NYTimes on the newly-rebuilt Panama Canal: "In simple terms, to be successful, the new canal needs enough water, durable concrete and locks big enough to safely accommodate the larger ships. On all three counts, it has failed to meet expectations." [more inside]
Twenty-five years ago this month, early on the morning of December 20, 1989, President George H.W. Bush launched Operation Just Cause, sending tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of aircraft into Panama to execute a warrant of arrest against its leader, Manuel Noriega, on charges of drug trafficking. Those troops quickly secured all important strategic installations, including the main airport in Panama City, various military bases, and ports. Noriega went into hiding before surrendering on January 3rd and was then officially extradited to the United States to stand trial. Soon after, most of the U.S. invaders withdrew from the country. [more inside]
"Panama, a small nation of just three million, has the largest shipping fleet in the world, greater than those of the US and China combined. Aliyya Swaby investigates how this tiny Central American country came to rule the waves."
Nicaragua has awarded a Chinese company a 100-year concession to build an alternative to the Panama Canal. With uncertain costs and impact to the environment, the canal is expected to pass through Lake Nicaragua, and will accomodate ships of 250,000 metric tons- twice the size the Panama Canal will accomodate even after upgrades. This is not the first time a canal through Nicaragua has been attempted. [more inside]
Charles Philippe Hippolyte de Thierry lead a storied life, and many of those stories are ones he made up. His family was associated with the French court, though there is doubt to his claims of noble lineage. In England, he met two Maori chiefs and an English missionary from New Zealand, and attempted to purchase a northern portion of New Zealand in 1820. He then sought to turn this land into a colony first for Britain in 1822, then the Dutch government in 1824 when the English offer fell through. The Dutch, too, turned him down, so in 1825 de Thierry made the same offer to the French government, and was similarly refused. Fleeing creditors, he left for America. In 1834, he traveled south, where he was granted concession for cutting the Panama Canal. That, too, fell through, and he sailed west, reaching Tahiti in June 1835, where he elected himself king of Nuka Hiva. The kingdom was never his, and so he continued west and south, arriving at his plot in New Zealand in 1837, where again he offered land up to France for a colony. His efforts to claim a colony and a kingdom came to an end in 1840, with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, sealing a deal between the British Crown and the Māori. [more inside]
Asked to cover Van Halen's "Panama" for A.V. Undercover 2012, Reggie Watts chose to present an early demo version of the song, "helpfully dispelling some myths and explaining how its namesake canal works."
Pope Benedict XVI has revived many dormant style traditions and introduced a few fashion innovations of his own. Also, he often wears fanciful hats. Examples: A Sombrero, A camauro (camel skin hat of red wool or velvet with white ermine), a free baseball cap, a wide brim red cappello romano, (I.E. saturno), a Yarmulke (a little zucchetto), Mitra Pretiosa, Papal Tiara (there are many in existence) and so many more. A Time Magazine gallery. Also: Papal shoes & slippers. [more inside]
Indigenous groups in Panama have shut down parts of the Pan American Highway in an increasingly violent protest. The root of the conflict is the Martinelli government’s refusal to enact environmental protection that was promised for the Ngöbe-Buglé Comarca from both Hydro-Electric and mining exploitation. Outside press is being denied entry to cover the conflict. This is not the first time this has happened. Ongoing updates in English can be found here.
The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute is working to make many of their digital archives accessible online: These include everything from the distress call of a young howler monkey to courting poison dart frogs, to the sound of morning amongst the mangroves - not to mention more than 40,000 photographs and 1500 documents all related to STRI's work in Panama and across the tropics.
Res Obscura is a blog by Ben Breen, a graduate student of early modern history, which styles itself "a compendium of obscure things." Indeed, even the asides are full of wonder, such as the one about Boy, the famous Royalist war poodle of the English Civil War, which is but a short addendum to a post about witches' familiars. Here are some of my favorite posts, Pirate Surgeon in Panama (and a related post about 18th Century Jamaica), vanished civilizations, asemic pseudo-Arabic and -Hebrew writing in Renaissance art, and a series of posts about the way the Chinese and Japanese understood the world outside Asia in the early modern period (Europeans as 'Other', Europeans as 'Other,' Redux and Early Chinese World Maps).
Justin and Stephanie are travelling from Philadelphia to Auckland on the Cap Cleveland, a 220m long container ship. [more inside]
What do you do when you're a Panamanian golden frog and you need to let that certain special someone across the way know you're, um, interested? Sure, you could croak a few sweet nothings in her ear, but those rushing jungle streams can drown out even the most virile of frog voices. So, you... wave! Yeah, give her a little wave! A BBC film crew has captured footage of this rare (and, according to their article, now extinct) amphibian waving, fighting and mating. [NOTE: last link includes hot froggy ménage à trois. Surely NSFW!] [more inside]
Latin America Turning Left? From the top: Lula da Silva*, Lopez Obrador, Nestor Kirchner, Hugo Chavez*, Alvaro Uribe, Michelle Bachelet*, Ollanta Humala, Alfredo Palacio, Oscar Berger, Leonel Fernandez, Oscar Arias, Tony Saca, Tabare Vazquez, Martín Torrijos, Evo Morales* Manuel Zelaya, Nicanor Duarte, Daniel Ortega, Rene Preval*.
Nefarious deeds in Haiti by the Consultants Advisory Group. Kathryn Cramer exposes n'er do wells acting in Haiti, operating out of Panama. Given the recent goings on in Haiti, one can only speculate as to the extent of their involvement...
Panamacam! (warning: embedded mpg) Using available web-cam footage and a little DIY hackery, Stephan van der Palen created this nifty little time-lapse movie of shipping traffic in the Panama Canal zone (1 week=11 min.). Not to be outdone, the US Army Corps of Engineers has their own Lock-cams, and releases their own time-lapse movies of Soo Lock Traffic--from multiple cams--every day of the shipping season.
Crossing the Darien Gap. The Pan-American Highway is not quite Pan-American. There are 200 miles of untamed jungle, where Panama meets Colombia, called the "Darien Gap". Today, persistent kidnappings and cartel activity make it unsafe to cross by either foot or off-road vehicle. But it's been done a few times. Here is one such tale, a blog from the mid-seventies. [more inside]