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Harrington, Después de los pavos

Corredor Norte
El último tramo del Corredor Norte. Foto por la Presidencia.

Don Juan Carlos Varela simplemente no da la talla para administrar un país — ¿o habrá alguna otra razón?

Después de los pavos

por Kevin Harrington-Shelton

¡OTRA chambonada más!

El mundo que nos mira escasamente sale de su asombro de el ridículo cuando, finalizado un mes de postergar la entrada en funcionamiento del último tramo del Corredor Norte, el presidente Juan Carlos Varela suspende INDEFINIDAMENTE el cobro que debió entrar en vigor ayer –para AHORA efectuar consultas con los usuarios.

Especialmente tratándose de moradores de las áreas menos privilegiadas de los suburbios cuyos presupuestos familiares materialmente no les permitirían pagar el peaje más caro de todo el país, por aquel tramo. Esto ya era patente hace 10 años cuando cuando fungí –gratis– como Administrador Judicial de PYCSA Panamá SA.

El problema creado por incompetencia tiene solución. Reducir a la mitad el peaje (para incentivar el uso de los corredores, como manera de economizar en la factura petrolera del país) y extender el plazo de los bonos hacia futuro. Los bonohabientes estarían muy de acuerdo.

Esto resulta fácil entender porque, entre las prioridades del mandatario, la tasa de intereses leonina (en relación al riesgo de bonos garantizados implícitamente garantizados por el Estado y que se liquida a diario y en efectivo mediante el cobro de los peajes), el presidente de manera consistente prioriza el interés de los donantes a su campaña –por encima de nuestro bien-común. Al punto que (en 2009) el entonces Vicepresidente Varela aprobó un financiamiento similar– regalándole a ICA $240 millones más y en efectivo– más de lo que valía nuestro Corredor Sur. Justo en el momento en que enfrentaba un cataclismo financiero en México.

De que hay gato-encerrado en aquella transacción pareciera confirmarlo el hecho que el presidente Varela rehusa hacer públicas las actas del Gabinete que documentan su aprobación de aquella irregularidad.

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Three years later, inquiries continue in Ramos disappearance

The disappearance of securities analyst Vernon Ramos and the stabbing of the man who took over the Financial Pacific case after his disappearance, plus testimony and other evidence of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct to suppress a probe of criminal activity in that brokerage house, suggest murder committed with an expectation of impunity.

Former police chief testifies in Vernon Ramos probe

by Eric Jackson

On November 16, three years to the day after the disappearance of Securities Markets Superintendency (SMN) senior analyst Vernon Ramos, former police chief and national security director Julio Moltó testified before special organized crime prosecutors for more than three hours. Moltó was not charged with anything and left after giving his testimony.

Ramos was investigating wrongdoing at the Financial Pacific brokerage house, which is now in the process of liquidation, when he disappeared. The most controversial of the matters he was looking into were allegations that then-president Ricardo Martinelli was using the brokerage for insider trades in Canadian stock shares of the parent company of the now closed Petaquilla gold mine. Shortly after Ramos disappeared the corrupt former Supreme Court magistrate Alejandro Moncada Luna cut off the investigation with a spurious ruling that notwithstanding Panama’s money laundering laws, illegal transactions with respect to shares not traded on Panama’s Bolsa de Valores are legal here. That not only stopped the investigation into Martinelli’s transactions, but paved the way for a sale to a group formally headed by Brazilians but including silent shareholders that included both Martinelli and former tourism minister Salomón Shamah. Just the Martinelli administration was voted out of office in 2014 the analyst who succeeded Ramos in the Financial Pacific investigation, Gustavo Gordón, was stabbed on the street near the brokerage’s office but the investigation was closed when Gordón survived, an assailant could not be identified and a judge treated it as a simple assault with no possible obstruction of justice component. Investigations since then have uncovered a vast criminal enterprise at Financial Pacific, along with the now intervened Banco Universal a clearinghouse for crimes and particularly the laundering of the proceeds of public corruption, both foreign and domestic. One man, Ignacio Fábrega, is in prison for acting as a mole inside the SMV, reporting to Financial Pacific management about the ongoing investigations. There is a related insider trading and money laundering investigation of Ricardo Martinelli pending before the Supreme Court.

So, if one goes by the indicia of means, motive and opportunity is there a strong circumstantial murder case? Probably not. No body has been found or identified and all along people aligned with Martinelli have suggested that Ramos was corrupt and fled into hiding. Earlier this year a purported witness claimed knowledge of Ramos’s death and how the body was disposed of, but the claim could not be verified. Thus for more than three years now the SMN analyst’s family waits with dread and uncertainty for word of what happened.

If Moltó’s interrogation is a set of messages rather than a sign of a break in the case, the two clearest messages would be that the matter has not been forgotten and that it’s being treated as a part of the financial crimes investigation against the brokerage house. Considering that there is no statute of limitations for either murder or forced disappearance and that for a middle aged adult the maximum sentence would in effect imprison somebody for the remainder of his or her life, this case may be one of the stronger reasons why Martinelli remains in Miami.

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What people don’t know about antibiotics


Widespread misunderstanding about antibiotic resistance

by the World Health Organization

As the World Health Organization (WHO) ramps up its fight against antibiotic resistance, a new multi-country survey shows people are confused about this major threat to public health and do not understand how to prevent it from growing.

Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria change and become resistant to the antibiotics used to treat the infections they cause. Over-use and misuse of antibiotics increase the development of resistant bacteria, and this survey points out some of the practices, gaps in understanding and misconceptions which contribute to this phenomenon.

Almost two thirds (64 percent) of some 10 000 people who were surveyed across 12 countries say they know antibiotic resistance is an issue that could affect them and their families, but how it affects them and what they can do to address it are not well understood. For example, 64 percent of respondents believe antibiotics can be used to treat colds and flu, despite the fact that antibiotics have no impact on viruses. Close to one third (32 percent) of people surveyed believe they should stop taking antibiotics when they feel better, rather than completing the prescribed course of treatment.

“The rise of antibiotic resistance is a global health crisis, and governments now recognize it as one of the greatest challenges for public health today. It is reaching dangerously high levels in all parts of the world,” says Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, in launching the survey findings today. “Antibiotic resistance is compromising our ability to treat infectious diseases and undermining many advances in medicine.”

The survey findings coincide with the launch of a new WHO campaign ‘Antibiotics: Handle with care’ — a global initiative to improve understanding of the problem and change the way antibiotics are used.

“The findings of this survey point to the urgent need to improve understanding around antibiotic resistance,” says Dr. Keiji Fukuda, Special Representative of the Director-General for Antimicrobial Resistance. “This campaign is just one of the ways we are working with governments, health authorities and other partners to reduce antibiotic resistance. One of the biggest health challenges of the 21st century will require global behaviour change by individuals and societies.”

The multi-country survey included 14 questions on the use of antibiotics, knowledge of antibiotics and of antibiotic resistance, and used a mix of online and face-to-face interviews. It was conducted in 12 countries: Barbados, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, the Russian Federation, Serbia, South Africa, Sudan and Viet Nam. While not claiming to be exhaustive, this and other surveys will help WHO and partners to determine the key gaps in public understanding of this problem and misconceptions about how to use antibiotics to be addressed through the campaign.

Some common misconceptions revealed by the survey include:

  • Three quarters (76 percent) of respondents think that antibiotic resistance happens when the body becomes resistant to antibiotics. In fact bacteria — not humans or animals — become resistant to antibiotics and their spread causes hard-to-treat infections.
  • Two thirds (66 percent) of respondents believe that individuals are not at risk of a drug-resistant infection if they personally take their antibiotics as prescribed. Nearly half (44 percent) of people surveyed think antibiotic resistance is only a problem for people who take antibiotics regularly. In fact, anyone, of any age, in any country can get an antibiotic-resistant infection.
  • More than half (57 percent) of respondents feel there is not much they can do to stop antibiotic resistance, while nearly two thirds (64 percent) believe medical experts will solve the problem before it becomes too serious.

Another key finding of the survey was that almost three quarters (73 percent) of respondents say farmers should give fewer antibiotics to food-producing animals.

To address this growing problem, a global action plan to tackle antimicrobial resistance was endorsed at the World Health Assembly in May 2015. One of the plan’s five objectives is to improve awareness and understanding of antibiotic resistance through effective communication, education and training.

Key findings of the survey by country

Barbados (507 face-to-face interviews)

  • Only 35 percent of respondents say they have taken antibiotics within the past six months — the lowest proportion of any country included in the survey; of those who have taken antibiotics, 91 percent say they were prescribed or provided by a doctor or nurse.
  • Fewer than half of respondents (43 percent) have heard of the term ‘antibiotic resistance’; and fewer than half (46 percent) — less than any other country in the survey — believe that many infections are becoming increasingly resistant to treatment by antibiotics.
  • Only 27 percent of respondents agree with the statements ‘Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest problems the world faces’ and that ‘Experts will solve the problem’ — the lowest proportion of all participating countries for both questions.

China (1,002 online interviews)

  • 57 percent of respondents report taking antibiotics within the past six months; 74 percent say they were prescribed or provided by a doctor or nurse; 5 percent say they purchased them on the internet.
  • More than half (53 percent) of respondents wrongly believe that they should stop taking antibiotics when they feel better, rather than taking the full course as directed.
  • 61 percent of respondents think, incorrectly, that colds and flu can be treated by antibiotics.
  • Two thirds (67 percent) of respondents are familiar with the term ‘antibiotic resistance’ and three quarters (75 percent) say it is ‘one of the biggest problems in the world’. 83 percent of respondents say that farmers should give fewer antibiotics to animals — the highest proportion of any country in the survey.

Egypt (511 face-to-face interviews)

  • More than three quarters (76 percent) of respondents say they have taken antibiotics within the past six months, and 72 percent say they were prescribed or provided by a doctor or nurse.
  • 55 percent of respondents incorrectly think that they should stop taking antibiotics when they feel better, rather than taking the full course; and more than three quarters (76 percent) wrongly believe that antibiotics can be used to treat colds and flu.
  • Less than one quarter (22 percent) of respondents have heard of the term ‘antibiotic resistance’ — the lowest proportion of any country included in the survey.

India (1,023 online interviews)

  • More than three quarters (76 percent) of respondents report having taken antibiotics within the past six months; 90 percent say they were prescribed or provided by a doctor or nurse.
  • Three quarters (75 percent) of respondents think, incorrectly, that colds and flu can be treated with antibiotics; and only 58 percent know that they should stop taking antibiotics only when they finish the course as directed.
  • While 75 percent agree that antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest problems in the world, 72 percent of respondents believe experts will solve the problem before it becomes too serious.

Indonesia (1,027 online interviews)

  • Two thirds (66 percent) of respondents report having taken antibiotics in the past six months; 83 percent of respondents say they were prescribed or provided by a doctor or nurse.
  • More than three quarters (76 percent) of respondents know that they should only stop taking antibiotics when they have taken all of them as directed, but 63 percent incorrectly think they can be used to treat colds and flu.
  • 84 percent of respondents are familiar with the term ‘antibiotic resistance’ and two thirds (67 percent) believe that many infections are becoming increasingly resistant to treatment by antibiotics.

Mexico (1,001 online interviews)

  • Three quarters (75 percent) of respondents report having taken antibiotics within the past six months; 92 percent say they were prescribed by a doctor or nurse; and 97 percent say they got them from a pharmacy or medical store.
  • The majority of respondents (83 percent) accurately identify that bladder/urinary tract infections (UTIs) can be treated with antibiotics, but 61 percent wrongly believe that colds and flu can be treated with antibiotics.
  • 89 percent of respondents in Mexico say they have heard of the term ‘antibiotic resistance’ and 84 percent believe many infections are becoming increasingly resistant to treatment by antibiotics — a higher proportion than any other country included in the survey on both questions.

Nigeria (664 face-to-face interviews)

  • Almost three quarters (73 percent) of respondents report taking antibiotics within the past six months; 75 percent of respondents state they were prescribed or provided by a doctor or nurse; 5 percent say they bought them from a stall or hawker.
  • More respondents in Nigeria than any other country included in the survey correctly identify that antibiotics do not work for colds and flu (47 percent), however 44 percent of respondents think they do.
  • Only 38 percent of respondents have heard of the term ‘antibiotic resistance’ — the second lowest proportion of all the countries surveyed.

Russian Federation (1,007 online interviews)

  • A little more than half of respondents (56 percent) report having taken antibiotics within the past six months; the same proportion (56 percent) say their most recent course of antibiotics was prescribed or provided by a doctor or nurse — the lowest proportion of any country included in the survey.
  • Two thirds (67 percent) of respondents incorrectly think colds and flu can be treated with antibiotics, and more than one quarter (26 percent) think they should stop taking antibiotics when they feel better rather than taking the full course as directed.
  • Awareness of the term ‘antibiotic resistance’ was high among respondents at 82 percent.
  • 71 percent think antibiotics are widely used in agriculture in their country and 81 percent say that farmers should give fewer antibiotics to animals.

Serbia (510 face-to-face interviews)

  • Fewer than half (48 percent) of respondents say they have taken antibiotics within the past six months; 81 percent say they were prescribed or provided by a doctor or nurse.
  • The majority of respondents (83 percent) accurately identify that bladder infections/UTIs can be treated with antibiotics, but more than two thirds (68 percent) wrongly believe that colds and flu can be treated with antibiotics.
  • Only 60 percent of respondents in Serbia have heard of the term ‘antibiotic resistance’ and only one third (33 percent) think it is one of the biggest problems the world faces.
  • 81 percent of respondents say that farmers should give fewer antibiotics to animals.

South Africa (1,002 online interviews)

  • 65 percent of respondents say they have taken antibiotics within the past six months; a higher proportion of people than any other country included in the survey (93 percent) say their last course of antibiotics was prescribed or provided by a doctor or nurse, and 95 percent say they had advice from a medical professional on how to take them.
  • 87 percent of respondents know they should only stop taking antibiotics when they finish the course of treatment — a higher proportion than any other country included in the survey.
  • The same proportion (87 percent) of respondents — and again more than any other country in the survey — recognize that the statement ‘It’s OK to use antibiotics that were given to a friend of family member, as long as they were used to treat the same illness’ is false. It is a practice which can encourage the development of resistance.

Sudan (518 face-to-face interviews)

  • More than three quarters (76 percent) of respondents report having taken antibiotics within the past six months; 91 percent say they were prescribed or provided by a doctor or nurse.
  • 62 percent of respondents incorrectly think they should stop taking antibiotics when they feel better — more than any other country included in the survey — and 80 percent think antibiotics can be used to treat colds and flu. Both of these statements are incorrect. These are practices which encourage the development of antibiotic resistance.
  • 94 percent of respondents agree that people should use antibiotics only when prescribed, and 79 percent believe that antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest problems the world faces — the highest percentages on both questions of any of the countries where the survey was undertaken.

Viet Nam (1,000 online interviews)

  • 71 percent of respondents state they have taken antibiotics within the past six months; three quarters (75 percent) report they were prescribed or provided by a doctor or nurse.
  • 86 percent of respondents think that the body becomes resistant to antibiotics (whereas in fact it is bacteria) — a higher proportion than any other country included in the survey.
  • 83 percent think that many infections are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics.
  • 70 percent of respondents think that antibiotics are widely used in agriculture in their country and almost three quarters (74 percent) agree that ‘antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest problems the world faces’.
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The Global Observer, Why they hate us

The hatred is not a figment of someone’s imagination, although some of the explanations for it are.

Why do they hate us?

by The Global Observer

I have read a number of articles since 9/11 centered around the question “Why do these terrorists hate us?” Now in light of the Paris bombings this week, it once again elicits the question.

Instead of quoting many good articles I have read on this, I summarize with my own reactive thoughts.

My first observation is that humanity still consists of core animalistic principles of running in packs and living in groups or communities. Most of these groupings are based on core survival instincts where we have learned to not only live for self, but live to protect our families, friends and communities from those dangerous “others.” Since prehistoric ages, when one group has insufficient “anything,” they start looking to attack or join other groups to sustain life. These are core drives in our existence — “survival of the fittest” if you will.

Second, we are brought up by our families and communities to conform our individualities to the norms of our group and our identities as humans become totally absorbed into “what’s best for the majority.” Of course, the “majority” are usually driven by “leaders” since humans taught to conform all their lives will rarely have an original thought or action of their own.

Thirdly, when a “leader” is challenged to explain that which is unexplainable — which is a lot of things in our universe — he or she is expected to have an answer better than “I don’t know.” So, religions and sciences are devised by these leaders to help center the masses around “reasonable” explanations which are often great fantasies of the leaders minds to give the people the answer they want and erase their natural fears of the enemy or nature’s unknowns.

Finally, it should be noted that the human ego needs a lot of stroking and attention. We need something to believe in, and we have to FEEL that what we believe in is THE right thing. We grow up learning to categorize people by race, creed or economic levels. In most cases, those different from us are perceived as threats, not “someones” to be embraced or included. We learn to hate and despise those who threaten us and our egos. Even in melting pots like America, society quickly starts labeling others as dagos, wops, nazis, japs, honkys, niggers, etc etc. These names are not usually meant to be endearing.

After a few millennia of this in societies around the globe, is it really any wonder that we have extreme differences and conflicts, even in the light of education and science? The sad reality is that a great majority of humans on this planet are NOT educated — at least at any secular meaning of the word. A large majority of people are still learning “in the street,” within their family or religious circles, or via whispered rumors and texting false information world wide. People don’t read books anymore. They prefer to read snippets of information sent to them by huge media conglomerates who profit by manipulating human mentality into buying their sponsors products or accepting the common perceptions that governments or global corporations want the masses to believe or think.

As bad as global “terrorism” has become, I feel like I have a pretty good idea why these people “hate us.” It really should come as no surprise when the majority who are poor and uneducated are manipulated and fed by fundamental religionists whose specialty is to divide and conquer all of humanity. The “sheeple” really have no choice. They will die alone if they do not follow. So at least now they will die WITH thousands of their co-conspirators, while serving the ego needs of their supposed or tyrant leaders as well as their own mini-egos.

When so many of these hordes, like millions of American Christians I think I know pretty well, believe in a “holy book” more than a “scientific book” or national constitution there becomes very little difference between “jihadists” of the Muslim persuasion and the Zionist or fundamentalist Christian varieties on a global basis. All are trying to overcome the other, even within the borders of the most successful experiment in democracy. The only unity you have in America is within the poor majority or the super-rich minority. Nothing in between.

So, unfortunately, until we all come to grips with our own hypocritical worldviews everyone can expect to be hated by someone else nearby. Believers despise the un-believers. Intellectuals despise the ignorant. Radicals despise the vapid. Basically, we have lost all trust in the humanity of others. While actions and examples of charity, kindness and giving still exist, these human traits are now in the minority and in continued decline. Most religions or governments do not practice them without subservience to their cause.

I really don’t believe radicals hate Americans or Westerners because of our “freedoms,” as some of our past leaders have tried to convince us. They are simply tired of us usurping what is theirs, asserting our “freedoms” over THEIR lands, religions and cultures. The pressure for “them” to conform to our norms of dress, arts and cinema — and consumerism most of all — is extreme. If the “West” had simply stayed more pure to its ideals of democracy, free enterprise and caring for its own at home instead of 100 years of military and cultural invasions, we would have seen a more natural adoption of our way of life versus today’s terroristic rejection of our meddling. If we had a stronger military defense — versus all the offensive power brokering and history of military and economic support for tyrannical governments — “they” might not hate us quite so much.

We westerners have followed our governments and corporate elites into attempts to dominate all other cultures. Most of us didn’t mean anything by it, but we are now living with the results of our blind following of power-hungry, ego-driven elitist politicos. These leaders send men and women into battles that they are not ready to win, for causes that are questionable. We have voted these same type of people into office for centuries now. How is it that we are surprised that terrorists hate them when many of us are starting to hate them as well? These are what the world sees as “Americans,” and I have spent over 16 years living outside of my country apologizing for my government’s actions and attitudes. NOT a pleasant experience.

I am not being “un-American” to place some blame where it belongs. I am saying that we need to change our role in these global divisions. We can’t change THEM, we can only change or control ourselves. Lead by examples of fair trade and less corruption. Lead with humanitarian aid not extended at the point of huge guns. Quit being the biggest supplier of armaments — which so often end up pointed back at us — worldwide. Let’s quit fighting everyone else’s battles and win the fights we have within our own borders. Let’s truly become that “beacon on a hill” of life, liberty and economic success that Reagan and other previous leaders have presented as the goal yet never really acted on.

We might be able to bomb those who hate us into submission for a while, but we still have to win the war at home, against religious and class warfare that leads to hate and mistrust among ourselves. Only then will those on the outside learn not to hate us so much. You don’t have to be religious to believe in these principles of peace and prosperity. In fact, it is easier to do so being a humanitarian.

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Retrieved archives from an infamous campaign

The 2006 canal expansion referendum was a PRD project, in conjunction with the banks and construction companies, and also a major exercise of a Panama Canal Authority information control game that was created when Ricardo Martinelli was Minister of Canal Affairs. Street graffiti photo by Eric Jackson.

Archives of an infamous campaign: redemption in search of volunteers

links to 2006 articles that hackers wanted to erase

Whodunnit? We don’t know, but a series of hacker attacks that began to shut down the old website of The Panama News in December of 2014 has by and large destroyed easy access to our archives. Did Ricardo Martinelli make a big international campaign of wanting to erase online archives of the things that he did, and did he have Israeli hacking equipment, Italian programs and US-trained “security personnel” capable of doing it? He had all of these things, and more. But the the hacker(s) might also have been somebody else. In any case, after the final collapse of our old website in the middle of last March, we were left with a bunch of fragments of years of online records of what The Panama News has done, and restoring our archives is a work that had been put on the back burner while we set about the as-yet unfinished task of rebuilding the website and carrying on with our coverage. If you want to volunteer your labor for this project, send us an email.

These links are to the stories that we published in 2006 about the referendum campaign on the Panama Canal expansion. You don’t truly understand the problems and corruption that have come to that project since then if you know nothing of this story.

Can we render this links into headlines rather tn Internet addresses? Can we copy the stories and store them in places beyond our enemies’ easy reach? Can we begin to restore The Panama News as an online historical resource? Might we go even farther and restore archives of much more of Panama’s English-language journalism, by other people over many decades, and thus reclaim part of Panama’s history? It’s a matter of labor and to a lesser extent money.


































































































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The second debate: what Democrats are saying

The entire debate in Iowa, very carefully scheduled by Debbie Wasserman-Schultz for a low-ratings time and on the evening of the University of Iowa’s homecoming in order to minimize its impact.

What Democrats are saying

Your editor has his bias toward Bernie Sanders and thinks that the extraordinary part of the debate were when Hillary objected to Bernie’s criticism of her ties with Wall Street as an attack on her integrity, and went on to cite 9/11 as the reason for her financial industry backing. At least that’s how the editor took it. Read the transcript of the debate here.

The best debate lines according to Paola Chavez for ABC.

The best debate lines according to Tessa Stuart in Rolling Stone.

Amy Davidson’s take in The New Yorker.

Abby Phillip and David Weigel opine in The Washington Post.

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STRATFOR, France contemplates a reckoning


After Paris, France contemplates a reckoning



Details are still emerging as to precisely who was responsible for the November 13 Paris attacks. Sorting through the jumble of misinformation and disinformation will be challenging for French authorities, and for outside observers such as Stratfor.

While the Islamic State has claimed credit for the attack, it is still uncertain to what degree the Islamic State core organization was responsible for planning, funding or directing it. It is not clear whether the attackers were grassroots operatives encouraged by the organization like Paris Kosher Deli gunman Ahmed Coulibaly, if the operatives were professional terrorist cadres dispatched by the core group or if the attack was some combination of the two.


French President Francois Hollande publicly placed responsibility for the November 13 attack on the Islamic State, declaring it an act of war. This French response to the Paris attacks is markedly different from that of the Spanish Government following the March 2004 Madrid train bombings. Instead of pulling back from the global coalition working against jihadism, it appears that the French will renew and perhaps expand their efforts to pursue revenge for the most recent assault. The precise nature of this response will be determined by who is ultimately found to be the author of the November 13 attack.

To date, there has been something akin to a division of labor in the anti-jihadist effort, with the French heavily focused on the Sahel region of Africa. The French have also supported coalition efforts in Iraq and Syria, stationing six Dassault Rafale jets in the United Arab Emirates and six Mirage jets in Jordan. On November 4, Paris announced it was sending the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle to enhance ongoing airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. To date, French aircraft have flown more than 1,285 missions against Islamic State targets in Iraq, and only two sorties in Syria.

France has numerous options for retaliation at its disposal, but its response will be conditioned by who was ultimately responsible. If it is found that the Islamic State core group was indeed behind the November 13 attack, France will likely ramp up its Syrian air operations. The skies over Syria, however, are already congested with coalition and Russian aircraft. With this in mind, the French may choose to retaliate by focusing instead on the Islamic State in Iraq, or perhaps even other Islamic State provinces in places such as Libya. Another option would be to increase French programs to train and support anti-Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria, or even to conduct commando strikes against key leadership nodes. France also has the option of deploying an expeditionary force like it did in the Sahel, although that would probably require outside airlift capacity from NATO allies, especially the United States.

European ramifications

The Paris attacks occurred during a Europe-wide political crisis over migrant flows from the Middle East, Asia and Africa. A Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the Paris attackers, prompting a Greek official to say November 14 that the name on the document belonged to a person who passed though Greece in October. This news means that a number of politicians critical of the European Union’s response to the immigrant crisis will amplify their disapproval. In particular, advocates who want to end the Schengen agreement, which eliminated border controls in Europe, will use Paris to support their cause.

This has already begun. Poland became the first country to link the Paris attacks to the uptick in immigration. On November 14, Polish Minister for European Affairs-designate Konrad Szymanski said the Paris attacks make impossible the implementation of an EU plan to distribute asylum seekers across the Continental bloc. As expected, France’s National Front party also demanded the end of the Schengen agreement. In a televised speech, party leader Marine Le Pen said France has to “recapture control of its borders.”

In Germany, Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer said the Paris attack demonstrates that border controls are more necessary than ever. Seehofer has been very critical of the German government’s handling of the refugee crisis, demanding permanent border controls as well as faster repatriation of asylum seekers. The Paris attack will likely strengthen his position and further weaken the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, which was already facing internal dissent because of the migration crisis. In recent weeks Germany has seen an increase in anti-immigrant violence, including arson attacks against refugee shelters. The November 13 attacks may encourage more extremist groups across Europe to attack asylum seekers.

The anti-Schengen camp will feel vindicated by a parallel event that took place in southern Germany last week, when a Montenegrin citizen was arrested while allegedly driving to Paris with several weapons. While German police have not established a direct connection between this incident and the November 13 attacks, they have said that a link cannot be ruled out. The fact that this man was from Montenegro — a country in the Western Balkans — and made it to Germany in his car will strengthen the demands for stricter border controls along the so-called Balkan route of migration, which connects Greece to Northern Europe.

The Paris attacks will therefore improve the popularity of anti-immigration parties in many European countries, and continue to weaken popular support for the Schengen agreement. Several countries, including Germany, Sweden, Slovenia and Hungary had already re-established border controls because of the immigration crisis. Hungary and Slovenia have gone as far as building fences along their borders. After the November 13 attacks, most EU governments will find it hard to justify a policy of open borders.


After Paris, France Contemplates a Reckoning is republished with permission of Stratfor.

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December 11 court date for Ricardo Martinelli

He can still send out Twitter rants from Miami, but the former president can’t even rent a decent-sized crowd of defenders in Panama anymore. Screen shot of his Twitter feed.

Jerónimo Mejía sets a December 11 court hearing for Ricardo Martinelli

by Eric Jackson

Most probably Ricardo Martinelli will not be in Panama on the morning of December 11, when magistrate Jerónimo Mejía has scheduled a hearing for formal charges of illegal electronic eavesdropping to be filed against Ricardo Martinelli. In an ordinary proceeding — which would not be before the Supreme Court as this case is — the prosecutor would read the charges, defense lawyers would assert their objections to the accusations, the accused would enter a plea and there would be a decision about bail, pretrial detention or travel restrictions and perhaps a trial date would be set. Here magistrate Harry Díaz, acting as prosecutor, will assert the charges, defense lawyers will object in the former president’s absence and if Mejía accepts the charges for further proceedings there will probably be an application to INTERPOL for a “red notice” that serves as an international request for the accused’s arrest and extradition.

If INTERPOL does issue a red notice, then the ball goes into Barack Obama’s court — he could ignore the extradition request, have Martinelli arrested or dawdle to give Panama’s former president time to flee to a third country that would have him. The Obama administration, with or without any formal charges from Panama, has always had the power to expel Ricardo Martinelli from the United States. It is not particularly clear whether President Juan Carlos Varela really wants Martinelli sent back here for trial, but his public position is that he won’t interfere in matters that are up to courts and prosecutors.

If Martinelli comes or is sent back here, it is unlikely that he would stand trial before January. Come January 1, unless the legislature rejects one or more nominees, one-third of the Supreme Court will be new and there will no longer be a majority of Martinelli appointees. The process of appointing new magistrates and suplentes for two high court members who were removed and of replacing a third whose term ends on December 31 is underway.


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Panamá se solidariza

Condena el extremismo y hace llamado a la unidad contra el terrorismo. Foto por la Presidencia.

Panamá se solidariza

Presidente Varela se pronuncia sobre los atentados en Paris

Viernes, 13 de noviembre de 2015

El Presidente de la República, Juan Carlos Varela Rodríguez se pronunció en la noche de este viernes sobre los atentados ocurridos en la ciudad de París que han cobrado la vida de más de 150 personas.

“En nombre del Gobierno de la República de Panamá deseo expresar nuestra solidaridad y condolencias al gobierno del Presidente François Holland, al pueblo francés y a los familiares de las víctimas fatales de los atentados terroristas ocurridos en el día de hoy. Condenamos enérgicamente estos actos cobardes de violencia indiscriminada e injustificada contra la nación francesa que hoy nos llenan de mucho luto y dolor”, expresó.

Varela Rodríguez llamó a la comunidad internacional, a los jefes de Estado del mundo civilizado a que cerrar filas, “a la unión de todos en la lucha contra el terrorismo y el extremismo, que amenazan nuestra humanidad y atentan contra la paz y la seguridad internacional”.

St. Malo
La Vice Presidenta y Ministra de Relaciones Exteriores Isabel De Saint Malo. Foto por MIREX.

Panamá se solidariza con el gobierno y pueblo francés

Viernes, 13 de Noviembre de 2015

El Gobierno de la República de Panamá extiende su solidaridad y profundas condolencias al gobierno y pueblo francés por los atentados que se están registrando su capital, París, en estos momentos.

Panamá rechaza enérgicamente todo acto de violencia y hace un llamado a países civilizados para que en unidad acabemos con la barbarie, e insta al más estricto cumplimiento de los principios y las normas del derecho internacional como el único fundamento de la paz y la seguridad.

Nuestros pensamientos y oraciones están con el pueblo de Francia, especialmente con los familiares de las víctimas de estos lamentables y sorprendentes hechos.

El Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores ha activado el Centro de Coordinación de Información (CECODI) para monitorear los hechos, velar por la seguridad de los panameños en el extranjero, y servir de enlace con la Embajada de Panamá en Francia. El teléfono para la atención de este tema es el + (507) 6983-1862 y permanecerá activado hasta que se normalice la situación en París.


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Editorials: Mining and industry; and Dealing with Daesh

A huaca, in the tradition of pre-Columbian Panamanian goldsmithing. Photo by Brian Gratwicke.

Forget a national economy based upon extracting minerals to export

A long-running gold mine scandal that has left a couple of hundred unemployed and unpaid workers, a big hole in the ground, a toxic pond, tainted streams and a bunch of defrauded stock market players is barely into its legal reckoning phases. The copper mine that was supposed to save Panama limps along due to low global prices, having changed hands several times but with the plan of ultimately employing only a few Panamanians and exporting unprocessed copper and molybdenum pellets to be made into metal things elsewhere continuing on its course. Now the Varela administration says that early next year it will start issuing new mining concessions. That’s a bad idea because the underlying concept is so flawed that it can’t benefit Panama.

Many Panamanian houses have roofs made of zinc sheets. We don’t have appreciable amounts of zinc, those are imported. Some of our buildings, mostly older ones, have copper sheets in their roofing material. We do have copper. While it may well be true that copper is worth more than zinc on world markets, were we to shelter ourselves under copper that we mine, smelt and process into sheets it would be the source of some good and sustainable jobs for Panamanians. But the mining under proper environmental controls of just enough copper to supply our own industries would not maximize profits to allow a huge multinational mining corporation to compete with its rapacious peers. It would also likely be challenged under “free trade” treaties as an improper import substitution scheme and unfair obstacle to would-be foreign owners of Panama.

Gold mining? Its history here hardly starts with the pump-and-dump Petaquilla Gold insider trading stock swindle that Ricardo Martinelli and his accomplices ran. Mostly gold mining here is a succession of frauds and environmental crimes, but it hasn’t always been that way. Long before the arrival on our isthmus of a culture prone to be driven crazy by the metal, gold was panned from streams and dug from exposed veins, then processed into exquisite objects by many generations of indigenous goldsmiths. We could dispense from the monster-scale open pits and cyanide ponds, mining gold on a scale just large enough to sustainably supply new generations of Panamanian goldsmiths. Young people who might otherwise be tempted to rob others for their gold might find useful jobs that enable them to live in comfort and raise families. Local gold creations, both in traditional styles and new designs, would add yet another attraction to our tourism industry. But of course, there is more money for fewer people in environmental rape and securities fraud.

The problem with mining here is with the prevailing model of our entire economy. Everything is oriented toward a zero-sum game with rich winners and everyone else losing. Mining as a part of a development strategy to benefit the Panamanian people is not on the national agenda. And what, other than lies about labor and environmental protections, is the mining agenda actually being considered? It’s foreign companies destroying large areas of the country to dig up ore, contaminating our waters with chemicals separate the metal from the rock, and exporting the metal to elsewhere, with the government getting a small cut of the action. There is so much money involved that the small percentage looks huge, and typically part of the proceeds go toward bribing public officials to let environmental laws go unenforced and let Panama’s share be reduced in an amount much greater than the payoff to certain individuals in positions of public trust. That’s the norm in mineral extraction economies everywhere.

We don’t need the contemplated mining concessions. Panama would be better off without them. Now if the president is going to come back to us with a mining and manufacturing proposal that makes sense for those who live here, we should consider it.


ParisWe weep, we fight, we make peace

The Russians are backing as viable an alternative as their is in Syria, the incumbent Assad regime. That government is monstrous and unacceptable to the United States, but the US alternative of a “moderate opposition” is a made-inside-the-Beltway delusion. In any case it’s a matter best settled among the people who live there, but that’s not happening because neighbors with their geopolitical interests and vicious Sunni religious fanatics led first of all by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are interfering and the rival jihadi groups Daesh (the Islamic State) and al Nusra have had the upper hand. But while squabbling with one anoher both the Russians and the Americans have stepped up their interventions and things are not looking good for Sunni bigots.

With Russian help Assad’s forces have pushed back al Nusra and non-jihadi opposition forces in the Damascus area, and lifted the Islamic State’s siege of Kweires airbase near Aleppo to the north. With American help Kurdish and Yazidi forces have taken Sinjar in northern Iraq and in so doing cut one of the main Daesh supply lines into Syria. Moscow complained that US drone strikes were worse than ineffective because there were no spotters on the ground directing fire, and without acknowledging any relationship Washington sent in US special operations forces, and whether or not because of these ground troops acting as spotters an American drone strike killed a bloodthirsty Daesh media star, the British computer programmer and Daesh cutthroat Mohammed Emwazi, more popularly known as Jihadi John. That death in no way disrupts the would-be caliphate’s command and control system but is an embarrassment that goes along with a string of battlefield defeats.

So Daesh is lashing out. On October 31 their affiliate in Egypt, Wilayat Sinai, bombed a Russian passenger jet taking tourists from Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg, killing all 224 souls aboard. On November 11 they set off two bombs in the predominantly Shiited southern Beirut suburb of Burj al-Barajneh, killing at least 23 people including three residents of Dearborn, Michigan. A three-year-old American boy, Haider Mostapha, has been left as a wounded and traumatized orphan in a Lebanese hospital, crying for his slain parents. On November 12 in Baghdad they attacked the Shia funeral of an Iraqi soldier who had died fighting against Daesh, killing a least 44 people. The next day came the much more heavily publicized (in the West) attacks on Paris, one of which was aimed at an American rock band and its fans.

Daesh needs to be crushed and its survivors treated as war criminals. But after that the people who live in the affected region need to sort things out for themselves, perhaps with Americans and Russians guaranteeing the peace but certainly not dictating the terms of a peace. Whether Syria and Iraq will continue to exist within the borders that the British and French drew for them after World War I really is not and should not be for outsiders to decide. Powerful and not-so-powerful neighbors may object, but Kurdistan’s fate as a nation that runs its own affairs is at stake. How the Syrians and Iraqis rule themselves after the war is to be determined. Perhaps the United States should play an Iranian card, not by any sort of formal alliance but just by distancing itself from Saudi Arabia.

There is much more, and much less, at stake in the peace process that will need to come. An end to religious-based warfare the rule of international law on a generally accepted basis have to be the main goals. Superpower status symbols need to be studiously ignored. In the emerging energy economy, who controls Middle East oil is becoming ever less relevant no matter what politicians and corporations want to make of that point. But we need to make peace. Endless war is not a viable option for the Americans, the Russians, the French or those who live in the Middle East.


Bear in mind…

If Hitler invaded Hell I would make at least a favorable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.
Winston Churchill


The only thing worse than a man you can’t control is a man you can.
Margo Kaufman


To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.
Sun Tzu


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