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Carbon Market Watch, Barro Blanco carbon credits withdrawn

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la lucha
This battle has been waged on many levels. Photo #TabasaráLibre.

Panama withdraws UN registration for Barro Blanco dam

by Carbon Market Watch

Last week, Panama withdrew its registration of the controversial Barro Blanco hydro dam project, setting a precedent under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). While this decision is a step in the right direction for climate action, lessons need to be learned to ensure that the rights of local communities in Panama and around the world are fully protected.

Following years of controversy, and challenges made by the indigenous Ngäbe and the international community, the CDM Executive Board formally considered and agreed to deregister the Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam at its 92nd meeting. This marks the first time a host country has withdrawn registration of a CDM project and effectively stops Barro Blanco from issuing offset credits. Panama claims that the project design document is no longer corresponding to its current environmental impact assessment.

“We welcome this unprecedented and bold move by the Panamanian government. By deregistering the Barro Blanco project, Panama has sent a strong signal to the UNFCCC that climate solutions must respect human rights. It is clear that the CDM standards—which have failed to protect the Ngäbe communities—must be strengthened” says Alyssa Johl, founder of the Climate Rights Collective.

Since breaking ground almost 10 years ago, the local affected indigenous Ngäbe communities have opposed the project as the dam reservoir is expected to flood homes and religious and cultural sites. The project developer GENISA failed to effectively consult or obtain the Ngäbe’s free, prior and informed consent before it began implementation.

“Unfortunately, this withdrawal will not have a direct effect on the local affected stakeholders who are currently being inundated by the flooding of Barro Blanco’s reservoir. We hope this move will also create a momentum for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. We call on the government to empty the reservoir below the comarca (indigenous territory) line and to engage in conversations to find an equitable solution involving all affected stakeholders” says Osvaldo Jordan, director of Alianza para la Conservación y el Desarrollo.

The CDM has a dual purpose: to reduce emissions and to promote sustainable development in developing countries, presumably by encouraging investments that achieve cost-efficient emission reductions additional to what would otherwise have occurred. Several CDM projects, however, have lacked environmental integrity, failed to contribute to sustainable development, and others have had serious social, environmental and human rights consequences.

“We call on Parties to learn from the Barro Blanco project to improve stakeholder consultation and to develop robust social and environmental safeguards for future market mechanisms, already common among multilateral financial institutions” says Juliane Voigt, Carbon Market Watch Policy officer for sustainable development.

The Paris Agreement created two new carbon market provisions which must deliver sustainable development benefits. Technical discussions on further details of these provisions are currently under negotiation at COP 22.

 

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Tuesday: voters from several states can still vote via the US Embassy here

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It’s too late for you ballot to get to the States via the embassy’s diplomatic pouch in time for Election Day, but in some states what counts is when the ballot is sent, not when it is received.

Tuesday, last day to vote via the US Embassy’s free diplomatic mail

only useful if you vote in Florida, North Carolina, California, Colorado, Arizona or Wisconsin

Updating a Florida election law change:

From Florida’s official voting infomation website, at http://dos.myflorida.com/elections/for-voters/voting/military-and-overseas-citizens-voting/

FL rule for overseas voters
This law went into effect in July, as a little-noticed add-on to other things.

What happened here was that the State of Florida changed its rules for overseas voters in July and the state-by-state online voting guides upon which The Panama News and Democrats Abroad relied didn’t catch the change. But now we did and you can vote tomorrow by sending your ballot through the American Embassy in Clayton before 3 p.m.

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The federal write-in ballot:

To vote from abroad in any state you must have registered to vote and requested a ballot, but if your ballot never came you can download, print out, fill out and mail in a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot. Find the downloadable and printable form at https://www.fvap.gov/uploads/FVAP/Forms/fwab2013.pdf

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Debunking disinformation

The scam:

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They LIE! Take them away. But cast a real vote that counts, first.

The real deal:

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HOWEVER:

There are 23 states, under a bewildering array of different rules, that do allow you to send in a ballot by fax or email. For more information on this email the 24/7 Democrats Abroad Voting Help Desk at gotv@democratsabroad.org

 

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George Scribner’s 2017 calendar, etc.

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Scribner CalendarTo order your calendar, click here. It’s $25, which includes postage and tax.

New stuff from Panama’s own Disney imagineer, painter George Scribner

 

big container ship

 

 sewing

 

Upcoming workshops

I’ll be doing workshops in Sonoma and Westlake Village in January 2017. In February 2017 I’ll be in new Smyrna Beach Florida. Here’s the link to my site and more information.

 

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Independence Day in El Nancito de Remedios

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Independence Day in El Nancito

photos by Kermit Nourse

El Nancito is a community in eastern Chiriqui’s Remedios district, not far from Tole and not far from the Ngabe-Bugle Comarca. On Independence Day they had a parade with 26 marching bands from area schools. Most of the participants were indigenous, but the holiday is national and pomp and ceremony were rather mainstream Panamanian.

 

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parade in the rain

 

teachers

 

desfile rojo 1

 

desfile rojo 2

 

desfile blanco

 

montun@s

 

percusión

 

desfile verde 1

 

desfile verde 2

 

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Scenes from Anton’s parade

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Scenes from Anton’s parade

photos by Eric Jackson

 

majorette 1

 

pied piper

 

Mein Gott!

 

lewd pulsating...

 

...jungle rhythms

 

majorette 2

 

chimes

 

pollera 12

 

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¿Wappin? Holiday free form

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Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir, of the band Of Monsters And Men.
Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir, of the band Of Monsters And Men.

Holiday weekend free form

Café Tacvba – Un Par De Lugares
https://youtu.be/8JrJX_ctOtU

Bill Withers – Lean On Me
https://youtu.be/MYI0AoXlOwE

Sia – Jesus Wept
https://youtu.be/e7YY0Bv9UUU

Bruce Springsteen – Atlantic City
https://youtu.be/727Oia_aRJw

Cienfue – Ella es mi Patria Torturada
https://youtu.be/QLcNq9UN_II

Townes Van Zandt – Pancho and Lefty
https://youtu.be/8SjwO17gsqU

Bob Dylan – Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
https://youtu.be/e3CEvbi5_Sc

General Soundbwoy – Locked Out Of Heaven
https://youtu.be/CufuMrcWoXw

The Weekend – The Hills
https://youtu.be/yzTuBuRdAyA

Of Monsters And Men – Dirty Paws
https://youtu.be/mCHUw7ACS8o

Bob Marley – Crazy Baldhead
https://youtu.be/k34boxNrqL8

Lady Gaga – Million Reasons
https://youtu.be/WYRJ-ryPEu0

Francisca Valenzuela – Prenderemos Fuego al Cielo
https://youtu.be/YeEhBFG4Lgk

Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough https://youtu.be/Xz-UvQYAmbg

Kafu Banton w/ Raices y Cultura – En Vivo 2012
https://youtu.be/Wn2ihY_W0MU

 

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Not too much done at the legislative session’s end

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On October 27 they passed the nation’s general budget, but did little more over the next four days. Photo by the Asamblea Nacional.

No end of session rush, no midnight motions this time

by Eric Jackson

The norm for this part of a presidential term is that the president has a reasonably strong grip on the legislature, but within the National Assembly there are more deputies asking “What’s in it for me?” or “What’s in it for my constituents?” or “What’s in it for my party?” for straightforward appeals to patriotism or good government to be all that effective. Thus, within a framework set by the executive branch, the end of a legislative session tends to feature frenzied horse-trading and the high probability of the madrugonazo, the reprehensible and unpopular amendment suddenly inserted into the law at in a wee hours meeting.

This legislature, however, is broken into five major pieces and several smaller chunks, with no party close to holding a functional majority. The two largest caucuses, the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) and Cambio Democratico (CD), are each split in two. The president’s Panameñista Party holds only 17 seats in a 71-member assembly. Add an independent, the sole Partido Popular deputy and a few who still sport the moribund MOLIRENA party ticket and it all gets down to haggling to get anything at all done. Meanwhile, after rebellions that have weakened by not definitively deposed the PRD and CD bosses, would-be de facto successors are trying to put their parties back together in time for the 2019 elections. Figure about six dozen calculating control freaks in a room where control is hard to come by and calculations difficult to make. The control levers of momentary contention would be one of the three seats on the Electoral Tribunal and the writing of election laws that will apply in 2019. The rules for the selection of delegates to a constitutional convention ought to be a more immediate question, but all factions are terrified of that prospect because none of them can be assured to control such a process. They put that off and they avoid provoking a constitutional crisis that would make such a special election unavoidable. Within the alliance of Panameñistas, a PRD faction and a CD faction that holds a legislative majority, they try to avoid controversies that might break that up. It enhances the risks and reduces the opportunities for political hardball.

The budget

What if they get so jammed up that they can’t pass a budget? Then under the constitution the previous year’s budget repeats itself even if it never precisely can, at least not without government workers denied their contractual raises walking out on strike. President Varela sent the deputies a budget calculated not to inflame, and deputies made changes that are unlikely to cost any of them their jobs. The end product was $21.675 billion budget, $just $5 million more than the president asked. The raise was for salaries to pay local vice majors and the representantes’ suplentes, the expense of which was partially offset by cuts elsewhere. Nearly half — 49.1 percent — is the general operating fund, the lion’s share for salaries. More than one-third — 34.9 percent — is capital outlay, with road widening and connecting roads between the bridges and San Carlos, sewer and sewage treatment works in the metro area and across the canal in Arraijan and La Chorrera, and the renovation of Colon’s city center as the more noteworthy big ticket items. The rest goes toward payments on the national debt. Spending on the canal and various authorities are largely “off the budget” and dealt with separately.

Elections impasse

The Electoral Tribunal, after a long process of public hearings, presented a set of proposed election law reforms that gave the parties protection by making it harder for independent candidates, limited campaign spending to 50¢ per voter and restored the “plancha” method of transferring the votes of less successful candidates on a party ticket to their parties’ leading vote-getters in multi-member legislative circuits. In committee the spending cap was raised to $5 per voter, which split the ultra-rich power brokers between those who would like to see their costs reduced and those who would like to see their political dominance enhanced, enraged political reformers and delighted the television stations. An avalanche of 30 proposed amendments came down before the echoes of the public outcry died out and the possibility of passing the law in the regular session evaporated. Election law changes will come up in a special session if the president calls for one, or when the next session starts in January.

At the end of December the term of electoral magistrate Erasmo Pinilla ends and his replacement is a hot-button item. Pinilla came to the Electoral Tribunal from the PRD, and although people resign from parties and at least pretend to have no partisan loyalties with they take such judicial posts, with Pinilla gone the tribunal has one magistrate with PRD roots and another from CD. The Panameñistas figure that they ought to get the other spot but the warring factions of the PRD are united in rejecting that, or at least rejecting the president’s party’s favorite nominee. A divided CD leaves the Panemeñistas short of the votes they need by aligning with those anti-Martinelli CD deputies who are otherwise their allies in the legislature. Thus the appointment of a new magistrate, which was supposed to happen in the regular session, was also put off.

In the middle of this the PRD held its party congress on October 30, with the leader of on of the Torrista factions winning the secretary general post and the other faction’s leader getting re-elected as party president. Pedro Miguel Gomzález, the new secretary general and leader of those PRD deputies who formed a coalition with the Panameñistas and a CD faction to control the National Assembly, appears to have the upper hand within the party against president Benicio Robinson, who has more legislators in his group than does González in his. But it seems that after a bitter intra-party fight there is now a move toward some sort of unity and this is being played out over both the election of a new magistrate and in the disputes over election laws. Either in a special election or early next year in the next session, look for a negotiation between a somewhat united PRD and other factions that will probably bundle election laws and the choice of a new magistrate into a compromise. But it might turn out to be best for the Panameñistas or CD or both to walk away from any deal with the PRD and use that posture as a springboard for their 2019 campaign.

Also passed, securities law reform

The Securities Markets Superintendency is a surviving bastion of opacity, corruption and conspicuous displays of wealth by functionaries whose salaries wouldn’t support that. Plus, it has been more or less stripped of jurisdiction over securities trading other than through Panama’s puny Bolsa de Valores. So the legislature just passed a law to replace the superintendency with a new Securities Markets Commission, which will also have jurisdiction over shares traded over the counter. There was very little argument. A number of those who might be expected to argue are fugitives, here and subject to criminal proceedings or so closely aligned to people ensnared in high-profile corruption cases that it’s prudent for them to shut up about it. With the world looking askance at Panama’s entire financial system, Panama really did need to clean up this corner of the house in the wake of the notorious court ruling that insider trading from Panama of shares not traded on Panama’s Bolsa de Valores is legal.

Not passed, but not killed, sex education

Panama has a high rate of teenage pregnancy and strong public support for sex education in the schools. Legislation to provide for such instruction passed in committee this year, but was returned by the National Assembly plenum for more study after a furious campaign by churches. A lot of that campaign was by zealots who believe in the absolute inerrancy of the Bible except for the bit about false witness, so back in the Labor Committee, where the measure was sent, the objections were systematically addressed. No, the schools will not be passing out contraceptives. No, the contents of sex education materials and lectures will not be kept secret from parents. The proposal is coming back to the legislature in January.

Deep-sixed, university rectors’ re-election

The audits and criminal investigations following the end of the University of Panama’s generation under Gustavo García de Paredes are not close to over and the people who brought an end to that do not propose to start such a thing again under a new rector. Over at the Tecnologico, which seceded from the University of Panama in the 1970s, there is also no urge to have an entrenched machine. But a move was made in the legislature to specifically allow public university rectors to be re-elected and this was to entrench the leadership of the National Autonomous University of Chiriqui. The bill was jammed through committee, but after protests from almost every corner of Panama’s academia it was pulled off of the assembly’s agenda. This thing isn’t coming back anytime soon. UNACHI is going to have to choose new leaders.

 

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What Republicans are saying

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What Republicans are saying

 

 

 

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What local Democrats are saying

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J Edgar
There is a history that informs some of the perceptions and reactions.

What local Democrats are saying

point and counter-point in Democrats Abroad Panama

Investigation by innuendo

FBI Director James Comey revealed on Wednesday that the Bureau was investigating Hillary Clinton’s ties to Bill Clinton. But there was no way the FBI could divulge the results of its Clinton-Clinton probe before Election Day. “We have reason to believe that the ties between these two individuals go back to the nineteen-seventies,” he said. “This will take some time.”

Andy Borowitz
The New Yorker, November 2

Comey knows better. When an investigation is opened, the FBI must shut up and either indict or drop the probe. That’s been the protocol since J. Edgar Hoover illegally wiretapped Martin Luther King Jr.’s philandering and played the tapes for the amusement of the Kennedys and Hoover’s male cronies. This was followed by an anonymous FBI letter sent to King suggesting he should commit suicide rather than accept the Nobel Peace Prize.

I am in favor of government transparency, but not when it collides with basic human rights, or interferes with an election, a violation of the 1938 Hatch Act. The public announcement of the dropping of the Hillary Clinton emails probe should have been left to the Department of Justice and accompanied by a ‘no comment,’ rather than Comey’s lengthy obiter dictum. As for the Anthony Weiner computer files, Comey had no mandate to disclose the launching of that investigation or to qualify the files as ‘pertinent’ to Clinton but not necessarily ‘significant.’

FBI protocol and government ethics forbid Comey’s showboating described above. It creates a trial by innuendo and can weaken a prosecution via the intimidation of witnesses, destruction of documents, or the disappearance of the defendant. More generically, in A Man for All Seasons, Sir Thomas More responds to the argument that government lawbreaking can be justified for the greater good. More countered: “And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, the laws all being flat?”

Prediction: Within a few months, no matter who is elected, James Comey will be gone. Ostensibly — ‘for the good of the Bureau.’

Phil Edmonston
Chair, Democrats Abroad Panama

Sunshine’s a good broad-spectrum disinfectant

I am a Democrat and I voted for Hillary Clinton for president. I am also a journalist. I am a believer in freedom of information, open meetings and in general “government in the sunshine.” I have also over the years been an activist for the cause of amnesty for political prisoners, including those in the United States. These things sometimes put me at odds with the Obama administration, with the FBI or with Hillary Clinton.

Did the FBI stumble across new information about an emails investigation that had found only a gaffe but no crime, but determine that the new data needed to be evaluated? I think it was the right of Congress to know, irresponsible purveyors of bad fiction that the institution’s GOP leaders might be. The fanciful and downright paranoiac Republican spins, and the reminder that not only Hillary Clinton’s husband but the estranged husband of her aide Huma Abedin tend to get into problematic situations, do not help the Clinton campaign. However, I think that American voters will understand that the Democratic candidate for president is Hillary Clinton and will make their choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, as it is.

And what about the FBI releasing 16-year-old documents about a presidential pardon? If someone had filed a Freedom of Information Act request for that material, it should have been released. If the FBI director decided without such a request to introduce this stuff into the late stages of an election campaign, that’s obnoxious.

The FBI, like the armed forces, ought to be subject to the control of democratically elected civilians. As an institution, do they dislike the use of the constitutional pardon power? That’s not their decision and if it were the country would have taken a step toward an unchecked police state.

But what’s the best protection against both a police state and corruption in high places? A fully informed public.

Eric Jackson
Communications Director, Democrats Abroad Panama

 

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Panama’s Independence Day

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Today Panamanians remember, celebrate and look ahead

On this day in 1903, Panama became its own country in a coup organized by a mostly US-owned railroad company and backed by local members of the Conservative Party and the military forces of the United States. The shape of what was created soon emerged: rather than a fully independent republic, a US protectorate bisected by a US colony. But Panamanians, including the Liberals, who were starved, battered and exhausted from a recently concluded vicious civil war, accepted that and moved on from there.

Panamanians who were not Conservatives and who did not especially love the Americans accepted it because life as part of Colombia held the prospect of endless civil conflicts and weird decisions about the isthmus by people in Bogota who were motivated by other concerns. Separation from Colombia was not a nationalist revolution, but it gave Panamanians a chance to establish a national existence that suits us. Panamanian nationalism emerged in the effort to make the country whole and sovereign despite the impositions of the United States, and to make the Panamanian people prosperous and sovereign despite the impositions of these grasping little local elites. There has been much progress in both of these endeavors, but there have been setbacks and neither Panama nor Panamanians are as free as ought to be the case.

Today we celebrate the difficult birth of a dream that lives and grows stronger despite everything. The world may stereotype us, the official response to real things that the world points out may be unreasonable denial and we may suffer from lapses of confidence or courage. Still, in our unique and sometimes downright strange mix we know who we are and we care about this country.

bandera
Panama’s flag. Archive photo from Wikimedia ~ Bandera nacional. Foto archivo desde Wikimedia.

 

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