Home Blog Page 3

Shavit & Ben-Meir, The stakes in Israel’s election

Lieutenant General Benny Gantz addressing troops at a regional army headquarters in the occupied West Bank in 2014. So, if Israel can by force annex the Palestinian areas that it occupies or blockades, what next? Then Israel imposes a one-state apartheid solution with a Jewish minority, something as politically precarious as South Africa’s old white minority regime was. Or else it carries out an ethnic cleansing that unites most of the world in imposing boycotts and sanctions that cripple the Israeli economy and negate most of of the political goodwill that the government has. That leaves peace with the Palestinians as the most viable military solution. Israel Defense Forces photo.

The stakes have never been
higher in Israel’s elections

by Shabtai Shavit & Alon Ben-Meir

As Israel prepares for the parliamentary election in September, its second in five months, most national security experts, politically savvy individuals, and academics suggest that this election may well be the most critical since the year 2000. Since that time, the geopolitics and regional security have changed dramatically, which could lead either to regional conflagration or peace, which largely depends on who the next Israeli prime minister will be and the general political leaning of the new government.

There is a growing consensus among Israelis that if Prime Minister Netanyahu forms the next government, Israel will lose a historic opportunity to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement based on a two-state solution, in the context of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace.

The question is, how to deprive Netanyahu and his Likud party of winning a relative majority that will allow him to form the next right-wing government—a government which would dangerously escalate regional tensions and forfeit any prospect of an Israeli-Palestinian peace for the foreseeable future.

The answer is that if Kahol Lavan (Blue and White Party), which was established last April and led by Gantz and Lapid, put the country’s national interests first by ending their personal squabbles, articulating a unity of purpose, and focusing only on national security – where they have an overwhelming advantage over Netanyahu – it can potentially defeat a Likud Party led by Netanyahu and form the next government.

Netanyahu, who is now the longest-serving prime minister since the founding of the state, has skillfully made his name synonymous with Israel’s national security. It is true that he has contributed to making Israel a regional power, but he failed to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace, which would provide the ultimate security for the state. Instead, he resorted to fearmongering, persuading a majority of Israelis that the Palestinians cannot be trusted and that a Palestinian state will pose the greatest menace to Israel’s long-term national security.

Now, Netanyahu is running again using the same sinister technique of fearmongering, presenting himself as “Mister Security” who alone can save the country from a perilous future. After serving 11 consecutive years as prime minister, however, Netanyahu has become ever more power-hungry and corrupt. He faces possible charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in connection with three cases. He is now fighting for his political life, hoping that his re-election will spare him from facing up to 10 years in jail if convicted.

As such, Netanyahu has now become a greater liability than an asset to Israel’s security. His vow to never to allow the establishment of a Palestinian state under his watch and his leaning toward the annexation of the West Bank will render Israel nothing short of a garrison and apartheid state living by the gun, which is to Israel’s detriment as an independent democratic state with a sustainable Jewish majority.

This is particularly worrisome at a time when the Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, have openly allied themselves with Israel against their common enemies — Iran and Global Jihad/Radical Islam — and clearly indicated their willingness to forge peace with Israel, once an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement is achieved.

Kahol Lavan must now seize the unprecedented opportunity to deny Netanyahu another term by assuming the mantra of national security. They should dramatically change Israel’s trajectory toward peace with the Palestinians, even though they are avoiding speaking about a two-state solution which most of them privately embrace, provided that Israel’s security is not compromised now or at any time in the future.

Although Israel can militarily defeat any country or a combination of countries in the region, Israel has legitimate reasons to be concerned about its national security, which is embedded in the psyche of every Israeli. These concerns can be traced back to the Holocaust, decades of enmity from the Arab states, Iran and its surrogates’ (Hezbollah and Hamas) continuing existential threats, terrorism, and future uncertainty given the region’s instability and power rivalries.

By embracing national security, they entertain unquestionable superiority in matters of security over Netanyahu, which is a prerequisite to any peace. Lieutenant General Gantz and his colleagues, former Defense Minister and Lieutenant General Moshe Ya’alon and Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi have the credentials and enjoy tremendous credibility in safeguarding the country’s national security.

What is critically important, however, is that Israel’s ultimate national security rests on a permanent peace with the Palestinians. In any peace talks, they will insist that every measure must be taken to ensure the security of the state, without compromising the establishment of an independent Palestinian state that fully cooperates with Israel on all security matters.

The shifting political dynamic in the region, in addition to Egypt and Jordan’s peace with Israel, is that the majority of the Sunni Arab states recognize that Israel is the region’s superpower, with the most advanced technology, which these states desire. But above all, Israel’s military prowess provides the ultimate shield to protect them from Shiite Iran.

To be sure, Israel faces a critical crossroad and the stakes have never been higher. The leaders of Kahol Lavan stand an excellent chance to garner a relative majority and form a new coalition government with the center and left-of-center parties.

According to almost all polls, a majority of Israelis fully support the two-state solution. They want to be assured, however, that the state’s security will not be compromised with the creation of a Palestinian state but rather enhanced, especially if an Israeli-Palestinian peace is achieved in the context of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, as part of the new Middle East which is being built in front of our eyes.

Kahol Lavan, together with a block of the center-left parties, have a historic opportunity to realize it.


Shabtai Shavit is a former director of the Mossad. Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU.


These links are interactive — click on the boxes






vote final







What the ads tell you / Lo que te dicen las pautas


Buy now?  / ¿Compra ahora?

The Panama News is not accepting ads again. If you want to buy from these folks, look them up online. But if you want to figure something about the Panamanian real estate market, consider what and where this is and what else is and has been going on.

This condo / timeshare / hotel development is just off of the Pan-American Highway in Cocle, between Las Guias and Santa Clara. With an English name and ads showing white people, the development was ostensibly marketed to foreigners. But there are not all that many upscale foreign buyers who actually want to live in Panama. (The ones who want to own property for money laundering purposes are another question, but The Panama Papers have diminished that business, too.)

The editor frequently rides buses by this place, and the ones getting on and off here have for several years usually been Venezuelan. But now demagogic politicians have made it fashionable to hate Venes and indeed all foreigners, and immigration laws have been tightened. So, even fewer buyers and guests, and prices are slashed.

Yes, it is off season for tourism. No, this is not the only place along the beaches that has lowered prices. But tourism and the influxes of people looking to buy residences like these are down by many measures. The Panamanian economy is hurting.

~ ~ ~

The Panama News no está aceptando anuncios nuevamente. Si desea comprar a estas personas, búsquelas en línea. Pero si desea averiguar algo sobre el mercado inmobiliario panameño, considere qué y dónde está esto y qué más es y ha estado sucediendo.

Este desarrollo de condominio / tiempo compartido / hotel está justo al lado de la Carretera Panamericana en Coclé, entre Las Guias y Santa Clara. Con un nombre en inglés y anuncios que mostraban gente blanca, el desarrollo fue aparentemente comercializado para extranjeros. Pero no hay tantos compradores extranjeros exclusivos que realmente quieran vivir en Panamá. (Los que desean poseer propiedades con fines de lavado de dinero son otra cuestión, pero The Panama Papers también han disminuido ese negocio).

El editor viaja con frecuencia en autobuses por este lugar, y los que suben y bajan aquí usualmente han sido venezolanos durante varios años. Pero ahora los políticos demagógicos han puesto de moda odiar a venes y, de hecho, a todos los extranjeros, y las leyes de inmigración se han endurecido. Entonces, incluso menos compradores y turistas, y los precios se reducen.

Sí, es temporada baja para el turismo. No, este no es el único lugar a lo largo de las playas que ha bajado los precios. Pero el turismo y la afluencia de personas que buscan comprar residencias como estas han disminuido en muchas medidas. La economía panameña está sufriendo.

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













vote final


Hightower, Trump and the border

pigs & dogs
Trump doesn’t want a wall — he wants a crisis, even if he has to cause it himself. A US Border Patrol arrest. CBP photo.

What Trump really wants at the border

by Jim Hightower

The most ridiculous thing about Donald Trump’s xenophobic, demagogic assault on Central American amnesty seekers is that his frantic demand to build a $5-billion-dollar border wall isn’t his most ridiculous ploy.

Even more ridiculous is his panicky political assertion that the caravans coming north through Mexico are gangs of rapists, murderers, and terrorists out to slaughter and conquer us.

Never mind that the migrants he demonizes are overwhelmingly women, children, and peaceful families fleeing the terrifying gangs, extortionists, and corrupt officials who’ve turned their lives in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras into hell.

But rather than greet these refugees with a policy of common compassion and long-term solutions, Trump and his fellow Republican screechers have militarized the border to separate them from their children, incarcerate them, and turn them into political pawns for Trump’s re-election campaign.

But wait — it gets more ridiculous. Crying that the three countries should bar these desperate families from fleeing the horrors of home, Trump has peevishly — and stupidly — cut off US aid intended to battle the gang violence driving them northward.

Okay, Trump has no empathy or subtlety. But how smart do you have to be to see that if you have no strategy to help mitigate the nightmarish conditions of your neighbors, you’ll have to cope with the fallout on your own doorstep?

Most ridiculous of all, though, is that we have a president with a moral compass that points only to policies that serve his ego and political needs. Trump doesn’t really want any border solution at all, not even a wall — he wants a “crisis,” a bugaboo to demagogue for his own political advancement, no matter how many families suffer.

He’s a pathetic weakling of a president, ridiculously masquerading as a “strong man.”


These links are interactive — click on the boxes






vote final







Part 2 of the Dems’ July debate: whole thing and reactions


Part 2 of July’s debate, with notes and different Democrats’ takes












Debate notes on night 2 in Detroit

by Eric Jackson

Remember that the presidency is an administrative job, and it’s not really like running a business. A governor, a cabinet officer, a mayor, head of a large state or federal agency, a military officer – these are the traditional things of which presidents are made. When I think of the three greatest president I think Jefferson, Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Jefferson and Roosevelt had been governors. Lincoln came in with no executive experience, was keenly aware of that and brought in a team of bright young tutors / advisors to bridge that gap in his experience.

Biden, Inslee, Castro, De Blasio, Booker, Harris, Gabbard – they have all in their ways paid such dues. Of these, Tulsi Gabbard is the only veteran on the stage.

“Go easy on me kid,” he pleads. HA! She has been preparing for the debate at the dojo.

Julián Castro has the best opening line: “I don’t want to make America anything again. I don’t want us to go backward. We’re not going back to the past. We’re not going back where we came from. We’re going to move forward.”

Biden starts out as in the others are not there, addressing Donald Trump, who is also not there but likely watching.

Protesters who are mad at De Blasio interrupt Booker? That’s weird. Seems that both cops and people who are opposed to police brutality are in Detroit to say mean things about De Blasio.

De Blasio would “tax the hell” out of the rich? Guess they don’t let HIM appear on Lifestyles of the Decadent and Bourgeois.

Harris wants to privatize much of Medicare and call it Medicare for All, while Biden is for at most small incremental changes from what exists now. The left will beat both of them up over those stands.

Tulsi slams Kamala’s health plan as corporate by way of noting what her plan’s Kathleen Sebelius endorsement means, Bennet rises to the defense of the private insurance industry, De Blasio says private insurance isn’t what Americans want or need. Biden trashes Medicare for All in general. De Blasio accuses Bennet and others opposed to universal health care of spouting Republican talking points.

CNN is outrageous. They describe the disruption as about “New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo, who is accused of fatally choking Eric Garner.” Pantaleo DID kill Garner. What legal conclusions one may want to draw may differ, but he actually did choke Garner to death. It’s an absolutely well documented fact.

So what is it about Booker praising the protesters who disrupted him? Look at this whole primary race, in its early stages, as three races: a left primary, a corporate primary and a black primary. (Never mind that the dividing lines are not so rigid and clear.) Tonight is Booker vs. Harris to see if they can start a process of sweeping the black vote, which will be 30 percent or more of the primary electorate.

You don’t get elected president running as a black nationalist, but do not dismiss that minimal black nationalism wherein much of the African-American electorate, all other things being more or less equal, will prefer to be governed by black politicians. For months there has been a fringe of black nationalists going after Kamala Harris because her mother was from India and on her father’s side she’s descended from African slaves who were obliged to work in Jamaica rather than in the USA. I would expect that between Booker and Harris most black voters will be interested in who has the economic ideals better suited to their needs and hopes.

Bennet talks about how the Nazis separated his mother from her parents in WWII Poland, goes after Trump and defends a path to citizenship for undocumented foreigners already in the USA.

Castro, like in the first debate, gets into decriminalizing border crossing. He says the United States should “aid” Honduras and Guatemala. No admission of a US role in the 2009 Honduran coup or the decades-long genocide in the Guatemalan highlands.

Biden gets heckled over the three million deportations during the Obama administration.

Castro also served in the Obama administration, and is reminded by Biden of cabinet meetings together in which border policy was discussed and the then housing secretary did not advocate what he does now. But about the subject of immigration Castro tells Biden: “It looks like one of us has learned from the lessons of the past and one of us hasn’t.”

Inslee gets into the racism of Trump’s immigration policies and talks about how as governor of Washington he welcomed refugees and did battle in court against Trump’s Muslim ban.

De Blasio and Booker pile onto Biden about Obama administration deportations. It could be a defining moment, when the gleam on the Obama veneer dulls and Biden can no longer run on his association with the former president.

Biden stands fast: “The fact of the matter is if you cross the border illegally you should be able to be sent back, it’s a crime.” He also talks about helping Honduras, but fails to mention the US-backed coup that started the massive migrations from there.

Booker goes after Biden on mass incarceration. Biden says that as mayor of Newark Booker failed to control crime.

Yang lashes out at Amazon destroying much of the retail sector.

Harris vs Biden on busing and Biden’s old segregationist friends: “Had those segregationists had their way, I would not be a member of the United States Senate, Cory Booker would not be a member of the United States senate and president Obama would not have been in a position to nominate him” as vice president.

Gabbard jumps in on criminal justice, criticizing Harris for her war on drugs policies and prosecutor and attorney general in California, where she accused Harris of taking a hard line on marijuana offenses. “She put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana.”

Booker and Biden get heated about criminal justice again. “Your crime record destroyed lives,” Booker says.

Castro and Gillibrand call out De Blasio for not firing Pantaleo. De Blasio says that there are required procedures for that and those are ongoing.

Inslee pans Biden approach to climate change: “Too little, too late is too dangerous.” Yang jumps in, pointing out that climate change is already with us and people along the coasts need to start moving to higher ground. Gillibrand says the basic Democrat things about rejoining the Paris Accords, and also jokes about using Chlorox to decontaminate the Oval Office.

Gillibrand gets into the duty of white politicians to explain and stand against white privilege.

Did he really? Biden says he’ll win Michigan because he was for the corporate bailout of General Motors.

Booker says HE’LL win Michigan by energizing black voters.

Biden says he would not join TPP as it is written. Kind of mandatory to say that in Detroit.

Nothing too new or compelling comes from the top tier in their closing statements. Harris talks prosecutor tough and Biden, as a concession to where he is, makes reference to soul. Andrew Yang is best, talking about the whole weird spectacle: “We’re up here with makeup on our faces and our rehearsed attack lines, playing roles on this reality TV show.”

Takeaways? This writer needs to be cautious about presuming that others might share his biases. But that said, it looks like Biden took a beating, Harris had an up and down night, several of the others had their good moments and it might have been a breakout night for Booker. On that latter score, particularly look at how African-Americans saw it.


These links are interactive — click on the boxes






vote final







Part 1 of the Dems’ July debate: whole thing and reactions


Part 1 of July’s debate, with notes and different Democrats’ takes












Eric Jackson’s debate notes, night 1

Hickenlooper and Delaney go after the left in their opening statements.

I like Warren’s opening best. She, Bernie and Buttigieg right off the bat stood out from the others in the openings.

Buttigieg states the problem in starkly, perhaps alarmist, terms. He says that we can’t go back to the past. He doesn’t really say what ought to be done. Perhaps we will hear some specific ideas from him yet.

Delaney comes out swinging against Bernie on health care – really, in defense of the insurance companies – and then both Bernie and Elizabeth rise to defend Medicare for All. I LIKE these two ganging up.

Bullock “won’t support any plan that rips away quality health care from individuals.” As if the present system is high quality.

Ryan thinks that union members who lose their jobs would be better off with private health care once the companies cut that off, too?

“Republican talking points” – Warren mentioned them in responding to Delaney, Bernie blew off a Jake Tapper question as one of those, and then Buttigieg got into a rap about how fashioning Democrats’ discourse around what Republicans will say is foolish.

All good points. With Buttigieg, the question remains that if you don’t fashion what you say based on GOP responses, all well and good – but just what does he stand for?

Elizabeth sounded slightly garbled about now criminalized border crossings, but people could get that she wants to decriminalize and is against family separations.

Ryan makes a run at Sanders over Medicare for All, and Sanders handles it quite well.

Sanders also laid out the paradigm so well without talking any “isms” when Delaney renewed the attack – Delaney said that Sanders doesn’t understand the health care business and Sanders said it isn’t a business. WHAM!

Back to the border. Bernie and Elizabeth are for decriminalizing border crossing. Buttigieg tries to play it both ways, talking about criminal prosecution if there is fraud involved. But having dealt just a tiny bit with Border Patrol guys in Detroit way back when, they’re the most racist law enforcement agency I have seen and Buttigieg again just doesn’t get it about racism in America. Beto also tried to play it both ways, but with more humanity, nuance and knowledge than the mayor showed. Hickenlooper fell into one of these ‘all they do is bicker’ routines, which allowed him to, beyond saying he’s not into family separations and kids in cages, mostly duck the question.

Hickenlooper the scold, Sanders throws his hands up, and Hickenlooper scolds about that too. No damage to Bernie, IMO.

She didn’t call it that, but Warren unloaded on the red-baiters. When they bait her as too far left to win, look at where she is in the polls and where they are.

Bernie: “To win this election and to defeat Donald Trump — which by the way, in my view is not going to be easy — we need to have a campaign of energy and excitement and of vision. We need to bring millions of young people into the political process in a way that we have never seen by among other things, making public colleges and universities tuition free and canceling student debt.”

AH, CLIMATE CHANGE! Buttigieg notes the oft-cited UN report. But the change is here and perhaps the biggest question is what the candidates would do to adapt. And the one with the most comprehensive grand plan? It’s going to be a matter of collective thinking, much like the 1930s New Deal was. Leadership will matter more than detailed plans.

Delaney is against a Green New Deal and say he has a more “realistic” plan. Market based, no doubt.

“We can’t choose a candidate we don’t believe in just because we’re too scared to do anything else.” Another memorable line by Warren.

CNN lamely goes after Sanders about his claim that half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. It is, of course, an imprecise claim but a demonstrable reality. Maybe not if your paycheck is from CNN.

Williamson gets into the Flint and Grosse Pointe comparison, CNN can’t spell the upscale neighborhood’s name right, and Williamson didn’t get into half of he viciousness of what was done to Flint and why. But she brought up the reality of environmental racism, which was a very important thing to do.

Williamson is the Grosse Pointe lady who upholds the necessity of the private insurance companies? Had she ever held public office to build up some goodwill, she might carry Michigan with that. But given who and what she is I expect it wouldn’t play with most Detroiters, or most Michigan primary voters.

The thing about civil vs criminal liability for border crossing and the relationship of that to family separations is real yet beside the point. Were it just a civil infraction Trump would do the same thing. The family separation issue and practices and attempted practices is a hydra-headed evil. As in, if there are to be impeachment investigation a deep and thorough public inquiry is called for.

Don’t think that Mayor Pete explained his record in a way that’s going to convince a lot of black voters.

Delaney wants to revive the TPP? That’s delusional. That goes right to the problem of the centrist argument that we can go back to what was. Even were it desirable, what was is broken and won’t be fixed. The way forward in the emerging paradigm is not a revived US-led economic empire, which is what TPP was about – a coercive US-led coalition against China that really didn’t do anything for Americans or the citizens of the other countries involved, just to block China.

Delaney goes after Warren over her proposed wealth tax. He loses it about fairness. She may or may not win much with her proposal, because tax laws are these messy compromises even at best. On the notion that the very rich don’t pay their share and should, especially among Democratic primary voters she win that point.

Warren goes after NAFTA 2.0. It’s likely to pass with almost all Republicans and a bunch of Democrats. She laid out good reasons why it should not pass. But after all these years things have changed and it’s not really possible to go back to the status quo ante that was there before NAFTA. (Which isn’t really what she’s advocating.)

Williamson is for reparations, which is a popular stand in Detroit. How practical is another question.

To recognize that forced labor is one of the cornerstones of any prosperity America has had is not a small part of understanding where the country is now, even if there are no living former slaves. Reparations for Jim Crow? One might ask what about reparations for stolen Native lands, and if the response is that there were treaties about it and that’s the only response it would be a lame answer. Reparations for violations of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in California? Another great injustice, which mostly does not apply to the current Hispanic communities of that state, who came later, or whose ancestors did. Was affirmative action “reparations” for any of that, and to the extent that it may have been, how does that get calculated into the equation? Questions like these are why there is no reparations bill before Congress, but only a proposal to study the question.

Beto also supports reparations, or rather the bill to study it. His defense of it was perhaps his best moment of the night.

WHAT?!?!? Elizabeth isn’t into going around the world threatening everyone with nukes? Will someone call her an anti-Semite or a communist or a wimp or something?

Sunset bill on war authorizations? Good idea, Pete. It would have required a re-authorization in World War II and the Civil War the way he says it. Such bills would have passed. The problem is wars without informed authorization in the first place.

Pete never was an antiwar activist. But being for withdrawal from Afghanistan keeps him among the options for a lot of antiwar Democrats.

Beto takes an even more forthright antiwar stand – get out of the wars we are in, don’t start new ones – and then Hickenlooper lays into him with a light at the end of the tunnel routine about Afghanistan. We really have not heard a systemic set of ideas about when to go to war or the basic principles of foreign policy from any of the candidates. Maybe that’s a calculation by all that it flies over the heads of most voters. But the old paradigms are gone and we need to have some discussion about the emerging new ones.

Buttigieg handled the age question perfectly.

Pete takes the safest possible way to disagree with the NRA.

Williamson, Sanders and Warren had reasonable closings. The rest didn’t. Pete was so very enthusiastic about nothing in particular. Most of the rest talked about how divisiveness is the big problem, as if they are going to go back to 20th century comity with the current crew of Republicans.

Takeaways? No significant movements — up or down, to or from — between the top tier and the lower tier. Let’s see what the polls indicate about the relative performances of Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg and whether or not my basic assessment is in line with other Democrats’ thinking.


These links are interactive — click on the boxes






vote final







Panama amphibians photo contest / Concurso de fotos de anfibios de Panamá

Red-eyed tree frog (Agalychnis callidryas). Photo by Prachi Dadhich.

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute invites you to participate in a photo contest:


Competition rules:

To celebrate the Panama Golden Frog Festival, and with the desire to raise awareness about the environment, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute invites those over 15 years of age to participate in a photo contest on the amphibians in Panama. We will select the he 30 best photos, which we will exhibit at the Punta Culebra Nature Center.

There will be prizes for the first three places:

1st Prize: a guided tour for two people to Isla Barro Colorado

2nd Prize: a guided visit for two people to the Punta Culebra Nature Center

3rd Prize: a guided visit for two people to the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project

Registration deadline and to send the photographs: Monday, August 12

Requirements to participate:
That the photograph of the amphibian be taken in the Republic of Panama; It can be any species of frog or toad.

Digital photography size 8×10 at 300dpi.

Send the photo to STRINews@si.edu with the following information:
• Title and brief review of the photograph
• Name of the author of the photograph
• Place where the picture was taken
• Date the picture was taken

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us.


Martha Messia
Logistics Coordinator
Punta Culebra Nature Center
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Tel. (507) 212-8793
(202) 633-4700 x28793 (USA)
E-mail: puntaculebra@si.edu
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PuntaCulebra
Twitter: @SmithsonianPanama
#spike snake


ribit 2
~ ~ ~
These announcements are interactive. Click on them for more information. Estos anuncios son interactivos. Toque en ellos para seguir a las páginas de web.













vote final


Editorial: Beach Blanket Bunko?

At low tide a fringe of beach is visible. At high tide the waves are crashing against the sea wall. Graphic by the Alcaldia.

Beach Blanket Bunko?

Uh huh. Panama becomes a resort town, by shipping in sand and spreading it out in front of the eastern end of the Cinta Costera to make an artificial beach.

Instinctively, anyone with a functioning sense of smell who has walked across the bridge at the foot of the Matasnillo River would have sniffed the olfactory alarm. Over the years there has been a palpable reduction of that pollution, but it’s still horrible. The ill-advised public park on the Paitilla side of that river’s mouth – a face-saving measure in the wake of a Martinelli regime land grab scheme – has for its gross location never had all that much use.

The stuff that is poured into Panama Bay, however, can be controlled. For the last two decades a lot of money has been spent trying to do that, with some improvement in Panama Bay’s water quality. It’s mostly a matter of fielding a lot of inspectors and vesting them with the power to enforce already existing regulations. Often that has not been done when the polluters are sufficiently rich or politically connected. Perhaps a beach would create an interest that overrides those of the owners of buildings with improper sewage connections into storm drains, those who dispose of restaurants’ used deep fryer grease into drains when they think nobody is looking and so on.

But the sciences and technologies that are not as well known go under the heading of climate change. We know it’s happening, we know that it has been a trend for decades now, but we don’t know how fast it will go or how severe it will get. We do know that mean sea levels are slowly but steadily rising worldwide, that sea swells and the highest high tides are bringing the ocean farther inland that what used to be the high water marks all along our Pacific Side. We know that polar ice is melting, and hear warnings of big chunks that could suddenly break off and slide into the sea, causing rather immediate and significant sea level rises.

It appears that City Hall is trying to sell yet another urban development plan that’s predicated on climate change denial. This one needs to go back to the drawing board, with credible scientific consultation, public hearings and civil engineering by other than the sand haulers’ rented experts.

If President Cortizo’s promise to reform public contracting is serious, then perhaps this could be an important test. Yes, the writing of specifications with “the name and surname” of the intended bidding winner is a known quantity, as are the conflicts of interests among those who evaluate bids. So is outright bribery. But another major public contracting abuse is the boondoggle project that’s for the benefit of the construction industry rather than any public use. The Cinta Costera beach proposal has the look and smell of one of those.



Bear in mind…


There are no right answers to wrong questions.

Ursula K. Le Guin


The one function TV news performs very well is that when there is no news we give it to you with the same emphasis as if there were.

David Brinkley


All created things are impermanent. Strive on with diligence.

Siddhartha Guatama, the Buddha
said to be his last words


These links are interactive — click on the boxes






vote final







Aprende la fotografía cinematográfica

Foto por GECU.

Taller de fotografía cinematográfica ofrecerá el GECU en agosto

por Roberto Enrique King – GECU

Siguiendo con su programa de talleres que busca incentivar la capacitación y actualización continua del sector cinematográfico de Panamá, el Centro de Formación y Capacitación Cinematográfica del GECU de la Universidad de Panamá, invita a participar en el Taller de Fotografía Cinematográfica que impartirá del 26 al 30 de agosto el especialista argentino Ivan Gierasinchuk, quien compartirá con los participantes sus conocimientos y experticia acerca del quehacer del director de fotografía.

El taller se realizará en las instalaciones del Estudio Multiuso del GECU, en horarios de 9 a 5 p.m y se centrará en brindar los conocimientos teóricos y prácticos de la narrativa cinematográfica desde el punto de vista del director de fotografía en las diferentes etapas y procesos de la creación, usando los elementos propios del oficio. La metodología del curso será de carácter teórico-práctico, con importante participación de los inscritos. La matrícula tendrá un valor de $ 200 dólares, para mayor información contactar a: formaciongecu@gmail.com / 69843448 / www.gecupanama.com

Ivan Gierasinchuk (Argentina)

Estudió diversas facetas del arte, antes de realizar sus estudios audiovisuales en la carrera de Diseño de Imagen y Sonido en la Universidad de Buenos Aires, posteriormente se especializó en Dirección de Fotografía en esta misma universidad..

Desde 2003 pertenece a la ADF (Asociación de Autores de Fotografía Cinematográfica Argentina) y a partir de 2008 funge como Secretario General de esta hasta 2016. Es docente en la Escuela Internacional de Cine y Televisión de San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba, la escuela de CONGO film school en Bogotá y en la FADU (UBA).

Como Director de Fotografía ha trabajado en numerosos largometrajes de ficción y documentales tales como Los Sonámbulos de Paula Hernández (2019), Ciego (2018) de Fernando Zuber, Joel (2017) de Carlos Sorín, Paisaje (2017) de Jimena Blanco, Eva No Duerme de Pablo Agüero (2017) Mi padre, Perón y yo (2017) de Blas Eloy Martínez, Chicha tu madre (2006) y Diamond Santoro y la soga de los muertos (2013) de Gianfranco Quattrini, Alfonsina (2013) de Christopher Kuhn, Infancia clandestina (2012) de Benjamín Ávila, entre otros. También posee una amplia experiencia en videoclips, trabajando para artistas como Luis Alberto Spinetta, Catupecu Machu, Me darás mil hijos, La mancha de Rolando, Carajo, Érica García, Bersuit Vergarabat, Brian Storming, Emmanuel Horvilleur, Eruca Sativa, entre otros.

~ ~ ~

Estos anuncios son interactivos. Toque en ellos para seguir a las páginas de web








FB esp



#BenicioRenuncia — maybe everything ISN’T under control

take him away

Old games, some trying to write new rules

by Eric Jackson

If you are a member of Panama’s National Assembly, you can generally kill somebody, or use your official vehicle to smuggle drugs, and pay no legal consequences. Those things have happened under the current arrangements.

On December 27, 2017, Cambio Democratico legislator Mario Lazarus ran over and killed 14-year-old Ruth Parreño, who was waiting for a bus at a stop on the Transistmica in the Colon corregimiento of Buena Vista that was part of the circuit he represented. Lazarus drove away from the scene, and later returned.

Creating that disconnect between the death and the driver’s reappearance, however, had an effect that would not apply to an ordinary person. Members of the National Assembly, and various other public officials, are protected by the Summary Proof Rule. Under that legal doctrine – if one wants to glorify it as such – a criminal complaint against a legislator can only proceed if there is complete and admissible proof that a crime was committed and that she or he committed it. Lacking such proof, there can be no investigation. But if someone investigated and compiled such proof as to attach to the complaint, that was an illegal investigation and that bars any proceeding, including a proper investigation. But there is an exception for that if somebody is caught flagrantly in the act.

So the cop is called to the scene of a fatally injured girl at a bus stop, an important muckety muck with blood on his car and alcohol on his breath is there as well, and it might be said that the driver was caught in the act and no matter the high and mighty position the cop can proceed as with anyone else. But missing the driver, who comes back a few minutes later after the girl has been taken to the hospital where she died, and taking a breathalyzer test or examining the car would be an investigation without proper judicial authorization to begin. Doing such basic evidence collection would preclude any investigation in the future. So the police, without having had the opportunity to gather all the relevant facts, referred what little they did have to the Supreme Court, which has exclusive jurisdiction over criminal matters involving legislators.

About a month later Supreme Court magistrate Angela Russo showed up at the accident scene for a reconstruction, and the girl’s family was there, holding placards demanding justice. Lazarus said it was dark and everything happened so fast and he didn’t really remember. He brought along a crowd of rent-a-protesters that outnumbered the family at least two-to-one, carrying placards about how it’s a sin to hate. Say what? See, Lazarus is a member of Ricky Martinelli’s kleptocratic Cambio Democratico party, of the faction that puts on airs about being born-again Christians.

In the end, Lazarus made a financial settlement with the family, the high court said that was good enough and a hit-and-run killer got away with it due to his special privileged position. Not entirely, though. His fellow party members figuring that he was a loser, Lazarus quit Cambio Democratico to run for re-election on the MOLIRENA ticket, that is, in the 2019 elections as a ally of the PRD. The hateful infidels of Colon’s Circuit 3-1 voted the guy out of office.

A lot of other deputies who stole over the past five years, however, are back in the new legislature. Bocas del Toro deputy Benicio Robinson, a National Assembly veteran and leading member of the PRD, also heads FEDEBEIS, the national baseball federation that’s part of the Panamanian Sports Institute (PANDEPORTES) and the Panamanian Olympic Committee (COP). Almost all of the sports federations, and thus the COP, are controlled by politicians. In the legislature there are claims that money for sports programs in the circuits come from PANDEPORTES and are distributed through the deputies’ offices.

Like the money allocated via FEDBEIS for a baseball league in Guna Yala that doesn’t exist. Like the purchases of bats for $354.80 each, except when audited by the Comptroller General no trace could be found that the bats ever existed. (All they found was a paper trail of money transfers.) Like the $100,000 for xenophobe firebrand Zulay Rodríguez, whose sports program never actually existed except for money that passed through it, in the names of close aides as administrators of a program that never was. And on and on and on – more than $400 million went through the legislators’ offices in the past five years and relatively little of it was accounted for in any sort of a credible way.

The comptroller has a constitutional mandate to audit all expenditures of public funds, but if he or she finds theft it becomes a matter for prosecutors, in the case of ordinary people referred to the regular ones of the Public Ministry, in the case of legislators referred to the Supreme Court. In the ordinary course of things, the investigation may involve both those with the special privileges and those without, but as soon as a deputy’s name comes up the Attorney General sends that file to the Supreme Court without taking any action on it.

Change of government time, and all of the detectives with the Department of Judicial Investigations who are working on PANDEPORTES case are removed from their posts. By a pro-corruption 2007 law, DIJ agents investigating public corruption are prohibited from telling anyone other than prosecutors about such work – INCLUDING another DIJ agent who gets put onto the case. Attorney General Kenia Porcell says that by removing the DIJ officers from the investigations of the PANDEPORTES heist, deputies Robinson, Rodríguez et al beat the rap on procedural grounds.

Meanwhile, the legislators are making noises about removing Comptroller General Federico Humbert and Attorney General Kenia Porcell. But those are legislative appointees who would have to be charged and tried by the Supreme Court, not the National Assembly. Once removed, they could be replaced by pliant crooks whose marching orders would be not to audit and not to investigate.

So, move along, folks. Nothing happening here. So it is hoped, and so history might indicate the finding will be.

However, with no legal leverage of which to speak, there is an online groundswell building. Although it’s about a system and most of the legislators, it takes its focus on Benicio Robinson. The hashtag is #BenicioRenuncia and those who have started to use it take heart from a similarly hopeless and mocked lost cause, the relatively peaceful uprising that recently forced the resignation of Puerto Rico’s governor.

Stay tuned.








These links are interactive — click on the boxes






vote final







La propuesta actual para reformar a la constitución


Toque aquí para ver la propuesta en el formato PDF

Al fin, la decisión sería por
el electorado de Panamá

Este es el conjunto propuesto de cambios constitucionales que se presentó a la legislatura. Comenzó con grupos empresariales y se transmitió a través de la llamada “Concertación Nacional” que en realidad no representaba a nadie más que a los pocos sectores empresariales y políticos partidistas habituales. Luego, un comité de redacción realizó cambios de estilo antes de que pasara a través de la administración de Cortizo a la Asamblea Nacional. El plan establecido es que la legislatura lo discuta y lo modifique, apruebe su versión definitiva antes de que finalice la sesión legislativa a fines de octubre y luego vuelva a aprobarlo en la próxima sesión legislativa que comenzará el próximo enero. La propuesta final se presentaría a los votantes para su aprobación o rechazo en un referéndum.

En este momento, la Comisión de Gobierno, Justicia y Asuntos Constitucionales de la Asamblea Nacional está debatiendo el borrador de cambios constitucionales de 58 páginas y se está moviendo para eliminar la parte sobre los límites de mandato para los legisladores. También se espera que se intenten enmendar las enmiendas para proteger a la legislatura de todas las auditorías y cualquier responsabilidad de sus miembros por actos de corrupción.

~ ~ ~

Estos anuncios son interactivos. Toque en ellos para seguir a las páginas de web








FB esp