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SOS procedente de Villa Soberanía

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A problem - 1

SOS desde Villa Soberanía

por Augusto Fábrega D.

Somos moradores de una urbanización resultante de los esfuerzos y afanes de 152 familias de clase media quienes gracias a una cooperativa presidida por el Dr. José Leonardo Días Castillo construimos nuestra barriada a partir de 1973.

Villa Soberanía se encuentra entre La Alameda y La Locería. Tenemos acceso desde la Vía Ricardo J. Alfaro por la calle del Taller de Ricardo Pérez y por la Vía Juan Pablo II.

La calle que nos permite ingresar a nuestra urbanización desde la Vía Ricardo J. Alfaro entre el Colegio Internacional de María Inmaculada en La Alameda y el sitio en el que se encuentran los Talleres de Ricardo Pérez fue construida parcialmente con nuestros recursos y parcialmente gracias a gestiones que adelantamos ante el MOP (Ministerio de Obras Públicas).

Entre los pioneros y primeros moradores de nuestra urbanización habíamos: médicos, enfermeras, laboratoristas, trabajadoras sociales, ingenieros, visitadores médicos, docentes (maestros y profesores), funcionarios públicos, comerciantes, etc.

El nombre de nuestra barriada fue propuesto por el autor de estas líneas, en una de las reuniones de la cooperativa que realizábamos en la casa comunal de La Locería, todos los jueves. Se aproximaba el 15 de marzo de 1973 cuando se realizó en nuestro país por segunda vez, fuera de su sede en Nueva York, una reunión del Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU, sesión en la cual el General Omar Torrijos Herrera, en nombre de nuestro país denunció el enclave colonial denominado Zona del Canal y reclamó la soberanía en todo nuestro territorio. Se realizaron dos reuniones para escoger y ratificar la decisión de la asamblea general de los cooperativistas de designar a nuestra urbanización con el nombre de Villa Soberanía.

Con el transcurrir de los años se instalaron en las proximidades de nuestra urbanización:

1. El Colegio Internacional María Inmaculada de La Alameda

2. El taller de Ricardo Pérez.

3. La empresa SAR de limpieza (cuya entrada principal está en la Vía Juan Pablo II y el acceso a los depósitos se encuentra en la calle que hemos identificado como la calle de los Talleres de Ricardo Pérez).

Desde que aparecieron en el área los citados vecinos estos paulatinamente han ido ocupando gran parte de la estrecha vía. En la calle no hay espacio para los peatones, no existen aceras en la abrumadora mayoría de su extensión.

Tras esta, un tanto extensa, introducción deseo denunciar que la estrecha calle que comunica nuestra urbanización con la Vía Ricardo J. Alfaro es ocupada y a menudo bloqueada por autos, microbuses y camiones estacionados a ambos lados de la misma por clientes y trabajadores del taller, por los camiones de la empresa SAR de limpieza y el Colegio Internacional María Inmaculada ubicado en La Alameda.

Es preciso destacar que la dificultad en el tránsito por la vía que nos ocupa no solamente es para el movimiento de los autos sino también para los jóvenes y trabajadoras que recorren la misma a pie sorteando los autos y camiones y exponiéndose a ser atropellados debido a que no hay aceras para los transeúntes.

Las fotos que ilustran este mensaje fueron tomadas el sábado 4 de febrero 2017 a las 12:00 meridiano en tres segmentos de la ruta.

En una nota posterior nos referiremos al acceso a nuestra barriada desde la Vía Juan Pablo II operación que a menudo no es nada fácil.

La denuncia sobre lo señalado en esta nota ya sido hecha ante las autoridades competentes y la volveremos a presentar con la esperanza que llegará el momento que las empresas señaladas tomen las medidas pertinentes para que los moradores de Villa Soberanía podamos usufructuar del derecho al libre tránsito y el acceso a nuestra urbanización, no solo en auto sino también caminando (con seguridad, sin estar expuestos a ser arrollados por un auto por la falta de espacio existente en la actualidad para los peatones).

Entre los moradores de nuestra barriada hemos comentado que resulta inexplicable que dos empresas y una escuela tan conocidas en nuestro medio no sean más considerados con sus vecinos de Villa Soberanía.

 

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The Panama News blog links, February 7, 2017

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The Panama News blog links

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

Canal, Maritime & Transportation / Canal, Marítima & Transporte

WorkBoat, First post-Panamax tug-barge transit

En Mayúscula, Canal de Panamá establece récord de tonelaje mensual

Hellenic Shipping News, Work to begin on Nicaragua Canal in first quarter of 2017

Ship Technology, Indigenous leaders concerned about increased Arctic shipping

Hellenic Shipping News, Grim outlook for panamax container ships

Sports / Deportes

TVN, Yankees confirman invitación a Rubén Tejada en campamento primaveral

Sports Illustrated, Carew recovering from transplants

TVN, Julio Dely estará en el banquillo del Málaga

Mercury News, Quakes’ Cummings has sports hernia surgery

La Estrella, Grench se sube al podio con bronce

Economy / Economía

ANP, Ingresos del estado panameño cierran el 2016 en $7.389M

La Estrella, Aportes de empresas estatales y mixtas aumentan 3.2% en 2016

AFP, Odebrecht pulls out of bidding on fourth canal bridge

Forbes, Tech finds its voice on travel ban

Science & Technology / Ciencia & Tecnología

STRI, Researchers list reasons not to lick a toad

Globe & Mail, Climate change drives yellow fever comeback in Brazil

CSMonitor.com, How cheap can SpaceX make space?

The Atlantic, Vines turn rainforests into diverse ant playgrounds

Duke Today, Female beauty isn’t just sex appeal

News / Noticias

AFP, Panama fears migrant inflow because of Trump travel ban

Migración, Permisos de residencia en enero de 2017 (PDF)

New York Daily News, Columbia University graduate found dead in Panama

Newsroom Panama, Bank embezzlement ninth case against Martinelli

TVN, Cómo se movieron los millones de Odebrecht

Procuradoría, Informe de gestion 2016 (PDF)

Colombia Plural, Católicos lamentan la participación de la Iglesia en la guerra

The New Yorker, Inside the trial of Dylann Roof

Opinion / Opiniones

Chomsky, How to deal with the Trump presidency (video)

Rostowski, Trump’s chaos theory of government

Kiriakou, Trump’s torture lady for the CIA

Peláez, De la globalización al nacionalismo

Boff, The God of Brazil is Moloch

Baer, Brexit implications for the Falklands / Malvinas dispute

Presman, Economía de mujeres

Sagel, ¿En qué quedó la concertación?

Blades, “¿Adónde está Rubén?”

Simpson, Acerca del proyecto de ley 245

Culture / Cultura

BBC, Music therapy in Uganda’s refugee camps (audio)

Video, The Journey

La Estrella, Ender y Blades nominados al Salón de la Fama de Compositores

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Bang Bang You’re Dead by the Theatre Guild

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bang
So WHO is the victim? Just because the blame shift is a gear that can’t be moved doesn’t mean he won’t try. Photo by Eric Jackson.

Mass murder, method acting
and the minds of young actors

a review by Eric Jackson

According to the Stanislavski Method that dominates the acting on the stages and screens of the English-speaking world, an actor is supposed to draw from the well of personal experiences and emotions to get the attitudes and effects that she or he is to portray. Similes can come into play when the role calls for things outside the actor’s experience, as is usually the case when one plays a depraved criminal.

The hero with a gun story is a genre of unreality in which the bad guys tend to be easy-to-play shallow cutouts for the good guy to vanquish. But Bang Bang You’re Dead has the bad guy as the central character. If anything it would be the victims who are the inconsequential “mushrooms” that pop up and get stepped on. But the victims here are anything but that.

Here we have a dark drama, a play with no hero, stereotypical or otherwise.

The Guild’s production of Bang Bang You’re Dead had a young cast drawn from the metro area’s private high schools — not especially places where gangsters hold sway, and perhaps in some instances venues Americanized culture but probably not the gun worship and certainly not the school shootings that one finds in the United States. Yes, there is plenty of bullying and there are plenty of self-centered kids in schools here, but by and large these kids were acting out scenes from an alien culture.

The cast, led by Juan Pablo Delgado who played the shooter, did it very well. Several of them played multiple roles. Surely that would be a matter of good directing by Levys Mon Calderon.

Also noteworthy about this production are the lighting and video effects, around which the set was designed. It’s a multimedia spectacle and the technical aspects that you see onstage by people whom you don’t see onstage are impressive. Let this be a reminder that the Guild, one of the senior institutions of this country’s English-speaking community, needs the help of a lot of people who do things other than acting.

Can we play junior shrink and discuss what sort of flake Delgado’s character Josh is? Go see the play, and play that game if you are so disposed. But know that mass murderers and serial killers tend to be very different sorts of people, the former people with emotional disorders and deteriorating lives that lead to the usually psychotic snaps at the moment of their crimes, the latter typically spiritually dead psychopaths except for the reptilian brain stem feelings of hunger, sex, death, and physical pain or comfort. The Hollywood cliche is that when people die in great numbers at around the same time by being shot or blown up, that’s an “action drama;” while when people die one by one in separate incidents, often by strangling or stabbing, that’s a “psychological drama.” This one breaks that boring mold, being as it is a psychological play about a mass murderer, a guy who shoots up a school, and his victims.

Don’t go to see Bang Bang You’re Dead for light-hearted entertainment. Don’t take a little kid to see it. You may want to bring along an adolescent. You may want to go just for a glimpse at some of the next generation whom you are likely to find in Panama’s theater scenes of tomorrow, this time doing heavy drama.

 

Written by William Mastrosimone
Directed and adapted by Levys Mon Calderon
Assistant director Daniela Noriega
Produced by Andres Diaz, Levys Mon Calderon and Gabriela Mornhinweg
Assistant producers Dayana Moreno and Daniela Noriega

Starring Juan Pablo Delgado, Fiona O’Reilly, Nick Molina, Ana Raquel Calzada, Joshua Samuels and Raquel De La Guardia (with Anya Sirker as understudy)

Set design Aylin Medina
Set construction Tito Vallarino
Lighting design Juan De La Guardia
Sound design Levys Mon Calderon
Costumes Gabriela Mornhinweg, with Keita Kushner
Video content Rafael Quezada and Gretel Kahn
Animations Grethel Guardia

Lighting tech Andres Diaz
Sound tech Thomas Kenna
PPT tech Thomas Rowley
Makeup Dayana Moreno
Stage manager Kelly Walsh
Assistant stage manager Gabriela Mornhinweg
Backstage manager Juan Lozada
Stage hands Sabrina Ubben and Anya Sirker

Also on the production, marketing, graphics and photography team Patricia Mora, Elena Nathani and several people listed above doing other tasks

Editor’s note: The journalist is not supposed to be the story, but the pretense that anybody can report anything without having a point of view is one of the lies that has been killing old journalistic conventions and the mainstream media in which they have been celebrated. Everybody has a point of view and it’s best to be candid about these when they might matter to the reader. So as a footnote, this confession:

My late friend Ahmad Rahman spent 23 years of his life as a Black Panther political prisoner doing life with no parole before a concerted campaign convinced a governor to commute his sentence. Shortly after his release the topic of the award-winning movie “The Silence of the Lambs” came up and he told me this: “I have just spent many years living with psychopaths. I don’t find psychopaths the least bit entertaining.” And so it also goes — somewhat — with this play and me. Gun violence? The stuff of the most awful and warping experience in my life. Being bullied? Been there, done that. A high school outcast? I was one of those. So the subject matter of “Bang Bang You’re Dead” is painful in several personal ways. But an arts scene that is entirely about happy thoughts and limited to works that don’t make a person think is the ideal of dull conformists who are painful to be around. It’s infinitely worse should they ever come into positions of cultural power. This play takes a person into uncomfortable nooks and crannies of the mind — even if there are no personal demons like mine to meet there.

 

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Bernal, Aggravated corruption with Odebrecht

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jail to the chief
Take them away! A long march toward justice has just barely begun. Photo by Eric Jackson.

Aggravated corruption with Odebrecht

by Miguel Antonio Bernal

From day one when the criminal mega-business that is Odebrecht set foot in our country, it not only knew what would come. It also know how and through whom it would act to reach its despicable objectives.

By 2006 they had developed and accumulated experience not only in their country of origin but also in other latitudes, where they acted the same. Here they came and stayed. They found a whole legal, financial and economic system fit for their purposes. And, like other transnational companies before and after them, they had previously done a study of the psychological features of the power brokers in Panama.

They knew then, as it is said, where the locust sleeps. The locust that in Panama has had a particular mutation that, when crossed with piranhas and termites, has resulted in a new hybrid, an instrument for enhanced corruption, for a gradual conditioning.

Thus during two administrations they were given all kinds of luxuries and managed to mount a whole constellation to run operate with impunity and plunder the Panamanian people of everything they wanted and could steal.

Early on they did and undid things to give themselves the royal and holy victory, with the collusion, by acts or omissions, of three governments that one after another lent the country and lent themselves for the modern plundering of our pockets. The Ali Babas were fueled by impunity, which helped them to further consolidate.

Today, the Panamanian people have yet to recover from the looting of the national coffers by the local bosses and their party machines, and haven’t even been able to measure the damage that this has meant and will mean for our national dignity and our international status.

But the dance of millions continues, given that so far there is no real will on the part of the authorities and of important national sectors to put a definitive end to this.

Thus the Citizens March of January 25, like the upcoming vigil on Wednesday, February 8, are just a footstep on the long road to be traveled.

 

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Avnery, Respect the Green Line

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The Palestinian side of the Green Line Wall. Gandhi Graffiti by Banksy. Wikimedia archive photo.

Respect the Green Line!

by Uri Avnery — Gush Shalom

The most incisive analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict I have ever read was written by the Jewish-Polish-British historian Isaac Deutscher. It consists of a single image.

A man lives on the upper floor of a building, which catches fire. To save his life, he jumps out of a window and lands on a passerby in the street below. The victim is grievously injured, and between the two starts an intractable conflict.

Of course, no metaphor is completely perfect. The Zionists did not choose Palestine by chance, the choice was based on our religion. The founder of the movement, Theodor Herzl, initially preferred Argentina.

Still, the picture is basically valid, at least until 1967. From then on, the settlers continued to jump across the Green Line, with no fire in sight.

There is nothing holy about the Green Line. It is no different from any other border line around the world, whatever its color.

Most borders were drawn by geography and the accidents of war. Two peoples fight for the territory between them, at some point the fighting comes to an end, and a border is born.

The land borders of Israel — known for some reason as the “Green Line” — were also established by the accidents of war. A part of that line was the result of a deal between the new Israeli government and the king of Jordan, Abdallah I, who gave us the so-called Triangle as a baksheesh, in return for Israel’s agreement to his annexation of most of the rest of Palestine.

So what’s so holy about this border? Nothing, except that it’s there. And that is true for many borders throughout the world.

A border is established by accident and confirmed by agreement. True, the United Nations drew borders between the Jewish and the Arab states in its 1947 resolution, but after the Arab side started a war in order to thwart this decision, Israel greatly enlarged its territory.

The 1948 war ended without a peace treaty. But the armistice lines established at the end of the war were accepted by the entire world as the borders of Israel. This has not changed during the 68 years that have passed since then.

This situation prevails both de facto and de jure. Israeli law applies only within the Green Line. Everything else is occupied territory under military law. Two small territories — East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights – were unilaterally declared to be annexed by Israel, but nobody in the world recognizes this status.

I elaborate on these well-known facts because the settlers in the occupied territories have lately started to taunt their critics in Israel by bringing up a new argument: “Hey, what’s the big difference between us?”

You too sit on Arab lands, they tell us. True, before 1948 the Zionists settled on land they bought with good money — but only a small part of it was bought from the fellahin who tilled it. Most of it was acquired from rich absentee landowners, who had bought it cheaply from the Turkish sultan when the Ottoman Empire was in dire financial straits . The tillers of the land were driven out by the Turkish, and later the British, police.

Large stretches of land were “liberated” during the fighting of 1948, when masses of Arab villagers and city-dwellers fled before the advancing Israeli forces, as civilians do in every war. If they didn’t, a few salvos of machine-gun fire were enough to drive them out.

The inhabitants who were left in Jaffa after the town was conquered, were simply packed on trucks and sent to Gaza. The inhabitants of Lod (Lydda) were driven away on foot. In the end, about 750 thousand Arabs were expelled, more than half the Palestinian people at the time. The Jewish population in Palestine amounted then to 650 thousand.

Some inner voice compels me at this point to mention a Canadian-Jewish officer named Ben Dunkelmann, then 36 years old, who commanded a brigade in the new Israeli army. He had served with distinction in the Canadian army in World War II. He was ordered to attack Nazareth, the home-town of Jesus, but succeeded in inducing the local leaders to surrender without a fight. The condition was that the local population would not be harmed.

After his troops had occupied the town, Dunkelmann received an oral order to drive the population out. Outraged, Dunkelmann refused to break his word of honor as an officer and a gentleman, and demanded the order in writing. Such a written order never arrived, of course (no such orders were ever put in writing), but Dunkelmann was removed from his post.

Nowadays, when I pass Nazareth, a thriving Arab town, I remember this brave man. After that war, he returned to his native Canada. I don’t think he ever came back here again. He died 20 years ago.

Honest disclosure: I took part in all this. As a simple soldier, and later as a squad leader, I was a part of the events. But immediately after the war I wrote a book that disclosed the truth (“The Other Side of the Coin”), and a few years later I published a detailed plan for the return of some of the refugees and the payment of compensation to all the others. That, of course, never happened.

Most of the land and the houses of the refugees were filled with new Jewish immigrants.

Now the settlers say, not without some justice: “Who are you to despise us? You did the same as we are doing! Only you did it before 1967, and we do it now. What’s the difference?”

That is the difference. We live in a state that has been recognized by most of the world within established borders. You live in territory that the world considers occupied Palestinian territory. The state of Texas was acquired by the USA in a war with Mexico. If President Trump were now to invade Mexico and annex a chunk of land (why not?), its status would be quite different.

Binyamin Netanyahu — some now call him Trumpyahu — is all for enlarging the settlements. This week, under pressure from our Supreme Court, he staged the removal of one tiny little settlement, Amona, with a lot of heartbreak and tears, but immediately promised to put up many thousands of new “housing units” in the occupied territories.

Opposite political extremes often touch each other. So it is now.

The settlers who want to wipe out the difference between us and them, do it not just to justify themselves. Their main aim is to erase the Green Line and include all the occupied territories in Greater Israel, which would extend from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.

A lot of Israel-haters want the same borders — but as an Arab state.

Indeed, I would love to chair a peace conference of Israel-haters and Palestine-haters. I would propose to decide first on the points they all agree on — namely the creation of a state from sea to river. I would leave to the end the decision whether to call it Israel or Palestine.

A world-wide movement called BDS now proposes to boycott all of Israel, in order to achieve this end. I have a problem with that.

Gush Shalom, the Israeli peace organization to which I belong, takes great pride in being the first to declare a boycott on the products of the settlements many years ago. We still uphold this boycott, though it is now illegal under Israeli law.

We did not declare a boycott on Israel. And not only because it is rather awkward to boycott oneself. The main object of our boycott was to teach Israelis to differentiate between themselves and the settlements. We published and distributed many thousand copies of the list of companies located and products produced outside the Green Line. Many people are upholding the boycott.

The BDS boycott of all Israel achieves the exact opposite: by saying that there is no difference between Israel within the Green Line and the settlers outside, it pushes ordinary Israelis into the arms of the settlers.

The settlers, of course, are only too happy to get the assistance of BDS in erasing the Green Line.

I have no emotional quarrel with the BDS people. True, a few of them seem to be old-school anti-Semites in a new garb, but I have the impression that most BDS supporters act out of sincere sympathy for the suffering of the Palestinians. I respect that.

However, I would urge the well-meaning idealists who support BDS to think again about the paramount importance of the Green Line — the only border that makes peace between Israel and Palestine possible, with some minor mutually agreed adjustments.

Israel is there. It cannot be wished away. So is Palestine.

If we all agree on that, we can also agree on the continued boycott of the settlements — and of the settlements only.

 

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¿Wappin? Electric stuff and some of its notable DJs

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profe

Electric stuff and some of its notable DJs

Electrifying Mojo from the Mother Ship
https://youtu.be/_10S_tjll-8
 

Ellie Goulding – Burn
https://youtu.be/CGyEd0aKWZE
 

Culoe De Song & Thandiswa Mazwai – Nguwe
https://youtu.be/YFbHQsD2Ess
 

Tangerine Dream – Stratosfear
https://youtu.be/2w8VsvJ40sM
 

Super Non-stop DJ Tom Sawyer
https://youtu.be/-F4zS5J33VY
 

Safri Duo – Samb-Adagio
https://youtu.be/rqbHxGBmFeE
 

Mad Professor – A Caribbean Taste Of Technology
https://youtu.be/ewDTHfJqLwI

 

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Short notice to close and demolish Escuela Republica de Venezuela

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Escuela Venezuela flood
The Escuela Republica de Venezuela stands on a place that was once a swamp and isn’t far from Panama Bay. Landfilled areas are more sensitive to seismic shocks. This neighborhood is also prone to occasional flooding. This deluge closed the school in 2015. Photo from the Twitter feed of Alexis Garcés.

Citing damage from Metro vibrations, government will demolish historic school

by Eric Jackson

The Escuela Republica de Venezuela is the closest large public school to the seats of government power — the legislature and the Presidencia — and has a fabled history. It has been the point of gathering and departure for many a teachers’ protest, including the 1979 march against proposed education reforms that was a milestone in the movement to end the dictatorship. It has housed various offices and is now home to both the elementary school that bears the school’s name and the Instituto Comercial Bolivar, one of the city’s smaller public high schools. On February 2, less than two weeks before the start of the 2017 school year, the Ministry of Education announced that the building would be demolished and that its students and teachers would be relocated or scattered to other schools.

The reason given was a study that the ministry received from the engineering department at Panama Technological University that indicated that core samples from support pillars and other critical structures at the school indicated that they were in poor shape and made the building dangerous to use. The reason for the problem, ministry projects director Mario Caparroso told Telemetro News, was that while the damage is not obvious to the naked eye, vibrations from the Metro commuter trains have been crumbling the old school’s structures.

The inconvenient announcement prompted protests by teachers and parents. Education officials had the study in their hands for about a month before announcing the document’s contents and the ministry’s decision. The short notice has fed suspicions that the government just wants to sell the land or that the danger has been known for longer than announced without disclosing the problem to educators and the general public. The ministry denies plans to sell the land and is working to relocate the two schools. One partial option mentioned is to transfer the Instituto Comercial Bolivar to the Primer Ciclo Panama school building, which is only used for part of the day. The rental of temporary school facilities or the dispersal of students to other schools are also being considered.

One concern that’s being addressed by neither the government nor the corporate mainstream media is what this news could mean for the Metro. If the vibrations from the trains — or from the system’s earlier construction — have damaged the school so badly that it must be torn down, then other structures along the route may have also been damaged. That could impose some liabilities or reinforcement costs. At the very least it would call for some resources to be directed toward special inspections. The Metro goes over and under various sorts of terrain, but typically landfilled areas — through which part of Line 1 passes — are more sensitive to seismic vibrations. The published studies, however, are generally about earthquake risks rather than the shocks caused by trains, trucks or construction. But over the centuries the relatively stable Panama City has had the occasional serious earthquake. A building weakened by other causes might not be able to withstand one of those.

 

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Hightower, Uncle Sam wants… your Social Security check

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enemy
US Representative Sam Johnson, a Texas Republican who’s ready to retire with a nice pension but wants to cut Social Security benefits for everyone else by up to 69 percent. Photo by his office.

Uncle Sam wants your Social Security check

by Jim Hightower — OtherWords

Uncle Sam wants you!

Not the Uncle Sam who’s the symbolic caricature of our country, but Sam Johnson. Although he’s been a member of Congress for more than a quarter of a century, you’ve probably never heard of him.

Johnson’s been what’s known in legislative circles as “furniture.” That’s a lawmaker who holds a congressional seat, but just sits in it, achieving so little that he’s unnoticeable.

But — look out! — Johnson has suddenly leapt into action. And we all need to take notice, because this Texas Republican has unveiled what he calls his “Plan to Permanently Save Social Security.”

To get you to support the plan, Uncle Sam wants you to believe that our nation’s very popular retirement program is “going bankrupt.2 He knows that’s a lie, but he hopes it’s a big enough lie to panic you into doing anything to save the program.

To make his plan easy to swallow, he coats it with another lie, claiming that he’s merely “modernizing” and “updating” Social Security, which a big majority of Americans count on to avoid stark poverty in their golden years.

But in fact, old Uncle Sam is conniving to “save” Social Security by gutting it.

The press release announcing his “Reform Act” doesn’t even mention the key fact that it’s based on making workers keep paying the same 12.4 percent tax on their wages, but getting drastically less paid back to them when they retire.

How much less? Up to 69 percent less, cutting a total cut of $11.6 trillion in benefits promised to America’s workers.

Meanwhile, Representative Johnson has announced his own retirement after 28 years sitting in Congress. And yes, he can draw a Social Security check, but he also gets a congressional pension that will pay him more than $70,000 a year.

How about we cut that perk and leave the people’s Social Security alone?

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

 

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Movimiento Ciudadano por la Identidad Panameña, Resistencia ciudadana

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Resistencia ciudadana contra
el saqueo a la nación

por el Movimiento Ciudadano por la Identidad Panameña

Como guardianes de la memoria histórica, del fortalecimiento de la identidad panameña multicultural y diversa, y del patrimonio cultural e histórico de Panamá, sumamos nuestras voces de indignación ciudadana frente a la enorme ola de corrupción comprobada del escándalo Odebrecht y al peligro de impunidad de este saqueo a la nación panameña, dadas las reacciones del gobierno nacional y de las autoridades competentes, a todas luces tardías, ambiguas e insuficientes, que despiertan la legítima suspicacia ciudadana e incrementan la heredada decepción sobre nuestras instituciones democráticas.

Identidad, piratería, contrabando y corrupción

La historia colonial hispánica de Panamá estuvo plagada de piratería y contrabando como empresas privadas para el enriquecimiento personal y como estrategias de ataque al sistema imperial hispánico, aupados por imperios rivales europeos. Por otra parte, la propia corrupción del sistema colonial hispánico expresada en la frase “la ley se acata pero no se cumple” era también una estrategia de enriquecimiento personal por peninsulares y criollos hispanoamericanos. Y, al igual que la piratería y el contrabando exógenos, también era una estrategia de enriquecimiento personal, pero desde adentro, que desafiaba las leyes del sistema colonial y creó una casta oligárquica en la América Hispana.

Durante 500 años hemos destruido y construido sociedades y estados diversos con naciones multiculturales. En su devenir histórico, Panamá garantizó la viabilidad a largo plazo de la ruta interoceánica, pero no hemos podido liberarnos del estigma de la piratería, el contrabando y la corrupción en la construcción de nuestra identidad.

Desde 2016, llevamos un año de golpes muy graves a la identidad panameña, con los escándalos de Mossack-Fonseca, la Lista Clinton y Odebrecht. Si bien es cierto que se trata de una red de corrupción internacional, no es menos cierto que nuestro país ha creado plataformas jurídicas y financieras que las facilitan, las cuales forman parte de nuestro sistema institucional estatal.

El secretismo y la opacidad propician la impunidad

Hasta el momento, y a pesar de las advertencias de los movimientos ciudadanos (como el nuestro) sobre el riesgo de refrendar y seguir asignando proyectos a Odebrecht, las reacciones de nuestras autoridades son obstinadamente lentas e insuficientes, tanto de parte del Gobierno Nacional como del Contralor General de la República y del Ministerio Público.

Denunciamos el celo excesivo de silenciar la información de interés público como encubrimiento y contraria al mandato constitucional de salvaguardar los mejores intereses del Estado y la Nación Panameña.

Rechazamos la impunidad sistematizada por leyes hechas a la medida y por malas prácticas que apadrinan la corrupción.

La transparencia como nuevo paradigma

Así como la corrupción es la columna vertebral para la desigualdad (productora de pobreza), la transparencia, inversamente, emerge como la principal herramienta para la equidad, igualdad de oportunidades y desarrollo humano.

La transparencia como valor cívico debemos abrazarla con entusiasmo ciudadano, como benefactora de nuestra nación. ¡Jamás la rechacemos en nombre de la soberanía nacional! Porque la soberanía del Estado no debe utilizarse como escudo de la corrupción, de dictaduras, lavado de dinero, evasión de impuestos y narcotráfico. La transparencia debe ser bandera para la liberación de los pueblos frente a la opresión y el saqueo de sus riquezas.

Las pruebas de corrupción internacional contra la constructora brasileña Odebretch, S.A. que inciden y señalan a funcionarios de alto nivel de nuestros gobiernos, a empresarios, bancos y a otros agentes panameños están a la vista y provienen de Estados Unidos de América, Brasil y Suiza, principalmente, porque en nuestro país ninguna de las autoridades correspondientes quiso investigarla. Y gracias a las pruebas provenientes del exterior podremos los ciudadanos panameños desmantelar la sistemática e institucionalizada corrupción en Panamá.

La ciudadanía militante considera que hoy tenemos la oportunidad de rediseñar la identidad de Panamá como el país con mayor crecimiento sostenible de la región, comprometido con la transparencia y la equidad como principales estrategias para su desarrollo humano.

Y nos resistimos a perder esta oportunidad de oro para combatir esta violación de nuestra democracia, producto de la corrupción institucionalizada por la codicia desenfrenada de los grupos enquistados en el poder contra los intereses legítimos y desesperados de las mayorías en nuestro país.

Propuestas

En consecuencia con lo anterior proponemos la realización de las siguientes iniciativas:

Políticas culturales que fortalezcan el sentido de pertenencia, la memoria colectiva y la ciudadanía de los panameños y panameñas.
Fortalecimiento de la educación de calidad para todos, a lo largo de la vida, orientada por los derechos humanos y los valores de solidaridad, honradez, amor al país y nuestra historia.
Aprobación de una ley de contrataciones públicas que prohíba la participación en proyectos estatales de Panamá, de empresas con fallos de culpabilidad en materia de corrupción en nuestro país o fuera de él.
Aprobar una Ley electoral que obligue a partidos y candidatos a divulgar el nombre de sus donantes y patrocinadores y que permita al Tribunal Electoral divulgar esta información a requerimiento de cualquier ciudadano.
Aprobación de leyes que permitan a la Procuraduría de la Nación conmutar penas con individuos imputados por corrupción y delitos afines, a cambio de su confesión e información veraz que permita agilizar investigaciones que conduzcan a desmantelar redes de corrupción, lavado de dinero, evasión fiscal y narcotráfico. No obstante, estas negociaciones no podrán conmutar penas a menos de la mitad de su tiempo, ni convertirse en mecanismo de impunidad.

¡BASTA DE IMPUNIDAD! ¡EXIGIMOS RENDICIÓN DE CUENTAS! ¡JUEGA LIMPIO, PANAMÁ!

 

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Jackson, Odebrecht et al: the new old defensive positions

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anti-Odebrecht

Odebrecht and the system retreat to old new defenses

by Eric Jackson

The late anti-apartheid leader Steven Biko famously noted that the oppressor’s most powerfui weapon is the mind of the oppressed. It seems that this idea forms the basis for the new postures of a mortally embarrassed and ever retreating Panamanian political culture in the face of the Odebrecht scandal. Too many things have become known and somebody will take a fall, but the operating principle of those whose public lives are at stake is that Panamanian minds conditioned to certain ways of thinking and can be misdirected.

Forget about that stuff about the constitutional separations of power in Panaam. Hardly anybody believes that those are real and even fewer people trust the courts, the prosecutors, the comptroller general or the legislature to act against the culture of bribery. President Varela’s pleas that the Odebrecht scandal is not his department are being carried away on the dry season winds. Things that a few weeks ago he said that he couldn’t do he is now saying that he will do. The government has become a complainant in the Odebrecht bribery case. Varela is calling for audits of all Odebrecht public works contracts, including those during his administration. Notice has been served on Odebrecht that the government is pulling out of its partnership with that company for the Chan 2 hydroelectric project.

But still there are key ideas behind which those under theaat seek refuge, none more important than the notion that Panama was born of acts of bribery and betrayal and in the end will continue to operate on those principles. That sort of fatalism has long served this country’s political caste whenever public indignation has been aroused. But there are also the ideas that:

  • The Americans will take care of everything
  • Business principles usually trump civic ideals to solve problems
  • The privacy of individuals, families and companies must be protected
  • Although the rule of law has broken down we must preserve its vestiges or else…

The US Justice Department brought charges, made an out of court settlement and issued a press release about Odebrecht bribery in Panama from mind-2009 to mid-2014. Those are the Martinelli years, but Odebrecht has been getting public contracts here since 2006 and has been awarded several during the Varela years. Donations to foundations and political action committees, followed by lucrative public works contracts, suggest a long history of Odebrecht bribery of both Republicans and Democrats in the State of Florida but the feds are have shown no interest in that. The Justice Department bombshell alleged $59 million in Odebrecht bribes to Panamanian officials and suggested that some $4 million of these went through former President Martinelli’s two sons — so Panama’s Attorney General Kenia Porcell took those numbers as working figures and said that Odebrecht had agreed to pay $59 million to the Panamanian government in compensation. But a Swiss investigation found that the amount of money involved was much bigger than what the Americans say, and froze some $32 million in the Swiss bank accounts of Martinelli’s sons. Meanwhile Ricardo Martinelli has an INTERPOL warrant out for his arrest but is living in luxurious exile in Miami. There is no indication yet of whether Donald Trump will continue to protect THIS Latin American criminal who has migrated to the United States under irregular circumstances. Perhaps because Trump is so brazenly racist against Latin Americans, the notion of Panama having a US savior seems particularly incongruous at the moment, even if Porcell’s declarations have that as an underlying premise.

Yes, Panama and its canal exist in large part because local business interests found them useful. The railroad company and local business owners and professionals pulled off the 1903 coup in part by bribery of the Colombian garrison and successive generations have lubricated the wheels of commerce and politics with a bribe here and there ever since. But whenever that sort of corruption has gotten out of hand it has been bad for business. That’s one of the lessons drawn from the Noriega crisis of the late 1980s. At the moment business rating companies like Fitch are calling Odebrecht a bad investment. They got caught, they were too brazen and across the world they are getting kicked off of large construction projects. Of more immediate business interest to Panama, several of their ongoing contracts call for Odebrecht to have specified lines of credit or to post performance bonds in specific amounts and it turns out that Odebrecht can no longer get such financiing or insurance. The whole point of no-bid contracts for Odebrecht was that they were too big to fail, but now they’re too odious to finance or insure and the conventional business wisdom has been stood on its head. Whether Panamanians will go the next step and reconsider the premises of prequalification for government contracts and whether they truly serve Panama’s intreests remains to be seen but the whole business convenience argument in favor of Odebrecht has evaporated.

The Electoral Tribunal tells us that it would be an invasion of privacy to name those politicians who received campaign contributions from Odebrecht. The US Justtice Department says that it’s an invasion of privacy to name the individuals who accepted bribes from Odebrecht, even though in some cases they can be identified from what has been described about them. “Economic privacy” — banking and corporate secrecy laws — have this country on public and private international blacklists that are making the financial transactions of businesses and individuals in Panama ever more difficult. And what’s that INTERPOL warrant for Martinelli about? It’s about how he ordered hackers to turn people’s cell phones and computers into bugs, using the data he received — things like arguments between spouses — for political attack ads and blackmail. Frightened judges and politicians will play privacy cards as they will, but perhaps ordinary Panamanins will come to see privacy with different dimensions and proportions than they recognized before.

Panamanian courts are nests of bribery. The higher one goes the worse it gets. Our prosectuors are notious guardians of the double standard and dispensers of selective law enforcement decisions. Does Kenia Porcell argue that she’s not like that? We shall see. Notice, however, that the first thing that her office did when the Panama Papers revelations hit the worldwide press was to mount an unsuccessful attempt to identify and prosecute the “John Doe” who leaked the documents. Then, on a day when people were marching in the streets to protest against corruption, the morning newspapers featured the story about how Porcell had stopped the investigations about crimes outlined in those papers because one of the Mossack Fonseca partners filed a court challenge against the probe. Yes, that’s the rule of law and by the way, the legislature is proposing to change the law to allow companies caught paying bribes to be let off the hook if they confess and pay up, and to allow such deals to immunize those who took the bribes from having to answer for that. Now, however, the distinction between the rule of law and impunity embedded in legal procedures is being pointed out to an exasperated public.

How does it end? We shall see. The legal system declaring that nothing happened is a distinct possibility. The survival of reputations and political careers is much less likely.

 

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