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Three challenges for the web, according to its inventor

by Sir Tim Berners-Lee — Web Foundation

March 12 was the world wide web’s 28th birthday. Here’s a message the Web Foundation founder and web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee published that day, on how the web has evolved, and what we must do to ensure it fulfills his vision of an equalizing platform that benefits all of humanity.

Today marks 28 years since I submitted my original proposal for the world wide web. I imagined the web as an open platform that would allow everyone, everywhere to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries. In many ways, the web has lived up to this vision, though it has been a recurring battle to keep it open. But over the past 12 months, I’ve become increasingly worried about three new trends, which I believe we must tackle in order for the web to fulfill its true potential as a tool which serves all of humanity.

1) We’ve lost control of our personal data

The current business model for many websites offers free content in exchange for personal data. Many of us agree to this — albeit often by accepting long and confusing terms and conditions documents — but fundamentally we do not mind some information being collected in exchange for free services. But, we’re missing a trick. As our data is then held in proprietary silos, out of sight to us, we lose out on the benefits we could realize if we had direct control over this data, and chose when and with whom to share it. What’s more, we often do not have any way of feeding back to companies what data we’d rather not share — especially with third parties — the T&Cs are all or nothing.

This widespread data collection by companies also has other impacts. Through collaboration with — or coercion of — companies, governments are also increasingly watching our every move online, and passing extreme laws that trample on our rights to privacy. In repressive regimes, it’s easy to see the harm that can be caused — bloggers can be arrested or killed, and political opponents can be monitored. But even in countries where we believe governments have citizens’ best interests at heart, watching everyone, all the time is simply going too far. It creates a chilling effect on free speech and stops the web from being used as a space to explore important topics, like sensitive health issues, sexuality or religion.

2) It’s too easy for misinformation to spread on the web

Today, most people find news and information on the web through just a handful of social media sites and search engines. These sites make more money when we click on the links they show us. And, they choose what to show us based on algorithms which learn from our personal data that they are constantly harvesting. The net result is that these sites show us content they think we’ll click on — meaning that misinformation, or ‘fake news’, which is surprising, shocking, or designed to appeal to our biases can spread like wildfire. And through the use of data science and armies of bots, those with bad intentions can game the system to spread misinformation for financial or political gain.

3) Political advertising online needs transparency and understanding

Political advertising online has rapidly become a sophisticated industry. The fact that most people get their information from just a few platforms and the increasing sophistication of algorithms drawing upon rich pools of personal data, means that political campaigns are now building individual adverts targeted directly at users. One source suggests that in the 2016 US election, as many as 50,000 variations of adverts were being served every single day on Facebook, a near-impossible situation to monitor. And there are suggestions that some political adverts — in the US and around the world — are being used in unethical ways — to point voters to fake news sites, for instance, or to keep others away from the polls. Targeted advertising allows a campaign to say completely different, possibly conflicting things to different groups. Is that democratic?

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These are complex problems, and the solutions will not be simple. But a few broad paths to progress are already clear. We must work together with web companies to strike a balance that puts a fair level of data control back in the hands of people, including the development of new technology like personal “data pods” if needed and exploring alternative revenue models like subscriptions and micropayments. We must fight against government over-reach in surveillance laws, including through the courts if necessary. We must push back against misinformation by encouraging gatekeepers such as Google and Facebook to continue their efforts to combat the problem, while avoiding the creation of any central bodies to decide what is “true” or not. We need more algorithmic transparency to understand how important decisions that affect our lives are being made, and perhaps a set of common principles to be followed. We urgently need to close the “internet blind spot” in the regulation of political campaigning.

Our team at the Web Foundation will be working on many of these issues as part of our new five year strategy — researching the problems in more detail, coming up with proactive policy solutions and bringing together coalitions to drive progress towards a web that gives equal power and opportunity to all. I urge you to support our work however you can — by spreading the word, keeping up pressure on companies and governments or by making a donation. We’ve also compiled a directory of other digital rights organizations around the world for you to explore and consider supporting too.

I may have invented the web, but all of you have helped to create what it is today. All the blogs, posts, tweets, photos, videos, applications, web pages and more represent the contributions of millions of you around the world building our online community. All kinds of people have helped, from politicians fighting to keep the web open, standards organizations like W3C enhancing the power, accessibility and security of the technology, and people who have protested in the streets. In the past year, we have seen Nigerians stand up to a social media bill that would have hampered free expression online, popular outcry and protests at regional internet shutdowns in Cameroon and great public support for net neutrality in both India and the European Union.

It has taken all of us to build the web we have, and now it is up to all of us to build the web we want — for everyone. If you would like to be more involved, then do join our mailing list, do contribute to us, do join or donate to any of the organizations which are working on these issues around the world.

The Web Foundation is at the forefront of the fight to advance and protect the web for everyone. We believe doing so is essential to reverse growing inequality and empower citizens. You can follow our work by signing up to our newsletter, and find a local digital rights organization to support here on this list. Additions to the list are welcome and may be sent to contact@webfoundation.org

Please share this letter on Twitter using the hashtag #HappyBirthdayWWW

 

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The best of the late great Chuck Berry

Back to work free form

Cienfue & Lilo Sánchez – Panama Verde Panama Red
https://youtu.be/-Hi0YP6gjcc

Stevie Wonder & Ariana Grande – Faith
https://youtu.be/hNMMN46uFCc

Buena Fe y Silvio Rodríguez – La tempestad
https://youtu.be/woMwgawCGBA

Joss Stone – I Put a Spell on You
https://youtu.be/j1sa1t3M_4E

Natalia Lafourcade – Tú sí sabes quererme
https://youtu.be/ABLT6hdgEek

David Gilmour – The Girl In The Yellow Dress
https://youtu.be/7PwQrEbEnrM

Bruce Springsteen – Murder Incorporated
https://youtu.be/Jj7hvKQ6Uhc

Zacarías Ferreira – Asesina
https://youtu.be/oOXRhzFb0J8

Mad Professor – Melt Down Dub
https://youtu.be/_sbqdZP1Xxs

Carlos Vives – Al Filo de Tu Amor
https://youtu.be/OvvWwys7nU4

Stevie Nicks – Edge of Seventeen
https://youtu.be/Dn8-4tjPxD8

Gondwana – Sentimientos Original
https://youtu.be/5eaLYkOtqko

Of Monsters and Men – Little Talks
https://youtu.be/ghb6eDopW8I

Jimi Hendrix at the Royal Albert Hall, 1969
https://youtu.be/FGueBWQigKs

 

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The Panama News blog links

a Panama-centric selection of other people’s work
una selección Panamá-céntrica de las obras de otras personas

Canal, Maritime & Transportation / Canal, Marítima & Transporte

Puertos y Logística, ACP descartó planes para la privatización de remolcadores

Marine Link, Meyer’s group orders tugs for new Panama Canal locks

Wired, PanCanal’s new software

Hellenic Shipping News, PanCanal’s new mooring line requirements

Mexico News Daily, Highway will boost competition with Panama Canal

Sports / Deportes

Antigua Oberver, Panama to face Trinidad-Tobago in key showdown

Economy / Economía

Reuters, Fitch says reputational risk is a key problem for Panama’s banks

Barsallo, The battleground of Panamanian corporate behavior

La Estrella, Ahorristas exigen informe de auditoria

IMF, Staff mission statement on Panama’s economy

Prensa Latina, Cuban rum and cigars at Panama’s Expocomer

TVN, Cámara de Turismo dice que Panamá está perdiendo en las redes sociales

Reuters, Mexico cancels sugar export permits for lack of US trade negotiator

EFE, Correa asegura que Odebrecht pide “imposibles” para acuerdo con Ecuador

The Hill: China approves Trump hotel, massage parlor and escort service trademarks

NBC, NY lawmaker and activist team up against human trafficking in hotels

Eyes on Trade, Unhappy fifth anniversary of US-Korea Free Trade Agreement

Reuters: EU consumer authorities to take on Facebook, Google, Twitter

DW, G20 finance ministers drop free trade pledge under US pressure

Science & Technology / Ciencia & Tecnología

Epigenetics Literacy Project, How our view of cancer’s origin has evolved

Mongabay, World’s first fluorescent frog discovered

Wired, The perfect banana is soon to be gone

Ring of Fire, Monsanto forged academic research

KCCI, Cheerios wildflower inititiative to boost global bee population

News / Noticias

TVN, Comisión de diputados que no investigará a sus pares

Telemetro, Corte Suprema anula el decreto de donaciones de la Asamblea

La Prensa, Un código secreto para los diputados

Telemetro, Varela busca regular organizaciones sin fines de lucro

Metro Libre, Residentes de Punta Pacífica piden suspensión de obra

The Intercept, Rogue Twitter accounts fight to preserve government science

Buzzfeed, Group recruiting scientists to run against anti-science GOP lawmakers

EcoWatch, New Zealand river gets status as legal person

The Guardian, Robert Mercer: data billionaire at war with the mainstream media

CNN, Trump supporter arrested for tweet that gives reporter an epileptic seizure

Bershidsky, What the Yahoo hack says about Russian spies

Opinion / Opiniones

Berkowitz, Why Arendt matters

Achtenberg, Argentina’s immigration crackdown rattles Bolivia

Santos, ¿Debe Panamá cerrarse a la inmigración?

Lenzer, Trump’s Panama problem

Gandásegui, Hay alternativas para el puerto en Corozal

Simpson Aguilera, Primera tarea de la Comisión Legislativa

Culture / Cultura

Brin, Looking back at Heinlein’s Future History

Blades, Derek Walcott

 

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Citizens Against Impunity (CCI) lampoon Comptroller General Federico Humbert for riding horses in parades. Later the high court struck down Humbert’s decree to legalize private contributions to legislator circuit funds. These are often pocketed but are expected to finance cash and goods distributed during election campaigns.

“A prolonged and warned-about institutional crisis”

by Eric Jackson

Whose fault?

PRD secretary general and legislator Pedro Miguel González told La Estrella that there is “a prolonged and warned-about institutional crisis” underway. He blames President Varela and his Panameñista Party for causing it, above all to distract attention from the allegations of Varela’s erstwhile right-hand man, jailed offshore corporate lawyer Ramón Fonseca Mora, that the president took payoffs from the Brazilian construction conglomerate and bribery mill that’s the Odebrecht group of companies.

González’s Panameñista colleague and political adversary in the legislature, Adolfo “Beby” Valderrama, acknowledges that there is a crisis. He blames it on the PRD for bringing up and exaggerating scandals to enhance their own positions in intra-party faction fighting.

Ricardo Martinelli, from his exile in Miami, uses the media whose purchase he financed with government advertising while president to gleefully report all of the nasty things that the PRD and the Panameñistas say about each other and dismiss the many criminal charges against himself and his entourage for their five-year spree as baseless persecution. To add to the crisis atmosphere the ex-president sends in lawyers to jam up the court system and make new claims against Varela in those media that will accept them as possibly credible sources.

A confluence of scandals

We now see mergers of major scandals, affecting all major branches of the national government, with individual players and different institutions pointing fingers at one another.

In the 2014 election campaign a pack of private donors financed vote-buying campaign in which politicians passed out cash, building materials, household appliances, bags of groceries and other valuable in exchange for votes.

A huge sum of money by Panamanian historical standards was siphoned off from government coffers to support the candidates of the then-ruling faction, often under the guise of legislator’s circuit funds to be spent on social projects in their communities — but a current in this stream of illicit campaign funding flowed to politicians who then held no offices and could not pretend that they were circuit funds.

La Prensa ran a series of stories about legislative circuit funds that were just pocketed by the legislators, as in made out in checks to close aides, cashed and thereafter not on any readily documented paper trail. At least, lost without a trace but for extrinsic evidence, some of which is coming out. The daily’s main documentary evidence was from the Martinelli years but its cutting edge of inquiry was about what has gone on since. It turns out that in the Martinelli years more than $403 million in state funds went to legislators to distribute more or less at their discretion. It was not equal, but notoriously used as a tool to get deputies to jump to Martinelli’s Cambio Democratico party or its minor MOLIRENA ally. From a number of cases over the years it appears that private donations — often kicked back from government contractors who had overpriced contracts — were commingled with these funds.

Did Odebrecht money go into this mix? Comptroller General Federico Humbert dramatically announced that the Brazilian combine’s money that went to Panamanians in high places or those in their families or entourages was a lot more than the $59 million and four individuals reported in the US plea bargain. It would have been in keeping with Odebrecht’s modus operandi to have given to legislators of all parties in various fashions. But that we do not yet know, nor have we heard it specifically alleged.

Odebrecht’s presidential bets

There are two lawyers who say that Odebrecht money went into Juan Carlos Varela’s 2014 presidential campaigns — Ramón Fonseca Mora of Mossack Fonseca disrepute (now incarcerated awaiting trial) and Martinelli mouthpiece Sidney Sitton. Neither is a totally trustworthy source but current and former Odebrecht slush fund managers are talking and may corroborate what they say. Meanwhile Odebrecht exec Hilberto Mascarenhas testified to a Brazilian electoral court that the company paid millions of dollars for the services of political consultants João Santana and Mónica Moura — a husband and wife team, now both behind bars — in the presidential election campaigns of six countries, including that of Martinelli’s 2014 stand-in, José Domingo “Mimito” Arias. The PRD’s 2014 presidential candidate, Juan Carlos Navarro, denies taking money from Odebrecht and has released official campaign reports that do not indicate any such funding source. However, many of Navarro’s funders were anonymous corporations with which we would not know if there were an Odebrecht tie. So far none of the reported testimony of Odebrecht people has implicated the Navarro campaign.

Church and state

Among the illicit state funding for political campaigns allegations there is now a spectacular one about the Cambio Democratico mayor of San Miguelito, Evangelical pastor Gerald Cumberbatch. Journalist Jean Marcel Chéry, who was a member of the Templo Hosanna mega-church along with Cumberbatch, briefly worked on the latter’s campaign. He says that he resigned over corruption. Specifically alleged are the diversions of at least $700,000 in state funds, some through local governments in Darien. It allegedly went for items like construction materials and some $150,000 worth of bags of groceries for the Cumberbatch campaign to distribute.

Chéry also alleges that Cumberbatch’s wife got a paid leave of absence from a government job with the Martinelli administration to work on the campaign. Cumberbatch calls that latter charge a lie, claiming that his wife’s paid leave was not to campaign but to study to be an Evangelical pastor.

As to the specific charges of public funds diverted to his 2014 mayoral campaign, Cumberbatch won’t directly answer. He calls it old news and says that Chéry is out to destroy him and his church. Chéry said that he quit the Cumbebatch campaign when he realized what was going on and spoke of the matter with the Hosanna Temple’s Reverend Edwin Álvarez. According to Chéry, Álvarez’s response was to ask him how much money he needed to maintain silence. Unlike the many legislators whose uses of circuit funds are challenged as improper, Cumberbatch held no public office when he ran for mayor and would have no cover story comparable to that of the legislators.

Many investigations, some perhaps to block others

Attorney General Kenia Porcell says that her office is pursuing at least six Odebrecht investigations and is looking into the Cumberbatch matter. As to sitting legislators, the Supreme Court would have jurisdiction in those matters so she could not investigate them. Critics accuse her of dragging her feet on corruption cases in general and are particularly annoyed by an oral agreement she made with Odebrecht about them paying $59 million that’s the amount that the US government said that it paid in bribes to Panamanian officials, as part of a settlement with Panama. The objections are about letting the Brazilians off with a light penalty and the possibility that a deal could be used to argue that any investigation of Odebrecht or the officials they bribed here would be blocked as a form of double jeopardy.

Administrative Prosecutor Rigoberto González is investigating a complaint brought by Cambio Democratico attorney Alejandro Pérez, accusing her of abuse of authority and exceeding her powers in investigations against members of Ricardo Martinelli’s entourage. (She has not been investigating Martinelli himself, over whom the Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction.) Pérez brought a motion to disqualify González because en route to their current positions they worked together for many years at the Public Ministry, some of them with González as Porcell’s superior. The Supreme Court rejected that motion.

There are many complaints by anti-corruption activists of Comptroller General Federico Humbert failing to audit, or only incompletely auditing, cases involving public corruption. Now Humbert says that he’s looking into both the Odebrecht contracts — some of which he personally approved — and the matter of legislators’ circuit funds.

Perhaps the most serious of the activists’ complaints against Humbert is a decree he published earlier this year, purporting to legalize and regulate the circuit fund system. Attorney and anti-corruption activist Ernesto Cedeño challenged that decree and the Supreme Court struck it down in a ruling announced on March 16. The vote was 5-1, with three abstentions. But although the comptroller’s decree was thrown out, the system that it attempted to regulate was not.

The National Assembly has refused to look at the conduct of its own members with respect to circuit funds. The legislature’s president, Rubén De León, a PRD deputy, reacted to the La Prensa investigation by creating a numerical code to conceal how much went to which legislator for what in the public records. Ernesto Cedeño has filed criminal charges with the Supreme Court against De León for this maneuver.

The legislature has, however, begun its own investigation of all Odebrecht public works contracts since 2006. But the Public Ministry refuses to cooperate in any way with this. One of the reasons is suspicion that the legislature might give immunity to a witness or purport to make a deal with Odebrecht that would in effect preclude the work that the Attorney General’s office is doing. Great scorn is being heaped on the legislature and the members of its special committee, for one thing because eight of its 11 members are known to have received an aggregate of $47,845,295.00 in circuit funds between 2009 and 2014 and there has been no accounting of these funds nor of any possible private funding that may have been commingled with them. Independent legislator Ana Matilde Gómez, a former attorney general, says that there is ample evidence on the public record to begin an investigation of possible misappropriations of legislators’ circuit funds and questions the National Assembly’s moral authority to investigate Odebrecht under the circumstances.

 

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Bahrain
Journalist Nabeel Rajab faces years in prison for his reporting on Bahrain’s cybercrime scene. Photo by Hambina.

Predators of press freedom use
fake news as a censorship tool

by Reporters Without Borders — (RSF)

Predators of press freedom have seized on the notion of “fake news” to muzzle the media on the pretext of fighting false information. Nonetheless, many of them have taken recent statements by President Donald Trump as a means of justifying their repressive policies. This dangerous trend is a cause for concern to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). At a Washington news conference in February, Trump said: “We have to talk to find out what’s going on, because the press, honestly, is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.”

By targeting journalists in this manner, the US president ended a longstanding American tradition of promoting freedom of expression and sent a powerful message to media censors. The Washington Post called it “a gift to tyrants everywhere.”

In January, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan endorsed Trump’s latest allegations that the CNN television network was guilty of broadcasting “fake news” in its report on ties between the US president and Russia.

A warning to the media

The Cambodian prime minister, Hun Sen, appeared to have taken his cue from Trump when he said of journalists in February: “Donald Trump understands that they are an anarchic group.”

Two days earlier, his spokesman issued what he called a warning to foreign media outlets, threatening to “crush” those that endanger “peace and stability” and citing Trump’s treatment of the press as a justification for the warning.

“The so-called fight against fake news has become a propaganda tool for the predators of press freedom,” said RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire. “Of course, it is more necessary than ever for Internet users to disentangle fact from fiction in the flow of information. However, the fight against fake news should be conducted by promoting free and independent journalism as a source of reliable and high-quality information.”

Russia’s legal ban on the “dissemination of false information”

The Russian telecoms regulator is preparing a draft decree designed purely and simply to block all content that contains false information. Before Trump’s statement, Russia, ranked 148th in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index, had already made it a requirement “not to disseminate false information” for bloggers to operate legally. The fight against “misleading information” has been a classic feature of post-Soviet Russia. The bill, imitated by several countries such as Uzbekistan, has enough leeway to allow for the broadest possible censorship.

Since July 2016, content aggregators are required to verify the veracity of reports that they publish if they do not come from media outlets registered in Russia, and could face harsh penalties.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has posted a new section on its official website dedicated to debunking fake anti-Russian news stories published by international news outlets.

Punishing “fake news” denies journalists the right to make mistakes

In sub-Sahara Africa, the concept of fake news is often abused to put pressure on journalists. Some countries’ laws provide for severe penalties without taking account of the intentions of journalists, who sometimes simply make mistakes.

In any case, the penalty is disproportionate to the seriousness of the news report, even if it is wrong. In Côte d’Ivoire, for example, insulting the head of state or the dissemination of false news reports may be enough for a journalist to be taken into custody, despite the fact that such offenses were meant to be decriminalized under the 2004 press law.

Last month, six senior Ivorian journalists, including three newspaper publishers, were detained and questioned in Abidjan, accused of “publishing false news” about an army mutiny earlier in the month.

In Madagascar, a new communications code has been strongly criticized by journalists for referring to the criminal code in its rulings on press offenses, which could lead to the criminalization of the profession. It provides for heavy fines for infringements ranging from insults to defamation, and refers to the dissemination of “false news,” an imprecise offense which removes the right of journalists to make mistakes.

In Somalia, the Universal TV channel was suspended on 5 March for broadcasting false reports alleged to have threatened the stability and peace of the region after it referred to overseas trips by the president.

Information control is key for those who want to impose their version of events

The South African government plans to impose a system of online control of the media in order to meet the “challenge” of “fake news.” Growing hostility to the media probably has its roots in an unprecedented crisis in President Jacob Zuma’s African National Congress, whose leaders tend increasingly to silence dissident voices.

In Burundi, the control of news and information is a key issue for the ruling authorities. The government fosters the idea that the media are partisan and that there is an international plot against the country.

Since 2015, any report or statement is instantly interpreted as either for, or against, the government and the goal of the authorities is to impose its version of events as the only one.

In Egypt, journalists are frequently accused of disseminating false information whenever they criticize the government, or report on sensitive issues that upset it. This widespread practice leads to self-censorship among journalists in their coverage of events for fear of joining the long list of colleagues who have been prosecuted and imprisoned.

The investigative journalist Ismail Alexandrani, an expert on the Sinai Peninsula, has been held since his arrest at Hurghada airport on the Red Sea in November 2015 on charges of publishing false information and of membership of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In Bahrain, the prominent citizen journalist and human rights campaigner, Nabeel Rajab, was accused last December of publishing false news about the kingdom of Bahrain in a cybercrime case. He could face up to two years’ imprisonment on this latest charge, which arises from interviews he gave in 2014 and 2015 to local and regional TV stations on human rights in Bahrain.

Fake news used by French politicians

The use of fake news to silence media critics is not the unique preserve of authoritarian or countries that are known for undermining press freedom. In France, the National Front, through its vice-president Florian Philippot, who has frequently categorized the work of journalists as “fake news.” During the program “l’Emission Politique” on the TV station France 2 on 9 February, in which National Front leader Marine Le Pen took part, the party set up a “fake news alert team” which posted some 20 real-time alerts online “whenever members of the team believed that France 2 journalists put out fake news.”

Presidential candidate François Fillon earlier this month accused TV news channels of falsely reporting that his wife has committed suicide, before admitting no such reports had been broadcast.

In Italy, Beppe Grillo, the leader of the Five Star movement, accused Italian journalists of “manufacturing false news” designed to harm his party. He called for the creation of “a popular jury to determine the veracity of the news published.”

The FNSI journalists’ union said it amounted to the “lynching of all journalists.” Five Star said journalists themselves were responsible for Italy’s low ranking in the World Press Freedom Index.

The United Nations concerned at growth of fake news

David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Organization of American States, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights issued a joint statement on March 3 expressing concern at the use of “fake news” for government propaganda and to curb press freedom. “Criminal defamation laws are unduly restrictive and should be abolished,” the signatories said.

State actors should, in accordance with their domestic and international legal obligations and their public duties, take care to ensure that they disseminate reliable and trustworthy information.

 

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Armagh
Murals on Irish Street, Armagh.

For St. Patrick’s Day

Hozier – Take Me To Church
https://youtu.be/PVjiKRfKpPI

Ciara Sidine – The Arms Of Summer
https://youtu.be/YUTZLzRBNXQ

The Corrs Unplugged
https://youtu.be/rO31RDWj0g4

Pádraig Mór & Sean Lyons – Song for Marcella
https://youtu.be/cGKPX67xAwQ

Chieftains Live Over Ireland – Water from the Well
https://youtu.be/u8lkptsqriQ

Sinéad O’Connor – Róisín Dubh
https://youtu.be/0YmmAQjCvQ0

In Tua Nua – Don’t Fear Me Now
https://youtu.be/5Kd7j5pDMxQ

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Velarde
Wilbur A. Velarde, US Coast Guard Reserve, whose promotion from Commander to Captain becomes effective starting in April.

Panama native, former PanCanal pilot rises
through the US Coast Guard officer corps

Wilbur A. Velarde was born in Panama, got some of his formal education at the Colegio Episcopal de Panama, worked as a Panama Canal pilot, lived in Gamboa (where his first child was born) and has immediate family members in Panama City and Las Uvas de San Carlos. He’s one of those Panagringos who has achieved distinction serving the United States and continues to do so. A diplomat in his “regular job” and an officer in the US Coast Guard Reserve, effective April 1 Velarde will be a Captain (O-6) when he wears the uniform.

After Colegio Episcopal, Velarde studied at the Lester B. Pearson United World College of the Pacific, where he got his international baccalaureate. In his higher education he got his bachelor’s of science degree in marine engineering at the US Coast Guard Academy and got master’s degrees from Eastern Connecticut State University (organizational management) and the Naval War College (national security and strategic studies).

With the Coast Guard Reserve Velarde works at the Office of International Affairs and Foreign Policy Advisor. In his civilian job at the US State Department he is a foreign service officer assigned to the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.

 

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Law 3 of 2008
This decree — found online at https://www.gacetaoficial.gob.pa/pdfTemp/25986/9070.pdf — is Panama’s basic immigration law. However, there are many regulations and policy interpretations that shape the way that this law is implemented.

US Embassy message for US Citizens in Panama

March 15, 2017

The US Embassy in Panama would like to inform all US Citizens in Panama that on March 6th 2017, the Panamanian Immigration Authority (Servicio Nacional de Migracion-SNM) announced new guidance for Panamanian immigration officials on the enforcement of pre-existing regulations. According to the SNM, immigration officials have been instructed to be stricter about the enforcement of the regulation that foreigners entering Panama with tourist status prove that they are in fact entering Panama as tourists and not residing in Panama. Since the announcement, the Consular Section has received many questions from US citizens about this new guidance. Below are the most frequently asked questions along with the responses the Consular Section received from the SNM. Should you have further questions, please reach out to the SNM directly via phone at 507-1800 or visit their website at: http://www.migracion.gob.pa

In order to re-enter Panama on tourist status, does a US Citizen need to return to their country of origin (the country from which they came into Panama) or can they return from a third-country (example: Costa Rica)?

Answer: In the new guidance SNM does not specify if the tourist needs to return his/her country of origin. What is being implemented is that, in most cases, the person needs to leave Panama for a minimum of 30 days before reentering as a tourist.

In order for a person to re-enter Panama on tourist status, what is the minimum amount of time the person needs to spend outside of Panama?

Answer: The new requirement that is being implemented by SNM in reference to time spent out of Panama is a minimum of 30 days before applying for admission, in most cases.

In order for a person to re-enter Panama on mariner visa status, what is the minimum amount of time the person needs to spend outside of Panama.

Answer: According to SNM, mariner visas are valid for 90 days and must be renewed on the 90th day, or the day before, from the date of the previous mariner visa stamp. Mariner visas can only be renewed once before the visa- holder needs to exit Panama. The amount of time the person with the mariner visa needs to stay outside of Panama is not specified by SNM.

If entering Panama on tourist status, does the method of entry need to match the method of exit (i.e. can a US Citizen enter Panama on a plane and use as proof of exit evidence that they own a boat in Panama and plan to exit via boat)?

Answer: The method of entry and exit into and out of Panama does not have to be the same so long as the entries and departures are met legally by using established Ports of Entry – land, maritime or air and admitted by a Panamanian immigration officer.

Do US Citizens with legal Panamanian residency status also require a roundtrip ticket when entering Panama?

Answer: No. A foreigner with legal residence in Panama does not need to show proof of exit from Panama.

Is a person applying for Panamanian residency required to stay in Panama for the entire duration of time required to complete the residency process? If so, what happens if the process takes more than the allotted six months for tourist status.

Answer: If the person has an ID that shows that his/her residency is in process, the person is fine to leave and return to Panama. If there is no ID, then the person should exit as a tourist (i.e., before the sixth month approaches).

How long does the FBI Identification Record process, required for purposes of obtaining residency in Panama, take? Can this process be expedited?

Answer: For information on the FBI identification record process, individuals may visit https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/identity-history-summary-checks. According to the FBI website, the current turnaround estimate for these records is 12 to 14 weeks plus the amount of time the results may take to arrive in the mail. Currently there is no option to receive the response electronically. For questions on this topic, individuals may call (304) 625-5590 or write an email to identity@ic.fbi.gov

Tourists are only allowed to drive in Panama for 90 days. Is there an exception for this given that tourists are allowed to stay in Panama for 180 days?

Answer: According to the Transit authority foreigners that enter Panama as tourists are not permitted to obtain Panamanian drivers’ licenses and are only allowed to drive with a foreign license for 90 days. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Can SNM waive the FBI Identification Record process if a person does not exit Panama for two years? If so, would there be an exception to the 180 day stay limit for tourists for a person trying to obtain this waiver?

Answer: If a person stays in Panama for more than two years then the FBI requirement does not apply. The waiver of the FBI requirement applies to those people that stay in Panama two years, without exiting. In these cases, a fine is paid by the person for overstaying their tourist visa and the person is only required to present a PNM police record rather than the FBI check.

 

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Weni
Weni Bagama, in the yellow nagua dress, under arrest. Archive photo by Chiriqui Natural.

Latest news about Barro Blanco

by Osvaldo Jordan — Alianza para la Conservacion y el Desarrollo (ACD)

Last week, on the twentieth anniversary of the Comarca, the Ngäbe-Bugle General Congress (delegates) ordered the resignation of its entire board for signing an unauthorized agreement with a Chinese company last year. This means that the new board will now have to start from scratch examining the Barro Blanco situation.

This breaking news had been completely silenced by the national media until Weni Bagama went onto prime time national TV to explain the situation two days before the hearing at the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHRC) in Washington, DC.

At this point, we should probably zero in on this hearing expecting the Government of Panama to give an official response to the M10 proposal of lowering the Barro Blanco reservoir before the Comarca level. Please try to watch this hearing live and engage international media to break the blockade that has been imposed in Panama.

Unfortunately, I also need tell you that we are still short on funds to cover all of the travel expenses.

You can pitch in for travel and other expenses by depositing money this this bank account in Panama:

Alianza para la Conservación y el Desarrollo (ACD)
Banistmo Cuenta #0101183912

or see

 

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BenDib The president is fooling himself. Is he fooling us, too?

by Jim Hightower — OtherWords

Some people who attain high public office grow in their position of trust. Some, however, just bloat.

Bloat has been on spectacular display in the first months of Donald Trump’s presidential tenure. He had a disastrous start, choosing a cabinet and staff mostly made up of ideological quacks, incompetents, and Wall Street grifters.

Yet, buoyed by his explosive ego, Trump pronounced his start historic: “I don’t think there’s ever been a president elected who in this short period of time has done what we’ve done,” he boasted at a recent news conference.

Sadly, he’s right.

For example, they made a reckless, unconstitutional attempt to ban millions of Muslim immigrants from our land. They had to ax the kooky guy Trump chose to be his national security adviser. And they’ve apparently been caught colluding with Russian meddlers in our politics.

Some record!

And now Trump has embraced a GOP replacement of Obamacare, hailing the “Trumpcare” substitute that will jack-up our health care costs, cut benefits, and eliminate coverage entirely for millions of working-class and poor people — while also sneaking in yet another underhanded tax cut for the rich.

It’s so awful that even hordes of Republican lawmakers have gagged, refusing to swallow it. Yet, lost in self-deception, Trump calls it “wonderful.”

We have a president who’s detached from reality, careening from one mess to another. But who will say: “The emperor has no clothes”?

He’s so far gone that when he read his recent address to Congress straight off the teleprompter, without his usual pugnacious ranting, Republican enablers of his antics and even the media establishment applauded him for being “presidential.”

Huh? The speech was a nasty wad of lies and right-wing nonsense. If the occasional appearance of sanity is all we ask of Trump, then his reign of insanity will be our fault.

 

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