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Lamrani, Avoiding a war in space

space is the place
The Chinese, the Russians and other powers also have their miltary space programs and we can’t be entirely certain who has what capability.

Avoiding a war in space

by Omar Lamrani — STRATFOR

Space is becoming more congested, contested and competitive. Since the Soviet Union put the first satellite, Sputnik I, into space in 1957, no nation has deliberately destroyed another’s satellite in orbit. But there is a growing possibility that battles may soon be waged in space.

Although the militarization of space started long ago, a number of technological developments and tests over the past decade show that the race toward its weaponization is accelerating. Driven by Washington’s dominance of and strategic dependence on space, US rivals are working to develop and deploy anti-satellite weapons (widely known as ASATs). The technology, which began to be developed during the Cold War, has become an area of intense competition for the world’s most capable militaries over the past decade.

For the United States, being the leader in military space technologies provides immense advantages. At the same time, its outsize reliance on those technologies entails risks. The current unequal dependence on space, the United States fears, could give adversaries incentive to attack its infrastructure in orbit. Washington is therefore pushing to bolster its capabilities and is preparing for the possibility that a future conflict could escalate into space. As the militarized space race continues, the United States will stay focused on deterrence. A war in space would be devastating to all, and preventing it, rather than finding ways to fight it, will likely remain the goal.

An unequal dependence

Washington’s dependence on space infrastructure reflects the United States’ dominance in space. The tyranny of time and distance inherently hinders the United States’ ability to deploy its military across the globe. But the space domain effectively helps the country to overcome the limitations, allowing for enhanced force projection. As a result, the US military relies heavily on its orbital assets for navigation, intelligence collection, precision targeting, communication, early warning and several other crucial activities.

The great advantages that space assets afford the United States have not gone unnoticed by its potential rivals. Though China and Russia, for instance, also rely on space, they are less dependent on their space assets than the United States is. First, neither nation has as much in orbit. In addition, because both put greater focus on their immediate geographic regions, they can use more conventional tools to achieve their objectives. For instance, Beijing, by virtue of geographic proximity, could rely on its ground-based radars and sensors in a conflict in the Taiwan Strait. The United States, on the other hand, would have to lean on its satellites to support a response in the same area.

Despite the United States’ superior ability to strike at enemy space constellations — groups of similar kinds of satellites — competitors may determine that the resulting loss of space access would be worthwhile if they could severely degrade US space access. And while the United States is the most proficient nation in space-based warfare, there are limits to its abilities. Satellites in orbit follow predictable movements, have restricted maneuverability and are difficult to defend from an attack.

There is little doubt that a full kinetic strike on US satellites, which would inflict physical damage, would invite a devastating response. But tactics designed to degrade the satellites’ abilities, rather than to destroy their hardware, could be deemed less escalatory and therefore perhaps worth the risk. These include jamming signals, hacking operational software and dazzling (temporarily blinding) or permanently disabling sensors. Calculating the risk of nonkinetic strikes, which would create little physical damage and could even be reversed, a potential foe would take into account the United States’ hesitance to escalate a conflict in space, given its heavy dependence on orbital technology.

Reinforcing deterrence

If the United States wants to preserve its primacy in the face of increasing threats to its strength in space, Washington will need to invest in strategies to deter attacks on its orbital assets. The first step in strengthening space deterrence is to ensure proper attribution: The United States cannot hold its enemies accountable for attacks if it does not know who initiated them. But the vastness of space, along with the difficulty of obtaining physical evidence from attacked satellites, can make responsibility hard to prove.

To that end, the United States is investing in a second-generation surveillance system, known as Space Fence, to track satellites and orbital debris. Slated to begin operating in 2018, Space Fence uses ground-based radars that give it 10 times the detection capability of its predecessor, the Air Force Space Surveillance System. In addition, the United States has been working with a classified satellite defense technology called the Self-Awareness Space Situational Awareness system, which reportedly will be able to pinpoint the source of a laser fired at a satellite.

Redundancy and shielding can also deter limited attacks against satellites. The innate redundancy of large satellite constellations could make attacking them too risky; such an assault would fail to significantly impair US space control while still inviting retaliation. Meanwhile, more widespread use of resistant antenna designs, filters, surge arresters and fiber-optic components, which are less vulnerable to attack, is already being explored to further shield satellites from jamming, dazzling and blinding.

Finally, the United States can work alongside its global partners and allies to convey the idea that a full-blown battle that would destroy orbiting satellites would be bad for all of humanity. Reinforcing this message and openly tying it to a powerful US response could further bolster deterrence.

Preventing a war in space

While the United States works to discourage hostilities in space, in no small part to ensure its enduring advantage there, Washington is also taking more steps to plan for the contingency of a war in space. The Department of Defense has nominated the secretary of the US Air Force as the initiative’s principal adviser, tasked with coordinating space-related efforts across the military. Late last year, the United States also established the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center at Colorado’s Schriever Air Force Base. The center facilitates information sharing across the national security space enterprise and has already run a number of wargame scenarios to simulate conflict in orbit.

Furthermore, the Pentagon has added $5 billion to its space programs budget in 2016, pushing the total to about $27 billion. The budget provides for spending on technologies and tactics that can help the United States mitigate and recover from a space attack. One effort, spearheaded by the Operationally Responsive Space Office, aims to develop small satellites and associated launch systems that can be built and deployed quickly and cheaply. (For the most part, the current US fleet consists of large, sophisticated and expensive satellites, some of which cost billions of dollars and take years to construct.)

As part of this endeavor, the office has directed the development of a standardized but modular satellite chassis that allows for multiple payload variations. The result is increased flexibility, as well as lower costs and quicker turnaround in production. Developing a less expensive and more efficient way to launch replacements for destroyed or disabled systems is the next step. With that in mind, the Operationally Responsive Space Office is funding the development of the Spaceborne Payload Assist Rocket-Kauai (SPARK) launch system, designed to send miniaturized satellites into low-Earth and sun-synchronous orbits. In its efforts to rapidly launch swarms of miniaturized satellites on the cheap, the US military is also looking to leverage the private sector. Companies such as Virgin Galactic (with the LauncherOne) and the Rocket Lab (with the Electron Vehicle) have expressed keen interest in the initiative.

The small satellite revolution promises the speedy replacement of disabled satellites in the event of attack — theoretically securing the US military’s use of space constellations in support of operations during a conflict. Small satellites are not a magic bullet, however; key satellite functions will still depend on bulkier and more complex systems, such as the large but critically important nuclear-hardened command-and-control mission satellites. Many of these systems involve hefty antennas and considerable power sources.

Given that access to orbit may not be guaranteed during a war in space, the United States has also been exploring alternative ways to perform some of the core functions that satellites now provide. At this stage, high-flying unmanned aerial vehicles with satellite-like payloads offer the most advanced alternative. But considering the vehicles’ vulnerability to sophisticated air defenses, their lower altitude and endurance relative to orbital satellites, and their limited global reach, this remains a tentative solution at best.

Overall, the United States is getting far more serious about the threat of space warfare. Investment in new technologies is increasing, and the organizational architecture to deal with such a contingency is being put in place. In the race between shield and sword, however, there is no guarantee that offensive ASAT capabilities will not have the advantage, potentially denying critical access to space during a catastrophic celestial war.
The High Cost of a War in Space

Increased competition in space is reviving fears of a war there, one with devastating consequences. Humanity depends on space systems for communication, exploration, navigation and a host of other functions integral to modern life. Moreover, future breakthroughs may await in space, including solar energy improvements, nuclear waste disposal and extraterrestrial mining.

A war in space would disable a number of key satellites, and the resulting debris would place vital orbital regions at risk. The damage to the world economy could also be disastrous. In severity, the consequences of space warfare could be comparable to those of nuclear war. What’s more, disabling key constellations that give early launch warnings could be seen as the opening salvo in a nuclear attack, driving the threat of a wider conflagration.

While the United States and other nations are taking measures to better prepare for a potential war in space, their emphasis will likely remain on deterrence. This is an important notion to understand, not only for potential US enemies but also for the United States itself. For instance, it is conceivable that technological advancements in the coming decades could allow the United States to recover militarily from a space clash more quickly than the ever-more space dependent China or Russia. In such a scenario, the costs that a space war would have for the world as a whole might be enough to dissuade Washington from launching its own space attack.


Avoiding a War in Space is republished with permission of Stratfor.


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¿Wappin? A seven-concert Sunday music festival

The Godfather of Soul, James Brown. Photo by Erik K. Veland.

¿Wappin? A seven-concert Sunday music festival

Lou Rawls Live Concert at BET

Julieta Venegas en Paris 2012

Ian Hunter Band with Mick Ronson Live Rockpalast

Romeo Santos – Festival de Viña del Mar 2015

The Rolling Stones in Glastonbury 2013

Heroes del Silencio MTV Unplugged

James Brown at the House of Blues


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Editorials: Noriega and us; and Investigating phonies

Manuel Antonio Noriega, two years ago. Photo by SERTV.
Manuel Antonio Noriega, two years ago. Photo by SERTV.

Noriega: the important question
is more about us than about him

Former dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega, once the strutting strongman but now a frail old man who has lived behind bars for more than a quarter century, has a brain tumor. It’s apparently not an immediate threat to his life as such, except that it’s causing him to have convulsions that might conceivably kill him. It reportedly can be removed by surgeons, but with the risks enhanced and the results in additional doubt because the patient is elderly and has had a stroke.

Noriega’s family and lawyers have requested that the courts change his conditions of confinement from prison to house arrest. President Varela can and probably will wash his hands of the matter, but he also has the power to issue a partial commutation of a sort similar to what is being asked from the courts.

Immediately there is a hue and cry against any clemency, any mercy, any consideration for Noriega. Some of the voices are downright sadistic, but there are some valid arguments for keeping the ex-dictator locked up. For one thing, he has never been tried for many of the worst of his crimes. For another, we have never received his full statement about the crimes for which he has been convicted, let alone those for which he is accused. There are suspicions that some of his ill-gotten fortune is still squirreled away somewhere. There is no cruelty barbarous enough to match the suffering that Noriega caused to others, nothing that we can do to bring back those who died at his hands.

But the more important questions are about us as human beings, about Panama as a civilization, about the dream of a sovereign Panamanian state with the rule of law.

At the time that Noriega held power, the maximum legal sentence for any crime was 20 years in prison, with no stacking of sentences to be served consecutively for separate crimes. Since the invasion — which was accompanied by disgraceful looting that Panamanians don’t like to remember, explain or address in any way other than by some blaming the Americans — crime has been a persistent and frightening problem. As a response to that banal politicians have borrowed the failed US answer of more people in prison for longer sentences under more brutal conditions. That answer, enacted here in longer maximum prison terms, has not worked in the United States and it hasn’t worked here. Crime goes up and down, largely according to the demographics of how many teenage boys and young men are living in poverty and despair. (The latter — despair for any honorable future place in society — is far more dangerous than poverty itself.) Increasing the severity of punishment just hardens individuals and drains public budgets.

Panama has long been a country without the death penalty. Public revulsion at the execution of the Liberal guerrilla general Victoriano Lorenzo was one of the reasons why Liberals accepted Panama’s separation from Colombia. The revulsion of the Panama Defense Forces of Noriega’s executions of some of its members was one of the reasons why that demoralized army put up little resistance during the invasion. We are a country with freedom of religion, with Evangelical, Muslim and Jehovah’s Witness denominations that are growing along with the number of people who express atheist or agnostic beliefs, but Panama has a large Catholic majority and our attitudes about capital punishment and cruelty in the name of the law are largely shaped by the Catholic faith.

So who are WE? Are we a nation that makes long-imprisoned inmates serve their sentences to the last day, even when they are dying or old and frail? Or are we a nation that follows the Christian and Muslim belief that the greatness of Jesus Christ was in large part due to his teaching that the rule of law should be tempered by a spirit of mercy?

Don’t let Noriega out into society at large. Don’t accept any revision of history’s verdict that excuses what he did. But when, after his brain surgery, he is well enough to be released from the prison ward at Santo Tomas Hospital, send him home to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest. That would be the decent thing to do, and the Panamanian thing to do.

Investigating phony people who come here

Everybody has conceits about himself or herself, which is one reason why autobiographies and “authorized” biographies are mostly awful.

There are so very many people who come to Panama with made-up stories about themselves who, if the whole truth is known, are still not newsworthy. It’s even that way with criminals. Somebody who is living here under a false identity who does that because some jurisdiction has a warrant out about selling marijuana? Not newsworthy. Somebody who is living here under a false identity who does that because there is a warrant listing a dozen murders allegedly committed by the person? Newsworthy. Was the guy who says he was a colonel to people in the Coronado social circle actually a sergeant? Unless the government of Panama is considering him as a police consultant, not newsworthy. The person who falsely claims membership in a licensed profession in another place? Generally not newsworthy, until the moment comes when she or he uses that bogus credential to attract investors, get a job or obtain a position of influence in the community.

When somebody flaunts a résumé in this land where many public officials proffer false credentials, there are things at which to look:

  • Is this person’s set of claims all couched in terms of “I was” rather than “I did?”
  • Does this person claim leadership roles in many groups, but none of them lasting very long?
  • Does this person say that she or he “attended” a university, or is an alumnus of a fraternity or sorority there, rather than specifying a year of graduation, the sort of degree received and in what major or majors?
  • Does this person claim association with a corporation, and if you look up the corporation you find it is the “mirror” of one or more other, older and perhaps more renowned corporations with the same or a very similar name?
  • Does this person claim association with a corporation that’s real enough, but has been immersed in scandal?
  • Does the person make claims that can’t be verified and seem improbable?

If those sorts of red flags are raised, it’s time to dig more deeply. That is, if you are a journalist looking into a newsworthy situation, if you are someone being accused of something, if this person is after your job or some post you hold in the community or if you are an officer of an organization in which this person is attempting to gain a position of influence.

What you find will then probably call for judgment and restraint. Do you want to out a narc, or someone in a witness protection program, and put that person’s life in danger? Do you want to make somebody’s life miserable about some inconsequential incongruity? Are you a vicious blackmailing punk? Is there a reason why the community or one of its organizations ought to be warned? Does your personal stake in a matter cloud your judgment?

The Dick the Bruiser Philosophy — “Integrity? What’s THAT?” — is a good joke, except too many people in positions of power or influence great and small actually operate on that principle. It may be the norm in a totally commercial world in which everything is cutthroat competition, but it’s no way to live in a population of human beings.

The Panama News is published by neither a saint nor a messiah, but this guy who is 63 years old and who has been practicing journalism off and on since age 17 and  covering Panama full-time since 1994. Plenty of errors have been made along the way, but there are no judgments or convictions for libel or slander even though such sorts of accusations have been hurled his way over the years.

Bear in mind…

The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton


The quality of mercy is not strain’d
It droppeth as the gentle rain from Heaven
William Shakespeare


When the man who feeds the world by toiling in the fields is himself deprived of the basic rights of feeding, sheltering and caring for his own family, the whole community of man is sick.
Cesar Chavez


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The Panama News blog links, May 21, 2016


The Panama News blog links

Container Management, PanCanal to use up to five tugs per ship in new locks

ACP Advisory, Draft restricted to 42 feet on new locks that are designed for 50 feet

ANP, Así se ven las nuevas esclusas del Canal de Panamá

Hellenic Shipping News, Chinese to build Colon’s new port for the bigger ships

Daily Beast, Will Nicaragua ever get its Grand Canal?

Hellenic Shipping News, New PanCanal competition from Costa Rican dry route?

MLS Soccer, Columbus Crew adds Panama’s Cristian Martínez

World Boxing News, WBA orders Concepción – Kono title bout

European Supermarket Magazine, Atlas and Balboa beer brands traded to Brazilians

Video, Protesta en contra de Barro Blanco frente la Gobernación en David

Telemetro, Licencias del EEUU en caso Waked vigentes hasta el 14 de junio

Balboa Bank & Trust, Board of Directors

Stanford’s Forgotten Victims, US judge OKs Stanford assets’ sale to Waked group

Prensa Latina, Japan reaches tax data deal with Panama

AFP, Panamá necesita más tiempo para investigar a Mossack Fonseca

Portland Business Journal, Senator Wyden calls Panama Papers a wake-up call

EFE, Experto ruso: la filtración de documentos de Mossack Fonseca fue interna

VICE, Why the Panama Papers are a women’s rights issue

Página 12, Con la lupa sobre los negocios de Macri

Reuters, Police widen investigation of Odebrecht corruption in Angola

Main, MACCIH makes its first apperance

Bananama Republic, Identity thief heads Democrats Abroad Panama

TVN, Robo y suplantación de identidad en internet no están delitos en Panamá

Newsroom Panama, Noriega seeks house arrest

La Estrella, Rector será investigado bajo el sistema penal acusatorio

Sputnik International, Russian Duma OKs extradition pact with Panama

Caribbean News Now!, Suriname approves Islamic Charter

IHU/Adital, Temer fue informante de la inteligencia de EEUU

BBC, Volcano ash covers Costa Rica towns

Fish Update, Canada approves genetically modified salmon

EFE, Centroamérica ante la peor sequía en 30 años

Seattle P-I, Washington AG rebukes congressional climate change deniers

Miami Herald, Researchers help Miami plan for sea rise and climate change

Forbes, How birds became red

WHO, Emergency Committee meets on Angola yellow fever outbreak

Mongabay: TTIP unfriendly to environment, consumers and democracy

Greenwald, First interview with Dilma Rousseff after her suspension

WOLA, Money laundering and Peru’s presidential elections

Stiglitz, Monopoly’s new era

Chomsky, La crisis de los refugiados

Taibbi, Trump isn’t the campaign media’s first mistake

Vivas, ¿Qué queda de tanta indignación?

Goett, Nicaragua’s zombie megaproject

Boff: Madre, arquetipo fundamental de la psique humana

Jansen, Maksoud was a great Arab ambassador to the world

Blades, Morley Safer

The Hollywood Reporter, “Hands of Stone” at Cannes review


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Avnery, I was there

“Death to the Arabs!” Martinelli and Varela pose with Israeli racist leader Avigdor Liebernan, something that Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry have all refused to do. Photo by the Presidencia.

I was there

by Uri Avnery

“Please don’t write about Ya’ir Golan!” a friend begged me, “Anything a leftist like you writes will only harm him!”

So I abstained for some weeks. But I can’t keep quiet any longer.

General Ya’ir Golan, the deputy Chief of Staff of the Israeli army, made a speech on Holocaust Memorial Day. Wearing his uniform, he read a prepared, well-considered text that triggered an uproar which has not yet died down.

Dozens of articles have been published in its wake, some condemning him, some lauding him. Seems that nobody could stay indifferent.

The main sentence was: “If there is something that frightens me about the memories of the Holocaust, it is the knowledge of the awful processes which happened in Europe in general, and in Germany in particular, 70, 80, 90 years ago, and finding traces of them here in our midst, today, in 2016.”

All hell broke loose. What!!! Traces of Nazism in Israel? A resemblance between what the Nazis did to us with what we are doing to the Palestinians?

90 years ago was 1926, one of the last years of the German republic. 80 years ago was 1936, three years after the Nazis came to power. 70 years ago was 1946, on the morrow of Hitler’s suicide and the end of the Nazi Reich.

I feel compelled to write about the general’s speech after all, because I was there.

As a child I was an eye-witness to the last years of the Weimar Republic (so called because its constitution was shaped in Weimar, the town of Goethe and Schiller). As a politically alert boy I witnessed the Nazi Machtergreifung (“taking power”) and the first half a year of Nazi rule.

I know what Golan was speaking about. Though we belong to two different generations, we share the same background. Both our families come from small towns in Western Germany. His father and I must have had a lot in common.

There is a strict moral commandment in Israel: nothing can be compared to the Holocaust. The Holocaust is unique. It happened to us, the Jews, because we are unique. (Religious Jews would add: “Because God has chosen us.”)

I have broken this commandment. Just before Golan was born, I published (in Hebrew) a book called “The Swastika,” in which I recounted my childhood memories and tried to draw conclusions from them. It was on the eve of the Eichmann trial, and I was shocked by the lack of knowledge about the Nazi era among young Israelis then.

My book did not deal with the Holocaust, which took place when I was already living in Palestine, but with a question which troubled me throughout the years, and even today: how could it happen that Germany, perhaps the most cultured nation on earth at the time, the homeland of Goethe, Beethoven and Kant, could democratically elect a raving psychopath like Adolf Hitler as its leader?

The last chapter of the book was entitled “It Can Happen Here!” The title was drawn from a book by the American novelist Sinclair Lewis, called ironically “It Can’t Happen Here,” in which he described a Nazi take-over of the United States.

In this chapter I discussed the possibility of a Jewish Nazi-like party coming to power in Israel. My conclusion was that a Nazi party can come to power in any country on earth, if the conditions are right. Yes, in Israel, too.

The book was largely ignored by the Israeli public, which at the time was overwhelmed by the storm of emotions evoked by the terrible disclosures of the Eichmann trial.

Now comes General Golan, an esteemed professional soldier, and says the same thing.

And not as an improvised remark, but on an official occasion, wearing his general’s uniform, reading from a prepared, well thought-out text.

The storm broke out, and has not passed yet.

Israelis have a self-protective habit: when confronted with inconvenient truths, they evade its essence and deal with a secondary, unimportant aspect. Of all the dozens and dozens of reactions in the written press, on TV and on political platforms, almost none confronted the general’s painful contention.

No, the furious debate that broke out concerns the questions: Is a high-ranking army officer allowed to voice an opinion about matters that concern the civilian establishment? And do so in army uniform? On an official occasion?

Should an army officer keep quiet about his political convictions? Or voice them only in closed sessions — “in relevant forums,” as a furious Binyamin Netanyahu phrased it?

General Golan enjoys a very high degree of respect in the army. As Deputy Chief of Staff he was until now almost certainly a candidate for Chief of Staff, when the incumbent leaves the office after the customary four years.

The fulfillment of this dream shared by every General Staff officer is now very remote. In practice, Golan has sacrificed his further advancement in order to utter his warning and giving it the widest possible resonance.

One can only respect such courage. I have never met General Golan, I believe, and I don’t know his political views. But I admire his act.

(Somehow I recall an article published by the British magazine Punch before World War I, when a group of junior army officers issued a statement opposing the government’s policy in Ireland. The magazine said that while disapproving the opinion expressed by the mutinous officers, it took pride in the fact that such youthful officers were ready to sacrifice their careers for their convictions.)

The Nazi march to power started in 1929, when a terrible world-wide economic crisis hit Germany. A tiny, ridiculous far-right party suddenly became a political force to be reckoned with. From there it took them four years to become the largest party in the country and to take over power (though it still needed a coalition).

I was there when it happened, a boy in a family in which politics became the main topic at the dinner table. I saw how the republic broke down, gradually, slowly, step by step. I saw our family friends hoisting the swastika flag. I saw my high-school teacher raising his arm when entering the class and saying “Heil Hitler” for the first time (and then reassuring me in private that nothing had changed).

I was the only Jew in the entire gymnasium (high school). When the hundreds of boys – all taller than I – raised their arms to sing the Nazi anthem, and I did not, they threatened to break my bones if it happened again. A few days later we left Germany for good.

General Golan was accused of comparing Israel to Nazi Germany. Nothing of the sort. A careful reading of his text shows that he compared developments in Israel to the events that led to the disintegration of the Weimar Republic. And that is a valid comparison.

Things happening in Israel, especially since the last election, bear a frightening similarity to those events. True, the process is quite different. German fascism arose from the humiliation of surrender in World War I, the occupation of the Ruhr by France and Belgium from 1923-25, the terrible economic crisis of 1929, the misery of millions of unemployed. Israel is victorious in its frequent military actions, we live comfortable lives. The dangers threatening us are of a quite different nature. They stem from our victories, not from our defeats.

Indeed, the differences between Israel today and Germany then are far greater than the similarities. But those similarities do exist, and the general was right to point them out.

The discrimination against the Palestinians in practically all spheres of life can be compared to the treatment of the Jews in the first phase of Nazi Germany. (The oppression of the Palestinians in the occupied territories resembles more the treatment of the Czechs in the “protectorate” after the Munich betrayal.)

The rain of racist bills in the Knesset, those already adopted and those in the works, strongly resembles the laws adopted by the Reichstag in the early days of the Nazi regime. Some rabbis call for a boycott of Arab shops. Like then. The call “Death to the Arabs” (“Judah verrecke?”) is regularly heard at soccer matches. A member of parliament has called for the separation between Jewish and Arab newborns in hospital. A Chief Rabbi has declared that Goyim (non-Jews) were created by God to serve the Jews. Our Ministers of Education and Culture are busy subduing the schools, theater and arts to the extreme rightist line, something known in German as Gleichschaltung. The Supreme Court, the pride of Israel, is being relentlessly attacked by the Minister of Justice. The Gaza Strip is a huge ghetto.

Of course, no one in their right mind would even remotely compare Netanyahu to the Fuehrer, but there are political parties here which do 0 emit a strong fascist smell. The political riffraff peopling the present Netanyahu government could easily have found their place in the first Nazi government.

One of the main slogans of our present government is to replace the “old elite,” considered too liberal, with a new one. One of the main Nazi slogans was to replace “das System.”

By the way, when the Nazis came to power, almost all high-ranking officers of the German army were staunch anti-Nazis. They were even considering a putsch against Hitler. Their political leader was summarily executed a year later, when Hitler liquidated his opponents in his own party. We are told that General Golan is now protected by a personal bodyguard, something that has never happened to a general in the annals of Israel.

The general did not mention the occupation and the settlements, which are under army rule. But he did mention the episode which occurred shortly before he gave this speech, and which is still shaking Israel now: in occupied Hebron, under army rule, a soldier saw a seriously wounded Palestinian lying helplessly on the ground, approached him and killed him with a shot to the head. The victim had tried to attack some soldiers with a knife, but did not constitute a threat to anyone any more. This was a clear contravention of army standing orders, and the soldier has been hauled before a court martial.

A cry went up around the country: the soldier is a hero! He should be decorated! Netanyahu called his father to assure him of his support. Avigdor Lieberman entered the crowded courtroom in order to express his solidarity with the soldier. A few days later Netanyahu appointed Lieberman as Minister of Defense, the second most important office in Israel.

Before that, General Golan received robust support both from the Minister of Defense, Moshe Ya’alon, and the Chief of Staff, Gadi Eisenkot. Probably this was the immediate reason for the kicking out of Ya’alon and the appointment of Lieberman in his place. It resembled a putsch.

It seems that Golan is not only a courageous officer, but a prophet, too. The inclusion of Lieberman’s party in the government coalition confirms Golan’s blackest fears. This is another fatal blow to the Israeli democracy.

Am I condemned to witness the same process for the second time in my life?


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La primera puerco de monte con collar en Panamá

In a nation ruled by swine...
Serafina y Ric. Foto por STRI.

Serafina, una puerco de monte
con radio-collar en Panamá

por Sonia Tejada — STRI

El 10 de mayo Ricardo Moreno, Investigador Asociado del Instituto Smithsonian de Investigaciones Tropicales y fundador de Yaguará Panamá –junto a Ninon Meyer de Yaguará Panamá, el Colegio de la Frontera Sur, el equipo de Yaguará Panamá y los amigos del Pueblo de Pijibasal en Darién– capturaron y colocaron un collar transmisor a un puerco de monte por primera vez en la historia de Panamá.

La hembra a la que nombraron Serafina en honor al padre del asistente principal del grupo, Tilson Contreras (Serafín) de la Comunidad de Pijibasal en Darién, fue capturada cerca de la Estación del Ministerio de Ambiente en Rancho Frío.

Los puercos de monte (Tayassu pecari) en Panamá han sido poco estudiados y en la década de los 40 fueron cazados hasta ser eliminados en los bosques que existen en los alrededores de la cuenca del Canal de Panamá. Esta especie de puerco silvestre viaja en grandes grupos de entre 50 a 150 (o más) individuos si está en lugares prístinos, poco perturbados. Además es considerado como un arquitecto del bosque ya que remueven todo lo que está a su paso, “casi como el efecto que tiene un bulldozer en nuestros campos de agricultura,” comentó Moreno.

Los puercos de monte a su vez son una de las principales presas del jaguar y de los humanos, tienen amplias áreas de actividad y se ha encontrado en otras investigaciones que mucho de esto depende de la disponibilidad de alimento y el número de individuos de la manada “entre más individuos hay, necesitan más área para poder satisfacer las necesidades de todos. Es una nueva y gran aventura el poder rastrear en tierra y por satélite los movimientos de Serafina y su manada,” agregó Moreno.

La Fundación Yaguará Panamá y el Colegio de la Frontera Sur lideran el proyecto llamado “Evaluando la conectividad del Corredor Biológico Mesoamericano a través del uso de mamíferos clave en Panamá” con el apoyo financiero de SENACYT y la colaboración de Fundación Natura, GEMAS/Fondo Darién, Cat Heaven, Idea Wild y el Ministerio de Ambiente de Panamá, iniciaron la colocación de collares GPS para monitorear los movimientos reales y espaciales de los puercos de monte, jaguares, pumas y tapires en Darién.

Moreno espera con este proyecto, comenzar a llenar los vacíos de información y lograr convencer a los tomadores de decisiones para restablecer el corredor biológico panameño que ya está fracturado.


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People live longer, not on an equal basis


buzzard powerPeople live longer, not on an equal basis

by the World Health Organization

WHO: Life expectancy increased by 5 years since 2000, but health inequalities persist

Dramatic gains in life expectancy have been made globally since 2000, but major inequalities persist within and among countries, according to this year’s “World Health Statistics: Monitoring Health for the SDGs.”

Life expectancy increased by five years between 2000 and 2015, the fastest increase since the 1960s. Those gains reverse declines during the 1990s, when life expectancy fell in Africa because of the AIDS epidemic and in Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The increase was greatest in the African Region of WHO where life expectancy increased by 9.4 years to 60 years, driven mainly by improvements in child survival, progress in malaria control and expanded access to antiretrovirals for treatment of HIV.

“The world has made great strides in reducing the needless suffering and premature deaths that arise from preventable and treatable diseases,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. “But the gains have been uneven. Supporting countries to move towards universal health coverage based on strong primary care is the best thing we can do to make sure no-one is left behind.”

Global life expectancy for children born in 2015 was 71.4 years (73.8 years for females and 69.1 years for males), but an individual child’s outlook depends on where he or she is born. The report shows that newborns in 29 countries – all of them high-income — have an average life expectancy of 80 years or more, while newborns in 22 others – all of them in sub-Saharan Africa — have life expectancy of less than 60 years.

With an average lifespan of 86.8 years, women in Japan can expect to live the longest. Switzerland enjoys the longest average survival for men, at 81.3 years. People in Sierra Leone have the world’s lowest life-expectancy for both sexes: 50.8 years for women and 49.3 years for men.

Healthy life expectancy, a measure of the number of years of good health that a newborn in 2015 can expect, stands at 63.1 years globally (64.6 years for females and 61.5 years for males).

This year’s World Health Statistics brings together the most recent data on the health-related targets within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015. The report highlights significant data gaps that will need to be filled in order to reliably track progress towards the health-related SDGs. For example, an estimated 53 percent of deaths globally aren’t registered, although several countries – including Brazil, China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, South Africa and Turkey – have made considerable progress in that area.

While the Millennium Development Goals focused on a narrow set of disease-specific health targets for 2015, the SDGs look to 2030 and are far broader in scope. For example, the SDGs include a broad health goal, “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages,” and call for achieving universal health coverage. This year’s “World Health Statistics” shows that many countries are still far from universal health coverage as measured by an index of access to 16 essential services, especially in the African and eastern Mediterranean regions. Furthermore, a significant number of people who use services face catastrophic health expenses, defined as out-of-pocket health costs that exceed 25 percent of total household spending.

The report includes data that illustrate inequalities in access to health services within countries – between a given country’s poorest residents and the national average for a set of reproductive, maternal and child health services. Among a limited number of countries with recent data, Costa Rica, Jordan, Maldives, Mongolia, Swaziland, Thailand, and Uzbekistan lead their respective regions in having the most equal access to services for reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health.

The “World Health Statistics 2016” provides a comprehensive overview of the latest annual data in relation to the health-related targets in the SDGs, illustrating the scale of the challenge. Every year:

  • 303,000 women die due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth;
    5.9 million children die before their fifth birthday;
  • 2 million people are newly infected with HIV, and there are 9.6 million new TB cases and 214 million malaria cases;
  • 1.7 billion people need treatment for neglected tropical diseases;
  • more than 10 million people die before the age of 70 due to cardiovascular diseases and cancer;
  • 800,000 people commit suicide;
  • 1.25 million people die from road traffic injuries;
  • 4.3 million people die due to air pollution caused by cooking fuels;
  • 3 million people die due to outdoor pollution; and
  • 475,000 people are murdered, 80% of them men.

Addressing those challenges will not be achieved without tackling the risk factors that contribute to disease. Around the world today:

  • 1.1 billion people smoke tobacco
  • 156 million children under 5 are stunted, and 42 million children under 5 are overweight
  • 1.8 billion people drink contaminated water, and 946 million people defecate in the open
  • 3.1 billion people rely primarily on polluting fuels for cooking

To read the full World Health Statistics 2016, click on:


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Gandásegui, Los trillones (parte 1)


489201309_1280x720Los ‘paraísos fiscales’ y los M&F Papers

por Marco A. Gandásegui, hijo

La divulgación de los ‘papeles’ de Mossack y Fonseca (M&F) está descubriendo mucho más de lo que la gente piensa. En una reciente entrevista, el economista norteamericano, Michael Hudson, explica cómo funcionan las lavadoras de dinero y el papel de centros financieros como Panamá. La entrevista que comentamos la hizo el periodista Sharmini Peries. Hudson es un profesor universitario y antiguo corredor de una firma en Wall Street.

Según Hudson, Panamá entra en el terreno del lavado de dinero hace casi cien años, prestándole servicios a la joven y pujante industria petrolera y derivados. “Lo descubrí hace cerca de 40 años, cuando estudiaba la balanza de pagos de la industria petrolera. Fui a Standard Oil, la empresa petrolera más grande del mundo en esa época, cuyo tesorero me mostró sus balances contables. Me dijo que ellos “le vendían el petróleo que compraban – en la Arabia Saudita o en el Medio Oriente – a precios muy baratos a empresas navieras registradas en Panamá o en Liberia. (A su vez, bajo la figura de la sociedad anónima) las compañías petroleras vendían el crudo a los distribuidores en EEUU o en Europa a precios altos, muy altos.” La diferencia se la embolsan los monopolios sin declararlo.

En Panamá no hay impuestos para las transacciones que ‘nacionales’ (por ejemplo, los barcos bajo bandera panameña) realizan fuera de su jurisdicción. Los grandes empresarios norteamericanos fueron pioneros en evadir el pago de los gravámenes. Los grandes monopolios petroleros y mineros evaden el pago bajo el manto de las sociedades anónimas que crean en los llamados paraísos fiscales.

Hudson también se refiere a otra trama para lavar dinero que se produjo durante la guerra de Vietnam. El problema que tenía Washington en la década de 1960 era el déficit de la balanza de pagos generado por el gasto militar. El Departamento de Estado propuso una idea para sanear el déficit militar. Consistía en convertir a EEUU en la nueva Suiza del mundo. “Se me pidió que calculara el volumen de capital criminal existente en el mundo. ¿Cuánto ganaban todos los delincuentes del planeta, cuánto dinero escondían los dictadores, los traficantes de drogas de todo el mundo, cuánto iba a parar a Suiza? Washington quería que las sucursales de los bancos transfirieran todo ese dinero a EEUU.”

Según Hudson, el gobierno de Washington desarrolló una estrategia con los bancos norteamericanos –con el Chase Manhattan a la cabeza– para que transfirieran todo el dinero sucio que tenían en sus sucursales en el mundo a EEUU. Washington, incluso, le pidió a Chase que creara un banco en Saigón, la entonces capital de Vietnam del Sur, para que el ejército norteamericano no tuviera que usar bancos franceses que repatriaban el dinero sucio a Francia. La conexión francesa fracasó porque el presidente De Gaulle convertía los dólares en oro, perjudicando a EEUU. Finalmente, Chase aceptó la propuesta de lavar dinero para el gobierno norteamericano.

Lo mismo ocurrió en el Caribe (las Islas Caimán y otras). Muchas islas habían sido colonias inglesas y su función principal era atraer hacia Inglaterra dinero sucio que circulaba por el mundo. Según Hudson, “se asociaron al Imperio, a fin de poder servir como intermediario del lavado de dinero. La idea era atraer todo ese dinero hacia EEUU o hacia su aliado, Gran Bretaña.

Es fácil seguir la pista de todo ese proceso que, en la actualidad, sigue vigente. Del dinero que administran las firmas de abogados en Panamá ni un centavo se queda en Panamá. Esos dineros no son sino pasivos de EEUU en Panamá o en otros centros bancarios.

Hudson explica que “la idea no es colocar directamente el dinero sucio en EEUU. ¿Qué hace un especulador o a un ladrón europeo o árabe que desea sacar de su país mil millones de dólares? Lo que no hará es ir directamente a un banco en los estados de Delaware o de Wyoming. Lo que tiene que hacer es primero lavar el dinero.”

Hay que pasar por numerosas etapas intermedias. Enviarán el dinero, pongamos por caso, a sociedades anónimas en el Caribe. De allí pasará a Panamá. Luego, de Panamá, ya bien escondido, irá finalmente a parar a una entidad de Delaware, EEUU.

Este es un primer artículo de un total de dos que pretende explicar mejor el funcionamiento de los ‘paraísos fiscales.’ La próxima semana continuará la segunda parte.


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After a three-day job action, veterinarians settle

MIDA animal lab
They might tell you that REAL doctors can deal with more than one species: staff at one of Panama’s farm animal health laboratories. Photo by MIDA.

Veterinarians back to work

by Eric Jackson

There is much strange lore about the meat on a stick sold on the streets of Panama’s cities, but it’s generally safe to eat. We have a food safety system here that does inspections from the farm to the consumer.

We see some pitiful homeless dogs scrounging a living in this country’s rural and urban areas, and a lot of them show some serious health problems. But none of them have rabies.

Things are that way in part because Panama’s Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agricultural Development fields 246 veterinarians as part of the national public health defenses. They inspect the cattle herds, pigpens and poultry farms to detect and suppress disease outbreaks. They ensure that sick animals are not processed for human consumption through the nation’s slaughterhouses. They supervise and enforce the animal quarantines that are an annoyance to people taking dogs and cats into or out of Panama, but have kept this place rabies-free for many years.

These men and women are highly educated professionals, living a lower middle class existence that has been ravaged by inflation and made less secure by the political machinations of officials who tend to be less educated than themselves. And because he was a lame duck, defeated in his attempted proxy re-election despite massive illegal expenditures of public funds to boost his party’s campaign, a couple of weeks before leaving office in 2014 Ricardo Martinelli made them a promise that would not be up to him to keep or break. Executive Decree 168 of June 10, 2014 declared a pay raise for the nation’s public sector veterinarians, with a base pay for the newest and least qualified vets to be $1000 per month.

That was then, but now Panama’s present economy has slowed down and our prospects for the near future are more dismal than a lot of people or institutions care to admit. The Varela administration, which had implicitly ratified Martinelli’s degree by publishing it in the Gaceta Oficial, sought to go back on that pledge. With the public sector veterinarians’ contract expiring, the issue was brought to a head.

On May 16 the members of the Asociacion Panameña de Medicos Veterinarios reported for work, but did no work. Production at slaughterhouses was slowed but not stopped and the nation’s supermarkets and meat and poultry exporter expressed alarm at the prospect of a stoppage. Two days later, people were finding it impossible to bring dogs and cats into the country at our airports, seaports and border crossings. Later on May 19., the veterinarians and the government settled. The starting base pay for a veterinarian with a four-year degree will be $960 per month. Those with graduate degrees or certifications will have between $250 per month to $1000 per month added to that base pay, and beyond that there are raises based on seniority. The pay scales within and between the two affected ministries have varied and over the course of the coming year they will be equalized. There is also a commitment to parity between public and private sector veterinarians starting in 2018, but at first glance that would appear to be difficult to calculate and enforce.


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Purge notice — identity thief Sean apparently intends to keep the location secret


This is a quick reminder that tomorrow – Friday the 13th will be the Democrats Abroad Panama Happy Hour at Sortis Hotel, Spa and Casino in Obarrio.

We hope that you can join us for some networking, socializing and fun.

Also, every organization must go through some growing pains and this is one of ours: As an official announcement and in accordance with the Bylaws of Democrats Abroad Panama (whereas 30 days’ notice must be given in the case of a motion for board removal), please accept this notice that a motion has been made by the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors to remove Eric Jackson from his position as At Large Board Member. The motion will be voted upon at the June 11 meeting.

If you have further questions, please contact Info-Panama@democratsabroad.org


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