October 22, 2014

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(To read the constantly updated content of The Panama News, see the listing at the top of the left-hand column for the most recent stories that have been uploaded, click on the section links above to see the latest things posted by subject, or go to the bottom of the right-hand column to see the story listings by month. Visit our TPN Blog page for constantly updating videos, graphics, links to other people’s stories about Panama and the world, music listings and more.)

October 8, 2014

No werewolf bites reported
in this part of Panama

The blood moon was, however, a beautiful astronomical phenomenon. We see that effect only occasionally, when, separated by six-month intervals, we get four straight total lunar eclipses in a row without any intervening partial lunar eclipses. When the Earth’s shadow completely falls over the Moon, light bending around Earth gives just a bit of illumination and the moon looks red. There are various preachers and obscurantists who read strange sorts of prophetic, social or political significance into the phenomenon. No doubt somebody somewhere is saying that it means that believers must slay the evil heathens, and most probably some preacher among those to be slain is saying that it means that his followers need to slay those who believe what the first preacher said. The “moderates” just take it as a divine command — interpreted by religious authorities, of course — about for whom you should vote.

The Panama News does occasionally cover astronomy, but does not get into astrology. It’s an attitude about truth, tempered with scientific skepticism, the modesty of one who takes things on faith less than it may be fashionable to do and a functioning BS detector. I do love werewolf movies but I don’t expect to be reporting any werewolf bites anytime soon. The Policia Nacional seem to have the problem under control. Or should we call it divine providence?

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Capture vote

Voting I take more seriously, but I was just lazy enough to get my ballot request where I vote absentee in the States off on the last day to do so for that state. In a number of states there is still time to request a ballot or even register to vote. If you need to do so, check out the situation in the last US state where you lived by clicking here. This year the American Embassy in Clayton has a mailbox to make it easier and a bit cheaper for US citizens to send ballots back to the right places on time. I need to get down there as soon as possible.

My own compromise as a dual US-Panamanian citizen is to vote in federal elections only — that means for US representative and US senator only this time — and even if I have an opinion about other races, not to vote for state and local offices in a place where I have not lived for 20 years and don’t expect to live in again. For those of you who make enough so that it matters, US federal law provides that voting in only federal elections in a particular place does not make you a resident of that state or community for tax purposes.

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September’s fundraiser did not go all that well. If The Panama News can accurately be called a cause — and that’s the way I see it — there are a lot of other causes and candidates out there asking for money too. This project takes money to continue — electric bills, Internet bills, bus fare and many other things — and I really do want to raise the money to have a more permanent place from which to operate. Constantly moving is quite disruptive.

Please donate what you can, and understand that a lot of what keeps us going comes in the form of in-kind donations of labor or materials — articles, photos, translations, computer and photographic equipment, Movistar cell phone cards, coffee and so on. We get by with a little help from our friends.


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Panagringos are in the news. Today attorney Patricio Candanedo’s name is one of those being floated about as a possible next attorney general of Panama. His most noteworthy work is as Panama’s main anti-drug prosecutor and then as an agent with the DEA for the United States. One of my points of disagreement with President Varela, who will make the appointment, is his commitment to the failed US “War on Drugs.” Do we really want to recruit from that expensively failed social experiment to find Panama’s next top prosecutor for a 10-year term? He’d have to demonstrate something much more than a drug warrior past to win my confidence.

Former Minister of Economy and Finance Frank De Lima Gercich, whose grandfather was the principal at the Canal Zone elementary school I attended, figures in the ongoing Electoral Tribunal trials of those candidates whose apparent victories were challenged because they illegally spent millions of dollars of public funds to buy votes in their electoral circuits. In one trial for a race in Chiriqui, it was demonstrated that blank checks were issued to pay party campaign workers and voters. Frank De Lima and Comptroller General Gioconda Torres de Bianchini approved the transfers of those funds for those abuses. We are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars stolen from the public coffers for Ricardo Martinelli’s self-aggrandizement. The Electoral Tribunal is referring those matters for criminal investigations. The next attorney general will probably handle those cases, and also will probably investigate Martinelli-appointed Electoral Prosecutor Eduardo Peñaloza for his apparent role in the recent electoral crime wave.

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In the main ring of political show trials there is the unfolding sordid story of Alejandro Moncada Luna. Some years ago he and his law firm associate Ana Bouche unjustly and unsuccessfully prosecuted me for criminal defamation, on behalf of a convicted felon who had served a prison sentence for fraud in Colorado and alleged that I lied by calling him a “hustler.” Moncada Luna is still railing against the press. (It did not start with me, as years earlier he was General Noriega’s man for closing down opposition media.) Now, however, Bouche is a key witness against Moncada Luna. Perfidy runs in that crowd, and no sooner had I uploaded my update on the case and run an errand to the local mini-super, I came back to see that the National Assembly’s Credentials Commission had voted 9-0 to accept the Colegio Nacional de Abogados (bar association) complaint and start a criminal investigation against Moncada Luna. That includes three Martinelista deputies who voted to hear the case. What’s a guy who likes to write with music playing in the headphones to do? Why, listen to various renditions of that old Mexican bolero standard “Perfidia,” of course. That and Bob Marley’s thing that quotes a version of Psalms 68:1.

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Behind closed doors in The Vatican, Pope Francis has assembled the bishops for a synod that may be the most important policy debate that the church has had since the 1960s. Panama is a mostly Catholic country and the decisions will probably affect Panamanian society.

Will they accept women as priests? In most Catholic churches in Panama most of the people in attendance and those who are doing most of the work are female.

Years ago in Ypsilanti, Michigan, at that hotbed of the Liberation Theology at the time, Holy Trinity Chapel, I had occasion to hear Father Daniel Berrigan speak about betrayal. He did not attack official church doctrine, but he noted that while all of Jesus’s disciples may have been men, his best friends tended to be women and when things got very bad the men denied that they knew Jesus while the women stood up for him, and that after the crucifixion it was the women who claimed the body.

I went to Sunday school at the interdenominational Protestant Margarita Union Church and am not a member of any particular congregation, but I do recognize the social importance for Panama of what the bishops are surely debating.

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The horsemen of the apocalypse are on a wild ride, with a growing and now intercontinental ebola epidemic and the most atrocious warfare in the Middle East. Music is something to enjoy, but also has other meanings. Let this tune make it to Kobani and remind its embattled defenders that they do not stand alone:



Eric Jackson
the editor



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