Papua Nuova Guinea

¿Wappin? En español ésta vez / In Spanish this time

The Panama News - Sab, 08/01/2022 - 00:59
January 9, 1964, just before Hell broke loose. On Sunday Panama observes The Day of the Martyrs, several days of disturbances in which 23 Panamanians and four US soldiers were killed and hundreds of people were injured. It marked a turning point in Panama’s process of decolonization, which made Panama an undivided Spanish-speaking country.
9 de enero de 1964, poco antes de que se desatara el infierno. Este domingo Panamá celebra el Día de los Mártires, varios días de disturbios en los que murieron 23 panameños y cuatro soldados estadounidenses y cientos de personas resultaron heridas. Marcó un punto de inflexión en el proceso de descolonización de Panamá, que convirtió a Panamá en un país indiviso de habla hispana. 
Esto también es lo que somos
This, too, is who we are
Rubén Blades & Roby Draco Rosa – Patria
https://youtu.be/ql0G312R2IQ Grupo Liberación – Soberanía
https://youtu.be/r1_tGvHMIIg Los Silvertones – Fin a mi soledad
https://youtu.be/z9DcKF4o6Qg Los Auténticos Decadentes & Natalia Lafourcade – Golpes en el corazón
https://youtu.be/RY0cvAKB7Ps Cienfue – Sereno
https://youtu.be/zurff7GDvPo Carlos Martínez – El Presidiario
https://youtu.be/gkAdQF42em8 Manuel de Jesús Ábrego – La Chola
https://youtu.be/m97Bb9OFie0 Paula Zuleta – Amargo y Dulce
https://youtu.be/1MHHZzeVXCk Yomira John & Galu – Goe Massi, Goe Bunor
https://youtu.be/ADYfqU9xVjM Samy y Sandra Sandoval – Por Culpa de Mi Pasado
https://youtu.be/145T5Nvqi9g Mon Laferte & Las Mujeres del Viento Florido – Se Va La Vida
https://youtu.be/i-BP2j-5o_g Kany García – DPM
https://youtu.be/30bpKbrhqek Arcadio Molinar – La Religion del Gólgota
https://youtu.be/S7FCzmqO7cA Denise Gutiérrez & Zoé – Luna
https://youtu.be/Mf_ib_gxtqE Joshue Ashby & C3 Project – Colón Surgirá
https://youtu.be/u4t_uOzc-84

 

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Categorie: Papua Nuova Guinea

The Panama News blog links, January 7, 2022

The Panama News - Ven, 07/01/2022 - 14:45
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 & Transport / Canal, Marítima & Transporte

Seatrade, MSC takes world’s largest container line crown from Maersk

Reuters, Brote de Covid pone fin a viaje de crucero retenido en Lisboa

Reuters, Hurtigruten cuts short Antarctic voyage after COVID outbreak

Simple Flying, How Copa Airlines navigates the COVID recovery

2 To watch click here / Para ver toque aquí Economy / Economía

Stabroek News, Billion-dollar Panama rice debt to Guyana still in limbo

AFP, Precios mundiales de alimentos aumentaron 28,1% en promedio en 2021

The Guardian, Fossil fuel firms buy Google ads that look like search results

Maimon, How cybercriminals turn stolen checks into bitcoin

AFP, Transacciones ilegales con criptomonedas

3 Science & Technology / Ciencia & Tecnología

Al Jazeera, Omicron is less severe because it does not infiltrate the lungs

Wired, COVID will become endemic – what then?

The Economist, African archaeologist challenges old ideas about Great Zimbabwe

La Estrella, La importancia ecosistémica de las orquídeas en Panamá

Mongabay, For species on the brink of extinction cloning is a loaded last resort

Newsweek, Ants seen healing wounded cecropia trees

News / Noticias

Telemetro, CSJ despide jueces de garantías, de juicio y de cumplimiento

Reuters, Panama tightens vaccine requirements for public officials

Al Jazeera, Rare disease patients push for access to treatment in Panama

La Prensa, Corte Suprema niega recurso de Corprensa

El Siglo, Revuelo por reelección indefinida en la Unachi

BBC, US charges Colombian man over Jovenel Moïse assassination

BBC, El Salvador reabre el caso de la masacre de los jesuitas

4 Para ver el video, toque aquí / To see the video, click here Opinion / Opiniones

Harris & Biden: The January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol

Maass, It’s January 6 and the warning lights are flashing red

Velasco, La gran dimisión de las mujeres

Varoufakis, Why we must challenge Zuckerberg’s ring of power

Gamboa Arosemena, Dirigentes y bases son clientelistas

López, Cada seis meses la misma retórica presidencial

Turner, Presión fiscal a las profesiones liberales y no a las empresas de gran capital

5 Culture / Cultura

EFE, Panamá entre semifinalistas para los Óscar con “Plaza Catedral”

La Estrella, Desfile de las Mil Polleras es suspendido por el Minsa

TVN, A partir del 17 de enero se podrá usar el Teatro Balboa para fines artísticos

Villanueva, “No miren arriba” de Netflix: Aprender de los yanquis

 

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Editorials: Defending Panama; and Defending the United States

The Panama News - Gio, 06/01/2022 - 10:50
Ascanio Arosemena Chávez, 1944-1964, is the young man in the diagonally striped shirt on the right side of this photo. He was a 19-year-old student, neither a saint nor a genius, who saw that people were protesting about Panama’s division by a US colony and as he came upon the scene saw that things had become violent. As a decent and patriotic Panamanian, he pitched in to help the wounded. An instant after this photo was taken, he was shot through the aorta and rather quickly became the first of Panama’s national martyrs that day. Just an ordinary guy, with perhaps a bit more bravery and sense of decency than most, he did his best to rise to an occasion. In death he became a symbol around whom a nation rallied to make itself whole. The job remains unfinished. Defending Panama

The constitution and defense plans here are largely in reaction to particular events. Moreover, they were usually for Panama at the insistence of others. 2021 was a year in which three great emergencies put Panamanian war powers to the test:

* The COVID-19 epidemic brought upon some emergency decrees, theoretically implied out of the war provisions of the dictatorship’s constitution that is still with us. The document does not specifically say that the president can do that, but then it also doesn’t spell out every possible emergency that might be called a war. Most Panamanians have sensibly rallied behind the national defense against the virus. Those who have not are divided among those who demand strict legal formality, those whose distrust of our national government overrides just about all other considerations, and citizens who have fallen under the spell of imported extremist conspiracy theories. To address the root causes of each of these objections is to go a long way toward strengthening Panama’s defenses. To let the virus go unchecked in the meantime would weaken this country in about every way.

* We are a way station along migration routes from the global south aimed at the United States. It’s an untenable situation, but on the other hand Panama can’t put airtight seals on our borders and should not try to do so. Imposing a bit of order is SENAFRONT’s job, and also that of Panamanian diplomacy. There are various technical solutions, but we should be looking not toward military force but the establishment of long-term migrant camps – little cities, really – with the assistance of the United Nations. The ad hoc Panamanian response has reflected our better, more decent values but we really can’t shoulder the burden of the world’s many diverse migration issues.

* One of Colombia’s most vicious far-right militias, allegedly demobilized in the partial peace settlement next door, never really disarmed. The just went through name changes and internal power struggles, continued their death squad warlord politics in the Colombian countryside and became an international drug gang that has invaded Panama and infiltrated our law enforcement and political institutions. The Clan del Golfo had copies of judicial search warrants before anyone else did.. They had key law enforcement personnel in their ranks. They had people on politicians’ payrolls and members of politicians’ families in the organization. They had incorporated some home-grown Panamanian gangs and allied themselves with others. Their downfall in a late 2021 series of raids appears to have been a US operation, with Panamanian authorities kept out of the loop until the last moment so as to maintain a veneer of national independence while keeping a deeply mobbed up political culture from thwarting the breakup of an organization that was smuggling drugs into the United States.

It’s very rude to say it, and for someone who loves Panama very sad to say it, but these three situations highlight an existential threat to Panamanian sovereignty. They are not the only indications.

Disputes within the ruling PRD adjudicated by hit men? The opposition Panameñistas offering as their defense that the Odebrecht bribe money was for the party, not the former president himself? The infamous mockery that the hoodlum former president Ricardo Martinelli’s lawyers have been running on the courts of several nations, with great success so far here? These are hallmarks of a failed state, a nation with an imploding political elite that’s allowing gangsters to come in and perform government functions.

If you look at the Panamanian constitution, the government is not properly structured to adequately defend the nation from these present threats. If you look at the maneuvering ahead of the 2024 presidential elections, there is no apparent champion waiting in the wings to redeem the nation.

There are no quick and easy answers. It is, however, easy to see the right starting point. Panamanians need to openly acknowledge that our existence as a sovereign nation hangs by a thread, and set aside a lot of petty ambitions and prejudices to defend this country.

 

2 The running mate of every Republican candidate this year. If the truth is to be told…

“Just the facts” was the oft-repeated line in televised US police fiction at a time when police were involved in assassination campaigns against civil rights workers and black militants. The most dishonest of US media are fond of repeating variations on that theme.

The reality of it all is that which facts are important to mention is a matter of opinion.

The reality of January 6, 2021 was that a veteran con man incited violence in a pathetic attempt to redeem an election that he lost by millions of votes, and also in the antiquated US electoral college.

It’s important that this whole story come out to the American people, even if a third of them will call it a lie.

It’s also important that the implications of the story should be dealt with in a calm and rational manner.

For those who committed crimes, let’s not have extremism in sentencing, but rather consequences appropriate to the offense. The nation needs accountability, not another celebration of cruelty.

Organizations that committed crimes need to be effectively broken up using existing laws. The Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys are criminal conspiracies, racketeering organizations that deal mainly with chump change bits of power rather than the big money that La Cosa Nostra was always about.

Donald Trump himself? January 6 is one issue, but his crimes in office, and on the way to office, merit longer and deeper exercises in congressional fact-finding.

One example: he tried to shake down former Panamanian president Varela for special treatment that would have allowed him to thwart a US bankruptcy court’s order and Panamanian condominium laws so as to allow his company to maintain control of what was the Trump Ocean Club in Punta Pacifica. As in, he solicited an unconstitutional emolument from a foreign power, yet nobody is Washington is investigating that because there are bigger fish to fry. Also, many more fish to fry.

As a prosecution strategy, better to go after Donald Trump and his children on sleazy little business and tax frauds, as those investigations are farther along. Giving the former president the status of convicted felon for his simpler crimes as soon as possible is surely the most effective way to inform the US electorate ahead of next November’s elections.

Truth and reconciliation? Today’s GOP is militantly opposed to truth, which precludes any reconciliation for the time being. There needs to be a full accounting before US society will be ready to calm down.

 

3 “Los fusilamientos del 3 de mayo,” a classic of antiwar art, is probably Goya’s most notorious monster picture, more so than his stuff about mythical creatures eating people. But despite this statement, he supported the French conquest of Spain and was cast out after Spain’s monarchy was restored.

Imagination abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters; united with her, she is the mother of the arts and source of their wonders.

Francisco Goya

Bear in mind…

I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.

Rosa Parks

Time is how you spend your love.

Nick Laird

I’m very conscious of the fact that you can’t do it alone. It’s teamwork. When you do it alone you run the risk that when you are no longer there nobody else will do it.

Wangari Maathai

 

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Convergencia Sindical, Minimizando el salario mínimo

The Panama News - Gio, 06/01/2022 - 08:09
El sindicato de trabajadores portuarios SIPAP, afiliado a Convergencia Sindical.
Foto del archivo de la cuenta de Twitter de CS.
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Rivers-Moore: Abortions as crimes, miscarriages taken to be abortions

The Panama News - Mer, 05/01/2022 - 10:53
The graffiti on the building reads, ‘The rich abort, the poor die. Photo by Megan Rivers-Moore. In Latin America, not only abortions but miscarriages can lead to jail time by Megan Rivers-Moore, Carleton University

Georgina and I are drinking coffee on a rainy winter evening in San José, Costa Rica. She’s telling me about her abortion, “When it was over, I felt a lot of things.… But the most overwhelming feeling was relief. I was so relieved that it was over and that I wasn’t pregnant anymore. I was so relieved to be alive and not pregnant.”

Abortion is criminalized throughout Latin America, but Central American countries have some of the strictest abortions laws in the world. El Salvador has been especially notorious, with abortion banned in all cases and prison sentences if caught — you can even go to prison for having a miscarriage or a stillbirth.

Despite the severity of laws throughout the region, an estimated 6.5 million abortions take place every year, and at least 10 per cent of maternal deaths can be directly attributed to unsafe abortion.

As debates about abortion are heating up in the United States once again, with an almost complete abortion ban in place in Texas since September and Supreme Court hearings that have Roe vs. Wade hanging in the balance, it’s worth paying attention to the hard fought struggles over abortion in other parts of the world where, like in the USA, religion plays a central role in politics and public life.

A “crime against life”

In Costa Rica, where I have done research on gender and sexuality for the past sixteen years, abortion laws are not quite as draconian. But Costa Rica has the dubious distinction of being one of the world’s last confessional states.

The country has a state religion, Roman Catholicism, meaning the Catholic church has an especially prominent place in public institutions like schools and hospitals. There are public debates around a variety of issues — like in vitro fertilization, euthanasia, same-sex marriage and abortion.

A woman holds a placard that reads in Spanish 'Neither Dead Nor or in Prison,' with grafitti behind her

 

A woman holds a placard that reads ‘Neither Dead Nor or in Prison,’ in Spanish, during an abortion-rights demonstration on the Day for Decriminalization of Abortion in Latin America march, in Mexico City, on Sept. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Ginnette Riquelme)

Costa Rica’s 1970 penal code criminalizes abortion as a “crime against life.” It is punished through jail sentences ranging between six months and three years for having an abortion, and between six months and 10 years for providing or aiding in securing an abortion.

What is called therapeutic abortion, or abortion meant to save the life or health of a pregnant person, is not criminalized, but rarely practiced. It took a ruling from the Inter-American Human Rights Commission to force the country to finally establish guidelines for therapeutic abortion, but they include many complex restrictions.

Abortion research in Costa Rica

It is widely accepted that criminalizing abortion does not make abortions less frequent, it just makes them less safe. What little research there is on abortion in Costa Rica is very dated. Activists primarily rely on a 2007 study that suggested 27,000 abortions took place in Costa Rica each year.

Over the past three years, I have interviewed people who have had clandestine abortions in Costa Rica. Some had their abortions 20 years ago, others, like Georgina, had their abortions the week before I interviewed them.

One of the most notable findings of my research so far is the huge change that came with the development of medical abortion.

I interviewed Emma, a lawyer, at her workplace:

“I found out I was pregnant in 1996 and I went to see a gynecologist that everyone knew did abortions. It was a fancy private clinic in Los Yoses. He said to me ‘I can’t give you general anesthetic, so you’re going to have to keep very still. If you move and I perforate your uterus, you’ll end up in the hospital and then we’ll both end up in jail.’ It’s not like that anymore, thank god. Now you can just get some pills, it’s so much easier.”

Emma is right, abortion is changing in Costa Rica and in Latin America — networks of committed volunteers help pregnant people access mifepristone and misoprostol (abortion pills) in a variety of ways, leading to significantly reduced complications.

Younger women who have had abortions recently told about me about their deep gratitude to the strangers that helped them. Xiomara, a 22-year-old university student said:

“I paid a little extra for the pills, because I could. Because you know they won’t deny them to anyone who needs them, even if they don’t have money. I was so glad that I wasn’t going to be pregnant anymore. It meant so much to me, that people I had never even met were helping me end my pregnancy, that I paid extra so that it would help cover someone else’s abortion.”

Woman wearing green hug and cryAbortion-rights activists react after lawmakers approved a bill that legalizes abortion, outside congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Dec. 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko) Birth no matter what

All of the people I interviewed about their clandestine abortions expressed relief at not being pregnant anymore and gratitude to the network of strangers that made it possible.

During the debates about the technical guidelines for therapeutic abortion, it became clear that many people felt strongly that pregnant people should be allowed to die rather than provided with a safe abortion.

When I interviewed Paola Vega, a deputy in the Costa Rican parliament and one of only three openly pro-choice elected officials, she said:

“The whole conversation has become radicalized. People actually argue that if a woman is dying while she’s in labor, she has to give birth no matter what happens because it’s God’s will. She has to give birth, and if she dies and if the baby dies, well, it’s God’s will. The whole discussion has gotten so much worse, so much more radical.”

A wave of young activists

The wave of young activists across Latin America who have renewed demands for access to safe, legal and free abortion has provided new hope and energy.

Often fighting under the slogan educación sexual para decidir, anticonceptivos para no abortar, aborto legal para no morir (sex education to be able to choose, contraceptives to not have to abort, legal abortion so we don’t die), young feminists have been at the forefront of a movement that is broad based and expansive, including anyone with a uterus and employing gender-inclusive language.

Strengthened by social media that has allowed information to be shared in real time, activists across Latin America have celebrated and gained energy from triumphs like the full decriminalization of abortion in Argentina in 2020.

In Costa Rica, corruption scandals and the pandemic have turned attention away from abortion, but with elections coming up in February, all the presidential candidates have been asked about their positions on the subject — putting the issue on the political agenda in a way that has never been before.

In the meantime, people like Mariana will continue to access abortions clandestinely:

The Conversation“The person I got the pills from said I needed to take them and have someone with me. But I couldn’t tell anyway, I didn’t want my boyfriend to know, so I took the pills alone. But you know what? They called me, I don’t know who it was, a volunteer I guess. She called and stayed on the phone with me for a long time, and then called me again a few times to check on me. So it turns out I wasn’t alone. And I felt a lot of love from that stranger on the phone, I wasn’t alone.”

Megan Rivers-Moore, Associate Professor, Women’s and Gender Studies, Carleton University

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

 

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Early dry season colors in an old hippie’s eyes

The Panama News - Mer, 05/01/2022 - 02:08
Like, Wow Man! Flower Power! photos by Eric Jackson

  

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The carbon and water implications of secondary forestry

The Panama News - Mar, 04/01/2022 - 18:14
Forest soils absorb water during the wet season and release it as stream flow during the dry months, helping ensure water security. Photo by Ana Endara – STRI. Predicting uncertain futures for tropical landscapes by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI)

The Government of Panama and other tropical countries supported resolutions passed during the recent UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), which highlighted the critical importance of curtailing deforestation and restoring tropical ecosystems. But how much carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere when tropical forests are destroyed? How much carbon is stored as they recover? This is essential to understanding what these resolutions will mean in terms of specific deforestation and reforestation actions in the tropics.

Understanding just how much deforestation affects carbon storage is not easy: deforestation rates are affected by factors ranging from local economic development to global political and economic forces. Scenario planning allows policy makers and researchers to grapple with uncertainty by visualizing deforestation pathways.

Based on measurements of forest carbon storage in Panama, a new study led by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) reduces the uncertainty of mathematical models predicting carbon dioxide release resulting from deforestation scenarios and highlights the amazing capacity of young, regenerating or secondary forests to pull this greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.

The authors offer three deforestation scenarios based on 1) recent deforestation trends, 2) rates calculated in the decades prior to 2000, and 3) more hopeful scenarios in which deforestation is halted entirely or even where forests regenerate on all available land.

To improve the accuracy of their predictions, they calculated deforestation rates and correlated the amount of forest lost with geographical features based on a set of maps of existing forest cover in Panama created by study co-author, Kendra Walker.

“Panama has been making strides to calculate both the carbon sequestration potential in its forests and emissions due to forest loss,” said Jefferson Hall, lead author and STRI staff scientist. “Scenarios can help decision makers better anticipate the potential consequences of alternative sets of land-use decisions, which have a significant impact on Panama’s climate mitigation strategy.”

The research group, which also included scientists from the Harvard Forest, Arizona State University, and the University of California Santa Barbara in the United States, the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, and Yale NUS in Singapore, leveraged a Panama-wide carbon density map produced using the airborne laser technology or LiDAR by coupling a decade-long study of secondary forests with more than 1.1 million tree measurements with local studies of often-neglected carbon pools in tree roots, soil, lianas, and coarse woody debris.

Their analysis of central Panama, about one-quarter of the country, includes the area crucial for the functioning of the Panama Canal, and visually depicts the landscape in 2030 and 2050 under potential deforestation scenarios. Their discussion includes an assessment of how these deforestation pathways would impact Panama’s carbon sequestration objectives.

They found that under current deforestation trends, or fairly little deforestation, central Panama could still store about 15 percent of the national carbon goals by 2050. If deforestation were completely stopped in central Panama and the forest were left to naturally regenerate on all available land, the country could achieve up to 56 percent of its goal by 2050. In contrast, at an accelerated deforestation rate, one where deforestation reverts to levels leading up to the millennium, central Panama would lose almost half of its forests and up to 25% of its carbon baseline by 2050.

An important feature of the study is that it allows an evaluation of individual deforestation events. For example, if Panama permits the clearing of up to 25,000 ha of mature forest for mining in the Donoso and La Pintada districts of Colon and Coclé as has been reported in the press, emissions could amount to over 11 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, or the equivalent of over 40% of the potential carbon gains under the Recent Trends scenario by 2030.

Initiatives to ensure that Panama meets its carbon sequestration goals going forward will require a combination of active reforestation and allowing passive natural processes of forest succession to take place. Letting these young secondary forests regenerate will draw on the local species that are adapted to local conditions.

These forests are also important for water security thanks to the “sponge effect,” by which forest soils absorb water during the wet season and release it as stream flow during the dry months.

“Our estimates of potential carbon storage demonstrate the important contribution of secondary forests to land-based carbon storage in central Panama,” said Hall. “Protecting these forests will contribute significantly to meeting Panama’s climate change mitigation goals and enhancing water security.”

This study was supported in part by Lloyds Tercentenary Research Foundation.

The peer-reviewed article is in Landscape Ecology, entitled “Deforestation scenarios show the importance of secondary forest for meeting Panama’s carbon goals,” by Jefferson S. Hall, Joshua S. Plisinski, Stephanie K. Mladinich, Michiel van Breugel, Hao Ran Lai, Gregory P. Asner, Kendra Walker & Jonathan R. Thompson, at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10980-021-01379-4}

2 Ensuring that Panama meets its carbon sequestration goals in the future will require a combination of active reforestation and allowing passive natural processes of forest succession to take place. Photo by Ana Endara – STRI

 

 

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The most important Panamanian baseball season starts on Friday

The Panama News - Lun, 03/01/2022 - 13:56
Play ball! by Eric Jackson

The national junior baseball tournament begins on Friday with Panama Metro visiting defending champion Cocle. Looking at the FEDEBEIS website, they don’t have the first-round schedule posted yet. I don’t yet know whether the opening game takes place in Penonome or Aguadulce. (If in the former I just might go.)

GENERALLY a flock of Major League Baseball coaches come here for the tournament and go back having signed a number of these teenagers to professional contracts. The scouting practices have changed over the years, as there is now a draft for young Latin American players. I’m not entirely sure how it works, but I suspect that this keeps the signing bonuses down for the Major League organizations.

Sadly, the NCAA doesn’t do that same and offer scholarships to athletes who could make the academic grade — it’s a quiet deal that has been made with professional baseball that they don’t. The way that a Panamanian kid gets to play NCAA ball is to go to a high school in the USA and get recruited there, or get into a university as an ordinary enrollment and walk on to make the team. For MOST players, four years developing at a US university is a better deal that playing those four years in the minors, as they can come away with an education that would have a lifetime value.

Israel Delgado, the Cuban manager of a young this year Herrera team, opined in La Estrella that this year won’t be a good one for outstanding pitching. (Cuba as exporter of athletic and coaching talent is another huge story in and of itself. Here Delgado is diplomatically correct in not mentioning the politics and racket of Panamanian baseball, what with a long tradition of FEDEBEIS being run by parasitic legislators. That’s also a major story by itself.)

Anyway, Delgado suggests that we may not see the next Mariano Rivera in this year’s tournament. Perhaps, however, we will see a big time franchise player slugger of the future. Or EVEN, your editor hopes, the Panamanian who will lead the long-suffering Detroit Tigers to another World Series championship after all these years.

For baseball fans these tournaments are a lot of fun. You need to be masked and vaccinated to get in the stadiums.

 

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PRD starts its second half talking to no more than a third of Panamanians

The Panama News - Lun, 03/01/2022 - 06:18
El Presidente Cortizo / President Cortizo. Foto de su cuenta de Twitter / Photo from his Twitter feed. If you’re not on the gravy train, it won’t apply to you
by Eric Jackson

Most Panamanian presidents have published the texts of their speeches at the start of National Assembly sessions rather promptly after delivering them. Often the discourses have been posted in real time video on their web pages. The Cortizo administration, however, has preferred advertising and influencers over readily available public information through public channels. For one thing, on their website and social media where there are opportunities for comment, they have to delay in order to arrange the canned applause from their call center activists.

It’s because there is so much pretense, especially about the economy. In the morning papers before the ceremonies and speeches, there were these tales of Panamanian tourism on the comeback trail. The International Promotion Fund (Promtur) plans to spend $31 million promoting Panama as a tourist destination to people in the United States, Canada, Spain, France, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Costa Rica. We are given the concerning but optimistic figure that at the end of 2021 hotel occupancy was at 37%, about three-quarters what it was in 2019. But first of all, in comparison to previous years, 2019 was horrible for Panamanian tourism. Moreover, that’s 37% of presently available rooms, but more than 40% of the hotels — skewed a bit toward the smaller ones — are closed. As in 37% of 23,000 rooms, as compared to 32,000 rooms before the epidemic hit. As in 8,510 occupied hotel rooms last week, which would have been equal to some 27% occupancy of the rooms we had two years ago.

Such an air of unreality blows all through the Cortizo administration’s economic pronouncements, which are presented something like a power point display on the president’s Twitter feed.

Nito claims an extraordinary 14.9% increase in Gross Domestic Product for the first three quarters of 2021 — as compared to a 2020 in economic free-fall and a bad economy when Nito took over in the middle of 2019. And as if in Panama increases in overall economic activity get distributed more or less to the whole population. The reality is that for most of us last year was a time of lower income and higher prices.

Nito speaks of “17,406 Panamanians” who received property titles for real estate that had been held by rights of possession in 2021. Well, if you believe that companies and so on are people — the number includes local government councils, churches, cooperatives and schools as well as the dwellings of real people. And who believes that the distribution of titles had nothing to do with party affiliation? Or that it was a matter of just small homeowners and not developers getting title to places where they don’t actually live?

The important truths about which the president spoke were related to the country’s battle with the COVID-19 virus. He may have left out a few embarrassments and false starts, but in generally he has done the reasonable things and gives reasonable advice: “Please go to get vaccinated at any of the 105 vaccination centers; for your family, your friends and the country.”

There were the usual lists of projects — the salient one the building of a new school of medicine and nursing at the University of Panama — and the promises of an all-out war on crime.

When it came time for National Assembly president Dr. Crispiano Adames to speak, it would have been difficult for many Panamanians to keep a straight face had he played up the crime issue amidst so many thuggish legislators. 

Instead Adames said that there is an “open door” for the labor movement to come in and talk, and perhaps come to a “national accord” for “harmonious cooperation.” But look for a strike wave this year instead.

Si no estás uno de los privilegiados, no se aplicará a ti

 

 

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Beckett & Robson, A transformation in genomics and applied epidemiology

The Panama News - Dom, 02/01/2022 - 16:08
The swab test. A zstock/Shutterstock photo. How COVID-19 transformed genomics and changed the handling of disease outbreaks by  Angela Beckett, University of Portsmouth and Samuel Robson, University of Portsmouth

If the pandemic had happened ten years ago, what would it have looked like? Doubtless there would have been many differences, but probably the most striking would have been the relative lack of genomic sequencing. This is where the entire genetic code – or “genome” – of the coronavirus in a testing sample is quickly read and analyzed.

At the beginning of the pandemic, sequencing informed researchers that they were dealing with a virus that hadn’t been seen before. The quick deciphering of the virus’s genetic code also allowed for vaccines to be developed straight away, and partly explains why they were available in record time.

Since then, scientists have repeatedly sequenced the virus as it circulates. This allows them to monitor changes and detect variants as they emerge.

Sequencing itself is not new – what’s different today is the amount taking place. Genomes of variants are being tested around the world at an unprecedented rate, making COVID-19 one of the most highly tested outbreaks ever.

With this information we can then track how specific forms of the virus are spreading locally, nationally and internationally. It makes COVID-19 the first outbreak to be tracked in near real-time on a global scale.

This helps with controlling the virus. For example, together with PCR testing, sequencing helped reveal the emergence of the alpha variant in winter 2020. It also showed that alpha was rapidly becoming more prevalent and confirmed why, revealing that it had significant mutations associated with increased transmission. This helped inform decisions to tighten restrictions.

Sequencing has done the same for omicron, identifying its concerning mutations and confirming how quickly it’s spreading. This underlined the need for the UK to turbocharge its booster program.

The road to mass sequencing

The importance of genomic sequencing is undeniable. But how does it work – and how has it become so common?

Well, just like people, each copy of the coronavirus has its own genome, which is around 30,000 characters long. As the virus reproduces, its genome can mutate slightly due to errors made when copying it. Over time these mutations add up, and they distinguish one variant of the virus from another. The genome of a variant of concern could contain anywhere from five to 30 mutations.

The virus’s genome is made from RNA, and each of its 30,000 characters is one of four building blocks, represented by the letters A, G, C and U. Sequencing is the process of identifying their unique order. Various technologies can be used for this, but a particularly important one in getting us to where we are is nanopore sequencing. Ten years ago this technology wasn’t available as it is today. Here’s how it works.

First the RNA is converted to DNA. Then, like a long thread of cotton being pulled through a pinhole in a sheet of fabric, the DNA is pulled through a pore in a membrane. This nanopore is a million times smaller than a pin head. As each building block of DNA passes through the nanopore, it gives off a unique signal. A sensor detects the signal changes, and a computer program decrypts this to reveal the sequence.

Amazingly, the flagship machine for doing nanopore sequencing – the MinION, released by Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT) in 2014 – is only the size of a stapler; other sequencing techniques (such as those developed by Illumina and Pacific BioSciences) generally require bulky equipment and a well-stocked lab. The MinION is therefore incredibly portable, allowing for sequencing to happen on the ground during a disease outbreak.

This first happened during the 2013-16 Ebola outbreak and then during the Zika epidemic of 2015-16. Pop-up labs were set up in areas lacking scientific infrastructure, enabling scientists to identify where each outbreak originated.

This experience laid the foundation for sequencing the coronavirus today. The methods honed during this time, in particular by a genomics research group called the Artic Network, have proved invaluable. They were quickly adapted for COVID-19 to become the basis on which millions of coronavirus genomes have been sequenced across the globe since 2020. Nanopore sequencing of Zika and Ebola gave us the methods to do sequencing at a never-before-seen scale today.

The MinION sequencer next to a pen The MinION sequencer, with a pen for scale.

That said, without the much larger capacity of the benchtop machines from Illumina, Pacific Biosciences and ONT, we wouldn’t be able to capitalize on the knowledge gained through nanopore sequencing. Only with these other technologies is it possible to do sequencing at the current volume.

What next for sequencing?

With COVID-19, researchers were able to monitor the outbreak only once it had started. But the creation of rapid testing and screening programs for other new diseases, as well as the infrastructure to conduct widespread sequencing, has now begun. These will provide an early warning system to prevent the next pandemic taking us by surprise.

For instance, in the future, surveillance programs may be put in place to monitor wastewater to identify disease-causing microbes (known as pathogens) present in the population. Sequencing will allow researchers to identify new pathogens, allowing an early start on understanding and tracking the next outbreak before it gets out of hand.

Genome sequencing also has a role to play in the future of healthcare and medicine. It has the potential to diagnose rare genetic disorders, inform personalized medicine, and monitor the ever-increasing threat of drug resistance.

Five to ten years ago, scientists were only just beginning to trial sequencing technology on smaller viral outbreaks. The effects of the past two years have resulted in a huge increase in the use of sequencing to track the spread of disease. This was made possible by technology, skills and infrastructure that have developed over time.

COVID-19 has caused untold damage worldwide and affected the lives of millions, and we’re yet to see its full impact. But recent advances – particularly in the field of sequencing – have no doubt improved the situation beyond where we’d otherwise be.The Conversation

Angela Beckett, Specialist Research Technician, Centre for Enzyme Innovation, and PhD Candidate in Genomics and Bioinformatics, University of Portsmouth and Samuel Robson, Reader in Genomics and Bioinformatics, and Bioinformatics Lead, Centre for Enzyme Innovation, University of Portsmouth

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

 

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