Panama Covid-19 update – 15 new fatalities reported today, the highest daily total since August. 7,164 new cases were recorded, although the number of active cases overall has fallen by 2,405 to 83,343. The test results still show a high positivity rate, at 36.3% of nearly 20,000 tests (although my wife’s elderly parents, with a son at home just tested positive, have tested negative in the last day or so). There are 84 patients in ICU (up 5) and 747 in other wards (up 32).
The director of the social security department (CSS), which controls the hospitals, is reported as saying that there was pressure on services. He mentioned the fact that, as an example, in the previous week only 18 patients had been admitted to the Covid Hospital in the City of Health and to date the figure now exceeds 100, and in addition, there are about 30 patients scheduled to be transferred to there. Meanwhile, the Association of Private Hospitals of Panama has reported that the occupation of private hospitals with cases of Covid-19 is also high.
23 JANUARY 2022
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT AUTHORISES SANCTIONS AGAINST 24 RUSSIAN COMPANIES
ISRAELI ULTRA-ORTHODOX PARTY LEADER RESIGNS OVER GRAFT
On 23 January, the Mail Online reported that the leader of Israel’s largest ultra-Orthodox Jewish party has submitted his resignation from parliament, after reaching a plea deal with prosecutors in a tax fraud case. Aryeh Deri, who served as Benjamin Netanyahu’s interior minister, leads the Shas party, with 9 seats in the Knesset.
SCOTLAND: LORD ADVOCATE QUESTIONED AS ‘EYE-WATERING’ £33 MILLION IS PAID OUT IN FAILED RANGERS FRAUD CASE IN A YEAR
On 23 January, The Herald reported that miscarriage of justice compensation payments made by the Scottish Government to 19 people over 10 years amount to just a third of the £33 million pay-outs to those maliciously prosecuted in the failed Rangers football club fraud probe in just 1 year. Overall, it is said that the failed fraud probe could cost the public purse over £120 million. The scandal involves a number of men involved in the administration and acquisition of Rangers who became victims of the mishandled Crown Office’s fraud probe into the sale of the club.
IRAN-RUSSIA ANNUAL TRADE TO HIT $10 BILLION
On 23 January, Eurasia Review reported that Iran and Russia have agreed to raise the annual bilateral trade to at least $10 billion – the current volume of annual trade stands at $4 billion.
CHINA PRODUCERS CASHING IN ON ONLINE SALE OF FENTANYL PRECURSORS
On 21 January, Insight Crime carried an article saying that Chinese companies are turning to online sales to supply the fentanyl precursor market in Mexico, just as more criminal groups are seeking to enter the lucrative synthetic drugs business. It is reported that Fentanyl’s impact in Mexico and the US has positioned it as the number 1 threat on the drug market – and that between April 2020 and April 2021 alone, fentanyl killed nearly 100,000 in the US.
RUSSIA-ARGENTINA COCAINE PLOT RESULTS IN LENGTHY PRISON SENTENCES
On 21 January, Insight Crime reported on the outcome of the trial in Russia of 4 men for trying to smuggle cocaine on a diplomatic aircraft. This comes 5 years after a multimillion-dollar drug shipment was discovered in suitcases at the Russian Embassy in Argentina. However, Russia has denied the involvement of its aircraft fleet in the smuggling operation, despite Argentine authorities releasing images of the Russian aircraft used in the sting operation, which bore the number of Security Council Chief Nikolai Patrushev’s aircraft. Furthermore, it is reported that leaked documents cite DEA and Argentine Federal Intelligence Agency officials who suggest the arrests were intended to deflect suspicion and protect higher-ranking co-conspirators within the Russian government.
FORMER MALAYSIAN OFFICIALS PROBED BY CORRUPTION WATCHDOG OVER 1MDB FUNDS
The Straits Times on 23 January carried a report claiming that Malaysia’s former central bank governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz and former minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nor Mohamed Yakcop are being investigated over ties to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds, and that police are also investigating Tan Sri Zeti’s husband Tawfiq Ayman.
IRANIAN COURT PROSECUTES FORMER PRESIDENT ROUHANI’S BROTHER FOR BRIBERY
On 23 January, Asharq-al-Aswat reported that Hossein Fereydoun, the brother of former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, is facing charges of taking “a bribe from a manufacturer of auto parts” to finance the election campaign in 2012. Fereydoun is currently serving a 5-year prison sentence after he was found guilty of taking bribes in a massive bank debt case.
THE GEOPOLITICS OF DIGITAL CURRENCY
On 21 January, a report from the Belfer Center says that the US Federal Reserve, Treasury, and Congress have begun considering the viability of a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), a legal tender national digital currency for consumer use. It says that the national security implications of CBDC are not yet central considerations for US policymakers, but argues that they should be. It warns that new global payment exchange mechanisms could undermine components of the international financial system that enhance US financial power and help sustain norms of international behaviour. It details the considerations which it argues should inform and accelerate US consideration of a CBDC and prompt greater American engagement in developing global standards and cross-border payments processes.
START RELEASED DATA ON PROUD BOYS AHEAD OF CAPITOL RIOT ANNIVERSARY
On 5 January, the day before the first anniversary of the Capitol insurrection, START released new research into the Proud Boys group. Founded in 2016, they consider themselves “Western chauvinists” who romanticise a traditional, male-dominated version of Western culture. While the Proud Boys vehemently deny adhering to a racist ideology, the organisation is deeply rooted in white nationalism and misogyny.
MYANMAR’S REBELS GET RESOURCEFUL WITH IMPROVISED DRONES
On 20 January, Bellingcat reported on a low-cost tactic that now appears to have been adopted by some anti-coup, armed groups in Myanmar. This involves the use of small, remotely-controlled airborne devices to carry out attacks.
US DETAINS SHIP CARRYING FERTILISER USED TO MAKE EXPLOSIVES TRANSITING FROM IRAN TO YEMEN
On 23 January, Rferl reported that the US Navy has announced that it had seized a ship carrying fertiliser used to make explosives as it travelled from Iran along a route previously used to smuggle weapons to Yemen’s Houthi rebels. It is said that the same “stateless fishing vessel” was found to be carrying thousands of AK47 assault rifles, RPG launchers, and other weapons when it was stopped previously in February 2021.
WORRIES IN LAOS AND THAILAND AS UPSTREAM DAMS DRAIN MEKONG RIVER
On 21 January, RFA reported concerns over dams China and Laos have built upstream that siphon off water for agricultural and other uses. It notes that the river is a vital food source for the 70 million people in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam who live in its basin. It is said that planned Mekong River dams will make the downstream drought worse.
DRUG POLICY EXPLAINED: LEGALISATION, DECRIMINALISATION, AND PROHIBITION
On 21 January, the Drugs Science website published a short article which sets out to define the terms used in the control of illegal drugs and what they mean for drug policy.
RANSOMWARE: GROUPS LINKED TO IRAN RATTLE ISRAELI CONFIDENCE
On 20 January, an article from Coda says that every week around a thousand institutions in Israel face a cyber attack, mostly ransomware attacks for money. However, in 2021 several incidents were different, in that the attackers’ behaviour ran counter to normal ransomware attacks and suggested different goals. It argues that such attacks have become a tool of statecraft, designed to damage the bonds of Israeli society and public trust in institutions, rather than damage infrastructure or seek financial rewards.
GERMANY: SUSPICION OF GANG-RELATED EMBEZZLEMENT AT THE INSOLVENT FRANKFURT-HAHN AIRPORT HAS NOW BEEN CONFIRMED
On 23 January, Cargo Forwarder reported that the prosecutor’s office in Koblenz has presented the outcome of the official investigations which targeted 4 individuals responsible for 6 companies, including an airport business partner. Initial results of the investigation presented by the prosecutor’s office show that the alleged subsidy fraud has caused the state of Rhineland-Palatinate financial damages of at least €400,000.
TOP 5 DATA PROTECTION COMPLIANCE CHALLENGES FOR 2022
On 21 January, Irish law firm Matheson asked what data protection developments and compliance challenges lie ahead in 2022, and what are the Irish Data Protection Commission’s key enforcement and regulatory priorities? It looks in detail at each of the issues it identifies –
Any modest contributions for my time and ongoing expenses are welcomed! I have a page where you can do so, and where one-off contributions start as low as $3, at
On 23 January, Joshua Rosenberg posted about a debate in the House of Commons about the use, and misuse, of SLAPP – Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation. Such lawsuits are based on laws on defamation, privacy, data protection and harassment, and are being used by law firms against reporters and others to deter inquiry and by rich individuals and organisations to destroy their critics and opponents.