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Internet Social Forum, The Internet needs social justice movements

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ISF

Why the Internet’s future needs social justice movements

by the Internet Social Forum

1. Introduction

The Internet and the electronic networking revolution, like previous technological shifts, holds out the promise of a better and more equitable world for all. Yet it is increasingly evident that certain elites are capturing the benefits of these developments largely for themselves and consolidating their overall positions of control. Global corporations, often in partnership with governments, are framing and constructing this new society in their own interests, at the expense of what is required in the wider public interest.

Several core sectors in wealthy, developing, and less developed countries alike are already seeing major disruption and transformation: retail shopping by Amazon, media by Facebook, the hotel sector by AirBnB, taxis by Uber. And Google and Apple are well advanced in digitally valorizing and commodifying the minutest aspects of our personal and social lives. On the surface, many of the new services and delivery models seem benign, even positive, and indeed they do bring tangible benefits to some people and institutions, so much so that many are willing participants in relinquishing personal data and privacy.

However, deeper analysis reveals shifts below the radar, triggering more fundamental societal changes and generating new forms of inequality and a deepening of existing social divisions. Unchecked, these could be forerunners of digitally-enabled business models and institutional dynamics that seriously undermine rights hard-won by workers and citizens and that significantly erode welfare regimes and, ultimately, democratic institutions. Analytical rigor and engaged activism must be applied to critique these emerging social and business models and to develop appropriate alternatives that actively promote social justice.

This applies particularly to the internal transformation of sectors, enabled by micro data aggregation and analysis at a global level. “Big data” is thereby creating new paradigms across many areas — for instance the idea of “smart cities” is presented as the new model of data-based governance potentially supplanting political and democratic processes. Yet these changes — unlike those at the consumer level — are largely invisible. They are transforming the terms and conditions by which people are employed and work, the knowledge they have access to, basic economic power relations, and ultimately the rights to which people are entitled. The implementation of these paradigms can, and will, impact everyone as their influence spreads through social and economic sectors and enters the mainstream in all countries, and for all socio-economic classes.

Challenging these dynamics is vitally important, and urgent, in the fast moving formative period of a new social paradigm, where almost all industrial-era social institutions are being undermined by the transformative force of a networking and data revolution. It is now, at this ‘design phase,’ that the engagement of progressive social movements will be most fruitful.

Yet while the dominant actors are densely networked and well on their way to shaping the digital society in their interests, progressive forces are only at the early stages of defining the contours of the issues and identifying the problems, usually around one specific issue; very little progress has been made in networking, developing appropriate collaborations and alternatives, strategizing and moving into action at a broader level.

The Internet Social Forum (ISF), through its various events and actions, will offer a response to this based on the real struggles of those fighting for social justice. It will build a dynamic and productive space for dialogue and action across different social sectors and interest groups that can raise awareness, inform, educate, and mobilize global civil society to bring about political change. From this space we will actively seek out and implement concrete and coherent alternatives. These will guide and energize the emerging innovative social movements, and lead toward a more sustainable development path that reinforces human rights and social justice outcomes.

The idea of launching an ISF first took root as a legacy of civil society’s accomplishments during the two UN World Summits on the Information Society (WSIS) in 2003 and 2005. However, with hindsight, ISF collective members now perceive that the vision and scope emerging from these were focused too narrowly on concerns about the Internet and ICTs and not enough on how these could and now are transforming cultural, political, social and economic life. As a Thematic Forum of the World Social Forum, and in pursuit of its principles, the ISF takes inspiration from its maxim: “Another world is possible” in this domain too.

The ISF process is still in its early days, but the ideological machines advancing a new normal are already moving into high gear. Utopian futures are being sold to the public: a world of free services and growing convenience and leisure. Such futures must be radically critiqued and exposed for what they are — the latest wave of technology-enabled capital accumulation. This wave is particularly dangerous given the transformational potential of these technological changes and their timing during an era in which neo-liberalism — despite being debunked in theory and practice — still firmly drives the global agenda.

As the challenge to much wider societal issues grows, and the dangers of undermining hard-won gains in social justice across sectors (health, education, environment, gender equality, economic development, etc.) become very real, the ISF facilitating group calls upon social justice movements around the world, as well as other concerned individuals and organizations, to engage with the ISF process.

2. Disturbing global trends

Global society is now on the brink of a profound shift, driven by the rapidly emerging dominance of a new breed of transnational and neo-liberal corporate entity, equipped with a persuasive rationale for why private industry should not only play a part in but also lead in solving many of society’s most severe and urgent problems. Concerns over how the evolution of the Internet is impacting the social and economic environment, including the new areas of risk such as data mining and surveillance, pale into insignificance against the alarming possibilities that open up as this new big data driven paradigm enters the fabric and formative structuring of mainstream economy, society, and culture.

The first generation of transnational Internet and social media corporations stand accused, with some justification, of weakening collective identity, eroding any sense of privacy, and diminishing citizen or even consumer capacity for action. Other corporate players, from agro-chemicals to hospitality, many of them new, as they move to networking and data-centered business models, are poised to fully exploit this “new normal,” transforming one social and economic sector after another into machines for profit generation, very often at the expense of public services and spaces, and of rights and freedoms won over many generations.

Moreover, computer algorithms/artificial intelligence increasingly become a part, not only of surveillance, but also of policing, credit provision, education, employment, healthcare and many other areas, including in the public sector. There is a thus a growing risk of inheriting and entrenching the bias of data collected by institutions leading to a deepening of racist, sexist, ethnic, social class or age discrimination.

Social justice activists and movements everywhere must be concerned with these hugely significant issues and developments. Through concerted action, social justice activists are also essential to stemming the tide of these troubling trends and to developing alternative perspectives and options.

In the global context, current internet governance structures are largely under the control of corporations and their friends in major governments. Such strategic partnerships seek to remold global governance structures to align more with corporate interests and the interests of capital than with the broader public interest, even while appearing to include all ‘stakeholders’ as partners in decision making. Ultimately it is, at least in effect, part of a broader implicit agenda intent on replacing existing democratic global governance structures, however flawed, with even more opaque and ‘top-down’ governance by corporations. This would render national governments, even where they genuinely represent the public interest, and ‘bottom-up,’ participative, democratic processes, ever more redundant against corporate forces.

In essence, we are witnessing an assault, slowly but inexorably gaining momentum, on numerous fronts, but most importantly on the very idea of social justice. Its outcome, if successful, would be to dramatically reduce the significance of participatory democratic structures as core and legitimate goals for society.

To fully grasp the risks involved with these disturbing trends, to strategically build opposition to them, and to design and build effective alternatives, we need to initiate and sustain deep exploration of these dynamics coordinated around long-term engagement in actions focused on systemic change.

3. Building alternatives, together, through the ISF

Strategically interconnected neo-liberal interests across the globe are intent on capturing forever the power of these technologies to further their dominance. The alternative is not just to slow down, or even halt, this process, but to reclaim these technologies so that they promote and advance social justice.

Although the digital is connected to social justice through its impact in specific sectors — governance and democracy, education, health, labor rights, public services including welfare, gender equality, environment, and so on — it cannot be understood and addressed from within each sector in isolation. In addition to a sector-specific understanding and response, it is important to address the phenomenon as a meta-level or infrastructural element as it envelops new and emerging social structures and dynamics as a whole. Most sectoral response has focused on practical applications (or, at best, specific adverse impacts) of the digital phenomenon, and not its structural constructs and directions, which in any case are difficult to articulate and address from within any one sector. Yet in its very form and the nature of its impact, the digital revolution calls for a holistic, cross-sectoral response.

A space is needed that facilitates and nurtures social-justice oriented reflective learning and action on what all this means, and how best to address it. This is why the ISF seeks to engage with those already involved in social justice struggles across a whole range of issues and sectors.

Thorough analysis and critique as well as positive intervention experiences will reveal insights into how these same technologies can be turned towards social justice and democracy ends.

Among questions to be addressed are:

  • What does social justice mean in the context of digitally induced transformations across issues and sectors (environment, public safety, education, transportation, public health, national security, immigration, etc.)?
  • How are these digital trends already impacting social justice movements around the globe?
  • How can the new business practices that dominate the digital age be effectively analyzed, critiqued, and influenced?
  • What are the implications of these trends for global governance of the Internet, and for governance structures more broadly — as also for governance and democracy, generally?

The ISF collective would discover, document, and support promising alternatives such as the following, illustrative, list:

  • Ways in which the world of Internet, “big data” and “artificial intelligence” can work for the social good, and the governance structures needed to achieve that.
  • Civil society and social movement media that can be used to educate, inform, and engage local to global responses and activities.
  • Community-owned technology systems that serve as alternatives to government or corporate controlled digital infrastructures.
  • Commoning projects around the world (open source, open knowledge, etc.) and the solidarity economy movement.
  • Internet tools to support social justice movements, and how to link with Internet activists to build these.
  • Examples of effective stakeholder activism (for instance advances in Internet and privacy rights, movements that promote net neutrality or oppose zero-rating, social-justice oriented shareholder activism across industry sectors).
  • Fighting surveillance by supporting security based on enhancing the fundamental rights of the end-user via strong encryption and privacy-enhancing technologies, rather than the cybersecurity discourse of corporations and governments.
  • Examples of gender equity/women’s rights successes in ICT policymaking.
  • Specific perspectives and approaches that young people can bring, growing up as ‘digital natives,’ as prime targets of digital corporate strategies, and as among the most articulate and creative builders of alternatives.

The Internet Social Forum collective encourages interested groups or persons to contact us by writing to: secretariat@internetsocialforum.net

 

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Toro knocked out on a split decision: new era for the PRD

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PMG
Pedro Miguel González — still wanted by US authorities on an old terrorism warrant, but the PRD wanted him for something else. Photo by the Asamblea Nacional.

PRD elects rival deputies at its head, but the “dissident” seems to have the upper hand

by Eric Jackson

What’s the most important party office for Panama’s Democratic Revolutionary Party? At its inception all of those technicalities paled before the power of the commander of the Panama Defense Forces. After the 1989 invasion until the wake of the 2014 elections, it was the secretary general. Then legislator Benicio Robinson tightened his grip on the party presidency and by some rule changes and the acceptance of a pliant secretary general (Carlos Pérez Herrera) he assumed much of the role that the secretary general had previously played. But Robinson then lost control over much of his party’s legislative caucus, much meaningful influence over the legislature and prestige in the eyes of a lot of party members via his suggestion of an alliance with fugitive former President Ricardo Martinelli.

In a showdown that culminated in an October 30 party congress, slates led by Robinson and the leading PRD dissident legislator, Pedro Miguel González, did battle. But they didn’t actually run against one another. Robinson sought re-election as president with former President Ernesto “Toro” Pérez Balladares on his slate as the candidate for secretary general, while González sought the secretary general post on a slate with former health minister Camilo Alleyne running for president. More than 4,000 delegates were eligible to vote and the elected both Robinson and González, with 2,112 votes and 2,413 votes respectively.

The individual vote counts may not much reflect their relative prestige within the party, because González was surely boosted by that very Panamanian sentiment that one term as president of the republic should be all that a person gets. As he did on his way to the presidency in 1994, Toro sought to use the secretary general post as his stepping stone. But as the general electorate decided in the 1998 re-election referendum, the PRD delegates decided that Panama has had enough of Toro. Pérez Balladares apparently recognized the significance of the delegates’ decision in a Twitter message: “The party has chosen its course. They didn’t share my vision. I respect them and I wish them luck.”

If Toro is now effectively out of the running for the 2019 PRD presidential nomination, that leaves former agriculture minister Laurentino “Nito” Cortizo as the top contender in the polls, with some people mentioning Comptroller General Federico Humbert as another possible candidate. Cortizo quit over the US-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement, whereas Humbert has impeccable establishment credentials. González said that the PRD would return to its roots as the party of the campesinos and indigenous people but that characterization would surely be disputed from several angles.

It does appear, however, that the González slate has more votes than the Robinson people at the sharply divided upper levels of the party. Robinson’ pliant secretary general? Carlos Pérez Herrera sought to be the party’s first vice president, serving under Robinson, but he was defeated by Doris Zapata of the González slate, 1,975 to 1,551 in a three-way race. González ally Miguel Sierra won the second vice president post, and by most counts, including González’s without any expressed contradiction from Robinson, there will be the votes to revise the party statutes and presumably trim the powers that Robinson added to the presidency.

In the legislature there seems to be a truce within the PRD, with both factions closing ranks to block the Panameñista choice for a new magistrate on the Electoral Tribunal, a deadlock that probably means a special legislative session to deal with that appointment and the also stalled changes to the Electoral Code. An attempt at a package deal on those matters is to be expected and it might signal a new set of alignments in the National Assembly.

 

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Gandásegui, Another US-Panama clash?

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cash raceRisk of a collision between Panama and the USA

by Marco A. Gandásegui, hijo

The interests of the North American financial center, whose seat is in Manhattan, with all of their global ramifications as well as Washington’s political interests, are not alien to that which is regularly published in The New York Times. Panama and the rest of the world’s countries are systematically caricaturized by an establishment that seeks to mystify and cover up their blacked out financial transactions that ever more serve to underdevelop people around the world.

A little while ago USAID (a US government agency) and others pointed out the papers of the law firm Mossack Fonseca, with its headquarters in Panama. Later the US Department of the Treasury put the spotlight on the Waked Group of companies, which was put on its “Clinton List.” More recently the Times washed all of the Panama Canal Authority’s dirty laundry with respect to the canal expansion (and in passing that of the country).

That last coverage was full of half-truths. It’s the same institution that published the Times reports attacking Noriega between 1987 and 1989, that opposed the Omar Torrijos foreign policy, that put its spin on the January 1964 student insurrection — and we can go back accumulating examples into the 19th century.

The reporting about the contradictions that characterized the canal modernization attempts to belittle the Panama Canal’s expansion and take advantage of the weaknesses that surrounded the megaproject. It started with the group that won the contract to build the new locks. It ended with the composition and dubious reputation of the ACP board of directors. On the way it visited the doubts about the new locks’ engineering. All of the rumors circulating among the workers gave the Times take a spicy flavor.

The Wall Street bankers, who still feel like they are the owners of the interoceanic waterway, face major competitors both on the global scale and on the isthmus. They are very weak here, almost out of the contest. In the first place, the international community wants to see a canal that’s capable of satisfying the trade demands of the countries on the shores of the world’s two biggest oceans. At the forefront of this sentiment is the waterway’s second largest user, the People’s Republic of China. One quarter of their exports — especially to the USA — depend on the Panama Canal.

Also out of it is the Panamanian government, absent and incapable of confronting any US intelligence and information offensive. Panama was militarily invaded in 1989 and since then has has no autonomy from Washington’s policies.

If the Panamanian elite don’t react intelligently to the American attacks in the short term, they will have to face a crisis similar to many others that are well known over the last 160 years of ur history. This crisis represents dangers, but also opportunies. But what are the opportunities of which Panama might take advantage?

There are several ways out of the trap that the United States has set for Panama’s dysfunctional oligarchy — and in passing, for all Panamanians. The first is that some sector can unite the different social sectors of the country around a clear and precise objective that identifies a national project. The elite seem to have that ability.

The second is to gather the countries of the region in a conference or alliance that undertakes a careful analysis of the relations between Panama and the United States. Something like the “Torrijista Way,” or the 1826 proposal of the Liberator Simón Bolívar, who convened the Anfictionic Congress in Panama City, with plenipotentiaries from all of the recently independent republics.

Third would be to take the problem (with all of the intelligence information about it) to the United Nations, where countries like China and others would have a voice that would allow Panama to face the United States with more opportunities than it presently has.

The Americans and their mouthpiece, The New York Times, know that the Panamanian oligarchy is divided and at this point are fighting among themselves over the lucrative business of the proposed port at Corozal on the canal’s southern entrance. Their myopia only lets them see the glitter of gold that the land along the canal represents.They do not realize that there is a whole country that’s eager to work and build a nation that will benefit its future generations. The oligarchy has to give up the helm before it’s too late.

 

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Editorials: Election “reform;” and Those emails

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sexual buffalo chips
Legislator Sergio “The Sexual Buffalo” Gálvez’s gift stash. The Electoral Tribunal and some legislators want to end this kind of campaigning, but most of the politicians want to extend it.

A failed effort to rig a failed system

The Electoral Tribunal submitted a tepid but generally progressive set of election law changes to the National Assembly. Then the political caste and their financiers submitted some 30 amendments, almost all of them designed to strengthen the role of secret money, reduce public participation and shore up the powers of discredited party bosses. They got to arguing among themselves about which faction should be favored by which tweaks, and the whole mess was put off until the next legislative session, which might or might not be a special session to deal with the matter.

President Varela would be well advised not to call a special session, but instead to act on convening a constitutional convention that would supersede all of these ugly maneuvers. But of course, the rules for electing delegates to a such a constituent assembly would also be central to the process.

Doesn’t the president get it? Panama’s problems won’t be addressed by a photo op, a press release, a television appearance, an unpublished study, a few tweaks to an unfair law or the report of a blue ribbon committee of the most illustrious surnames of the white minority. We need basic changes in the ways we run our public affairs, based on meaningful, informed and equitable participation by all sectors of the Panamanian people.

If that’s what Varela’s money people and party leaders don’t want, he should stop listening to them for a moment and consider the international disrepute and consequent problems that this crowd has brought down upon Panama. It is to the point that the old games don’t work anymore.

It matters whether those emails say…

“Hey Vladimir, the missile code is _____” or

“Anthony, you disgusting pervert! I’m personally too busy to step on a worm like you at the moment, but be assured that there will be payback for the grief and distractions you are causing for my right-hand woman.”

Probably the new emails on which Donald Trump and his gang of deplorable white supremacists hang their White House ambitions say neither thing — but we don’t know, and neither does Donald Trump. Nobody should change his or her vote because of this latest thing without the facts having been disclosed, which they have not been so far.

The FBI appears to be playing events by the book. New evidence comes in on an old investigation, and it gets examined. Don’t go accusing them of advancing a political agenda over this, at least not without a lot more information to back up such a claim.

Such caution should not deter the public and the politicians from examining the FBI and its entire history, much of which is truly sordid. The FBI should be looked at in combination with what has happened to the American prosecutorial system at all levels and US law enforcement at all levels. The culture of mass imprisonment and the failed “War on Drugs” should be sufficent to prompt such a profound and soul-searching review. This late complication in a political campaign is probably just a minor footnote in such an undertaking.

Bear in mind…

We may not imagine how our lives could be more frustrating and complex — but Congress can.
Cullen Hightower

 

We all do better when we all do better.
Paul Wellstone

 

Natives who beat drums to drive off evil spirits are objects of scorn to smart Americans who blow horns to break up traffic jams.
Mary Ellen Kelly

 

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The Panama News blog links, October 28, 2016

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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

GCaptain, ITF warns of PanCanal tug privatization

Seatrade Maritime News, ACP rejects tug privatization claim

Splash 24/7, A tale of two canals — game theory in action

La Estrella, Grupos en pugna debaten sobre el puerto en Corozal

MLB Trade Rumors, Bethancourt to pitch in Panama winter ball

Goal.com, Tony Taylor among MLS players called up for Panama qualifiers

The Hill, Panama hires crisis communications firm

Reuters, Panama signs international tax convention

Radio Pakistan, High court forms special enlarged bench for Panama Papers case

McClatchy, Freedom eludes US defendant outed in Panama Papers

Times of Malta, Nationalist MPs walk out on Panama Papers linked minister

El Tiempo, La Fiscalía está tras capitales ocultos en Panamá

ANP, Sector logístico panameño alerta ante posible nuevo decreto colombiano

E&N, Industria cultural aporta más que Canal de Panamá

Prensa Latina, Panamanian businesses to seek deals at Cuba’s trade fair

PR, New Bennigan’s in Obarrio

Smithsonian Insider, Frogs use snout glands in emergency jail break

Prensa Latina, Panama reports more than 400 Zika cases

The Guardian, Flight attendant wasn’t AIDS “Patient Zero”

NASA, Adding up Hurricane Matthew’s total rainfall

WWF, The Living Planet Report 2016 (PDF)

EFE, EEUU cree que un agente no estatal está tras del ciberataque masivo

Amnesty International, Messaging apps and privacy

Gaworecki, Time for a moratorium on commercial fishing of Pacific bluefin tuna?

Chee & Hammond, Gene editing and seed stealing

NACLA, Renewed repression against environmentalists in Honduras

The Guardian, Two more Honduran land rights activists slain

El Tiempo, 21 capturas de miembros de grupos con raices paramilitares

BBC, Colombian hostage release underway

AFP, Intelectuales nicaragüenses piden a OEA apoyar nuevos comicios

WOLA, Three key points about Mexico’s new Fiscalia

Boff, Donde está hoy el poder en el mundo

Gumbo, Raising a cup to my departed pal Tom Hayden

Reich, Varying standards of US justice

Baker, The TPP and free trade — time to retake the English language

Capece, What ‘America First’ would mean for Latin America

Beluche, ¿Quién es responsable de la crisis del agro?

Blades, La cancelación del referéndum en Venezuela

The Guardian, Margaret Atwood interview

Telemetro, Las rutas del desfile de Fiestas Patrias en la ciudad de Panamá

 

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Varela’s anti-sanctions screwdriver imparts little torque

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air hub
So might Panama retaliate against trade sanctions with restrictions on the transportation of persons or cargo through Panama? There is a catch-all phrase that allows the cabinet wide discretion, but the transport restrictions specify only land transportation. The canal neutrality treaty and concern about the nation’s principal industry would make restrictions on freight and persons moving by sea difficult. And would the Varela administration want to ruin Panama’s status as a regional air hub and in this way alienate the powerful Motta family that controls Copa Airlines? Photo by the Presidencia.

New law gives Panama little power to retaliate against financial sanctions

by Eric Jackson

It’s called La Ley de Retorsión — the twist back law — but it’s premised on Panama having some sort of monopoly over a thing or things that the rest of the world direly needs. A cornered market may be every sharp-edged merchant’s dream, but Panama handles about five percent of world shipping and almost all of that could switch to other routes. The principal air hub of the Americas could easily move from Panama City’s Tocumen Airport to Costa Rica or Colombia or the Dominican Republic.

Is the region’s main wholesaling and warehousing district the Colon Free Zone? Long ago it was Portobelo. When British privateers and other annoyances made it too inconvenient the businesses moved to Cartagena, leaving Panama as a pestilential backwater for the next several centuries. It could happen again.

So now there is a new law that would allow the Panamanian government to retaliate against any other government that discriminates against Panama. Special taxes, fees or surcharges may be imposed on persons from or transactions with countries that discriminate against Panama. Citizens of such countries might find it hard to get visas or impossible to get work permits. The specific measures outlined in the new law are only a suggested beginning and might be ratcheted up in myriad ways without prior warning.

There are test cases lurking out there. Colombia has imposed certain import duties which the World Trade Organization has ruled to be improper protectionist measures, but in Bogota they insist that they are proper counter-measures for the use of Panama’s banking and commercial sectors by Colombian tax evaders. In the wake of the Panama Papers revelations France put this country on a financial services blacklist and is urging other countries and international organizations to join in this effort.

The damage to Panama’s reputation remains severe and ongoing. Public service careers have been ruined in a number of countries and are still threatened in yet more. More European politicians are likely to support sanctions against Panama as their “I am not a crook” postures. Is it safe for Panamanian politicians to take actions that would end up demonstrating how little France needs us, or how much we need the Colombian business investment and large community of Colombians here? The new law is puny stick.

But what about a carrot? On October 27, the day after Panama’s new retaliation law went into effect, Panamanian ambassador to France Pilar de Alemán and the secretary general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Ángel Gurría, signed the papers for Panama to adhere to the international organization’s Mutual Assistance Convention. Theoretically this allows the sharing of tax information. But Panama took a reservation, maintaining that it won’t automatically share information with the more than 100 other countries that are parties to the agreement, but only with those with which Panama has bilateral agreements. These the Varela administration intends to limit so that data would be provided only in cases in which tax evasion is formally under investigation as to a particular person or entity. Gurría, for his part, talked about an upcoming report on Panamanian financial practices and suggested that his would have a lot to do with the OECD approach to France’s request for international sanctions.

A big problem for Panama is that the files purloined from the Mossack Fonseca law firm document many cases in which existing laws or international agreements were skirted or flouted. The Panamanian economy may have carried on for more than six months after the first Panama Papers revelations without the sort of crippling sanctions that we saw in Noreiga times, but the scandal has yet to run its course.

Perhaps the greater part of the challenge is that the most effective sanctions are not necessarily by governments. Panamanian banks now find it hard to establish corresponding bank relationships with counterparts in other countries. This slows check clearance and makes international ATM services ever more precarious. There are private companies that won’t do business in or with Panama just because it may not look right to someone.

Panama’s new law will work to the extent that governments and economic elites elsewhere find the convenience of dealing with Panama to be greater than the dangers it poses to their reputations. Think about it. In this US election season, how many American politicians are holding up their Panamanian companies or bank accounts as examples of their business prowess?

 

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COMENENAL, La salud es responsabilidad del Estado

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corazon

La salud no debe depender de rifas,
colectas, bingos o tamaladas

por la Comisión Médica Negociadora Nacional (COMENENAL)

COMENENAL informa a sus bases Médicos, Odontólogos, Veterinarios y a todo el país.

Hoy vemos en las noticias como sigue adelante la camita que recorre el país “Unidos de Corazón”.

  1. Esta vez era para recolectar donaciones por más de 350,000 $ para poder mandar a operar a Colombia a 13 niños panameños que necesitan urgentemente cirugías cardíacas.

  2. Vemos como la solidaridad impregna a la mayoría del país que dona, como en otras tantas ocasiones para salvar vidas de compatriotas.

  3. Pero hoy la noticia es dolorosa. Uno de los niños ha muerto y su padre con lágrimas habla de que sigan adelante aunque su hijo ya no esté.

  4. ¿A que punto hemos llegado? Que, como decía un colega nuestro “la salud de nuestro pueblo depende de rifas, colectas, bingos o tamaladas.”

  5. La salud de nuestra gente no puede depender de rifas, colectas, bingos o tamaladas.

  6. La salud según nuestra Constitución, es responsabilidad del Estado garantizarla.

  7. Entonces, como es posible que hemos llegado al punto de tener que recurrir a colectar 350,000 para 13 niños, y uno ya no está; mientras las autoridades de Panamá permiten el despilfarro de los recursos de la CSS.

    1. Han permitido sobre costos en compras directas y no toman medidas radicales para solucionar el problema.

    2. Han permitido excesos de compras de cantidades de medicamentos e insumos que se pierden simplemente porque no habría forma humana de gastarlos antes de que se venzan.

    3. Siguen permitiendo el alquiler de ambulancias con sobrecostos.

    4. Siguen permitiendo Primas de productividad que agotan los escasos recursos y son solo un Show para decir que hacen algo, mientras que las moras de citas, cirugías y procedimientos siguen exactamente iguales.

    5. Permiten que liciten más obras de cemento que no podrán servir mientras no haya el personal de salud adecuado, como sucede en el “Chicho” Fábrega de Veraguas. ¿de qué sirve hace más construcciones?!!!! Solo lucrar.

    6. Permiten que quieran destruir hospitales que están en pie para favorecer a alguien con construir otro nuevo, mientras no contruyen el bendito puente para conectar los viejos hospitales con los nuevos.

    7. Permiten “errores de equipamiento de ascensores” para tener que hacer adendas para comprar más. ¿para qué? ¿Por qué no exigir a la empresa que corrija el supuesto “error”?

    8. Contratan suministros de compañías brujas que compran a maquilas de países asiáticos, donde sus insumos no tienen registro sanitarios siquiera para usarlos en los países de origen.

    9. Contratan compañías formadas espuriamente para una licitación de equipos e insumos que luego no tienen buen desempeño y dicha compañías desaparecen del mapa, incluso sus hojas y catálogos de internet.

    10. Permiten que se liciten cocinas supuestamente de línea fría, que no lo son, y con sobrecostos exorbitantes.

    11. Pretenden contratar para ello una compañía de ventas de “repuestos de autos y de insumos hospitalarios” ¡¡¡!!!!!!!.

    12. Primero fue cambiar el contrato de los pasajes de avión a COPA, con lo cual los pacientes llegan a Tocumen muy distante a los centros de destino: ION, Complejo Hospitalario, etc.

    13. Persisten en financiar las Hemodiálisis externalizadas (privatizadas) con lo cual se acaban los recursos.

    14. Persisten en financiar las OEs (organizaciones externalizadas) que atienden planes de salud de miseria en las comarcas. Y que luego de 20 años no han impactado en los resultados de salud de esas regiones. Al contrario ahora la mortalidad infantil y la materna son peores en esas áreas.

    15. Ahora quiere alquilar aviones (como alquilar ambulancias) para chárter para trasportar pacientes a la capital. Y SIGA SUMANDO GASTOS INNECESARIOS DE LA CSS. Y de seguro harán cálculos matemáticos y financieros que demostrarán que es ventajoso hacerlo. Al fin y al cabo son economistas.

    16. Y luego no saben de donde les cayó el espantoso desabastecimiento que aun persiste.

    17. PERO NO TENEMOS 350,000 PARA 13 NIÑOS (ANGELITOS) PANAMEÑOS. ¿??!!!!

    18. Solo los 2 primeros ítems representaron sobrecostos por casi 180 millones de $.

Si gastamos tanto en despilfarro, por ello luego no tenemos para nuestra gente lo que necesita. COMENENAL denuncia que esto es inmoral.

  1. Inmoral de los regentes del país.

  2. Inmoral de los regentes de la salud.

  3. Inmoral de los diputados que recortan todos los años el presupuesto de la nación, sobre todo en salud. Y luego se dan golpes de pecho, pidiendo ¿porque no hay médicos en Cuidados Intensivos permanentemente?

  4. Y es inmoral que haya que mandarlos a otro país, no creemos las condiciones aquí.

  5. Esta cantidad tan irrisoria debió salir en última instancia de la partida discrecional de la Presidencia. Sino debió salir de la partida de la primera dama que tanto se preocupa por el cáncer, pero no por 13 angelitos de nuestro pueblo. Esta irrisoria cantidad debió salir de la CSS y del MINSA. Pero dicen no hay porque siguen guardando para sus contratos dirigidos.

COMENENAL llama a todo el pueblo, a la Sociedad Civil organizada, a todas las organizaciones decentes y honestas del país, a levantarse en lucha en contra del despilfarro y corrupción en la CSS, en el sector salud en general, y contra la inmoralidad que prefiere ver morir a los hijos de otros sin hacer nada. Ya es suficiente y no hay pueblo que lo resista 100 años.

 

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Breaking News — more time to vote at the US Embassy, but not much more

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Breaking news for US voters

US Embassy clarifies about sending ballots through the diplomatic pouch — you still have time (but not much)

An October 26 notice by the embassy said:

“As we get closer to election day, we have been getting complaints from some U.S. Citizens stating that they are hearing that the Embassy is not accepting ballots after today, October 26th. If you get questions about this, please let people know that the Embassy will accept all ballots delivered to the Embassy after October 26, 2016. All ballots will be sent to the U.S. via the diplomatic pouch with transit time between Panama and the U.S. taking up to 7 days. People should take into consideration this transit time along with the deadlines set by their home state for receiving ballots from abroad. U.S. citizens can drop off an FPCA or completed ballot in person at the U.S. Embassy in Panama between 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday and between 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. on Friday.”

That clarifies an earlier embassy notice that said:

“The final date to return your paper ballot to your local election officials by election day for free via the U.S. Embassy Panama City is October 26, 2016.”

Yet earlier, in a meeting at the consulate attended by several dozen people, those in attendance were told that ballots, registrations and ballot requests would be accepted through November 8 for mailing to the USA via the diplomatic pouch — sent in the pouch to the States, then deposited into the US Postal Service mail one in-country — but that it was recommended that things be sent by October 28 to arrive on time. At that time it was said that voting would be at Window 14 at the US Consulate, which is only open from 8 a.m. to noon. (Notice now how ballots will be accepted at the embassy, which is open more hours of the day than the consulate.)

Surely there was no intent to suppress anybody’s vote or deceive or confuse anyone. In fact the embassy and consulate folks have been putting in a great effort to encourage voting and a lot of people have voted. The messages, however, have been a bit less precise and consistent than they might have been.

In any case, despite the different previous versions, you have a bit more time to vote. Not much, though. We are down to the wire.

A number of states (23 of them) let you send in ballots by fax or email — click on this hypertext to find out which ones and the details.

If you are not going to be able to get your ballot back in time via free diplomatic mail and don’t vote in a state that lets you send in your ballot electronically, you may want to pay to send your ballot by FedEx or DHL.

Some relevant dates for absentee vote deadlines:

November 7: deadline for receipt of absentee ballots in Mississippi, Missouri and Iowa
November 8: deadline for receipt of absentee ballots in most states

However, different states have different laws about when a ballot must arrive or be sent in order to be counted. Some of them set a deadline of “received by,” while others say “postmarked by…” States that will count a ballot that was received after Election Day (November 8) but postmarked on or before that date include:

New York: postmarked by November 7, received by November 15 or November 21 if FWAB
Alabama: postmarked by November 7, received by November 15
Pennsylvania: postmarked by November 7, received by November 15
Ohio: postmarked by November 7, received by November 18
Wisconsin: postmarked by November 8, received by November 11
California: postmarked by November 8, received by November 14
North Carolina: postmarked by November 8, receive by November 14
Colorado: postmarked by November 8, received by November 16
Arkansas: if overseas, postmarked by November 8, received by November 18

Also notice that there are still a number of states in which you still have time to register to vote or to request your absentee ballot. In some cases you can send your voter registration, your ballot request and your Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot in the same envelope at the same time and be all set to have your choice counted.

See http://www.mytimetovote.com/ to look up deadlines for your state

 

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Varela’s trip to Germany: the Panama Papers problem is not over

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President Varela and Chencellor Merkel: she doesn't LOOK so overjoyed about what he's saying. Photo by the Presidencia.
President Varela and Chencellor Merkel: she doesn’t LOOK so overjoyed about what he’s saying. Photo by the Presidencia.

Varela in Germany: small economic and political gains, a big media setback

by Eric Jackson

The local spinmeisters are predictable. Ricardo Martinelli’s media report Juan Carlos Varela’s October 18-22 trip to Germany, with stops in Hamburg, Munich and Berlin, as an unmitigated disaster. The Presidencia’s claims are cautiously upbeat. The Mossack Fonseca cheering section oscillates between ecstatic and irate. A lot of the rest of that sliver of Panama that directly or indirectly profits from “offshore asset protection” or other hues of money laundering are cheering a victory wherein German Chancellor Angela Merkel is going to save Panama from the wrath of France and the OECD in the wake of the Panama Papers revelations.

Some useful commercial and intergovernmental agreements came out of the trip, perhaps the most important an accord between the Panamanian Tourism Authority and Lufthansa Airlines to promote Panama as a tourist destination in Germany and neighboring European countries. The aim is to increase the Frankfurt to Tocumen air service that began earlier this year. But it’s only a $4 million program over three years. As a symbol to both Panamanian and German observers, Varela and his large Panamanian delegation flew to Germany not on the presidential jet but on Lufthansa. In another tourism-related deal, Panama contracted the Munich firm Messe Munchen to promote conventions at the Amador convention center whenever that stalled project is done. Also in that sector the Port of Hamburg agreed to give technical help to develop a cruiser port at Amador and the German-based TUI Group announced that it would add 10 new cruise ship calls at Colon.

In the field of education Varela toured the vocational training center that Siemens runs, and said that some of the methods the company uses there will be adopted in the pilot project to establish a two-year vocational college in Tocumen. In meetings at all stops in Germany, hundreds of business people heard pitches about Panama’s advantages for investors.

The biggest events, however, were about a controversial intersection of politics and economics, the fallout from the Panama Papers affair. At the start, Varela met with Merkel and she noted that Varela took some quick steps in the aftermath of the massive leaks from the law firm whose founders included Varela’s powerful at the time Minister Without Portfolio Ramón Fonseca Mora. She said that those were steps in the right direction and noted ongoing negotiations about a German-Panamanian tax information sharing deal. If things go as hoped, the two leaders expect to sign such an agreement next year. Meanwhile France has imposed financial sanctions on Panama and is urging the OECD to do likewise. Although some Varela fans predicted that a data sharing accord with Germany would get the OECD off of Panama’s back, Merkel made no such promise.

Not much reported in Panama are Merkel’s own domestic and European woes.

The European Union has largely been under German leadership but is battered from many sides, most notably nationalists of various stripes and the poorer countries of Europe’s periphery. With the United Kingdom leaving and much of Southern and Eastern Europe annoyed with Germany’s hard-line austerity demands, the EU could well collapse and with it the common market that Germany needs to sell its industrial products in the face of competition from Asia and other regions. So is she going to get into a fight with France over Panama? Or is she going to be stern with Greece and Spain, while making a show of being lax with Panama? In the carefully worded statements she made in her meetings with Varela, Merkel didn’t indicate that she would go that far.

Within Germany Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Party is losing a bit of ground to the far-right Alternative fur Deutschland party and faces a terrorist threat from the smaller and farther-right neo-nazi Reichsburger. This fringe to her right is not going to make a serious bid for power anytime soon but in the German scheme of politics where majorities are almost unheard-of and coalitions are the rule, lost votes at the margin can cost Merkel and her party their powerful positions. The far right doesn’t like globalization on corporate terms, doesn’t like the European Union and calls Merkel corrupt. Meanwhile, among more sedate parts of the German political spectrum you find the folks from Transparency International (which began in Germany) and the newspaper that received and coordinated the publication of the Panama Papers. It all adds up to a substantial political risk for Merkel if she gets identified as soft on the sorts of things revealed in the leaks from Mossack Fonseca.

From the ambiguities of Varela’s meeting with Merkel at the start, Varela’s visit ended with a disastrous interview with Jenny Pérez, a Chilean journalist for the German state-owned Deutsche Welle’s Spanish-language television channel. Varela appeared to be taken aback and left silent or stumbling by questions which took as a starting presumption that Panama’s reputation in the world is damaged by the revelations from the Mossack Fonseca files. People might argue that Pérez is a world-class hard case of an interviewer, but it should also be noted that in Panama the rabiblanco mainstream media don’t allow such hard-nosed interviewing. The social expectation here is that mere working class reporters must show great deference to those richer, more powerful and more illustriously surnamed than themselves. Varela simply didn’t appear ready to be interviewed by someone as irreverent as Pérez, and that interview, in its Spanish original and in translation, was seen around the world. The appearance was that Varela can’t defend his or Panama’s record. The different Panamanian factions reacted with curses, cheers or shrugs.

The bottom line? Varela’s visit to Germany did not end his Panama Papers woes.

 

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Rudd, I never stopped learning from Tom Hayden

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Tom Hayden, speaking in April 2016. At the time he was not just talking about the Vietnam War and its opponents, but looking forward to criticize the "Long War" against inanimate concepts rather than people or nations that neoconservative operatives, some Pentagon strategist and of course those who sell military weapons are advocating. Photo by Jay Godwin / LBK Library
Tom Hayden, speaking in April 2016. At the time he was not just talking about the Vietnam War and its opponents, but looking ahead to criticize the “Long War” against inanimate concepts rather than people or nations that neoconservative operatives, some Pentagon strategists and as expected those who sell military arms are advocating. Photo by Jay Godwin / LBJ Library

I never stopped learning from Tom Hayden

by Mark Rudd — from his Facebook page

Last week, reading in the NY Times about Bob Dylan’s having been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, one quote struck me, “We’re terrifically lucky to be alive at the same time when he is.” I always felt the same way about Tom Hayden. His death is devastating in the same measure as the enormity of his contribution.

I first came across Tom Hayden when I read The Port Huron Statement (PHS) in 1965, a freshman at Columbia just learning about SDS. Though SDS’s founding document had been a collective product, Tom, the first president of SDS, was the principal author. His prose and his clear logic knocked me out: Port Huron was a critique of the Cold War and anti-communism, a call for party realignment into true left and right, most of all, for me, a blueprint for a role that students could play in creating social change. It even included a vision of something called “participatory democracy” to replace the sclerotic passivity and hopelessness of our political system. I decided to join the Columbia chapter because these SDS people were so damned smart. Over the years 1962-1969 hundreds of thousands of students read Port Huron and responded in the same way.

I think I first met Tom in the summer of 1967, right after the Newark, NJ, riots, at SDS’s community organizing project house there. Tom patiently explained to me, a kid from the all-white Newark suburbs, about the misery that had caused the riots, and also why he was organizing there: to help bring into existence “an interracial movement of the poor.” His quiet idealism was downright infectious.

Less than a year later, in April, 1968, Tom responded to Columbia SDS’s call for organizers to come to the building occupations against the university’s institutional racism toward the Harlem community and its participation in research in support of the war in Vietnam. Tom had already been to Czechoslovakia to meet with Vietnamese from the National Liberation Front and in a short few months had been instrumental in teaching so many of us in SDS about the nature of the American aggression against Vietnam and the Vietnamese resistance. He immediately joined “the Math Commune” (located in Mathematics Hall) and offered his expertise in chairing endless meetings discussing tactics to hold the building as well as strike strategy. His leadership style embodied the ideal of participatory democracy, insisting that all sides of every question be heard. Paul Cronin, the documentary filmmaker who has been laboring for the last 10 years on a comprehensive film record of the 1968 Columbia Strike, called A Time to Stir, is in possession of remarkable footage of Tom leading meetings in Math. I hope he can get these broadcast or up on the internet. Paul also has footage of members of the Math Commune commenting on how important and inspiring Tom’s democratic style was to them.

After the police bust, Tom wrote an article about Columbia for New Left Notes, the SDS weekly out of the Chicago National Office, the title of which was “Create two, three, many Columbias.” (Always thinking strategically, Tom appropriated Che’s famous rallying cry, “Create two, three, many Vietnams”). And that is precisely what SDS and students all over the country did for the next two years.

The early summer of 1968, Tom began visiting Columbia SDS to recruit for the Democratic National Convention demonstrations in August. Again, his vision of masses of people protesting the war and racism outside the convention proved infectious, as hundreds of us went out there, often serving as leaders in the streets for the many thousands of unorganized kids who joined. Those demonstrations raised awareness of the mass desire for peace, challenging the party that had given us the war. When Tom and seven others were eventually charged with conspiracy to riot, SDS jumped to their defense.

I only learned years later that Tom had been a friend and supporter of Robert Kennedy at the same time as he was organizing the mass demonstrations. Clearly, his pragmatic side had coexisted with his militant radical side. Anyone else might have seen this as a contradiction–indeed, most of Columbia SDS had rejected what we called “McKennedy” (Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy being the anti-war candidates) reformism for “voting in the streets”–but Tom had no problem in exploring both strategies. In retrospect I honor him for it.

A few days before the opening of the conspiracy trial of the Chicago 8, in September, 1969, I went to hear Tom speak on the case at the University of Chicago. I distinctly remember being struck by his quiet, almost anti-charismatic style. The opposite of a rabble-rouser, his clear explanations embodied a democratic humility and trust in his listeners. His was a leadership style that built other people’s leadership. I suspect he was first exposed to that democratic vision back in 1960-1962 while working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC, in the South. Miss Ella Jo Baker, the brilliant mentor of SNCC, a lifetime organizer against segregation and for black freedom, had always insisted on participatory democracy as both a goal and a method.

Tom was close with most of us in Weatherman and the subsequent Weather Underground, but he always insisted on his right to differ with our strategy while at the same time lending support. This is a complicated subject, one I don’t wish to rehash at the moment, but if you’re interested, take a look at the heartfelt essay on his relationship to us which he included in The Long Sixties, published in 2009, in which he summarized 50 years of movement experience. In a nutshell, he understood and was sympathetic to those of us who were driven crazy by our country’s mass slaughter in Vietnam.

I watched Tom’s career as an representative to the California State Assembly, realizing over the years that he had adopted an electoral strategy toward building the mass movement. This was at a time when most of us ex-New Leftists were stuck either in single issue organizing or, much worse, the complete waste that was Marxist-Leninist party-building in the Seventies and Eighties. Through his example Tom was showing us how important it was to have leftists in elected office. I often wonder whether, had more New Leftists bit the bullet and followed Tom’s lead into the party, we would have been stuck with the neo-liberal center-right Clintons and the Democratic Leadership Council which have dominated for over 25 years. At least it would have been a fight for the soul of the party–which, in fact, is only coming into the open now with Bernie’s candidacy. The key thing, though, is that Tom was always thinking about strategy toward power, real power, unlike so many of us who preferred the purity of being on the outside.

Tom helped found Progressive Democrats of America, an organization which was instrumental in convincing Bernie Sanders to run. In a famous piece in the Nation, however, Tom explained why he was supporting Hillary Clinton against Bernie in the primary. His reasoning is worth looking at: we had no real socialist movement to take power behind Bernie — that movement is still to be built. Also, most of his African-American friends were pragmatists voting for Hillary because they knew her, and knew nothing of Bernie on race matters. Lastly, he advocated a mass movement to push Hillary to the left after the election. All ideas worth considering.

I last encountered Tom in May, 2015, at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam anti-war movement in DC, “The Power of Protest,” an event that he had helped organize. There he presented a brilliant analysis of how we built a mass movement that helped win the end of the war. I just read in the LA Times obit that Tom has a book on the subject to be published in 2017. Always teaching strategy.

If you want to get a good view of Tom’s life in the movement, and of his thinking on movement building, take a look at The Long Sixties. He spends the first five pages of the introduction outlining a theory of how mass movements grow, win, and then decline. Then the rest of the book is an explication based on his fifty years experience. A theory of mass movements is an incalculable contribution to our work of developing strategy. I have no doubt that we’ll be learning from Tom Hayden long after he’s gone.

 

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