Are the Russians actually behind the Panama Papers? | Brookings Institution

Most reports on the Panama Papers feature Vladimir Putin and his possible connections to the world of shadowy offshore banking as the headliner. But that might obscure a much bigger and more twisted story.

Source: Are the Russians actually behind the Panama Papers? | Brookings Institution

Earthquake Reminder: Pacific Ring of Fire Very Active!

earthquakeGiven the two back-to-back earthquakes in Japan, and the one today in Ecuador, we would do well here in the Pacific Northwest to remember that we are part of that very ring of fire which seems so very active this week. When Vancouver had its small quake back in December, I noted my earthquake preparedness kit for you. Given that the three quakes this week were all above a 7 on the Richter scale, and in such close succession to each other, albeit kitty-corner across the Pacific, it would be prudent to review earthquake safety, both for yourself, and with your loved ones.

From the BC provincial website (for the full text, click here):

During an earthquake… drop, cover and hold on

If you are inside, stay inside. DO NOT run outside or to other rooms during shaking.

  • DROP down onto your hands and knees (before the earthquake knocks you down). This position protects you from falling, but allows you to still move if necessary.
  • COVER your head and neck (and your entire body if possible) under a sturdy table or desk. If there is no shelter nearby, only then should you get down near an interior wall (or next to low-lying furniture that won’t fall on you), and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.
  • HOLD ON to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around.

What do I do if…

I’m in a wheelchair?

  • Lock your wheels and remain seated until the shaking stops. Always protect your head and neck with your arms, a pillow, a book, or whatever is available.

I’m in bed?

  • Hold on and stay there, protecting your head with a pillow or blanket. You are less likely to be injured staying where you are. Broken glass on the floor has caused injury to those who have rolled to the floor or tried to get to doorways.

I’m in a high-rise?

  • Immediately drop, cover and hold on. Avoid windows and other hazards. Do not use elevators. Do not be surprised if sprinkler systems or fire alarms activate.

I’m in a stadium or theatre?

  • Stay at your seat or drop to the floor between rows and protect your head and neck with your arms. Don’t try to leave until the shaking is over. Then walk out slowly, watching for anything that could fall in the aftershocks.

I’m in a store?

  • Immediately drop cover and hold on. If you must move to get away from heavy items on high shelves, drop to the ground first and crawl only the shortest distance necessary.

I’m outside?

  • Move to a clear area if you can safely do so; avoid buildings, power lines, trees, signs, vehicles and other hazards.

I’m driving?

  • Pull over to the side of the road, stop and set the handbrake. Avoid overpasses, bridges, power lines, signs and other hazards. Stay inside the vehicle until the shaking is over. If a power line falls on the car, stay inside until a trained person removes the wire.

I’m near the shore or on the beach?

  • Drop, cover, and hold on until the shaking stops. If the shaking is severe and you are in a tsunami risk area, immediately evacuate to high ground. Don’t wait for officials to issue a warning. Walk quickly, rather than drive, to avoid traffic, debris and other hazards.

Hack Job: Panama Papers

The world of journalism is abuzz with the release of the so-called ‘Panama Papers.’ The largest data leak of its kind in history, at 11.5 million files, totalling over 2.6 TB of data, makes this a juicy peach indeed, with years of excavating and sifting of documents to be had (lest we forget, Edward Snowden’s 2013 leak of NSA documents seems to be actively researched to this date, as we occasionally hear revelations of some vital piece of information that had been buried in the documents). 370 journalists have spent the past year researching the documents, and publishing the subsequent Panama Papers on April 4.

The long and the short of the background is that 40 years worth of confidential client documents of the world’s fourth largest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca, were leaked to a German newspaper, Suddeutsche Zeitung, who then promptly shared the horde with International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Notably, amidst all the furor about $2 billion linked to Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin via his cellist (one might inquire whether he ‘bowed’ to pressure?); amidst the revelations that the Icelandic prime minister Sigmunder Gunnlauggsson failed to disclose a substantive and significant conflict of interest regarding an offshore company set up for whatever open and transparent reason he neglected to mention to parliament, particularly during their financial crisis; amidst the who’s who list of dubious reputations (King Salman of Saudi Arabia, Bashar Al-Assad of Syria, anything FIFA-related and notably Lionel Messi and the UEFA, Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine et al….), one thing keeps leaping out at me: who leaked the papers?

According to Ramon Fonseca, one of the founding partners, the “hack” came from external sources. He is right; this leak is a hack.

Many ideas keep floating through my mind:

Did someone hack the law firm, looking for a specific piece of information, and decided to release the documentation to a) cover their tracks b) some strange anarchist gesture to stick it to the man?

Did a country hack the law firm, looking to take down either someone within their own country (the Politburo reflecting some of the dissatisfaction currently surfacing against Xi Jinping?), or looking to implicate a leader in another country (Putin may be right that people are out to get him, and I’m sure it isn’t the first time)?


I doubt the targets are the likes of Gunnlauggsson who was forced to resign yesterday over the revelations; or even any of Middle Eastern or west Asian leaders. Without going into specifics, there are certain countries that specialize in corporate espionage of this flavour.

Whatever information the hackers found, they must be sitting on their haunches delighting in all the chaos the Panama Papers are creating. Not that ti’s necessarily a bad thing, having these kinds of documents released, if indeed criminal activity is taking place. Let’s note, as the Guardian, and all good news agencies are rightfully pointing out, not all situations are criminal.

The flip side of this situation, is that if it was your personal banking information that was publicly released, wouldn’t you be pretty upset? We bank and count on complete privacy and security of our information. This hack shows how false that sense of security is.

It might feel good, for some, to read of the dodgy dealings of the very wealthy, but it’s not right, and I feel that the journalists behind the Panama Papers are purposely obfuscating the five w’s of good journalism: who is behind the leak/hack, what really happened, when did it happen (well, a year ago, so that one is covered), where did it happen or from where did the hack originate, and how did it happen?

In the meantime, we wait to see who has next fallen to the Panamanian machete, ahem, papers. And, honestly, I’m as eager as the next person.