos, who was looking into the Financial Pacific insider trading fraud and money laundering scandals swirling around the Ricardo Martinelli entourage during that administration.

Organized crime is not just drugs, but a lot of drug money has been invested in politics and the racketeers tend to play rough.

González is right, but under our present constitution the judges and politicians tend to confer impunity on one another.

The solution is far easier said than done. The difficult answer is an originating constitutional convention that assumes all governmental power while in session and drafts and convinces voters to pass a new national charter that dismantles all of the structural incentives for corruption, bars a long list of people from any public office and schedules new elections to replace all leaders of all branches of government.

But we would need a constitutional amendment to convene such a thing, and then elections to the convention wherein people don’t sell their votes and their country for bags of groceries.

We would need a new political culture, wherein people gain the sophistication to distinguish between politicians with whom they disagree and traitors to Panama, between those to tolerate and those to cast away.

 

 

2 Miami politics hits reality

No doubt the gatherings of right-wing Cuban, Venezuelan and Nicaraguan exiles — probably with a few Panamanians in the mix, too — were major events in Florida Republican politics. Matt Gaetz must feel encouraged about his re-election chances, and Ron DeSantis about his presidential ambitions.

The uprising in Cuba that they had hoped to boost? It was a dud.

Yes, it can be truthfully said that the Cuban government intervened to make it a dud. Would-be protest leader were not allowed to leave their homes that morning. There are already too many dissidents in prison in Cuba, for various offenses, some of which should not be on the books. People in Cuba know that to go out in public and criticize the government is to risk some unpleasant consequences.

But still, were Cubans moved by the call coming from an exiled resistance movement founded by Fidel Castro’s ex-brother-in-law, they would have braved many things to turn out and protest. This 1940s and 1950s fight between two very rich Cuban families, the Castros and the Díaz-Balarts, may not be framed in such terms either in the USA or in Cuba. But it’s something historical, something antiquated. Cubans are pressing for freedom on many fronts in terms of their own society. The Cuban government is responding to the demands in various ways, often enough granting them or parts of them, but always under severe constraints imposed by the US economic embargo. It’s just a different paradigm from what the Miami exile leadership wants it to be. Cubans, even those who are annoyed by their government, don’t want to take orders from Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz or the Díaz-Balart family.

So what does it mean, what should it mean, for the rest of Latin America? The Miami exile leadership has had undue influence in Washington, and it has hurt US relations with the rest of the hemisphere on a regular basis for many years.

The most recent salient example was the coup in Bolivia, which has not only failed and left bitter memories in Bolivia, but which has pretty much destroyed the credibility of the OAS.

In Panama a few years back a Miami exile terrorist cell would have set off a 300 pounds of semtex bomb that would have destroyed the University of Panama central campus and killed people at the nearby Arnulfo Arias Hospital Complex, and after that plot was disrupted those arrested for it corrupted Panamanian officials in order to get away with it.

The Miami exile leadership is just another far-right Republican faction, a US phenomenon now. They don’t speak for Cubans in Cuba, not even the dissidents. They certainly don’t speak for any other Latin American nation. The gap between this movement’s self-promotion and the reality on the ground in Havana was the main thing that was demonstrated on November 15.

 

 

Frida Kahlo portrait by Arty Fame.

          At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.

Frida Kahlo          

 

Bear in mind…

 

In most things success depends on knowing how long it takes to succeed.

Montesquieu

 

Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.

Margaret Atwood

 

If I have questions about the universe on my mind when I go to bed, I can’t turn off. I dream equations all night.

Stephen Hawking

 

 

 

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Edwards, The two new COVID antiviral drugs

The Panama News - Mon, 15/11/2021 - 06:20
The two medications. Photo by Nina Drozdowa/Shutterstock Merck v Pfizer: here’s how the two new COVID antiviral drugs work and will be used by Alexander Edwards, University of Reading

We’ve waited 20 months for a medicine to blunt the coronavirus, and now two have appeared. Earlier this month, the UK medicines regulator approved molnupiravir, the COVID antiviral developed by Merck and Ridgeback Therapeutics. Among adults with mild to moderate COVID who were at risk of developing serious disease, it cut the chances of being hospitalized or dying in half.

Now, Pfizer has released results from trials of its antiviral drug – paxlovid. These suggest it reduces the risk of hospitalisation or death by 89% among those most vulnerable to COVID.

But aside from the numbers, what are the differences between these two antivirals?

Molnupiravir disrupts the replication of the virus. It mimics a building block of the virus’s genetic material, and so when the virus reproduces, gets incorporated into its RNA. This creates errors in its genetic code, and when enough of these build up, an “error catastrophe” stops the virus reproducing altogether. This powerfully destructive process inspired researchers when developing the drug – it’s named after Mjölnir, the hammer wielded by the god of thunder Thor.

Paxlovid also stops viral replication, but in a different way. It works by binding to an enzyme – called a protease – to stop it from functioning. The coronavirus needs this enzyme to be functional in order to reproduce.

That two different classes of antiviral have succeeded – one interrupting RNA replication, the other gumming up an essential protease – is tremendous news. Two very different drugs are much more likely to be useful in combination than two drugs that work the same way.

They potentially could also help treat diseases beyond COVID. Molnupiravir and drugs like it might be effective against other diseases caused by RNA viruses. Indeed, molnupiravir started out being developed not with COVID in mind, but as a treatment for influenza and respiratory syncytial virus.

Conversely, the protease blocked by Pfizer’s drug is found in most coronaviruses, offering hope that we will never again face a new relative of Sars or Mers without any medicines.

How will we use them?

The first thing to say is that Pfizer’s figures are only interim results, and are yet to be reviewed by other scientists. Regulators will need to scrutinise these results before paxlovid is authorised. Even if all goes well, it’s unlikely to be available until next year. For the time being, only molnupiravir will be used.

A key feature of both drugs is that they can be taken orally, which sets them apart from other treatments being developed – such as monoclonal antibodies – that need to be given via infusion or injection. With both antivirals, patients will be able to take them at home.

An elderly man taking a pill with a glass of waterThese drugs have the potential to suppress COVID without a time-consuming trip into hospital. sebra/Shutterstock

This is important because it can be surprisingly tricky to treat an acute infection like COVID or influenza with antiviral medicines. The general principle is straightforward – slow the virus so the patient’s immune system can beat the infection before too much harm is done – but doing this quickly enough is hard.

Molnupiravir, for example, should be taken as soon as possible following testing positive (and within five days of symptoms starting). The Pfizer drug, meanwhile, appears to be beneficial when administered within three to five days of symptom onset. By the time someone has deteriorated and has been raced to hospital gasping for oxygen, it may be too late for these treatments – the virus may have spread far enough to cause serious damage. Being able to give these drugs to people at home rather than in hospital could help avoid this.

But you also need to know who exactly to treat. We can’t offer antivirals preemptively to anyone with a respiratory infection, or even just to the 40,000 people testing positive with COVID each day in the UK. There aren’t enough of these drugs for that, and most of these people wouldn’t benefit. Instead, we must learn exactly who will benefit and identify them fast.

By now, we know well what types of patients are most vulnerable to severe COVID, so guidelines could be used to direct these antivirals towards those who need protecting the most (such as people over a certain age or who have weak immune systems). Early detection of infection in vulnerable groups therefore remains paramount. Developing these drugs isn’t the end of the story – we now need to make sure we have systems in place to use them most effectively.

Looking to the future

COVID vaccines have been hugely successful in preventing severe disease, but the successful deployment of these antivirals will still be significant. Vaccines aren’t protective 100% of the time, and waning protection appears to be problem. Some fully vaccinated people are therefore still getting severe COVID.

There are also some people – such as those with certain conditions or who take certain medicines – whose immune systems don’t create a good protective response after vaccination. Antivirals may be able to plug these gaps in protection – offering back-up to the vaccine programme. We’ll probably always want these drugs on hand.

A female researcher using a pipette in a lab These drugs show that making antivirals is possible – and so should stimulate more research. Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock

We’ll hopefully have more. Antivirals are difficult to develop, and successes such as molnupiravir and paxlovid are vital to stimulate innovation. We can expect a burst of investment into antiviral science and engineering off the back of these drugs.

Finally, what about resistance? Unfortunately, using antivirals does come with a risk of viruses evolving to be unaffected by them. However, what’s exciting about molnupiravir is that it’s hard to see how the virus can escape from the “error catastrophe” that the drug creates in its genetic material. But just as we struggle to avoid antibiotic resistance, careful use of these antivirals will be essential.The Conversation

Alexander Edwards, Associate Professor in Biomedical Technology, University of Reading

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

 

 

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Carbon Market Watch, About Glasgow…

The Panama News - Sun, 14/11/2021 - 15:54
Archive photo of an ExxonMobil refinery near Chicago in 2014. They lied about climate change and don’t let them greenwash you into thinking otherwise. Photo by Richard Hurd. COP26: Half-baked carbon market rules fail to take heat off the climate

by Carbon Market Watch

After over five years of dithering and two weeks of intensive negotiations, the world’s governments settled on slimmed-down ground rules for carbon markets under the Paris Agreement’s Article 6. This deal will provide escape hatches for government and corporations seeking to renege on their climate responsibilities, in particular undermining the urgent emissions cuts needed in the short term.

Following years of delay, carbon markets and the rules governing them under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement were a hot topic and contentious issue at the UN’s 26th climate change conference in Glasgow (COP26). Following heated negotiations and horse trading, a compromise deal was sealed at the 13th hour, after the official end of the conference was originally scheduled to take place.

The patchy deal contains omissions through which planet-heating emissions can still continue to seep, while giving the impression or illusion of progress on paper. “At COP26, governments were meant to ensure that carbon markets help take the heat off the climate,” said Carbon Market Watch’s Executive Director Sabine Frank. “They came up with a compromise that risks turning up the temperature dial instead of keeping it below 1.5°C.”

Fossil fuel corporations and interests appear to have played a major role in straitjacketing ambition at this dangerous juncture for the global climate. “International carbon markets only make sense if they support the climate solutions of the future, rather than giving the polluters of the present and past an easy way out,” warns CMW’s Policy Director Sam Van den plas.

Return of zombie credits

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol established a system (the Clean Development Mechanism) that put into circulation hundreds of millions of carbon credits through thousands of projects. These zombie credits are of poor quality, lack environmental integrity and most of the projects they financed would have happened anyway without the financial support.

Rather than being completely scrapped, the agreement will likely allow around 300 million of these zombie credits to be transferred to the Paris Agreement. This is a travesty that will dilute and scupper current climate ambitions. “Sadly, the zombie credits have been given renewed life and could continue to be used for the next decade, cleansing climate targets on paper but spoiling the atmosphere in reality,” said CMW Policy Officer Gilles Dufrasne.

Double trouble averted

Negotiations at COP26 set out to avoid the risk that under the new carbon markets, a single tonne of CO2 reduced will be counted towards multiple climate commitments. This would water down efforts to stop the climate crisis.

It is imperative to ensure that emission reductions are correctly tracked and reported. In Glasgow, countries agreed to correct their final emission levels for carbon credit units that they authorise, but scrutiny will be required to ensure that companies do not exploit the very technical and unclear language included in the text.

“Double-counting of emission reductions defies logic and would be a futile attempt to cheat the atmosphere,” said CMW Policy Officer Gilles Dufrasne. “The agreement reached in Glasgow sends a signal that this cannot be tolerated, and voluntary carbon market actors have been put on notice: companies cannot use emission reductions which happen under existing climate targets as carbon offsets anymore.”

Markets inch beyond offsetting

Carbon offsetting is (at best) a zero-sum game and does not lead to global emission cuts since greenhouse gas reductions in one place are cancelled out by continued pollution elsewhere. The first step towards phasing out zero-sum offsetting is to automatically cancel a portion of every batch of credits issued.

The deal requires a mandatory 2% cancellation of each credit traded under the new centralised carbon market (article 6.4), confirming that tonne-for-tonne offsetting must end. However, this remains too low to contribute meaningfully to reducing emissions overall. Moreover, bilateral trades of emission reductions and removals brokered under Article 6.2 still unacceptably remain exempt from a mandatory partial cancellation.

“By and large, international carbon markets will be used to shift pollution from one place to another,” said CMW Policy Officer Jonathan Crook. “That governments would still want to rely on this faulty logic shows that our leaders have not grasped the urgency to act.”

Gaps in human rights

Carbon market projects affect real people in the real world. That is why one of our core demands for COP26 was the integration of language to respect, protect and promote human rights, as well as the rights of local and indigenous peoples into Article 6. Even though wording on human rights has now made it into the text, it overlooks indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent, and fails to give human rights the importance they deserve.

On a more positive note, any possible grievances flagged by peoples and communities negatively impacted by carbon crediting projects will be overseen and addressed by an independent body. For a long time, it worryingly and unacceptably seemed as if oversight for grievances would be left to the same body setting the ground rules for markets, but reason prevailed in the end to establish an independent mechanism.

“The small steps taken in the direction of better recognition of human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples are insufficient,” observes CMW Policy Officer Jonathan Crook. “Grievances will importantly be overseen by an independent body, but there is glaringly no guarantee to secure free, prior and informed consent from indigenous peoples.”

 

 

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Categories: Papua Nuova Guinea

¿Wappin? A selection that might even make Jimmy Swaggart cry

The Panama News - Sat, 13/11/2021 - 00:55
¿Cultura de raíces para un asesino llorón y un juez parcial?
Roots culture for a crybaby killer and a biased judge?
Elton John – Crocodile Rock
https://youtu.be/75r0nQu-hMs Question Mark & The Mysterians – 96 Tears
https://youtu.be/R7uC5m-IRns Mon Laferte – Amor Completo
https://youtu.be/CrGJvgKwrpU Joshue Ashby & Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional de Panamá – Historia de un Amor
https://youtu.be/htua2tBoZFM No Doubt – Don’t Speak
https://youtu.be/Z6QlCeXwjUk Third World – Slavery Days
https://youtu.be/5guNByfl3DY Billy Bragg – Never Buy the Sun
https://youtu.be/i3ccfJ9-g58 CHURUPACA – Mil y un Colores
https://youtu.be/oDyOJTeJDr8 Cultura Profética – Fuiste cruel
https://youtu.be/aEHtN1eFpmM Mercedes Sosa & Residente – Canción para un Niño en la Calle
https://youtu.be/IeGcAajj7hs The Diggers Descendants Calypso Band
https://youtu.be/dEqR2Pe3raw Bob Marley – Redemption Song
https://youtu.be/15_fvQr1pWQ Smokey Robinson & the Miracles – Ooh Baby Baby
https://youtu.be/uS75KeKpkes Billie Eilish – Your Power
https://youtu.be/vCASqOK03K8 Carlos Santana & John McLaughlin – A Love Supreme
https://youtu.be/p2IpZb3osxY

 

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Categories: Papua Nuova Guinea

UNHCR and private business sector brainstorm over refugee solutions

The Panama News - Fri, 12/11/2021 - 18:28
Archive picture of Colombians who in 2012 fled from the violence in their own country into Panama’s Darien province. UNHCR photo. Private sector proposes solutions for refugees in Panama by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees

Recognized companies and private sector groups in Panama participated on Tuesday, November 9, in the launch of the Business Roundtable on Refugees, a pilot program initiated by the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and the multinational company ManpowerGroup, to involve the private sector in the local integration of people forced to flee to their countries.

During a work session at the Museum of Contemporary Art, representatives of private companies and two groups that host more than 500 companies in Panama developed proposals to promote the economic and social inclusion of refugees.

Among the salient proposals:

• the creation of corporate social responsibility programs and social interest companies to facilitate the labor inclusion of refugees;
• participation in committees of business groups in advocacy with decision makers;
• the identification of training areas for refugees and the strengthening of skills and knowledge; and
• the inclusion of small and medium enterprises run by refugees as part of the private sector value chain.

The Roundtable, which will be consolidated in 2022, seeks to promote inclusion and sustainability strategies that take refugees into account as part of the country’s development initiatives, particularly in the current context of the post-pandemic economic recovery.

Panama is home to 15,500 refugees and applicants for refugee status, mainly from Latin American countries such as Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Venezuela, including people of productive age who yearn to contribute to the country’s economy.

In 2018 UNHCR and ManpowerGroup began a collaborative relationship in Panama that has allowed the creation, together with HIAS Panama, of an employability program for refugees and young Panamanians, Talento Sin Fronteras, as well as various advocacy spaces in Panama.

 

 

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Categories: Papua Nuova Guinea

Los infectólogos pediátricos de Panamá sobre la vacunación de los niños

The Panama News - Fri, 12/11/2021 - 11:57
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Categories: Papua Nuova Guinea