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Editorials: Wimps in high places: and The Manafort trial

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wimp
— an adaptation of a photo by a discredited public institution —

The Martinelli scandal explodes: What Now?

Attorney General Kenia Porcell, whose performance in office is not above criticism but who ought to be believed in this instance, said in an an August 13 address to the nation that Hernán De León, presiding magistrate of the Supreme Court, had come to her office two weeks earlier and told her that the Martinelli case now in trial before the high court would be dropped. The magistrate, she said, told her that Ricardo Martinelli’s spy operation had recording of more than 5,000 people, with multiple copies of the archive stashed in the United States and other countries. One of these, she said he said, was embarrassing to the magistrate and he was being blackmailed about it. Hence the intention to drop the case.

First, this is an allegation of a prisoner threatening a judge. Not just any prisoner, not just any judge. The worldwide usual is that for this sort of infraction the inmate gets “thrown in the hole,” that is, put into isolation under harsh conditions. Martinelli, however, has a cell full of amenities that no other prisoner gets. So en route to the hole there should be a special cell extraction to which he should be a witness. In addition to guards or police to take him away to a new place of confinement — a punishment cell in La Joyita or another mainline prison — there should be others armed with hammers to destroy all of his luxuries in his presence. Prisoners threatening judges is something that Panama should never abide. The essence of sensible prison discipline is to allow inmates some small privileges which might be taken away for bad behavior. So be it. Martinelli’s phalanxes of lawyers and their endless motions should not be allowed into the prison discipline process.

Second, there needs to be full disclosure of all known facts and a full investigation into the violations of the rights of an entire nation as well as thousands of individuals. Porcell has resisted such transparency, perhaps out of concern about the lawsuits and criminal charges that people not notably members of any elites — like the editor of The Panama News – might bring. We already know of 150 people whose communications were monitored, so we already know that anyone who had electronic communications with any of these people was also monitored.

Third, there are already known accomplices in the overall surveillance scheme. The ex-president’s brother-in-law, for part of the time acting in conjunction with Cable & Wireless (which had the national surveillance camera contract) and said relative and a company of his reportedly acquiring the equipment, programs and technical assistance to set up the spy operation from Israeli and Italian firms. All individuals and companies involved or possibly involved in the Martinelli spy operation ought to be called in for questioning and certain presumptions should be made about those who do not cooperate.

Fourth, De León should resign from the Supreme Court forthwith. Wimps should not be allowed in such high places.

Finally, there should be a blue-ribbon investigating panel of qualified and impartial people, advised by an international team of experts, to both get to the bottom of the whole surveillance scandal and report to the Panamanian people and the proper institutions. They should also get into the court cases, the truncated investigations and the historical contexts of this entire matter. Let the chips fall where they may.
 

The Manafort case goes to the jury

Trump and his loyal following keep saying that there is nothing to the bevy of scandals related to the president’s and his entourage’s Russian business and political ties, let alone any collusion with Russians during the last presidential campaign.

“Collusion,” of course, is a concept not known as a specific crime in the US Code. Conspiracy to violate election laws against foreign participation in these American affairs is, however, a different story. The special prosecutor is approaching a case of just that against Donald Trump, but it may yet turn out that the president is clueless and knew nothing about what was happening in his own campaign. But the lies told along the way, the unregistered foreign agencies and covert financial dealings have already been the stuff of several guilty pleas. A case of obstruction of justice has been made in full public view by Donald Trump himself.

But now that both prosecution and defense have rested, we are about to see what a jury thinks about the Russian and Ukrainian dealings of Trump’s campaign manager, and the various financial transactions swirling around those and around the man.

A conviction may or may not turn Manafort into a cooperating witness against Trump. An acquittal on all counts would be a blow to the special prosecutor’s investigation and would probably embolden Trump to move to shut it down. But there have been too many things documented, and too many convictions already secured, for Trump’s political fortunes to survive such a blunder. Sure, he could hold out against any Democratic impeachment move, but appearances alone would send the Republicans wandering in the political wilderness for years to come.

So the end of August approaches with the federal trial of Paul Manafort coming to its resolution. Just in time for the fall, and the New York fraud trial of the Trump family and businesses and their alleged abuses of tax breaks for charities.

Lots of entertainment, but the matter is going to be decided at the polls. If you are a US citizen, register and vote.
 

Bear in mind
 

Roots are not in a landscape or a country, or a people, they are inside you.
Isabel Allende Llona

 

The way to make yourself popular and to govern well is to employ honorable men, even though they are your enemies.
Simón Bolívar

 

We make our own criminals, and their crimes are congruent with the national culture we all share.
Margaret Mead

 

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Porcell: La Corte Suprema tumbaría al caso Martinelli

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El caso Martinelli se convierte
en una crisis constitucional

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Roux wins the CD primary

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them
Roux 67,311, Mulino 28,693 — a convincing win for the corporate lawyer and former government minister within the CD scheme of things but unimpressive across the nation as a whole. There may be enough time to revise things, starting with the establishment of a distance from party founder Ricardo Martinelli. Graphic from Rómulo Roux’s Facebook page.

Roux to top a shrunken CD’s ticket

by Eric Jackson

Rómulo Roux won the Cambio Democratico presidential primary for the 2019 elections as convincingly as he lost his bid to be the party’s 2014 nominee. Back on May 12, 2013 he got 49,628 votes to José Domingo Arias’s 122,483, with several other insignificant candidates on the ballot.

This August 12 he got 67,311 votes to José Raúl Mulino’s 28,693, also with a phalanx of diminutive also-rans listed.

Arias and the people on his ticket had hundreds of millions in stolen public funds to buy votes, plus a “big data” list stolen from confidential public archives, yet he lost. Now he’s seeking the nomination of a new minor party and in and out of jail as several corruption cases from the Martinelli years come in and out of play.

When Mimito Arias beat him in 2013, Roux immediately said that he would support the ticket. After winning the 2019 nomination Roux called for party unity, but Mulino, who like Arias has been in and out of jail on various unresolved corruption charges, said that he would never support Roux.

Investigations about Martinelli time peculations have been slow getting to Roux, who has not yet spent any time in jail and now has candidate’s immunity. But prosecutors have asked the Electoral Tribunal to lift that immunity so that they can investigate Roux’s roles in Odebrecht contracts and other suspect matters.

The gross numbers of party adherents tend to have much to do with the largess of whoever gets elected and the opportunism of public functionaries, many of the latter switching parties with changes of administration to curry favor or avoid retaliation. Such is Panama’s five-year political cycle.

But in 2013 CD had some 476,000 members and a primary turnout of about 40%. Now it’s just under 340,000 party members, of whom well under 30% turned out for the Sunday primary.

CD founder and erstwhile owner Ricardo Martinelli’s courtroom and jailhouse antics and Twitter declarations are wild cards that the smart money says will work to Roux’s disavantage. Thus the “New Change.” But maybe it’s not so urgent for Roux to have new coin designs ready to send to the mint.

Were it not for the generalized corruption affecting all parties, the voters’ historic reticence to give any party back-to-back terms in the presidency and the chaotic state of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, Roux might be summarily written off. But the PRD has 18 candidates, maybe two or three of them serious, in its upcoming presidential primary. But like Roux, the likely Panameñista nominee José Isabel Blandón has Odebrecht baggage to carry. But the Electoral Tribunal is at its most flagrantly offensive in its corny maneuvers to exclude from the ballot any independent who would stand for anything different. So we shall see what Roux has won. At the moment it looks like a booby prize.

 

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Honduras: US activists to observe partial Cáceres murder trial

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SOA
The death squad regime that came to power with US backing in 2009 is in a precarious spot, with Donald Trump moving to deport Honduran refugees and restrict remittances to Central America from relatives living in the United States, and with international criticism and legal actions prompted by the government’s corruption, brutality and bogus “elections.” SOA Watch graphic.

Material authors to stand trial for the assassination of Berta Cáceres

by School of the Americas Watch

From September 10th to 28th, eight people will stand trail for the March 3, 2016 murder of social activist and COPINH co-founder Berta Cáceres.

Among the detainees are Major Mariano Diaz Chavez and Lieutenant Douglas Giovanny Bustillo — both were trained at the School of the Americas and received anti-terrorist training in the United States in 2005.

COPINH is calling on the international community to participate as observers in this trial and continues to demand that the intellectual authors of Berta’s assassination be identified and arrested.

SOA Watch will be present as international observers during the trail and will have special press coverage.

 

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¿Wappin? Música en serio

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AB
Alex Blake. Foto por Marco Senna.

Música en serio
Serious music

Alex Blake solo
https://youtu.be/k1TtbFmuU60

Al Raseef – Live On The Street
https://youtu.be/aclCoroXd3Y

Omar Díaz & DeDe – Overjoyed
https://youtu.be/P5mDkMoMNKg

Oscar De Leon & Tito Puente – Hay Que Trabajar
https://youtu.be/FaLd6pntkBo

Idania Dowman – Tribute to Whitney Houston
https://youtu.be/N4MEhIoM_Qk

Naseem Alatrash – Cello Taqsim with the Michigan Arab Orchestra
https://youtu.be/9_z4jKdVINc

Rhiannon Giddens – Shake Sugaree
https://youtu.be/eLIEIbuh71o

Champion Jack Dupree & King Curtis – Junkers Blues
https://youtu.be/XUVLcFhQm90

Light in Babylon – Hinech Yafa
https://youtu.be/aKJvbTEnp0I

Andre Hayward – There Is No Greater Love
https://youtu.be/R0pAQGvjHpc

Aisha Davis – Guide & Protect
https://youtu.be/RER54uxuoS0

Lucia Pulido – Las Cuatro Palomas
https://youtu.be/H6CzMGC_VwA

Patricia Vlieg & Paquito D’Rivera – Brisas Mesanas
https://youtu.be/f3syIVe1mw4

Difang & Igay – Elders Drinking Song
https://youtu.be/6oHGUr6HEow

Jane Bunnett and Maqueque: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert
https://youtu.be/2yxU-_md2hE

 

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CIAM Panamá, Transparencia en Coiba es necesaria

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CIAM
Un llamado a los ciudadanos sobre la falta de transparencia por parte del Ministerio de Ambiente (MiAMBIENTE) en el manejo del área protegida Parque Nacional Coiba.

Transparencia en Coiba es necesaria

por el Centro de Incidencia Ambiental de Panamá (CIAM)

El Centro de Incidencia Ambiental de Panamá (CIAM), una organización sin fines de lucro dedicada a la defensa legal del medio ambiente, hace un llamado a los ciudadanos sobre la falta de transparencia por parte del Ministerio de Ambiente (MiAMBIENTE) en el manejo del área protegida Parque Nacional Coiba, un Sitio de Patrimonio Natural de la Humanidad reconocido así por la UNESCO.

A continuación detallamos los principales hechos en los que se fundamenta nuestro llamado de atención:

Cierre ilegal del Parque

  • La entrada de visitantes a Coiba se ha limitado de forma arbitraria e irregular desde noviembre de 2017, particularmente el acceso al sur de la Isla (Bahía Damas y Playa Blanca). Desde entonces, agentes del Servicio Nacional Aeronaval (SENAN) y guardaparques usualmente no permiten a los visitantes en la Isla, a menos que sean investigadores científicos.
  • El Artículo 3 de la Resolución DM-0602-2017 de 11 de diciembre de 2017 claramente establece que “MiAMBIENTE podrá limitar la entrada a las áreas protegidas, tomando en cuenta la capacidad de carga y condiciones especiales, de acuerdo con lo dispuesto en el instrumento de creación o manejo de cada área protegida, y la normativa ambiental vigente”. A la fecha MiAMBIENTE no ha emitido un acto administrativo debidamente fundamentado que justifique el cierre de acuerdo al artículo citado.
  • A pesar que desde enero de 2018 el Consejo Directivo del Parque Nacional Coiba aprobó su Plan de Uso Público con la condición de que se integraran el 100% de las recomendaciones técnico-científicas, esto no se ha realizado a la fecha.

Incertidumbre sobre trabajos y reticencia de MiAMBIENTE

  • El 6 de febrero de 2018 CIAM y 18 organizaciones ambientalistas enviaron una carta pública a MiAMBIENTE con copia a la Vicepresidenta de la República, al Ministro de la Presidencia, al Consejo de Seguridad y a la Secretaría de Metas, solicitando información sobre Coiba: si en efecto miembros del SPI, funcionarios públicos o privados se encontraban realizando trabajos en Coiba y la naturaleza de dichos trabajos, pues habían circulado noticias sobre esto. También se pidió un proceso de veiduría ciudadana en Coiba y su Zona Especial de Protección Marina. MiAMBIENTE no respondió, y tampoco se manifestaron sobre ello las instituciones a las que se le hizo copia de la nota.
  • En vista de que nunca se obtuvo una respuesta a la solicitud anterior y que se sobrepasó el plazo que la Ley dispone para responder a las solicitudes de información, el 10 de abril CIAM presentó a la Corte Suprema de Justicia un Habeas Data para que se ordenara a MiAMBIENTE a suministrar la información. Posteriormente MiAMBIENTE emitió una respuesta que nada tenía que ver con lo solicitado por CIAM y las organizaciones ambientalistas.
  • De forma reiterada CIAM ha enviado múltiples consultas sobre Coiba a MiAMBIENTE, que a la fecha no han sido respondidas. Esta falta de información y certeza sobre las acciones en el área protegida y su debida justificación es una de las mayores preocupaciones de CIAM, al igual que de otras organizaciones ambientales.

Advertencia de ilegalidad ignorada

  • El 17 de enero de 2018 el Ministerio de la Presidencia convocó una licitación pública 2018-0-03-0-09-LV-029896 para contratar la construcción de una pista de aterrizaje y facilidades conexas en Coiba, sin embargo dicha licitación quedó desierta.
  • Posteriormente, UNESCO emitió el Estado de Conservación del Sitio para el año 2018. En su análisis expresa que la restauración de la pista de aterrizaje debe estar estrictamente encaminada a mejorar las facilidades para cumplir con requerimientos de seguridad y no para permitir mayor tráfico aéreo de pasajeros hacia Coiba. Se generó la Decisión No. 42 COM 7B.87 del Comité de Patrimonio Mundial de UNESCO, que expresa que debe asegurarse la elaboración de un Estudio de Impacto Ambiental (EIA) para la infraestructura aeroportuaria, en línea con las recomendaciones de la UICN para Evaluaciones ambientales sobre Patrimonio Mundial, y entregar dicho EIA al Centro de Patrimonio Mundial para que sea revisado por UICN antes de que inicien los trabajos del proyecto (fecha límite de entrega 1 de diciembre de 2019).
  • El Ministerio de la Presidencia presentó, con el aval de MiAMBIENTE, un EIA categoría I para la construcción de una pista de aterrizaje y otras facilidades conexas que incluyen una terminal aérea en Coiba. MiAMBIENTE dio apertura al proceso de evaluación el 26 de junio de 2018.
  • CIAM presentó a MiAMBIENTE el 3 de julio de 2018 una advertencia de ilegalidad, ya que el Consejo Directivo de Coiba no fue puesto en conocimiento sobre el EIA del proyecto ni dio su aval. El EIA del Ministerio de la Presidencia tiene múltiples vacíos, una categorización inadecuada y no aborda cómo sería la operación de la terminal, que podría incidir negativamente en el cumplimiento del Plan de Manejo del parque al incrementar el flujo de visitantes.
  • Hemos consultado por el estado de la advertencia de ilegalidad presentada por CIAM, pero a la fecha MiAMBIENTE aún no nos ha informado si la remitió a la Corte Suprema de Justicia como corresponde.

Sobrevuelo del Parque

Coiba
Construcción en Playa Blanca. Foto por CIAM.
  • Al no permitirse la libre visitación a la Isla, no tener respuestas a solicitudes de información y en un contexto de incertidumbre sobre cuáles son los trabajos de que se realizan y por quiénes desde noviembre de 2017, existe un clima de desconfianza y aprehensión en la ciudadanía preocupada por el área protegida. Por esa razón el CIAM y MARVIVA, organizaciones ambientales, realizaron un sobrevuelo de la Isla para observar qué es lo que ocurre actualmente.
  • Durante el sobrevuelo pudimos avistar en el área de Playa Blanca, que junto a una pequeña edificación de monitoreo deteriorada y en reparación, se limpió un terreno de mayor tamaño en el que comenzaron a construirse las fundaciones de una infraestructura de bloques claramente visible en fotografías. Desconocemos cuál es el fin de esta nueva edificación. Al momento de esta nota desconocemos si existen estudios o instrumentos de gestión para las construcciones que se están realizando, así como los permisos correspondientes para la implementación de los mismos; y nos preocupa los desechos que se están generando como producto de esta construcción.
  • Las actividades que el Ministerio de Ambiente realice o facilite en el Parque Nacional Coiba deben hacerse de forma transparente y con apego al principio de estricta legalidad. El Parque Nacional Coiba es un bien de dominio público, no una propiedad del Ministerio de Ambiente o de servidores públicos; ocultar información a la ciudadanía es contraproducente y solo genera desconfianza, pérdida de credibilidad para las instituciones y desgasta las relaciones en las que se fundamenta la democracia. El Ministerio de Ambiente debe esclarecer cuál es la naturaleza de todos los trabajos que se realizan en Coiba y fundamentar en derecho y en consideraciones técnicas el cierre del Parque.

 

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Smithsonian to study the megafauna of Coiba National Park’s waters

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thuggery on the territorial seas
Coibita Island, part of Coiba National Park. Smithsonian image.

Smithsonian will monitor Coiba’s megafauna

by Sonia Tejada – STRI, translated by Eric Jackson

Coiba National Park is considered by scientific experts as a potential world-renowned research destination and epicenter of great advances in our understanding of tropical ecosystems. Within this framework, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) announced on June 14 that it would evaluate the coral reef diving sites identified in the Coiba National Park Protected Area (PNC) Management Plan, which would allow the establishment of load capacities and acceptable limits on changes for proper management of those marine environments of the National Park open to visitation. This research will be carried out by researchers from local institutions with support from the Ministry of the Environment.

STRI will evaluate, with its own funding, the local movements of the megafauna that frequents the dive sites, with an emphasis on sharks and rays. This information will positively contribute to the protection of these emblematic species, within the framework of approved activities in the public use plan approved by the Ministry of Environment of Panama (MiAmbiente) and identified by UNESCO.

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Sen, Reduce fossil fuel use to create jobs

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sun
Energy efficiency creates more jobs than fossil fuels — at a faster rate and lower cost. Photo by Alex Snyder.

Want to create jobs? Reduce fossil fuel use

by Basav SenOtherWords

We’ve all heard claims that fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas are major job creators. President Trump says so all the time.

But it turns out that developing and installing the technology to reduce fossil fuel use — known in the industry as “energy efficiency” — creates many more jobs than fossil fuels.

Energy efficiency jobs in the United States totaled 2.18 million in 2016, more than double the total of fossil fuel production and fossil-fuel based electricity generation combined.

They’re growing at a much faster rate, too. From 2015 to 2016, there was 53 percent employment growth in advanced and recycled building materials, and 59 percent employment growth in Energy Star appliances. Compare that to just 9 percent growth in fossil fuel-based electricity generation.

These energy efficiency jobs are much cheaper to create. According to an academic study, every $1 million invested in energy efficiency creates 12 jobs, compared to just 4 or 5 for fossil fuel jobs.

These are good, well-paying jobs. For example, electricians have a median hourly pay of $26, and the corresponding numbers for heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) workers and carpenters are $22.64 and $21.71, respectively. (Compare that to the median hourly pay for all US workers, $18.12.)

These jobs are more likely to be unionized, too. And they’re a great way to lift up people who’ve been left out of the fossil fuel economy.

So it’s no wonder that many states are working to grow their share of efficiency jobs, especially for traditionally excluded populations such as people of color and low-income people. I looked at a bunch of inspiring examples in a new report for the Institute for Policy Studies that will be out this week.

For example, Illinois has passed legislation requiring larger utilities to create renewable energy and energy efficiency job training programs, especially for people from economically disadvantaged communities — including youth of color, formerly incarcerated people, individuals who’ve been in the foster care system as children, and others.

Oregon is another success story. Forty-seven percent of new jobs created through Oregon’s statewide residential energy efficiency program — and 55 percent of the hours worked — went to women and people of color. Median hourly wages for these jobs were 7 percent higher than the median hourly wage of $17.24 for all Oregon workers, and 81 percent of workers had health benefits.

These successes didn’t happen by themselves — they were the product of setting goals and making serious efforts to meet them.

So energy efficiency creates more jobs than fossil fuels — and at a faster rate and a lower cost.

They’re good jobs, with good wages and above-average rates of unionization. And states have taken concrete measures to make these jobs accessible to everyone and raise standards for energy efficiency workers.

Why, then, does the federal government lag behind? And worse still, why does it pursue fantasies such as bringing back coal? Sadly, the answer is bribes, bribes, bribes.

Fossil fuel interests pour money into congressional and presidential campaigns, and politicians return the favor by doing their bidding. The Trump administration’s push for coal is driven by two billionaire coal oligarchs, Robert Murray and Joseph Craft. Both have pumped money into Trump’s campaign and openly advocate for deregulating fossil fuels and bailing out coal.

If the federal government really cared about “jobs, jobs, jobs,” they would follow the lead of Illinois and Oregon and make a big push to subsidize energy efficiency — instead of bailing out coal.

 

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Editorials: Coiba; More newborn deaths; and US primary season

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Coiba
Construction underway on Playa Blanca, a sensitive protected area of Isla Coiba National Park. What is it? Is there an environmental study for it? Who approved it? When and where were the public hearings? Who is the contractor and where is the contract? All that information is being withheld. Aerial photo from the CIAM Twitter feed.

Coiba construction secrecy

Coiba Island, along with its adjacent islets and coral reefs, is a crown jewel of Panama’s wilderness areas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Politically connected resort developers want to privatize it for tourist development. Were they to hold an actual public hearing in a reasonable place with reasonable notice a huge crowd would turn out to oppose that. Especially now, with an administration tainted by the Odebrecht and Blue Apple construction contracting scandals.

So Coiba is being developed on the sly, it seems. Smash and grab time ahead of next May’s elections, replicated in a thousand different ways across the country. One of the reasons why we need a new constitution is so that people who do this don’t get to keep the proceeds of this behavior.

 

heparin
You don’t give this stuff to newborns. That’s why they put the warning in red.

Not again

Five years ago is was a rash newborns who died in the neonatal ward of the Arnulfo Arias Hospital Complex. What the problem was became immediately apparent, and measures were quickly taken — to destroy evidence. The facility was supplied with the blood thinner heparin, with the benzyl alcohol preservative that should never be in any medication administered to infants. The world might be none the wiser except that the mother of one of the affected babies was a doctor.

Eventually seven people, including some of the Social Security Fund medical supply functionaries, were charged with various aspects of negligent homicide. But fingers are still pointing in circles and nobody has actually been brought to trial.

We recall the case of deadly poisonous Diethylene Glycol (DEG) mixed into cough syrup at a government lab. The immediate reaction then was to deny and suppress reports to avoid bad publicity for the government before an election. The next thing was to deny the extent of it and block funding for tests to prove or disprove that deaths or illnesses were DEG-related, so as to pay out fewer benefit to those affected or their survivors. Then the blame assignments began, with the people most responsible carefully protected and people totally uninvolved being charged.

Before that there were the radiation overdoses for cancer patients, due to bad equipment bought from a US company and people at the Instituto Oncologico neglecting to check the radiation levels. The problem was compounded when in gross violation of medical and journalistic ethics, the affected patients’ names and medical histories were leaked to the press and published.

Not again! The US medical malpractice litigation game is probably not the way for Panama to go, but there needs to be accountability in all of our licensed professions. We don’t have that in any of our professions and many innocent people inside those subcultures and among the general public suffer for it.

 

Bell
There are too many people in positions of power, or with badges of authority, to whom black lives don’t matter. Let the Democratic nominee for St. Louis County Prosecutor and shoo-in for the November election, Wesley Bell, be the beginning of their nightmares. Photo from his website.

On the back stretch of a US primary season

Some close August 7 votes are going to absentee and provisional ballot counts, which may end up being decided by Americans living and casting their ballots from abroad.

En route to what? On the Republican side it’s about whether Donald Trump can destroy anyone in his party who is insufficiently obeisant. On the Democratic side it’s centrists versus progressives, with such corporate media as The Washington Post and The New York Times declaring the progressives dead on the eve of each primary day.

The progressives tend to lose against incumbents but win a bit more often in races for open seats. The big exception on August 7 was the primary ouster of the long-time St. Louis prosecutor who more than any other single person provoked the Black Lives Matter movement. With nazis and those who oppose them facing off in the streets, that St. Louis election result is a priceless demonstration of how to effectively confront those with contempt for the lives of those unlike themselves.

It’s all headed for a big November showdown. History and the totals by party of primary vote turnout suggest that Democrats will take control of the US House of Representatives. Whether the US Senate changes hands and the direction and extent of changes at state and local levels are the big unknowns. Register to vote and order your ballot by going to votefromabroad.org or fvap.gov or overseasvotefoundation.org. History will be made and you don’t want to have to lie when future generations ask you about your role.

Rashida
Did it take a time of men on their worst behavior in high places to make this the year of Democratic women? In a strange double race in Detroit, former state representative Rashida Tlaib, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, won the primary for the full term in John Conyers’s old seat, while Detroit City Council president Brenda Jones beat Tlaib in a special election to serve the remaining months of the former US representative’s present term. Photo from Tlaib’s website.

Bear in mind…
 

One of the happiest days of my life is when I made five or six hundred pesos from a crop of watermelons I raised all on my own.
Emiliano Zapata

 

The alienation, the downright visceral frustration, of the new American ideologues, the bone in their craw, is the unacknowledged fact that America has never been an especially capitalist country. The postal system, the land grant provision for public education, the national park system, the Homestead Act, the graduated income tax, the Social Security system, the GI Bill — all of these were and are massive distributions or redistributions of wealth meant to benefit the population at large.
Marilynne Robinson

 

Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.
Franz Kafka

 

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Avnery, Who the Hell Are We?

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Druze soldier
A Druze officer in the Israeli Defense Forces. The Knesset just moved to strip the members of this community of their rights and nationality. Wikimedia photo by Kika Sso.

Who the Hell Are We?

by Uri Avnery – Gush Shalom

Years ago I had a friendly discussion with Ariel Sharon.

I told him: “I am first of all an Israeli. After that I am a Jew.”

He responded heatedly: “I am first of all a Jew, and only after that an Israeli!”

That may look like an abstract debate. But in reality, this is the question that lies at the heart of all our basic problems. It is the core of the crisis which is now rending Israel apart.

The immediate cause of this crisis is the law that was adopted in great haste last week by the rightist Knesset majority. It is entitled “Basic Law: Israel the Nation State of the Jewish People.”

This is a constitutional law. When Israel was founded during the war of 1948, it did not adopt a constitution. There was a problem with the Orthodox religious community, which made an agreed formula impossible. Instead David Ben-Gurion read out a “Declaration of Independence,” which announced that “we are founding the Jewish State, namely the State of Israel.”

The declaration did not become law. The Supreme Court adopted its principles without a legal basis. The new document, however, is a binding law.

So what is new about the new law, which at a first glance looks like a copy of the declaration? It contains two important omissions: the declaration spoke of a “Jewish and Democratic” state, and promised full equality between all its citizens, without regard to religion, ethnicity or sex.

All this has disappeared. No democracy. No equality. A state of the Jews, for the Jews, by the Jews.

The first to cry out were the Druze.

The Druze are a small and close-knit minority. They send their sons to serve in the Israeli army and police and consider themselves “blood brothers.” Suddenly they have been robbed of all their legal rights and sense of belonging.

Are they Arabs or not? Muslims or not? That depends on who is speaking, where and what for. They threaten to demonstrate, to leave the army and generally rebel. Binyamin Netanyahu tries to bribe them, but they are a proud community.

However, the Druze are not the main point. The new law completely ignores the 1.8 million Arabs who are Israeli citizens, including the Bedouin and Christians. (No one even thinks about the hundreds of thousands of European Christians, who immigrated with their Jewish spouses and other relatives, mainly from Russia.)

The Arabic language with all its splendor, which until now was one of the two official languages, was demoted to a mere “special status,” whatever that means.

(All this applies to Israel proper, not to the five million or so Arabs in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, who have no rights at all.)

Netanyahu is defending this law like a lion against mounting criticism from within. He has publicly declared that all the Jewish critics of the law are leftists and traitors (synonyms), “who have forgotten what it is to be Jewish.”

And that is really the point.

Years ago, my friends and I asked the Supreme Court to change the “nationality” entry in our identity cards, from “Jewish” to “Israeli.” The courts refused, stating that there is no Israeli nation. The official register recognizes almost a hundred nations, but not an Israeli one.

This curious situation started with the birth of Zionism in the late 19th century. It was a Jewish movement, designed to solve the Jewish Question. The settlers in Palestine were Jewish. The whole project was closely connected with Jewish tradition.

But once a second generation of settlers grew up, they felt uneasy about being just Jewish, like Jews in Brooklyn or Krakow. They felt that they were something new, different, special.

The most extreme were a small group of young poets and artists, who in 1941 formed an organization nicknamed “the Canaanites,” who proclaimed that we were a new nation, a Hebrew one. In their enthusiasm they went to extremes, declaring that we have nothing to do with Jews abroad, and that there was no Arab nation — Arabs were just Hebrews who had adopted Islam.

Then there came the news of the Holocaust, the Canaanites were forgotten and everybody became remorseful super-Jews.

But not really. Without a conscious decision, the popular language of my generation adopted a clear distinction: Jewish Diaspora and Hebrew agriculture, Jewish history and Hebrew battalions, Jewish religion and Hebrew language.

When the British were here, I took part in dozens of demonstrations shouting “Free Immigration! Hebrew State!.” I don’t remember a single demonstration where anyone shouted “Jewish State!”

So why does the Declaration of Independence speak of a “Jewish State?” Simple: it was alluding to the UN resolution which decreed the partition of Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state. The founders simply stated that we are now setting up this Jewish state.

Vladimir Jabotinsky, the legendary forefather of the Likud, wrote an anthem declaring “A Hebrew is the son of a prince.”

Actually this is a natural process. A nation is a territorial unit. It is conditioned by its landscape, climate, history, neighbors.

When the British settled in America, they felt after some time that they were different from the British they had left behind in their island. They became Americans. The British convicts sent to the Far East became Australians. In two World Wars, Australians rushed to the rescue of Britain, but they are not British. They are a proud new nation. So are Canadians, New Zealanders, and Argentinians. And so are we.

Or would have been, if official ideology had allowed it. What has happened?

First of all, there was the huge immigration from the Arab world and Eastern Europe in the early fifties — for every one Hebrew there were two, three, four new immigrants, who considered themselves Jews.

Then there was the need for money and political support from the Jews abroad, especially in the US. These, while considering themselves full and true Americans (try and say they are not, you bloody anti-Semite!) are proud to have a Jewish State somewhere.

And then there was (and is!) a rigorous government policy of Judaization of everything. The present government has reached new heights. Active — even frantic — government actions try to Judaize education, culture, even sports. Orthodox Jews, a small minority in Israel, exert immense influence. Their votes in the Knesset are essential to the Netanyahu government.

When the State of Israel was founded, the term Hebrew was exchanged for the term Israeli. Hebrew is now only a language.

So is there an Israeli nation? Of course there is. Is there a Jewish nation? Of course there isn’t.

Jews are members of an ethnic-religious people, dispersed throughout the world and belonging to many nations, with a strong feeling of affinity with Israel. We, in this country, belong to the Israeli nation, whose Hebrew members are part of the Jewish people.

It is crucial that we recognize this. It decides our outlook. Quite literally. Are we looking towards Jewish centers like New York, London, Paris and Berlin, or are we looking towards our neighbors, Damascus, Beirut and Cairo? Are we part of a region inhabited by Arabs? Do we realize that making peace with these Arabs, and especially the Palestinians, is the main task of this generation?

We are not temporary tenants in this country, ready at any moment to go and join our brother and sister Jews around the globe. We belong to this country and are going to live here for many generations to come, and therefore we must become peaceful neighbors in this region, which I called, 75 years ago, “the Semitic Region.”

The new Nation Law, by its clearly semi-fascist nature, shows us how urgent this debate is. We must decide who we are, what we want, where we belong. Otherwise we will be condemned to a permanent state of impermanence.

 

Uri Avnery, who was wounded fighting in the Israeli war of independence, twice served in the Knessett. He is the senior founding figure of Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc.

 

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