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A blast from the past — and when you think about it, perhaps a predicate act for a RICO case

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Volume 13, Number 16
August 19 – September 8, 2007

business & economy

Months ago, they said that full financing was lined up and almost all of the units were pre-sold…

Trump Tower project tries to sell bonds

by Eric Jackson

The most heralded symbol of Panama City’s upscale construction boom, the Trump Ocean Club, International Hotel & Tower Panama, appears to be in serious trouble. The $404 million project, which bears Trump’s name but whose main promoter is Colombian developer Roger Khafif, was according to rosy press releases issued last year fully financed and almost entirely pre-sold. Now the Newland International Properties Corporation, the consortium created for the project, has applied to Panama’s Comision Nacional de Valores (National Securities Commission) for permission to sell $220 million in private bonds to complete the sail-shaped luxury condo and hotel tower.

When the project was first announced, $220 million was the cost figure that Khafif and Trump first cited. That figure has in less than two years risen to $404, which can’t be entirely explained by rising materials and labor costs. Pre-construction buyers of units in the project had to put 20 percent of the price down, with further payments coming due well before the properties they bought are ever ready for occupancy. Notwithstanding that, a lot of the units have been “flipped” by speculators for even higher prices than would be owed to the developers. Work began on the project in May but is not at a very advanced stage.

That Khafif and Trump have had to go the private bond issue route is an indication that the promoters can’t get ordinary bank financing. Speculation among people in the real estate and construction industries is that with the US housing market in trouble and thus the anticipated trend of baby boomers exchanging their homes in the states for new places in Panama likely to slow as a result, and with the collapse of several other high-profile construction projects, it’s going to be hard to sell those bonds to private investors as well.

However, another current of murmurs from among a section of the real estate industry and its acolytes has it that if the Trump project collapses it will take the rest of Panama City’s upscale housing construction boom with it, and thus everyone who has Panama’s best interests in mind will support whatever it takes to rescue the development. It can be reasonably anticipated that, with the privatizations of several public pension funds, these murmurs may mutate into an insistence that public employees’ retirement funds or the Social Security Fund buy these bonds. In the latter case the 2005 privatization law requires that bonds be rated at least AA for Seguro Social to buy them and in any case that would put Colombian and American interests in competition with Panama’s oligarchy for control of a major portion of the country’s retirement savings. There will be no public bailout of the Khafif/Trump project without a huge controversy that will not only reignite the 2005 brawl over pension fund privatizations but most likely also divide the nation’s business sectors.

A real estate analyst for the Dallas Morning News concluded that “It’s hard to find evidence that white-haired North Americans from Florida, California, New York, Texas and Canada are mounting an invasion of retirees, and you can almost hear the air escaping from this bubble.” One of the local developers who has long been skeptical of the speculation in high-end real estate in Panama City added that “They certainly will have difficulties selling the bonds and yes it shows that Khafif was full of BS when he said all financing was lined up.”

 

“Patriot” militia radio personality to expat investment hustler

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“Patriot” militia radio personality to expat investment hustler

See https://web.archive.org/web/20060820043311/http://www.thepanamanews.com/pn/v_12/issue_15/business_01.html

Note that the guy charged the author with criminal defamation and lost.

 

blast from the past: a charming extortion note

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letters

A charming extortion note from Tom McMurrain…

I hope you wake up one day

You met me and my wife at the Bristol. In the beginning we tried to prevent from laughing until we learned that you were actually somewhat human, so we thought. After all, you come to a five star hotel in the equivalent of a Mickey Mouse t-shirt. You were sincere in your conversation in that you are willing to look seriously at the real facts of San Cristobal, BUT you failed to make any effort! You are obviously one of the yellow journalists of Panama and I am going to put you in jail because you are a liar hiding behind a self-proclaimed disease and corrupt business practices. (Any reporter or editor that does not check his facts is not a real editor) What is wrong Eric; did your dad not respect you, did your mother touch you the wrong way? Is that why you try and tear down people who are doing good for Panama? I create jobs and you hide like a rat. Show up for court you coward. You are a city RAT just like Okke — What is your address?

You printed false information about my company and you stand by it and that’s why you are sucking wind and begging for money (The law of retribution). You have NO morals! Instead of making a living being an editor of a reputable business you beg! You are not a journalist. You are an Internet beggar! That is why you and Okke are butt buddies I guess. He is broke too by the way, (have you seen the shack he houses his wife and child in, it is depressing — but he is your friend) oh yea so is your convicted buddy Michele Lescure. Are you sleeping on her floor like you do your sisters? What’s wrong; did the lack of your anti-depression medicine set in? You have got to be the biggest loser I have ever met in my life because you are a paid liar and I have no respect for you. Are you being paid? Is Okke subsidizing your medication? Wake up and smell the coffee and realize that I am generating foreign direct investment for Panama and creating jobs that’s why people like me and not you.

You have chosen the low road and you have attempted to drag me into your miserable gutter. Guess what Eric? It won’t work because I am focused on bringing wealth to people through the incredible timing of this beautiful country. It is not my fault that people don’t take you seriously — you are negatively focused — you are a self-proclaimed begga… I AM GLAD I AM NOT YOU! You have had a chance to do good for this country and you have been nothing but a road block in its forward movement. You criticize Mireya…. Let us look at the facts; in the last five years she has dealt with 9/11, a 90% drop in foreign direct investment, a global recession, 7,000 properties coming up for sale and she lost 10% of her country’s revenue — but I am sure you can do a better job… (in your Mickey mouse t-shirt) you are nothing but a depressed fat loser hiding behind a keyboard and a computer screen. I hope this great country sticks it to you; you deserve it!

You are nothing better than a street-internet beggar and you do nothing good for Panama. I hope Sossa puts your life in a vise. God knows he has a tough job to do Öbut I am sure you can do it better, what an ego you have to be critical. (Can you even pay your water bill?) You can’t even support yourself you loser (I would vote for you to run a country… loser HAHAHAHA). You are doing nothing positive for Panama but tearing it down. If you don’t like Panama why don’t you leave? Crawl back under a rock… nobody will miss you not even Okke! (He has his own newspaper if you haven’t heard.)

If you need money for a plane ticket and the money to pay Sossa for your overdue debt to Social Seguro I will gladly pay it if you check into a place where you can get the necessary treatment you need. If it is any consolation I will be glad to buy you sorry website for $10K. Consider this firm offer until March 24th! After the 24th you are screwed!

 

Best Regards,

Tom McMurrain
Managing Director
tom@sancristobalsa.net

Editor’s note: I would NEVER wear Mickey Mouse, to a five-star hotel or anywhere else. It was Charlie the Tuna.

~~

Update: Tom (and his lawyer Michael Pierce) desisted in these efforts when Tom was arrested, extradited, tried, convicted and imprisoned in the USA for one of the scams that was accurately described in The Panama News. Panamanian justice never prosecuted his string of frauds here. Now out of prison, McMurrain styles himself as the Dalitomma, as in a minor league guru of greed. I stand by what I published.

Meanwhile, a series of hacker attacks that probably began in 2013 and peaked in 2015 has largely scattered The Panama News archives, which can largely be rescued from other places — cached online archives, old discs and so on. But it would take a monumental amount of labor to fully restore the archives. This bit of them we have recovered.

 

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Our Revolution on NAFTA renegotiation

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NAFTA has hollowed out the middle class

Thanks to your efforts we helped defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Now we need your help again as the Trump administration seeks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

NAFTA and trade deals like it have been disastrous for workers and the environment. In the last several decades, American manufacturing has plummeted, and good paying jobs have been outsourced. Working families in our trading partners have similarly been displaced and disadvantaged by the same multi national corporations. We need fair trade that works for citizens and the environment!

This Tuesday, I will join other labor, environmental and trade activists as we rally in DC calling for fair renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Deal (NAFTA). Add your name to the petition we will deliver to the US Trade Representative calling for a transparent process that benefits workers, not corporations.

Rather than defending our manufacturing jobs and raising living standards for working families, NAFTA made it easier for large multinational corporations to move jobs out, and avoid regulations that protect workers and the environment.

Our trade deals have favored Wall Street and the largest corporations for far too long. We need a radical reimagining of what our trade policies are set to accomplish, and that begins with NAFTA. Please sign our petition calling for a renegotiation that benefits American workers, not Wall Street and multinational corporations.

Trade deals can be good for our economy, our workers, and the workers in our trading partners. Together, we can fight to make NAFTA the trade deal it should be: one where workers are treated fairly, the environment is treated with respect, and corporations play by our rules, not their own.

Thank you for taking this bold stand for workers everywhere.

In Solidarity,

Larry Cohen
Board Chair
Our Revolution

Democrats: vote at Saturday’s meeting — or by email now — Eric Jackson for chair

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EJ for chair

Eric Jackson for Chair

of Democrats Abroad Panama

you must be a US citizen living in Panama and at least 18 years old to join DA Panama
you must join Democrats Abroad to vote, but you can do so when you vote

 

VOTE
For the mailing about the meeting from Democrats Abroad Panama, click here.

 

history
We Democrats have a long history. A history major, Eric Jackson has worked to preserve historical sites and markers in both Panama and the United States. Know and live up to the best of our traditions!

 

español
As communications director of Democrats Abroad Panama, Eric Jackson also reached out to US citizens in Panama who speak Spanish as their first language.

 

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Time spent to campaign — I’m running for chair of Democrats Abroad Panama

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Announcing the candidacy
Click on these graphics to see texts that amplify the discussion in each.

A point of personal privilege: the editor is campaigning this week

Eric Jackson for chair of Democrats Abroad Panama
vote Saturday, April 8 at 1 pm at the Balboa Union church
or send your proxy to thepanamanews@gmail.com

 

Free Okke!
Click on the graphic to read the text that goes with it.

 

transparency
Click on the graphic to read the text that goes with it.

 

music that a guy with two JDs likes
To get a start on understanding my cultural horizons, click on the graphic to go to a relevant selection of music. If education is to mean culture, I didn’t graduate from high school but then managed to get a bachelor’s degree with a double major in history and political science and a juris doctor degree in law.

 

the Third World peasant
The political views of an online journalist whose other job is as a Third World peasant — click on the graphic to read the text that goes with it.

 

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For immediate release, July 18, 2016 by Democrats Abroad Panama

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Trump, the Chump on the stump, flooded out
The flooding at the opening of the Trump Ocean Club in Panama City, a sure sign that even as an investor Donald J. Trump is incapable of defending his own interests — let alone those of a great nation — against elemental natural forces. Photo by Maydee Romero Sprang from La Prensa.
A Trump presidency: what it would mean for the USA and for Panama, part 1

Climate change

chump tweet

In Cleveland this week, mostly wealthy Republicans will gather for their national convention in air-conditioned splendor while in the poor neighborhoods people will sweat out a severe heat wave. Inside the convention hall a bizarre discourse will unfold, one part of which is an argument promoted by oil and coal companies that climate change is a politically motivated hoax. It’s an argument that permeates US society and the social media and even makes its way into high places in Panamanian public institutions.

Think of the enhanced climate change disaster that a Trump presidency would be for the United States. The national embarrassment of having the only leader of an industrialized country who denies that the climate is changing would be the smaller part of it. The US status as a leading scientific power, nurtured by the polymath geniuses Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson from the time that the republic was founded, developed since 1846 by the Smithsonian Institution, popularized among the middle class by the middle and late 19th century legislation that established free public schools and the land grant universities, mobilized for US industry in times of war and peace, bolstered by generations of noteworthy scientists immigrating from other lands, shared with the rest of the world via the Fulbright grants — all of that would be diminished and endangered. The nation’s public infrastructure defenses against rising seas, devastating storms and severe droughts would be compromised. Weird religion and greedy business practices would appear together in US courts when liability for foreseeable environmental damage that could have been reduced or prevented is attributed to God. All of the social dislocations, wars and mass migrations that climate change is already causing and which will get worse would be explained by crude ethnic and religious stereotypes, and the world would see Washington engaged in immigrant-bashing instead of joining in a well informed and well coordinated international response.

Also, think of what climate change denial in a Republican White House that’s supported by a Republican Congress would mean for Panama. Surely there would be less funding and more political interference for that leading outpost of international academia on the isthmus, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. When people are forced by rising seas to abandon their homes on low-lying islands in Guna Yala or Bocas del Toro, or when traditional agricultural uses of parts of Panama become untenable, or when Panamanian water systems become even more dysfunctional, Panamanians could expect lots of derision rather than much in the way of US technical help. A US government that deserts the front lines of climate change response means US citizens living in Panama being blamed by some of their neighbors for policies coming from Washington.

The American people, including those of us living in Panama, don’t need this nonsense.

 

For more information on Democrats Abroad Panama — the local branch here of the Democratic Party in the USA — including about our stands on issues and our efforts to register and mobilize US citizens (including Panamanian-US dual nationals) to vote in November’s US elections, contact our interim acting chair, Phil Edmonston, by email at lemonaid@earthlink.net.

Democrats Abroad international officer nominations

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DA

Dear Democrats Abroad,

It is time for our bi-annual election of international Democratic Party Committee Abroad (DPCA) officers.  Note that these are global positions, not at the country level. The Elections Committee is pleased to be calling for nominations of candidates for the following positions:

International Chair

International Vice-Chair

International Treasurer

International Secretary

International Counsel

Each international officer is to serve a term of two years, and none may serve for more than two consecutive terms in the same office. The Chair and Vice Chair must be of opposite sex and from different Country Committees, and no more than two of the officers may be from the same Country Committee at the time of the election. The International Counsel must be a qualified legal practitioner. As called for in the DPCA Charter, the Nominations and Elections Committee (NEC) is required to forward to the International Chair and other members of the DPCA, in writing (electronic submissions accepted), names of the qualifying individuals nominated by the Elections Committee, at least forty-five (45) days in advance (March 29, 2017) of the scheduled election meeting of the DPCA (May 13, 2017; Arlington, Virginia).

Nominations for office may also be made from the floor at the election meeting.

The newly elected officers assume their duties after the election, at the Arlington, Virginia, meeting.

Please submit nominations in writing (electronic mail accepted)  with the name, resident country, and office(s) no later than 9:00 a.m., EST, March 19, 2017, to the Nominations and Elections Committee at nominations@democratsabroad.org.

The 2017 Nominations and Elections Committee is comprised of Ruth South McCreery (Japan) as chair along with Shari Temple (Germany), Adrianne George (UK), and Meredith Wheeler (France).

At present, the international officers are:

Chair –  Katie Solon (Germany)

Vice-Chair – Art Schankler (Serbia)*

Secretary – Julia Bryan (Czech Republic)*

Treasurer – Tom Schmidt (Japan)*

Counsel – Orlando Vidal (United Arab Emirates)

*Asterisks indicate officers who are in their first term and are eligible to run again.

Each nomination should contain an affirmation that the nominee is qualified to run for the office in question. That requires a confirmation of the following requirements:

(1) the nominee must be a U.S. citizen (copy of passport will be required);

(2) the nominee must be living abroad;

(3) the nominee must adhere to the principles of the Democratic Party of the United States;

(4) the nominee must be a member of Democrats Abroad.

Each nominee will be asked to complete a questionnaire to provide a detailed candidate profile that will be available on the DA website.

Please direct any questions to nominations@democratsabroad.org.

Respectfully submitted, on behalf of the DPCA Nominations and Elections Committee (2017),

Ruth South McCreery (Chair)

Democrats Abroad

 

Have you moved or changed your name or email? Sign in and update your Account Settings.
Other membership questions? Send us an email and let us know.
Thank you for your support! To donate to Democrats Abroad today click here.
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Democrats Abroad February 2017 Americas Region meeting notes

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us

February 15 Democrats Abroad Americas Region meeting notes

taken by Eric Jackson

– Was it the Claro.com connection, or Cisco’s WebX program? In any case it took 20 minutes or so to get connected so the meeting was underway when joined.

– See the attendance list screenshot and the running transcript of the chat box that went along with the meeting.

– Steve Nardi from Canada was speaking of a project to develop Google docs programs for free and easy click voting and other applications. It seems not to be quite there yet, and then Jody Quinnell (the regional vice chair and chair of this meeting) was talking about the need for training once the programs and forms are ready.

– Jody said that “the idea is out there” to change the Democrats Abroad Charter, perhaps before the Washington meetings in May. It would be by the current leadership, all but one of them Hillary people in the primary, and could perhaps affect who gets to be the next leadership.

– The passing of Joe Greene, a long-time stalward in DA Canada and at upper levels of the organization at times, was noted. He died after a long illness and people got their chances to pay their respects.

– The Democrats Abroad Wiki — which has a lot of rules information and the like and is open to different extents to people with varying privileges in the hierarchy — had been completely unavailable to those who did not know of a one-letter address change. It is now https://wiki.democratsabroad.org .

– “Don’t get lost in the shuffle,” Jody warns. There are election protocols to be followed, which apparently have been recently revised. She said that she would send them out again.

– There was discussion about the May 12-15 DA conference in Washington, hotel reservations, fees for coffee breaks and so on. The international leaders will be elected then, and the Americas region will also meet then and there to pick regional leaders. There was no mention of online participation.

– Various countries gave reports: Panama, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru

– Larry Pihl gave a report on the “Indivisible Guide” and mentioned that it was useful in mobilizing people to protest at GOP members of Congress town halls in their districts. He also mentioned that there is a by-election coming up in Georgia and lamented the fact that for many Democrats Abroad members there are no ZIP codes on file for the places where they vote in the USA. The international wants that and much more information about the members.

– Jody referred people to the Democrats Abroad website for information on the DNC chair race and opined that Tom Perez is leading.

– John Chudy (Guatemala) said that the DNC needs a “seasoned professional” (Tom Perez) rather than a “celebrity” (Keith Ellison) as chair. It’s a continuation of the use of these meetings by “in crowd” factionalists to berate progressives, Bernie Sanders, the entire millennial generation and anyone but themselves.

– Jody talked about “outreach” to re-create chapters that were eliminated over the past four years. Those include Brazil and Argentina. Overall, since 2013 Democrats Abroad has lost one-quarter of its country chapters, not because of lack of participation but because of rules changes. There is also an effort to establish chapters in El Salvador and Colombia, and to contact individuals listed in other countries without chapters to see if they are still around.

– In the most recent certification process no chapter in the Americas was disqualified, but nearly one-quarter of DA Panama’s members were discounted due to lack of all the information that the folks upstairs want.

– The next regional meeting will be on March 22.

Meeting chat log

from John Chudy, Guatemala to Everyone:
If Steve has some success exploring Google Docs that would be a cost-free alterntive for small CCs.

from Larry Pihl to Everyone:
Makes a lot of sense to be able to compare both.

from Jody Quinnell to Everyone:
https:// arlingtoncourthouseplaza. place.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home. html?corp_id=G-DPCA

from John Chudy, Guatemala to Everyone:
Odebrecht also has scandals tangles in Guatemala

from Steve Nardi (Canada) to Everyone:
Need to prep for my next call. Thanks Jody – I’ll have a review for you, Larry and John over the weekend.

from Jo Ellen Kuney to Everyone:
Interesting piece in The Nation about Ecuador’s elections vis a vis the US. https://www.thenation.com/article/ecuadors-left-wing-success-story/

from John Chudy, Guatemala to Everyone:
yes

from John Chudy, Guatemala to Everyone:
There are 447 members who will vote for DNC chair. DA DNC members have 1/2 vote each, i.e., 4 votes total. Tom Perez is the leading candidate so far. DA website has info on each.

from John Chudy, Guatemala to Everyone:
Where in southern Chile?

from John Chudy, Guatemala to Everyone:
Next stop the south pole

from Erin Becker_Chile to Everyone:
Puerto Varas, Chile 🙂

from Larry Pihl to Everyone:
We all may have to move to the South Pole….

from John Chudy, Guatemala to Everyone:
And use www.votefromabroad.org, which allows every member to update their DA record.

from John Chudy, Guatemala to Everyone:
Yes

from Larry Pihl to Everyone:
Need to encourage all members to update their voting address so we can direct things to them down to the District level. Completing an update in VFA is a great way to do that.

from John Chudy, Guatemala to Everyone:
@Larry, good point. Thanks.
@Mike Glover. Go to www.democratsabroad.org, and click on Volunteer. And Jody can directly link you to the FATCA committee.

from Jo Ellen Kuney to Everyone:
If there is a list of potential action groups that you are recruiting for…please let us know.

from Jo Ellen Kuney to Everyone:
Resist!

from John Chudy, Guatemala to Everyone:
at www.democratsabroad.org, click on “Take Action” and scroll down to volunteer.

from Larry Pihl to Everyone:
www.indivisibleguide.com

from Larry Pihl to Everyone:
larry.pihl@gmail.com

from John Chudy, Guatemala to Everyone:
@Larry, do share your docs etc. with DAGT. We have members here very interseted in every effort to resist.

from Larry Pihl to Everyone:
Will do John.

from Jo Ellen Kuney to Everyone:
Larry. Ecuador is interested as well.

from John Chudy, Guatemala to Everyone:
For info on DNC elections see: http://www.democratsabroad.org/dnc_chair_election

from John Chudy, Guatemala to Everyone:
Some candidates have responded to DA’s questionnaire.

from eric jackson to Everyone:
Which chapters have we lost, or gained, on the Jan 31 membership list process?

vote final

Rude questions: money laundering for slavery probably trumps lurid sex tales

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la migra
Panamanian immigration authorities arrest some 60 foreigners, including Colombians, Dominicans, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans. in a 2017 roundup at strip joints and brothels in the Panama City neighborhood of Calidonia. Most of the women were trafficked from Colombia, which migration is itself a lucrative racket. Photo by Migración.

The sex stuff may sell, but we should look for a slavery case

estimates by Eric Jackson
chair of Democrats Abroad Panama and editor of The Panama News

 

[L]isted as director of four Trump Ocean investment companies was Igor Anopolskiy, who in 2007 was Homes Real Estate’s representative in Kiev. Police records state he was arrested in March of that year for suspected people trafficking.”

“Altshoul attended the Mar-a-Lago party with another Homes partner, Stanislau Kavalenka, recalled people who were there. Kavalenka was also a Canadian émigré from the former Soviet Union. … In 2004, Canadian prosecutors had accused Kavalenka of pimping and kidnapping Russian prostitutes. That case was dropped in 2005 after the alleged prostitutes, who were the main witnesses, did not show up in court. … ‘I was running some girls. That’s how I made money.'”Reuters, at http://www.businessinsider.com/r-special-report-ivanka-trump-and-the-fugitive-from-panama-2017-11

 
The proper Democratic response to tales like this? At this point, to laugh and decline comment, or to tell “Is fake new planted by moose and squorrel” jokes.

https://www.spin.com/2018/01/stormy-daniels-trump-in-touch-interview-daughter/

http://www.intouchweekly.com/posts/stormy-daniels-affair-donald-trump-151571

http://worldnewsdailyreport.com/russian-hooker-who-had-sex-with-donald-trump-mocks-his-tiny-penis/

HOWEVER, the things we raise in public and the questions we raise in other contexts, for example with investigators for congressional Democrats who are looking into the whole Trump affair – if there are any investigators who are GOOD at it, hard workers, fair minded, cautious, patriotic – are a different matter. Asking rude questions in private is not the same thing as publishing lurid accusations for mass consumption. The difference is between asking a question and making a statement.

And the Trump prostitution, pornography (a subset of prostitution) and human trafficking (an ancillary business of prostitution and pornography) questions ought to be looked into. I say this as a man who lives in a country where prostitution is legal and who thinks that although it’s in many cases a form of slavery prostitution is better legal than illegal. (One big eye opener for me, years ago, was in court when a woman who had a good heart and a decent set of values as far as I could see when she was a city council constituent of mine a few years before, was pleading guilty to a solicitation charge. Crack addiction had brought hard times upon her, but count me out of any stone-throwing mob.)

But now that the sensationalists have prostitution front and center in the Trump story and it’s probably not libel, it really is time to start pressing the questions about that aspect of Donald Trump as the organized crime story. That is a compelling and better demonstrated than most Russian angle. And woe to the prosecutor who goes out on a limb with a fanciful or less than absolutely damning collusion with the Kremlin case, because about 30 percent of the national jury pool would be into nullification anyway. Making the case that associates Trump with sleazy Russian human traffickers and pimps, however, is a back door to the national security peril angle to the extent that it can be shown that these operators had significant Russian government ties. That’s because then the Kremlin would know, and could blackmail Trump about such matters.

In 2015 I wrote a story, mostly based on open sources but also by asking a few key people about the front man in the development of the Trump Ocean Club in Panama City, Roger Khafif. He is not who and what he claimed. It was said that he made his fortune in the Colon Free Zone, but prominent Free Zone merchants and execs who would have known him if that were so didn’t know of him in that context. It is said that he was a real estate developer in the upscale resort community of Coronado, but nobody in the real estate business there can verify that. It is said that he is the developer of this ultra-exclusive resort on the island of Saboga in Panama’s Perlas Archipelago, but not only does this development not exist, but a source in the Perlas – alas, unpublishable once or twice removed hearsay – told me that what was going on is that Khafif would send a work crew to the island on a boat with, say, six guys, and come back to Panama City with perhaps 15 people aboard. That is, that he is or was a human smuggler. But I have limited resources and I don’t have such a death wish as to go to Saboga and start asking strangers about smuggling activities.

In my story I identified two mob lawyers with Russian ties with the Trump circle: Alexander Altshoul, a Canadian of Belorussian origin and Juliette Passer, an American who was a consultant in the Yeltsin era privatizations in and around St. Petersburg and who does a lot of her business in Russia and in Russian satellites like Kazakhstan to this day.

Others have fleshed out some of this story. Some just tangentially touched on Panama in their own original investigations of Trump’s Russian mob ties. See, e.g., http://time.com/4433880/donald-trump-ties-to-russia/ .

Reuters and NBC recently ran a thing, and I had extensive discussions with the Reuters folks in the course of their doing that investigation. I am not claiming credit for their work, but the big media don’t station people in Panama and instead tend to pick the brains of us smaller media folks who cover the beat, so they asked me to meet with them and talk about the Trump situation here.

Reuters and NBC – https://www.nbcnews.com/news/investigations/panama-tower-carries-trump-s-name-ties-organized-crime-n821706 – went after Alex Ventura, the low-hanging piece of fruit. They didn’t get very deep into his political escapades in Panama, nor the even more remarkable ones of David Murcia Guzmán, nor Murcia Guzmán’s sudden Plan Colombia rise from a guy selling pirate CDs on the streets of Santa Marta to a fabulously wealthy racketeer in Putumayo province just when the Colombian Army and its tacit AUC paramilitary allies were conquering that area’s drug trade from the FARC guerrillas. (Later FARC mostly took it back, and by some accounts the Valle del Norte Cartel paid “taxes” first to FARC, then to the AUC, then to FARC again and through much of that process used Murcia Guzmán and his uncle as key money launderers.) More importantly, they didn’t get much into who and what Khafif really is. Maybe, like this reporter, they could find what he wasn’t but could not establish what he was with enough certainty to publish.

Also working closely with Reuters and NBC was Global Witness. I met with Ken Silverstein about the story while they were working on it. See https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/corruption-and-money-laundering/narco-a-lago-panama/ and hit your find feature to get to the snippet about Stanislav Kavalenka.

So what is proven? Except for one afflicted with paranoiac ideation, just a bunch of circumstances without any particular connecting causal relationships, just a bunch of ugly associations.

But consider some more circumstances:

– The president’s grandfather was among other ventures in the prostitution business.  See http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/trump-canada-yukon-1.3235254. The Donald is from a pimp lineage.

– When this reporter came back to Panama in 1994, the reputed rules and pecking orders were first, that Russians laundered money here like criminal organizations of many other nationalities but they didn’t get directly involved in the rackets here. But that changed, with Russian playing at least technical contractor roles in drug smuggling – http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/915059.stm – and gradually displacing the Spaniards as the dominant players in Panamanian prostitution – obliquely, see http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/tony-galeota-from-running-porkys-miamis-most-notorious-strip-joint-to-rotting-in-a-panamanian-jail-6389358 and know that the word on the street was that a rival Russian organization paid off Panamanian authorities to shut down Galiota’s organization.

A case to take into court this is not. Not yet, anyway. But there is enough there to did deeper. Donald Trump’s escapades with some hookers and porn stars may be lurid enough to damage him with many voters but they are not the stuff of dignified discussion by Democrats. Donald Trump’s business ties with mobsters in the human trafficking / prostitution / pornography industry IS something that respectable Democrats should look into, and about which a competent prosecutor may well build a money laundering case.