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The Panama News blog links, August 29, 2015

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The Panama News blog links, August 29, 2015

Video, Kafu Banton – Dime que Si

AFP, Panama Canal cancels limits on cargo size after rain

gCaptain, Core sample from leaking lock sill doesn’t look good

Video, Autoridad de Canal de Panamá advierte sobre fallas en esclusas

PR, Australian firm to survey Nicaragua canal route

Scuttlebutt, Chinese sailor goes for Northeast Passage transit record

Collins, Virginia & Yalowitz: Diplomacy at the top of the world

AFP, Altos funcionarios de Martinelli van a juicio por espionaje

Blades, Trumpadas

Greenwald, Jorge Ramos commits journalism

Reuters, Egyptian court sends three Al Jazeera journalists to prison

Prensa Latina, Venezuela denounces TVN news manipulation

Otramérica, Tragicomedia en la frontera entre Venezuela y Colombia

EFE, Maduro propone una comisión de la verdad sobre la frontera

Gandásegui, La ciudad de Panamá navega sin brújula

Video, FETV documental sobre Joshue Ashby y Colón

Video, Tradiciones panameñas en la educación musical por Graciela Núñez

National Geographic, How female frogs get tricked into picking ugly mates

The New York Times, Iran deal opens a vitriolic divide among American Jews

Cole, Defending Natalie Portman

AFP, Panama bill calls for jail time for anti-gay hate crimes

WOLA, What’s happening in Guatemala’s political crisis?

El Periódico, Vuelan exministros guatemaltecos

ADITAL, Petrobras: entrevista a Felipe Coutinho

Boff, Haití: “Somos feas pero estamos aquí”

Hayes, Guns: culture change — not policy change — is needed

AP, Panama’s high court cancels Italian radar contract

ANP, ASEP sanciona a española Gas Natural Fenosa

Fang, Attorney hounding climate scientists funded by coal industry

AFP, Panamá preocupado por devaluación del yuan

Wallerstein, The Latin American left moves rightward

AllAfrica.com, Al-Azhar to support Muslims in Panama

Fresh Plaza, Panama prohibits entry of imported potatoes, onions

 

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¿Wappin? A preview of folks who will be at the next Panama Jazz Festival

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Rudresh
Rudresh Mahanthappa.

¿Wappin? 2016 Panama Jazz Festival sneak peek

These videos feature some of the musicians who will be playing and teaching at the next Panama Jazz Festival. For those of you in latitudes that will be cold by then — and yes, even you Chileans and Argentines who will be into summer at the time — mark your calendars and make your flight and lodging reservations for January 11-16, 2016. Not all the artists will be playing with the same groups shown in the videos — alas, the festival’s classical component will be without the Sinfonica Nacional de la Republica Dominicana, and Danny Rivera will be performing with Danilo Pérez instead — but these selections ought to give you an idea of the sorts of sounds that will be coming our way.

Geri Allen – Dark Prince

Arild Andersen – Hyperborean

Joshue Ashby – Lloraras

Retro Jazz – La Ventanita

Rudresh Mahanthappa – Chillin’

The Danilo Pérez Foundation kids – Manteca

Terri Lyne Carrington et al – Michelle

Alex Testa Quartet – Galaxy Blue and Green

Danny Rivera y la Sinfónica Nacional de la República Dominicana

David Murray Infinity Quartet – Suite for Mehmet Uluğ

Luci & The Soul Brokers – Colores Turquesa

Tal Gamlieli Trio – Farewell

Danilo Pérez & Claudia Acuña – Song to the Land

Dominique Eade – Go Gently To The Water

Dave Douglas at the Donosti Jazz Festival 2013

 

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Vic Brown’s scenes from the Central American Percussion Festival (II)

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Danilo
Danilo Pérez.

Closing night at the Central American Percussion Festival

photos and notes by Vic Brown

The Ateneo venue was perfect for the last night’s set. It’s small enough to get an up-close and personal feel of the artists.

Idania Dowman and Danni Clovis.
Idania Dowman and Danni Clovis.
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Omar Díaz.
Oscar Cruz.
Oscar Cruz.
Galé
Diego Galé.
Blanquicet
Eric Blanquicet.
Morales
Jimmie Morales on the congas.
Clovis
Danni Clovis.
Nikki
Panama’s Nikki Campbell: she’s a master with the djembe and other African drums, but she’s not limited to African drums. Basically if it has skin on it she can rock it

 

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Vic Brown’s scenes from the Central American Percussion Festival (I)

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If you are going to have someone pounding out THOSE sorts of rhythms, you want someone playing bass....
If you are pounding out THOSE rhythms, you want someone to be playing bass….

Opening night at the Central American Percussion Festival

photos and notes by Vic Brown

 

Danni honors
Danni Clovis was this year’s specially honored musician.

The Beachers

Beachers 1The Beachers are used to performing for a livelier audience. They feed off of their audiences’ feedback. While their performance was energetic as always, the audience feedback wasn’t always there — at least not at the level that they’re used to, for example at the Afro-Antillean Fair.

The Transistmico Project

Pecussionisst Eric Blanquicet in the foreground with Osvaldo Ayala behind.
Pecussionisst Eric Blanquicet, who is from Colon, in the foreground with Osvaldo Ayala behind.

Transistmico Project was filled with an interesting fusion of some classics from different genres thanks to producer Billy Herron.

Guitarist Jean-Christophe Millard, from the French Caribbean island of Guadaloupe.
Guitarist Jean-Christophe Millard, from the French Caribbean island of Guadaloupe.
Osvaldo
Osvaldo Ayala, known for his cumbia tunes, does things differently as part of the Transistmico Project.

_VIC6197

 

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American madness: our fallen colleagues Alison Parker and Adam Ward

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And the pundits will say…

While people cry and fanatics from the gun sellers’ lobby come to blame Alison Parker and Adam Ward for not shooting first.

WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and videographer Adam Ward ¡PRESENTE!

 

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Bombshell events clear away any scandal fatigue

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RMB
The fugitive ex-president rants on Twitter (sic). “I have never been nor am I a partner of Financial Pacific, and much less have I given any order to Mr. Fábrega. He lies. Picuoro [national security director Rolando López] and Varela are responsible for this.”

Corrobrating witness in Financial Pacific case, the ACP’s lead balloon about Corcione and widespread negative reaction to house arrest for national security ex-chiefs show that the storm hasn’t blown over

Songs Martinelli didn’t want to hear

by Eric Jackson

Fábrega comes in from the cold and sings

On August 25 Ignacio “Nacho” Fábrega, who had been underground, turned himself in and went to a pretrial hearing on charges of leaking confidential information about government investigations to criminals. The former chief supervisor for securities investigators and the Securities Markets Superintendency (SMV) had been the supervisor for securities analyist Vernon Ramos when the latter disappeared in November of 2013. Not a stock and bond market person himself, he had been moved by the Martinelli administration into the job from his prevous post as credit director of the Virzi family’s Banco Universal.

That bank is now taken over by the government and its records have breathed new life into countless Martinelli administration corruption scandals. Its principal figure, former Vice President Felipe “Pipo” Virzi, is accused in multiple bribery and money laundering cases, under house arrest and said to be cooperating with investigators. Related by marriage and business ties to former President Ricardo Martinelli, Virzi is a man whose downfall is taking many others down with him, both because of the things that he knows and because of the records seized at Banco Universal. But if Virzi’s fate sealed that of Nacho Fábrega, the latter’s downfall speeds up an investigative chain reaction.

In the middle of the hearing Fábrega changed his plea to guilty of public corruption charges. Anti-corruption prosecutor Zuleika Moore asked for an eight-year prison term and Fábrega was jailed in preventive detention pending sentencing. But before the hearing ended the former SMV supervisor testified that he was personally given specific orders to report all details on any investigations to the brokerage house being investigated, Financial Pacific, by Ricardo Martinelli and the ex-president’s tourism minister and key operative Salomón Shamah. Fábrega also said that his former bosses, then SMV superintendent Juan Manuel Martans and acting superintendent Alejandro Abood, knew all about it.

Financial Pacific was a money laundering mill for racketeers from all over the world. It hardly ran like a brokerage, for example without the detailed accounts of depositors’ portfolios that would be expected of a normal stock and bond broker. But it ran into trouble not because clients complained of being cheated, but because SMV auditors doing a routine check-up found its books wildly out of balance. The finger was pointed at a brokerage employee, Mayte Pellegrini, who was accused of stealing some $12 million and causing the brokerage’s problems. That amount of money did pass through her and her relatives’ accounts, but the brokerage’s accounts still never added up and Pellegrini has testified that in part these funds were the unusual way that her bosses insisted on paying her but mostly they were using her and her relatives to launder money. She also testified that Financial Pacific was home to a special account called High Spirit, which was owned by Ricardo Martinelli and dedicated to insider trades in shares of Petaquilla Minerals, the Canadian parent company of the now abandoned Petaquilla gold mine.

Fábrega’s subordinate Vernon Ramos was investigating the High Spirit allegations when he disappeared. Now imprisoned former Supreme Court presiding magistrate Alejandro Moncada Luna quashed the High Spirit investigation by ruling that insider trading is not a crime if the shares are not traded on the Panamanian market. That ruling cleared the way for the brokerage’s private sale to lesser-known shady characters. The scandals at Financial Pacific continued under the new management, to whom Fábrega continued to provide information about ongoing investigations.

The High Spirit scheme, according to Pellegrini an paper trails uncovered by investigators, had shares in the Canadian company being bought and sold on Canadian and European markets through an account in a Danish bank, with proceeds being laundered through a South Korean company. Whether or not shares were traded on the US over the counter market, US electronic facilities would have been used for at least some of the transactions and at least some of Martinelli’s fortune has ended up in the United States, where the former president is living. Martinelli has long claimed that he had nothing to do with Financial Pacific, but at other times made contradictory claims that he had an account there before he was president — that is, before the brokerage existed. Attorneys for Pellegrini, who remains under house arrest after many months in prison, claim that Fábrega’s account vindicates their client. Martinelli is calling it all a pack of lies invented by President Juan Carlos Varela

Meanwhile, the Financial Pacific and High Spirit affair is probably a murder case, although no trace of Vernon Ramos has yet been found. Prior findings of Financial Pacific investigations have been forwarded by Attorney General Kenia Porcell to the Supreme Court, which has jurisdiction over Martinelli. The file is about to get thicker, but this is one of about a dozen Martinelli cases that the high court has yet to decide whether to accept.

ACP would pretend that Corcione isn’t their problem, but…

Anti-corruption czarina Angélica Maytín and many lawyers and civic groups had called on the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) to use its disciplinary rules to expel or suspend board member Nicolás Corcione. Based on the testimony of witnesses and records from Banco Universal, he’s charged with coordinating a bid-rigging, bribery, kickback and money laundering scheme for construction and renovation of court facilities. His partners in these crimes are alleged to include Alejandro Moncada Luna and Pipo Virzi.

Corcione’s defense so far is not that he didn’t do it — although he has made no admissions. It’s that because he’s a member of the ACP board ordinary prosecutors have no jurisdiction over him, and because prosecutors have illegally investigated him without jurisdiction all charges must be dropped and are forever barred. It’s an obnoxious and legally groundless defense, which could only stand up if the Supreme Court were bribed to accept it. Prosecutors have considered and rejected the argument and ordered him to appear for an indagatoria, or criminal deposition.

Meanwhile Minister of Canal Affairs Roberto Roy rejected calls for the ACP to take action against Corcione, saying that only the courts can do this. (Surely it’s a claim that some day a union representing an ACP employee fired for something will remember.) The rest of the board of directors, over which Roy presides, has maintained its silence about their embattled colleague.

So at a time when the canal expansion project is having trouble and various conflict of interest issues affecting either the ACP or Roy in his capacity as head of the Metro commuter train project floating unresolved out there, will the situation be aggravated by board meetings with Corcione at the table?

Roy and the ACP were spared that fate when they received a letter dated August 16 from Corcione stating that he would not participate in board activities while charges are pending. That may not have been such a magnanimous and civic-minded gesture. It seems that Corcione has fled the country and does not care to show up at a board meeting or other public event at which he might be arrested.

Ricardo Martinelli says that Corcione is being framed by Varela in order to create a vacancy on the ACP board of directors for the current president to fill.

Flight to Miami + closed hearing + house arrest order = spy case uproar

The illegal electronic eavesdropping case has been drawing the attention of not only regular prosecutors but also investigators from the administrative prosecutor’s office and auditors sent by the comptroller general. That’s not to count the Supreme Court investigation against Ricardo Martinelli himself about this issue, which is hanging in limbo pending a ruling on a constitutional challenge to time limits for criminal investigations of politicians.

The money trails have led to the former president’s brother-in-law Aaron “Ronny” Mizrachi, whose company Caribbean Holding Services (CHS) turns out to have been the intermediary for the overpriced purchase of Israeli eavesdropping equipment. CHS is registered not in Panama but in the British Virgin Islands and doesn’t just operate in Panama. The actual spying hardware went missing as Martinelli was leaving office. On July 29, as soon as Mizrachi found that prosecutors wanted to talk to him, he went to Albrook, got onto Ricardo Martinelli’s private jet, and flew off to Miami.

Now it’s turning out that CHS was the intermediary for many more suspicious government purchases of technological goods or services. These included maintenance of government telephones, burial of urban utilty cables, the system of video surveillance cameras, a system to block prisoners’ cell phone calls that never worked, installation of various government software programs and so, often in the role as a subcontractor for Cable & Wireless Panama. Mizrachi’s ability to get such contracts was aided not only by his marriage to Ricardo Martinelli’s sister but also by his being a large Cable & Wireless stockholder.

How much of a scandal will Mizrachi’s role turn out to be? There are two important limiting factors. First, Cable & Wireless is a major advertiser for virtually all of Panama’s corporate mainstream media and these hesitate to report unflattering things about this company, its subcontractors or its major shareholders. Second, there are potential foreign policy complications, as the British tend to be protective of the UK-based Cable & Wireless and the Israelis tend to be protective of their security industries.

The most media attention to recent developments in the spying scandal, however, came during three days of closed pretrial hearings for former national security directors Alejandro Garuz and Gustavo Pérez for the spying itself.

Closed hearings? We know that in the first instance the surveillance of political adversaries and journalists was known from retrieved surveillance summaries of about 150 people, edited from data collected from and about a larger number of people.  The post-Martinelli government has never gone out to notify everyone whose electronic communications were intercepted, or whose computers and cell phones were turned into bugs by remote control. Nor has much been said in public about any investigation getting to the true scope of Martinelli’s spying. But for the record the Public Ministry said that the pretrial was closed to press and public to protect the privacy of the victims.

At those hearings Judge Enrique Pérez granted the defendants’ motion to change their pretrial detention from jail cells to house arrest, and this elicited both appeals from the Public Ministry and private prosecutors for some of the victims who are joined with the government as accusers in the case and much public criticism. When Pérez and Garuz were first jailed they made a constitutional appeal (“amparo de garantías”) to the Supreme Court, which rejected their arguments. In this case the trial judge accepted defense arguments that the high court had rejected. However, Panama is a Civil Code jurisdiction and unlike in the Common Law system that prevails in the United States lower courts are not bound by higher courts’ precedents. The two former spymasters remain in jail while an appeals court will consider the prosecution appeals of their release from jail to house arrest.

Whatever the legal technicalities, polls show that a substantial majority of Panamanians are annoyed by Martinelli’s alleged henchmen and henchwomen being released with only travel restrictions or under house arrest while they await trial. Most of those jailed in pretrial detention are locked up under conditions much lighter than the Hell that most ordinary  prisoners awaiting trial face. People consider it an unfair set of privileges and for many it arouses bitter class resentments.

That Martinelli’s plane was not grounded, that Mizrachi was allowed to flee in it, that a class of apparently corrupt contracts has been treated differently because of the foreign companies involved, that former top officials are given much lighter treatment than ordinary offenders whose crimes are minor in comparison and the constant claims of immunity by Ricardo Martinelli and his entourage annoy Panamanians. There has been a sea change in public attitudes about corruption and its casual, fatalistic acceptance is no longer the norm. If the Martinelli crowd is waiting for things to get back to “normal,” that has yet to happen.

 

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Thurston, Mark Zuckerberg for president

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Mark Zuckerberg in Panama. Photo by the Presidencia.
Mark Zuckerberg in Panama. Photo by the Presidencia.

Zuckerberg for president

by Edward Thurston

As we continue to witness the buffoonery of Donald Trump’s aspirations to be president of the USA, this small article about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg calling him out on his salacious immigration positions caught my attention. Very few people have really studied the effects of what would happen if Trump’s “shoot from the hip” policies were carried out, especially on immigration.

While I don’t disagree with all of Trump’s positions and I do believe we have border/immigration problems, his extreme resolutions to these problems are what concern me. And bottom line is he is asking people to “believe in him” — and apparently masses of followers are. We Americans have been let down for so many decades by weak or corrupt politicos running our country that we are almost willing to turn the reins over to ANY non-politician. Yet I have to draw the line on Trump, and I will not be blindly following his bluster to the voting booth.

I refuse to believe that a business tyrant like Trump, who has been bankrupt a few times, has obvious misogynist leanings against women and dislikes Latinos, has any chance to be the leader of our country. Do we really want this snarly egomaniac who obviously cannot listen to anyone but himself to lead us through the dark shadows of our economic demise and international entanglements? Do we really want him with his finger on the button of nuclear warheads? Could we really count on him as a unifying agent in our already divided country or world? I don’t think so.

In reaction to all of this, I submit the proposition that Mark Zuckerberg would be a better candidate to lead our country than all the 17 Republican candidates and smaller offering of Democratic candidates combined. He has more money than The Donald at a much earlier age. He is more level headed and less emotional than The Donald. He now leads an bigger organization and manages more money than all these candidates put together in their lifetimes.

In addition to these qualifications, I believe the main problem with electing leaders is that most of them are over the age of 50. I am sorry, but most of our world’s conflicts are caused by people over 50. The older people get, the less flexible they become in their positions and have long memories of past conflicts. Older people are slower to forgive and quicker to be offended. Believe me: I see this in myself. And we expect these people to be peacemakers and find “middle ground?”

Therefore, it is my opinion that we would be better off sending the smartest and most effective 30-year-old business leaders in our country to negotiate trade and get us out of armed conflicts abroad and at home. If all countries sent their 30-year-old leaders to negotiate in their sneakers and bluejeans, things would get done in far more peaceful and “brotherly” fashion. There would be no long memories of past wrongs and hatreds tainting any possibility of a resolution. There would be no lifelong bitterness and ego getting in the way of the most basic conversation.

Let the young idealists take us forward with their understanding that it is all about technology and responsible use and sharing of it that solves most of the world’s conflicts. Not bombs, embargoes or starvation of poor people living under tyrants. It is not about personality or enforcing antiquated laws or historic treaties that make no sense. It is about finding commonality among all of humanity, no matter what race, creed or ranking in the wealth meter in order to live free and responsibly.

It is time for major leadership change in our world — and it is not The Donald. It is more like Zuckerberg.

 

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The Panama News blog links, August 24, 2015

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Pacific locks
Leaky chamber wall on the new Pacific Side locks. Photo from Ariel Corbetti’s Facebook page.

The Panama News blog links, August 24, 2015

Other people’s stuff about Panama, the region and the world….

Video, Rubén Blades – Caín

BBC, PanCanal expansion prompts safety concerns

Seatrade, PanCanal postpones second draft restriction

Tico Times, US concerns about Nicaragua Canal expropriations

The Journal, Rolanda Bell’s steeplechase mishap

TruNews, Weird gringo cult coming to colonize Boquete

Telemetro, Anteproyecto de Ley prohibiría discriminar a personas gay

El Economista, Presupuesto de Panamá para 2016 de $20.106 mil milliones

Reuters, Mercados latinoamericanos caen

Turner, The real demographic challenge

Wallerstein, Free-trade treaties are anti-free trade

EFE, Costa Rica declara ilegal a Uber y decomisa sus vehículos

Sanchez, SouthCom vs Caribbean narco-pirates

Main, Congressional Democrats against military aid to Honduras

SOAW, Victor Jara Justice Campaign

Prensa Latina, Equine encephalitis outbreak in Panama

STRI, Biologists discover skydiving spiders in South American forests

Video, The Who – Boris the Spider

Mellino, Oceans riddled with plastic

Emanuel, Climate change and Hurricane Katrina: what have we learned?

Mongabay, How ya gonna keep ‘em up on the farm?

Condé Nast Traveler, Where to see the Atlantic and Pacific at the same time

The Street, Pros & cons of living in Panama

Taibbi, Donald Trump just stopped being funny

Fang, US TV ads opposing Iran deal organized by Saudi lobbyist

Marple, Chile thinks about legalizing pot

EFE, Más de 600 colombianos deportados por Venezuela

Padrón: Panamá, ida y vuelta

Castro, Escombros que aún se resisten

SD Union-Tribune, Jurisdiction argument doesn’t work in Baldelli slaying case

Jakarta Post, Panama and Indonesia upgrade ties

Yonhap, Panama and South Korea strengthen ties

 

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Avnery, The Sorceror’s Apprentice

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Netanyahu's bombThe Sorceror’s Apprentice

by Uri Avnery

One has to choose: Binyamin Netanyahu is either incredibly shrewd or incredibly foolish.

Take his Iran policy. Actually, there is little to choose from. Netanyahu has no other policy to speak off.

According to him, Iran constitutes a mortal danger to Israel. If it obtains a nuclear weapon, God forbid, it will use it to annihilate Israel. It must be stopped by any means, preferably by American armed intervention.

This may be quite wrong (as I believe). But it makes sense.

So what did Netanyahu do?

For years, he alarmed the world. Every day the cry went out: Save Israel! Prevent the destruction of the Jewish State! Prevent a Second Holocaust! Prevent Iran from producing The Bomb!

The world did not take any notice. It was busy with many other matters. There are crises galore everywhere, all the time. Economic depressions. Plagues. The warming of the earth.

But Netanyahu did not let off. He used every rostrum, from the Knesset to the United States Congress, to shout his message.

At long last, a weary world paid heed. OK, the Jews warn of the Iranian bomb? So let’s do something to prevent it. Not just something. No. Let’s get all the great powers of the world together to compel Iran to end this nonsense.

And they did. The USA, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — practically the whole world — commanded Iran to start negotiations.

There was only one single issue: preventing Iran from getting The Bomb. Nothing else mattered. Compared to this giant issue, everything else was insignificant.

And then something unexpected happened. Iran’s political system replaced their loudmouth president with a very different one: a soft-spoken, eminently reasonable politician. Negotiations started, and Iran sent an even more soft-spoken, eminently reasonable diplomat to conduct them. The foreign ministers of the world were enchanted.

After playing a little hard-to-get, Iran accepted an agreement. The World got, more or less, everything it wanted. No bomb for a long time. Very intrusive inspection procedures. (They were not really needed. Up-to-date espionage techniques can quickly detect any movements toward a bomb.)

Everybody was happy. Everybody, that is, except Netanyahu. He was furious.

What kind of an agreement is this?

The Iranians will get the bomb. If not now, then in 15 years. Or in 25. Or in 50.

The Iranians will cheat! Persians always cheat! They can’t help it! It’s in their blood! (Not like us, who built dozens of nuclear weapons in secret. After the Holocaust, we are allowed to do things like that.)

And anyway, even if they don’t get the bomb, the Iranians will get legitimization. And money. They will support anti-Israeli terrorists, like Hezbollah and Hamas. (Not very convincing, after Netanyahu had demanded concentration on The Bomb, and not on anything else.)

The huge Israeli propaganda machine was set in motion. The terrible agreement is being denounced from every rooftop. Of course we knew all the time that Barack Obama is an anti-Semite, as is John Kerry. Now we have the proof.

Actually, the play is over. An agreement signed by the entire world cannot be made to disappear with a puff from Bibi. It will be there, even if the US Congress does vote against it and overrides the presidential veto. The world is tired of Netanyahu’s whims. The man got what he wanted, so what now?!

I believe that the Iranians did not want the bomb very much anyhow. According to all available evidence, the agreement aroused joy in the streets of Tehran. The prevalent mood seems to be: “Thank Allah, at long last we’ve got rid of this whole nonsense!”

But the bomb that isn’t has already caused immense damage to Israel. Much worse than if it existed in some dark cavern.

All Israelis agree that the one supreme asset Israel has is its special, unparalleled relationship with the United States. It is unique.

Unique and priceless. In military terms, Israel gets the most up-to-date weapon systems, practically for nothing. No less important, Israel can not conduct any war for more than a few days without an airlift of munitions and spare parts from the United States.

But that is only a small element of our national security. Even more important is the knowledge that you cannot threaten Israel without confronting the entire might of the United States. This is a formidable umbrella, the envy of the world.

More than that, every country in the world knows that if you want something from Washington DC, and especially from the US Congress, you better pass through Jerusalem and pay a price. How much is that worth?

And then there is the veto. Not the little veto Obama will use to neutralize a Congress vote against the agreement, but the Big Veto, the one that blocks every single UN Security Council resolution to censure Israel, even for actions that cry to high heaven. A 49-year-old occupation. Hundreds of thousands of settlers who contravene international law. Almost daily killings.

Condemn Israel? Forget it. Sanctions against Israel? Don’t make us laugh. As long as the almighty United States protects Israel, It can do whatever it wants.

All this is now put in question. Perhaps the damage has already been done, like hidden cracks in the foundations of a building. The scale of the damage may become apparent only in coming years.

Another hidden crack is the rift between Israel and a large part of the Jews around the world, especially in the USA. Israel claims to be the “Nation-State of the Jewish People.” All Jews throughout the world owe it unquestioning allegiance. A mighty apparatus of “Jewish organizations” is policing the vassals. Woe to the Jew who dares to object.

Not anymore. A rift has opened within world Jewry, that probably cannot be repaired. Commanded to choose between their president and Israel, many American Jews prefer their president, or just opt out.

Who is the anti-Semite who has managed to bring all this evil about? No other than the Prime Minister of Israel himself.

Does this trouble the world? Not really.

We Israelis believe that we are the center of the world. But it ain’t necessarily so.

While Israel is obsessed with the Iranian bomb, great changes are taking place in our region. The almost forgotten 13-century old rift between Sunni and Shiite Muslims has suddenly reappeared all over. This rift, almost as old as Islam itself, was plastered over by the artificial order established by the notorious colonialist Sykes-Picot agreement during World War I.

What is happening now is a political earthquake. The landscape is changing dramatically. Mountains disappear, new ones are formed. The Shiite axis, from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, to Hezbollah in Lebanon is overtaking the Sunni bloc of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. Libya and Yemen are tossed around, Egypt harkens back to its glorious Pharaonic past, and in the middle of it all, a new power is raising its head — the Islamic Caliphate of Daesh, which attracts Muslim youth from all over the world.

In the middle of this raging storm, Netanyahu is a man of the past, a person whose perceptions were formed decades ago, in another world. Instead of addressing this new world, with its great dangers and great opportunities, he fumbles around with the non-existent Bomb.

The United States and the other Western powers are cautiously changing their stance. They are afraid of Daesh, as they should be. They perceive that their interests are getting closer to those of Iran and further away from those of Saudi Arabia. The new nuclear agreement fits well into this pattern. Netanyahu’s permanent trouble-making does not.

Is this being discussed in Israel? Of course not. It’s all about the bomb, the bomb, the bomb. The little quarrels between the Muslims are more or less ignored.

Sunnis, Shiites – they are all the same. Anti-Semites. Holocaust-deniers. Israel-haters.

Yet there are great opportunities. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies, as well as Egypt, are already hinting that they could cooperate with Israel. In deepest secrecy, of course. Nobody can shake hands openly with Israel as long as the Arab masses see every day on their TV sets the misdeeds of the settlers, the killings of the occupation army, the humiliation of the Palestinian brothers. Like a heavy weight tied to the leg of a swimmer, the occupation prevents us from reacting to the changes in the region.

Lately, there have been ever-stronger rumors about secret negotiations between Netanyahu and Hamas for an eight or ten year-long armistice, that would amount to an unofficial peace agreement. It would create a tiny Palestinian mini-state, while isolating even more Mahmoud Abbas and the main body of the Palestinian people, who are committed to the Arab peace plan.

All this for what? For enlarging the settlements and perhaps annexing another part of the West Bank (“Area C”).

So is the man shrewd or just foolish? A sorceror or just a sorceror’s apprentice?

 

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The 14th Amendment: the GOP off the deep end

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Dred
Dred Scott

About the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution and its attackers

GOP off the deep end

by Eric Jackson

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”

This is the first sentence of the 14th Amendment which Donald Trump and now, apparently, several other Republicans want to repeal.

Let us understand the original historical context of this amendment and its opening words. It was first and foremost the repeal of the Dred Scott decision, wherein the US Supreme Court had decided that black people are not citizens.

There is an otherwise obscure US racist group calling itself the Posse Comitatus, which back in the 1970s and 1980s pioneered a theory about the US Constitution. They argued that since former Confederate states were forced to ratify the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the constitution as a requirement before being readmitted to the Union, those amendments and all that has flowed from them are null and void, as are all later constitutional amendments. This theory, with a bewildering variety of mutations, was widely adopted by Ku Klux Klan, “patriot” militia, “sovereign citizen” and other far-right movements. Now versions of it are embraced by perhaps one-third of the Republican base.

They don’t want to make too much noise about the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery except when imposed by due process of law, but they believe it to be invalid. Every time that that a certain section of white Americans cheer when an unarmed black man is shot dead, these people reaffirm their commitment to the Dred Scott principle that black people are not citizens and those shot dead had “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

The right-wing groups that buy into the Posse Comitatus “constitutional” theory or one of its variants do tend to be more vocal in their condemnation of the 16th Amendment, which allows the graduated federal income tax. Of course.

But back to “anchor babies.” This time the attack on the 14th Amendment is not directed against black people, but by way of a slur is directed primarily against Mexican-Americans and those 42 million or so people in the United States for whom Spanish is their first language. (Consider the violence, racial profiling and unlawful arrests inherent in identifying and removing “anchor babies” from the US population. African-Americans may have a different history and different sets of concerns from the various Hispanic groups in the USA, but the well informed ones would fairly well understand the sorts of practices that would be involved.)

Let us look at what is real about pregnant women coming to the United States to give birth, and about births to non-resident foreigners and women who are in the United States illegally. When we do that, we first find a lot of statistics not kept in readily available fashion and what we know makes the term “anchor baby” so wildly inaccurate as to be not only a pejorative slur but also a monstrous slander. And then let us consider what could be done about the “problem,” if it is a problem.

Recently Uncle Sam shut down a series of operations in the Los Angeles area, wherein rich Chinese women would pay large sums of money to get visas to visit the United States, fly in legally, stay at a set place until ready to give birth, have their child in the USA, stay a bit longer to get the baby’s US passport in order, then fly back to China. I have known of Panamanian women with visas to come and go in the USA who have made a point of it to have their kid in Miami rather than Panama City.

Where is the “anchor” stereotype in these situations? The Chinese women in the scam the feds shut down all along intended to return to China, but then, in 18 years or so, the kid wouldn’t have to deal with the vagaries of getting a visa if she or he wanted to study, live or work in the USA. (Lazy suburban rich white kids at elite universities might have reason to complain about another Asian who’s better prepared and will study more setting the curve in the advanced math or physics class — they don’t get much sympathy from me.) Birth in the USA by way of this scheme can be addressed without repealing or changing the 14th Amendment, but in any case it is not about the family staying.

The Panamanians with visas to come and go? Those are usually granted on the basis of wealth, famous talent or the family’s political connections. The woman who legally chooses Miami over Panama City as a place to give birth does not need an “anchor” — she has a visa to be in the USA anyway.

People who slip across the US borders — it could be and often is the Detroit River rather than the Rio Grande — to live and work without the papers to allow them to do so legally DO form families, have children and so on. Overwhelmingly, these people come to work and try to stay out of trouble to avoid deportation. When there are an estimated 11 million undocumented foreigners in the country, they are going to have a certain number of kids. In a country of more than 320 million it really isn’t an important percentage. One has to be 21 years old to be a US citizen sponsoring a relative who is not a citizen moving to the United States.

There may be humanitarian and public policy reasons not to deport the illegally present foreign parents of US citizen children, but legally there is no “anchor” there. And where are the numbers for the right-wing argument about specifically Latin American women who have illegally entered the United States while pregnant or with the intention of becoming pregnant in the mistaken belief of then having a legal “anchor?”

So, if there is a problem, what might be done to control it? Well isn’t THAT yet another playing field for the far right to advance another part of its agenda, the control of women’s sexuality?

So, a famous Panamanian model, perhaps certified foxy by no less than Donald Trump, goes to the United States on a legal visa to work in her field. Are the feds going to come around visiting her every month or few months, forcing her to undergo pregnancy tests and kicking her out of the country if she tests positive? Are they going to do that to young Panamanian women studying at US universities? Is Disney going to lose a percentage of its foreign theme park visitors because US authorities are going to want to do pregnancy checks before female would-be foreign tourists step on the plane? Are all female non-citizens present in the United States to be required to report every so often to pregnancy testing centers, which have holding cells for those testing positive and to be deported?

Times change. In 1776 Thomas Jefferson wrote and the founders of the United States signed a Declaration of Independence that in its opening paragraph pleaded “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.” But world opinion also evolves. Yes, there are countries without birthright citizenship, but the world increasingly looks askance at such jurisdictions.

However, bedrock Republican ideology these days — certainly that for which Donald Trump stands — is a sneering disregard for world opinion, an America in the role of sticky fingered global bully at war to control everyone else’s assets, an America that wears national, racial and gender double standards on its sleeve. Now that the bulk of US manufacturing has been exported, that’s an America left perilously isolated from the world economy, an America whose citizens are likely to be despised and harassed whenever they go abroad, an America likely to be militarily overwhelmed in the end by the majority of the world’s population whom America has insulted.

That’s what the attack on the 14th Amendment means.

 

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