Yes, November 28 is a legal holiday because that’s when Panama City joined a revolt that started in the Interior and definitively separated the isthmus from Spain, back in 1821. But it’s also the anniversary of the founding in 1885 of this country’s oldest and most beloved public institution, the Cuerpo de Bomberos or Firefighters Corps.
It’s a core of full-time professionals bolstered by a larger group of volunteers. They’re not only on call for fires, but also for floods and other disasters. These are the people who go into burning buildings from which others have fled in terror, and who wade into flood waters to pluck out those having difficulty getting to higher ground like their neighbors. Plus they have the country’s coolest marching bands.
Wouldn’t it be nice, not only for the bomberos but for everyone, if such less loved public institutions like the National Assembly and the Presidency saw to it that the bomberos were properly funded? The are not equipped as they should be to fight fires in and rescue people from tall buildings. Notoriously in Colon’s city center, but in other places as well, fire hydrants don’t get enough water pressure. Bomberos even get sent in to fight fires without proper boots, gloves, coats and breathing apparatus. And for such an international place as we are, our emergency response switchboards are underdeveloped for dealing with the many languages encountered here.
So let not parades be our only occasion to show our appreciation for the bomberos. They protect all of us every day and deserve proper support every day.
A vote count that should have been done within less than 12 hours, with final results held off for several days? Let us hope that this is a fruitless final manipulation by a miserable corrupt death squad regime that came to power in a 2009 coup. Latin America’s democracies, left and right, have a lot of problems. The violent overthrows of elected governments and rigged elections make things worse and Honduras has been a poster child for that. And please, President Varela, if former Honduran officials come fleeing here, don’t let them in.
In Panama years ago, we saw what the Republicans on the FCC are trying to do in the United States, with worldwide implications. Back then Cable & Wireless Panama blocked The Panama News website from being seen by their subscribers, and when people complained they falsely told people that we had gone out of business. At the time it appeared that it was a move to force websites in Panama to US that company’s web hosting services.
Telecom monopolists would shut The Panama News and many other websites from all over Latin America out of access to those who surf the Internet in the USA. This they would do to extort ransom. It would harm US foreign relations by dumbing down Americans about the rest of the world worse than is already the case. It would cause immediate trade conflicts between the United States and many other countries. It would reduce the interchanges of ideas and culture between Panama and its diaspora communities in the USA. It would have that effect with Americans who hail from, or whose recent ancestors have come from, many other places. In the long run — and not actually THAT long — it would lead to international rejection of and retaliation against the US companies that think that they will cash in by ending net neutrality.
Becoming a pariah is the usual thing that happens to stick-up artists. But these folks have led privileged lives that have kept them from learning that lesson. Let’s raise a hue and cry now, so that they don’t learn the hard way at everybody else’s expense.
Bear in mind…
There are sadistic scientists who hurry to hunt down errors instead of establishing the truth.
Like the wind crying endlessly through the universe, Time carries away the names and the deeds of conquerors and commoners alike. And all that we are, all that remains, is in the memories of those who cared we came this way for a brief moment.
I am a woman, a socialist, separated and agnostic — all the sins together.
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video pointed out by Miguel Antonio Bernal, note by Eric Jackson
“We have selected.” Not “we own?” Not “we have title?” Not “we have title legally obtained?”
What we see here is one of these “BUY NOW!” pitches aimed at naive foreigners who have no knowledge of Panama’s protected natural areas, history of corrupt land grabs that have often been set aside, constitutional reservation of the beaches as public property, indigenous land rights and true real estate scene without the money laundering stuff.
No doubt there are beautiful areas on and around the Caribbean coast of Veraguas, and it’s true that there are road building plans and some roads have been built. It’s not true that there is easy and ordinary access to drive to these areas. It’s also not true that these spots on the map, which include protected wildlife areas that are part of the Meso-American Corridor, can readily and legally be developed.
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In Panama there are no real political parties. Nor are there organizations that invite you to a permanent and systematic debate about national affairs. President Juan Carlos Varela made a trip to the Peoples Republic of China during which he committed the country — and all of its population — to undertake 19 financial agreements with its Asian counterpart. The communications media, instead of analyzing the agreements one by one, have by and large emphasized that among the members of the presidential delegation we found labor leader Genaro López, the secretary general of FAD. They also emphasized the team that President Varela picked from among the conspicuous members of the economic and social elites of this country to accompany him.
Let’s present each of the accords for a better understanding of them. This will be done in two parts. This is the first and the second will come next week. In this installment we will analyze the first 10 agreements that have been made public. These accords concentrate on actitivities that Chinese investors will carry out in Panama to prepare for their expansion in the region. They will build all the necessary infrastructure needed to invest enormous sums of money to promote their penetration of the region’s economies.
The Chinese are very clear in the objectives that make up the Silk Road. [See, e.g., this and this.] Panama will be a key instrument in the development of this strategy. China is not only betting on the extraction of metals and foodstuffs from the soil of the Americas. They come with a lot of energy to conquer the high tech market.
The accords reflect a plan conceived in Beijing. They appear to have been drafted in Chinese and later translated into Spanish. Moreover, these agreements only refer to what China will do in Panama. Everything indicates that Panama will play a passive role, which in our country’s history has ended in tragedies and catastrophes.
Let’s analyze each of these agreements. We can do it starting from a criterion of relative “importance” or following a quantitative order of the size of the investments. Let’s instead choose to follow the same order in which the agreements were published.
The first refers to an “understanding” for the promotion of trade and investment. It attempts to attract Chinese investments in Panama. It would serve as a framework to channel Chinese capital investments into the most strategic sectors for Chinese expansion into Latin America.
The second agreement is between the Development Bank of China and the Ministry of Economy and Finance and attempts to facilitate Chinese financial activities in the country and the region. This agreement mentions investments in infrastructure, from bridges and ports to electrical power stations.
The third agreement is between the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Chinese Import and Export Bank (EximBank). According to the draft agreement, the Chinese bank would extend to Panama a line of credit equivalent to $200 billion. We have to ask whether that amount is for projects in Panama or for the whole region. With this capital about 40 Panama Canals could be expanded.
The fourth agreement is a free trade treaty. While the first three accords may have some promise, this one about “free trade” is a mere salute to the flag of satisfying the desires of some merchants who are eager to make more money without creating any jobs.
The fifth agreement refers to “cooperation in productive and investment capacity.” Along this line, the construction and operation of infrastructure stand out. The initiative would entail an initial investment of $10 billion.
The sixth agreement refers to phytosanitary measures to protect China from Panamanian exports.
The seventh agreement refers to loans by the EximBank to ETESA for the develpment of projects in Panama’s electrical sector. All of the funds that ETESA receives would be for “the direct or indirect purchase of Chinese products or services.”
The eighth agreement also refers to the electrical sector and ETESA. This latter Panamanian state enterprise would receive credits from the Bank of China.
The ninth agreement is to increase productivity in the Panamanian agricultural sector with the thought of exports to China. The accord appeas to emphasize joint projects both in production and in research.
The tenth agreement isn’t very clear — all that is mentioned is that a mixed commission will be created to “examine the scope of projects.”
In the next part the rest of the accords will be analyzed, including the much-discussed “bullet train.”
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Suddenly, a terrible thought struck me. What if Avi Gabbay really believes what he is saying?
Impossible. He cannot really believe all those things. No, no.
But if he does? Where does that leave us?
Avi Gabbay is the new leader of the Israeli Labor Party. Until recently, he was a founding member of a moderate right-wing party, Kulanu (“We all”). Without ever being elected to the Knesset, he served as a junior minister. He resigned when Avigdor Lieberman, considered by many as a semi-fascist (and the “semi” is far from certain), was allowed to join the government as Minister of Defense, the second most important post.
In a bold move, Gabbay left Kulanu and joined the Labor Party (also known as “the Zionist Camp”) and was soon elected its chairman. However, he did not become the official “Leader of the Opposition,” because he was not a member of the Knesset. (The formal title remained with his predecessor, the very nice but rather insignificant Yitzhak Herzog.)
One of Gabbay’s outstanding qualities is the fact that he is “Oriental,” an Eastern Jew. He is the seventh of eight children in a family that immigrated from Morocco in 1964, just three years before his birth.
This is very important. The Labor Party is decried as “Western” (or Ashkenazi), the party of the social elites, estranged from the mass of the Orientals. It must overcome this characterization if it ever wants to attain power again.
In the Likud Party, the situation is the exact opposite. The mass of Likud voters are Orientals, but Binyamin Netanyahu is as Ashkenazi as you can get. The Orientals adore him, as they have never adored any Oriental leader.
But Gabbay’s origin is not his only attribute. From his humble beginnings he climbed the heights of economic success. He became the CEO of one of Israel’s most important corporations, amassing a personal fortune on the way.
He is not a charismatic leader, not a person to arouse the masses. Indeed, his face is easily forgotten. But he took with him from the business world a sound, logical way of thinking. In politics, logic is a rare commodity. It can be obstructive.
The question now is: where does logic take him?
During his few months as leader of the Labor Party, Gabbay has deeply shocked many party members. Shocked them to the core.
About once a week, usually on Shabbat, Gabbay lets loose a statement that seemingly contradicts everything the party has stood for during its more than one hundred years of existence.
He once declared that peace does not mean that any of the many dozens of settlements in the occupied territories must be removed. Until then, the party line was that only the “settlement blocs” — located hard on the Green line — could remain, within the framework of an agreed exchange of territories, and that all the others must be removed. Gabbay’s announcement caused quite a stir, since it probably makes the “two-state solution” impossible.
On another occasion, Gabbay announced that he would never set up a coalition with the “United List,” the only Arab list in the Knesset. This list consists of three separate — and very different — Arab parties, which were compelled to unite when Lieberman (the same) raised the minimum electoral threshold in order to eliminate them.
It is very difficult (if not impossible) to put together a leftist majority in the Knesset without the Arab list. The Oslo agreement would never have come into being if the Arab members had not given their unwavering support to Yitzhak Rabin (but without joining his government).
To make matters worse, Gabbay announced that the only Arab member of the Labor Party in Parliament — a popular sports commentator — would not be in the next Knesset. His crime: he criticized the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which promised the Jews a national home in Palestine, which at the time was an Arab land.
The climax (so far) came last week, To top it all, Gabbay did something that many Labor members found abhorrent.
There are in Israel tens of thousands of non-Jewish African refugees, especially from Sudan and Eritrea. They have been held for several months in an open semi-detention facility, which is vastly superior to conditions at home. Others vegetate in the poor quarters of Tel Aviv, doing occasional jobs and competing with poor inhabitants, making them very angry.
Israel claims to be a “Jewish State.” Jews have been persecuted refugees for centuries. But now the government has decided not only to stem the flow, but to pay to dispose of the refugees who are already here: paying the government of Rwanda 5000 dollars for every refugee they accept from us. The refugees themselves will also get 3500 dollars each if they go voluntarily. If they refuse, they will be put in a real prison indefinitely.
Deported? Imprisoned? In a “Jewish” state? Incredible. And here comes Gabbay and calls upon his party to vote for this atrocity!
As if all this was not enough, Gabbay said something else incredible. He denounced his party’s stand on Judaism.
Years ago, Netanyahu was caught on camera whispering into the ear of a very old rabbi that “the Labor Party has forgotten what it means to be Jewish.” Incredibly, Gabbay repeated this accusation, announcing that the Labor Party had indeed “forgotten what it means to be Jewish.”
Nothing could be more shocking than that. The party was founded a century ago by convinced atheists, like David Ben-Gurion, who refused to put a kippah on his head even at funerals. (Sometimes even I do so out of courtesy to religious mourners.)
The entire Zionist enterprise started as a rebellion against religion. Almost all the important rabbis of his day condemned Theodor Herzl, the founding father, as a heretic and cursed him in no uncertain terms. God Himself evicted the Jews from their country because of their sins, and only God could send His Messiah to bring them back there, if and when He pleases.
The Zionist Labor Movement has always been profoundly atheistic, except for minuscule religious elements. What Gabbay was saying now amounted to an ideological revolution. (By the way, gabbay is the Hebrew word for the administrator of a synagogue.)
Nobody is quite sure what “to be Jewish” means nowadays. Does Judaism represent a religion, a nation, or both? Does it only mean that one identifies with Jewish history and tradition, or that one believes in a God who has “chosen us from among the peoples”? And who the hell cares?
So does Gabbay really believe all this stuff, or is it just political propaganda?
It may well be the latter.
Gabbay is a seasoned businessman. His logic is that of a businessman. It adds numbers.
There are two ways to view the Israeli political landscape. One is the simple one: adding election results. According to this system, the Right now enjoys a clear majority. Apart from the Likud, it consists of two extreme rightist parties, the “Jewish Home” and “Israel is Our Home,” Kulanu and two Orthodox parties. The Left (or “Center-Left” as they like to call themselves these days) consists of Labor, Meretz, Ya’ir Lapid’s “There is a Future” and the Arab list.
To change the balance, Labor must win over a considerable number of voters from the moderate Right.
Another way of looking at the picture sees a rightist minority facing a leftist minority, with the great mass of the people in between. The result is the same: the Center-Left must win over enough voters to change the balance.
How? Gabbay’s answer seems logical: steal the clothes that the Right hung out to dry, as Churchill once put it. Meaning in practice: adopt the slogans of the right, look religious, act chauvinistic, make it possible for Rightist voters to vote for you.
That seems to be Gabbay’s tactic. Can it succeed? In political life, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. If he can attract enough right-wing voters, he may change the balance. If his party loses voters on the left, no problem. They will vote for Meretz, which makes no difference. And if the Arabs are very angry, that makes no difference either: they have no choice but to support a leftist government “from the outside.”
But what if this approach leads to disaster? Political logic is quite different from business logic. It is not based on a 2 + 2 = 4 equation. In politics the answer may well be 3 or 5.
And then it hit me. What if this is not a political tactic at all? What if Gabbay really believes in all this?
God save us!
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On election eve, what hope for media freedom in Honduras?
by Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
As Honduras prepares for a presidential election on 26 November, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) voices deep concern about the appalling state of media freedom in this Central American country.
Eight years after a coup d’état in June 2009, the level of press freedom is still sinking in Honduras. Journalists continue to be the targets of judicial proceedings, violence and murder, reinforcing a climate of fear and self-censorship that has worsened under Juan Orlando Hernández, the president since January 2014.
After getting the supreme court to strike articles from the constitution banning a second presidential term in 2015, Hernández is running for reelection and is expected to win. His record on media freedom during his first term was particularly bad, so the prospect of his reelection is very disturbing for RSF.
Dangerous country for journalists
Honduras is one of the western hemisphere’s most dangerous countries for the media. According to its National Commission for Human Rights (CONADEH), 70 journalists and media workers were killed in Honduras from January 2001 until August of this year. No fewer than 91% of these cases are still unpunished.
According to RSF’s tally, at least four journalists have been killed in direct connection with their work since January 2014. The latest murder, that of Canal 22 journalist Carlos William Flores on 13 September, caused an . Many other journalists have been killed in Honduras in recent years but, in the absence of reliable information and proper investigations, it is hard to establish a clear link between their murder and their journalistic work.
The creation of a national mechanism for protecting human rights defenders and journalists in May 2015 has unfortunately not led to any improvement. Lacking staff and funding, this mechanism has yet to meet initial expectations. And in a country mired in corruption and impunity, it inspires no confidence in journalists.
In March 2017, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) voiced concern about the mechanism’s ineffectiveness and made a number of recommendations, shared by RSF, for improving it.
“On the eve of this presidential election, we sound the alarm about the extremely dangerous environment in which Honduran journalists are operating,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America desk.
“The winner of this election, whoever he is, needs to address the difficult task of ending this spiral of violence and reviving the status of journalism in Honduras. This requires political will and concrete action to reinforce the protection and risk-prevention mechanisms in a sustainable manner, to combat impunity and to end the systematic censorship of those who criticize.”
State censorship, judicial proceedings
The Hernández administration has used all possible means to try to control reporting and gag critics. The community media and opposition press have in particular been subjected to measures that include restrictions on access to public information, difficulty getting accreditation, procedural harassment and threats.
The cases of Libertad TV director and presenter Ariel Armando D’Vicente, who was sentenced to three years in prison in 2016 on a defamation charge, and Julio Ernesto Alvarado, the target of prolonged judicial proceedings, are prime examples of how the authorities persecute critics.
A Radio Globo y TV presenter, Alvarado was prosecuted on a defamation charge in 2013 and was then banned from working as a journalist in 2015. RSF has issued many press releases about his case.
Many other journalists, who RSF met during a visit to Honduras last month, are embroiled in complex problems in which they are being targeted by organized crime or corrupt elected officials.
They include Jonny Lagos, the editor of the El Libertador newspaper, who escaped a murder attempt in Tegucigalpa on 26 August, Jairo Lopez, the victim of a major smear campaign and defamation proceedings marred by irregularities, and Milthon Robles, who fled to Spain in December 2016 to escape the threats he was getting in Honduras.
Balboa Union Church Thanksgiving Sermon by Phil Edmonston
I am not a big fan of Thanksgiving. I prefer to thank the Lord through my prayers, not by eating some poor bird that has one chance in 20 million of being ‘pardoned’ from the axe by President Trump. Nor will I beat the bushes for bargains at the mall, or herd into my home the same relatives whom I purposely avoided most of the year.
Faith, action, and spirituality
Yet, I still celebrate Thanksgiving. But I treat the event in the way that Christ teaches us: through my Faith, Actions, and innate Spiritually. This is all laid out in Luke 10:38-42 when Jesus and his disciples ‘dropped in’ to see Martha and Mary:
At the home of Martha and Mary
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.
39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.
40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,
42 but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Mary’s faith, actions, and spirit transformed Jesus’s visit into an intimate, moment of love and sharing. During Thanksgiving we affirm our faith in Christian values, if only for a day, and ignore the bloody history surrounding our forefathers’ treatment of native people.
Sadly, our better nature doesn’t always prevail at Thanksgiving. Try this challenge to test the Bible’s admonition to — “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” When driving down the Cinta Costera during rush hour. See if you can give five motorists the right of way without getting beeped off the road.
Thanksgiving facts and fables
Ah, and then there’s the “fake news” we are asked to gobble at Thanksgiving. Historians know the first Thanksgiving never took place at Plymouth Rock in 1621 with local native tribes joining in to celebrate a bountiful harvest produced by hard-working Pilgrims. The truth is that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated by an English pirate/explorer named Martin Frobisher while holed up in Canada’s frozen north (near Baffin Island in the Northwest Territory) in 1578. Others point out that celebratory harvest feasts were common thousands of years earlier. In 1957, Canada proclaimed Thanksgiving as a national holiday the second Monday of October each year, while Americans recognized the holiday in 1863 as a stratagem to unite the country during the Civil War (the fourth Thursday of November).
The colonists weren’t in a celebratory mood in 1621 due to the poor harvest wherein many starved and others survived mostly by robbing native graves for the corn they contained. The colonial character was also marked by indolence and theft that Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford decried in his diaries published in England. He wrote: “The crops were small because “much was stolen both by night and day, before it became scarce eatable.” He added, the colony was riddled with “corruption,” and with “confusion and discontent.”
Colonists starved for years because they wouldn’t work in the field. Another factor was that the Pilgrims were practically all indentured servants who had to export to England most of what they produced to pay down their contracts. It wasn’t until a few years later, after England had given up some of the fur trade that the colony became self-sufficient.
Celebrate through good works
Celebrate quietly at home, with a good book, the Bible will do, or pass the day with a few friends and family members whose company you still enjoy. If you do go out, visit the sick, volunteer at the food bank, sing in the church choir, or take a homeless person to Niko’s.
Don’t under-estimate the value of doing these things as a way to thank the Lord and crystallize Christian virtues, while forever changing people’s lives.
I know. It changed my life completely
Growing up as a street urchin running the streets in Washington DC, where my mom depended upon the local food bank and a small monthly welfare check after my dad’s lingering death from cancer left us penniless. Thanks, to my small paper route and the kindness of my African-American subscribers, I always had a turkey meal spent with a family somewhere along my paper route.
And have you ever spent the holidays in a hospital, or even a weekend? Not hell — purgatory. Yes, purgatory, in the sense that you are alone, with no place to go, and not knowing when you will be released.
Hospital staff, doctors, and technicians may be out of town — in December, celebrating Christ’s birth with Santa Claus under a dead tree decorated with lights and a mistletoe hanging in the hallway authorizing a drive-by kiss attack, or in April, mixing in a blender the story of Jesus’s Resurrection along with chocolates, soft bunny rabbits and hard-boiled eggs.
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