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A star apple tree blooms and fruits for the first time

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The seeds from a gigantic piece of fruit bought from Mr. Liu's impressie little farm on the Pan-American Highway a bit east of the town of Capira were nurted in a pot, transplanted in the ground a little more than one year ago, and putting our flowers and fruit a bit sooner than expected.
A seed from a gigantic piece of fruit bought at Mr. Liu’s impressive farm on the Pan-American Highway a bit east of the town of Capira was sown and nurtured in a pot, transplanted into the ground a little more than one year ago, and the tree is now putting our flowers and fruit a bit sooner than expected.

What you call them may vary — shall we just call it the good stuff?

First fruits on a young tree

Photos by Eric Jackson

Yes, we know that North America’s apple farmers would throw a litigious fit were these tasty fruit, “star apples” in Zonian English, Averrhoa carambola according to its scientific name, called any sort of apple. Moreover the caimito — an unrelated and not very similar fruit we also have in Panama — is also sometimes called a star apple. In North America they get marketed as “star fruit” and around a Panamanian fruit market if you ask for a carambola, estrella or “fruta china” they will figure out what you mean. (Isn’t it so very typical that to Panamanians almost anything exotic is Chinese? These things are thought to be originally from the islands off of South or Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka most frequently mentioned, but their cultivation all across tropical and subtropical Asia is ancient.) They are in fact not apples, but you can actually get a good result adapting an apple pie recipe using these sliced but not peeled and taking into account that they have a bit more liquid than apples.

Star Apple 3
This, by the way, is part of the editor’s “other job” as a Third World subsistence peasant.

 

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Harrington, ¿Tenemos alguna política de inmigración?

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UNHCR Darien
Un agente del Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados revisando el caso de una colombiana refugiada en Darién. De los más o menos 2.300 refugiados ya en Panamá, casi 80% son colombianos. También hay venezolanos, cubanos, centroamericanos y africanos aceptados en Panamá como refugiados. Foto por el ACNUR.

En Panamá vamos de tumbo en tumbo –porque ni los partidos, ni los periodistas forman opinión pública adecuadamente.

¿Tenemos alguna política de inmigración?

por Kevin Harrington-Shelton

 

Los comunicadores sociales han de ser hombres y mujeres comprometidos con la verdad y la justicia. Por lo tanto, en su tarea de informar deben hacerlo correctamente: comunicar la noticia, no fabricarla y menos manipularla…. Tambíén una verdad a medias es una falsedad.
Conferencia Episcopal Panameña
Construyamos juntos el futuro de Panamá (1990)

 

Nuestra política migratoria también cae dentro de un estilo del presidente Juan Carlos Varela, caracterizado por el impulso impensado, sin contrapeso de los diálogos que tanto predica — a otros…

Ejemplo. El “Crisol de Razas” (ideado para evitar compartir la bonanza de la ampliación, aumentando la oferta con mano de obra importada) ha sido extendido, para favorecer primordialmente a una industria turística ya subsidiada. Ahora, ante su baja ocupación actual, los hoteles prescinden de mano de obra local y retienen la importada — la que no tiene igual acceso a la justicia laboral en un Ministerio de Trabajo que (también) funciona a control remoto.

El renovar permisos a quienes sabían que tenían fechas de cumpleaños, para engrosar las cuentas-discrecionales del presidente Varela (y ya no de la Presidencia Martinelli) es absurdo. Reteniendo una tarifa discriminatoria contra “las razas prohibidas” es un escándalo. Y se copa nuestra capacidad de absorber nuevos inmigrantes que necesitan refugiarse aquí. Pese a esa realidad, el Presidente reacciona casi pavlovianamente a las crisis-chic que sugiere Washington, tanto en Venezuela, como en Siria (aunque no así ante la deportación de haitianos desde la República Dominicana –porque son negros). ¡Vergonzoso además resultó su paso-atrás al voto comprometido en la OEA! A sabiendas que allí la presión pública propiciaría una salida rápida al problema, cosa que será poco probable en el petit-comité de un diálogo cerrado, con una menor cobertura en los medios.

Sepa Dios qué nos traerá don Juan Carlos desde Guantánamo, pero ya nos metió en el lío de los sirios. Haría mejor en mirar hacia el Norte (de Europa…) para entender qué implica ésta “política” –porque una vez que lleguen los expatriados kurdos, su estadía no será (muy) temporal. Porque con la Islamofobia actual, en los Estados Unidos tardan 12-18 meses para procesar a quienes sí admiten allá. Esta vez no será como cuando los Marielitos, que sí tenían patrocinadores en Miami.

Históricamente, Suecia había sido el país más generoso hacia los refugiados. Al extremo que hoy gasta $4 mil millones anuales en subvencionarlos @ $700 mensuales — y que hoy ya casi 16% de sus habitantes son inmigrantes (del Medio Oriente y del Africa, mayormente). Pese a que se le reconoce a este país vikingo estar entre los más egalitarios del mundo, el intentar integrar a una economía industrializada a refugiados sin mayores calificaciones técnicas no es fácil: luego de décadas, 40% siguen desempleados. Pero ello no disuade a sus compatriotas a aventurarse hasta la gélida Escandinavia. El bajón en la economía globalizada no augura para bien para Suecia; no demorará una reacción negativa en una población racialmente homogénea.

No obstante, allá como acá los medios de comunicación optan por invisibilizar los verdaderos problemas –para ver si se resuelvan solos. Y así no pisan los callos de sus anunciantes

El Papa Francisco nos brinda un parámetro, recordándonos el segundo Gran Mandamiento: “Ama a tu prójimo, como a ti mismo” (Mateo 22:39). Su Santidad sugiere que en Europa cada comunidad de personas consagradas reciba a dos familias de refugiados. Sugiriendo así fijar un límite a nuestra propia generosidad.

 

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The Panama News blog links, September 14, 2015

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The ACP is sending a team abroad in search of financing for the Atlantic Side bridge, estimated to cost $366 million.

The Panama News blog links, September 14, 2015

Video, Valeria Ovando – Tu Fuerza de Mujer

PR, Fitch rates ACP bonds

ANP, Canal de Panamá prepara emisión en el mercado bursátil

Alaska Dispatch News, Arctic prepares for possible cruise ship emergencies

Marine Log, Weathernews beefs up polar routing capabilities

Perth Now, Australians detain Panama-flag bulk carrier over labor abuses

Ship & Bunker, AMP and local players differ about bunker fuel sales

InSight Crime, Why Panama remains a money laundering haven

El Confidencial, Pujol Jr. transfirió coimas a una fundación panameña

Prensa Latina, Panama president ends visit to Cuba

E&N, Panamá y Cuba tendrían tratado para proteger inversiones

PR, Fitch: Slower growth in Panama little cure for bank imbalances

SeeNews Renewables, Entropy buys three solar plants in Panama

Blue & Green, S&P: climatic perils are likely to intensify

Video, Surfeando en la calle en Panamá

Outbreak News Today, SENAFRONT agent dies of equine encephalitis

STRI, Butterfly extinctions on Barro Colorado Island

Discovery News, Genetic islands are stranding big animals

Herzog, Meet the new National Geographic and weep

Video, Es hora de actuar sobre desechos sólidos en Bocas del Toro

CIP Americas, The experts’ Ayotzinapa report

WOLA deplores Leopoldo López conviction and sentence

TeleSur, The distorted “democracy” of Leopoldo López

Weisbrot, US diplomacy experiment with Venezuela runs into trouble

Ishmael, The Guyana-Venezuela border dispute

Orkin, Policing the US-Mexico border with public relations

Eyes on Trade, TPP: What’s to celebrate?

Elías, Vida y muerte del TISA en Uruguay

Video, Chile marks Latin America’s 9/11

Video, Victor Jara – Manifiesto

Beluche, Guatemala: una victoria democrática contra la corrupción

BBC, Police seek to question ex-president Lula

Borton & Nguyen, China and the deep blue sea

Cole, US and Israeli temptations to ally with al-Qaeda in Syria

Video, More than a million people rally in Barcelona for Catalan independence

France24, Tens of thousands join London pro-refugee march

Vice, Debunking those anti-refugee memes

Simpson, Acerca de los refugiados sirios

Boff, ¿Estos no son seres humanos, hermanos y hermanas nuestros?

Vatican Radio, Pope laments false friendships and fundamentalism

Video, The last surviving 9/11 rescue dog

Video, Hero Dogs of 9/11

Greenwald, US human rights jargon

Gandásegui, Los nuevos (o los mismos viejos) dueños de Panamá

 

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¿Wappin? Soul and her close cousins

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Tnia Turner¿Wappin? Soul and her close cousins

The Supremes – My World Is Empty Without You
https://youtu.be/dObwPyAKyw8

Curtis Mayfield – Make Me Believe In You
https://youtu.be/fexIgzfOAiE

Sam and Dave – Hold On I’m Coming
https://youtu.be/AREppyQf5uw

B.B. King & Dr. John – There Must Be a Better World Somewhere
https://youtu.be/KbWwFg8S3Qg

Tina Turner – The Best
https://youtu.be/GC5E8ie2pdM

Edwin Starr – War
https://youtu.be/dQHUAJTZqF0

The Beachers – Africa Caliente
https://youtu.be/UZynwkFhmgU

Jimmy Ruffin – What Becomes of the Broken Hearted
https://youtu.be/wBrBSSl0OOM

Chaka Khan – Ain’t Nobody
https://youtu.be/SvPZo52X5vo

The Persuaders – Black Power
https://youtu.be/m0yg-IwydB0

The Temptations – Just My Imagination
https://youtu.be/M5Z9-QCmZyw

Dawn Roberson – He’s Been Faithful
https://youtu.be/p0Nl5MDbFUg

Zahara – Umthwalo
https://youtu.be/Nh31fcqLHv4

Nina Simone – Mood Indigo
https://youtu.be/kiq46qvvfoo

War – Four Cornered Room
https://youtu.be/WFmCCxMp7BE

 

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Greyhound subsidiary to take over Metro Bus management

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Metro Bus
Another addition to Roberto Roy’s jurisdiction, celebrated with a no-bid contract with yet another monopolistic multinational corporation. Photo by Transito.

Government buys out the Colombian MiBus then hands the Metro Bus system’s management over to a new Panamanian subsidiary of Greyhound

A “nationalization” that’s really
just another privatization

by Eric Jackson

All along, the replacement of the owner-operated diablo rojo buses with a quasi-public monopoly has been a problem.

It started in the Martín Torrijos administration with his moves to take the diablos rojos off of the streets and this ludicrous mantra about articulated buses being the solution to the Panama City metro area’s public transportation woes. Never mind that such vehicles are too big to navigate most of the capital’s streets. Never mind that to make such a system work properly a new set of bus lanes which other vehicles physically can’t cross or use is required. He had the nation’s largest party and most of Panama’s ad agencies on his side and he may have thought that he could convince those Panamanians who get around on public transportation of anything. But by removing more than 500 diablos rojos from the streets — about one-third of the metro area’s bus fleet — without any replacements ready. The ensuing chaos and hardships convinced most bus riders that the people running the PRD don’t know or care about their problems and contributed mightily to Ricardo Martinelli’s crushing 2009 defeat of Torrijos’s housing minister.

In comes Ricardo Martinelli and he had a plan. Line 1 of the Metro? That was built and people like it. The purchase of a fleet of Volvo buses, to be privately managed by a Colombian contractor, with another private company handling the payment cards? First of all, the Volvos are larger and less agile than what is needed, given the capital’s and San Miguelito’s narrow streets. Soon enough many of the buses showed dings which MiBus, the Colombian company with the Metro Bus concession, routinely blamed on the drivers. Attempts to smash unions representing the drivers and other Metro Bus employees, shorting the workers on overtime and holiday pay. Rider annoyance with too few routes, too few buses and overcrowding tended to get taken out on drivers, adding to the bad labor relations.

Martinelli’s takeover of the remaining diablo rojo buses and of their terminals was in many cases little different from gangland theft. Plus there were persistent rumors of the Martinelli family having this or that piece of the action, of the bus or bus card companies being used for money laundering or so on. This reporter has heard many rumors, but not seen any proofs. That these are not playing into the post-Martinelli investigations might have less to do with the facts than with private companies, notwithstanding their public concessions, keeping their records are private.

In any case, Juan Carlos Varela inherited a Metro Bus mess and has had to deal with intransigent MiBus and restless workers in his attempts to sort it out. On September 10 he announced the details of the deal:

The government would buy out MiBus for some $260.9 million — more or less. One gets that number from adding up the items in the government’s announcement, but there are debts to be assumed, periods in which claims must be submitted and various payments stretched out over as long as four years. Will interest or claims yet to be judged raise the total cost? That’s to be seen.

The deal includes the purchase of 1,236 buses acquired since 2010 and in various states of repair, assumption of bank debts for the purchase of these vehicles, assumption of the not entirely determined claims of the now former concessionaire’s creditors, payment of back wages and benefits for the more than 4,000 employees whom the Colombians cheated and an additional payment to TMPSA shareholders.

The government has is buying out the Colombian-owned consortium with the Metro Bus concession, the MiBus parent organization Transporte Masivo de Panama SA (TMPSA), and turning it into a state-owned company. (Will they keep the name? At first glance it seems that they will, but do not be surprised if the government’s political cosmeticians suggest a new name to go with a new image.) The purchase is to be made via Transito — the Land Transit and Transportation Authority or ATTT — but then TMPSA is to be turned into a subsidiary of Metro de Panama SA, which runs the Metro trains and is under the Metro’s secretary general Roberto Roy, who is also minister of canal affairs.

Roy, while wearing his canal minister hat, is dealing with the results of substandard work by the GUPC consortium that got its contract for the new locks by way of a lowball bid that was accepted by a Panama Canal Authority whose administrator at the time was dealing with members of his family who are part of the consortium. In is Metro secretary hat, Roy recently oversaw a bidding process in which the scandal-plagued Brazilian company Odebrecht, which was not the low bidder won the contract for Line 2 of the Metro on technical points — arcane specifications set by a committee that included a former consultant for Odebrecht. In both the GUPC and Line 2 cases, it was solemnly pronounced that there had been no conflicts of interest.

So now that Roy is also head of the Metro Buses, what is the first thing to be done? A no-bid management concession contract with the Minnesota-based multinational FirstGroup PLC, better known by its principal US business, Greyhound.

Greyhound, and its Canadian version Grey Coach and subsidiary UK, Puerto Rican and Mexican bus companies, has a record. Its US workers are unionized by the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), which is not shy about saying unflattering things about the boss. It used predatory business tactics and endless litigation to establish itself as the US interstate and intercity monopoly by the 1970s — and then downsized from 5,851 destinations served in 1977 to 2,300 now. That downsizing cut a large Mexican and Mexican-American clientele in the Southwestern United States out of service but starting in the 1980s Greyhound created or acquired subsidiaries, which became the cross-border US and Mexican Americanos USA and the intra-US Crucero USA. The subsidiaries had lower safety standards and paid their workers much less than the Greyhound drivers, and when the company began switching routes from Greyhound to Americanos buses the ATU filed complaints with the US National Labor Relations Board. After long and inconclusive administrative proceedings the company agreed in 2013 to merge Americanos and Cruceros into Greyhound.

 

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Alianza Estratégica Nacional, El nefasto Artículo 138 A

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ASEP
ASEP: determinando el destino de las tierras indígenas. Foto por ASEP.

El nefasto Artículo 138 A

por la Alianza Estratégica Nacional

El 23 de enero de 2015, la Escuela Normal de Santiago, Juan Demóstenes Arosemena, fue la anfitriona de la aprobación, en primer debate de la Ley 120, “QUE DEROGA UN ARTÍCULO DEL TEXTO ÚNICO DE LA LEY 6 DE 1997 Y DICTA OTRAS DISPOSICIONES.” ¡Un logro para el Pueblo!

Este perverso Artículo es el 138A, que fue agregado en el año 2013 durante el periodo de Ricardo Martinelli, autoriza a aplicar un procedimiento sumario para el uso y adquisición de inmuebles y servidumbres, cuando la construcción de obras relacionadas con las actividades eléctricas sean calificadas por la ASEP de ‘carácter urgente’, y que las partes no hayan logrado un acuerdo previo en un plazo de 15 días calendarios.

El jueves 20 de agosto de 2015, el HD Quibian Panay, Presidente de la Comisión de Comercio y Asuntos Económicos se reunió con miembros de la Alianza Estratégica Nacional para presentarles una modificación, que constituye nuevamente un instrumento de injusticia y atropello a utilizar por el Estado, a través de la ASEP, contra los legítimos propietarios de tierras, en violación flagrante de la constitución en su Artículo 48 sobre la propiedad privada.

Permitir la modificación sugerida por la ASEP, de poder expropiar forzosamente tierras de dominio colectivo o particular a un propietario, con el fin de entregarlas a otro propietario, privado, para el usufructo de un negocio, no puede ser un acto de interés general, sino un simple despojo que atenta contra la seguridad jurídica y los derechos constitucionales ciudadanos; y en el caso de las hidroeléctricas, es sencillamente salvarle la cara a los grandes inversionistas de su deber por Ley, muchos de ellos simples especuladores. Es menester aclarar que con el Artículo 138 A, la ASEP se arroga el derecho de determinar el “interés de urgente” de un proyecto, tasar la propiedad y tener facultades de Juez Ejecutor.

La Alianza Estratégica Nacional propone que el Proyecto de Ley 120 vaya a Segundo Debate y se mantenga el principio inicial de derogar el nefasto Artículo 138 A. Cualquier otro problema que se quiera resolver, referente a necesidades estratégicas para el desarrollo del país, deberá ser parte de otra discusión y proceso.

Rechazar o modificar este principio es, en esencia, facultar la política colonizadora, que permite la invasión de territorios por parte de las transnacionales interesadas en extender sus inversiones hacia nuevos mercados, inundando grandes extensiones de tierra, provocando el desalojo forzoso de poblaciones enteras y creando nuevos cordones urbanos de miseria. Si lo hacen, que los Padres de la Patria paguen el costo de haber legislado para beneficio de los poderosos.

La discriminación, la desigualdad y la pobreza son factores que amenazan a la convivencia pacífica. Estos tres factores existen en las áreas más vulnerables donde los electores son engañados cada cinco años y proponen diputados que no cumplen con sus promesas de campaña.

¡A defender la Ley 120, como fue aprobada en primer debate!…

¡No al despojo de tierras!…

 

Dado en la Unión Campesina del Lago Alajuela, Puerto Corotú, el domingo 30 de agosto de 2015.

 

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Kiriakou, My brush with Elon Musk

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Musk
Elon Musk. Photo by Dan Taylor.

When I accidentally asked the Thomas Edison of our time what he did for a living, he lit up like a Christmas tree

My brush with Elon Musk

by John Kiriakou — OtherWords

About five years ago, a close friend of mine and I had an idea for a television news program. As luck would have it, my friend had gone to high school with a guy who, at the time, just happened to be the president of NBC. We arranged to have drinks at a fancy hotel bar in Washington, just the three of us, to talk about the idea.

That day, Mr. NBC called to say he was bringing a friend along. No problem, I said. The more the merrier.

When the four of us sat down together and ordered beers, I turned to the tag-along. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t catch your name.”

“Elon,” he said. I answered: “Nice to meet you. What do you do for a living, Elon?” He lit up like a Christmas tree.

“I have a passion for technology,” he said, his hands gesticulating wildly. “I created this company. Maybe you heard of it? It’s called Paypal. And I sold it for, like, a billion dollars. Then I took the money and created another company called Tesla.”

“Oh my God,” I interrupted. “Are you Elon Musk?”

He was. I was so clueless that I’d asked the Thomas Edison of our time what he did for a living.

Of course I knew who Elon Musk was. He was the guy who created Paypal. He was the genius behind the electric carmaker Tesla and its long-life battery, which is on the road to disrupting the entire auto industry. He was the visionary behind SpaceX and the 600 mph “hyperloop” service that he says will whisk passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 35 minutes by 2025.

Musk did most of the talking that night. He talked about entrepreneurship, he talked about technology, and he talked about alternative energy sources, including wind and solar energy. I agreed with most of what I heard, although I think he’s dead wrong about nuclear power being a “clean” fuel.

Musk said several other things that I can’t forget.

First, he said that the United States is falling behind other industrialized countries because we neglect our infrastructure. Building and repairing roads, bridges, and hospitals shouldn’t be controversial or political. It ought to be something we all agree we need. This country should have the best roads, bridges, and hospitals in the world. And we don’t.

Second, he said that our universities should be incubators to the greatest cutting-edge technologies in the world. But colleges and universities have become so expensive that many potential students just can’t afford higher education. As a result, we’re denying ourselves some of the best minds the country has to offer.

And third, he said that the United States is behind the curve — and the rest of the Western world — when it comes to tapping the full potential of solar and wind power. We’ve made a lot of headway since that chance meeting I had five years ago. But if you look at how much renewable energy we’re generating on a per capita basis, it could take us years to catch up to the Germans or the Scandinavians. Even the Greeks are ahead of us on solar power.

I listened, enthralled. I should have gone home, logged onto my brokerage account, and bought as many shares of Tesla as I could afford. I didn’t, though. My loss.

My friend and I never pitched our TV news show either. But we got a first-hand lesson in entrepreneurship from the man who’s arguably the country’s greatest living entrepreneur.

When it comes to our infrastructure, student debt, and alternative energy, our politicians could stand to get a lesson, too.

 

OtherWords columnist John Kiriakou is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. He’s also a former CIA counterterrorism officer and former senior investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

 

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Citizens’ Climate Lobby – Panama meets on Saturday

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CCL
Effects of climate change AND the Citizens’ Climate Lobby ae both active in Panama. Photo by SINAPROC.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby Monthly Meeting

Saturday September 12 , 1 – 3 p.m.

Universidad Interamericana de Panama on Via Brasil

We will have light snacks.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby is building the political will for a stable climate, by empowering individuals to have breakthroughs in their personal and political power.

It’s an amazing, inspiring group to be connected with, working on something so dreadful and still having fun while doing it.  The opportunities for personal growth are huge, and the chance to have a real impact on the future our planet is moving.

Those interested should call 6704-2456, email cclpanamacity@gmail.com, or just show up.

This Panama chapter is focused on work within Panama, but expats from other countries will find it easy to connect with chapters at home and participate remotely.  We will facilitate that.  It’s a great way to stay connected.

www.citizensclimatelobby.org is the website.

 

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Democrats Abroad meet and greet on Saturday, in Ancon and online

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DA
Democrats Abroad will send a delegation to the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, with the shares of delegates among the candidates based on the results of the March 1-8 DA global primary.

Democrats Abroad meet and greet

with information on registration and voting in the 2016 US elections

Saturday, September 12 at 1 p.m.

at the Country Store and Restaurant in Ancon

and online from wherever else you might be

To get to the Country Store and Restaurant

On foot and navigating by landmark in the Panamanian fashion

If you climb the stairs to the front door of the Balboa Union Church, turn around and look down the hill you just climbed, across the street at the end of the side street where the Banistmo is located, you will be looking right at the Country Store and Restaurant.

If you will be driving to get there:

From the Bridge of the Americas take the Albrook exit. You will go under the bridge. Continue to the traffic light — the Arnulfo Arias Monument will be in your left as you get to the light. Turn left at that T, immediatelygettting into the right lane. At the traffic light Banistmo will be to your right. Turn right at that light, and the Country Store will be immediately in front of you.

From the city center go toward the bridge. Just past Mi Pueblito get in the right turn lane and take a right turn just before the pedestrian overpass. Follow this street to the second traffic light (they are very close), turn right in front of the bank and the restaurant will be straight ahead.

From Albrook or Clayton follow signs to Puente de las Americas. You will pass the Port of Balboa. At the port entrance you will turn left at the light, continue past Balboa Theater on your right, past two traffic lights. At third light you will see Balboa Union Church on your right and Banistmo on you left. Turn at that light, past the bank on your left. Country Store will be ahead of you.

How to log on to participate in the meeting online

Democrats Abroad – DA WebExHost invites you to attend this online meeting.

* Topic: DA Panama, Sat, 9/12 1 p.m. Panama time
* Date: Saturday, September 12, 2015
* Time: 1:00 pm, Panama time (GMT-05:00)
* Meeting Number: 730 136 767
* Meeting Password: dapa

To join the online meeting:

1.) Select this direct link to the meeting :
https://democratsabroad.webex.com/democratsabroad/j.php?MTID=m5df04b63b849598d42de5474504bd3c6

(or you can find your meeting on the WebEx Calendar at:
https://democratsabroad.webex.com

2.) Enter your name,  with your Country Code and email address. Note: If you don’t know the code, just write your country and/or the group you represent. (This is not required to log onto the meeting)

3.) Enter the meeting password: dapa

4.) Click “Join.”

5.) When the WebEx Meeting Center application opens, _select the button that says “Call Using Computer”_ (in the Audio Conference pop-up box, under Use Computer for Audio), and you will be able to hear the call conversation.

6.) Please remember to always MUTE your microphone (use the Red Mute Mic button next to your name in the Participants List on the right side of the screen). This will make the audio much clearer for everyone on the call.

 

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Harrington, The Panama Canal and international media

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The scant coverage of PanCanal woes in international media

by Kevin Harrington-Shelton

It is hardly surprising that the Panama Canal expansion´s travails have received scant coverage in international media: from its onset it has been shrouded in secrecy. And this has damaged both Panama’s democracy and its sustainable economic development.

The canal is one of the few things in Panama which does not defy logic. Working with — rather than against — nature, tropical rainfall is gathered into a man made lake in the highlands, and then eased downward onto either ocean by gravity, carrying with it the oceangoing vessels. Its expansion follows the same logic — for larger ships. 

The cause of Its travails lies elsewhere. The current canal (begun in 1904) was financed by the US Federal Treasury. In 1881 the (failed) French effort had relied on private shareholders. The expansion (2006) is to be financed by shippers using the international public utility, rather than opting for widespread ownership giving Panamanian investors a stake in their country´s future (in the manner Egypt financed its own expansion in the Suez canal). To a man, Panamanian politicians preferred to retain their short leash on the pork barrel. But, as the $5 billion expansion here was intended to kickstart some $60 billion in public works abroad (as major ports improved existing facilities to handle the wider and longer ships for which the expansion was designed), its international media profile has been kept intentionally low.

Perceived corruption has hampered the expansion from day one. The 2009 international public tender was a fracas, with disparities so huge as to inferr that it was hardly at arm’s length. The executed contracts have never been made public, despite repeated freedom of information requests. As The Economist reported, Bechtel, one of the losers, suggested the winning consortium’s bid would barely cover the costs of the cement involved. This proved prescient, as cement quality did indeed pose technical problems from commencement of works (2010), and last week social media carried photos of widespread leakage in concrete poured into semi-completed locks. None of which were reported in the local press.

Succesive governments since 2006 have flounted the rule of law, disregarding extant legislation which calls for mandatory progress reports to Parliament every six months. And, despite his repeated claims to a transparency patently lacking during former President Ricardo Martinelli’ s allegedly-corrupt administration, no such reports have been rendered since President Juan Carlos Varela took office on 1 July 2014 (see WikiLeaks).

With grass root reactions to governmental corruption a sign of our times, the mounting erosion in president Varela’s credibility bodes ill for Panama.

 

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