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Germanos, TPP’s “cardiac arrest”

An anti-TPP message is displayed in Seattle. Photo by Backbone Campaign (cc)

TPP’s “cardiac arrest” — a lesson for the challenges of the Trump years ahead

by Andrea Germanos — Common Dreams

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — the corporate-friendly trade deal between the US and 11 Pacific Rim nations that sparked progressive outcry over its threats to everything from democracy to digital rights to climate goals — now appears to be “in full-blown cardiac arrest.”

Not only is there the fact that President-elect Donald Trump campaigned against the deal that President Barack Obama vigorously pushed, multiple news sources reported Friday that the White House has now given up on its efforts to get approval during the “lame-duck” session of Congress.

The Wall Street Journal, for example, reported that the deal “effectively died Friday, as Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress told the White House they won’t advance it in the election’s aftermath, and Obama administration officials acknowledged it has no way forward now.” Reuters reported that the administration said “Friday that the fate of the free trade pact was up to Trump and Republican lawmakers.”

The Hill also reported:

“We have worked closely with Congress to resolve outstanding issues and are ready to move forward, but this is a legislative process and it’s up to congressional leaders as to whether and when this moves forward,” said Matt McAlvanah, a spokesman for the Office of the US trade representative, in an email to The Hill.

A White House official acknowledged on Friday the difficultly of pressing Congress to pass the TPP because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said this week that “it’s something that he’s going to work with the president-elect to figure out where they go in terms of trade agreements in the future,” according to reports.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had already signaled in August that the US Senate would not vote on TPP this year.

The political newspaper added a statement issued Friday by TPP foe Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), who said that “a strong coalition of members of Congress and labor, environmental, faith, and human rights organizations and activists worked diligently to stop this agreement.”

That’s exactly what some advocacy groups are saying — that the deal’s apparent death should not be chalked up to Trump’s victory this week but to the grassroots’ effort.

“Let’s make one thing clear,” said Evan Greer, campaign director for digital rights group Fight for the Future. “Donald Trump didn’t kill the TPP. We did.”

The deal, she continued, would have “globalized Internet censorship, undermined civil liberties, and devastated our economy and our planet.”

Instead, “[a]n unprecedented grassroots movement of people and organizations from across the political spectrum came together to spark an uprising that stopped what would have been nothing less than an outright corporate takeover of our democratic process. Together we sounded the alarm, and made the TPP so politically toxic that no presidential candidate who wanted to be elected could support it.”

“As we enter a new stage in history, let the movement that stopped the TPP serve as a reminder to the powerful: we are many, and you are few,” she continued.

Offering a similar observation on Saturday, Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, said in statement: “The TPP is in full-blown cardiac arrest, thanks to years of international campaigning against this toxic deal, including turning Senate and House elections into contests over rejecting the TPP.”

But, according to Barlow, as well as Arthur Stamoulis, executive director at Citizens Trade Campaign, continued vigilance is necessary.

Barlow said that her experience “from watching trade agreements is that free trade proponents always try to resuscitate these deals under different names — CETA, TiSA, and others. We need to put a ‘do not resuscitate’ order on these corporate deals once and for all.”

Stamoulis also acknowledged the “the cross-border, cross-sector, progressive ‘movement of movements'” that brought the deal to what could be its very end.

And with the Trump administration — with its “cabinet of horrors” — approaching, Stamoulis writes that “people need to be reminded of their power.”

“This victory,” he writes, “will be one of the biggest wins against concentrated corporate power in our lifetimes, and it holds lessons we should internalize as we steel ourselves for the many challenges we face heading into the Trump years.”

“Trump’s vision of internationalism is not one of human rights, worker rights, sustainability, and improving standards of living. The President-elect is a man who, among other things, thinks that workers are overpaid, is hostile to unions, denies climate science, and embraces authoritarian regimes.”

“We’ve all got a lot of work to do,” he concludes.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License


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The Panama News blog links, November 13, 2016


The Panama News blog links

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

The Maritime Executive, Clean ships will go to the head of the PanCanal line

GCaptain, US Navy littoral combat ship cracked in PanCanal locks

The Maritime Executive, Canal Wars

JOC, Trans-Pacific spot rates down

Hellenic Shipping News, Seaborne shipping grows at slowest pace since 2009

WorkBoat, Workboats confront post-Panamax era

Once a Metro, Panama beats Honduras to start CONCACAF hexagonal

ESPN FC: Guardado, Vela, Salcedo out for Mexico’s Panama match

Los Angeles Times, Dodgers trade Carlos Ruiz to Mariners

La Estrella, Panamá con calificación ‘no satisfactoria’ por parte de la OCDE

The Guardian, Three bank employees outed in the Panama Papers arrested

El Tiempo, Colombia remplaza aranceles a Panamá

La Estrella, Standard & Poor’s advierte sobre banca panameña

ANP, Trece bancos están interesados en comprar Balboa Bank

El Tiempo, Wingstop anuncia 30 tiendas en Colombia y Panamá

The Press, UK fraudsters get prison sentences for Panama land scam

ALAI, La Argentina offshore

The News, Pakistan moves against offshore company owners

BBC, Mexico willing to talk about NAFTA

Nature, Ant genomes rewrite history of Panama land bridge

STRI, Why did the bacterium cross the road?

LiveScience, Boys’ and girls’ brains may show opposite effects after trauma

The Intercept, When the FBI has a phone it can’t crack it calls Israeli hackers

Mongabay, Trump election leaves COP22 climate delegates aghast

Huffington Post, Sea stars disappear from Bocas beach

The Intercept, 25 years later Texas admits junk science arson conviction

La Estrella, Minseg destruye más de mil armas de fuego

TVN, Fiscalía pide alerta roja a Interpol para detener a Clare y Valdés

La Estrella, Caso de Vanessa Rodríguez será llevado a la CIDH

Colombia Reports, Government and FARC peace deal version 2.0

Sputnik News, Gobierno chino dona a Colombia ayuda militar

AFP, Denuncian a Honduras por negarse a cumplir sentencia de CIDH

WOLA, Uruguay’s historic cannabis initiative

AFP, Ex ministro de finanzas guatemalteco muere en confuso allanamiento

Caribbean News Now!, Aristide accused of inciting election violence

Lumsden, Japan’s new era of Caribbean investment

BBC, Clinton blames her defeat on the FBI director

Baker, Inequality as policy

Carlsen, Remembering Tom Hayden

Duhm, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton: two figures in a derailed world

Reich, The whole DNC should resign

Tharoor, The end of US soft power?

Blades, Sobre el triunfo de Trump

The Guilfordian, Art exhibit showcases Panama culture


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The American Society’s scholarship kids


The American Society of Panama’s scholars





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Marcelo Odebrecht admits “Operation Panama”

crime in high places
Marcelo Odebrecht, before his arrest. Photo by Worldsteel.

Brazil’s Lava Jato scandal deepens with “Operation Panama” admission and more

by Eric Jackson

[Editor’s note: Before getting into this, and without getting into loaded jargon like “lawfare” or “technicalities,” let’s remember some basic principles. One is presumed innocent unless proven guilty. Somebody who is guilty of one thing is not necessarily guilty of another thing. Police, prosecutors and judges will often enough lie or distort the truth, just like someone who is accused of wrongdoing might.]

A series of court and police files, most of them leaked in violation of various laws or ethical rules, has expanded, deepened and fed new fire to a series of scandals known collectively as Lava Jato — “Car Wash,” from the Portuguese name of a police investigation aimed at bribery and kickbacks in contracts with the Brazilian state-owned Petrobras oil company. The legal fallout has spread to other economic sectors and several other countries. Evidence suggests that Panama ought to be one of them but authorities here have invented various purportedly nationalist principles to avoid that. One of the latest revelations is that Marcelo Odebrecht, former CEO and major shareholder of the giant multinational Norberto Odebrecht construction firm, has admitted that when he was arrested in June of 2015 “Operation Panama” rather automatically went into effect. This plan was to scan all company computers for incriminating files and to transfer those computers and those files to Panama, beyond the reach of Brazilian authorities.

Word of this confession comes from a leaked court file — a Brazilian Federal Police report — that made its way into the hands of the Brazilian magazine Istoe. Police, prosecution, defense and judicial participants in the case would all have access to that information. Testimony by other people about Operation Panama had leaked months ago. Brazilian prosecutors have complained that they have sought Panamanian authorities’ assistance in the case but received very little of it. Panama’s prosecutors say that they have cooperated but asserted barriers like banking and corporate secrecy here, only being able to investigate or assist if crimes against Panamanian law have been committed and so on. Were there to be full cooperation with Brazilian authorities, one would expect that there would have been raids in Panama in search of Odebrecht computers and files. If there have been such things, they have not been reported to the public.

Istoe reports that among the things hidden in Panama were payments of about $8 million in cash to former Brazilian President Lula da Silva. These payments, it is alleged, were made after he left the presidency and were purportedly for work helping to secure contracts for Odebrecht in Brazil and abroad. His political adversaries are calling it a simple bribery case, but Lula denies it: “I did not commit any crime before, during or after serving as the President of the Republic,” he said.

Judge Sergio Moro, who is handling the Lava Jato cases, has leaked files on a selective basis to media organizations, including data from illegal wiretaps of Lula. Lula and his supporters also complain that police planted bugs in the offices of the former president’s lawyers, also quite illegal in Brazil.

Following on the removal of leftist President Dilma Rousseff for the non-criminal offense of manipulating the release of official economic data ahead of the 2014 election, supporters of Lula’s and Rousseff’s Workers Party claim a right-wing legislative coup and continuing persecution. Rousseff’s removal did bring her erstwhile right-wing running mate, Michel Temer, to the presidency and with him an all-male, all-white far to the right cabinet. But Temer has been convicted of election law violations that happened before he was vice president and the sentence precludes him from running for office in the next elections. A number of right-wing politicians have also fallen in the series of scandals. Now Brazil’s Electoral Court is investigating whether the Rousseff – Temer ticket received illegal campaign contributions, which could lead to a decision nullifying the 2014 election and calling for a new vote. In that election law case, it was alleged that Otavio Azevedo, former CEO of the Andrade Gutierrez construction company, gave Rousseff a $295,000 donation. She denies it and her lawyers have come up with documents showing that a contribution to Temer’s Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB) was made in exactly that amount through Temer. If the Rousseff defense version of that is found to be true, that could also annul the 2014 election and remove Temer from office.

Marcelo Odebrecht is getting his 19-year prison sentence reduced to about two and one-half years for giving his testimony to police and prosecutors. The man is a convicted criminal who gave lots of many to lots of politicians in Brazil and elsewhere, and might have reason to feel betrayed by some of them. One of the reported subjects of Mr. Odebrecht’s interrogation in Brazil is suspected payoffs to former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli. Panama’s Public Ministry is reportedly looking at bribes paid in Panama to Panamanians by Odebrecht, but if word comes from a Brazilian source that there is testimony implicating Martinelli the ordinary prosecutors lose jurisdiction and must turn the matter over to the Supreme Court as to Martinelli only. The Varela administration, which has given new contracts to the Norberto Odebrecht company, takes the position that the company’s criminal convictions in other countries don’t count against it for public contracting here.

But Odebrecht’s criminal activities in other countries do get taken seriously in other jurisdictions. In the works is a plea bargain by some 70 Odebrecht executives with prosecutors in the United States, Switzerland and Brazil for a plethora of financial crimes including money laundering. As part of that plea bargain it is reported that the company will pay a record $1.9 billion fine to the three jurisdictions.

There may be a continuing US angle, as Odebrecht was a long-time backer of Jeb Bush, through a private foundation that Bush used to promote his political ambitions, and of Miami Democratic politician Xavier Suarez. Neither of these two men are particularly favored by Donald Trump so there may be some Odebrecht fallout to come in the USA. If actual crimes are discovered in Odebrecht’s relationship to Florida politics there may be statute of limitations bars to prosecutions.


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Editorials: Don’t be an idiot; and Obama’s lame duck chores

BUY NOW! you dolt
So you’re going to buy a speck of paradise and save on lawyer bills by sharing the same attorney as the seller? Don’t be an idiot!

Don’t be an idiot

So, you are distraught about what has happened to your country, and you’re thinking about moving to Panama?

If it’s about Brexit or Trump, probably those ads showing Panama as this country of blondes is not what would impress you. Neither should all that ridiculous real estate hype disguised as news in International Living or publications like that. Don’t be an idiot.

Do you want to be a mirror image of the influx of the Rick Wiles zombies, not sharing their weird right politics but thinking about coming to a country that doesn’t have immigration or labor laws that apply to you, just picking up and moving as if from another state to Oregon or another neighborhood in London? Don’t be an idiot.

Do you think that it’s viable to live in an English-only bubble here, eating only the foods you know from back there, expecting services to be the same, learning nothing other than possibly contempt about other cultures and going about your life as if nothing is different? Don’t be an idiot.

Panama is an independent country, maybe not as independent as it ought to be but a distinct place nevertheless. It takes getting used to. It takes some acclimation. You need to understand that if where you are now there are ugly people who are vicious to foreigners, there is a small element here that would take similar stuff out on you, and one of them just became the leader of the women’s branch of Panama’s biggest political party.

So you have enough money to surmount all of that in Panama? It ought to be enough to insulate yourself where you are.

We are a tropical paradise and a Third World hellhole. We are what the people here, citizens and foreigners, make of us. If you are a disheartened citizen of where you are who is thinking about fleeing to Panama, do so with your eyes wide open and your nonsense alarms turned on. If you are a criminal thinking about fleeing to Panama, just don’t because you are not wanted by the people here and you won’t be able to keep it secret for very long.

Welcome to Panama. Don’t be an idiot.


A list of lame duck chores for Barack Obama

1. Clean up the political prisoner messes. Free Leonard Peltier. Commute Chelsea Manning’s sentence. Drop all charges against Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. Don’t just close down the prison at Guantanamo, abandon that military base to Cuba to which it really belongs.

2. Put the TPP, TTIP and TiSA “free trade” negotiations out of their misery.

3. Oversee a dignified transition, and prepare to be a dignified senior statesman as you get on with the rest of your life

4. Relax. You have earned it, Mr. President.


Bear in mind…

Without equality all freedoms and all rights perish.
Simón Bolívar


Our government is conducting a war against drugs, is it? Let them go after petroleum. Talk about a destructive high!
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.


No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body.
Margaret Sanger


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¿Wappin? Free form for who and where we are

Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen. Photo by Rama (2015).

Free form for who we are and where we are

Leonard Cohen – Everybody Knows

Beyoncé – Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Rómulo Castro y el Grupo Tuira – Mi tierra y tu

Peter Tosh – Legalize It

Romeo Santos – Su Veneno

Archie Shepp – Attica Blues

Sin Bandera – Pero No

Thalia – Piel Morena

Johnny Rivers – Secret Agent Man

Ritchie Valens – La Bamba

Jr. Walker & The Allstars – Shotgun

Sting – Englishman in New York

Rubén Blades – Plantación Adentro

Javiera Mena – Otra Era

Jefferson Airplane – When The Earth Moves Again

Prince Royce – Stand By Me


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Bernal, An American tragedy

the Don
Donald Trump, now fugitive former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli and Trump’s shodowy Colombian partner Roger Khafif. Photo by the Presidencia.

An American tragedy

by Miguel Antonio Bernal

The political tsunami that began with the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States has just begun to be felt within and outside of that northern country.

And that’s not the least of it. US society, and with it, international society, has come to a decisive crossroads for the immediate present and the medium-term future. We’re not dealing with “one more election” nor of an experienced character in the field of politics. We behold the personified first result of a social movement that has been coming at different latitudes, which reveals a deep discontent, dissatisfaction, disappointment and weariness, to different degrees from different socio-economic sectors of society, which is now globalized.

David Remnick, in an article in The New Yorker entitled American Tragedy, wrote that: “The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism. … a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy. … It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than revulsion and profound anxiety. … Trump is vulgarity unbounded”

Oscar Arias, the Costa Rican Nobel Peace Prize laureate, say no less when he states that: “I think that the American electorate elected … the most ignorant, uncultured and mendacious of the presidential candidates of recent times. There hasn’t been anyone who aspired to the White House in the US political arena who is so impulsive, temperamental, racist, xenophobic, misogynist and capable of using political power to do damage.”

Here in Panama, we had to live five years of government whose main character does not have to envy Trump, perhaps we should have taken more seriously what is coming to the United States of America and the rest of the world. “God take us having confessed …”


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Carbon Market Watch, Barro Blanco carbon credits withdrawn

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

Panama withdraws UN registration for Barro Blanco dam

by Carbon Market Watch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Updating a Florida election law change:

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

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

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

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The federal write-in ballot:

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

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Debunking disinformation

The scam:

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

The real deal:

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


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George Scribner’s 2017 calendar, etc.


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

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


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Upcoming workshops

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


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