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Obama: The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it.

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Presidential hopefuls react:

 

Wish Obama would say ISIS, like almost everyone else, rather than ISIL.
Donald Trump

 

If I am elected President, I will direct the Department of Defense to destroy ISIS.
Ted Cruz

 

Our goal must not be to deter or contain ISIS. Our goal must be to defeat ISIS.
Hillary Clinton

 

ISIS will be destroyed with an international coalition in which Muslim troops on the ground are supported by the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and other leading powers.
Bernie Sanders
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FEDAP, La escogencia de magistrados

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Magistrate routine
El ministro de la Presidencia Álvaro Alemán atendió a los representantes de las agrupaciones Agentes por la Paz Electoral, Centro de Incidencia Ambiental, Centro de Innovación y Acción Social, Consejo Nacional de Organización Comunitaria y el Movimiento Independiente por Panamá (MOVIN) quienes le hicieron llegar la documentación con sus evaluaciones. Foto por la Presidencia.

La escogencia de magistrados

por FEDAP

La Federacion de Asociaciones Profesionales de Panamá (FEDAP) hace de conocimiento de la ciudadanía que, deplora que el proceso de escogencia de los Magistrados para llenar las dos vacantes en la Corte Suprema de Justicia, no solo constituye una burla al querer ciudadano, sino un insulto a los profesionales del derecho que con valor ciudadano e indiscutible espíritu cívico presentaron sus postulaciones al Ejecutivo para someterse al escrutinio ciudadano como fue difundido.

El solo hecho de haber realizado de por sí y ante sí una preselección de diez (10) ciudadanos no explicada ni justificada ante los propios interesados y la ciudadanía, que fue realizada, por una comisión de desconocidas calificaciones profesionales y experiencia en el tema de la justicia y que, además, realizaban un ejercicio jurídicamente indelegable y privativo del Consejo de Gabinete, independientemente de los posibles méritos de los seleccionados, limitó en forma manipulada y perversa la oportunidad de conocer las propuestas de los restantes 154 aspirantes, todos con derecho a exponer sus ideas, méritos, capacidad y trayectoria profesional.

Ha quedado muy claro el engaño que ha sido objeto la sociedad civil organizada o no, porque no hubo un proceso general transparente, sino una decisión y selección anticipada e inconsulta y sin ningún proceso previo serio y responsable por parte del Ejecutivo.

Nuestra organización profesional que tiene como principio fundamental en su estatuto el de defender la dignidad de todos los profesionales panameños, avala la firme posición expresada por la Junta Directiva del Colegio Nacional de Abogados de Panamá y su Presidente, en el sentido de no participar en esta pantomima que, una vez más, defrauda y engaña a la sociedad.

De esta forma, nuevamente, el Colegio Nacional de Abogados, hace patente una posición respaldada en sólidos principios gremiales y de defensa al respeto al profesionalismo. Por otro lado, la FEDAP también lamenta que los voceros del Pacto de Estado por la Justicia que representan a los grupos de la sociedad civil hayan caído en la evidente engaño de aceptar estas manipulaciones perversas con el inaceptable criterio de que por que se permitió difundir las entrevistas y formular preguntas públicas a los “finalistas”, se lograba un avance, cuando en realidad, no hay tal avance y la situación al final es la misma.

El ejecutivo, termina desatendiendo los esenciales requisitos que la sociedad reclama porque siempre serán los que ellos preliminarmente seleccionaron, y luego, como acostumbra, se refugiará en el mandato constitucional de una carta fundamental que otorga las facultades que han permitido todo lo que la sociedad conoce y que avergüenza a nuestra reciente historia.

Se impone, hacer un llamado vehemente a todos los profesionales del país, para validar y rescatar de manera firme el respeto profesional que todos merecemos y para exigir que las autoridades que nosotros de alguna forma elegimos entiendan la importancia que una actitud seria y de reconocimiento a los méritos y trayectoria profesional y capacidad es lo que todos queremos en todos los cargos públicos.

De igual manera, reiteramos nuestra posición de hacer el llamado nacional a la Constituyente para de una vez eliminar todas aquellas justificaciones de nuestras autoridades que afrentan la democracia y el respeto ciudadano.

FEDAP, como organización nacional que aglutina a la gran mayoría de las asociaciones profesionales del país, desea expresar públicamente y, en la forma más respetuosa y comedida, a todos los profesionales del país nuestro desagravio por esta nueva afrenta e insulto de nuestras autoridades a la calidad y dignidad profesional, que parece ser el único modo de mantener la incompetencia y la incapacidad, que impiden el desarrollo de nuestro país el cual cuenta con un enorme potencial profesional capacitado y de valores ciudadanos indiscutibles.

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¿Wappin? Musical brain food for old buzzards

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DAM
Destroy All Monsters — when giant flying mutant lizards with radioactive breath attack Japan and a stray blast hits Detroit, this is what can happen.

¿Wappin? Musical brain food for old buzzards

The Drifters – This Magic Moment
https://youtu.be/Ul041CSNJto

The Tubes — Don’t Touch Me There
https://youtu.be/y8e0i_jwhK4

Frank Zappa – Cheap Thrills
https://youtu.be/U4D0vmVdrOg

The Shangri-Las – Leader Of The Pack
https://youtu.be/Q8UKf65NOzM

Alice Payten – Pizza Man
https://youtu.be/MP1uEmQHtiw

The Ronettes – Be My Baby
https://youtu.be/jrVbawRPO7I

The Beatles – Drive My Car
https://youtu.be/gzer6f1m_8Q

B-52s – Private Idaho
https://youtu.be/n7t7cGwN7_0

X – Los Angeles
https://youtu.be/Exs-mcKApxI

Cage9 – Hearts and Stars
https://youtu.be/2Fc3Xq376gw

Destroy All Monsters – You’re Gonna Die
https://youtu.be/IbJ0WcJ2oEE

Bob Seger – Persecution Smith
https://youtu.be/QVG7hWLj-cg

Iggy Pop – Some Weird Sin
https://youtu.be/L512AxIaSts

The Cellos – Rang Tang Ding Dong
https://youtu.be/jXC2NVfntzc

Booker T & The MG’s Live at Slims
https://youtu.be/4tdEvWUMDxs

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The Panama News blog links, December 5, 2015

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The Panama News blog links, December 5, 2015

gCaptain, Uncertainty about Panama Canal expansion delivery time

EFE, Canal de Panamá defiende transparencia ante solicitud sindical de auditoría

Port News, Jan De Nul to expand the PSA terminal in Panama

Dialogo Chino, ¿Quiénes están detrás de Wang Jing?

Port News, HKND Group starts archaeological work for the Nicaragua Canal

Boxing News, December 17 fight night at Gimnasio Roberto Duran

FC Dallas News, Blas Pérez bids farewell to FC Dallas

Sydney Morning Herald, Torres goes ballistic over substitution

Caribbean News Now!, United States indicts 16 more FIFA officials

Exclesior, Copa Airlines proyecta con mesura su 2016

E&N, Panamá se convierte en el eje de estrategia latinoamericana de Air France

E&N, Definen lugar de puente que unirá Costa Rica y Panamá

ICTSD, Panama wins WTO textiles case against Colombia

AFP, Panamá indignada por reacción de Colombia a fallo de la OMC

Uncover California, Rare tropical disease Zika enters Panama

TeleSur, Panama drought set to continue

STRI, Watch vampire bats on the Vampcam

Journal of Experimental Biology, Alcoholic pupfish kicks oxygen habit

Mongabay, Report: 17,000 marine species under-protected

Audubon, How to protect the birds that fly the farthest

BBC, Colombia says treasure-laden San Jose galleon found

Video: In Guns We Trust, mandatory gun ownership in Kennesaw Georgia

AP, Planned Parenthood shooting suspect reportedly targeted a clinic before

ABC, The woman who opened fire in San Bernardino

SPLC, “Sovereign Citizen” identified as shooter of BLM demonstrators

TVN, Gustavo Pérez apelará sentencia para armas sin régistros

EFE, Casi 200 cubanos llegan cada día a poblado del Caribe de Panamá

El País, Miles de cubanos quedan atrapados en su huida a Estados Unidos

The Independent, Argentine man snatched by dictatorship at birth meets mother

BBC, Dilma Rousseff impeachment process begins

TeleSur, Partido de Marina Silva rechaza juicio político contra Rousseff

Página 12, Condenan a la Dama Blanca de Berlusconi

Fang, Inside Saudi Arabia’s charm campaign

Fischer, The Syrian Knot

Ben-Ami, Blinded by ISIS

Susan The Bruce, The New Hampshire Jefferson-Jackson Dinner

Contrary Brin, Political sense and nonsense

Center for American Progress, Latinos are shaping the future of the United States

Theatre Guild of Ancon, Contemporary Dance on December 10 & 11

Audubon, Rosabel Miró recognized as a conservation hero

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Gandásegui, Hay que derogar la Ley 51

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Jované
La lucha continua. Foto por la Coordinadora Ciudadana.

Hay que derogar la Ley 51 de la CSS

por Marco A. Gandásegui, hijo

En febrero de 2015 señalé que la Ley 51 de 2005 fue concebida para transferir los fondos de la Caja de Seguro Social (CSS) a las diferentes agencias privadas financieras panameñas y extranjeras que especulan con los ahorros de los trabajadores panameños. Ya era público y notorio que el daño que la ley 51 le hacía al programa de Invalidez, vejez y muerte (IVM) de la CSS era catastrófico.

¿En qué consiste la lógica de la legislación introducida en la CSS en 2005? Por un lado, las cuotas que pagan los trabajadores a la CSS para el programa IVM se dividirían en dos fondos. Habría un programa para quienes pagan menos de B/800 que seguiría siendo solidario. También habría un programa para quienes pagan cuotas correspondientes a un salario de más de B/800, que sería individual. Es decir, el asegurado recibiría al llegar a su edad de jubilación la suma de lo acumulado durante toda su vida laboral.

Además, los que estaban en el programa solidario en 2005 y querían seguir siendo miembros podían hacerlo. Todos los que entraban al programa de la CSS con salarios superiores a B/800 después de 2005 estaban obligados a sumarse al plan de jubilación individual.

Por el otro, las cuotas que pagan los trabajadores benefician a los especuladores, sin beneficio alguno para los asegurados. Los trabajadores sólo reciben lo aportado durante largos años de trabajo. Los fondos adicionales que generan los ahorros son transferidos en su totalidad a los especuladores. Además, si los agentes privados hacen malas inversiones y/o quiebran, los asegurados pierden todos sus ahorros.

En el caso del sistema solidario los trabajadores del presente cubren las pensiones de los trabajadores del pasado. Se parte de un supuesto lógico en este sistema. Siempre habrán más trabajadores y, también, estarán ganando más que los que pertenecían al sistema en el pasado. Esta lógica se ha sostenido en todos los sistemas de seguro social solidario.

En el caso del sistema individual, el trabajador no cuenta con una red que lo proteja de cualquier percance –enfermedad o accidente– que podría dejarlo abandonado a su suerte. El valor que tiene el “seguro social” es precisamente que ofrece un sostén. Esta es la diferencia con el seguro individual o privado que no lo ofrece.

En el caso de Panamá, las cuotas de los que menos cotizan no podrán cubrir las necesidades de los que se están jubilando en los próximos 10 años. Los que más cotizan están fuera del programa solidario y tienen sus planes individuales (que benefician sólo a los especuladores que reciben sus cuotas).

Lo peor de la situación es que los administradores de la CSS a partir de 2005 no conocen la institución, su situación financiera, ni su potencial. Un empresario ligado a la Caja confesó que “la CSS debe emitir el estado de cuenta y entregárselo a las personas que están en el sistema, con detalles de lo ahorrado en su cuenta personal y los intereses devengados”. Eso no se hace.

Un exdirector de la CSS afirmó que “en este momento tenemos información imprecisa, porque los estados financieros ameritan ser depurados y auditados”.

Agregó que “el programa de IVM siempre ha tenido un futuro incierto”. Desde hace tres años no se conoce el estado financiero de la institución. Se hicieron inversiones en compras y edificaciones sin control por parte de la CSS. Sin embargo, los responsables llevaban una contabilidad minuciosa de las ganancias que arrojaban las operaciones.

Los responsables admiten de manera cándida que los directivos sólo han pensado en hacer negocios con los fondos de la CSS. Un miembro de la junta directiva admitió que “hay una serie de compromisos que se deben pagar y si todo está bien sustentado, nosotros como junta directiva damos el visto bueno”. Parece que no importa que eso signifique hundir a la institución y todos los asegurados.

Según el actual director de la entidad, se siente obligado a pagar 1,200 millones de dólares a varios acreedores en un plazo de cuatro años. Para evitar la catástrofe puede suspender las obras y los pagos. Si lo obligan a pagar, puede extender el plazo a 2050. Un expresidente de la Cámara de Comercio dijo que “el programa no es sostenible en el tiempo”. Sólo le faltó agregar que la única solución es derogar la Ley 51 de 2005 y regresar al sistema de seguro social solidario

 

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Former police chief gets five years and four months for unregistered guns

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Gustavo
The prosecution had some controversial claims about what are proscribed “weapons of war” but the judge ducked those and based the verdict on the guns being unregistered. Photo by Policia Nacional.

Judge makes a simple point about Panama’s serious gun laws

by Eric Jackson

The defense was appalled at the charges. How could a prosecutor call a submachine gun an illegal “weapon of war” if, as was claimed, it’s ability to fire on full automatic had been disabled? How can 9mm pistols be called “weapons of war” just because of their large caliber? How can a former National Police chief and national security director, working as head of security for Panama Ports when his house was raided, be denied guns? How can a man be penalized for having weapons inherited from his father, also a former National Police chief? Judge Oscar Carrasquilla held that it did not matter who the defendant is or whether the arms in question are inherently proscribed for persons other than the government to possess. Gustavo Pérez could not show any permit for any of the arms that were seized during a January 12, 2015 wee hours raid on his home that was about illegal electronic eavesdropping during the Martinelli administration. Police and prosecutors didn’t find any spy equipment but they had a warrant for Pérez’s arrest and while executing it they found two 9 millimeter pistols, a .38 revolver and a submachine gun imprecisely described by prosecutors as a Minimax. One of the pistols was registered as National Police property. Pérez had no permit for any of the firearms, so he was charged with that.

Had the judge decided to throw the book, as prosecutors had asked, the former chief could have been handed a 10-year prison sentence. The judge took into account that Pérez had not lied, stalled the case or otherwise been less than a gentleman about these charges and made the sentence 64 months instead. That’s conveniently long enough to keep him off the streets and one might presume out of police politics for the duration of the Varela administration. When one considers the extensive purge that Pérez and Martinelli carried out — more than 2,000 cops forced out, including many in the upper ranks and almost all of the nation’s homicide detectives, and the promotion of people whom the thuggish Martinelli liked to key posts — one might infer a political motive for removing Pérez from circulation.

If the judge declined to classify the weapons, he also declined to get into the motives of the acccused. A person has to have a permit for a firearm in Panama, Judge Carrasquilla ruled in a written opinion that was made public on December 2. The laws about gun registration and permits apply “even when a person holds high positions in the field of security and public order.”

Pérez also awaits trial on invasion of privacy charges and has been under investigation for some arguably improper purchases when he was police chief and later national security director. He is incarcerated where Manuel Antonio Noriega and several other politically connected prisoners are held, El Renacer Penitentiary near Gamboa.

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Beach condo bankruptcy may have domino effect

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Aqua Tower
Questionable collateral: the Aqua Tower is being built on the sand of Playa Blanca, but it is alleged that the money was not spent on proper foundations and that the 13-story structure would thus be at risk of collapse and unable to get a proper occupancy permit. But the project is one of the assets on which bank loans and bond issues were based.

The beach real estate boom, bond market
and reputations at risk in bankruptcy case

by Eric Jackson
When a company made a bond issue, obviously it wasn’t bankrupt.
Felipe Chapman
chairman of the board of the Bolsa de Valores

 

Notice which media are running the screaming headlines, who is making lame pronouncements and which interested parties are studiously ignored. In Cocle’s First Circuit Court, Judge Manuel de Jesús Corrales Hidalgo made a ruling in a voluntary bankruptcy case brought by the current owners of RG Hotels Inc, which was sold by its founder Rugiere Gálvez in 2014 and changed hands since. The judge held that RG Hotels was insolvent as of July 31, 2012 and that condition had been concealed by bogus records and false statements, and thus ordered a bankruptcy retroactive to that date.

The company had made two bond issues worth some $30 million, and had been granted two loans adding up to $5 million by the state-owned Caja de Ahorros after that time. Now there is a great outcry — most notably in La Prensa, which has many business ties with the companies involved in Panama Oeste and Cocle beach developments — about the injustice and destructive effects of this rare back-dated bankruptcy.

The complaint is that foreign investors will lose the money that they put into RG properties — Casa de Campo Farallon, Blue Vacation, the Ibiza Playa Coronado, the Ibiza Playa Corona, the Aqua Tower, the Las Perlas condo hotels (formerly Wyndham, before that Royalton, before that Nikki Beach) — and that this will send out an international shock wave that will harm all of the real estate developments along Panama’s Pacific beaches.

For a long time the talk — never readily proven in large part due to Panama’s corporate secrecy laws — has been that much of that sector can’t withstand close financial scrutiny. But projects that are taking much longer than promised to pre-construction buyers to complete led to a recent Supreme Court decision voiding contract provisions that prevent buyers from canceling contracts when they don’t get their condos within the promised time, buildings allegedly completely sold that have few light on at night and allegations by foreign governments of money laundering in Panamanian real estate all suggest businesses that are not what they are represented to be.

It’s not just a civil bankruptcy case, nor just a potential bursting of a real estate bubble anymore. Since this past June, prosecutors have been conducting a quiet criminal investigation of the Caja de Ahorros loans to RG. Will the scope of the probe go beyond those two transactions? There have been tales of questionable loans from that institution to politically connected people for at least 10 years, with names from the current and previous two administrations being raised — and vehemently disputed when raised in public.

The bond issues, backed by some exceptionally specious collateral with the most prominent rabiblanco law firms and brokerage houses advising their clients to purchase that commercial paper, are already a shock to the already disreputable Panamanian securities industry. The Securities Market Superintendency says that it is drafting a rule to require those who would issue bonds on the Panamanian market to first get a debt rating by an outside company. There are complaints from stock brokerages and law firms that such a requirement would make it more costly and time-consuming to sell commercial paper. The point is also made that corrupted or clueless bond raters gave the worst Wall Street fraud artists stellar ratings ahead of the 2008 crash. But had some outside firm done some due diligence on RG, they would have found among the claimed assets the 2.9-hectare Farallon de Chiru land parcel, valued by RG at $400 per square meter. But this property has no access roads, is not subdivided into lots, and has neither streets nor sewers nor water lines nor storm drains nor electrical service. For banks and brokerages the stated value was $9,487,336 but in Judge Corrales’s court it was appraised at $347,675. Then there were properties included as collateral to which RG didn’t actually hold title, and buildings sold to condo investors with pools and clubhouses which were not, on paper, part of the same properties with the buildings in which the units were sold.

There are other claims over which the old and new owners of RG are not particularly fighting with each other, but they are of a sort common up and down the beaches in “condo hotel” schemes. The way that is supposed to work is that condo owners live in their units when they want, but when they don’t they are managed as hotel units and the owners receive part of the revenue from their occupancy. RG systematically cheated the owners of this income and this practice is pretty much the norm here. For somebody who is laundering the proceeds of illegal activities abroad — maybe drugs, maybe playing Venezuela’s currency exchange black market, maybe a North American politician washing bribe money — it would not much matter. For some upper middle class snowbird who figures that a unit is like a time share arrangement, it might matter a great deal. To franchise chains like Nikki Beach, Wyndham and Royalton it also matters if systematic theft is happening under the rubric of their trademarks.

Then, all up and down the beaches, there have been land grabs ongoing since at least the Moscoso administration. Is it all well settled and too late for any of those who were unable to afford lawyers and bribes when they were thrown out to claim any rights now? Perhaps.

But do developers wanting to float bonds, and brokers who would like to sell them, want outside firms inquiring into the possible claims of the dispossessed and defrauded? And for that matter would the Bolsa de Valores and those who make their livings off of it care to have outsiders inquiring about how it is that the prices of stocks and bonds here seem to rarely have any relationship to the value of their underlying assets?

Read the charges and counter-charges in La Prensa and La Estrella and you will see prominent names from Panameñista, Cambio Democratico and PRD governments come up. (You might also be able to figure out the sympathies of those who run those respective news organizations.) Look at old hype and you will see the beach condo promoters playing up their connections with the politicians of the day, via “advertorial” stuff misrepresented as news. The judge’s back-dated bankruptcy, if it stands up on appeal, surely would be bad news for bankers and bond holders. It would maket them unsecured creditors of a business empire with assets worth under $40 million but liabilities in excess of $150 million. But how much public sympathy will there be for people who put their money down in 2012 and 2013 because they figured that the Gálvezes and their partners were tight with Ricardo Martinelli, so it was a sure bet?

For those who bought units at what is now Las Perlas because they want to live there, the equities are more compelling. They thought they owned their homes, and now they might not. The pool is dry, the grass isn’t cut, the electricity has been shut off and many have never received the deeds to the condos that they bought. What if the outcome of a bankruptcy court battle between two groups of investors is that these people, most of whom are foreigners, are tossed out onto the streets with no compensation? In that case it will be some years before anybody in Panama’s real estate sector will be able to pretend that it never happened. It will hurt, and people afraid of being hurt by others in different beach projects will start to ask uncomfortable questions about their situations.

RM at Ibiza
The guest of honor and dignitaries at the opening of the Ibiza Playa Corona. BUY NOW!!! It’s going up, Up, UP!!! Or so people were led to believe.
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¿Wappin? The gift of sounds…

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Slick
Grace Slick, way back when. Photo by Bill Lile.

¿Wappin? The gift of sounds…

The Rolling Stones – Travelin’ Man
https://youtu.be/US3fczvs6pQ

Neil Young – Tonight’s The Night
https://youtu.be/GFIcQU8K4AY

Maná & Shakira – Mi Verdad
https://youtu.be/ZuupMrAhGXw

Natalia Lafourcade – Lo Que Construimos
https://youtu.be/RS6CRP_OoQA

Adele – Hello
https://youtu.be/YQHsXMglC9A

La Resistencia – Inmutable
https://youtu.be/-ZgilBuPVjI

Bob Dylan – Desolation Row
https://youtu.be/35gheud5xBo

10,000 Maniacs – I’m Not the Man
https://youtu.be/DLDilatESSg

The Robins – Riot in Cell Block Number 9
https://youtu.be/NAwEyh-p2AM

Paul McCartney – Band on the Run
https://youtu.be/KBX2dySWGew

Desmond Dekker – Shanty Town
https://youtu.be/cFIqxnSo-gQ

Carla Morrison – Maleza
https://youtu.be/CKl6xSupgTo

Bessie Smith – Send Me to the ‘Lectric Chair
https://youtu.be/EC9fDrjz8xM

Johnny Cash – I Won’t Back Down
https://youtu.be/N8i5NLyXZdc

Jefferson Airplane – When The Earth Moves Again
https://youtu.be/UCmS53zUVZM

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World AIDS Day: ending the epidemic

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AIDS
  Accelerate expansion of antiretroviral therapy to all people living with HIV: WHO

The key to ending the AIDS epidemic

by the World Health Organization

On World AIDS Day the World Health Organization (WHO) emphasizes that expanding antiretroviral therapy to all people living with HIV is key to ending the AIDS epidemic within a generation.

“The Millennium Development Goal of reversing the HIV epidemic was reached ahead of the 2015 deadline — an incredible achievement that testifies to the power of national action and international solidarity,” declared WHO Director General Margaret Chan.

Expansion of antiretroviral therapy (ART) has resulted in a stark reduction of AIDS-related deaths. At the same time, increasingly effective prevention efforts have reduced numbers of new HIV infections. Since the epidemic’s peak in 2004, the number of deaths has fallen by 42 percent with some 7.8 million lives being saved over the last 15 years, according to a new WHO report. The number of new infections has fallen by 35 percent since the turn of the century.

Over the last 15 years, scale-up of ART has been most dramatic in the Africa Region where now more than 11 million people are receiving HIV treatment, up from 11,000 at the turn of the century. People living with HIV in Africa are now more likely to receive treatment than people living in most other parts of the world. Globally, in June 2015 close to 16 million people out of a total of 37 million people living with HIV were taking ART.

Doubling access to testing and antiretroviral therapy

At the UN General Assembly in September, world leaders endorsed a new set of Sustainable Development Goals and milestones, including a call for ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. Reducing the number of new infections by 75 percent and doubling the number of people on ART by 2020 are the first milestones towards achieving this goal.

Trial results published earlier this year have confirmed that people living with HIV who begin antiretroviral therapy soon after acquiring the virus — before the virus has weakened their immune systems — are more likely to stay healthy and less likely to transmit the virus to their partners. Those findings led WHO in September to recommend that everyone living with HIV be offered treatment.

In the effort to help countries implement the “treat all” recommendation, WHO is now presenting an additional set of recommendations on how to expand ART to all in a rapid, focused, and efficient manner.

These recommendations include using innovative testing approaches such as community or self-testing to help increase the number of people who know their HIV status; starting treatment faster in those people who are diagnosed with HIV; bringing ART to the community; and allowing for greater intervals between clinic visits for people who have been stable on ART for some time. They also highlight the importance of improving access to viral load testing and new classes of antiretroviral drugs.

“WHO applauds governments, civil society, and organizations that have made availability of life-saving antiretroviral therapy possible in the most trying circumstances. The new recommendation to expand ART to all people living with HIV is a call to further step up the pace,” said Dr. Winnie Mpanju-Shumbusho, Assistant Director General at WHO.

Preventing new infections

Reducing the number of new HIV infections remains a major focus for the vision of ending AIDS. There is increasing concern about a slow down –or even reversal — in the decrease of new infections in some countries and among some of the most affected population groups. “We must deploy all means to strengthen the HIV prevention response. The health sector can and must play a central role,” added Dr. Mpanju-Shumbusho

Already, over the last five years in Africa some 10 million men have undergone voluntary medical circumcision, a procedure that reduces their risk of acquiring HIV by 60 percent. New approaches to prevention are also emerging, including the use of antiretroviral drugs to help people at substantial risk from acquiring HIV. WHO now recommends this practice, called “pre-exposure prophylaxis,” or PrEP, as an additional option to augment comprehensive prevention for people at heightened risk of HIV infection. Other elements of this package include behavior-change communication, the consistent use of male and female condoms and prevention programs for key populations, including harm reduction for people who use drugs.

The same drugs that keep people living with HIV from becoming sick also prevent transmission of the virus from pregnant women to their infants. Among the 22 countries that account for 90 percent of new HIV infections, eightt have reduced new infections among children by more than 50 percent since 2009, based on 2013 data, and another four are close to that mark.

Ingredients of success

Some low- and middle-income countries have made remarkable progress towards universal access to HIV services: 12 countries have ensured that 60 percent or more of all people living with HIV are aware of their infection and receiving antiretroviral therapy. Key ingredients of the successful HIV response in these countries are national ownership, greater focus of HIV services to reach the most affected locations and populations based on good data, and simplification of prevention and treatment services.

“The sense of urgency that was the norm during the disease’s most-destructive years must not be allowed to abate,” Dr. Mpanju-Shumbusho said. “HIV remains a major health challenge — drawing sharp attention to health system weaknesses and gaps in universal health coverage. Addressing these issues will be critical to meeting the new global targets for AIDS.”

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Tax and criminal prosecutors name many in often overlapping cases

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Adolfo “Chichi” De Obarrio, right, with the Martinellis. The modus operandi for most of the former president’s peculations was to make no-bid direct contracts with favored companies at inflated prices, with De Obarro — Ricardo Martinelli’s personal secretary — collecting 10 to 15 percent in kickbacks and distributing those illicit proceeds among the corrupt public officials and Martinelli business circle individuals involved in the transactions and the Cambio Democratico campaign fund. De Obarrio and both Martinellis have fled Panama. Photo by the Presidencia, way back when.

Some 235 pending cases, hundreds of millions in seized assets and dozens in jail, under house arrest or on the run

by Eric Jackson

Panama, like many other Civil Code legal system jurisdictions, allows lawyers to come into court and file motions on behalf of fugitives. And so it was that at a November 23 hearing on a kickback and theft case related to dried foods for school lunch programs, an attorney for the former president’s fugitive personal secretary and bag man Chichi De Obarrio moved to change the warrant to throw he guy in jail if he gets caught to house arrest. The judge summarily denied that motion but will take a month to decide whether to bind De Obarrio over for trial along with eight other people in that case. Defendants in that matter include former comptroller general Gioconda Torres de Bianchini, former education minister Lucy Molinar and public works minister Federico Suaréz, plus a cast of lesser characters, most of them former public officials. If Chichi gets locked up over the school lunch program, he will be shuttling between the jail and various courtrooms on several other cases as well.

Meanwhile the former comptroller general, along with former agriculture ministers Emilio Kieswetter and Oscar Osorio, head a cast of 11 characters named by the tax prosecutor as having stolen at least $22.6 in a Tonosi irrigation scheme that was never built and which it appears was never intended to be built. The diversion of money from that scheme, criminal prosecutors allege, involved the Banco Universal and its former leading light Felipe “Pipo” Virzi, fugitive businessmen Gabriel Btesh and Ricky Calvo, plus the Financial Pacific brokerage house. Virzi is under house arrest here, the whereabouts of Calvo, like De Obarrio, are a mystery, while by a number of reports that have not been officially confirmed Btesh is in Israel. The Financial Pacific case against Martinelli is just getting underway in the Supreme Court and with the time limit on investigations now removed it may branch off into the Tonosi matter. Co-defendants who are not legislators can’t be brought into the high court case against Martinelli, but information from that investigation may be shared with ordinary prosecutors for criminal cases arising from the same schemes and with tax prosecutors.

Overlapping both the Tonosi and Financial Pacific cases are the tax and criminal investigations into the Cobranzas del Istmo privatized tax collection scheme. In the Financial Pacific matter the insider trading investigation against Martinelli appears to be farther along than various other probes against many other players in that money laundering mill for criminals of several nations. Allegations about attempts to cover up crimes at Financial Pacific touch the Supreme Court’s presiding magistrate, José Ayú Prado and could end up in a murder case as Securities Market Superintendency senior analyst Vernon Ramos, who was handling an administrative investigation, disappeared three years ago. In the Cobranzas del Istmo case three separate criminal matters were consolidated into one case on November 21, but the Martinelli part of that probe will be separate, new suspects may be added to the ordinary criminal case and the tax prosecutor’s shoe has yet to drop.

In early October Attorney General Kenia Porcell said that her office had 234 corruption investigations underway, with 31 people being held in preventive detention and some $140 million in assets seized or frozen. But this did not count those processed by the Supreme Court, the legislature or the tax prosecutors. Since then a few of those who were in jail have been granted bail and a few more people have been jailed, there have been more asset seizures or freezes by various agencies and tax cases have been brought.

A lot of rogues’ gallery charts that have appeared in various media are not so helpful, as the presumptions about control and causation are not defined as in, say, a governmental organization chart. The more realistic way to make any such chart would be of concentric circles with overlapping segments but Ricardo Martinelli at the center. There is a reasonably good chance that a December 11 hearing will lead to a request for INTERPOL help in Martinelli’s arrest and extradition to Panama.

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