Home Blog Page 2

Kermit’s birds: the Blue Dacnis / Las aves de Kermit: el Dacnis Azul

0
boid
The Blue Dacnis ~ El Dacnis Azul

The Blue Dacnis / El Dacnis Azul

photo by / foto por Kermit Nourse

This small and beautiful bird is Panama’s Blue Dacnis. Although they are common I have never seen one until the other day.

Este pequeño y hermoso pájaro es el dacnis azul de Panamá. Aunque son comunes nunca he visto uno hasta el otro día.

 

~ ~ ~
These announcements are interactive. Click on them for more information.
Estos anuncios son interactivos. Toque en ellos para seguir a las páginas de web.

 

bw donor button

FB_2

Tweet

Tweet

FB CCL

vote final

Spanish PayPal button

spies

Bernal, The payrolls

0
MAB
Miguel Antonio Bernal. Archive photo by Eric Jackson.

Payrolls: The set-up is the story

by Miguel Antonio Bernal

Little by little, the montage of payrolls puts the citizen and reality face-to-face. There can be no turning back from the facts: the governability pact was (and will be) for easy theft — for one side and the other.

From the lottery tickets that have been appearing on some payrolls — not all — we have been able to confirm the hijacking of democracy at the hands of modern-day treasury looters.

The set-up has been laid bare: executive, legislative, judicial, comptoller, prosecutor, electoral tribunal and the leadership of the rotten party system, all united in the most despicable way to swipe the money for the health, education, food, public safety and jobs of the working population.

It’s gluttony, more than the struggle for power, that has brought them to pick through the rags of their theater of deceit. It’s the source of their filth, of the miasma in which they wallow as the steal and steal and steal.

Nothing stops them, nobody slows them down. Lords and owners of this farce that precedes the tragedy, they fatten themselves with ease in the absence of citizen control mechanisms.

To Odebrecht, Blue Apple, the Social Security Fund 300, MECO and a long et cetera, we add the payrolls in the antechamber of crimes against humanity, perpetrated by all these impostors and masters of deceit. Its set-up is the history of our reality: it’s not the payroll that maintains the government, it’s the government that maintains the payroll — with the Panamanian people’s money.

~ ~ ~
These announcements are interactive. Click on them for more information.

vote

bw donor button

$

FB_2

vote final

Tweet

spies

Constitutional crisis ∞.2: “gratuities, incentives and other personal services”

0
Yanibel
National Assembly president — until July — Yanibel Ábrego. The matter of gratuities received has yet to be broached with respect to the legislature. Photo by the National Assembly.

Comptroller files a criminal complaint against
the president of the National Assembly

by Eric Jackson

To recap the blow-by-blow until THIS came up:

  • After initial denials, President Varela was forced to admit receiving millions of dollars from the notorious Brazilian-based construction conglomerate Odebrecht. His fall-back position is that it was a campaign contribution rather than a bribe. But foreign campaign contributions are also illegal. In his favor, the president has Martinelli’s electoral prosecutor, Eduardo Peñaloza, who steadfastly refuses to bring cases based on illegal campaign money.
  • The “Governability Pact” among Varela’s Panameñistas, a few minor party deputies, the lone independent in the legislature and dissidents from both the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) and Democratic Change (CD) held for the first years of this presidency but now it’s long gone. Varela’s party has 16 of 71 seats in the legislature and hardly any allies. Thus on his first attempt to fill two vacancies on the high court, the CD and PRD deputies ganged up to reject a woefully unqualified partisan figure and a veteran anti-corruption prosecutor. The process of coming up with new nominees is underway. There will either be a political patronage swap to get the next nominees ratified or the posts may remain vacant until July of 2019, when the next legislature and president take office. The latter case, of course, would raise the stakes in the May 2019 general elections.
  • The National Assembly’s Credentials Committee was reorganized against protests and court challenges by the Panameñistas, who lost a near veto power in that reshuffle. The Supreme Court didn’t want to hear it. The new Credentials Committee obliged the magistrates by throwing out a slew of criminal complaints against several of their number, generally for arcane procedural reasons rather than on the merits of the claims. Come July 2 the legislature makes new committee assignments for the final year of its term, with complaints still lurking that would allow them to impeach President Varela or several members of the high court if they are so inclined. (Getting two-thirds to convict, however, would require rock-solid unity among a CD caucus that’s disintegrating and a PRD caucus that has its divisions but eyes victory next year and is thus much less fragmented.)
  • The many egregious scandals of the Martinelli years linger in many court cases with delays piling upon delays and then defense lawyers moving to dismiss because of the delays they interposed. Some of these interposed delays are by lawyers on behalf of fugitives. The ex-president’s sons and brother-in-law are among those petitioning for habeas corpus even though the courts do not have their bodies at their disposal. Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal himself is fighting extradition on illegal wiretapping charges and has more than a dozen other criminal cases percolating against himself. He fights from a jail cell in the Miami Federal Detention Center, with his lawyers filing ever more specious appeals. The latest bochinche from his camp is that he may waive his objections to extradition, but only if there is a deal with US prosecutors that bars his trial in Panama for anything other than the eavesdropping and theft of the Israeli surveillance equipment last seen in the offices of his supermarket chain. Would the US prosecutors and courts accept such a thing? Would Panamanian authorities – likely including the next high court whenever vacancies get filled – consider themselves bound by that? Maybe if the price is right.
  • Two members of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) board of directors are, by resolution of Varela’s cabinet, fired. They went on the lam to escape prosecution on criminal charges and missed dozens of meetings, but say that going into hiding while sending in lawyers on habeas corpus motions is their inalienable right, one which trumps their duties to the Panamanian people. The firings and their replacements would need to be approved by the legislature, which is reluctant to act. Perhaps it’s because two other ACP board members, neither of them charged at the moment, are implicated in the Odebrecht scandals. One has his supporters in the National Assembly and the other is a member of that body.
  • Prosecutors and judges have been taking dives or making egregious intentional errors left and right in many of the corruption cases. In some of these they are getting reversed on appeal. In no case is there serious contemplation of any accountability for a prosecutor or judge. In the public perception, everybody will see the charges thrown out in the end and such punishment as there is will be time spent in jail awaiting trial. There is, however, a right to bail in most cases and when authorities rightfully grant bail it is usually seen by many as an act of corruption to allow a guilty person to walk.

NOW COMES the National Assembly’s Planilla 080, the payroll for legislator’s employees. Such parts of it already revealed show a few deputies who are fairly scrupulous, a bunch of others with questionable expenditures but substantially using their share of that payroll to serve their constituents in various legitimate ways, and a lot of stuff that reeks of outright theft. There are the traditional “botellas,” people on the payroll who do not actually work, some of them claiming that they did not even know that they were listed on the payroll. Guess who collects those salaries.

One part has been carefully guarded, though. That’s the secton of Planilla 080 under the heading of “gratuities, incentives and other personal services.” Comptroller General Federico Humbert, more or less politically aligned with Bobby Eisenmann’s strain of libertarian independents, is demanding to see it. Under the law he has every right – in fact a duty – to inspect it. National Assembly president Yanibel Ábrego (CD – Capira) is steadfastly refusing to give Humbert access. She maintains that what Humbert seeks is in the nature of a criminal investigation, over which only the Supreme Court has jurisdiction.

Will independent legislator and presidential candidate Ana Matilde Gómez see her ambitions for higher office evaporate due to her defense of Ábrego’s position? There are likely to be few legislators of any affiliation who side with Humbert with respect to the full details of their $70,000 per month expense budgets.

On May 18 Humbert filed a criminal complaint against Ábrego in the Supreme Court. He alleges “crimes against public administration,” based on the broad constitutional mandate that the Comptroller General has the power and duty to oversee all public expenditures and Ábrego’s refusal to let him do that with respect to the legislature’s spending on “gratuities, incentives and other personal services.”

Will the magistrates want to risk calling off the apparent tacit non-aggression pact with the legislators? If it comes to open warfare they could mess with one another, big time. Stay tuned.

~ ~ ~
These announcements are interactive. Click on them for more information.

vote

bw donor button

$

FB_2

vote final

Tweet

spies

Construction strike settled

0
comrades
SUNTRACS takes to the streets. Archive photo by Eric Jackson.

SUNTRACS and CAPAC settle on modest raises phased in over four years

breaking, by Eric Jackson

Against the backdrop of a difficult economy in the construction sector, the United Construction and Similar Workers Syndicate (SUNTRACS) and the Panamanian Chamber of Construction (CAPAC) have, after a month-long strike, settled on a new four-year master contract. There were 42 pay classifications under the old contract and this one will be more or less as complicated. But the general framework of the deal is raises in annual phases, over the length of the contract to add up to:

  • 11 percent for work on mega-projects
  • 14 percent for ordinary private construction
  • 18 percent for public works projects
~ ~ ~
These announcements are interactive. Click on them for more information.

vote

bw donor button

$

FB_2

vote final

Tweet

spies

¿Wappin? Blue and maybe getting better

0
CA
Christina Aguilera, who is starting off on her Liberation Tour, her first touring in more than a decade. Photo from one of her YouTube videos. / Christina Aguilera, quien está comenzando su Liberation Tour, su primera gira en más de una década. Foto de uno de sus videos de YouTube.

Blue and maybe getting better
Azul y quizás mejorando

Randy Weston & Billy Harper – Blues To Senegal
https://youtu.be/DDkjkqPOb_4

Janis Joplin – Kozmic Blues
https://youtu.be/CLnYwskXADI

Zoé – Azul
https://youtu.be/Grq_h8S_UlE

James – Broken By The Hurt
https://youtu.be/0UZHkGObAIk

Eddie Vedder & Beyoncé – Redemption Song
https://youtu.be/fb1_S8bNo34

Cream – Spoonful
https://youtu.be/hH_YhoULx4A

Willy Rodríguez – Ojalá
https://youtu.be/q0ET3U75FZA

Julieta Venegas – Todo Está Aquí
https://youtu.be/UbT-nrXmF0U

Monos Al Combate – Nace una canción
https://youtu.be/vJzBZVxdxz8

Ibrahim Ferrer – Perfidia
https://youtu.be/bDT-xuqpH2U

Rómulo Castro – No Hay Muro
https://youtu.be/sbLw-JJfwsw

Christina Aguilera & Demi Lovato – Fall In Line
https://youtu.be/WyuPSLj_6aw

The Isley Brothers & Carlos Santana – Higher Ground
https://youtu.be/_OmUIOAZqF8

 

~ ~ ~
These announcements are interactive. Click on them for more information.
Estos anuncios son interactivos. Toque en ellos para seguir a las páginas de web.

 

little donor button

$

FB_2

Tweet

Tweet

FB CCL

vote final

Spanish PayPal button

spies

Today is Endangered Species Day

0
bush dog
The bush dog — Speothos venaticus — is a New World canid which makes Panama the northern end of its range, which goes down to Argentina. Shy, often but not always nocturnal, generally a forest dweller, it has recently been found by scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute to be more common in Panama than thought. The species, despite its wide range, is considered to be moderately endangered. Photo by Tamako The Jaguar.

Be nice to endangered species today!

Do not litter their habitat — throwing plastic stuff in a storm drain is a standard way to make the lives of endangered marine species miserable to impossible.

Do not destroy their habitat — “cleaning” the land for no good purpose, and especially by setting it on fire or spraying toxic chemicals on it, is downright mean.

Be mean to politicians who disregard the environment, whatever justification they may proffer — environmental destruction equals fewer votes is the equation they must learn.

 

~ ~ ~
These announcements are interactive. Click on them for more information.

bw donor button

vote final

vote

FB_2

Tweet

Burke & Reddy, The ethics of designing smart cities

0
File 20180215 131016 vqgghs.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1Jakarta’s traffic system is one of many facets of the city that could be improved by smart cities technologies, but at what cost? CC by Vasenka Photography / Flickr

Three scenarios: we must think carefully about ethics in designing smart cities

by Anthony Burke and Prasuna Reddy, University of Technology Sydney

To improve cities, governments are increasingly promoting the use of technology and data-driven decision-making. They decide how technologies and Big Data are being used or deployed in creating smart cities, with the help of academics who collect and interpret data, design new city ideas and newer technologies for cities.

Data harnessed from networked objects that citizens wear or use daily can ease our lives. But it’s possible that the uses of Big Data jeopardize citizens, such as in the scenarios we present below.

1. Longer commute for low-class workers

Imagine this: A traffic system manages a city’s rush hour, handling thousands of traffic lights, public transport commutes and pedestrian signals. Meanwhile, an AI system uses real-time data drawn from hundreds of thousands of sensors on vehicles and buses. With help from infrastructure like light poles, the optimal flow of traffic is calculated based on the number of vehicles and people in the system.

Reducing commute times and improving productivity is the stated end goal of city governments. Who could argue with that?

But linking traffic data, geographic data and economic performance creates another scenario. If the system increases economic performance, is it any wonder it prioritizes higher-paying jobs linked to more expensive suburbs neighboring the city?

Low-paid commuters contribute less financially to a city’s economy, so a highly paid executive getting a quicker ride to work makes brutal sense. But the system introduces a bias: public transport suddenly takes a little longer for a clerical worker.

2. Park bench meter?

The humble park bench presents another ethical dilemma for city planners. We’ve been paying for car parking in cities for decades. Now that we can live-track people in fine detail, the possibility of micro-charging for public amenities creates an opportunity for new revenue streams.

Think about paying a few cents for time spent resting on a park bench — a parking meter for people. This obviously discourages the positive attributes of city living for avid park users.

In the future, will we have to pay to sit on a park bench? www.shutterstock.com

Yet, as an example of “data-driven” governance, it plausibly shines a light on the already feasible potential for economic disparity.

3. Health and the consent of citizens

Big Data can also be used to inform city design and planning to reduce health disparities. Public surveillance systems can connect geo-data with health services data to attend to populations that need urgent help.

But there are major ethical challenges that center on fears about the privacy of information that is provided. The perception that data will be paternally used in targeted community interventions is also an issue.

At the Indonesian-Australian Digital Forum in Jakarta in January, participants analyzed the sustainability of using citizen reports to collect data on malaria. This information sharing can potentially benefit communities by targeting public health services in areas of need.

But it also creates stigma and privacy concerns when individuals are known within their community as disease carriers. Is there any opportunity to consider a person’s consent?

Big Data certainly creates opportunities to reduce health disparities. But how many benevolent government interventions engage targeted citizens in the development process?

Focusing on the citizen

The examples we use above are very near-term realities. The possibilities and problems of Big Data mean designers require a new type of intelligence that exists between technology and the humanities.

As technologies become more sophisticated the designer holds a key role in customizing such concepts for mass use. Additionally, as the pendulum swings from technological solutions towards the citizen’s experiences, the variations in different countries’ political and cultural systems will become more pronounced. The old adage that “all politics is local” will be reinforced.

But in a Big Data environment, the tendency to average out all those local specificities is magnified by generic technology approaches to complex cultural and contextual problems.

Governments should think about and resolve ethical questions in the design of smart cities. City planners should ensure that the technologies deployed do not take away citizens’ privacy and that personal data are not used against them.

 

Anthony Burke, Associate Dean International and Engagement, Faculty of Design Architecture and Building, University of Technology Sydney and Prasuna Reddy, Associate Dean (International and Advancement) and Professor of Mental Health and Implementation Science, University of Technology Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article

 

~ ~ ~
These announcements are interactive. Click on them for more information.

bw donor button

vote final

vote

FB_2

Tweet

Is Varela on a peace mission to Israel?

0
JCV in Jerusalem
                                Juan Carlos Varela greeted by Reuven Rivlin. Photo by the Presidencia.

Varela goes to Jerusalem

by Eric Jackson

Is President Varela up to a peace making attempt in the Middle East? It may sound ridiculous, given Panama’s small stature in the world, Israeli triumphalism and Palestinian leadership that is so dysfunctional as to lack much legitimacy to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people. But look beyond that to the nuances coming from the Panamanian side. Notice the incapacity, alienation and exasperation of the usual great powers and the United Nations. Then consider Panama’s frequent role in the world as a neutral intermediary, notwithstanding things that contradict that with respect to Israel over the years. Yes, Noriega brought in a Mossad guy to organize his UESAT death squad. Yes, Martinelli is in a US jail fighting extradition and trial for his criminal activities using electronic spy equipment bought from Israel. A bland reference to “security” in Varela’s description of his agenda in Israel perhaps means more of that.

At his meeting with Israel’s mostly ceremonial President Reuven Rivlin, Varela had to hear “security talk,” Israeli-style, this coming from Rivlin on the heels of Israeli massacres of unarmed Palestinians across the Israel-Gaza border, with special Israeli Defense Forces attention to shoot Palestinian medical personnel and journalists:

“Every day, Israel faces the threat of terror against our people. What we have seen the last few days on our border with Gaza, reminds us again that Israel has the duty to defend our borders and our citizens. We are doing all we can to avoid casualties.”
 

So was Varela an eager prop for a screed in favor of war crimes, or was he just listening to one of the belligerents sound off as a person on a peace misson when nations have come to deadly blows often has to do? Some things that Varela said and did leading up to his visit to Israel suggest the latter:

  • After an earlier visit to Jordan, Varela said that Panama intends to open an office to serve Palestinians and Panamanians who live among the Palestinians.
  • Although Panama was listed as one of the countries attending the gala conversion of the US consulate in Jerusalem to the US embassy to Israel, Varela was in the United Kingdom that day. In the UK the Panamanian president met with British Prime Minister Theresa May, who also did not attend the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.
  • Before heading out to Israel, Varela made some significant statements to AFP. First, he announced that Panama would keep its embassy in Tel Aviv because “we are among the countries looking for a grand consesus on the subject of a two-state solution.” He also referred to the previous day’s killings of some 60 Palestinians by Israeli troops as “a sad day.”

On his first day in Israel Varela did the usual ceremonial things — planting a tree, visiting the Holocaust memorial garden, touring some of the innovative projects that make Israel one of those small countries that lives largely by its wits that is so attractive for that reason to Panamanians. Both Varela and Rivlin made positive references to Panama’s Jewish community, which maintains active back-and-forth ties of many sorts with Israel.

The main business, however, was to come later in a meeting with Israel’s effective head of state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Varela’s office listed the subjects to be broached as “water, agriculture, technology and security.”

On each of those subjects there is a potential for Varela to raise the Palestinian question. There is the systematic Israeli appropriation of water from the West Bank and there are  frequent Israeli attacks on the Gaza water system. There is the matter not only of the destruction of Palestinian farms on the West Bank, but also whether as Europe does Panama will ban the selling of produce from Israeli settlements in the occupied territories if it bears the label “product of Israel.” Much of Israel’s tech sector is dedicated to military or repressive purposes, including things used against the Palestinians and exports that facilitated the systematic politically motivated spying on Panamanians under the previous administration here. But set aside the controversial politics and Panana has needs in those areas which Israel may be in a position to meet. In the agricultural sector, Panama’s ailing farm sector might find a few products that Israel does not produce and might like to import from us.

Then, what is “security?” Is it the SPI presidential guard training under guidance from veterans of the notorious Shin Bet, or “anti-terrorist” goons organized by the Mossad? Panama has seen those things. Or is it negotiating an end to this long-running property dispute between Jews and Arabs, which has long been one of the principal threats to world peace? An intermediary role is also something that Panama has played in other international disputes.

~ ~ ~
These announcements are interactive. Click on them for more information.

bw donor button

vote final

vote

FB_2

Tweet

Book chapter: City dogs (The Streetwalkers of Panama)

0

Anton dog

City dogs

Click here to open this chapter in PDF format.

 

~ ~ ~
These announcements are interactive. Click on them for more information.

bw donor button

vote final

vote

FB_2

Tweet

CAPAC asks for arbitration, SUNTRACS votes to continue the strike

0
KN
Moving out to continue the strike: the SUNTRACS construction workers’ union takes to the street after a March 15 assembly in Parque Porras decided to reject arbitration and continue a national construction strike that had been ongoing for 27 days at the time of the assembly. Photo by Kermit Nourse

Construction companies want arbitration, workers vote to stay out on strike

by Eric Jackson

This is not a good year for construction workers to strike for higher pay and benefits, but it’s when the master contract between the United Construction and Similar Workers Syndicate (SUNTRACS) and the Panamanian Chamber of Construction (CAPAC) came due for renegotiation. Construction activity is down, as are most sectors of the national economy. It’s not mass starvation and food riots, but people are worried, inflation has eaten up most of the gains of years past and management in general sees opportunities. There is also labor unrest among the teachers, port workers, PanCanal tug crews and others.

But is it a good time for the construction barons to go to the mat? Many of them are caught up in the widespread Blue Apple bribery / kickback scandal, and if prosecutors and courts are so very considerate in declining to throw corrupt executives in jail, hefty fines are being ordered. President Varela also showed an understanding attitude with a veto of a law that would bar convicted construction companies and their principals from further public works jobs. Slow business and fines in the millions sort of even the playing field with organized labor.

CAPAC has been offering raises of four to five cents an hour to SUNTRACS, which union’s top leader, Saúl Méndez, angrily dismisses as “crumbs.” But the original SUNTRACS whiz-bang demand of 60 percent across the board went way down rather quickly. The last publicized union offer was in the ballpark of 15 percent.

SUNTRACS can get rough on the streets, and cops and company goons have been known to kill them over the years. But aside from brief street marches and briefer blockages or slowdowns for leafletting, the union has not tried to shut down the country this time around. The police riot squads have so far avoided provoking that sort of an escalation. But construction activity is shut down. There aren’t any scabs working, and if there were some protests by alleged SUNTRACS members demanding their strike pay, union leaders say that these are impostors hired by management.

After more than three weeks of no construction, CAPAC has softened its initial hard line stance and called for arbitration. The government likes the idea. However, the construction workers don’t and at their May 15 general assembly voted to reject arbitration and continue the strike. Stay tuned.

 

ST
Testing the microphones before the SUNTRACS assembly gets underway. May 15 is the 115th anniversary of Liberal guerrilla General Victoriano Lorenzo and if one is to understand some of the fury in Panamanian construction workers’ attitudes, one must take into account rural dispossession that is in the union members’ personal memories or family lore. So many of these people are displaced farmers or fishers and they see little difference between those who drove their families off of farms or beaches and construction CEOs. In many cases it’s precisely the same families. Photo by SUNTRACS.

 

~ ~ ~
These announcements are interactive. Click on them for more information.

bw donor button

vote final

vote

FB_2

Tweet