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¿Wappin? Afro show / Espectáculo afro

The Honorable
Call Ms. Bush, the nurse and human rights activist, “the Honorable Representative from Missouri” now. Wikimedia photo.

“Black Friday”

The Chambers Brothers – Time Has Come Today

The Motown Invasion (2009) BBC Documentary

Valerie Wellington – Bad Avenue

Jazz Divas: Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Mildred Bailey

Tracy Chapman — Tell It like It Is

Bob Marley – No Woman No Cry

Mad Professor (Mandis Megamix)

Babatunde Olatunji – Jin-Go-Lo-Ba (Drums of Passion)

Sech – Unplugged with Mario Spinali & Jhon El Divertido

Kafu Banton – Vivo En El Ghetto


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The Panama News blog links, November 25, 2020


The Panama News blog links

a Panama-centric selection of other people’s work
una selección Panamá-céntrica de las obras de otras personas

Canal, Maritime & Transportation / Canal, Marítima & Transporte

Seatrade, Panama Canal expects shifts in global trade patterns
gCaptain, Russia to build Far East metal plant to supply Arctic shipbuilding

Economy / Economía

Latin Finance, Panama sovereign credit rating cut to BBB by S&P Global
The Asset, Hitachi and Mitsubishi sign deal for Panama City metro line
La Estrella, Panamá avanza hacía salir de la lista gris del Gafi

Science & Technology / Ciencia & Tecnología

Wired, The AstraZeneca COVID vaccine data isn’t up to snuff
The Intercept, Remote learning and the digital divide
Whitworth, Lessons from fighting COVID’s second wave

News / Noticias

Prensa Latina, Panama negotiates anti-COVID vaccines with three companies
FOCO, Niegan entrada al Defensor del Pueblo a Plaza Ágora
La Estrella, Feministas en Panamá protestan contra la violencia hacia la mujer
EFE, Enfermeras de Panamá retoman la calle por su precariedad ante la pandemia
La Estrella, Oposición desconfía del Pacto del Bicentenario
ECSAHARAUI, Recibimiento en Panamá al embajador de la Republica Saharaui
BBC, John Kerry named climate envoy
Radio Temblor, Resumen de la dictadura de Giammattei en Guatemala

Opinion / Opiniones

Blackman, Clean up efforts won’t solve marine plastic pollution
Mora y Araujo, Maradona: the achingly human superstar who embodied Argentina
WOLA, Mexico’s anti-corruption and justice reform efforts tested
Panetta, Biden team ditches Trump-style nationalism
Maloney, The United Sates must end anonymous shell companies
Whitehouse, America’s captured courts
Blades, Diario de la Peste
Sagel, Hacía el Bicentenario

Culture / Cultura

La Estrella, Chemito: El boxeo en Panamá actualmente está en crisis
Bob Marley, Give Thanks and Praises


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To fend off hackers, organized trolls and other online vandalism, our website comments feature is switched off. Instead, come to our Facebook page to join in the discussion.

Para defendernos de los piratas informáticos, los trolls organizados y otros actos de vandalismo en línea, la función de comentarios de nuestro sitio web está desactivada. En cambio, ven a nuestra página de Facebook para unirte a la discusión.  

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vote final


Gush Shalom, The righteous Mordechai Vanunu

Mordechai Vanunu, 11 years ago. Wikimedia photo.

The United States released Pollard – now Israel should release Mordechai Vanunu

by Gush Shalom

Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc, calls upon the Government of Israel to emulate the United States, which removed the limitation placed upon Jonathan Pollard, and remove the limitations which it itself placed on Mordechai Vanunu. Jonathan Pollard and Mordechai Vanunu were both arrested in 1986, in the United States and Israel respectively. Both were charged with espionage, though on very different grounds. Pollard had passed on to an Israeli agent classified information to which he had access due to his work in the US Naval Intelligence. Vanunu had provided to the London Sunday Times information about the production of nuclear arms at the Dimona Nclear Pile, which he gained while working there as a technician. Both were duly convicted of espionage. In the case of Vanunu the question arose whether passing classified information to a newspaper counts as “espionage”. The judges ruled that it does, since “publishing in the newspaper is tantamount to giving it to all enemy agents at once”.

The US Government and large parts of the American public opinion denounced Pollard as “a traitor”. The same – even more vociferously – was how the Israeli Government and much of public opinion treated Vanunu. Nevertheless, both of them gained groups of devoted supporters and adherents – on very divergent grounds. Peace activists and opponents of nuclear arms worldwide – and some also in Israel – warmly took up the case of Mordecahi Vanunu, hailing him as a heroic whistleblower. Vanunu was several times put up as candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, and he did win the Right Livelihood Award (“The Alternative Nobel Prize”) and various other awards and honors.

Jonathan Pollard gained support in an entirely different quarter, mainly from right wing Nationalist Israelis, who regarded him as a Jewish Zionist hero and even as an Israeli Patriot. Under intensive lobbying from this direction, the government of Israel granted Israeli citizenship to Pollard, still held in the American prison.

When Vanunu emerged from sixteen years behind bars, the government promptly imposed severe restrictions on him – the order for these restrictions signed by the Interior Minister, citing Emergency Powers left over from the time of British colonial rule. Vanunu had to report to the police any time he changed address, and was forbidden to leave Israel, to come near to any Embassy and also forbidden to speak to foreigners. In one case, he was detained and charged with having broken the restrictions in having had “a long conversation with a foreigner.” The “foreigner” in question turned out to be Vanunu’s Norwegian girlfriend.

Some years later, Pollard ended his own long prison term in the United States – and the American authorities, too, hastened to impose severe restrictions. Pollard was forbidden to leave the United States and go to Israel, which was what he wanted. In fact, he was restricted to the city of New York and forbidden to outside its boundaries.

This week, the restrictions on Pollard were finally lifted. He is now free, whenever he wants, to board a plane to Israel where he can be sure of welcome. But the Government of Israel, which lobbied the Americans and achieved this gesture for Pollard from the outgoing President Trump, itself has the power to end Vanunu’s restrictions, too. All that is needed is one signature of the Interior Minister on one paper.

This step should be taken with no further delay. Mordechai Vanunu has spent more than half his lifetime paying for an act which broke Israeli law but which he felt was morally justified – a view shared by many others.

Vanunu had asserted many times that he had already disclosed all classified information he ever had to the Sunday Times, and it had already become known to the whole world thirty-five years ago. Even if he does have any more information in his possession, it very obsolete information, decades out of date. There is no reason, except for pure vindictiveness, for forcing Vanunu to go on living in Israel, a country from which he feels alienated. He needs and deserves to be set free, to be allowed to fly off to Norway – a country which already years ago agreed to host him and where he can accept to be welcomed and live the rest of his life among friends.


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Bernal, The tyranny of the political patronage system

Protesters in Lima, the capital of Peru, where the norm is that members of the political caste understand graft as the ordinary thing that they do. Odebrecht finally overflowed the public disgust with that, and calling out the riot squad only made it worse fot the politicians. Wikimedia photo.

Authoritarian patronage

by Miguel Antonio Bernal

Patronage, Rodrigo Borja tells us in his Encyclopedia of Politics: “is a style of doing politics that consists of generating loyalty and gratitude in population groups, in exchange for favors that politicians give or offer them. It is the formation or promotion of these groups to support electoral or government political actions. Some have defined it as the “exchange of votes for goods or services.”

In light of this definition, there is no doubt that in Panama we have an electoral system that is based on and promotes the necessary clientele for the solidity of this practice. But, if we dig around and reflect a little more, we will find that Panama has a political patronage government in its full scope: concept, expression and action.

The Creole Leviathan – in its incessant search for authoritarian solutions — managed with the military coup of 1968, among other things, to disintegrate the municipal system of the time and, by imposing the corregimiento to replace the municipality, established a political patronage system to hijack any democracy that has citizen participation.

The constitution imposed in 1972, with its patching reforms of 1983, endorsed by the party and the plutocracy, imposed an authoritarian constitutionalism which persists to this day. It’scharacterized by the absolute absence of responsibility of the rulers towards the citizen. The ruling elites exercise violence and hide and hide themselves behind their imposed militaristic constitution.

That authoritarian constitutionalism, about which Mark Tushnet tells us, and about which we will return in future writings, has found in the Panamanian population the clients for the political patronage that today stifles the possibilities of a democratic constitutional state of law. That is, patronage denies us the basis to make a qualitative leap as a society, as a country, as a state.

The important work of analyzing and defining the role of political patronage in our Panama should help us to understand, criticize and transform the basis of the irrational exercise of political power. It uses a “liberal democratic constitution” (CB Pedreschi dixit) where authoritarianism is the prevailing rule. It prevents substantial progress towards real and effective citizen participation.

The “Bicentennial Pact,” as they want to call it, is their new channel to direct the citizen clamor for a true transformation of the state. It can be nothing more than a new way to evade the imperative need for a constituent process that leads us to break with political patronage and its constitutionalized authoritarianism.


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Editorials: Another misnamed monologue? and Disbar Rudy

Nito & Genaro
President Cortizo and leaders of the militant CONUSI labor union confederation meet to talk about the possible “Bicentennial Pact.” Photo by the Presidencia. 

Turbulent times

Is some sort of revolutionary millennium at hand across the Americas?

Even if there can be such a thing, demonstrably it’s not scheduled for the day after tomorrow in Panama. However, a lot of incumbent politicians and parties might think that. The world is hurting from a pandemic and associated economic woes. Those leaders so stuck on old priorities and arrangements that they can’t lend a hand to the many who are suffering can play all sorts of finger-pointing and fear games to save themselves, but mostly it doesn’t work. Incumbents are endangered across many a political spectrum. Conditions vary by country, but Latin America in general is unstable.

The combination of corruption and austerity is, as we just saw in Guatemala, an incendiary mix. Governments of leftist, rightist and centrist hues have been offering that up, sometimes along with raw repression. It rarely works.

The problem is that almost every country in the region has gone way into debt and seen its informal and small business sectors devastated. The hardships will last beyond when we can get enough people vaccinated to get COVID-19 under control. The old arrangements and commitments just don’t address the situation. Neoliberal globalization on corporate terms is discredited and moribund, even if people can’t agree on something to replace it. Leaders who inspire us to pull together, share the burdens and benefits and get through these difficult times are the hard to find platinum standard.

Is Nito about to convene a monologue among the usual PRD heavies, business organizations and illustrious families, buy off the rabiblanco press with huge ad buys, and present us with a rise in the retirement age, a write-off of the education of hundreds of thousands of kids and a diminished public health care system? Notwithstanding any and all endorsements, influencers and ad agencies, it’s likely to derail some so far well guarded gravy trains if that’s the “Bicentennial Pact.”


Disbar Giuliani

Here in Panama, it all may seem a bit strange. As a practical matter, there is no disbarment of unethical attorneys here.

What’s more, not only are there are judges who will ALLOW an argument against a Panamanian citizen of an ethnicity sought to be defamed to the effect that “he can move to some other country,” there are judges who will ACCEPT such an argument without fear of being removed from the bench for it.

US Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) has filed complaints against Rudy Giuliani in five jurisdictions where the former New York mayor and federal prosecutor is licensed to practice law, citing Giuliani’s presentations of palpable lies in courts as an unethical practice for which he should lose his license to practice law. Pascrell also names 22 other Trump lawyers for similar offenses.

Yes, the ultra-right calls Pascrell “unhinged,” because everyone “knows” that anything goes in US courts. But many state bar associations do try to maintain some ethical standards in the legal profession.

Pascrell’s point is well taken. He calls the campaign of misrepresentations aired in courtrooms “sinister arson [that] is a danger not just to our legal system but is also unprecedented in our national life.” In fact, what Giuliani et al did was a violation of the canons of legal ethics.

As to the argument in Michigan, what Giuliani did is yet more incendiary. He in effect argued for the mass disenfranchisement of black people. He would revive a whole history of racial violence in the state, which decent citizens in both major political parties fervently hope is behind us.

Lawyers should be kicked out for making factually unsupported and unconscionably aimed racist arguments. Wherever that worm raises its head.


The company said they were prepared to offer me three million dollars. If they had offered me two Miss Universes, who knows?

Omar Torrijos
on rejecting an offer

Bear in mind…

The wages of sin are death, but by the time taxes are taken out, it’s just sort of a tired feeling.

Paula Poundstone

Prisons are built with stones of Law, brothels with bricks of Religion.


In Washington, we know that there’s a huge difference between a prostitute and a politician. There are some things a prostitute won’t do.

Claire McCaskill


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New trial for Martinelli on reinstated illegal spying charges

Martinelli, who is en route to putting his new RM (Realizando Metas) party on the ballot, reacted on Twitter to the news of the renewed charges by making light of the situation: “Today I knew that I will be the president of Panama in 2024. Without struggles there are no victories.” Photo of the ex-president and entourage from his Twitter feed.

Ricardo Martinelli to be tried again for eavesdropping without a warrant

by Eric Jackson

On November 20, another twist in a long-running case. In a three-hour online hearing a three-member Court of Appeals panel heard arguments from various lawyers, most notably senior organized crime prosecutor Ricaurte González, about whether an August 2019 trial court acquittal of the former president on eavesdropping and theft charges could stand. The 2-1 decision was that the ruling rejecting the spying charges was declared null, while the acquittal on the theft charges was upheld.

There will be a new trial for the warrantless surveillance of some 150 political rivals, purported allies at the time, journalists, attorneys, activists and leaders of non-governmental organizations. Those victims’ names and some of the details of their communications with others were found in a file on a National Security Council laptop that was seized in a raid on a former security director. The surveillance also inherently intercepted the emails and phone calls of others with whom those on the list of those under watch held electronic communications.

The Israeli Pegasus system that Martinelli use also has the capability of turning a laptop or cell phone that to its user is apparently turned off into a live room bug, useful for making video or audio recordings. The most notorious of these surreptitious files was a recording of a domestic argument involving then former judge and now legislator Zulay Rodríguez and her husband at the time, which was published on YouTube. Prosecutors under the Varela and Cortizo administrations have steadfastly blocked access to the invaded third parties in all of the information about themselves and thus blocked and redress for the invasions of OUR privacy. (This reporter had electronic communications with at least two people on the list of 150 surveillance targets.)

The equipment used, which was loaded with the Pegasus software, was last seen by someone who would talk about it in one of Ricardo Martinelli’s business offices. It has never been recovered. Has is been used since his presidency? Did it have anything to do with the intercepted WhatsApp communications of his successor, Juan Carlos Varela? The appeals court didn’t get into those matters, limiting itself to upholding the trial court’s finding that allegations that Martinelli personally stole the items in question wasn’t supported by sufficient proof.

Last year’s “not guilty” verdicts caused a storm of criticism. Since then they have added to the political instability inherent in the widespread belief that the justice system is absolutely corrupted. That popular belief will not dissipate anytime soon, but the trial court acquittal was particularly scurrilous.

In the long and winding procedural route to the trial, the Supreme Court, which had held original jurisdiction and conducted much of the investigation before remanding the case to an ordinary trial court, attached its investigative files as part of the body of evidence. But the trial court threw out all such evidence that the high court sent down with the case, contriving a novel procedural rationale to override a higher court’s order. This was the main fault on which the appeals court based its decision to nullify the acquittal on the eavesdropping charges.

That decision was the subject of two major appeals to higher courts, one set of which was thrown out on procedural ground, the other which went to the Supreme Court’s penal bench, which remanded it to the Court of Appeals. That latter court’s nullification of the acquittal remands the matter to a new trial court, with an order that none of the judges who dealt with the case below may participate in the new trial.

No date has been set for the new trial. It would be unlikely before January. But prosecutors are expected to be in court this week to ask for measures to prevent Martinelli’s flight to avoid prosecution. (He already did that once, which culminated in long extradition proceeding in the United States, where he took up residence in Miami.)

In the now mostly nullified trial that included both warrantless eavesdropping and theft charges, prosecutors had asked for a 21-year prison sentence. Shorn of the theft charges the case still could result in years of imprisonment and enough years of suspended political rights to prevent a 2024 presidential run by the now 68-year-old Martinelli. Depending on what prosecutors request and a judge grants, the former president might be headehttps://www.facebook.com/thepanamanewsd back to jail for preventive detention of may just be barred from leaving the country.


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Beach closures, paranoia, history and culture

The beach in Santa Clara, closed by National Civil Protection System (SINAPROC, the lifeguards for which are in orange) with police on hand to enforce that, was closed on November 22. The red flag is a symbol of that, rather than a communist takeover. The order closing all beaches and riverbank bathing spots in Panama, by reference for gringos of a certain age, came 57 years after the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated. By reference for those in charge of public safety in Panama, it came on a fairly nice day after several days of heavy rains. SINAPROC photo.

Are they coming to take you away?

by Eric Jackson


Commentary on Facebook about the above situation, from someone in the Coronado area.

Ah, rainy season living in Panama!

Where there can be not too many clouds in the sky, the water at the beach can look calm as glass, and still swollen streams coming down from the hills and emptying into the bay can cause riptides that can — and DO — drown several people every year.

And if the person who goes for a sunset stroll can’t resist and goes in the water, if SINAPROC has to do a late afternoon search and rescue its people may get the choice between saving their own lives by going home as the sun goes down, or working far more dangrously in the dark.

But hey — isn’t the good life the ability to live the fantasy that the universe revolves around one’s self? And if it doesn’t, isn’t that clear evidence of a fiendish plot to control your life? A lot of cultures and subcultures are more fatalistic that this. Those who believe that God can play capricious tricks may have a different attitude from those whose religion is conspicuous consumption, or so on.

And what is it about the thick streak of conspiratorial thinking that runs through US culture, anyway?

As it turns out, November 22 marks an auspicious milestone in the developmemt of that way of thinking. On that day an apparently crazed former marine shot President Kennedy. The gunman had dabbled with communism, briefly living in the Soviet Union and bringing a wife home from there, approaching the Cubans and apparently being rebuffed by them, getting involved with a small Trotskyist faction whose members thought him weird.

But see, in that era the United States and forces allied with it did get into assassinations. A few days before Kennedy took office, the Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba was murdered in the most brutal way by Colonel Mobutu, who was a thug dictator and darling of the west for decades afterward. The annoying Rafael Trujillo was taken out in the Dominican Republic a few months into the Kennedy administration. When the Diem brothers couldn’t maintain order in South Vietnam, they were killed in a coup. AND there were all these attempts to kill Fidel Castro, not to mention the failed Bay of Pigs invasion and the terrifying Missile Crisis.

Lee Harvey Oswald was quickly dispatched by a mobbed-up businessman, but it was a matter of intense national interest to know the motive. The chief justice of the Supreme Court, Earl Warren, was put in charge of a commission to find out what made Oswald’s  mind tick.

A thorough, credible and dispassionate investigation, however, would have posed a mortal threat to the entire planet. Allege that Kennedy and Castro were playing chicken with their respective hit men and Kennedy lost, and that could lead to nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. So certain key questions were pointedly not asked, and an awful lot of people noticed. It was a mother lode of conspiracy theories.

THEN, as the Vietnam War degenerated into an always denied humiliating loss for the United States, the notion that “THEY are lying to us” became a staple of the popular culture, even when  “they” were not. Enough lies lead to the suspicion that everything’s a lie. It’s the moral of the story about the boy who cried “wolf!”

A culture of exaggerated individualism, and history as taught in schools as tales of great men and terrible villains, fed the conspiratorial world view as a common delusion. Donald Trump has played to and amplified that madness.

So it becomes natural to presume that someone is plotting nefarious controls when a weekend on the beach is restricted for reasons invisible to the person affected by the restrictions.

But it’s about the possibilities of undertows and riptides generated by streams coming down from the hills. Those elemental forces can be subtle at first glance, and deadly when they have someone it their grip.


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Kermit’s birds / Las aves de Kermit

trogon boid
Gartered trogon / Trogón enligado / Trogon caligatus. Photo © Kermit Nourse.

Gartered trogon ~ Trogón enligado

This bird, one of the most beautiful in Panama, is called the Gartered Trogon. That thing in its mouth is the caterpillar of the Megalopyge lanata moth, better known in West Indian English as the Shinney caterpillar. If you touch it you may be going to the hospital because it will give you a painfully toxic burn that can be fatal to those with allergies. The bird must have incredible vision because he saw the insect from a long way away and dove down to get it. He seemed to struggle a bit to swallow it too. What’s more, the bird builds its nest in the hives of termites, wasps or ants — to all of which it is immune. The ordinary clutch is two or three eggs.

This is a forest bird, ranging from eastern and central Mexico to the foothills of the Andes in Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela. It eats insects and small fruit, tends to stay motionless in its perch and rarely flies very far.


Esta ave, una de las más hermosas de Panamá, se llama Trogón enligado. Esa cosa en su boca se llama el gusano de ña mariposa Megalopyge lanata. Si lo toca, es posible que vaya al hospital porque le provocará una quemadura dolorosamente tóxica que puede ser funesta para las personas alérgicas. El pájaro debe tener una visión increíble porque vio al insecto desde muy lejos y se zambulló para atraparlo. Él también pareció luchar un poco para tragarlo. Además, el pájaro construye su nido en las colmenas de termitas, avispas u hormigas, a todas las cuales es inmune. La puesta ordinaria es de dos o tres huevos.

Se trata de un ave del bosque, que se extiende desde el este y centro de México hasta las estribaciones de los Andes en Ecuador, Colombia y Venezuela. Come insectos y frutos pequeños, tiende a permanecer inmóvil en su percha y rara vez vuela muy lejos.




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Facultad de Medicina, Días fiesta durante la Pandemia

Toque en https://rosa.innovacion.gob.pa/ y allí se desplegará una acceso directo a su whatsapp, para que pueda comunicarse.


Benjamin & Davies, Foreign policy disasters Biden can address on his first day

CODEPINK / Women for Peace contingent in a Washington women’s march. Photo © Fred Murphy.

Ten foreign policy fiascos that
Joe Biden can fix on Day One

by Medea Benjamin & Nicolas J.S. DaviesCommon Dreams

Donald Trump loves executive orders as a tool of dictatorial power, avoiding the need to work through Congress. But that works both ways, making it relatively easy for President Biden to reverse many of Trump’s most disastrous decisions. Here are ten things Biden can do as soon as he takes office. Each one can set the stage for broader progressive foreign policy initiatives, which we have also outlined.

1) End the US role in the Saudi-led war on Yemen and restore US humanitarian aid to Yemen.

Congress already passed a War Powers Resolution to end the US role in the Yemen war, but Trump vetoed it, prioritizing war machine profits and a cozy relationship with the horrific Saudi dictatorship. Biden should immediately issue an executive order to end every aspect of the US role in the war, based on the resolution that Trump vetoed.

The United States should also accept its share of responsibility for what many have called the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today, and provide Yemen with funding to feed its people, restore its healthcare system and eventually rebuild this devastated country. Biden should restore and expand USAID funding and recommit US financial support to the UN, the WHO, and to World Food Program relief programs in Yemen.

2) Suspend all US arms sales and transfers to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Both countries are responsible for massacring civilians in Yemen, and the UAE is reportedly the largest arms supplier to General Haftar’s rebel forces in Libya. Congress passed bills to suspend arms sales to both of them, but Trump vetoed them too. Then he struck arms deals worth $24 billion with the UAE as part of an obscene military and commercial ménage à trois between the USA, the UAE and Israel, which he absurdly tried to pass off as a peace agreement.

While mostly ignored at the behest of the weapons companies, there are actually US laws that require the suspension of arms transfers to countries that use them to violate US and international law. They include the Leahy Law that prohibits the United States from providing military assistance to foreign security forces that commit gross violations of human rights; and the Arms Export Control Act, which states that countries must use imported US weapons only for legitimate self defense.

Once these suspensions are in place, the Biden administration should seriously review the legality of Trump’s arms sales to both countries, with a view to canceling them and banning future sales. Biden should commit to applying these laws consistently and uniformly to all US military aid and arms sales, without making exceptions for Israel, Egypt or other US allies.

3) Rejoin the Iran Nuclear Agreement (JCPOA) and lift sanctions on Iran.

After reneging on the JCPOA, Trump slapped draconian sanctions on Iran, brought us to the brink of war by killing its top general, and is even trying to order up illegal, aggressive war plans in his last days as president. The Biden administration will face an uphill battle undoing this web of hostile actions and the deep mistrust they have caused, so Biden must act decisively to restore mutual trust: immediately rejoin the JCPOA, lift the sanctions, and stop blocking the $5 billion IMF loan that Iran desperately needs to deal with the COVID crisis.

In the longer term, the United States should give up the idea of regime change in Iran — this is for the people of Iran to decide — and instead restore diplomatic relations and start working with Iran to deescalate other Middle East conflicts, from Lebanon to Syria to Afghanistan, where cooperation with Iran is essential.

4) End US threats and sanctions against officials of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Nothing so brazenly embodies the US government’s enduring, bipartisan disdain for international law as its failure to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). If President Biden is serious about recommitting the United States to the rule of law, he should submit the Rome Statute to the US Senate for ratification to join 120 other countries as members of the ICC. The Biden administration should also accept the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which the United States rejected after the Court convicted the US of aggression and ordered it to pay reparations to Nicaragua in 1986.

5) Back President Moon’s diplomacy for a “permanent peace regime” in Korea.

President-elect Biden has reportedly agreed to meet South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in soon after he is sworn in. Trump’s failure to provide sanctions relief and explicit security guarantees to North Korea doomed his diplomacy and became an obstacle to the diplomatic process under way between Korean presidents Moon and Kim.

The Biden administration must start negotiating a peace agreement to formally end the Korean war, and initiate confidence-building measures such as opening liaison offices, easing sanctions, facilitating reunions between Korean-American and North Korean families and halting US-South Korea military exercises. Negotiations must involve concrete commitments to non-aggression from the US side to pave the way for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and the reconciliation that so many Koreans desire — and deserve.

6) Renew New START with Russia and freeze the US trillion-dollar new nuke plan.

Biden can end Trump’s dangerous game of brinksmanship on Day One and commit to renewing Obama’s New START Treaty with Russia, which freezes both countries’ nuclear arsenals at 1,550 deployed warheads each. He can also freeze Obama and Trump’s plan to spend more than a trillion dollars on a new generation of US nuclear weapons.

Biden should also adopt a long overdue “no first use” nuclear weapons policy, but most of the world is ready to go much further. In 2017, 122 countries voted for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) at the UN General Assembly. None of the current nuclear weapons states voted for or against the treaty, essentially pretending to ignore it. On October 24, 2020, Honduras became the 50th country to ratify the treaty, which will now go into effect on January 22, 2021.

So, here is a visionary challenge for President Biden for that day, his second full day in office: Invite the leaders of each of the other eight nuclear weapons states to a conference to negotiate how all nine nuclear weapons states will sign onto the TPNW, eliminate their nuclear weapons and remove this existential danger hanging over every human being on Earth.

7) Lift illegal unilateral US sanctions against other countries.

Economic sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council are generally considered legal under international law, and require action by the Security Council to impose or lift them. But unilateral economic sanctions that deprive ordinary people of necessities like food and medicine are illegal and cause grave harm to innocent citizens.

US sanctions on countries like Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, North Korea and Syria are a form of economic warfare. UN special rapporteurs have condemned them as crimes against humanity and compared them to medieval sieges. Since most of these sanctions were imposed by executive order, President Biden can lift them the same way on Day One.

In the longer term, unilateral sanctions that affect an entire population are a form of coercion, like military intervention, coups and covert operations, that have no place in a legitimate foreign policy based on diplomacy, the rule of law and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

8) Roll back Trump policies on Cuba and move to normalize relations.

Over the past four years, the Trump administration overturned the progress towards normal relations made by President Obama, sanctioning Cuba’s tourism and energy industries, blocking coronavirus aid shipments, restricting remittances to family members and sabotaging Cuba’s international medical missions, which are a major source of income for its health system.

President Biden should start working with the Cuban government to allow the return of diplomats to their respective embassies, lift all restrictions on remittances, remove Cuba from the list of countries that are not US partners against terrorism, cancel the portion of the Helms Burton Act (Title III) that allows Americans to sue companies that use property seized by the Cuban government 60 years ago, and collaborate with Cuban health professionals in the fight against COVID-19.

These measures would mark a down payment on a new era of diplomacy and cooperation, as long as they don’t fall victim to crass attempts to gain conservative Cuban-American votes in the next election, which Biden and politicians of both parties should commit to resisting.

9) Restore pre-2015 rules of engagement to spare civilian lives.

In the fall of 2015, as US forces escalated their bombing of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria to over 100 bomb and missile strikes per day, the Obama administration loosened military rules of engagement to let US commanders in the Middle East order airstrikes that were expected to kill up to 10 civilians without prior approval from Washington. Trump reportedly loosened the rules even further, but details were not made public. Iraqi Kurdish intelligence reports counted 40,000 civilians killed in the assault on Mosul alone. Biden can reset these rules and start killing fewer civilians on Day One.

But we can avoid these tragic civilian deaths altogether by ending these wars. Democrats have been critical of Trump’s often ad hoc pronouncements about withdrawing US forces from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Somalia. President Biden now has the chance to truly end these wars. He should set a date, no later than the end of December 2021, by when all US troops will come home from all these combat zones. This policy may not be popular among war profiteers, but it would certainly be popular among Americans across the ideological spectrum.

10) Freeze US military spending, and launch a major initiative to reduce it.

At the end of the Cold War, former senior Pentagon officials told the Senate Budget Committee that US military spending could safely be cut by half over the next ten years. That goal was never achieved, and the promised peace dividend gave way to a triumphalist “power dividend.”

The military-industrial complex exploited the crimes of September 11th to justify an extraordinary one-sided arms race in which the United States accounted for 45% of global military spending from 2003 to 2011, far outstripping its peak Cold War military spending. The military-industrial complex is counting on Biden to escalate a renewed Cold War with Russia and China as the only plausible pretext for continuing these record military budgets.

Biden must dial back the conflicts with China and Russia, and instead begin the critical task of moving money from the Pentagon to urgent domestic needs. He should start with the 10 percent cut supported this year by 93 representatives and 23 senators.

In the longer term, Biden should look for deeper cuts in Pentagon spending, as in Representative Barbara Lee’s bill to cut $350 billion per year from the US military budget, approximating the 50% peace dividend we were promised after the Cold War and freeing up resources we sorely need to invest in healthcare, education, clean energy and modern infrastructure.


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