‘They Wanted To Kill Us All’: Nicaragua Reels After Bloody Church Siege

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

‘They Wanted To Kill Us All’: Nicaragua Reels After Bloody Church Siege

A student who had taken refuge at the Church of the Divine Mercy amid a barrage of armed attacks is embraced by a relative on Saturday after he was transported to the Managua Metropolitan Cathedral.

Cristobal Venegas/AP

Nicaragua saw another weekend of deadly violence, as forces in support of President Daniel Ortega besieged student protesters in a church and attempted to assert control over several areas outside the capital.

Students have been at the center of anti-government demonstrations since they began April 18. What started as a “protest against now-rescinded changes in public pensions” became “a full-fledged call to end the authoritarian rule,” reporter Maria Martin tells NPR. The government has responded with brutal force.

Overnight Friday, protests at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in the capital took a dramatic turn, ultimately leaving at least two people dead and several others injured.

For two months, students at the university in Managua have set up barricades during protests that have drawn the wrath of pro-government forces. On Friday, about 200 students on the sprawling campus were pinned down by police and paramilitaries into a nearby Catholic church that they had been using as a field hospital.

The Washington Post’s Joshua Partlow, reporting on the protests, was trapped in the Church of the Divine Mercy along with the students. He described what he saw:

“Not long after 6 p.m., with several high-pitched cracks, the mood took a dark turn. The faraway shooting was suddenly nearby. The paramilitaries had appeared, cutting off the only exit from Divine Mercy and firing at the remaining barricade just outside the church.

“It became clear that everyone inside — dozens of students, at least two priests and two doctors, neighbors, volunteers and journalists, including me — would not be going anywhere.

“Most of the students accepted this realization with stoicism and remarkable calm. Many had been taking sporadic fire on and off for the past two months, and they seemed accustomed to it. They carried the wounded into the Rev. Raul Zamora’s rectory and put them on chairs or on the blood-spattered tile floor. Outside, at the barricade, other students shouted and fired their mortars against the unseen ­assailants.

“Over the next hours, the fighting ebbed and flowed. A flurry of gunfire would force everyone indoors, then people would drift into the courtyard. At times, they chanted ‘Viva, Nicaragua,’ shot their mortars in the air and vowed to never leave their posts. Around sunset, dozens of them knelt in a circle, held each other and prayed.”

The siege stretched on for some 15 hours, ending when members of the clergy negotiated for the students to be allowed to leave. They were transported to the Managua Metropolitan Cathedral, according to the Post.

Roman Catholic Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes said two students were killed during the confrontation, according to The Associated Press.

Mourners attend the wake of Nicaraguan university student Gerald Vasquez who was killed over the weekend when police forced students out of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in Managua.

Cristobal Venegas/AP

“It was a really hard night. They discharged their entire heavy arsenal against stones and mortars,” a sobbing young man who was afraid to given his name told the AP. “They wanted to kill us all.”

Sunday saw more violence, just outside Managua, Reuters reported. The Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights said at least 10 people were killed when security forces and paramilitary groups loyal to Ortega attacked people in the city of Masaya and communities of Monimbo.

In Masaya, pro-government forces were trying to take down barricades and reassert control over the area in what the government was calling “Operation Clean-up,” according to the BBC. The government says the “blockades are harming businesses and disrupting the lives of Nicaraguans,” the broadcaster reports.

The weekend violence is part of a brutal crackdown that human rights groups say has resulted in the deaths of nearly 300 people.

Human rights groups have criticized the Nicaraguan government for its tactics. For example, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has accused the government of “excessive and arbitrary use of police force,” as well as using paramilitary groups called “shock groups” to put down protests. It has called for the groups to be dismantled.

The BBC described “hooded and masked men opening fire on protesters” during recent protests, and says that “the government says the protesters are trying to stage a coup d’etat against Mr Ortega.”

Is President Guilty Of Treason?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGLES TIMES)

 

Putin weaves KGB trade craft and attention to detail in a remarkable meeting with Trump

Putin weaves KGB tradecraft and attention to detail in a remarkable meeting with Trump
Russian President Vladimir Putin shown at a news conference in the presidential palace in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16, 2018. (Anatoly Maltsev/EPA/Shutterstock)

 

At a rally before cheering supporters this month in Montana, President Trump declared nonchalantly of his then-upcoming summit with Russia’s leader: “I have been preparing for this stuff my whole life.”

But on Monday, with a world audience looking on, the summit looked far more like a culminating moment in the political life of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

The 65-year-old Russian president was by turns commanding and confident as he stood side-by-side with Trump at a news conference, artfully mixing in occasional expressions of boredom or bemusement as he spoke. Virtually unchallenged by Trump, he asserted that Moscow has “never interfered” in an American political contest, and would not do so in the future.

That, of course, flies in the face of U.S. intelligence assessments that Moscow mounted a comprehensive campaign against the U.S. electoral system in 2016, and is pressing ahead with that effort, with midterm elections just four months away.

For Putin, a former spymaster who once lamented the breakup of the Soviet Union as the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century and has long sought at least symbolically equal footing with the world’s only other nuclear superpower, Helsinki was a moment of triumph.

The Aurus Senat presidential state car of Russian President Vladimir Putin idles during a welcome ceremony at Helsinki Airport in Finland on Monday.
The Aurus Senat presidential state car of Russian President Vladimir Putin idles during a welcome ceremony at Helsinki Airport in Finland on Monday. (Mikhail Metzel / Kremlin/Sputnik)

 

But while the joint news conference was perhaps the apex of Putin’s nearly two decades on the global stage, it was also in some ways a return to his roots. The Russian leader made explicit reference to his long career as a KGB operative, alluding almost teasingly to his intimate knowledge of tradecraft even as he listened to the U.S. president cast doubt on the conclusions of his own intelligence agencies.

“I was an intelligence officer myself,” he said dryly at one point. Asked directly by a U.S. reporter whether he had compromising material on Trump, Putin dodged the query by pointing out that hundreds of American business figures had visited Moscow, as the U.S. president did years before his candidacy.

“Do you think we try to collect compromising material on each and every single one of them?” the Russian leader asked scornfully.

Later, in an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News, Putin categorically denied that Russia had anything compromising on Trump. “Unlike you, unlike the United States, we don’t do this. We don’t have enough resources,” he said.

It was in 1999, in a chaotic and floundering post-Soviet Russia, that Putin was plucked from relative obscurity as a KGB functionary to assume first the post of prime minister and then the presidency. He has never since been out of power.

To survive in the cutthroat world of Russian politics, Putin drew upon the ruthless persona he cultivated during his intelligence career. Few serious challenges to his power have emerged, but when they have, critics and human rights groups say he has repeatedly shown himself willing to sideline foes by deadly means if necessary.

Over the years, Putin learned ways large and small to keep adversaries off balance, once bringing a dog to a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was known to fear them. In Helsinki, he employed a longtime strategem, keeping Trump waiting for nearly an hour as he arrived late for the summit’s start.

And he carried over a long-held habit from his intelligence days: strict attention to detail, with the ability to regurgitate arcane information at will.

Putin crisply demonstrated his comprehensive grasp of policy questions, including provisions contained in decades-old arms treaties; Trump, by contrast, seemed confused during a pre-summit meeting with Finland’s president as to whether the host country is a member of NATO. (It is not.)

At the news conference, Putin was studiedly bland in characterizing the closed-door talks with the U.S. side, discussions that included more than two hours spent one-on-one with Trump. “Businesslike” was his description of the summit talks.

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a joint news conference after their summit on July 16, 2018, in Helsinki, Finland.
President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a joint news conference after their summit on July 16, 2018, in Helsinki, Finland. (Chris McGrath / Getty Images)

 

But his veteran foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, was freer to telegraph the Kremlin’s sentiments, wearing a broad smile as he entered the room where the news conference was held. Russian media afterward quoted him as summing up the summit as “fabulous … better than super.”

In Helsinki, Putin reverted to a classic Kremlin playbook when U.S. reporters asked him about election interference, protesting that he had not been provided with the details of accusations against his government, and offering Russian investigative assistance to get to the bottom of the affair.

That echoed Moscow’s response to the poisoning with a military-grade nerve agent this year of Russian turncoat spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on British soil. A British woman died and her companion was seriously sickened after apparently coming in accidental contact with a remnant.

Like any good KGB case officer, Putin managed Monday to weave subtle and not-so-subtle threats into seemingly conciliatory statements.One was directed at the American-born British financier Bill Browder, who made billions in Russia before running afoul of the Kremlin.

Browder has lobbied governments around the world to adopt a sanctions-imposing mechanism named for his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who died under suspicious circumstances in Russian custody. In offering to “assist” in the U.S. probe of Russians accused of meddling in the U.S. presidential election, Putin suggested that Russian authorities should be allowed to question U.S. intelligence officers who, he suggested, were complicit in supposed tax violations by Browder.

At the news conference, Putin did not even have to offer up defenses for Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula or the downing that year of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over eastern Ukraine that killed some 300 people. Trump in essence did that for him, saying he held “both countries responsible” for the fraught state of U.S.-Russia relations.

In Putin’s early years in power, his heavy hand with the country’s oligarchs and mafia impressed the West, and domestically, Russians embraced his policies even as he stifled independent media and muzzled critics.

There was no indication that Trump brought up Putin’s pitiless style in confronting perceived enemies, but in the Fox interview, aired hours after the summit, Wallace pressed the Russian leader on opponents who “wound up dead.” Putin retorted: “Haven’t presidents been killed in the United States?”

Putin’s course toward a more authoritarian government became most apparent four years into his presidency, when two former Soviet republics, Georgia and Ukraine, sought to turn toward the West. The Kremlin perceived this as a threat, and Putin tightened his grip on dissent at home.

Then came massive street protests in Ukraine over the decision by Ukraine’s then-president, a Putin ally, to not sign an association agreement with the European Union. Putin sent in troops to Ukrainian Crimea, organized what was derided as a sham referendum and annexed the peninsula.

The United States and the European Union placed harsh economic sanctions on Russia for the Crimean annexation, and Putin’s position on the world stage deteriorated. Meanwhile, he was praised at home for defying the West, but economic malaise and dissatisfaction over corruption have dragged down his approval ratings.

Heading into the summit, Trump insisted that personal chemistry with Putin would be key to resolving U.S.-Russia tensions. At the news conference, the U.S. leader suggested that the initial one-on-one meeting, with only interpreters present, had eased prior antagonisms.

“That changed as of about four hours ago,” Trump said, referring to the time frame of the start of the private session. “I really believe that.”

Putin, though, swiftly pivoted to a far more realpolitik-style description of the relationship between the two, declaring that both leaders pursued the interests of their own countries.

“Where did you get the idea that the president trusts me?” he asked. “Or I trust him?”

Special correspondent Ayres reported from Helsinki and Times staff writer King from Washington.

5:05 p.m.: This article has been updated with reaction, background, Fox interview.

Oman: A Gulf State, A Nation Of Peace And Prosperity For Their People

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Oman

Introduction The inhabitants of the area of Oman have long prospered on Indian Ocean trade. In the late 18th century, a newly established sultanate in Muscat signed the first in a series of friendship treaties with Britain. Over time, Oman’s dependence on British political and military advisors increased, but it never became a British colony. In 1970, QABOOS bin Said al-Said overthrew the restrictive rule of his father; he has ruled as sultan ever since. His extensive modernization program has opened the country to the outside world while preserving the longstanding close ties with the UK. Oman’s moderate, independent foreign policy has sought to maintain good relations with all Middle Eastern countries.
History From the 6th century B.C. to arrival of Islam in the 7th century A.D., Oman was controlled and/or influenced by three Iranian dynasties of Achaemenid, Parthians, and Sassanids [2]. Achaemenid (6th-4th century B.C.) controlled and/or influenced over the Oman peninsula. This was most likely exerted from a coastal center such as Sohar [2]. By about 250 B.C., Parthian dynasty brought the Persian Gulf under their control and extended their influence as far as Oman. Because they needed to control the Persian Gulf trade route, the Parthians established garrisons in Oman. In the third century A.D., the Sasanids succeeded the Parthians and held area until the rise of Islam four centuries later [3].

On the advent of Islam, the faith reached Oman within Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime. The conversion of Omanis is usually ascribed to Amr ibn al-As, who visited the region between 627-32.[4] By the middle of the eighth century AD, Omanis were practicing a unique sect of the faith, Ibadhism, which remains a majority sect only in Oman. Ibadhism has been characterized as “moderate conservatism,” with tenets that are a mixture of both austerity and peace.

The Portuguese occupied Muscat for a 140-year period (1508–1648), arriving a decade after Vasco da Gama discovered the seaway to India. In need of an outpost to protect their sea lanes, the Europeans built up and fortified the city, where remnants of their colonial architectural style still remain.

Revolting tribes drove out the Portuguese, but were pushed out themselves about a century later (1741) by the leader of a Yemeni tribe leading a massive army from varying other tribes, who began the current line of ruling sultans. A brief Persian invasion a few years later was the final time Oman would be ruled by a foreign power. Oman has been self governing ever since.

The British slowly brought about a collapse of Muscat and Oman’s “empire” by the end of the nineteenth century without use of force. Through gradual encroachment on its overseas holdings economically and politically, they caused Oman to retreat to its homeland. In time Britain held such sway in Muscat and Oman itself that it became in effect, and later in fact, a British protectorate.

Having control of the country’s military, the British helped subdue rebel tribesmen in the 1950s, driving most into Yemen. But the sultan ran a repressive regime, with laws forbidding numerous activities, including the building and even repair of his subjects’ own homes without permission. In 1970, almost certainly with British backing, he was overthrown by his son, the present ruler, Qaboos bin Said Al Said, and the country declared independence the following year as the Sultanate of Oman.

Qaboos is generally regarded as a benevolent absolute ruler, who has improved the country economically and socially. Oman has maintained peaceful ties on the Arabian Peninsula ever since ending another tribal rebellion in the southwest in 1982 by forging a treaty with Yemen. Oman’s oil revenue has been consistently invested in the national infrastructure, particularly roads, schools, hospitals, and utilities. More than ever, the country is poised to take advantage of its strategic trade location on the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf to further its economic growth and role in the world.

Except for those who travel to remote Middle East locales, the country has seldom been in the public eye other than for the use of its military bases by U.S. forces in recent years. American and British bombing raids were launched in 1991 from Oman against Iraq in the Gulf War. A decade later, U.S. forces stationed there were involved in raids against Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden.

Geography Location: Middle East, bordering the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, and Persian Gulf, between Yemen and UAE
Geographic coordinates: 21 00 N, 57 00 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 212,460 sq km
land: 212,460 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Kansas
Land boundaries: total: 1,374 km
border countries: Saudi Arabia 676 km, UAE 410 km, Yemen 288 km
Coastline: 2,092 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate: dry desert; hot, humid along coast; hot, dry interior; strong southwest summer monsoon (May to September) in far south
Terrain: central desert plain, rugged mountains in north and south
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Arabian Sea 0 m
highest point: Jabal Shams 2,980 m
Natural resources: petroleum, copper, asbestos, some marble, limestone, chromium, gypsum, natural gas
Land use: arable land: 0.12%
permanent crops: 0.14%
other: 99.74% (2005)
Irrigated land: 720 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 1 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 1.36 cu km/yr (7%/2%/90%)
per capita: 529 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: summer winds often raise large sandstorms and dust storms in interior; periodic droughts
Environment – current issues: rising soil salinity; beach pollution from oil spills; limited natural fresh water resources
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: strategic location on Musandam Peninsula adjacent to Strait of Hormuz, a vital transit point for world crude oil
Politics Chief of state and government is the hereditary sultān, Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said who appoints a cabinet called the “Diwans” to assist him. In the early 1990s, the sultan instituted an elected advisory council, the Majlis ash-Shura, though few Omanis were eligible to vote. Universal suffrage for those over 21 was instituted on 4 October 2003. Over 190,000 people (74% of those registered) voted to elect the 84[5] seats. Two women were elected to seats. The country today has three women ministers. H.E. Dr. Rawiyah bint Saud al Busaidiyah – Minister of Higher Education, H.E. Dr. Sharifa bint Khalfan al Yahya’eyah – Minister of Social Development and H.E. Dr. Rajiha bint Abdulamir bin Ali – Minister of Tourism.

The sultan functions as an absolute ruler.

People Population: 3,311,640
note: includes 577,293 non-nationals (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 42.7% (male 721,796/female 692,699)
15-64 years: 54.5% (male 1,053,040/female 752,962)
65 years and over: 2.8% (male 51,290/female 39,853) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 18.9 years
male: 21.3 years
female: 16.6 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 3.19% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 35.26 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 3.68 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 0.33 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.4 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.29 male(s)/female
total population: 1.23 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 17.45 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 19.95 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 14.83 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 73.91 years
male: 71.64 years
female: 76.29 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 5.62 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 1,300 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: less than 200 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Omani(s)
adjective: Omani
Ethnic groups: Arab, Baluchi, South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi), African
Religions: Ibadhi Muslim 75%, other (includes Sunni Muslim, Shi’a Muslim, Hindu) 25%
Languages: Arabic (official), English, Baluchi, Urdu, Indian dialects
Literacy: definition: NA
total population: 81.4%
male: 86.8%
female: 73.5% (2003 est.)

Pakistan: This Is The History And The Truth Of Their Nation And Their People

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Pakistan

Introduction The Indus Valley civilization, one of the oldest in the world and dating back at least 5,000 years, spread over much of what is presently Pakistan. During the second millennium B.C., remnants of this culture fused with the migrating Indo-Aryan peoples. The area underwent successive invasions in subsequent centuries from the Persians, Greeks, Scythians, Arabs (who brought Islam), Afghans, and Turks. The Mughal Empire flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries; the British came to dominate the region in the 18th century. The separation in 1947 of British India into the Muslim state of Pakistan (with West and East sections) and largely Hindu India was never satisfactorily resolved, and India and Pakistan fought two wars – in 1947-48 and 1965 – over the disputed Kashmir territory. A third war between these countries in 1971 – in which India capitalized on Islamabad’s marginalization of Bengalis in Pakistani politics – resulted in East Pakistan becoming the separate nation of Bangladesh. In response to Indian nuclear weapons testing, Pakistan conducted its own tests in 1998. The dispute over the state of Kashmir is ongoing, but discussions and confidence-building measures have led to decreased tensions since 2002. Mounting public dissatisfaction with President MUSHARRAF, coupled with the assassination of the prominent and popular political leader, Benazir BHUTTO, in late 2007, and MUSHARRAF?s resignation in August 2008, led to the September presidential election of Asif ZARDARI, BHUTTO?s widower. Pakistani government and military leaders are struggling to control Islamist militants, many of whom are located in the tribal areas adjacent to the border with Afghanistan.
History From the earliest period of pre-history and recorded history of the region, modern Pakistan formed the heart-land of a larger territory, extending beyond its present eastern and western borders and receiving momentous and mighty impacts from both the directions.

The Indus region, which covers much of Pakistan, was the site of several ancient cultures including the Neolithic era Mehrgarh and the Bronze era Indus Valley Civilization (2500 BC – 1500 BC) at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro.

Waves of conquerors and migrants from the west — including Harappan, Indo-Aryan, Persian, Greek, Saka, Parthian, Kushan, Hephthalite, Afghan, Arab, Turkics, and Mughal — settled in the region through out the centuries, influencing the locals and being absorbed among them. Great ancient empires of the east — such as Nandas, Mauryas, and Guptas — ruled these territories at different times. However, in the medieval period, while the eastern provinces of Punjab and Sindh became aligned with Indo-Islamic civilisation, the western areas became culturally allied with the Iranic civilisation of Afghanistan and Iran. The region served as crossroads of historic trade routes, including the Silk Road, and as a maritime entreport, for the coastal trade between Mesopotamia and beyond up to Rome in the west and Malabar and beyond up to China in the east.

The Indus Valley Civilization collapsed in the middle of the second millennium BC and was followed by the Vedic Civilization, which also extended over much of the Indo-Gangetic plains. Successive ancient empires and kingdoms ruled the region: the Achaemenid Persian empire around 543 BC, Greek empire founded by Alexander the Great in 326 BC and the Mauryan empire there after. The Indo-Greek Kingdom founded by Demetrius of Bactria included Gandhara and Punjab from 184 BC, and reached its greatest extent under Menander, establishing the Greco-Buddhist period with advances in trade and culture. The city of Taxila (Takshashila) became a major center of learning in ancient times — the remains of the city, located to the west of Islamabad, are one of the country’s major archaeological sites. The Rai Dynasty (c.489–632) of Sindh, at its zenith, ruled this region and the surrounding territories.

In 712 AD, the Arab general Muhammad bin Qasim conquered Sindh and Multan in southern Punjab. The Pakistan government’s official chronology states that “its foundation was laid” as a result of this conquest. This Arab and Islamic victory would set the stage for several successive Muslim empires in South Asia, including the Ghaznavid Empire, the Ghorid Kingdom, the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire. During this period, Sufi missionaries played a pivotal role in converting a majority of the regional Buddhist and Hindu population to Islam. The gradual decline of the Mughal Empire in the early eighteenth century provided opportunities for the Afghans, Balochis and Sikhs to exercise control over large areas until the British East India Company gained ascendancy over South Asia.

The War of Independence 1857, also known as the Sepoy Mutiny, was the region’s last major armed struggle against the foreign British Raj and it laid the foundations for the generally unarmed freedom struggle, led by the Hindu dominated Indian National Congress, in the twentieth century. The All India Muslim League rose to popularity in the late 1930s amid fears of under-representation and neglect of Muslims in politics. On 29 December 1930, Allama Iqbal’s presidential address called for an autonomous “state in northwestern India for Indian Muslims, within the body politic of India.” Muhammad Ali Jinnah espoused the Two Nation Theory and led the Muslim League to adopt the Lahore Resolution of 1940 (popularly known as the Pakistan Resolution), which ultimately led to the formation of an independent Pakistan. The Indian independence movement, led by Mahatma Gandhi, demanded freedom from British rule. In early 1947, Britain, coming under strong pressure from other Western nations to end its violent suppression of the freedom movement, decided to end its rule of India.

In June 1947, the nationalist leaders of British India — including Nehru and Abul Kalam Azad on behalf of the Congress, Jinnah representing the Muslim League, B. R. Ambedkar representing the Untouchable community, and Master Tara Singh representing the Sikhs — agreed to the proposed terms of transfer of power and independence. The modern state of Pakistan was established on 14 August 1947 (27 Ramadan 1366 in the Islamic Calendar), carved out of the two Muslim-majority wings in the eastern and northwestern regions of British India and comprising the provinces of Balochistan, East Bengal, the North-West Frontier Province, West Punjab and Sindh. The controversial division of the provinces of Punjab and Bengal set the stage for communal riots across India and Pakistan — millions of Muslims moved to Pakistan and millions of Hindus and Sikhs moved to India. Disputes arose over several princely states including Muslim-majority Kashmir and Jammu, whose ruler had acceded to India following an invasion by Pashtun warriors, leading to the First Kashmir War in 1948.

From 1947 to 1956, Pakistan was a Dominion in the Commonwealth of Nations. It became a Republic in 1956, but the civilian rule was stalled by a coup d’état by General Ayub Khan, who was president during 1958–69, a period of internal instability and a second war with India in 1965. His successor, Yahya Khan (1969–71) had to deal with a devastating cyclone — which caused 500,000 deaths in East Pakistan — and also face a civil war in 1971.

Economic greivances and political dissent in East Pakistan led to violent political tension and military repression that escalated into a civil war, which invited covert and later overt Indian intervention that escalated into the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, and ultimately to the secession of East Pakistan as the independent state of Bangladesh. Estimates of the number of people killed during this episode vary greatly, from ~30,000 to over 2 million, depending on the source.

Civilian rule resumed in Pakistan from 1972 to 1977, under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, until he was deposed and later sentenced to death, (in what his followers claimed was a judicial murder), in 1979 by General Zia-ul-Haq, who became the country’s third military president. Pakistan’s secular policies were replaced by Zia’s introduction of the Islamic Shariah legal code, which increased religious influences on the civil service and the military. With the death of President Zia in a plane crash in 1988, Benazir Bhutto, daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was elected as the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan. Over the next decade, she alternated power with Nawaz Sharif, as the country’s political and economic situation worsened. Pakistan got invoved in the 1991 Gulf War and sent 5,000 troops as part of a US led coalition, specifically for the defence of Saudi Arabia. Military tensions in the Kargil conflict with India were followed by a Pakistani military coup d’état in 1999 in which General Pervez Musharraf assumed executive powers. In 2001, Musharraf became President after the controversial resignation of Rafiq Tarar. After the 2002 parliamentary elections, Musharraf transferred executive powers to newly elected Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali, who was succeeded in the 2004 Prime-Ministerial election by Shaukat Aziz and was followed, for a temporary period in office, by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. On 15 November 2007 the National Assembly completed its tenure and so, pending elections, a caretaker government was appointed with the former Chairman of the Senate, Muhammad Mian Soomro as caretaker Prime Minister. However, the December 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto during election campaign led to postponement of elections and also underscored the then prevailing instability of Pakistan’s political system. After the parliamentary elections held in march, Yousaf Raza Gillani was sworn in as Prime Minister .

Geography Location: Southern Asia, bordering the Arabian Sea, between India on the east and Iran and Afghanistan on the west and China in the north
Geographic coordinates: 30 00 N, 70 00 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 803,940 sq km
land: 778,720 sq km
water: 25,220 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly less than twice the size of California
Land boundaries: total: 6,774 km
border countries: Afghanistan 2,430 km, China 523 km, India 2,912 km, Iran 909 km
Coastline: 1,046 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Climate: mostly hot, dry desert; temperate in northwest; arctic in north
Terrain: flat Indus plain in east; mountains in north and northwest; Balochistan plateau in west
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: K2 (Mt. Godwin-Austen) 8,611 m
Natural resources: land, extensive natural gas reserves, limited petroleum, poor quality coal, iron ore, copper, salt, limestone
Land use: arable land: 24.44%
permanent crops: 0.84%
other: 74.72% (2005)
Irrigated land: 182,300 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 233.8 cu km (2003)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 169.39 cu km/yr (2%/2%/96%)
per capita: 1,072 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: frequent earthquakes, occasionally severe especially in north and west; flooding along the Indus after heavy rains (July and August)
Environment – current issues: water pollution from raw sewage, industrial wastes, and agricultural runoff; limited natural fresh water resources; most of the population does not have access to potable water; deforestation; soil erosion; desertification
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
Geography – note: controls Khyber Pass and Bolan Pass, traditional invasion routes between Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent
Politics The government of Pakistan was based on the Government of India Act (1935) for the first nine years after independence. The first Constitution of Pakistan was adopted in 1956, but was suspended in 1958 by General Ayub Khan. The Constitution of 1973 – suspended in 1977, by Zia-ul-Haq, but re-instated in 1991 – is the country’s most important document, laying the foundations of government. Pakistan is a semi-presidential federal democratic republic with Islam as the state religion. The bicameral legislature comprises a 100-member Senate and a 342-member National Assembly. The President is the Head of State and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and is elected by an electoral college. The prime minister is usually the leader of the largest party in the National Assembly. Each province has a similar system of government with a directly elected Provincial Assembly in which the leader of the largest party or alliance becomes Chief Minister. Provincial Governors are appointed by the President.

The Pakistani military has played an influential role in mainstream politics throughout Pakistan’s history, with military presidents ruling from 1958–71, 1977–88 and from 1999 onwards. The leftist Pakistan Peoples Party, led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, emerged as a major political player during the 1970s. Under the military rule of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, Pakistan began a marked shift from the British-era secular politics and policies, to the adoption of Shariat and other laws based on Islam. During the 1980s, the anti-feudal, pro-Muhajir Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) was started by unorthodox and educated urban dwellers of Sindh and particularly Karachi. The 1990s were characterized by coalition politics dominated by the Pakistan Peoples Party and a rejuvenated Muslim League.

In the October 2002 general elections, the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) (PML-Q) won a plurality of National Assembly seats with the second-largest group being the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP), a sub-party of the PPP. Zafarullah Khan Jamali of PML-Q emerged as Prime Minister but resigned on 26 June 2004 and was replaced by PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain as interim Prime Minister. On 28 August 2004 the National Assembly voted 191 to 151 to elect the Finance Minister and former Citibank Vice President Shaukat Aziz as Prime Minister. The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, a coalition of Islamic religious parties, won elections in North-West Frontier Province, and increased their representation in the National Assembly – until their defeat in the 2008 elections.

Pakistan is an active member of the United Nations (UN) and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the latter of which Pakistan has used as a forum for Enlightened Moderation, a plan to promote a renaissance and enlightenment in the Muslim world. Pakistan is also a member of the major regional organisations of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO). In the past, Pakistan has had mixed relations with the United States; in the early 1950s, Pakistan was the United States’ “most allied ally in Asia” and a member of both the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO). Also, during the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s Pakistan was a crucial US ally. But relations soured in the 1990s, when sanctions were applied by the US over suspicions of Pakistan’s nuclear activities. However, the 11 September 2001 attacks and the subsequent War on Terrorism have seen an improvement in US–Pakistan ties, especially after Pakistan ended its support of the Taliban regime in Kabul. This was evidenced by a drastic increase in American military aid, which saw Pakistan take in $4 billion more in three years after the 9/11 attacks than in the three years before.

On 18 February 2008, Pakistan held its general elections after being postponed from 8 January 2008. The Pakistan Peoples Party won the majority of the votes and formed an alliance with the Pakistan Muslim League (N). They nominated and elected Yousaf Raza Gilani as Prime Minister of Pakistan

On 18 August 2008, when the ballooning impeachment scandal threatened his power, President Musharraf resigned as President of Pakistan, claiming it was a “difficult decision”.

In the presidential election that followed, Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan People’s Party won by a landslide majority and became President of Pakistan.

People Population: 172,800,048 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 37.8% (male 33,617,953/female 31,741,258)
15-64 years: 58% (male 51,292,535/female 48,921,023)
65 years and over: 4.2% (male 3,408,749/female 3,818,533) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 20.5 years
male: 20.3 years
female: 20.6 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.999% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 28.35 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 7.85 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.51 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.89 male(s)/female
total population: 1.04 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 66.94 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 67.04 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 66.84 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 64.13 years
male: 63.07 years
female: 65.25 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 3.73 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 74,000 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 4,900 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A and E, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria
animal contact disease: rabies
note: highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2008)
Nationality: noun: Pakistani(s)
adjective: Pakistani
Ethnic groups: Punjabi 44.68%, Pashtun (Pathan) 15.42%, Sindhi 14.1%, Sariaki 8.38%, Muhagirs 7.57%, Balochi 3.57%, other 6.28%
Religions: Muslim 95% (Sunni 75%, Shi’a 20%), other (includes Christian and Hindu) 5%
Languages: Punjabi 48%, Sindhi 12%, Siraiki (a Punjabi variant) 10%, Pashtu 8%, Urdu (official) 8%, Balochi 3%, Hindko 2%, Brahui 1%, English (official; lingua franca of Pakistani elite and most government ministries), Burushaski and other 8%
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 49.9%
male: 63%
female: 36% (2005 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 7 years
male: 7 years
female: 6 years (2006)
Education expenditures: 2.6% of GDP (2006)

Palau: The Truth, Knowledge And History Of The People Of This Island Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Palau

Introduction After three decades as part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific under US administration, this westernmost cluster of the Caroline Islands opted for independence in 1978 rather than join the Federated States of Micronesia. A Compact of Free Association with the US was approved in 1986, but not ratified until 1993. It entered into force the following year, when the islands gained independence.
History Archaeology

Early Palauans may have come from Australia, Polynesia and Asia. Depending on the thread of the family, Palauans may indeed represent many parts of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. However, it is traditionally not considered to be Micronesian. According to geneticists, there are two distinctive strains of Melanesian bloodlines: one is associated with indigenous Australians/Papua New Guineans and the other is known to have originated in Asia. There has not been any link established between the two.

In the European and Australian world Belau/Pelew is better known by the name of “The Black Islands”. Vintage maps and village drawings can be found at the Australian library online, as well as photos of the tattooed and pierced Ibedul of Koror and Ludee.

Carbon dating and recent archaeological discoveries have brought new attention to the archipelago. Cemeteries uncovered in islands have shown Palau has the oldest burial ceremony known to Oceania. Prior to this there has been much dispute as to whether Palau was established during 2500 BC or 1000 BC. New studies seem to dispute both of these findings. Moreover, Palau’s ancient trading partner, Java, has also come under close scrutiny since Homo floresiensis was found. Like Flores, remains of small-bodied humans have been found in Palau.[1]

For thousands of years, Palauans have had a well established matrilineal society, believed to have descended from Javanese precedents. Traditionally, land, money, and titles passed through the female line. Clan lands continue to be passed through titled women and first daughters[2] but there is also a modern patrilineal sentiment introduced by imperial Japan. The Japanese government attempted to confiscate and redistribute tribal land into personal ownership during World War II, and there has been little attempt to restore the old order. Legal entanglements continue amongst the various clans

European contact

Historians take interest in the early navigational routes of European explorers in the Pacific. There is a certain controversy as to whether Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos, who landed in several Caroline Islands, spotted the Palau archipelago in 1543. No conclusive evidence exists but there are some who think he could have seen the tip of a southernmost island in the group.

Palau had limited relations—mainly with Yap and Java. Had it not have been for ship-wrecked islanders who accidentally took refuge in the Philippines, Europeans likely would not have found a route to Palau until much later. English Captain Henry Wilson also shipwrecked off the island of Ulong in 1783.[4] Wilson dubbed Palau the “Pelew Islands”.

Spanish rule

Like the Mariana Islands, the Caroline Islands and the Marshall Islands, Palau was part of the Spanish East Indies, and was administered from the Spanish Philippines until the Spanish-American War of 1898.

In 1885, after Germany occupied some of the islands, a dispute was brought to Pope Leo XIII, who made an attempt to legitimize the Spanish claim to the islands (but with economic concessions for Britain and Germany). Spain in 1899, after defeat during the Spanish-American War, sold the islands to Germany in the 1899 German-Spanish Treaty.

German era

After the Spanish sold the islands to Germany, the Germans began an economic transformation in Micronesia. The Germans began mining bauxite (an aluminum ore), Phosphate, and other resources. The islands were also administered by German New Guinea. Mining continued throughout Micronesia even after the Germans lost the islands to Japan under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, after World War I. The Japanese continued and expanded the mining operations.

Japanese rule

During World War I, under the terms of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, the Empire of Japan declared war on the German Empire and invaded German overseas territories in the Pacific Ocean, including the Palau Islands. Following Germany’s defeat, the League of Nations formally awarded Palau to Japan as a Class C League of Nations Mandate. [7]

Under the terms of a “Class C Mandate” Japan incorporated the islands as an integral part of its empire, establishing the Nanyo-cho government. [8] Initially under Imperial Japanese Navy administration, civilian control was introduced from 1922, and Palau was one of six administrative districts within the Mandate. Japan mounted an aggressive economic development program and promoted immigration by Japanese, Okinawans and Koreans. During this period, the Japanese established bonito (skipjack tuna) production and copra processing plants in Palau.

World War II

Peleliu was the scene of intense fighting between American and Japanese forces beginning September 1944 resulting in an Allied victory, though the cost in human terms was high for both sides. After WWII, the United Nations played a role in deciding the U.S. would administer Palau as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Eventually, in 1979, Palauans voted against joining the Federated States of Micronesia based on language and cultural differences. After a long period of transition, including the violent deaths of two presidents (Haruo Remeliik in 1985 and Lazarus Salii in 1988), Palau voted to freely associate with the United States in 1994 while opting to retain independence under the Compact of Free Association.

There are still roughly 100 American service members listed as Missing In Action (MIA) in Palau since WWII. Since 1993, a small group of American volunteers called The BentProp Project have searched the waters and jungles of Palau to attempt to locate information that can lead to the identification and recovery of remains of these American MIAs.

Geography Location: Oceania, group of islands in the North Pacific Ocean, southeast of the Philippines
Geographic coordinates: 7 30 N, 134 30 E
Map references: Oceania
Area: total: 458 sq km
land: 458 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly more than 2.5 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 1,519 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 3 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
Climate: tropical; hot and humid; wet season May to November
Terrain: varying geologically from the high, mountainous main island of Babelthuap to low, coral islands usually fringed by large barrier reefs
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mount Ngerchelchuus 242 m
Natural resources: forests, minerals (especially gold), marine products, deep-seabed minerals
Land use: arable land: 8.7%
permanent crops: 4.35%
other: 86.95% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: typhoons (June to December)
Environment – current issues: inadequate facilities for disposal of solid waste; threats to the marine ecosystem from sand and coral dredging, illegal fishing practices, and overfishing
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: westernmost archipelago in the Caroline chain, consists of six island groups totaling more than 300 islands; includes World War II battleground of Beliliou (Peleliu) and world-famous rock islands
Politics Palau’s politics takes place in a multi-party framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Palau is both head of state and head of government. Executive power is exercised by the government, while legislative power is vested in both the government and the Palau National Congress. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

Foreign relations

Palau gained its independence October 1, 1994, when the Compact of Free Association with the United States came into force. Palau was the last portion of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands to gain its independence. Under the Compact, the U.S. remains responsible for Palau’s defense for 50 years, and Palauans are allowed to serve in the U.S. military without having to possess permanent residency in the U.S.

Palau is a sovereign nation and conducts its own foreign relations. Since independence, Palau has established diplomatic relations with a number of nations, including many of its Pacific neighbors. Palau was admitted to the United Nations on December 15, 1994, and has since joined several other international organizations. In September 2006, Palau hosted the first Taiwan-Pacific Allies Summit, and its President has gone on several official visits to other Pacific countries, including the Republic of China (Taiwan).

The United States maintains the usual diplomatic delegation and an embassy in Palau, but most aspects of the two countries’ relationship have to do with Compact-funded projects, which are the responsibility of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs. This has led to some ambiguity in the official status of Palau, though regarded as de jure independent.

Nuclear-free constitution

In 1981, Palau voted for the world’s first nuclear-free constitution. However, this delayed Palau’s independence as it also wanted a Compact of Free Association with the United States, which the U.S. would not agree to as long as the anti-nuclear clause was in place; thus the United Nations delayed terminating the U.S. trusteeship. Palauan independence was finally achieved after the anti-nuclear clause was repealed.

One of the notable aspects of the Palauan resistance to nuclear research is the leadership of women activists such as Cita Morei and Isabella Sumang.

People Population: 21,093 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 25.8% (male 2,797/female 2,637)
15-64 years: 69.4% (male 7,864/female 6,779)
65 years and over: 4.8% (male 482/female 534) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 32.3 years
male: 33.3 years
female: 31.3 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.157% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 17.4 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.73 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 0.9 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.16 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.9 male(s)/female
total population: 1.12 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 13.69 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 15.37 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 11.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 71 years
male: 67.82 years
female: 74.36 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.45 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: NA
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: NA
HIV/AIDS – deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Palauan(s)
adjective: Palauan
Ethnic groups: Palauan (Micronesian with Malayan and Melanesian admixtures) 69.9%, Filipino 15.3%, Chinese 4.9%, other Asian 2.4%, white 1.9%, Carolinian 1.4%, other Micronesian 1.1%, other or unspecified 3.2% (2000 census)
Religions: Roman Catholic 41.6%, Protestant 23.3%, Modekngei 8.8% (indigenous to Palau), Seventh-Day Adventist 5.3%, Jehovah’s Witness 0.9%, Latter-Day Saints 0.6%, other 3.1%, unspecified or none 16.4% (2000 census)
Languages: Palauan 64.7% official in all islands except Sonsoral (Sonsoralese and English are official), Tobi (Tobi and English are official), and Angaur (Angaur, Japanese, and English are official), Filipino 13.5%, English 9.4%, Chinese 5.7%, Carolinian 1.5%, Japanese 1.5%, other Asian 2.3%, other languages 1.5% (2000 census)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 92%
male: 93%
female: 90% (1980 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 15 years
male: 14 years
female: 15 years (2000)
Education expenditures: 10.3% of GDP (2002)

Panama: The Truth, Knowledge And The History Of The Nation/People

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Panama

Introduction Explored and settled by the Spanish in the 16th century, Panama broke with Spain in 1821 and joined a union of Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela – named the Republic of Gran Colombia. When the latter dissolved in 1830, Panama remained part of Colombia. With US backing, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903 and promptly signed a treaty with the US allowing for the construction of a canal and US sovereignty over a strip of land on either side of the structure (the Panama Canal Zone). The Panama Canal was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. In 1977, an agreement was signed for the complete transfer of the Canal from the US to Panama by the end of the century. Certain portions of the Zone and increasing responsibility over the Canal were turned over in the subsequent decades. With US help, dictator Manuel NORIEGA was deposed in 1989. The entire Panama Canal, the area supporting the Canal, and remaining US military bases were transferred to Panama by the end of 1999. In October 2006, Panamanians approved an ambitious plan to expand the Canal. The project, which began in 2007 and could double the Canal’s capacity, is expected to be completed in 2014-15.
History Christopher Columbus arrives in Panama on his fourth travel, which started in Nicaragua and ended in Panama. It is in this trip he discovers the Chagres river, which in the XX Century it would be the main resource to build the Panama Canal. He arrived to the Caribbean coast where he baptized the area with the name of Portobelo (in English, Beautiful Port). Columbus then explored Veraguas and founded Santa Maria de Belen, which would be the first Spanish settlement on the continent, leaving Bartolome, his brother, in charge.

Eventually, this settlement was destroyed by the local native population and the few surviving members returned to Spain.

Founding of Panama La Vieja

It wasn´t until 1519 when the Spanish decided to settle the new city. This time they chose a site in the Pacific ocean, which was discovered six years before by Vasco Nuñez de Balboa. The new city, today known as Panama La Vieja, was founded in August 15th, 1519 by orders of governor Pedrarias Davila and became an important port during the Spanish gold trade from Peru to the Caribbean islands and finally to Europe. The merchandise from all over South America would come into Panama and travel to Portobelo using the Camino de Cruces (old stone road) crossing the jungle and navigating the Chagres river. From Portobelo it would distribute to the islands and then to Spain.

Because of its importance and its location the city was an easy target for pirates. However, protection from pirates was only one of its many problems, as it was settled in a site composed mainly by mangrove land, diseases and fires weakened their position, until it was finally destroyed by pirate Henry Morgan in 1671.

Founding of Casco Antiguo

In 1673 a new city of Panama was founded. This time, a rocky peninsula was chosen, still on the Pacific side. A healthier site with crossed winds and easier to defend from both land and ocean attacks. Called interchangeably Casco Viejo, San Felipe, Catedral or Casco Antiguo, it is from here where Panama would declare independece from Spain and later join and separate from Colombia. It will see the boom and bust of the Gold Rush, the French attempt to build a Canal and later its completion by the United States.

Independence

After about 320 years under the rule of the Spanish Empire, on 10 November 1821, independence from Spain was declared in the small town of La Villa, today known as La Heroica. On 28 November, presided by Colonel Jose de Fabrega, a National Assembly was convened and it officially declared the independence of the isthmus of Panama from Spain and its decision to join New Granada, Ecuador and Venezuela in Bolivar’s recently founded Republic of Colombia.

In 1830, Venezuela, Ecuador and other territories left the Gran Colombia, but Panama remained as a province of this country, until July 1831 when the isthmus reiterated its independence, now under General Juan Eligio Alzuru as supreme military commander. In August, military forces under the command of Colonel Tomás Herrera defeated and executed Alzuru and reestablished ties with New Granada.

Ten years later, on November 1840, during a civil war that had begun as a religious conflict, the isthmus declared its independence under the leadership of the now General Tomás Herrera and became the ‘Estado Libre del Istmo’, or the Free State of the Isthmus. The new state established external political and economic ties and drew up a constitution which included the possibility for Panama to rejoin New Granada, but only as a federal district. On June 1841 Tomás Herrera became the President of the Estado Libre del Istmo. But the civil conflict ended and the government of New Granada and the government of the Isthmus negotiated the reincorporation of Panamá to Colombia on December 31, 1841.

In the end, the union between Panama and the Republic of Colombia was made possible by the active participation of the US under the 1846 Bidlack Mallarino Treaty, which lasted until 1903. The treaty granted the US rights to build railroads through Panama and to intervene militarily against revolt to guarantee New Granadine control of Panama. There were at least three attempts by Panamanian Liberals to seize control of Panama and potentially achieve full autonomy, including one led by Liberal guerrillas like Belisario Porras and Victoriano Lorenzo, each of which was suppressed by a collaboration of Conservative Colombian and US forces under the Bidlack Mallarino Treaty.

In 1902 US President Theodore Roosevelt decided to take on the abandoned works of the Panama Canal by the French but the Colombian government in Bogotá balked at the prospect of a US controlled canal under the terms that Roosevelt’s administration was offering. Roosevelt was unwilling to alter its terms and quickly changed tactics, encouraging a minority of Conservative Panamanian landholding families to demand independence, offering military support. On November 3, 1903 Panama finally separated and Dr. Manuel Amador Guerrero, a prominent member of the Conservative political party, became the first constitutional President of the Republic of Panama.

In November 1903, Phillipe Bunau-Varilla—a French citizen who was not authorized to sign any treaties on behalf of Panama without the review of the Panamanians—unilaterally signed the Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty which granted rights to the US to build and administer indefinitely the Panama Canal, which was opened in 1914. This treaty became a contentious diplomatic issue between the two countries, reaching a boiling point on Martyr’s Day (9 January 1964). The issues were resolved with the signing of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties in 1977 returning the former Canal Zone territories to Panama.

Military dictators

The second intent of the founding fathers was to bring peace and harmony between the two major political parties (Conservatives and Liberals). The Panamanian government went through periods of political instability and corruption, however, and at various times in its history, the mandate of an elected president terminated prematurely. In 1968, a coup toppled the government of the recently elected President Arnulfo Arias Madrid.

While never holding the position of President himself, General Omar Torrijos eventually became the de facto leader of Panama. As a military dictator, he was the leading power in the governing military junta and later became an autocratic strong man. Torrijos maintained his position of power until his death in an airplane accident in 1981.

After Torrijos’s death, several military strong men followed him as Panama’s leader. Commander Florencio Flores Aguilar followed Torrijos. Colonel Rubén Darío Paredes followed Aguilar. Eventually, by 1983, power was concentrated in the hands of General Manuel Antonio Noriega.

Manuel Noriega came up through the ranks after serving in the Chiriquí province and in the city of Puerto Armuelles for a time. He was a former head of Panama’s secret police and was an ex-informant of the CIA. But Noriega’s implication in drug trafficking by the United States resulted in difficult relations by the end of the 1980s.

United States invasion of Panama

On 20 December 1989, 27,000 U.S. personnel invaded Panama in order to remove Manuel Noriega.[2] A few hours before the invasion, in a ceremony that took place inside a U.S. military base in the former Panama Canal Zone, Guillermo Endara was sworn in as the new President of Panama. The invasion occurred ten years before the Panama Canal administration was to be turned over to Panamanian authorities, according to the timetable set up by the Torrijos-Carter Treaties. During the fighting, between two hundred [3] [4] and four thousand Panamanians,[5][6] mostly civilians, were killed.

Noriega surrendered to the American military shortly after, and was taken to Florida to be formally extradited and charged by U.S. federal authorities on drug and racketeering charges. He became eligible for parole on September 9, 2007, but remained in custody while his lawyers fought an extradition request from France. Critics have pointed out that many of Noriega’s former allies remain in power in Panama.

Post-invasion

Under the Torrijos-Carter Treaties, the United States turned over all canal-related lands to Panama on 31 December 1999. Panama also gained control of canal-related buildings and infrastructure as well as full administration of the canal.

The people of Panama have already approved the widening of the canal which, after completion, will allow for post-Panamax vessels to travel through it, increasing the number of ships that currently use the canal.

Geography Location: Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Colombia and Costa Rica
Geographic coordinates: 9 00 N, 80 00 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 78,200 sq km
land: 75,990 sq km
water: 2,210 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than South Carolina
Land boundaries: total: 555 km
border countries: Colombia 225 km, Costa Rica 330 km
Coastline: 2,490 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm or edge of continental margin
Climate: tropical maritime; hot, humid, cloudy; prolonged rainy season (May to January), short dry season (January to May)
Terrain: interior mostly steep, rugged mountains and dissected, upland plains; coastal areas largely plains and rolling hills
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Volcan Baru 3,475 m
Natural resources: copper, mahogany forests, shrimp, hydropower
Land use: arable land: 7.26%
permanent crops: 1.95%
other: 90.79% (2005)
Irrigated land: 430 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 148 cu km (2000)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.82 cu km/yr (67%/5%/28%)
per capita: 254 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: occasional severe storms and forest fires in the Darien area
Environment – current issues: water pollution from agricultural runoff threatens fishery resources; deforestation of tropical rain forest; land degradation and soil erosion threatens siltation of Panama Canal; air pollution in urban areas; mining threatens natural resources
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
Geography – note: strategic location on eastern end of isthmus forming land bridge connecting North and South America; controls Panama Canal that links North Atlantic Ocean via Caribbean Sea with North Pacific Ocean
Politics Politics of Panama takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Panama is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The branches are according to Panama’s Political Constitution of 1972, reformed by the Actos Reformatorios of 1978, and by the Acto Constitucional in 1983, united in cooperation and limited through the classic system of checks and balances. Three independent organizations with clearly defined responsibilities are found in the Political Constitution. Thus, the Comptroller General of the Republic has the responsibility to manage public funds. There also exists the Electoral Tribunal, which has the responsibility to guarantee liberty, transparency, and the efficacy of the popular vote; and, finally, the Ministry of the Public exists to oversee interests of State and of the municipalities.
People Population: 3,309,679 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 29.6% (male 499,254/female 479,242)
15-64 years: 63.8% (male 1,066,915/female 1,043,499)
65 years and over: 6.7% (male 102,937/female 117,832) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 26.7 years
male: 26.3 years
female: 27.1 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.544% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 20.68 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 4.71 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.53 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.87 male(s)/female
total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 13.4 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 14.35 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 12.42 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 76.88 years
male: 74.08 years
female: 79.81 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.57 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.9% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 16,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: fewer than 500 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea and hepatitis A
vectorborne disease: dengue fever and malaria
water contact disease: leptospirosis (2008)
Nationality: noun: Panamanian(s)
adjective: Panamanian
Ethnic groups: mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 70%, Amerindian and mixed (West Indian) 14%, white 10%, Amerindian 6%
Religions: Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant 15%
Languages: Spanish (official), English 14%; note – many Panamanians bilingual
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 91.9%
male: 92.5%
female: 91.2% (2000 census)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 13 years
male: 13 years
female: 14 years (2006)
Education expenditures: 3.8% of GDP (2004)

Hamas Delegation in Cairo to Discuss Palestinian Files

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Hamas Delegation in Cairo to Discuss Palestinian Files

Thursday, 12 July, 2018 – 07:45
Gaza – Asharq Al-Awsat
A senior delegation from Hamas Politburo arrived in Cairo on Wednesday upon an invitation from Egyptian intelligence officials who are seeking to resolve pending Palestinian files.

The delegation is led by Saleh al-Arouri, deputy head of the Hamas Politburo, who came from abroad along with Moussa Abu Marzouq, Hussam Badran and Izzat al-Rashq. Two officials – Khalil al-Hayya and Rouhi Moshtaha – came from the Gaza Strip. The head of the movement in Gaza, Yehya Sinwar, could not join the delegation for health reasons.

Fawzi Barhoum, spokesman for the movement, said in a press statement that the delegation would discuss with the Egyptian officials bilateral relations and developments in the Palestinian and Arab affairs.

The movement’s Politburo has held important meetings over the past few days, through safe means of communication between its members, in Gaza and Turkey simultaneously.

In a statement on Tuesday, the movement said it had decided to accept the Egyptian invitation for dialogue, underlining its willingness to achieve national reconciliation and unity on the basis of partnership in the resistance and the decision-making.

“The optimal condition for achieving this reconciliation is to immediately lift unjust sanctions on the Gaza Strip and to rebuild the PLO through a new national unity council, according to the Beirut 2017 outputs and the comprehensive implementation of the Cairo Agreement of 2011,” the statement said.

Sources in Hamas told Asharq Al-Awsat that the delegation would confirm to the Egyptian side that based on its “positive initiative”, it has facilitated many measures to allow the government to assume its duties in Gaza Strip.

The sources added that the movement would stress that it was not responsible for the assassination attempt against Palestinian Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah during his visit to Gaza on March 13.

The delegation will also express to Cairo its dissatisfaction with the attitude of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority for blaming the movement for the incident, noting that investigations conducted by Hamas have shown that the attack was perpetrated by militants with extremist ideology, who were recruited by members of the Palestinian and Israeli intelligence.

Other sources in Hamas said that the delegation would discuss in Cairo the need to resolve crises in Gaza and alleviate the humanitarian situation there.Hamas and Fatah leaders shake hands following the signing of a reconciliation deal at the Egyptian intelligence services headquarters in Cairo in October 2017. (AFP)

China pledges $15 million to Palestinians amid major push (To Buy) Mideast influence

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

China pledges $15 million to Palestinians amid major push for Mideast influence

President Xi announces plan to give Arab states more than $23 billion for economic development, calls them ‘natural partners’ of China

China's President Xi Jinping gives a speech during the 8th Ministerial Meeting of China-Arab States Cooperation Forum at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on July 10, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / WANG ZHAO)

China’s President Xi Jinping gives a speech during the 8th Ministerial Meeting of China-Arab States Cooperation Forum at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on July 10, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / WANG ZHAO)

China will provide Palestinians with more than $15 million in aid, President Xi Jinping told top Arab officials Tuesday, as Beijing seeks to build its influence in the Middle East and Africa.

The 100 million yuan pledge to Palestinians was made as part of a plan to give Arab states more than $23 billion in lines of credit, loans and humanitarian assistance for economic development.

The money will be earmarked for “projects that will produce good employment opportunities and positive social impact in Arab States that have reconstruction needs,” said Xi, without providing further details.

It is part of a special Chinese program for “economic reconstruction” and “industrial revitalization,” Xi told participants at a China-Arab States forum in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

Beijing is also prepared to provide another one billion yuan ($151 million) to countries in the region to “build capacity for stability maintenance,” Xi said, using a term commonly associated with policing and surveillance.

Xi said that Syria, Yemen, Jordan and Lebanon would receive $91 million in humanitarian assistance.

Since taking office, Xi has overseen a concerted effort to expand Chinese influence in the Middle East and Africa, including the construction of the country’s first military base in Arab League state Djibouti.

China has already provided vast sums to Arab countries, with Djibouti alone owing some $1.3 billion, according to estimates from the US-based China Africa Research Initiative.

The financial largess has raised concerns both at home and abroad over the vulnerability of poor nations to such massive debt.

Last year Sri Lanka was forced to hand over majority control of its Hambantota port to China after being unable to repay its loans.

Syrian President Bashar Assad addresses the newly elected parliament in Damascus, Syria, on June 7, 2016. (SANA, the Syrian official news agency, via AP)

China has also provided diplomatic support for Syrian President Bashar Assad in the country’s seven-year civil war.

At the heart of Xi’s vision is the “Belt and Road” initiative, a $1-trillion infrastructure program billed as a modern revival of the ancient Silk Road that once carried fabrics, spices and a wealth of other goods between Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

The Arab states’ position at the center of the ancient trade route makes them “natural partners” in China’s new undertaking, he said, adding he expected the summit would end with an agreement on cooperation on the initiative.

“Chinese and Arab peoples, though far apart in distance, are as close as family,” he said, describing a romanticized history of trade along the Silk Road.

The project, which has already financed ports, roads and railways across the globe, has spurred both interest and anxiety in many countries, with some seeing it as an example of Chinese expansionism.

“China welcomes opportunities to participate in the development of ports and the construction of railway networks in Arab states” as part of a “logistics network connecting Central Asia with East Africa and the Indian Ocean with the Mediterranean,” said Xi.

READ MORE:

Did: Archaeologists Discover Entrance Gate to Biblical City of Zer

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

 

Archaeologists Discover Entrance Gate to Biblical City of Zer, Where Jesus Fed Thousands in Miracle

(SCREENSHOT: YOUTUBE/HOLYLANDSITE)Ancient, Biblical Bethsaida video from Israel uploaded on December 13, 2016.

Archaeologists have reportedly uncovered the ancient entrance gate to the biblical city of Zer in Israel, also known as Bethsaida, which is mentioned in the New Testament as the city where Jesus fed the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish in one His most well-known miracles.

“There are not many gates in this country from this period. Bethsaida was the name of the city during the Second Temple period, but during the First Temple period it was the city of Zer,” said Dr. Rami Arav, director of the Bethsaida Project, according to The Jerusalem Post.

The discovery of the gate was made during excavations carried out in the Golan Heights, with the size and wealth of the fortification suggesting that Zer was a big city.

In recent weeks, archaeologists have also found coins, beads, jugs, a house key, along with a shield that belonged to a Roman soldier. One of the coins was dated back to 35 BCE, or not long before the birth of Christ.

Arav has been carrying out excavations in the Bethsaida area for close to 30 years, which have increased the popularity of the region, and led to masses of Christian pilgrims visiting the site.

Avi Lieberman, director of the Jordan Park, where Bethsaida is located, said that the latest discovery can attract even more people.

“The staff at the Jordan Park and the Golan Tourism are happy for the tens of thousands of visitors who visit the park every day. The wonderful park is also an impressive archaeological site. I [am] amazed each time by the arrival of thousands of evangelical visitors to Bethsaida. I am confident that the latest discoveries will bring more visitors to the park from around the world and from Israel,” Lieberman said.

Relics of other faiths have also been discovered in and around Bethsaida. In January, an Israeli team identified a small, highly decorated pottery shard, which is about 2,300 years old, depicting the birth of the Greek goddess Athena.

Although the shard was originally found in 2016, researchers had been unable to determine until then that it depicts Athena springing to life fully formed from the head of her father Zeus.

Another notable discovery came in 2014, when archaeologists found a rare Roman coin issued in 85 CE by Agrippa II bearing the phrase “Judea Capta,” meant to mark the victory over the Jewish rebels and the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.

The residents of ancient Bethsaida are criticized by Jesus in Matthew 11, when He calls them out, among others, for refusing to believe the Gospel despite witnessing His miracles.

“Woe to you, Bethsaida!” He says. “For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.”

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Papua New Guinea: The Truth Knowledge And The History Of

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Papua New Guinea

Introduction The eastern half of the island of New Guinea – second largest in the world – was divided between Germany (north) and the UK (south) in 1885. The latter area was transferred to Australia in 1902, which occupied the northern portion during World War I and continued to administer the combined areas until independence in 1975. A nine-year secessionist revolt on the island of Bougainville ended in 1997 after claiming some 20,000 lives.
History Human remains have been found which have been dated to about 50,000 years ago. These ancient inhabitants probably had their origins in Southeast Asia. Agriculture was independently developed in the New Guinea highlands around 9,000 years ago, making it one of the few areas of original plant domestication in the world. A major migration of Austronesian speaking peoples came to coastal regions roughly 2,500 years ago, and this is correlated with the introduction of pottery, pigs, and certain fishing techniques. More recently, some 300 years ago, the sweet potato entered New Guinea having been introduced to the Moluccas from South America by the then-locally dominant colonial power, Portugal.[8] The far higher crop yields from sweet potato gardens radically transformed traditional agriculture; sweet potato largely supplanted the previous staple, taro, and gave rise to a significant increase in population in the highlands.

Little was known in the West about the island until the nineteenth century, although traders from Southeast Asia had been visiting New Guinea as long as 5,000 years ago collecting bird of paradise plumes,[9] and Spanish and Portuguese explorers had encountered it as early as the sixteenth century (1526 and 1527 Don Jorge de Meneses). The country’s dual name results from its complex administrative history prior to Independence. The word papua is derived from a Malay word describing the frizzy Melanesian hair, and “New Guinea” (Nueva Guinea) was the name coined by the Spanish explorer Yñigo Ortiz de Retez, who in 1545 noted the resemblance of the people to those he had earlier seen along the Guinea coast of Africa.

The northern half of the country came into German hands in 1884 as German New Guinea. During World War I, it was occupied by Australia, which had begun administering British New Guinea, the southern part, as the re-named Papua in 1904 once Britain was assured by the federation of the Australian colonies that Queensland, with its equivocal history of race relations, would not have a direct hand in the administration of the territory. After World War I, Australia was given a mandate to administer the former German New Guinea by the League of Nations. Papua, by contrast, was deemed to be an External Territory of the Australian Commonwealth, though as a matter of law it remained a British possession, an issue which had significance for the country’s post-Independence legal system after 1975. This difference in legal status meant that Papua and New Guinea had entirely separate administrations, both controlled by Australia.

The two territories were combined into the Territory of Papua and New Guinea after World War II, which later was simply referred to as “Papua New Guinea”. The Administration of Papua was now also open to United Nations oversight. However, certain statutes[10] continued (and continue) to have application only in one of the two territories, a matter considerably complicated today by the adjustment of the former boundary among contiguous provinces with respect to road access and language groups, so that such statutes apply on one side only of a boundary which no longer exists.

Peaceful independence from Australia, the de facto metropolitan power occurred on September 16, 1975, and close ties remain (Australia remains the largest bilateral aid donor to Papua New Guinea).

A secessionist revolt in 1975-76 on the island of Bougainville resulted in an eleventh-hour modification of the draft Constitution of Papua New Guinea to allow for Bougainville and the other eighteen districts of pre-Independence Papua New Guinea to have quasi-federal status as provinces. The revolt recurred and claimed 20,000 lives from 1988 until it was resolved in 1997. Autonomous Bougainville recently elected Joseph Kabui as president but his death from a heart attack has meant deputy John Tabinaman is now its leader.

Geography Location: Oceania, group of islands including the eastern half of the island of New Guinea between the Coral Sea and the South Pacific Ocean, east of Indonesia
Geographic coordinates: 6 00 S, 147 00 E
Map references: Oceania
Area: total: 462,840 sq km
land: 452,860 sq km
water: 9,980 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly larger than California
Land boundaries: total: 820 km
border countries: Indonesia 820 km
Coastline: 5,152 km
Maritime claims: measured from claimed archipelagic baselines
territorial sea: 12 nm
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
Climate: tropical; northwest monsoon (December to March), southeast monsoon (May to October); slight seasonal temperature variation
Terrain: mostly mountains with coastal lowlands and rolling foothills
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mount Wilhelm 4,509 m
Natural resources: gold, copper, silver, natural gas, timber, oil, fisheries
Land use: arable land: 0.49%
permanent crops: 1.4%
other: 98.11% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Total renewable water resources: 801 cu km (1987)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.1 cu km/yr (56%/43%/1%)
per capita: 17 cu m/yr (1987)
Natural hazards: active volcanism; situated along the Pacific “Ring of Fire”; the country is subject to frequent and sometimes severe earthquakes; mud slides; tsunamis
Environment – current issues: rain forest subject to deforestation as a result of growing commercial demand for tropical timber; pollution from mining projects; severe drought
Environment – international agreements: party to: Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: shares island of New Guinea with Indonesia; one of world’s largest swamps along southwest coast
Politics Papua New Guinea is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state. It had been expected by the constitutional convention, which prepared the draft constitution, and by Australia, the outgoing metropolitan power, that Papua New Guinea would choose not to retain its link with the British monarchy. The founders, however, considered that imperial honours had a cachet that the newly independent state would not be able to confer with a purely indigenous honours system — the Monarchy was thus maintained.[11] The Queen is represented in Papua New Guinea by the Governor-General, currently Sir Paulias Matane. Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands are unusual among Commonwealth realms in that their Governors-General are effectively selected by the legislature rather than by the executive, as in some parliamentary democracies within or formerly within the Commonwealth whose non-executive ceremonial president is similarly chosen and as would have been the case had the link with the monarchy been severed at independence such that the governor-general was an autochthonous head of state.

Actual executive power lies with the Prime Minister, who heads the cabinet. The unicameral National Parliament has 109 seats, of which 20 are occupied by the governors of the 19 provinces and the NCD. Candidates for members of parliament are voted upon when the prime minister calls a national election, a maximum of five years after the previous national election. In the early years of independence, the instability of the party system led to frequent votes of no-confidence in Parliament with resulting falls of the government of the day and the need for national elections, in accordance with the conventions of parliamentary democracy. In recent years, successive governments have passed legislation preventing such votes sooner than 18 months after a national election. This has arguably resulted in greater stability though, perhaps, at a cost of reducing the accountability of the executive branch of government.

Elections in PNG attract large numbers of candidates. After independence in 1975, members were elected by the first past the post system, with winners frequently gaining less than 15% of the vote. Electoral reforms in 2001 introduced the Limited Preferential Vote system (LPV), a version of the Alternative Vote. The 2007 general election was the first to be conducted using LPV.

People Population: 5,931,769 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 37.3% (male 1,124,174/female 1,086,478)
15-64 years: 58.7% (male 1,791,342/female 1,690,089)
65 years and over: 4% (male 111,023/female 128,663) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 21.5 years
male: 21.6 years
female: 21.4 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.118% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 28.14 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.96 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female
total population: 1.04 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 46.67 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 50.68 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 42.47 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 66 years
male: 63.76 years
female: 68.35 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 3.71 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.6% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 60,000 (2005 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 600 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria (2008)
Nationality: noun: Papua New Guinean(s)
adjective: Papua New Guinean
Ethnic groups: Melanesian, Papuan, Negrito, Micronesian, Polynesian
Religions: Roman Catholic 27%, Evangelical Lutheran 19.5%, United Church 11.5%, Seventh-Day Adventist 10%, Pentecostal 8.6%, Evangelical Alliance 5.2%, Anglican 3.2%, Baptist 2.5%, other Protestant 8.9%, Bahai 0.3%, indigenous beliefs and other 3.3% (2000 census)
Languages: Melanesian Pidgin serves as the lingua franca, English spoken by 1%-2%, Motu spoken in Papua region
note: 820 indigenous languages spoken (over one-tenth of the world’s total)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 57.3%
male: 63.4%
female: 50.9% (2000 census)
Education expenditures: NA