Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Panama's ruling party picks woman for President

Panama's ruling party has chosen a female former Cabinet minister as its presidential candidate for elections in May, party officials said Monday.

If Balbina Herrera wins, she would be the country's second female president, following Mireya Moscoso, widow of former President Arnulfo Arias, who was elected in 1999.

Herrera, a 53-year-old former housing minister under current President Martin Torrijos, defeated Panama City Mayor Juan Carlos Navarro in the Democratic Revolutionary Party primary held Sunday.

While full results won't be ready for several days, party official Carlos Gonzalez said Monday that Herrera won with a 10 percent lead over Navarro. She will officially be named the candidate later this week at a party event in the capital.

Herrera promises to continue Panama's strong economic growth, with more professional and working-class jobs.

Early polls show Herrera running a close race with Ricardo Martinelli, who owns a chain of supermarkets. Martinelli, who founded the Democratic Change Party, is making his second run for the presidency.

Since a U.S. invasion ended Manuel Noriega's military dictatorship in 1989, only Herrrera's party and the Panamanian Party have won the presidency.

But the Panamanian Party candidate, Juan Carlos Varela, is running a distant third in recent polls. The 45-year-old comes from a family that produces Panama's most popular rums.

Torrijos, who earned an economics degree at Texas A&M University, was elected in 2004. He is the son of former strongman Omar Torrijos, who died in a 1981 plane crash.

Under Panama's law, presidents can only serve one term.

Monday, August 25, 2008

More Good Reasons to Escape to Panama

The Daily Reckoning PRESENTS: The feeble American response to Russia’s assertion of power in the Caucasus of Central Asia was appropriate, since, according to James Howard Kunstler, the United States’ claims of influence in that part of the world are laughable. Read on...

REALITY BITES AGAIN by James Howard Kunstler

The U.S. had taken advantage of temporary confusion in Russia, during the ten-year-long post-Soviet-collapse interval, and set up a client government in Georgia, complete with military advisors, sales of weapons, and even the promise of club membership in the Western alliance known as NATO. These blandishments were all in the service of the Baku-to-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which was designed specifically to drain the oil region around the Caspian Basin with an outlet on the Mediterranean, avoiding unfriendly nations all along the way.
At the time this gambit was first set up, in the early 1990s, there was some notion (or wish, really) among the so-called western powers that the Caspian would provide an end-run around OPEC and the Arabs, as well as the Persians, and deliver all the oil that the US and Europe would ever need – a foolish wish and a dumb gambit, as things have turned out.

For one thing, the latterly explorations of this very old oil region – first opened to drilling in the 19th century – proved somewhat disappointing. U.S. officials had been touting it as like unto “another Saudi Arabia” but the oil actually produced from the new drilling areas of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and the other Stans turned out to be preponderantly heavy-and-sour crudes, in smaller quantities than previously dreamed-of, and harder to transport across the extremely challenging terrain to even get to the pipeline head in Baku.
Meanwhile, Russia got its house in order under the non-senile, non-alcoholic Vladimir Putin, and woke up along about 2007 to find itself the leading oil and natural gas producer in the world. Among the various consequences of this was Russia’s reemergence as a new kind of world power – an energy resource power, with the energy destiny of Europe pretty much in its hands. Also, meanwhile, the USA had set up other client states in the ring of former Soviet republics along Russia’s southern underbelly, complete with U.S. military bases, while fighting active engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, if this wasn’t the dumbest, vainest move in modern geopolitical history!

It’s one thing that U.S. foreign policy wonks imagined that Russia would remain in a coma forever, but the idea that we could encircle Russia strategically with defensible bases in landlocked mountainous countries halfway around the world...? You have to ask what were they smoking over at the Pentagon and the CIA and the NSC?
So, this asinine policy has now come to grief. Not only does Russia stand to gain control over the Baku-to-Ceyhan pipeline, but we now have every indication that they will bring the states on its southern flank back into an active sphere of influence, and there is really not a damn thing that the U.S. can pretend to do about it.

We could have spent the past ten years getting our own house in order – waking up to the obsolescence of our suburban life-style, scaling back on the Happy Motoring, reconnecting our cities with world-class passenger rail, creating wealth by producing things of value (instead of resorting to financial racketeering), protecting our borders, and taking the necessary measures to defend and update our own industries. Instead, we pissed our time and resources away. Nations do make tragic errors of the collective will. The cluelessness of George Bush is nothing less than a perfect metaphor for the failure of a whole generation. The Boomers will be identified as the generation that wrecked America.

So, as the vacation season winds down, this country greets a new reality. We miscalculated in Western and Central Asia. Russia still “owns” that part of the world. Are we going to extend our current land wars there into the even more distant and landlocked Stan-nations? At some point, as we face financial and military exhaustion, we have to ask ourselves if we can even successfully evacuate our personnel from the far-flung bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

This must be an equally sobering moment for Europe, and an additional reason for the recent plunge in the relative value of the Euro, for Europe is now at the mercy of Russia in terms of staying warm in the winter, running their kitchen stoves, and keeping the lights on. Russia also exerts substantial financial leverage over the U.S. in all the dollars and securitized U.S. debt paper it holds. In effect, Russia can shake the U.S. banking system at will now by threatening to dump its dollar holdings.

The American banking system may not need a shove from Russia to fall on its face. It’s effectively dead now, just lurching around zombie-like from one loan “window” to the next pretending to “borrow” capital – while handing over shreds of its moldy clothing as “collateral” to the Federal Reserve. The entire US, beyond the banks, is becoming a land of the walking dead. Business is dying, home-ownership has become a death dance, whole regions are turning into wastelands of “for sale” signs, empty parking lots, vacant buildings, and dashed hopes. And all this beats a path directly to a failure of collective national imagination. We really don’t know what’s going on.

The fantasy that we can sustain our influence nine thousand miles away, when we can’t even get our act together in Ohio is just a dark joke. One might state categorically that it would be a salubrious thing for America to knock off all its vaunted “dreaming” and just wake up.

Until next time,
James Howard Kunstler
for The Daily Reckoning

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin Dead

Totally off topic and nothing to do with this blog but I need to pause and honour one of my all-time favorite entertainers and comedians, George Carlin who died yesterday of Heart failure as reported in Los Angeles (AFP)

George Carlin had been in show business for 50 years. He made 22 albums and won four Grammy Awards. He died at age 71.

As a teenager I can remember listening with my big brother to his album AM/FM and later becoming all too familiar with his now infamous "Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV" routine. Some of the news articles today say that is what he will be most remembered for. I really hope it is the biting anti-establishment brand of humour he refined that people will remember.

An icon for free speech and using your brain I take this moment to pause and give thanks to George Carlin for reminding us all that common sense and humour can change the world if we just slow down long enough to think.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Canada's Best Places to Live

Canadian Business Money Sense Magazine ranks the 'Best Places to Live" in Canada each year. Here's the line up for the Top 10 Best Places to Live in Canada:

Ottawa-Gatineau, ON
Victoria, BC
Frederickton, NB
Kingston, ON
Levis, QC
Moncton, NB
Winnipeg, MB
Burlington, ON
Halifax, NS
Vancouver, BC

The introduction says, "If you've ever wondered about picking up and moving, you've probably pondered what makes a community a good place to live. Is it climate? Salaries? Real estate? To be honest, it's probably a bit of each of those factors, plus many more."

MoneySense's third "Canada's Best Places to Live" list has a lot of data to help readers sift through some of the most important factors in choosing the Best Place to Live. It may not exactly come out and say, "Hey, here are the Cheapest Places to Live!" but at least it provides some criteria whereby you can figure out what kind of lifestyle you might be able to create.

To see the complete list and read all about it go here - The Best Places to Live in Canada.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Obama Launches FightTheSmears.com

OK, I know I'm being quite political today but let's face it the US Election is one the top of everyone's mind and a focal point of many conversations whether you live in Panama or the United States this election is a hot topic. It's also bringing some interesting ideas and points out in the open. One of the things many American expats say they left the U.S. for was a distain of the politics particularly the negative smear campaigns which seem to have become part of the routine.

Here's some freshing news -

The Obama campaign just launched a new website, FightTheSmears.com.

Now you may be thinking 'Ya, it's just another gimmick. Just businesses who hide profit motives behind charity gigs. But, let's face isn't it time we all 'FightTheSmears'? Regardless of political affiliation I believe this cause is a winner and worth supporting. So, here's the line right from my.barackobama.com -

"So, if you've ever recieved a smear email, heard a false rumor from a friend or acquaintance, or come across a website propagating lies, and wondered how to fight back, now you know what to do: visit FightTheSmears.com and take direct, productive action to push back on these mistruths."

CNN Reports on Obama-McCain poll

CNN’s Jack Cafferty about the close race between Barack Obama and John McCain

In today's Cafferty file, John Cafferty of CNN asks, "What does it mean if Barack Obama and John McCain are less than ten points apart in the polls?"

The latest CNN poll has Obama ahead of Panama born McCain by just 5 percentage points at 48% to 43%.
New Wall Street Journal and NBC polling puts Barack Obama 6 points up, thats double what his last lead was. It’s smaller than the 16-Point spread the Democrats’ had when voters are asked what party they want to see in the White House.
One poll gives strengths and weaknesses of both candidates. For Obama, he is ahead of McCain among Catholics, African-Americans, Women, Hispanics and Independents. Even the blue-collar segment favors Barack Obama. He's ahead, 61% to 19%, among the primaries Clinton supporters.
John McCain beats Obama as a favorite among white men by 20%. The senator from Arizona also leads Obama among white suburban women. But Barack Obama leads John McCain among all white women.
McCain's greatest challenge may be President Bush. One pollster for the democrats says the president is a huge ball and chain for McCain. Many voters surveyed say they are looking for a leader of change vs one of experience.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Discover Panama on DVD

Thinking of Retiring to Panama? Here's an affordable way to discover what Living in Panama is all about before you buy the plane ticket!

Shot in gorgeous high definition (HD) video, Director Sasha Owen shows you how you can buy the home of your dreams in one of the world's most sophisticated and affordable countries: Panama. In this 60 minute video, they take you from the gleaming luxury high rises of Panama City to the laid back tropical island paradise of Bocas del Toro and introduce you to expats who are living the life they've always dreamed of, for far less than they would have paid in their home countries. They also take you to the beautiful mountain oasis of Boquete Panama, which has long been regarded as one of the world's best places to retire. Watch interviews with many expats, the people who've made Panama their new home and we follow one couple, Kay Owen and Larry Mattison, as they search for, and ultimately find, the luxury apartment of their dreams in Panama City. Also learn from interviews with attorneys, real estate agents, developers and other experts who give you the inside scoop about how to get the best property deals in the country. They explain the process and reveal the secrets for making a profitable and wise investment in a country that is truly a nexus of the world. Whether you're looking for a quiet country retreat or a cosmopolitan luxury penthouse in the sky, Home:World Panama shows you how you can retire or buy the affordable second home of your dreams in this spectacular country in Central America.

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful presentation with very well balanced information, definitely neither hype or negative., September 12, 2007
By R Marrero (Tampa, Florida USA) -
"Anyone interested in Panama, especially to relocate or to invest in property, should definitely consider get this DVD. It's non-bias approach, colorful scenery & up to the point information will help you get a better picture of what this country has to offer. It also provides with suggestions/do's & dont's on how to succeed there. Although not touristy oriented, it provides with some sightseeing of the main areas. At roughly one hour, it makes you "crave" for more. However it's well put together. Also it's in wide screen format, for awesome viewing on our flat screen TV. It's worth the money."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Panama Video

Here are a couple of videos I came across from our friends at Prima Panama. Unfortunately, Prima is no longer offering their Premium Passport service, which I must say was excellent. I believe the airport VIP greeting is still available through a different group. I will let everyone know on the Learn About Panama Blog as soon as I have additional information. For now enjoy these scenes and interviews by our friends at Prima.

Part 1

Part 2

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Panama Travel and Tourism

Here's a great video I came across recently on YouTube. This was put together by IPAT - Instituto Panameno de Turismo. In just 3 minutes it captures the beauty and diversity of Panama, enjoy!

Panama YouTube Video

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Monday, February 25, 2008

We're Back! from Panama

Hey! We're back from our latest Panama adventure.

Check out this beach!

I took a ton of pictures and plenty of video too. Rather than post them all here I find it easier if I just put it them in one spot where you can find everything.

For photos I use flickr.

Go to - Flickr.com/LearnAboutPanama

And Here's a little sample of video -

For more videos, I upload those to my YouTube page here - YouTube.com/PanamaMark

Enjoy and let me know what you think! I'd really like to read your comments.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

San Blas is Calling!

After getting the book '1,000 Places to See Before you Die' for Christmas I realized I have been so close to one of those places but have never gotten around to visiting. I'm talking about the San Blas Islands in Panama.

Learn About PanamaThat's all about to change. On February 4 I'm off to San Blas! (Watch the blog for updates of my journey. I even plan on getting some video on here.)

This opportunity is just another one of the reasons I believe Panama is the Best Place to Live. It also makes Panama one of the Cheapest Places to Live - you might be thinking... what? Well, here I have the chance to visit one of the '1,000 Places to See Before You Die' and it's really going to cost me very little. For $60 I get picked up at Playon Chico and taken by canoe to the small island lodge; I am fed 3 meals a day; taken by a guide to deserted islands and other locations each day and stay in a fantastic cabana - check out the pics!

If you want to read about San Blas and why I'm so excited you can check out this recent article which appeared on the New York Times -

New York Times Explorer | San Blas Islands, Panama

Oh, and Watch the Blog for photo and video updates. I may even get around to figuring out how to do a PodCast!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Panama Real Estate Property Tax Exemptions are Back

Great News from the Government of Panama! Just before Christmas the following article appeared in La Prensa -

La prensa – december 22, 2007

BRIEFS. Real estate

Property Tax exoneration extended

The Consejo de Gabinete has approved an extension of the 20-year property tax exemption for apartments and houses, according to minister of Housing Balbina Herrera.

The measure applies to projects whose building permits are issued before Dec. 31, 2009. Herrera explained that the measure extends the property tax exemption that expired in August.

Iván Carlucci, president of the Asociación de Corredores de Bienes Raíces (Acobir), said that "this change is healthy, and it is a sign that the sector will continue to grow dynamically."

Carlucci said that the waiver, which will benefit all types of buyers, gives Panama a competitive edge over other countries in marketing real estate projects.

Read more about the changes and Panama Real Estate Opportunities at the Learn About Panama Blog.