The World Today for April 05, 2016

April 5, 2016


The Bad Joke: Panama Edition

It almost sounds like the start of a bad joke: What do Vladimir Putin, David Cameron's late father and the world's most famous soccer player Lionel Messi have in common? 

Instead, it's the beginning of what promises to be a long legal and public relations nightmare for members of the global elite from Britain to Malaysia: the Panama Papers, 2.6 terabytes of leaked data – nearly 11.5 million documents – implicating world leaders and wealthy individuals in complicated offshore tax evasion schemes and other shady deals.

At the center of it all is Mossack Fonseca, the Panama-based law firm that specializes in establishing offshore companies around the world.

For as little as $1,000, clients can purchase a shell company from Mossack Fonseca. Throw in a few extra fees, and they'll furnish the company with directors and shareholders.

The result is an organization “whose true purpose and ownership structure is indecipherable” and ideal for facilitating tax evasion and money laundering, reports German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, the paper who first gained access to the files via a still-anonymous source.

While the existence of the Panama Papers has been public for less than two days, it's already been called the “biggest data leak in history” by some outlets.

And the growing list of names in connection with the Papers is astounding — the faux joke above could be rewritten many times over, with variations that include the king of Saudi Arabia, members of international soccer league FIFA’s ethics committee and even action film star Jackie Chan.

It's likely that the Panama Papers might prove to be journalism's story of the year, on par with 2013's NSA revelations or the 2010 Wikileaks scandal.

In fact, the hundreds of thousands Wikileaks cables unveiled by Julian Assange look like light reading compared to the Panama Papers. An infographic provided by the Sueddeutsche Zeitung shows how the volume of data contained in the Panama Papers dwarfs previous leaks.

With that much material for journalists and data researchers to sift through, more scandalous offshore activities implicating the global elite are guaranteed to be unearthed.

The consequences are already being felt across the globe: Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Davio Gunnlaugsson is facing calls for a snap election now that his and his wife's highly un-Scandinavian financial investments have come to light. He's resisted resigning but Icelanders say: “We'll make him.”

Some questions have yet be answered — folks took to social media on Monday to ask why no Americans have been named in the scandal so far, for example.

One thing is certain, however: for the time being, the only laughter coming from those named in the Papers will be of the nervous kind.


Iraq: Backlash

The Islamic State shocked the world two years ago when the extremists conquered Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq. Now the same fighters are desperate to hold onto it.

With the help of American military support, Iraqi soldiers have beat back Islamic State forces and moved closer to Mosul in recent months. In response, the terrorists launched a series of bombing attacks throughout the country on Monday that killed 29 people and wounded dozens of others.

An Islamic State suicide bomber blew himself up in a restaurant in Dhi Qar, around 200 miles southeast of Baghdad. Another suicide bomber blew up a car in Basra. Another rammed an explosives-filled car into an army checkpoint outside Baghdad. A fourth suicide bomber blew himself up near a paramilitary troop headquarters 20 miles north of Baghdad.

It’s not clear when Iraqi troops will make their final push on Mosul. When they do, expect a massive battle. And expect more bloodshed before that bloodshed even starts.

Ninjas of Congo

Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso has made some enemies in the three decades that he’s ruled his country.

On Monday, gun battles broke out between unidentified gunman and security forces in Congo’s capital of Brazzaville.

The fighting evoked memories of the 1997 civil war that erupted between forces loyal to Sassou Nguesso and the so-called Ninja militias who backed a different leader but signed a peace accord in 2003 to end years of civil war. The government claimed former Ninja members triggered the violence.

Witnesses said folks chanting “Sassou, leave!” erected barricades and set fires in the local mayor’s office and police precinct in neighborhoods on the south side of the city that are strongholds for opposition politicians who think it’s time Sassou Nguesso handed the reins of power over to someone else.

When the shooting started, hundreds fled the area and the government deployed the military to put down the disturbance.

Bottom line: Sassou Nguesso doesn’t appear ready to give up the reins.

Dutch Voters: Yes Or No

Is there anything the member states of the EU can agree on anymore?

Add trade relations toward Ukraine (and by proxy, Moscow) to that ever growing list behind Greek debt and security policy: Wednesday, the Dutch will take to the polls to vote in a national referendum on the EU's association agreement with Ukraine.

With arguments lines that mimic those of the UK's upcoming “Brexit” referendum – those favoring security and free trade pitted against those who want to reclaim national rights from a supposedly undemocratic Brussels – the Dutch referendum is yet another source of stress for the European elite.

Critics say the Ukraine vote is a pretext for airing other grievances against Brussels. One of the organizers of the petition for the referendum told the Guardian, “I don't really care if it is a yes or no… We forced this referendum because we want people to have a say and more direct democracy.”

Turnout for the referendum is expected to be low but that doesn't mean it's any less powerful: the last referendum in the Netherlands in 2005 helped torpedo the EU's constitution.


The Sun Dance

Around 680 light years away from Earth, a big planet orbits around a mammoth star, according to The Astronomical Journal. At the same time, two smaller suns in the vicinity also orbit themselves and the big planet and mammoth star, too.

Confused? Let’s make some proper introductions.

The big gassy planet’s name is KELT-4Ab, after the Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope, a project involving two telescopes in Arizona and South Africa. KELT-4Ab is like Jupiter – enormous but mostly hydrogen and helium.

KELT-A is the name of the big sun, which is around 40 times brighter than our sun. KELT-B and KELT-C are the small suns. Each is about as bright as our full moon.

KELT-4Ab orbits KELT-A every three days. At the same time, KELT-B and KELT-C orbit each other every 30 years. But they are also orbiting KELT-A and KELT-4Ab every 4,000 years.

Still confused? That’s understandable. Scientists are trying to figure it out, too. But they hope when they do, they will understand much more about planets, suns and the systems they exist in.


The DailyChatter staff wishes you a wonderful day. Write to us with tips, feedback and suggestions at

Compiled and written by Jabeen Bhatti


Tue, 04/05/2016 – 06:10

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