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Dealing with the Islamic State: what Bernie says

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Daesh Iraq
An Islamic State mass execution in post-intervention Iraq. Photo by criminals.

What Bernie Sanders says about dealing with the Islamic State

excerpts from his speech at Georgetown University

Our response must begin with an understanding of past mistakes and missteps in our previous approaches to foreign policy. It begins with the acknowledgment that unilateral military action should be a last resort, not a first resort, and that ill-conceived military decisions, such as the invasion of Iraq, can wreak far-reaching devastation and destabilize entire regions for decades. It begins with the reflection that the failed policy decisions of the past — rushing to war, regime change in Iraq, or toppling Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, or Guatemalan President Árbenz in 1954, Brazilian President Goulart in 1964, Chilean President Allende in 1973. These are the sorts of policies that do not work, do not make us safer, and must not be repeated.

I’m not running to pursue reckless adventures abroad, but to rebuild America’s strength at home. I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will never send our sons and daughters to war under false pretense or pretenses or into dubious battles with no end in sight.

And when we discuss foreign policy, let me join the people of Paris in mourning their loss, and pray that those who have been wounded will enjoy a full recovery. Our hearts also go out to the families of the hundreds of Russians apparently killed by an ISIS bomb on their flight, and those who lost their lives to terrorist attacks in Lebanon and elsewhere.
To my mind, it is clear that the United States must pursue policies to destroy the brutal and barbaric ISIS regime, and to create conditions that prevent fanatical extremist ideologies from flourishing. But we cannot — and should not — do it alone.

Our response must begin with an understanding of past mistakes and missteps in our previous approaches to foreign policy. It begins with the acknowledgment that unilateral military action should be a last resort, not a first resort, and that ill-conceived military decisions, such as the invasion of Iraq, can wreak far-reaching devastation and destabilize entire regions for decades. It begins with the reflection that the failed policy decisions of the past — rushing to war, regime change in Iraq, or toppling Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, or Guatemalan President Árbenz in 1954, Brazilian President Goulart in 1964, Chilean President Allende in 1973. These are the sorts of policies that do not work, do not make us safer, and must not be repeated.

We must create an organization like NATO to confront the security threats of the 21st century — an organization that emphasizes cooperation and collaboration to defeat the rise of violent extremism and importantly to address the root causes underlying these brutal acts. We must work with our NATO partners, and expand our coalition to include Russia and members of the Arab League.

But let’s be very clear. While the US and other western nations have the strength of our militaries and political systems, the fight against ISIS is a struggle for the soul of Islam, and countering violent extremism and destroying ISIS must be done primarily by Muslim nations — with the strong support of their global partners.

These same sentiments have been echoed by those in the region. Jordan’s King Abdallah II said in a speech on Sunday that terrorism is the “greatest threat to our region” and that Muslims must lead the fight against it.

Saudi Arabia has the 3rd largest defense budget in the world, yet instead of fighting ISIS they have focused more on a campaign to oust Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Kuwait, a country whose ruling family was restored to power by US troops after the first Gulf War, has been a well-known source of financing for ISIS and other violent extremists. It has been reported that Qatar will spend $200 billion on the 2022 World Cup, including the construction of an enormous number of facilities to host that event — $200 billion on hosting a soccer event, yet very little to fight against ISIS. Worse still, it has been widely reported that the government has not been vigilant in stemming the flow of terrorist financing, and that Qatari individuals and organizations funnel money to some of the most extreme terrorist groups, including al Nusra and ISIS.

All of this has got to change.

Further, we all understand that Bashar al-Assad is a brutal dictator who has slaughtered many of his own people. I am pleased that we saw last weekend diplomats from all over world, known as the International Syria Support Group, set a timetable for a Syrian-led political transition with open and fair elections. These are the promising beginnings of a collective effort to end the bloodshed and to move to political transition.

The diplomatic plan for Assad’s transition from power is a good step in a united front. But our priority must be to defeat ISIS.

While individual nations indeed have historic disputes — the US and Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia — the time is now to put aside those differences to work towards a common purpose of destroying ISIS. Sadly, as we have seen recently, no country is immune from attacks by the violent organization or those whom they have radicalized.

Thus, we must work with our partners in Europe, the Gulf states, Africa, and Southeast Asia — all along the way asking the hard questions whether their actions are serving our unified purpose.

The bottom line is that ISIS must be destroyed, but it cannot be defeated by the United States alone. A new and effective coalition must be formed with the Muslim nations leading the effort on the ground, while the United States and other major forces provide the support they need.

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Dealing with the Islamic State: what Hillary says

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Daesh Libya
An Islamic State mass execution in post-intervention Libya. Photo by criminals.

What Hillary Clinton says about dealing with the Islamic State

excerpts from her speech to the Council on Foreign Relations

To impose the toughest sanctions in history on Iran, to stop a dictator from slaughtering his people in Libya, to support a fledgling democracy in Afghanistan, we have to use every pillar of American power — military, and diplomacy; development, and economic, and cultural influence; technology, and, maybe most importantly, our values. That is smart power.

An immediate war against an urgent enemy and a generational struggle against an ideology with deep roots will not be easily torn out. It will require sustained commitment in every pillar of American power. This is a worldwide fight, and America must lead it.

So we need an immediate intelligence surge in the region, including technical assets, Arabic speakers with deep expertise in the Middle East, an even closer partnership with regional intelligence services.

we need to lay the foundation for a second “Sunni awakening.” We need to put sustained pressure on the government in Baghdad to gets its political house in order, move forward with national reconciliation, and finally, stand up a national guard. Baghdad needs to accept, even embrace, arming Sunni and Kurdish forces in the war against ISIS. But if Baghdad won’t do that, the coalition should do so directly.

We should also work with the coalition and the neighbors to impose no-fly zones that will stop Assad from slaughtering civilians and the opposition from the air.

Now, much of this strategy on both sides of the border hinges on the roles of our Arab and Turkish partners

The United States should also work with our Arab partners to get them more invested in the fight against ISIS. At the moment they’re focused in other areas because of their concerns in the region, especially the threat from Iran. That’s why the Saudis, for example, shifted attention from Syria to Yemen. So we have to work out a common approach.

In September I laid out a comprehensive plan to counter Iranian influence across the region and its support for terrorist proxies such as Hezbollah and Hamas. We cannot view Iran and ISIS as separate challenges.

And as we work out a broader regional approach, we should of course be closely consulting with Israel, our strongest ally in the Middle East. Israel increasingly shares with our Arab partners and has the opportunity to do more in intelligence and joint efforts as well.

And, once and for all, the Saudis, the Qataris, and others need to stop their citizens from directly funding extremist organizations, as well as the schools and mosques around the world that have set too many young people on a path to radicalization.

Overlapping conflicts, collapsing state structures, widespread corruption, poverty, and repression have created openings for extremists to exploit. Before the Arab spring, I warned that the region’s foundations would sink into the sand without immediate reforms. Well, the need has only grown more urgent.

We have to join with our partners to do the patient, steady work of empowering moderates and marginalizing extremists, supporting democratic institutions and the rule of law, creating economic growth that supports stability, working to curb corruption, helping train effective and accountable law enforcement, intelligence, and counterterrorism services.

This is a time for American leadership. No other country can rally the world to defeat ISIS and win the generational struggle against radical jihadism. Only the United States can mobilize common action on a global scale. And that’s exactly what we need. The entire world must be part of this fight, but we must lead it.

To impose the toughest sanctions in history on Iran, to stop a dictator from slaughtering his people in Libya, to support a fledgling democracy in Afghanistan, we have to use every pillar of American power — military, and diplomacy; development, and economic, and cultural influence; technology, and, maybe most importantly, our values. That is smart power.

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¿Wappin? Escape from mental slavery

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him irie
The late great Bob Marley.

¿Wappin? Escape from mental slavery

Janis Joplin – Cry Baby
https://youtu.be/G9wR5hLkYd8

Zoé – Nada
https://youtu.be/eiUr2jNgHLA

Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris & Neil Young – Across the Border
https://youtu.be/OfCS1yXg8gk

Elijah Emanuel – Soy Legal
https://youtu.be/fsKe1YdB_-s

Aretha Franklin – Think
https://youtu.be/hsL9UL9qbv8

Adele – When We Were Young
https://youtu.be/DDWKuo3gXMQ

Rolling Stones – 2000 Man
https://youtu.be/uUeir_mov7Q

Lana Del Rey – High By The Beach
https://youtu.be/QnxpHIl5Ynw

Romeo Santos & Marc Anthony – Yo También
https://youtu.be/QBaIMZ8QjcU

Peter Gabriel – The Rhythm of the Heat
https://youtu.be/rzwMe-3XVn4

Bob Marley – War
https://youtu.be/loFDn94oZJ0

Yabby You – Jah Vengeance
https://youtu.be/4FfBdU_Wwi8

Sinéad O’Connor – Downpressor Man
https://youtu.be/HDhH9-qhEEk

John Lennon – Imagine
https://youtu.be/yRhq-yO1KN8

Sin Bandera – Viña del Mar 2006
https://youtu.be/EDdFpvEDYSo

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The Panama News blog links, November 19, 2015

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The Panama News blog links, November 19, 2015

Prensa Latina, Uncertain opening date of Panama Canal expansion

Hellenic Shipping News, AMP strengthens Panama ship registry

Financial Express, Panama ratifies WTO’s trade facilitation pact

E&N, Metro de Panamá rompe todas las previsiones

The New York Times, Liberty Global to buy Cable & Wireless

ANP, APEDE instan a mesa de diálogo sobre los fondos de pensiones

The Hill, Obama’s trade deal is in trouble

Eyes on Trade, TPP financial stability threats unveiled

TeleSur, WikiLeaks alleges massive US government fraud scandal

CCR, False claims lawsuit against Inchcape for inflated costs here and elsewhere

The Costa Rica Star, Costa Rica 2 – Panama 1

The Gleaner, Reggae Boyz lose 2-0 against Panama in semi-final round opener

ANP, Visita de fanáticos costarricenses de fútbol aportará $5 millones a Panamá

TeleSur, UN highlights Panama’s gender inequalities

Chiriqui Chatter, Elimination of visa page inserts for US passports

Los Emanuelsson, Cárcel para periodista que reveló la corrupción en Honduras

Weisbrot, Washington seeks Venezuela election observers that it can influence

WOLA, Congress changing Obama’s Central America aid request

Video, Santos convinced he has support for a FARC deal

El País, Costa Rica faces Cuban migrant crisis

STRI, Will lionfish cross the Panama Canal?

Slate, The most intense El Niño ever observed

The Guardian, FDA approves gene-spliced salmon to be raised in Boquete

The Scientist, Fighting chytrid fungus

Brin: After Paris, can we be both safe and free?

Nye, Gate A-4

Greenwald, Exploiting emotions about Paris to blame Snowden

Boff, Hospitality is everybody’s right and duty

Simian, Cowards

Sachs, Ending blowback terrorism

Michigan Radio, Dearborn mourns local people killed in Beirut attacks

Caribbean News Now!, Trinidad may block return of ISIS fighters

Vintage video, Not in my name

Blades, Reflexiones en torno a los atentados en París

Gandásegui, Panamá y la guerra en el desierto de Siria

Vintage video, The Immigrants

WDAM, Southern Mississippi partners with Panama for billingual ed

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PanCanal’s malaise

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The problem with the new locks became apparent this past August and since then the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has maintained an imperfect news blockade. The information controls, along with some details that have slipped through, suggest a worse problem than has been admitted.

The Panama Canal’s multifaceted funk

by Eric Jackson

The problem of the moment — the one that appears in Google News — is dissipating. That the delays for ships seeking to transit the canal, and most probably the Panama Canal Authority’s method of reducing them, have driven business away from the Panama Canal is something that you won’t hear from canal officials. THAT you hear from shipping industry sources. CMA CGM, for example, abandoned its Manhattan Bridge Service route between China and the US East Coast, telling the Journal of Commerce that it was “due to operational issues resulting from delays in transiting the Panama Canal.” And although the ACP’s ban on ships less than 390 feet long was quickly lifted, it would be reasonable to suppose that some of the owners of such vessels — and their customers — will take that incident into account when making future business plans.

The issues causing the delays might be ephemeral, largely having to do with maritime problems in California, some of them drought-related, and rainy season fog slowing transits here. But the problem of the canal’s customers switching to other routes is structural and in large part flows from steep toll increases enacted after the ACP’s 2006 referendum campaign projections of ever-rising canal usage (and thus toll revenue) were spectacularly disproven by the 2008 economic crash. The revenue shortfall was resolved by the toll increases, but those drove many shippers to routes that don’t use the Panama Canal. A two-lane Suez Canal, expanded port and rail multimodal systems in many parts of the world and thawing Arctic ice mean that regardless of whether the Nicaragua Canal ever happens, we are not the only way to go and the competition is going to grow.

There may be some visible problems with the new locks, but the big problem with the Panama Canal expansion is economic. Canal management has never acknowledged this, but the search for new businesses to generate non-toll revenue for the ACP allows for no other reasonable explanations. The quest makes sense for the institution, at least. The ACP wants to go into the ports, fossil fuel power generation and oil and gas pipeline businesses. One can go back to the days of the old Canal Zone, which was a company town of the US-owned Panama Canal Company conglomerate, to find a history of the canal business encompassing these things. But why, from the institutionally disinterested perspective of the Republic of Panama and its citizens, does it make sense for the ACP to get into a ports industry that is and has been the busisness of the Panama Maritime Authority? Why should the power generating companies already in business here — or environmentalists — look kindly upon a new ACP power plant that burns bunker oil? Why would those who don’t view Gatun Lake as an environmental lost cause not object to a new oil pipeline alongside the lake?

The ACP website features gushy news about all of the international port operators interested in the proposed Corozal / Diablo port. But they could only get one vote for the project in the legislative committee when it came up for a vote last April. Now La Estrella reports that only three of the ACP’s 11 board members unambiguously back the port proposal. We don’t know precisely why, because the authority’s rules provide that the board speaks through the minister of canal affairs and individual board members can’t talk to the press about canal matters. We do know, however, about some of the conflicting business and family loyalties both represented on the board and with mostly indirect but real stakes in the port scramble. What makes institutional sense for the ACP is not necessarily reasonable for Panama’s squabbling rabiblanco families or political factions, or for that matter for the general public. Blurring those distinctions is a daunting public relations task.

Are the premises on which the port proposal’s economics are based all that certain in the first place? Heaven help Panama if they are totally wrong, but our opportunities for expansion as a transshipment center have been questioned.

The leaking new locks? At the moment PanCanal pilots are more concerned with maintenance issues on the present Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks. The measures to ease the delays at canal entrances include putting off locks maintenance said not to be urgent. Beside the apparent leaky gate seals at Miraflores we are told that regularly scheduled maintenance at Pedro Miguel ran into some problems and was abandoned unfinished.

The incontinent lock sill at the new Cocoli Locks made worldwide news. The discovery of new cracks in that and another sill have only been reported in Panama. Stuff that has been kept out of the news might — or might not — be the worst of all. For example, the last time that the ACP mentioned the leaks in the national language on its website was in an August 27 report about experts from Panama Technological University (UTP) making a field visit to evaluate the problem and give a technical opinion about the GUPC construction consortium’s report on the leak. But even though what is billed as GUPC repair work is ongoing, neither the consortium’s report on the problem nor the UTP professors’ evaluation of the GUPC analysis have been forthcoming to the public. Minister of Canal Affairs Roberto Roy and Canal Administrator Jorge Luis Quijano have maintained silence on the technical issues. Quijano has, however, assured foreign ship owners that the new locks will be open for business next April. But GUPC’s José Peláez told the Cuban Prensa Latina news agency that it’s too early to know whether the new locks will be open by that time.

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Trash talk: is Panama getting serious about solid waste?

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trash
Plenty of plastic and paper along the footpath. Photo by Eric Jackson.

Varela commissions a new study of
(part of) our solid waste problem

by Eric Jackson
The objective of these studies is to define guidelines to establish a national strategic plan to clean up the country through an integrated system with its objectives and the main lines of action necessary for the sustainable management of waste generated in Panama.
Presidential statement

 

President Varela is spending $4,354,000 via the Urban and Household Sanitation Authority (AAUD) to hire the Spanish consulting firm Ingeniería y Economía del Transporte SA (INECO) to develop a solid waste management system for Panama. We certainly need such a thing. But the thing is, INECO is primarily a transportation infrastructure engineering firm. Their website briefly mentions recycling, but all of the projects of which they boast are related to rail, highway, airport or seaport systems. They don’t seem to have any waste management system experience to show us. Perhaps they have just acquired a company that does solid waste planning, or hired some experts who are really good at that sort of thing. And surely there is an engineering component to any systematic approach to what we are going to do with all of that refuse.

The way that the problem is stated belies a conceptual problem that runs from the least educated Panamanian citizen to the sophisticated individuals at the top of our government. Does a nuts and bolts plan for sufficient modern landfills with a collection and transportation system to fill them, plus a recycling plan to divert the more valuable garbage, solve our problem? Or might we power our homes and put up with the stench of burning plastic with waste-to-energy incinerators, or better yet advanced plasma burners that just give us glassy bricks and water vapor? Not enough.

Oh, that’s right, it’s a cultural problem. The waste disposal people, the Ministry of Health and IDAAN have been saying that for years and better educated Panamanians have heard it. Dispose of trash in proper receptacles, not by throwing it by the side of the road or down storm drains. A lot of people haven’t assimilated the message and this time of the year it aggravates urban flooding problems and all that trash collects water where disease vector mosquitoes like to breed. But those sophisticates who see it as this problem of bad manners, mostly of those arrived in the city from the Interior in recent decades also tend to have a conceptual problem.

If solid waste management is looked at as a matter of convincing people to put it in the can so that the collectors can come take it away. It’s even so if one figures that some of that stuff should be separated out and recycled. The bigger part of the problem is creating and distributing all that throwaway stuff in the first place.

So has our industrial engineer president hired a company to give Panama an engineering solution to our solid waste problems? To the extent that the company gets into recycling, might they give us a market solution too? It doesn’t work without a cultural solution and a public policy solution.

Education campaigns have made small dents on the cultural front. We had a mayor of Panama City who was married into the ad cartel, who went after that problem with television ads. We might want to study how well that program, long discontinued, really went.

Mandatory beverage bottle and can deposits have shown in many places around the world how they dramatically decrease the volume of solid waste strewn along roadsides. We are not going to save our coral reefs or get the upper hand against dengue until we remove all the plastic shopping bags from the environment by prohibiting their free distribution at stores, as is done in China.

Also on the public policy front — and let’s be frank about it, the political patronage front — is the relationship among municipal, provincial and national levels of government. For example, Chame’s private garbage pickup contractor has just called it quits, so does the AAUD now add that sprawling district to its political bailiwick? And how do we avoid the tawdry turf battles of the previous two administrations, in which contracts and jobs were more important than keeping things clean?

It could could be that INECO is a competent cultural and public policy consultant, too. It could be that the president has some comprehensive cultural and public policy approaches in mind, and is just hiring INECO to study the particulars of our situation and present him with some options for the engineering parts of the solution.

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Polo Ciudadano, Los atentados de París

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The French
Soldado francés en la República Centroafricana. Foto por el Ministerio de Defensa Francés.

Pronunciamiento sobre los atentados de París

por el Polo Ciudadano

1. El Polo Ciudadano repudia los horrendos atentados ocurridos en la ciudad de París el pasado viernes 13 de noviembre en el que murieron más de cien de civiles, siendo la mayoría jóvenes, y varios centenares de personas fueron gravemente heridas y traumas severos.

2. Desde este espacio, expresamos a las víctimas, sus familiares y al pueblo francés nuestra completa e incondicional solidaridad.

3. El Polo Ciudadano sostiene que es necesario acabar con los métodos del terrorismo que convierte en víctimas a civiles inocentes en nombre de falsos objetivos políticos, y que el terrorismo que practican grupos como el llamado “estado islámico” (ISIS) no es más que la otra cara de la moneda del terrorismo que practican las potencias occidentales, incluyendo a Francia en Oriente Medio y África.

4. Erradicar el terrorismo falsamente llamado “islamista”, al cual repudian cientos de millones de musulmanes en todo el mundo y los principales jerarcas de las iglesias islámicas, requiere erradicar la política de las potencias capitalistas occidentales, que para saquear sus recursos naturales, imponen la violencia masiva contra pueblos enteros (bajo falsos objetivos disfrazados de “democracia”) con sus millones de muertos, heridos y refugiados en Afganistán, Irak, Libia y Siria.

5. El terrorismo “islámico” y el terrorismo imperialista son dos caras de la misma moneda. Por esa razón repudiamos las palabras de los jefes de estado de la OTAN, quienes alegan ser representantes de una supuesta “civilización occidental” (basada en una democracia e igualdad inexistentes), atacada por los “bárbaros medievales”. Los métodos políticos, económicos y militares que emplean las potencias capitalistas para imponer la globalización neoliberal también son bárbaros y han causado muchas más víctimas en todo el planeta. En ese sentido repudiamos la hipocresía de la OTAN, cuando cada día es más evidente que ellos y sus aliados financian grupos como ISIS, para imponerse por la fuerza contra Siria e Irán.

6. Nuestro repudio al terrorismo practicado por las potencias imperialistas occidentales, como el terrorismo de grupos como ISIS, viene desde lo más profundo de un pueblo como el nuestro (el panameño), que ha sido múltiples veces víctima del terrorismo genocida de Estados Unidos que en nombre de la “democracia” nos invadió y masacró. El último ataque terrorista norteamericano del que fuimos víctimas como Panameños, ocurrió el 20 de Diciembre de 1989, causando más de 500 muertos, más de 2000 heridos e incalculables daños a la propiedad estatal y privada valorados en miles de millones de dólares.

Así que en Panamá sabemos cómo se siente el dolido pueblo francés en este momento, pero también sabemos cómo se sienten los pueblos de Palestina, Siria, Libia, Irak, Afganistán, entre otros que siguen siendo víctimas del terrorismo imperialista de los Estados Unidos y de sus principales aliados.

7. Como Polo Ciudadano cuestionamos la innecesaria decisión del gobierno panameño presidido por Juan Carlos Varela, de formar parte de la “Coalición internacional” contra los yihadistas del Estado Islámico (EI), ya que de acuerdo a analistas internacionales y locales, es un ‘error lamentable’ de la política exterior del Gobierno, que sin lugar a dudas pondrá en extremo peligro a toda la nación y por ende al canal; por pretender actuar con gesto complaciente con los intereses y presiones de EEUU.

8. Como ciudadan@s, aspiramos por un mundo de Paz, sin terrorismo, sin explotación económica, sin saqueo a las naciones; que incluya a todos los seres humanos de todas las culturas y credos; un mundo que no puede ser el actual e inhumano mundo de la globalización neoliberal capitalista e imperial.

Panamá, 17 de noviembre de 2015

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Harrington, Después de los pavos

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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

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VR
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

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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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