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Roux crushes Martinelli to win control of CD

               A Rómulo Roux campaign graphic, from his Facebook page.

Roux 1,486 – Martinelli 860

note by Eric Jackson

Ricardo Martinell probably won’t die behind bars, and if ever after all of the criminal cases are finished the man gets his political rights restored, he may be able to buy himself into this or that public post. But first people would have to forget. He might have more success as a behind the scenes power broker with a lot of money, even from behind bars. But he has been trying that one ever since he fled Panama early in 2015 and whether it’s because he’s stingy, because he has to avoid tipping off authorities to the location of assets that they might seize or because he’s just tainted goods on the always tawdry market for his sort of politics, the Martinelli era is over. By a resounding 1,486 to 860 vote he has been stripped of the party presidency that he had always held.

It wasn’t just tactical voting. Yes, Ricardo Martinelli had and has a thug in place as Electoral Prosecutor Eduardo Peñaloza, so there were no significant criminal prosecutions for 2014 vote-buying campaigns waged with hundreds of millions of dollars in funds stolen from the public treasury. In the end his appointees on the high court and their appointees lower down the judiciary might also keep him and most of his minions from doing much time, but Ricardo Martinelli’s standing as a potential Panamanian leader in early 2018 is roughly analogous to that of Manuel Antonio Noriega in early 1993. Martinelli is finished not only because he lost his bid for another term by proxy in 2014, not only because he is the most notorious of criminals, but because he tried to bully those who has supported him. Within two weeks of losing the 2014 election he gathered the Cambio Democratico legislators-elect — some of whose elections would be overturned when they lost re-runs brought on by civil findings of vote buying with state funds even if Peñaloza wouldn’t bring the criminal charges. He told the deputies that they had to do what he told them to do because he had complied a dossier on each of them. But it wasn’t long before most of the CD caucus in the National Assembly was thumbing their noses at him.

It all came down to a delayed and low-participation process of electing new party leaders, starting with convention delegates. On January 21 the party delegates spoke on the issue of the presidency, choosing corporate lawyer, former canal affairs minister and former minister of the presidency Rómulo Roux to head the party. It was not close. Although there will be a primary for the 2019 presidential nomination, Roux want that and all of the other people mentioned for the post are in and out of jail fighting multiple corruption charges. The primary race is Rómulo Roux’s to lose.

We don’t actually know Roux’s standing with the public. A photogenic attorney who went from Morgan & Morgan into public life and has managed not to be accused of any crimes may at a glance look like the head of a winning slate. President Varela’s cabinet may express mortal fear of Martinelista subversion infiltrating a large crowd that would like to see both Martinell and Varela behind bars, but that’s a desperate spin. The other major party, the Democratic Revolutionary Party, is also in disrepute and disarray so perhaps nobody should be counted out. Strains of the PRD would pull it in the direction of an alt-right anti-immigrant party, a social democratic anti-globalization party, a political patronage party with a leader not so creepy as Ricardo Martinelli or just another oligarchic bankers and big business formation. Perhaps the PRD might hybridize two or more of these strains. The scene looks set for an independent to come from out of the blue, but the election rules make that difficult.

In any case, count Martinelli out.


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The Panama News blog links, January 21, 2018


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

Hellenic Shipping News, Fitting in the new locks

Seatrade, Suez rolls out rebates for crude tankers

Video, Inferno on Panama-flag Iranian tanker off of China

Reuters, China accuses US warship of violating its sovereignty

Military.com, US Coast Guard wants a private prison ship

The Australian, Is China’s New Silk Road a one-way street?

Sports / Deportes

Pro Soccer USA, Torres close to new contract with Sounders

Metro Libre, Penedo se reporta al fin

Myambo, The crippling cycle of hosting big sporting events

Economy / Economía

Reuters, EU to remove Panama from financial blacklist

La Estrella, China y Panamá finalizan en marzo análisis para la negociación de TLC

AP, Panama Hotel votes to drop Trump – but his company won’t go

La Estrella, La Estrella de Panamá vuelve a circular los fines de semana

Reuters, Panama probes Blue Apple graft network

La Prensa, Odebrecht atraida por obras en Parque Omar

Kirk, World Bank phases out its support for fossil fuels

Galbraith, What Trump’s tax cut really means for the US economy

Xinhua, DHL introduces new indicator for world trade

EFE, Mark Zuckerberg urge al Congreso de EEUU a salvar a DACA

Science & Technology / Ciencia & Tecnología

Medical Xpress, Panama Canal was the gateway of deadly fungus migration

Telemetro, ¿El café como solución para preservar el Canal de Panamá?

National Zoo, Smithsonian releases endangered frogs in Panama

La Estrella, El jaguar desaparece de las riberas del Canal de Panamá

Economic Times of India, Climate change linked to more flowery forests

Science, Single blood test can screen for multiple types of cancer

EarthSky, Drone recon finds ancient Silk Road irrigation system

News / Noticias

Washington Blade, Panama hints that it will heed ruling on same-sex marriages

La Estrella, Cuestionan a Saint Malo por inclinación a favor de la CIDH

Telemetro, Pareja gay se casa en residencia del embajador británico en Panamá

NPR, US ambassador to Panama resigns

ABC: Servicemen reprimanded for bringing women to hotel during Pence’s visit

La Estrella, Legalización, ¿panacea o paliativo?

Newsweek, Mexican marines executed three US citizens

The Guardian, Mexico’s leftist frontrunner laughs off Russian stooge jibes

EFE, Nasralla dice en diálogo con Hernández deberían participar la ONU o la OEA

BBC, Deadly violence over disputed Honduras election result

AFP, Capturan en EEUU a excandidato presidencial vinculado a caso Odebrecht

The Guardian, US border patrol routinely sabotages water left for migrants

Opinion / Opiniones

Atwood, Am I a bad feminist?

Boff, The Earth’s future will not come from heaven

Hutton, Capitalism’s new crisis

Devore, Odebrecht’s original sins

Lakoff, Ten rules for resistance against Trump

Bracho, Esos países feos

Smilde, Should the United States attack Venezuela?

Tannenbaum, The impact of Peru’s political turmoil

Castro, Puerto Rico: La alternativa frente al naufrago

United Nations, Committee on the Rights of the Child considers report of Panama

LC / TI, Cumplimiento de los compromisos del Pacto de Estado por la Justicia

Sagel, En el reino de todavía

Culture / Cultura

A long Facebook thread on polleras, race, culture and Panamanian history

Indiana Daily Student, Indiana students bring dance program to Panamanian kids

TVN, Tarde en el museo el 3 de febrero en Penonomé

El País: ‘Días de Luz’, la película que busca unir a Centroamérica


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Avnery, May your home be destroyed

Jerusalem ~ Jerusalén ~ القدس ~ ירושלים
Jerusalem ~ Jerusalén ~ ירושלים ~ القدس

May your home be destroyed

by Uri Avnery

When I first met Yasser Arafat in besieged Beirut, in the summer of 1982, Abu Mazen was not present. But when I met him again in Tunis, a few months later, he asked me to meet Abu Mazen, too.

Abu Mazen, it transpired, was the Fatah leader in charge of Israeli matters.

My first impression of Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) was that he was the exact opposite of Arafat. He looked like a schoolmaster.

Arafat was an outgoing type, who liked to embrace and kiss people and to establish close relations from the outset. Abu Mazen was much more reserved and withdrawn. Yet I liked his personality.

Even then, more than 35 years ago, he belonged to the first rank of the Fatah and PLO leadership, side by side with people like Abu Jihad (who was killed by Israel), Abu Iyad (who was killed by Palestinian extremists), Farouk Kaddoumi (who objected to Oslo and was excluded).

I met with Abu Mazen every time I visited Arafat in Tunis. When I heard that he was originally from Safed, the mixed Arab-Jewish town in northern Palestine, this was an additional bond. Safed was the second home of my wife, Rachel, who, as a child, went there every summer. Her father, a children’s physician, practiced there in the summers, too. Abu Mazen could not remember whether he was ever treated by him as a child, before his family had to flee in 1948.

After the assassination of Arafat (as I believe, without proof), Abu Mazen assumed the leadership of both Fatah (the party) and the PLO (the semi-government). He is no second Arafat — he has neither the heroic stature nor the international status of the Founder. But he was accepted by all.

As the leader of a small and weak people, faced with a much stronger adversary, Arafat believed that the Palestinians must use all the few instruments at their disposal: organization, diplomacy, violence, whatever. But after the Yom Kippur war, he started on the path to Oslo. As he explained to me: “I saw that after an initial huge victory of surprise, the Arabs lost the war. I realized then that there was no way to recover our country by war.”

I think that Abu Mazen did not believe in violence to start with. It is not in his nature. He believes in the great Arab weapon: patience.

Arabs have a very different concept of time from Jewish Israelis — we are impatient, we need instant gratification. Our political history is short, our state came into being just 70 years ago, we have no patience whatsoever.

Arabs have a long, unbroken history, with many ups and downs. They are used to waiting. Patience is a mighty instrument.

I believe that faced with the might of Israel, that is the real doctrine of Abu Mazen — wait patiently until conditions change, let Israel exhaust itself. In the meantime, hold on, cling to the soil, don’t give up an inch, what the Arabs call “Sumud.” It may take one, two, three generations, but in the end we shall win.

This may not be a popular strategy, not a glorious one, but it may prove effective over time.

This, at least, is my conjecture. Nobody told me so.

But even a person like Abu Mazen may lose patience from time to time.

His by now famous Yekhreb Beitak speech was such a moment.

Yekhreb Beitak means, literally, “may your house be destroyed.” In the vast arsenal of Arab curses, it is one of the mildest. It could be rendered as “God damn.” (In modern Hebrew, we woefully lack curses, so Hebrew-speaking Israelis have to borrow their curses from Arabic and Russian.)

By all standards, Donald Trump can drive anybody mad. But for Palestinians, he deserves far more extreme curses.

For many decades now, the United States has posed as the impartial arbiter between Zionist Israelis and Arabs. President after president has presented Peace Plans and organized Peace Initiatives, but nothing ever came of them. (Both the Egyptian-Israeli peace initiative and the Oslo agreement were hatched behind the back of the Americans.)

The reason is quite simple: the US has millions of Jewish voters, nearly all of whom are ardent Zionists. After doing nothing at all to save the European Jews during the Holocaust, they are torn by remorse. Arab voters are indifferent.

Therefore, all American presidents, except Dwight Eisenhower (who was so popular that he didn’t need the Jewish vote), have been strong supporters of Israel. Since all Israeli governments have rejected the return of the occupied territories, and especially East Jerusalem, American impartiality was a sham.

But Trump is something special. He has appointed an ardent Jewish right-wing Zionist as ambassador to Israel. He has appointed his Jewish son-in-law and some other Zionists as mediators between Israel and the Palestinians. And in the end he has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announced that he is going to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv there.

If he had been speaking about “West Jerusalem,” the storm would have been mild. In practice, everybody agrees with West Jerusalem being the capital of Israel. But Trump spoke about Greater Jerusalem, only hinting that in some indefinite future, final borders may be drawn.

It is East Jerusalem, of course, which is the real battlefield. The Israeli government claims it as the birthplace of the Jewish religion, the location of the First and Second Jewish Temples and of the Western Wall (which was a part of the Temple’s supporting wall, but not of the temple itself).

Speaking of recognizing “Jerusalem” as part of the Jewish State was a heavy blow at the most profound Arab religious and national beliefs.

When the United Nations drew up the partition plan of 1947, it provided for a Jewish state and an Arab state, but conferred on Jerusalem the status of a separate unit. That was unacceptable to both sides.

Immediately after the 1948 war, when my friends (both Jews and Arabs) and I drew up the first peace plan based on the principle of “Two States for Two peoples,” we called for a “United Jerusalem, Capital of the Two States.” This is still the only viable solution.

The late Faisal Husseini, the unchallenged leader of the population of East Jerusalem, accepted this principle. There are many photos of us two standing together at demonstrations under this slogan. Abu Mazen accepts it, too.

So what did Abu Mazen say in his long speech at the Palestinian parliament, apart from the half-joking curse that made the headlines?

Actually, there was nothing new. He confirmed the terms of the “Arab peace plan,” to which I, too, agree wholeheartedly.

He completely rejected the so-called “one-state solution,” to which some extreme left-wingers subscribe now out of sheer despair. This would mean in practice a Jewish-dominated apartheid state.

He put an end to all the sham slogans whirling around: the notion that the US could be a mediator, the fiction that there is a “peace process” going on, the idea that the Oslo agreement is still alive and kicking.

The resolutions of the meeting — the PLO Central Council, which is the Palestinian parliament — finally reject the notion that the US could possibly act as an impartial mediator.

The Council decided to “suspend recognition of Israel,” which is a rather empty gesture. But it also issued a call “to stop security coordination (with Israel) in all its forms,” which is a much more serious matter. I doubt whether Abu Mazen can do this.

It specifically mentions the girl Ahed Tamimi, who had slapped an Israeli army officer on camera, and whom I have called the Palestinian Jean d’Arc.

It called for a boycott of the products of the settlements — a boycott which Gush Shalom, the peace movement to which I belong, initiated in 1998. But it also called for support of the BDS movement, which advocates a boycott of everything Israeli.

For lack of anything better, it calls for more diplomatic action in the UN, the International Criminal Court and other international institutions.

Nothing really very new, but a determination to resist.

Abu Mazen has no deputy. Like many political leaders everywhere, he detests the idea of an heir.

He is now 82 years old, but still younger than I. It seems that — like me — he has decided to live forever.


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Cinta Costera cats

Notice that the tip of one of this cat’s ears has been clipped? That’s the sign that Spay Panama has neutered it and released it back to the place from whence it was caught.

Cinta Costera cats

photos by Eric Jackson


Many of these cats are feral — they have never lived in a house and would not adapt to becoming a pet.


Ancon Hill in the background.


From another perspective, the Presidencia and the San Francisco Church in the distance. The cats are a part of the urban environment and if removed from a habitat, what generally happens is that more move in.



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Spay Panama, The Cinta Costera cat feeding ban


standing guard

To ban the feeding of animals on the Cinta Costera is to
hinder their sterilization and condemn them to starvation

by Spay Panama

Spay Panama, a veterinary foundation whose mission is the sterilization of at-risk domesticated animals to reduce their abandonment, alerts rescuers, animal protectors, associations and the citizenry in general, about the recent prohibition contained in Executive Decree 281, in which it is “Prohibited to feed animals of any sort” on the Cinta Costera.

This foundation reiterates that to neutralize the reproduction of dogs and cats is the only ethical and scientific action — proven in the First World — to curb their proliferation and prevent more offspring from being born to a life of sickness, hunger and human cruelty, which is what clause P of the decree published in the Gaceta Oficial obliges.

In four years, Spay Panama has neutered 72 cats that have been captured on the Cinta Costera by people aware of their vulnerability, and attended to for the most part by the program that the Panama City Mayor promotes through its Office of Animal Welfare.

Spay Panama warns that, as a side effect of this measure, those animals that are seldom observed at a glance because their nature is to not relate to humans, will migrate to nearby residential areas to break this hunger blockade, some to die in the attempt, others of starvation.

Feeding them is what allows them to fall into traps so that their immediate sterilization and holistic care can proceed. That’s what reduces their tearing into garbage bags and serves as a biological control barrier and repellent of certain diseases.

Executive Decree 281 creates a deadly precedent to the extent that it incites the unnecessary termination of their lives, which is prohibited by Section 6 of Article 4 of Law 78 of October 12, 2012 for the Protection of Domesticated Animals. The state is responsible for the protection of their whole existence, yet it would be the one that breaks the established norms.

This coming March, modfications of Article 421 of the Penal Code go into effect. These provide jail terms for all who cause the unnecessary death of a domesticated animal, by action or omission. It’s an act that was undertaken with broad consultation and the product of a prolonged struggle.

UDAW, the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare promulgated by the UN and of which Panama was the third country to ratify on December 1, 2013, recognizes these animals as living beings, which feel and suffer just like human beings.

Their inability to be self-sufficient for their defense holds us accountable as a superior species to advocate for their integrity, to protect them and to give future generations proof of our intelligence, solidarity and overriding capacity for tolerance.

We ask the Minister of the Presidency, the engineer Alvaro Alemán, to give us a few minutes of his time to enter into a dialogue that allows the cats’ survival.


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Bryan, On the occasion of the 2018 Women’s March



To the 2018 Women’s Marchers

by Julia Bryan – global chair, Democrats Abroad

On behalf of Democrats Abroad I want to thank you for standing with us over this last year.

John Lewis, civil rights hero, and Congressman from Georgia, has this to say about how to stand up for democracy. He says, “Your vote is precious and almost sacred. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democratic society and we must use it.”

You may have found this hard to believe after the 2016 election. You may have felt that your vote was a grain of sand, lost in an ocean of votes.

But listen. Your vote is not a grain of sand to be brushed away. It is a building block that you can use to stand on, to make your voice heard in the years to come. It is a building block, and one you can add strength to by reaching out to other people — your family, your friends, people you know from work, people you meet on the street, people around the world, and helping them to vote too.

YOUR VOTE COUNTS, even from abroad. Thanks to overseas votes, Democrats won the Roy Cooper’s race for Governor of NC in 2016. Our votes won Maggie Hassan’s senate race in New Hampshire. Just last year Democrats flipped 34 special elections that we weren’t supposed to win. Because those building blocks of votes add up. And although they might not always win us elections, they do win us a voice.

Because YOUR VOICE counts too. Thanks to overseas votes last year, legislators are paying attention to what we have to say this year. Around the US, states are reaching out to Democrats Abroad to let us know that they will support us. They have realized the strength of our voting bloc and told us we will not be forgotten. To anyone voting outside the US, I encourage you — build your voting bloc and you will build your voice as well.

I’ll be working this year to help grow the number of Americans who vote — and to make it easier for those who do. I’ll be working with our teams to strengthen Democrats Abroad’s global voice, to help hone the tools we need to effectively reach Congress from outside the US. This is how I will take my stand for democracy.

I’m proud of you all for standing up for democracy last year, and I am looking forward to hearing from you how you will make your stand this year. Thank you for your voice, thank you for believing in it and thank you for using it. And please, don’t forget to back it with your vote. Democracy is counting on you.


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Varela lashes back at anti-corruption protesters


Sic. Eight days after a massive anti-corruption protest on the Cinta Costera, the Varela administration decreed a ban on that sort of thing except for causes which it approves.

With three witnesses who say that he took millions from Odebrecht and growing public protests, Varela strikes back

by Eric Jackson

In the hours after the massive January 9 anti-corruption protest on the Cinta Costera, against the outward sign of a sea change there were also some subtle and not-so-subtle undercurrents.

Just a coincidence? That afternoon anti-corruption campaigner Miguel Antonio Bernal, this reporter and a number of other activists and bloggers lost Internet connectivity for a few hours. For some of us the problems have continued off and on.

Not a coincidence: As soon as stories about the protest started to be posted on the online editions of the corporate mainstream media, call centers swung into action with talking points concentrating on how unpatriotic it was to protest against corruption on The Day of The Martyrs; calling the protesters “corrupt;” and bringing in the word “seditious,” which had not been heard in Panamanian public discourse since Noriega times. Almost all of this was pseudonymous, as the organized comment campaigns below news stories tend to be.

A relatively small breakaway march from the main protest, which made its way past the Hotel Miramar where the president lives, had people jumping and shouting “There, there, there’s the thief!” Ricardo Martinelli’s media empire, the acquisition of which is the subject of criminal investigations but which has not been confiscated, played it all up as a big boost for the former president. If there may have been a few Martinelistas in the crowd there weren’t that many. None of the recognized leaders of Cambio Democratico party were present.

Perhaps the jailed ex-president’s braggadocio served Varela well, by giving his supporters someone less popular than himself at whom to point fingers. We can’t really know because the Electoral Tribunal has effectively banned the publication of opinion polls, saying that this would distort the May 2019 elections.

The day after the protest the president’s cabinet closed ranks and issued a press statement denouncing the protests. At a Santiago press conference Minister of the Presidency Álvaro Alemán read as statement accusing the protesters of wanting to “alter the public order.” He particularly denounced the breakaway marchers, none of whom he identified by name but whom he accused of “belonging in their majority to a political party marked by corruption, arrested abroad and fugitives from justice.” “We don’t rule out that money from corruption is serving to finance these disturbances.” (There were no reports of deaths, injuries, property damage or arrests associated with the January 9 protests.)

The cabinet warned of measures to be taken against those who protested and slammed the news media for covering the events.

On January 17 the administration published its measures to be taken, in the form of Executive Decree 281, a long document purportedly about mundane administrative matters with respect to the Cinta Costera. It includes things like a dress code for licensed vendors that bans flip flops, and smoking is now prohibited on the Cinta Costera. Buried in the decree, any political or religious activity on the Cinta Costera has to get permission from the government — but no permits will be issued for anything but recreational, cultural, family or sporting events. The government will have the discretion to require a bond in any amount for any event on the Cinta Costera. The SPI presidential guards are in charge of enforcing this.

Article 38 of the Panamanian constitution, however, provides that peaceful open air demonstrations and meetings are legal and require no permit, provided that the municipal government is notified 24 hours in advance. Varela ran for office in 2014 promising a constitutional convention to change the current document, which is a hand-me-down from the dictatorship. However, he backtracked on that because, he said, he could not be sure of controlling such a convention.

There is an impending test of Varela’s control, whether he can get the National Assembly to approve his nominees to be magistrates to the Supreme Court. Odds are that he can’t, and if a deal is made with dissidents from the Cambio Democratico and PRD legislative caucuses, the quid pro quo is likely to be so sordid that the protest movement would gather extra force.

Varela is afraid of a constitutional crisis, yet appears to be creating one.


On January 10 Miguel Antonio Bernal, one of the individuals behind the protest movement, reacted to the Varela camp’s declarations.


Mauricio Valenzuela and goons
ClaraMENTE, a small alternative media group that’s one of the organizations behind the protest, reacted to the January 17 decree.


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Traffic issue, Interior-style

horse 1
This colt seems unused to “the drill.”

Saying “Get in the truck!” won’t work, in any language…

photos by Eric Jackson


horse 2
A bucket of oats, a stick — none of that would convince him.


horse 3
He resisted for more than half an hour before he was coaxed into stepping onto the back of the pickup.


horse 4
Finally he was aboard, so that he and the truck could get out of — or actually onto — the road. After that the dogs reclaimed their usual dibs and THEY took over the road.


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STRI’s cool new fence

fence 1
STRI director Matthew Larsen, who hosted the Smithsonian’s new dean and undersecretary for museums and research John Davis for the occasion, ceremonially dedicated the artistic new fence around STRI headquarters on January 11. STRI photo.

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s protective new artwork

photos by STRI

You don’t call it a fence anymore. The Smithsonian’s headquarters in Panama is now surrounded by a “chromostructure,” and to call it that is a sign of respect for noted artist Carlos Cruz-Diez. Yes, it does serve as a barrier to limit the number of entrance and exit points to the campus that occupies the site where once stood the old Tivoli Hotel. A small remnant of the Tivoli is actually incorporated into this, the headquarters of the only Smithsonian outpost outside of the United States, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI).

A fence not far from the Tivoli acquired great notoriety in the events of January, 1964. That structure is long gone, one of the first things to be dismantled in the long conversion of the old Canal Zone. The most prestigious academic institution in Panama, however, has its own new generation of security needs.

It’s not that STRI didn’t have those needs or a protective barrier five years ago, but it is a different time, under different leadership, which calls for new symbolism. The institute is most noteworthy for its biological research, even if anthropology and archaeology have also been important parts of its work. But the current director broke the mold just with his credentials — Matthew Larsen is a geologist rather than a biologist. The United States is run by an anti-scientific crowd these days, with France openly headhunting to hire away scientists, people from STRI’s international research staff in many cases looking for jobs with which fanatics in Washington are less able to interfere, and meanwhile China is the rising scientific giant.
But the Smithsonian is many things, including the home of artistic excellence. The French and Venezuelan Carlos Cruz-Diez is one of the great op artists on the world scene today, and the look that he has given STRI changes color with the perspective from which it is viewed. It’s a great optical illusion in aluminum and urethane paint. It’s an instant Panama City landmark.



stri 3


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Biden, King’s legacy



King’s legacy

by Joe Biden

We celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at a moment when our country feels hopelessly divided.

But I still have hope. And I’ll tell you why.

Three months before I graduated from law school, Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis. Riots broke out in cities across America, including my own. Wilmington, Delaware was burning.

The governor, Charles Terry, had called in the National Guard when rock and bottle throwing escalated to sniping, looting, and arson. As a young trial attorney heading in to work each day, I walked by six-foot-tall uniformed soldiers carrying rifles. Apparently, they were there to protect me.

Over in East Wilmington, mothers were terrified their children would make one bad mistake and end up dead. National Guardsmen patrolled their streets with loaded weapons. Curfews were in effect.

Dr. King told us that “true peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” And as a young public defender, I remember imagining how we might heal this God-awful situation. How justice might be done. How we could rise out of the ashes — and find a way out together.

Because back then, we were made to believe that we couldn’t.

Forty years later, I found myself standing on a railroad platform in Wilmington, Delaware once again.

It was January 17th, 2009 — a bitter, cold, but glorious day. Thousands of people were in the streets of Wilmington and the parking lots, waiting for the same thing I was.

I was being picked up by a friend, President-Elect Barack Obama, who was about to be sworn in as this nation’s first African American President.

As I stood on that platform and waited, I looked out over my city — the very same part of the city that was in chaos 40 years earlier, when I had imagined and prayed that we might all live together.

That’s what can change in 40 years in this country.

Last year, this country elected a president who plays off our differences for political gain. It often feels as if we retreat behind those differences. But we simply cannot allow them to prevail once again.

Here’s what I believe — and I’ll believe it until the day I die: All those differences hardly measure up to the values we hold in common.

I believe we will once again move forward together. But to do that, we must realize what Dr. King realized — that opportunity is the only road to true equality.

This nation cannot be what it’s capable of being until it has offered that opportunity, equally, to all Americans.

May he continue to rest in peace, and inspire us for generations to come.


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