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Erika Ender gets a Latin Grammy nomination as a composer

Erika Ender. Photo by Christian Torres.

Finally that recognition — and a glimpse of Panamanian musicians’ predicament

by Eric Jackson

Erika Ender is a journeywoman fixture on the Panamanian music scene. But is that characterization an annoying diminutive, given that she’s a master of her craft? The thing is, a Panamanian singer and songwriter will generally have to journey far from these shores to find work and recognition, a process that invariably affect her or his work through a process of exposure to and immersion in other musical scenes. Yes, she does these patriotic things mainly for Panamanian audiences, but in the Pan-Latin melting pot of Miami, or in Puerto Rico or Mexico City or wherever, Ender the singer is generally pigeonholed in a Latin pop genre, which in many circles detracts from the artistic recognition that she deserves.

Must we assign blame? Whose fault is the relatively tiny Panamanian market? Who separated the music industry into genres thought to be marketable? Who influence the general public so that most people like certain sorts of music and dislike others? But a part of the problem for Erika Ender and Panamanian colleagues across many dividing lines is that this country is not very good at systematically putting its culture out to the world. We don’t have our own network on cable and satellite TV, nor are we partners with other Latin American countries in such. Our international tourism promotion efforts do not systematically include the government putting Panamanian bands on the road in foreign lands. Our presentation to the rest of the world is mostly a private affair.

Now, however, comes some recognition for Erika Ender the composer. It’s for something she wrote that a Mexican norteña band, Los Tigres del Norte, have turned into a smash hit this year. Ataúd, an Ender composition, is nominated for Best Regional Mexican Song at the Latin Grammy awards to be held on November 17 in Las Vegas.



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What Latin American and Caribbean leaders are saying


Juan Carlos Varela Rodríguez, President of the Republic of Panama

What some Latin American and
Caribbean leaders are saying

official videos from the 71st Session of the General Assembly of the UN

Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, President of the Republic of Colombia


David Arthur Granger, President of the Republic of Guyana


Tabaré Vázquez, President of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay


Danilo Medina Sánchez, President of the Dominican Republic


Pedro Pablo Kuczynski Godard, President of the Republic of Peru


Michelle Bachelet Jeria, President of the Republic of Chile


Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera, President of the Republic of Costa Rica


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The Panama News blog links, September 19, 2016


The Panama News blog links

Cruise Industry News, More than 230 cruise ships coming to Panama this season

Aljazeera, Panama’s grand canal

The Packer, Expanded Panama Canal opens to topsy-turvy market

EFE, ACP da ultimátum a empresa que ocasiona daños a la cuenca del canal

Bloomberg, Mega-ships may be too big not to fail

BBC, How Hanjin’s collapse left a British artist stranded at sea

Slate, The shipping noose

Hellenic Shipping News, Hanjin aims to sell most of its ships

Diario Siglo XXI, Panamá sin cerca en el Atlantico

WPI, Chinese prepare to use Northwest Passage

EFE, Kuczynski duda de la viabilidad de un tren interoceánico Brasil-Perú

Stratfor, China builds a new Silk Road

TVN, Economía de Panamá crece pero ingresos del Canal disminuyen

The Sydney Morning Herald, Tax cases over Panama Papers could take years

Buenos Aires Herald, New Panama Papers connection for Macri family

ANP, Starbucks anuncia apertura de cinco nuevas tiendas en Panamá

Barbados Advocate, Potential in Panama

Honty, Economías con pies de petróleo

CEPR, US job market is far from recovered (PDF)

Eyes on Trade, Free trade treaties have not helped US agro exports

Baker, Epi-Pen and the TPP

AFP, La deuda china se dispara

The Intercept, Manuals show how cops intercept cell phone calls

Ars Technica, Elon Musk scales up his ambitions

STRI, Frog-hunting bats overcome noise by switching senses

Science Advances, Early use of indigo dye found in Peru

Earth Sky, Hubble sees a comet breaking up

La Estrella, Aumentan en 14% los embarazos adolescentes

Telemetro, Séptimo cumpleaños del Águila Harpía en el Parque Summit

EFE, Navales de América se preparan en Panamá

AFP, Indígenas rechazan al acuerdo sobre Barro Blanco

Mongabay, Panama begins “test flooding” over indigenous objections

Xinhua, Panamá pide apoyo para evitar flujos migratorios de Haití

El Tiempo, Coyotes colombianos señalados de asesinar a migrantes cubanos

BBC, Brazil’s ex-speaker expelled over Swiss bank accounts

AP, Colombian high court finds state responsible for satirist’s murder

DA Panama: Register to vote, order your ballot and vote blue from abroad

Washington Post, After Trump’s reversal birthers stay on and want to move on

Greenwald, Washington Post first paper to call for prosecution of its source

Gandásegui, “El uso más colectivo”

Piva & Mills, How to legitimize a coup

Baerga, Cómo se logró sacar a Puerto Rico de la lista de colonias de la ONU

Shiller, The coming anti-national revolution

Caribbean News Now!, November Ska & Rocksteady fest in Kingston

El Tiempo, Blades en Isla San Andrés

Video, Primer concurso de saus en El Chorrillo

Latin Post, Panama’s “Salsipuedes” is an Oscar entry


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Editorials: White power’s forked tongue; and The Barro Blanco fiasco


he slithers

Who the cap fits, let him wear it

After promoting the Birther hoax for years in search of white supremacist votes — and getting the Republican nomination on the strength of that — NOW Donald Trump admits that its basic premise is not actually true. So where does the Klan vote go now?

They’re sticking with Trump. They won’t be persuaded otherwise. Racism is alive and well and a strong contender for the White House and through that control of the US Supreme Court for the next generation.

The only way to stop the white supremacists is a vote for an imperfect candidate, but one who strays not nearly so far from the norm of basic human decency. We do not ask sainthood from presidential candidates, nor infallible health nor 100 percent agreement on the issues. But a man who stands for the proposition that any infamous lie is acceptable if it’s about a black man, even if the man about whom that lie is told is the president of the United States, is way beyond the pale of what is acceptable.


Hapless president, acephalic comarca

It’s an old lesson from The Great White Father. Virtually all US Indian treaties were violated by Washington, the states or freelancing white people anyway. Virtually all concessions of Native American lands and resources were also made under duress. Then there was another common subterfuge — a lot of these “agreements” were made by white-selected “native representatives” or through unethical white-selected interpreters and in no way represented a consensual agreement between two parties. Juan Carlos Varela is dabbling with all of these tactics in his dealings with the Ngabe nation over the Barro Blanco Blanco Dam.

Does he say that the Honduran hoodlums and perhaps other silent partners of GENISA are out? Watch him back down on that by taking a dive on any court challenge. He certainly is not going to step on the claimed rights of Dutch and German banks that invested in theft and fraud, nor take any action at all against the Panamanian lawyers who concocted and filed the bogus “environmental impact study.” He just promised 15 percent of something or the other to go to someone not really specified, and nothing in particular to those families and individuals who have been thrown off of their lands, had their communities cut off by flood waters or lost their livelihoods.

Was it a deal with the Ngabe-Bugle General Congress? By its terms the “accord” said that it had to be ratified by that body. Set aside for a moment the Supreme Court decision that condemned the rigged election by which the Martinelli kleptocracy and the Electoral Tribunal created the present general congress to replace the traditional general congress. Set aside that the tainted general congress can’t even muster half of its purported delegates for a vote on a crucial issue like the dam. Set aside the fact that most of the puppet general congress’s officers and most of the government-recognized regional caciques — including the one representing the people of the area that’s being flooded — would not sign the document. Set aside all that, because the general congress voted to reject the proffered deal and to depose the general cacique who signed it.

Are there good legal arguments to hold that a special congressional session called to consider the Barro Blanco matter lacked the authority and failed to serve proper notice to effectively remove Silvia Carrera as general cacique? That’s probably the case, but the moment that she signed Varela’s document her status as a leader and spokeswoman became a thing of the past. Does she allude to the failure of the comarca’s elected legislators to stop the hated project? That may be a valid point but she’s now in no position to make it. The Martinelli administration ignored and insulted Carrera, but now the Varela administration has destroyed her as a political figure, even if they ignore her purported removal and continue her salary for another year.

The way forward for the Varela administration seems clear enough. Through bribery or coercion they will try to get the half of the delegates who boycotted the ratification session to attend a new gathering and vote for the lesser white father’s offer. Maybe they’ll throw some firewater into the mix. It’s ugly and unseemly. The swing voting comarca is unlikely to elect any Panameñista for a generation to come. With all the political parties in disarray things become unpredictable, but it’s probably safe to say that the post-invasion norm of the party in power losing the next elections is more firmly in place and that if there is a constitutional convention Varela is unlikely to be able to control it.

The comarca is scheduled to have new elections in a year’s time anyway. Meanwhile it has no generally accepted leadership. The nation has annoying and ineffective leadership in all branches of its government and in that same year leading up to a renewal of Ngabe and Bugle leadership, the nation ought to elect delegates to write a new constitution. Among other urgent reforms, any new constitution worthy of being ratified would give Panama’s original nations their due place in the sun and control over their lands, resources and fates. The “Great White Father makes a treaty with the Indians” political model is one of more unbecoming and inappropriate US imports that Panama has ever made.


Bear in mind…

People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

I shall be an autocrat, that’s my trade; and that good Lord will forgive me, that’s his.

Catherine the Great

That old saw about the early bird just proves that the worm should have stayed in bed.

Robert Heinlein


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Improv8 2016

improv 1
Before the show, Andres Clemente ponders the burning issues of our time. He’s a Muppets fan, draws the distinction between that and Sesame Street, and doesn’t much care for Rocky & Bullwinkle.

This year’s Improv8

photos and texts by Eric Jackson

It’s improv, which means what a reporter saw one night is not going to be like the next night or the night before. But some of its practitioners are known quantities, some of the known quantities have improved since the last time, and this series of shows is historic to the Theatre Guild of Ancon, the nation’s oldest theatrical group in any language.

Yes, the Guild is community theater, but it’s also a place where outstanding professionals have learned their craft and lesser known but very good professionals have come to impart their influence. From past shows, this reporter expected that Joe Mezquita and Andres Clemente would be the excellent pillars of the performance. They were as good as expected but the rest of the cast, some of whom this reporter saw for the first time, rose to the occasion to the extent that it’s hard to pick a star for the night (Thursday, September 16) in question. Might it be said that this was ladies’ night, or a women’s year? The women — Rita Banús, Hillary Hughes, Lisa Palm and Andrea Marchosky — were collectively excellent in the context of a strong ensemble performance.

Once upon a time, the Guild would do popular Neil Simon plays and the like between Septemeber and April, then do quirkier, more demanding stuff to sharpen their skills in “vacation season.” Improv8 started under the direction of Danielle Miles, a British sometimes professional, as a summertime performance. Some of the usual Theatre Guild fans of the time were unimpressed. However, the shows attracted a bigger audience, mostly younger, largely of folks for whom English is a second language. The improv nights have grown into a great success and a logical choice to start the theater season in earnest in mid-September. But this year Miles passed the directorial baton on to Amit Nathani, and a lot of local musicians were incorporated for intermission and post-peformance shows.

improv 2
One way to prepare for the show.


The pre-show exercises were something that Danielle Miles started and the tradition continues.
The pre-show exercises were something that Danielle Miles started and the tradition continues.


improv 4
To be eaten alive by Hillary — what a terrible fate!


improv 5
Andrea Marchosky, one of the “newer” cast members.


With this weapon, we will DESTROY THE WORLD! Bwahahahahaha!
With this weapon, we will DESTROY THE WORLD! Bwahahahahaha!


Improv 7
The doo wop performance was, in this buzzardly old reporter’s opinion, the best part of the night.


improv 8
Joe and Andres, who have been pillars of the Guild’s improv casts since the start.


improv 10
Hillary Hughes, Rita Banús and Lisa Palm.


improv 9
Director and doo wop accompanist Amit Nathani.


improv 9
The cast, catching Lisa Palm.

Improv8 – 2016
by the Theatre Guild of Ancon
directed by Amit Nathani
produced by Carlota Allen
With Joe Mezquita, Hillary Hughes, Juan de la Guardia, Lisa Palm, Rita Banus, Yesui Aranda, Andres Clemente & Andrea Marchosky
Assistan prducer Cedric Carrere
Set design Stephanie Sanz
Set construction Cedric Carrere & Dean Hopster
Lighting design Juan de la Guardia
Lighting operation Andrés Díaz & Rob Getman
Sound design Alfonso Lewis
Sound operation Amit Nathani
Stage manager Sandra Sosa
Choreography Cristina Maduro
Marketing Maria Emma Faria
Poster & graphics Stephanie Sosa
Program design & photography Elena Nathani
Creative media design José Lopez and Dayana Moreno
Security Carlos Ortega
Membership Billy Foster


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¿Wappin? The Hendrix canon

Jimi Hendrix, by Tallstig Saachi.

The Hendrix canon

Villanova Junction

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Castles Made of Sand

Jess Greenberg – Foxy Lady

Yngwie Malmsteen – Purple Haze

Ana Popovic – House Burning Down

Cássia Eller – Hear My Train A Coming

Stevie Ray Vaughan – Little Wing

Orianthi – Voodoo Child

Weather Report – Third Stone from the Sun

Jeff Beck & Seal – Manic Depression

Jimi Hendrix – Freedom


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Baker, The US Supreme Court is on the ballot for 2016

wizards under the sheets
Trump’s courtroom contenders could seriously jeopardize women’s and civil rights.

The Supreme Court is on the ballot for 2016

by Marge Baker

When voters go to the polls this November, they won’t just be choosing the next president, they’ll also be deciding the direction of the Supreme Court.

The fate of our rights and liberties as Americans — everything from voting rights, to immigration, to reproductive rights — rests with those nine critical individuals who sit on that bench. The outcome of the 2016 election will determine who nominates justices for lifetime appointments to the highest court in the land.

Looking at Trump’s track record of commitments and his list of courtroom contenders shows just how disastrous a Trump Supreme Court would be for everyday Americans.

Take women’s rights for example. Trump has made very clear he’s against the Roe v. Wade decision protecting women’s reproductive rights, saying it was a wrongly decided case. He also infamously called for “some form of punishment” for women who have abortions and has pledged to select anti-choice justices.

One of Trump’s potential picks for the Supreme Court, Judge William Pryor, even went so far as to call Roe v. Wade the “worst abomination in the history of constitutional law.” Considering the Court’s already weakened standard, a new anti-choice justice on the Supreme Court could significantly jeopardize past precedent.

The executive power to nominate justices is especially important to consider this election cycle given the possibility of multiple Supreme Court vacancies in the next president’s first term. A Trump presidency could put women’s reproductive rights in real danger.

On other issues disproportionately affecting women, like sexual harassment at work, a Trump Court would be just as perilous. Another one of the judges Trump mentioned as a possible nominee, Judge Steven Colloton, argued that a woman fired in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment at work shouldn’t have been able to take legal action.

The same trend follows in cases of civil rights, where Trump’s choices have shown that they’re more likely to rule in favor of the powerful and privileged.

Judge Pryor strongly opposed the ruling that said police must inform people of their Miranda rights when arrested. He was also the judge who argued, in a case about an African American employee being denied a promotion, that the man’s supervisor calling him “boy” was just “conversational” and had no bearing on promotion decisions.

And multiple judges on Trump’s list have upheld disenfranchising voter ID laws, which have an outsized impact on minority and low-income voters.

There are similarly foreboding examples across issues like environmental justice, workers’ rights, and big money in politics, among others that impact our day-to-day lives.

We need a Supreme Court that will defend the rights of everyday Americans instead of rolling them back. The justices our next president chooses should understand that the Constitution is for everyone, not just the rich and powerful.

This isn’t likely to be the case if the nominations are coming from Trump — a man who has said all his judges would be picked by the Federalist Society,” an organization backed by the billionaire Koch brothers.

November 8 is “Judgment Day” for the future of the Supreme Court. Even if it’s not printed on our ballots, that’s the day voters will decide the direction of the nation’s highest court — for decades to come.


Marge Baker is the executive vice president of People For the American Way. Distributed by OtherWords.org


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More paintings by George Scribner

“Se Vende Pipas” ~ 12″ x 12″ ~ A street vendor in Panama City.

Paintings and website makeovers by George Scribner


“Red Bandana” ~ 9″ x 12″ ~ A dancer about to go onstage at the old Paraiso High School.


PanCanal locks
“Apurate!” ~ 16″ x 20″ ~ Crossing one of the lock gates.


“MSC” ~ 6″ x 9″ ~ A study for a larger painting.

The artist’s new online store


The artist’s new blog


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The banking superintendent warns…


Beware: this video promotes a scam / Cuidado: este video promueve una estafa

The banking superintendent warns
and we should read more into it

by Eric Jackson

On September 9 Panama’s Superintendency of Banks issued a warning about an apparent Ponzi scheme with several names, perhaps the most common Flor de la Abundancia. but also El Telar de Mujeres and other names. The terse one-page announcement noted complaints in other countries and advised that this operation has no permit from the superintendency to collect money in Panama. There were no details about who is or was running this outfit here or any physical address or contact data — let alone whether there was any link to a corporate entity and if so any data on that or the lawyers who organized such a corporation. Nor were potential victims warned of places where the scheme is promoted online. In keeping with norms not only of the banking superintendency and the securities markets superintendency here, but also their counterparts across the region, there was also nothing about anybody having been arrested or being sought by police.

The custom in Panama has been for police, prosecutors and regulatory agencies to look at frauds committed against foreigners — by persons or entities within or outside of Panama, against persons inside or outside of Panama — as laughing matters rather than criminal cases. Here the warning has gone out because Panamanians, particularly Panamanian women, are the targets.

This particular pyramid scheme is different from most in that it’s a cyclical operation designed to spin off new organizations, which are apt to take on different names and have different people — or apparently different people — at their center. That form of organization has given the scheme more longevity than the usual pyramid, in which ever more new people are drawn in to put in money that pays earlier “investors” and especially the original promoters, until the day come when their is a deficit of suckers and the scheme collapses of its own weight with the promoter long gone. This particular scheme was first identified in Barcelona a decade ago, has swept across and up and down Latin America and has been late arriving in Panama, or at least its search for victims has come here late.

(Russian mob families, members of the Spanish royal family, shady real estate developers and other denizens of the financial crimes underworld have long made the Barcelona area one of their preferred habitats. Some of these have been known to launder money in Panama or to use international money laundering shell games designed by Panamanian law firms. Until recent years it seems that the Russians would launder money here but would not directly participate in the Panamanian rackets. Now, however, they are players in the local prostitution and human smuggling scenes.)

In any case, in its sweeps around Latin America this particular scheme prompted public disturbances in Colombia in 2008. There in the southern town of Buesaco a personero believed to be in league with swindlers he was supposed to be investigating was shot and killed.

About a year ago the scheme appeared in Mexico and since then it has been exposed on a CNN website and in the magazine El Economista. The headlines have not included the arrest of any the operation’s major figures. The typical pitch is that one puts $100 into the scheme and gets $800 out of it, so it would seem to be a no-brainer for one or more law enforcement agencies to pony up a hundred bucks and try to follow that money. The apparent regional law enforcement consensus is that to be taken for a c-note makes you a pendejo rather than a citizen who ought to be protected.

The art has advanced since the days of Charles Ponzi, when there was no Internet. There are standard old themes like affinity pitches — in this case to women with a bit of money to lose but few real prospects of ever getting rich. There is the old standby of pseudo-religion, with Bible passages and yoga terminology and symbolism invoked here along with the abundant life buzz words of the Prosperity Gospel pitch. But this swindle also uses YouTube (see the video above) and Facebook, and naysayers are apt to face various sorts of online bullying.

Beware, of course. But maybe there should also be some concern about roles that range from apathetic to enabling on the parts of some powerful public and private institutions.


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SINAPROC’s sad duty

Members of the SINAPROC disaster relief agency gather on Monday, September 12 in Monte Oscuro to continue the search for a five-year-old boy who was swept into a San Miguelito storm drain during heavy rains the previous day. Photo by Kermit Nourse.

Approaching peak season for an awful job

Adults get swept into storm drains and drown as Panama gets into the heaviest months of rains. More frequently those who die are kids. You should understand that you are puny compared to an elemental force, and that raging flood waters can gather in an instant during or just after a tropical cloudburst. A small child won’t. It takes a nation of caring adults to save kids’ lives in this season.


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