Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Panama Papers

Tidbits #31

The widening gulf between health and wellness? “The promises of strange elixirs and fine powders feel more deranged and seductive than ever.”

“But that life may be restored to the animal, an opening must be attempted in the trunk of the trachea, into which a tube of reed or cane should be put; you will then blow into this, so that the lung may rise again and take air.”—Belgian anatomist Andreas Vesaliu in his 1543 treatise De Humani Corporis Fabrica, writing about the mechanics of breathing used in today’s ventilators

Bidet usage is spreading as supermarket shelves of bathroom tissue are depleted. That’s no problem for those who prefer to clean their nether regions with water from bidets.

Ingenius creative solution. Vietnam set up rice ATMs. The machines distribute free rice in cities across the country, including a 24/7 dispenser in Ho Chih Minh City.

Panama papers? The indirect financial gimmick for the US multinational financial conglomerates to siphon in all the wealth of the world into the US financial treasury. The Rothschild conglomerate is the top of the pyramid and control how money should be distributed

On a trip and in a group of people who supercially know each other, a few members forget that each member is different. A few ignore some people as non-existent, some do not pay attention for the requests of others… Pretty soon, divergences emergent for Not giving each person his own due to opinions and rights.

In China, one coronavirus hospital ward served as the setting for an experimental program in which robots tended to patients’ needs. These bots can clean floors, deliver food, and even boost the morale of COVID-19 patients. 

Don’t count on permanence of waterfalls.  A sinkhole redirected water of a massive waterfall away from the San Rafael Waterfall in Ecuador.

I wrote in 2009: “Banks re-invest your safely net money in secured government bonds with outrageous interest loans ,extended to other customers who patronize the same bank.  Banks are the perfect financial sawing machine (up and down) with other people’s money. Banks are such icons that governments feel obligated to save banks, even investment banks from bankruptcy, by shamelessly propagating the myth of a most ridiculous excuse:  Banks are the “ideal oil” or lubricating medium to keeping society functioning for the capitalist system!

Les grandes puissances coloniales ont l’intention d’hypothéquer l’avenir du Nord Syrie, riche en hydrocarbure (25% des reserves de terre), surtout dans la region de Al Malikiyah (Rumaillah) pres de la riviere Tigre.

Since 2006, Israel has become a liability to USA administration. With their failure in Syria, Israel became a total liability. The USA and Israel are living in a Bubble of faked news and misinformation: All the people in the Middle -East, including the leeches of leaders, know by now that Israel is our existential enemy.

“In this age of ‘parenting as guilt,‘ please spread the guilt equally. Make fathers feel as bad as mothers.” Novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s commencement speech is funny, simply stated, and empowering.

The UN is asking for $2 billion to tackle the pandemic in conflict zones. During the past week, Syria, Libya, and Gaza all reported their first Covid-19 cases. The United Nations makes it clear that if the disease is not controlled in these places, it will affect all of us.

US senators might vote on a massive coronavirus relief bill of a $2 trillion net impact on the US economy. An amount they could have afforded if Bush Jr. didn’t invade Iraq in 2003

Grand children look more like their ancestors: No need to display your beautiful mothers

Illusory superiority” cognitive bias? People who know the least are often convinced they know the most.  Social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger

The driving force to our survival is this sense of Pity. We extend a helping hand for someone to make it through the day, emotionally and financially.

We try to substitute the term Pity for Kindness or Responsibility, though responsibility is an acquired quality. If you still consider Pity as a bad connotation, then you are a pitiful person. This time around it is the worst of bad connotations.


Investigative journalism persists in the Middle East

Against all odds?

In the past year, a group of Arab journalists has been working secretly in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Algeria, and Yemen as part of a global network of investigative reporters mining the so called “Panama Papers.”

They found that some Arab strongmen and their business partners are linked to offshore companies and bank accounts.

They also discovered that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies have been able to skirt international sanctions by registering shell companies in places like the Seychelles.

What’s astonishing about this story is not that Arab dictators are going offshore to hide their wealth and evade sanctions. It’s that a community of Arab journalists is continuing to do investigative reporting in a region where there is increasingly little tolerance for accountability of any kind.

Andrew Bossone shared a link.

These days, it seems there is only bad news about journalism in the Arab world. Throughout the region, journalists are being jailed or killed, newspapers are being shuttered, and censors are clamping down on independent reporting.

In the five years since the Arab uprisings, the story of Arab media is one of closure: Doors that had been pried open have now been bolted by regimes shaken by popular protests, terrorist attacks, and sectarian strife.
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And yet, as Arab journalists’ work on the Panama Papers shows, investigative reporting—uncovering wrongdoing through documents, data, interviews, and occasionally, undercover methods—continues, even in attenuated form. But while the revelations from the Panama Papers are rocking governments around the world, reaction has so far been muted in the Arab world.

The exposés about Arab leaders’ wrongdoings offshore have not gotten as much traction in the region’s media as they have elsewhere, and Arab regimes have been largely unresponsive to the revelations.

In the past few years, government reactions to media investigations in the region have been tepid. Citizens, too, have become wary of muckraking media. In many places, there is a backlash.

“The unity and positive vision for change that drove the uprisings has degenerated,” writes Marc Lynch, a political science professor who has chronicled what he calls the rise and fall of the Arab public sphere. “Violence, extremism, and war take up the space once occupied by peaceful movements for democratic change. Media platforms that once carried thoughtful arguments are now dominated by demagogues and charlatans.” (They are owned by demagogues and charlatans kings, princes and multinationals)

“People are more afraid of chaos in the region—the civil wars and failed states, the death, destruction, and drowning—than they are of ‘normal’ Arab repression by the state,” says Rana Sabbagh, a Jordanian journalist who heads Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism or ARIJ, a nonprofit based in Amman, which trained and funded the journalists who worked on the Panama Papers investigation.

“For them, democracy, free speech, and accountability equal anarchy and lack of security. They don’t want to become like the Syrian, Libyan, or Yemeni refugees.”

In the past decade, intrepid Arab journalists have perfected techniques for reporting about wrongdoing in restrictive regimes. While citizens and activists have found freedom on blogs and social media platforms, these journalists have opted to stay within the more constrained spaces of professionally run news organizations that operate openly in the public sphere.

They have been able to publish accountability stories by using careful and neutral language, providing documentation, and in places where restrictions are more severe, by confining their digging to “safe” topics like education or health.

The independent watchdog reporter is a novelty in the Arab media landscape. “We used to have only two kinds of journalists,” says Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian journalist who is a founder and former chair of ARIJ. “There were either pro-government journalists or anti-government activists posing as journalists.

There is now a new kind of journalist who is neither. With investigative tools, these journalists have done a fine job of getting the facts. They were no longer easily dismissed as peddling lies.”
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ARIJ, which is funded by European donors, deserves a lot of credit for the emergence of investigative journalism in the region. Since its founding in 2005, it has trained over 1,600 reporters in nine countries. The journalists are taught to use documents, data, and other techniques to find evidence of wrongdoing. The most promising are given grants to pursue investigations with guidance from ARIJ mentors. The ARIJ team that dug into the “Panama Papers” was handpicked from those past grantees.

Until ARIJ came along and helped build syllabi for about a dozen journalism programs, Arab universities didn’t teach investigative reporting. Even now, many journalism instructors there still use textbooks from the Soviet era; many were educated not in free-press regimes but in Russia, Iraq, or Egypt.

In a region where there is widespread skepticism about the West and its intentions, foreign funding is often seen as suspect. ARIJ has tried to assuage these concerns by being transparent about its donors, says Sabbagh, and by pointing out that countries like Egypt and Jordan rely on foreign aid as well. “Conservative politicians have accused us of hanging our dirty laundry out to the world,” she says, “but that is the reality we have to live with.”

Over the years, ARIJ’s annual conferences have allowed Arab journalists to share successes and challenges. I’ve spoken at two of these conferences, most recently in Amman in December. One evening, I sat with a few dozen journalists who were watching investigative segments recently aired on local TV programs.

The lineup included a story on the illegal organ trade in Iraq; an investigation of corruption linked to the provision of tax-exempt, disabled-friendly cars in Egypt; and an exposé on an Iraqi governor who allegedly took bribes from contractors providing temporary housing for refugees.

International collaborations are helping Arab investigative reporting survive. That it exists at all is testimony to a community of journalists has mustered the courage, creativity, and resilience to keep it alive.

Each film was followed by a spirited discussion on ethics, evidence, and reporting techniques. There were lively debates on unnamed sources and secret filming. I asked Asaad Al Zalzali, the Iraqi TV journalist whose film on the illegal organ trade was shown that night, whether he got any threats. “A lot,” he said. “But it’s alright. It’s my job.”

Today, a community of Arab investigative reporters exists even when it shouldn’t. Most everywhere else, investigative reporting is possible only with some measure of media freedom and public support for a muckraking press. These conditions do not currently exist in the Arab world.

Naila Hamdy, a journalism professor at the American University in Cairo, has researched investigative reporting in the region. “The freedoms now are much less than they were prior to the revolutions,” she says. “It’s very difficult to do any serious investigative reporting anywhere, maybe with the exception of Lebanon and a little bit in Kuwait.”

The room for maneuver is getting smaller every day. Most of the ARIJ team’s reporting on the Panama Papers, for example, will be published Not by news organizations in the Arab world but elsewhere, like London or Paris.

In Algeria, ARIJ’s publishing partner refused to print the group’s findings. And in Jordan, the publisher of the AmmanNet website got a phone call from a security official, warning him not to run a story about a powerful Jordanian tycoon’s offshore holdings.

For sure, international collaborations are helping Arab investigative reporting survive. That it exists at all is testimony to a community of journalists has mustered the courage, creativity, and resilience to keep it alive.

Lina Attalah is one of the keepers of the muckraking flame. She is editor of Mada Masr, the Egyptian news site, which has broken stories like the millions of dollars in public funds spent for the upkeep of mansions owned by former President Hosni Mubarak. Last month, Mada Masr revealed the involvement of military intelligence in the 2015 parliamentary elections.

Mada Masr reporters use data and documents like lawsuits and audit reports to shine a light on problems not covered by Egypt’s currently pliant press. They are seldom allowed access to official sources; instead they get their information from public interest lawyers, human rights advocates, and sometimes, government insiders.

We have a big responsibility to report on cases of police violations, cases of economic corruption, particularly at the [national] level,” Attalah says. “We report on stories that don’t get covered enough in the other media, or if they do get covered, are covered with a great deal of distortion. We feel we have the language and the mechanisms of reporting through which we can produce better stories.”

Mada Masr, like ARIJ, publishes its stories in both English and Arabic, making its work accessible to a global audience. Elsewhere in the Arab world, a number of gutsy, independent, bilingual news sites are pushing the boundaries, including AmmanNet, an Internet-based radio station in Jordan;

7iber, an online magazine, also in Jordan, that has been banned 4 times; and

inkyfada, a Tunisian webzine that publishes in both Arabic and French.
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Attalah, 32, began journalism in the twilight of the Mubarak era, when journalists were breaching the limits of press censorship. She was chief editor at the Egyptian Independent, the feisty English-language weekly that, together with its mother paper, Al-Masry Al-Youm, chronicled the first stirrings of discontent that culminated in the anti-Mubarak uprising in 2011. Attalah exemplified the new generation of Arab journalists who refused to be muzzled by the authorities. But her paper was shuttered in 2013, in part because of political differences between the English-language paper’s young, progressive staff and its owners.

Today, Attalah presides over a young staff of 30 and runs the operation much like a journalist’s cooperative. Funded by Western donors and by events and other revenue-generating activities, the site’s core audience is young people in their 20s and 30s, mostly bilingual, middle-class students and young professionals, many of whom took part in the protests that ended Mubarak’s 30-year reign.

Egypt’s tumultuous experiment with democracy came to a close two-and-a-half years after Mubarak’s fall, when the military removed the Islamist government of President Mohamed Morsi from power. The military is firmly back in the saddle in Egypt, jailing and killing dissidents and clamping down on free speech. The popular energies mobilized in 2011 have since dissipated, leaving the young people who took part in the uprising divided and dispirited.

“There haven’t been any channels for them to be politically engaged,” says Attalah. “In general, there is a withdrawal from politics and political activity, mainly because there hasn’t been an inclusive conversation that could engage them. Protesting has become extremely costly, with many of our friends now in jail. There hasn’t been a thirst for protesting the closure of the political space. In my own circle, people have left the country or are struggling with depression. It’s been hard.”

Violence, extremism, and war take up the space once occupied by peaceful movements for democratic change. Media platforms that once carried thoughtful arguments are now dominated by demagogues and charlatans.”

Attalah sees it as Mada Masr’s role to “activate the conversation, to reopen the political space, and engage the public in conversation.” She feels that investigative reporting is a catalyst for such conversations “by pointing to things that we can provide evidence about, in a compelling narrative that renders the conversation more urgent.” Corruption stories, she finds, get a lot of traction.

“When we publish something that has documentation, that gives you a sense of the industry of corruption, how it works, how it happens, how it’s done, it gives an urgency. Investigations add a measure of urgency to the political conversation.”

Last November, Mada Masr journalist Hossam Bahgat was detained for three days and charged with disseminating false information after he reported on a secret military trial in which 26 officers were convicted of allegedly plotting a coup. Last month, a Cairo court froze Bahgat’s assets and banned him from traveling overseas as part of a 2011 investigation into NGOs receiving foreign funding.

More and more, it looks like Mada Masr is skating on thin ice. Two years ago, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi issued an amendment to the penal code that imposes a life term on individuals receiving funds from a foreign country or group with the aim of destabilizing the government.

In February, the head of a local media foundation was charged with “international bribery” for doing research for foreign organizations without a security permit. Investigative reporting could well be penalized under this new provision, lawyers say.

“If we’re not locked up, if we manage to muster the strength to fight our own exhaustion with all the restrictions surrounding us,” says Attalah. “I’d like Mada Masr to grow, to become a go-to site for investigations and to build a media culture where the public expects this kind of content, and to start believing that bad content or pliant content is actually an insult to them.”

The history of Arab media is one of subservience. Since the consolidation of authoritarian rule in the 1950s, newspapers and broadcast networks have been mouthpieces of ruling elites and drumbeaters for autocratic states.

But starting in the late 1990s, satellite television and later the internet and social media opened up new spaces for public discourse. Throughout the Arab world, journalists and citizens began exploring these spaces and were soon using the new platforms to demand that their voices be heard. Unlike their elders, the generation that had come to adulthood in this new information landscape was not afraid to confront the region’s feckless regimes.

In the past, muckraking flowered in periods marked by demographic change, profound alienation from authority, and technological shifts in the media. The surges in muckraking energies in the early 1900s and in the 1960s and ’70s in the US are partly attributable to these conditions.

Similar disruptions were taking place in the Arab media at the turn of the last century, providing fertile ground for muckraking. Al Jazeera was among those that took the lead, with the Egyptian journalist Yosri Fouda launching the investigative program Sirri lil-Ghaya (Top Secret) in 1998. At the same time, a new generation of journalists was digging into taboo issues like corruption, human rights abuses, and workers’ rights within the bounds of what was possible under the tight rein of Arab autocrats.

Even in Syria, change seemed possible. In 2000, Bashar al-Assad, a 35-year-old London-trained ophthalmologist, succeeded his father as president and promised to open his country to the world. He loosened the muzzle on the press and relaxed the state’s hold on the economy. Emboldened by the reforms, liberal-minded Syrians set up “dialogue clubs” to talk openly about political issues. Independent magazines were published, including one that featured political satire. The information minister encouraged the new openness, as did the internal affairs minister, who complained that state-run publications were unreadable.
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Hamoud Almahmoud, a freshly minted journalism graduate from the University of Damascus, joined the staff of Tishreen, the state owned newspaper, the year Bashar al-Assad became president. A native of Raqqa and the first in his family of farmers to graduate from college, Almahmoud knew that his prospects in the state-owned paper were not exactly bright.

When he first came to Damascus to work, he quickly saw that “you might be stupid, you might be lazy, but you can be successful if you have connections, if you have relatives who were powerful people, like generals in the military and the security service,” he says. “Even if you are good, you will not be promoted because the power of those with connections will be stronger than yours. But when private media was opened, I had the opportunity to be in a new magazine and to be editor in chief.”

In 2005, Almahmoud joined Aliqtisadi (The Economist) magazine, one of the new privately owned publications that were allowed to open during what is now known as the Damascus Spring. The same year, a delegation of Danish journalists met with leading Arab journalists, offering to support media projects in the region. Soon afterward, ARIJ was formed with funding from the Danish government. It brought Danish and other European trainers to teach and provided funding and coaches for investigative projects in several countries.

In Syria, ARIJ had a formal agreement with the government: It was allowed to fund projects as long as US money was not involved, the information ministry knew in advance the names of the journalists and their coaches, and ARIJ disclosed the cost and descriptions of the projects. “We had a big debate in the ARIJ board,” recalls Sabbagh, who drove from Amman to Damascus every few months to oversee the projects. “Should we lock horns with the authorities and do tough investigations or should we build up gradually by making sure that the journalists who work with us get the skills of investigative reporting?”

ARIJ’s compromise allowed journalists to practice investigative techniques, but it meant that they had to stick to the rules and report only on sanctioned topics such as consumer issues, environmental problems, public health, education, and the miscarriage of justice.

“I don’t know why the Syrian government allowed it,” says Kuttab, who was then ARIJ deputy chair. “I assume they wanted to improve their relations with the Western world like Denmark and Sweden, which didn’t pose any real danger to them, and they were convinced this wasn’t a plot against the regime. They also needed to break out of the straitjacket they were in but didn’t know how to do it. They were willing to allow us that narrow but important space that we needed.”

What’s astonishing about this story is not that Arab dictators are going offshore to hide their wealth and evade sanctions. It’s that a community of Arab journalists is continuing to do investigative reporting in a region where there is increasingly little tolerance for accountability of any kind.

Almahmoud was among the first to get an ARIJ grant. “It was literally a turning point in my life,” he says. “I realized that I needed to document my stories, to verify everything, to look for proof for everything, to leave my feelings out and be objective in writing and collecting information. I realized that if I did all that, I could do more sensitive stories. I received fewer threats and fewer bad reactions from powerful people because they saw solid evidence in front of them.”

In Syria, ARIJ-funded journalists worked on stories about issues like air pollution, land confiscations, and medical waste. As the country descended into civil war, however, reporting became more hazardous. Almahmoud’s magazine ceased printing because the fighting made it difficult to distribute copies, although it continued to publish online.

In 2012, as fighting raged in the capital, Almahmoud was asked by the University of Damascus to teach a two-week investigative reporting course. “The university was very close to the frontlines of the fighting between the regime and the rebels,” he recalls. “I was teaching despite all the shelling. Students were really happy to attend the course. For them, it was the first case of a teacher who came from the field. I told them about the latest trends while their professors were teaching from old books.”
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Almahmoud remained in Damascus until 2014, when he moved to Amman to take charge of ARIJ’s research desk. With the help of technologists, he is putting together a database of corporate records, court cases, and government tenders from 18 Arab countries. ARIJ has scraped and preserved data from government sites that have since been been erased, although some of these are still on the Wayback Machine, the internet archive. It hopes soon to unveil what may be the most comprehensive, searchable database of public records in the Arab world.

In March, Almahmoud and seven European and Arab journalists published an investigation into the ownership of cargo ships that have been found to be smuggling migrants to Europe. Cross-border collaborations are one way ARIJ hopes to sustain investigative reporting under the current, inhospitable conditions.

Many who ARIJ has trained in Syria, however, have fled; a few have been killed or disappeared. ARIJ-trained journalists are fleeing Yemen as well. Those who remain in these two countries continue to work, increasingly writing under pseudonyms to protect their identities. In the past year, ARIJ-funded reporters in Syria have written about the curriculum of ISIS schools and the booming kidnap-for-ransom business run by both the army and the rebels.

A recent report, published under a pseudonym, exposed the secret holdings of Assad’s maternal uncle, using records obtained by Le Monde and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists from a former HSBC employee.

“We are thinking about how we survive, how to keep our reporters working without harming them or exposing them to risks,” says Almahmoud. “I am afraid we are back to square one. We are under pressure. We see the window of hope is narrowing but we are surviving and we are still doing stories.”

In 2012, not long after the Arab uprisings, Hamdy at the American University of Cairo surveyed over 200 Arab journalists, 60 percent of whom said they had worked on an investigative project in the previous 10 years. A good number believed their work brought issues to public attention or resulted in policy reforms.

This is quite impressive considering the restrictions on Arab media, although as Hamdy says, Arab journalists define investigative reporting more broadly to include what in the US would be called enterprise reporting, where journalists probe issues that are not widely reported even if they do not necessarily reveal something secret or previously unknown.

Since that survey, however, watchdog reporting has been put on a much tighter leash as Arab regimes either disintegrated into civil war or tightened their grasp on power. Looking back, it now seems that the early years of this century, up to about 2012, were a Golden Age for Arab investigative reporting. Those years saw, in the words of Seba Bebawi, an Australian academic and author of a recent book on Arab investigative journalism, “the rise of a tradition of systematic investigative reporting.”
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Writing about China in 2009, UK academics Jingrong Tong and Colin Sparks remarked on the continued vigor of investigating reporting there despite state censorship and advertising pressures on media proprietors. In China, investigative reporting emerged in the 1980s with the opening up of the economy, the removal of subsidies for state-owned media, and the social disruptions that accompanied rapid urbanization and soaring economic growth.

Twenty-five years later, Tong and Sparks interviewed over 70 journalists and found that they had evolved a repertoire of tactics to evade controls, including criticizing the system or a group instead of putting the blame on powerful individuals. What sustained the muckraking impulse in China, they said, was the institutionalization of investigative practices in news organizations and the emergence of a professional ideology among journalists. “There is an evolution towards a self-conception of journalism as being some kind of public service. Journalists see themselves less and less as dependent upon political power and more as a distinct occupational grouping with a distinct function.”

It’s hard to say how Arab investigative reporting will look in 2030. It’s unlikely that the vise-like grip on Arab media will loosen any time soon. The Islamist armed groups that roam the region continue to intimidate and murder recalcitrant journalists. Much of the accountability reporting is funded by foreign money and may not be sustainable in the long run.

Still, Arab journalists are finding new ways to wedge open closing spaces. The prestige of investigative reporting continues to be high among journalists, if not among the public. The self-conception of journalists as nonpartisan watchdogs continues to be upheld by a struggling community of Arab investigative reporters and editors.

“Arab journalists feel that they should be agents of social change, so by performing this type of journalism, they feel they are part of, or working toward, change,” says Hamdy. Despite the narrowing spaces, she says, “there’s a feeling that good journalism has been possible and will be possible in the future.”

Sheila S. Coronel is Dean of Academic Affairs at the Columbia Journalism School and director of the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

The real reason Dilma Rousseff’s enemies want her impeached

The story of Brazil’s political crisis, and the rapidly changing global perception of it, begins with its national media.

The country’s dominant broadcast and print outlets are owned by a tiny handful of Brazil’s richest families, and are steadfastly conservative. (Like in most countries?)

For decades, those media outlets have been used to agitate for the Brazilian rich, ensuring that severe wealth inequality (and the political inequality that results) remains firmly in place.

Indeed, most of today’s largest media outlets – that appear respectable to outsiders – supported the 1964 military coup that ushered in two decades of rightwing dictatorship and further enriched the nation’s oligarchs.

This key historical event still casts a shadow over the country’s identity and politics. Those corporations – led by the multiple media arms of the Globo organisation – heralded that coup as a noble blow against a corrupt, democratically elected liberal government. Sound familiar?

Dilma Rousseff

Dilma Rousseff: a target of the rich and powerful. Photograph: Fernando Bizerra Jr/EPA

For more than a year, those same media outlets have peddled a self-serving narrative: an angry citizenry, driven by fury over government corruption, rising against and demanding the overthrow of Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff, and her Workers’ party (PT). The world saw endless images of huge crowds of protesters in the streets, always an inspiring sight.

But what most outside Brazil did Not see was that the country’s plutocratic media had spent months inciting those protests (while pretending merely to “cover” them). The protesters were not remotely representative of Brazil’s population. They were, instead, disproportionately white and wealthy: the very same people who have opposed the PT and its anti-poverty programmes for two decades.

Slowly, the outside world has begun to see past the pleasing, two-dimensional caricature manufactured by its domestic press, and to recognise who will be empowered once Rousseff is removed. It has now become clear that corruption is not the cause of the effort to oust Brazil’s twice-elected president; rather, corruption is merely the pretext. (Or the tip of the iceberg?)

Rousseff’s moderately leftwing party first gained the presidency in 2002, when her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, won a resounding victory. Due largely to his popularity and charisma, and bolstered by Brazil’s booming economic growth under his presidency, the PT has won four straight presidential elections – including Rousseff’s 2010 election victory and then, just 18 months ago, her re-election with 54 million votes.

‘Flowers for democracy’ demonstration against the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff
Pinterest Women carrying flowers take part in a ‘flowers for democracy’ demonstration against the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff. Photograph: Eraldo Peres/AP

The country’s elite class and their media organs have failed, over and over, in their efforts to defeat the party at the ballot box.

But plutocrats are not known for gently accepting defeat, nor for playing by the rules. What they have been unable to achieve democratically, they are now attempting to achieve anti-democratically: by having a bizarre mix of politicians – evangelical extremists, far-right supporters of a return to military rule, non-ideological backroom operatives – simply remove her from office.

Indeed, those leading the campaign for her impeachment and who are in line to take over – most notably the house speaker Eduardo Cunha – are far more implicated in scandals of personal corruption than she is.

Cunha was caught last year with millions of dollars in bribes in secret Swiss bank accounts, after having falsely denied to Congress that he had any foreign bank accounts. Cunha also appears in the Panama Papers, working to stash his ill-gotten millions offshore to avoid detection and tax liability.

It is impossible to convincingly march behind a banner of “anti-corruption” and “democracy” when simultaneously working to install the country’s most corruption-tainted and widely disliked political figures.

Words cannot describe the surreality of watching the vote to send Rousseff’s impeachment to the Senate, during which one glaringly corrupt member of Congress after the next stood to address Cunha, proclaiming with a straight face that they were voting to remove Rousseff due to their anger over corruption.

As the Guardian reported: “Yes, voted Paulo Maluf, who is on Interpol’s red list for conspiracy. Yes, voted Nilton Capixaba, who is accused of money laundering. ‘For the love of God, yes!’ declared Silas Camara, who is under investigation for forging documents and misappropriating public funds.”

But these politicians have overplayed their hand. Not even Brazil’s Masters of the Universe can convince the world that Rousseff’s impeachment is really about combating corruption – their scheme would empower politicians whose own scandals would be career-ending in any healthy democracy.

Eduardo Cunha
Pinterest Eduardo Cunha was caught last year with millions of dollars in bribes in secret Swiss bank accounts. Photograph: Andressa Anholete/AFP/Getty Images

A New York Times article last week reported that “60% of the 594 members of Brazil’s Congress” – the ones voting to impeach Rousseff – “face serious charges like bribery, electoral fraud, illegal deforestation, kidnapping and homicide”. By contrast, said the article, Rousseff “is something of a rarity among Brazil’s major political figures: she has not been accused of stealing for herself”.

Last Sunday’s televised, raucous spectacle in the lower house received global attention because of some repellent (though revealing) remarks made by impeachment advocates. One of them, prominent rightwing congressman Jair Bolsonaro – widely expected to run for president and who a recent poll shows is the leading candidate among Brazil’s richest – said he was casting his vote in honour of a human-rights-abusing colonel in Brazil’s military dictatorship who was personally responsible for Rousseff’s torture. His son, Eduardo, proudly cast his vote in honour of “the military men of ’64” – the ones who led the coup.

Until now, Brazilians have had their attention exclusively directed towards Rousseff, who is deeply unpopular due to the country’s severe recession. Nobody knows how Brazilians, especially the poor and working classes, will react when they see their newly installed president: the pro-business, corruption-tainted nonentity of a vice-president who, polls show, most Brazilians want impeached.

Most volatile of all, many – including the prosecutors and investigators who have led the corruption probe – fear that the real plan behind Rousseff’s impeachment is to put an end to the ongoing investigation, thus protecting corruption, not punishing it.

There is a real risk that once she is impeached, Brazil’s media will no longer be so focused on corruption, public interest will dissipate, and the newly empowered faction in Brasilia will be able to exploit its congressional majorities to cripple that investigation and protect themselves.

Ultimately, Brazil’s elite political and media classes are toying with the mechanics of democracy. That’s a dangerous, unpredictable game to play anywhere, but particularly so in a very young democracy with a recent history of political instability and tyranny, and where millions are furious over their economic deprivation.

Note: A razão real que os inimigos de Dilma Rousseff querem seu impeachment

A few current opinions on events and politics

The popular movements in Lebanon that started in 2010 and culminated in 2015 will prevail:
Those pro-bono lawyers have convinced the marchers that No one will be left behind when incarcerated.

In one demonstration in August 2015, over 53 marchers and sleep ins were detained. Two dozens of them for more than 2 weeks on No valid legal charges.

State security in Lebanon? Amn al dawlat?
This is another intelligence gathering institution attached to the ministry of Interior, that superceded the newly and illegal branch attached to the Prime minister.
The chairman of the Parliament, Nabih Berry, in basically the one trying to devalue this institution and Not funding it since the minister of finance is assigned by him.
Berry wants a council be constituted to take decision instead of the sole director, who is a Christian catholic.
A council? So that no decision or secrets is kept from the militia leaders ruling this pseudo-State?

Another legal and official intelligence gathering institution of 3,000 members is to be cancelled

This rotten political mafia government wants to blame Hezbollah for all the ailment and threat converging on the Lebanese.
For 2 years, from 2011 to 2013, Nasr Allah has been begging the government to send the army to the eastern front to ward off the extremist Syrian expansion into Lebanon, with promise to supply and back the army when needed.
At least that the government find a resolution to the Lebanese trapped in towns within Syria on the border.
Hezbollah did its best to avoid this bitter cup of getting drawn into the Syrian upheaval, knowing that there would be No return until the Syrian affairs is resolved if they enter the battlefield.
Get off the back of Hezbollah for the time being: Hezbollah can No longer suffer ghenjkon wa te2l damkon

Following the divulging of the Panama Papers, Lebanese are in tashaffi mood: all political personalities around the world should resign, but none of the Lebanese mafia leaders should be touched in media

Lebanon has always been the land of permanent refugees from the neighboring and regional countries.
It will continue to be the case, until the Lebanese start activating their will to construct a viable State of Constitution and laws

Chapeau bas to Ibrahim Can3an (deputy and chairman of finance committee):
1. It is useless to reform any institution before the current procedure and laws are applied
2. Labeling ” necessary” to convene the parliament just to increase the national debt is Not convincing.

What is needed from the Parliament to reform the election law, to let the legal system prosecute to the end all these unlawful government institutions embezzlements, to point the fingers to the responsible administrators and politicians…

For the price of $7 billion in grants to Turkey, the EU is forcing a couple hundred refugees back to Turkey. Those targeted to be sent back are detained in incarceration prisons. The EU is setting an illegal precedent. And yet, the same EU and the USA are pushing a resolution that refugees in Lebanon (over 2 million) be sent on voluntary basis. (Why those who fled the towns ravaged by ISIS and totally destroyed or those fearing the regime backlash would voluntary return?)

The neighboring countries to Syria, like Lebanon and Jordan will emulate what the European have done by force sending the 4 million Syrian refugees in their land.

How much Europe is willing to pay Israel to return the Palestinians? (According to the 1948 UN resolution 192?)

Golda Myer (late Israel pm):
When we burned Jerusalem in 1948, I couldn’t sleep a wink the night. I was worried how the Arabs and Palestinians around Jerusalem will flock inside Israel and their various reactions.
By morning, I was certain that these States were in a deep sleep and we can resume our expansionist plans.
Golda is the one who said in the 70’s: There are No Palestinians

Panama papers? The indirect financial gimmick for the US multinational financial conglomerates to siphon in all the wealth of the world into the US financial market. The Rothschild conglomerate (holding a couple of $trillion) is the top of the pyramid and control how money should be distributed.

 Kayna Samet‘s photo. April 7 at 3:31pm ·
During a marathon, thisAfrican woman is carrying a banner saying:
We run this distance every day just to carry back water

Explaining offshore banking to a 5 year old

With the release of the Panama Papers, revelations about the murky world of offshore banking are coming thick and fast. But how do you explain it all simply? And how do you explain that there are sometimes good reasons for using offshore banking?

Reddit user DanGliesack came up with a great way of conveying the complexity in a lovely tale aimed at those who are five years old, and perhaps those a little bit older too

How to Explaining offshore banking to a 5 year old
One Reddit user found a brilliant way using piggy banks, wardrobes and an angry mum to explain the Panama Papers, and when it is naughty to use offshore banking|By Martin Belam
An illustration of a boy and his mum

When you get your pocket money, you put it in a piggy bank. The piggy bank is on a shelf in your wardrobe.

Your mum knows this, and she checks on it every once in a while, so that she knows when you put more money in or spend it.

An illustration of a boy and his secret piggy bank

Now one day, you might decide “I don’t want mum to look at my money”. So you go over to Johnny’s house with an extra piggy bank that you’re going to keep in his room.

You write your name on it and put it in his wardrobe. Johnny’s mum is always very busy so never checks on his piggy bank. You can keep yours there and it will stay a secret.

An illustration of lots of piggy banks

All the kids in the area think this is a good idea, and everyone goes to Johnny’s house with extra piggy banks. Now Johnny’s wardrobe is full of piggy banks from kids in the neighbourhood.

One day though, Johnny’s mum does look in the wardrobe and sees all the piggy banks. She gets very angry and calls everyone’s parents to let them know.

An illustration of an angry mum with Johnny

Now not everyone did this for a bad reason.

Eric’s older brother always steals from his piggy bank, so he just wanted a better hiding spot.

Tammy wanted to save up to buy her mum a birthday present without her knowing.

Azim just did it because he thought it was fun.

An illustration of three naughty children

But many kids did do it for a bad reason.

Elizabeth was stealing people’s lunch money and didn’t want her parents to figure it out.

Rhys was stealing money from his mum’s purse.

And Bobby’s parents have put him on a diet, and he didn’t want them to figure out when he was buying sweets.

Now in real life, many very important people were just caught hiding their piggy banks at Johnny’s house in Panama.

Their mums have all found out. Pretty soon, we’ll know more about which of these important people were doing it for bad reasons and which were doing it for good reasons. But almost everyone is in trouble regardless.

An illustration of some naughty men in real life

It’s a great analogy.

What is particularly useful is the point at the end, that not everybody has a bad reason for hiding their money this way.

As part of its coverage of the Panama Papers, Fusion have produced a handy list of reasons you might use a shell corporation offshore.

Some legitimate reasons might be:

  • To keep trade secrets – preventing competitors spotting that you are investing in the materials to manufacture a new product line.
  • To stop yourself being ripped off – service suppliers like hotels or catering might try and charge a premium if they know they are dealing with a big name company or celebrity.
  • To keep yourself safe – if you are supplying services like translation to foreign military and diplomats in a warzone, it might be advisable to keep that untraceable.

Some less legitimate looking reasons might be:

We’re not sure how you explain those things to a five-year-old though. Maybe just stick with the piggy bank bit.

With thanks to DanGliesack whose Reddit comment we have adapted, and the Fusion Investigative Unit which produced the shell corporation graphic. Panama Papers reporting team: Juliette Garside, Luke Harding, Holly Watt, David Pegg, Helena Bengtsson, Simon Bowers, Owen Gibson and Nick Hopkins.

Note: Panama papers? The indirect financial gimmick for the US multinational financial conglomerates to siphon in all the wealth of the world into the US financial treasury. The Rothschild conglomerate is the top of the pyramid and control how money should be distributed and deposited.




June 2023

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