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The Official Tourism Website of the Republic of Panama, Here at Panama Visitor’s Guide we do our best to help you find information on the Republic of Panama, on the Panama Canals Tours and Day Trips, Boquete Tourism, Panama Hotels and Hostels, Panama Nightlife, San Blas Vacation Hotels and Hostels, Bocas Del Toro Hotels and Hostels, Panama Casinos, Beach, Panama Sport Fishing, Whale Watching in Panama, Panama Canal Live Web-Cam, Maps of Panama, República de Panamá 

By Panama Jack

 

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The Panama Canal, Panama Hotels, Panama Nightlife, Panama Medical Tourism, Panama Sport Fishing.
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Panama Whale Watching, Panama Low Cost Medical Insurance, San Blas Island Vacation Resorts.
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Bocas Del Toro Restaurants, Panama City Casinos, Panama Travel, Panama Beach Information and Vacations.
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PARADISE FISHING LODGE, September 2014 Panama Fishing Report

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PARADISE FISHING LODGE, September 2014 FISH REPORT

The Last couple weeks has been good.  We did start to get a few nice tuna, but there still not here in full forcé.  The marlín bite was great for a couple weeks, but that slowed down a bit over the last week.  we have had very good luck around the islands and have caught plenty of big roosters and snapper along with many other types of fish.

I have made a bit of progress on expanding my marina,  my permission finally came out for me to build a gas station.  I hope to start building in the next month.  We will be selling Gas to Boats from the end of our dock and also cars and trucks that pass on the road.

Hope to see you here this year for the Best and the Biggest Fishing in Panama and all of Central America.

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Fish Report Panama February 2014

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Panama Canal Information and Tours

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Live web-Cam of the Panama Canal

The history of the Panama Canal goes back to 16th century. After realizing the riches of Peru, Ecuador, and Asia, and counting the time it took the gold to reach the ports of Spain, it was suggested c.1524 to Charles V, that by cutting out a piece of land somewhere in Panama, the trips would be made shorter and the risk of taking the treasures through the isthmus would justify such an enterprise. A survey of the isthmus was ordered and subsequently a working plan for a canal was drawn up in 1529. The wars in Europe and the thirsts for the control of kingdoms in the Mediterranean Sea simply put the project on permanent hold.
The length of the Panama Canal is approximately 51 miles. A trip along the canal from its Atlantic entrance would take you through a 7 mile dredged channel in Limón Bay. The canal then proceeds for a distance of 11.5 miles to the Gatun Locks. This series of three locks raise ships 26 meters to Gatun Lake. It continues south through a channel in Gatun Lake for 32 miles to Gamboa, where the Culebra Cut begins. This channel through the cut is 8 miles long and 150 meters wide. At the end of this cut are the locks at Pedro Miguel. The Pedro Miguel locks lower ships 9.4 meters to a lake which then takes you to the Miraflores Locks which lower ships 16 meters to sea level at the canals Pacific terminus in the bay of Panama. A pictorial view of the canals route can be seen below. Panama Canal Tours by Panama Travel Unlimited

Panama Canal Transit Tour

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Panama Canal

Enjoy the ParadiseThe San Blas Day Tour
Don’t have the time to stay overnight in the San Blas islands, spend an unbeatable day in San Blas for $135pp, which includes everything apart from some San Blas taxes $10-12pp. The San Blas Day Tour can be arranged at short notice for any day of the week. We suggest you book at least a few days in advance to be assured a spot. Transport to the San Blas Islands leaves Panama City at 5 am every morning and you will usually be back in Panama City by 7pm.
Enjoy the ParadiseEmbera Village Tour
The best value Embera Indian village tour in Panama at $110pp. Visit the traditional Embera Indians in their village less than an hours drive from Panama City. Experience a whole new world you never knew existed as you learn about the Indigenous Embera Indian culture and enjoy the river cruise in traditional canoe and the traditional dances will bring a smile to your face. This is a spectacular insight into the rich Embera Indian culture and many peoples highlight in Panama.
Enjoy the ParadiseUltimate San Blas Tour
This has fast become the most popular tour in the San Blas islands standard tour length is 2 nights and 3 days, but alternative lengths available. It will include 4×4 to and from Panama city, accommodation and food as well as daily tours to one possibly 2 Islands and maybe visit a community. We include snorkel gear, Kayaks, volleyball, football and boogie boards.
Enjoy the ParadisePanama City Half Day Tour
Between 6-7 hours and visits Casco Viejo, Panama Viejo, the Amador Causeway and the Miraflores locks at the Panama Canal while passing the Panama Canal administration building. We’ll also stop for the opportunity to purchase local handicrafts at the market in Ancon. Our itinerary will vary as we try to make sure we’re at the canal to see a large ship passing through the locks. The Miraflores locks has a museum and visitors centre and is a great experience.
Enjoy the ParadiseShuttle Service
Our shuttle bus and driver will meet you at the Tocumen International airport and transfer you to your Panama City hotel for the best price of any private shuttle service in Panama City. Tocumen airport is approximately 30-45 minutes from Panama City and thus a safe air-conditioned shuttle is a welcome sight after a long flight. We also offer private shuttles to many other locations including Decameron Beach resort and other Pacific Resorts, Colon Port, Portobelo, Isla Grande as well as The Azuero Peninsula (Pedasi, Playa Venao). We cannot be beaten on price and service.

Panama Canal Partial Transit Tour
See for yourself how the Panama Canal works as you transit the Miraflores Locks, one of three locks used along the canal. The construction of the canal was one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken at the time, and it made an enormous impact on shipping in the region. This is an amazing sightseeing cruise not to be missed!*From $115pp

PARADISE LOST Ann Bender is Innocent

By Panama Jack and 48 Hours © 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

I know Ann Bender and her boyfriend Greg Fisher

I lived in Costa Rica for 10 years and the Costa Rican legal system is a third world corrupt system every few year they arrest the same 600 lawyer who have stolen property from from United States and other countries investors and they never go to jail.

I had an accident where the driver who did not have a license or a registered car who hung an illegal U-Turn from the curb and hit me on my Harley Davidson that I had insurance on and it was registered. I lost the case because I was an American and he was a Costa Rican. The Costa Rican courts are a third world countries system.

There are hundreds of Americans who are leaving if they can or want to leave.

I suggest to anyone who has any money to stay clear of Costa Rica or you could end up in Prison with Ann Bender. I wish I could have warned Ann and her husband.

“48 Hours” launches an independent forensic examination that raises major questions about the shooting death of a Wall o Street millionaire at his Costa Rican jungle mansion

Produced by Josh Yager, Doug Longhini, Ana Real, Shoshanah Wolfson and Tamara Weitzman

BORACAYAN, Costa Rica — Fourteen years ago, Ann and John Bender moved to the jungle of Central America to live an extravagant, idyllic dream. Now, Ann stands in a Costa Rican courtroom on trial for the murder of her husband.

The dream she was living seems very far away. Their home, called Boracayan, which rises from the middle of the Costa Rican rain forest, was once Ann and John Bender’s vision of paradise.

The phrase “over the top” doesn’t begin to do the house justice. It’s like some bizarre combination of Disneyland and art museum and something you’d really only see in a James Bond movie.

“Does this strike you as astonishing every time you’re here or are you totally used to it?” “48 Hours” correspondent Susan Spencer asked Ann Bender as they walked through the home.

“I’m used to it by now. It’s home,” Ann replied.

The main house at Boracayan is four floors tall and nearly 50,000 square feet, with tons of gleaming granite and no windows or walls.

John and Ann always had been a bit eccentric, from the moment a friend introduced them in Virginia in 1998. “It was love at first sight for both of us,” she told Spencer.

The daughter of an international banker, Ann had grown up all over the world. John was smitten and proposed after just two weeks. They married the next year.

“We both found in each other a future,” said Ann.

Ann and John Bender pose with a pet sloth

Ann and John Bender with a pet sloth at their home deep in the Costa Rican jungle.
GIGI PATTON

They shared many interests and one unfortunate problem: both struggled with depression — specifically in Ann’s case, with bipolar mood disorder.

 

 

 

 

“I had just been diagnosed … with bipolarity,” Ann said.

The Benders’ friend, Pete Delisi, said John hated doctors and preferred to privately deal with his problems.

“He could go from being extremely happy to extremely sad very quick,” said Delisi, adding that what Bender lacked in happiness, he made up for in smarts.

“He was absolutely a genius…”he said.

John Bender had been a math and science whiz in high school and then studied physics at the University of Pennsylvania. His looks got him work as a male model and his smarts helped him beat the odds at the local casinos. He had an unusual talent for making money — a talent that blossomed at the Philadelphia Stock Exchange.

“In just about five minutes, he developed a way of trading options that had never been done before,” Ann said, “and within just a few years, he was one of the top traders.”

“By the time he was 25, I think he’d amassed about $80 million,” said Delisi.

According to reporter and CBS News consultant Ned Zeman, Bender ran a half-billion dollar hedge fund by his early 30s.

Zeman said that by 1998, John Bender was looking for both a safe haven for his money and a purpose for his life. And that for all his brilliance – and his bank balance – he’d never really fit in with the Wall Street crowd.

“He just walks away from it,” Spencer noted.

“Just walked away,” Delisi replied.

But not without a plan: John and Ann, both animal lovers, decided to use their fortune to start a refuge for wildlife. In the dense rain forest of Costa Rica they found the ideal location: 5,000 pristine acres they named Boracayan, after a native plant.

“I mean this is as out there as you can get…” said Zeman.

Setting up a sanctuary for wildlife gave the Benders a sanctuary too, an escape to an extravagant, private universe of exotic flowers, animals and waterfalls. Here, nothing was ordinary — not even the lights in the house. Many of the approximately 400 lamps were custom made of stained glass.

Ann said John thought the lamps would brighten her outlook on the world.

“Depression was an immense bond between them … it’s a very isolating disease. And people tend to pull away from society,” Zeman explained.

“There was definitely a degree of, ‘who are these rich gringos and who the hell do they think they are coming down and doing all of this,'” Ann recalled.

Then, in April 2001, Ann said armed men in an unmarked car forced them onto the shoulder of a mountain road. The men claimed to be police, but wore no uniforms.

“I thought it was a kidnapping,” she said.

One of the men pulled John from his car and when he protested, “This guy fired the gun between John’s legs and held up the gun to John’s head,” Ann told Spencer. “I was terrified.”

All this, it would turn out, was just so Costa Rican authorities could serve John Bender with papers naming him in a lawsuit stemming from his days on Wall Street. But John spent six hours in police detention before he knew that, and Ann says the incident completely unnerved him.

“That’s when our entire lives changed,” she said.

Ann said an attempted break-in at the house months later only made things worse. The couple bought guns, hired guards and turned the refuge into a virtual fortress. They lived in fear.

“It makes me very sad to think back on how painful life could be for him,” Ann said in tears.

In 2005, perhaps trying to right the ship, Bender set up a $70 million trust to manage the refuge and provide for Ann’s living expenses. He named attorney Juan de Dios Alvarez to run it. Alvarez was then a trusted advisor. Later, Ann would point to him as a key figure in the events surrounding John’s death.

But neither the trust nor the guards nor the guns stopped the couple’s continuing slide into depression. Ann said John saw a psychiatrist, but refused antidepressants. She, however, was taking an enormous amount of medication. By the fall of 2009, Ann said she’d all but stopped eating.

“I was 40 pounds lighter than I am now,” she told Spencer.

Desperate to cure her, John began injections of spring water — a home remedy. Ann broke out in boils and lesions.

“What he was doing was making her sicker and sicker,” Zeman said. “I think both of them had lost touch with reality.”

“You thought you could manage this?” Spencer asked Ann.

“Yeah, we both did. We had been through very difficult situations together before,” she replied.

“Did never at one point occur to you to say, ‘Oh, my God,’ you know, ‘I’ve gotta get him out of here,'” Spencer asked.

“He wouldn’t have gone,” said Ann.

By 2010, after a decade at Boracayan, the Benders had become prisoners in their own paradise. The natural beauty that brought them there, lost in irrational despair. Ann said John became convinced that every problem — her illness, even the death of a beloved pet bird — was his fault.

“He became… suicidally depressed,” Ann said. “He wanted to die.”

The stage was set. That night, he would die. But was it suicide or murder?

THE DEATH OF JOHN BENDER

“I’m sure this seems as real to you as it did that night,” Spencer said to Ann Bender, standing in the room where her husband died. “So what happened?”

“John brought a gun to bed,” she replied. “It was the last thing I expected him to be doing, even though I knew that he was suicidal.”

On Jan. 7, 2010, Ann Bender said it was nearly midnight when she got in bed and turned out the lights. She had just drifted off to sleep when, “I opened my eyes and I saw the outline of the trigger of the gun … and he had it pointed at his head … at himself…” she said.

Horrified, Ann said she recognized their 9mm Ruger pistol.

“From what I could tell he was holding it with both hands,” she said.

“And what’d you do?” Spencer asked.

“I got up on my knees and reared towards him and I tried to grab the gun,” said Ann.

“Were you able to get it?”

“No. I was able to get my hands around his and the gun slipped and it went off,” she replied.

Just minutes later, their security guard, Oswaldo Aguilar, was first on the scene.

“She said to me, ‘I tried to stop him and I couldn’t do it,'” he told “48 Hours.”

Asked if there was a long struggle, an emotional Ann told Spencer, “No … I remember it as being instantaneous. It couldn’t have been any more than two seconds.”

“When it went off, who was holding it?” Spencer asked of the gun.

“I don’t think anyone was holding it,” Ann replied.

“How does a gun go off when no one’s holding it?” Spencer pressed.

“I think that it fell. He dropped it,” Ann said. “I never touched the gun.”

Ann and John Bender

Ann and John Bender

Ann told roughly the same story to the first responders who arrived at Boracayan some two hours later. But reporter Ned Zeman says that their examination of the scene actually raised more questions than it answered.

 

 

 

“If somebody wanted to commit suicide, he says, the way they do it is here, here or here,” Ramirez said, pointing to inside mouth, under his chin and against his temple.

But if a left-handed person, as prosecutors assumed John Bender was, did fatally shoot himself behind the right ear, the gun presumably would end up on the same side as the bullet hole.

“Just to be clear, the gun is on the opposite side from the wound?” Spencer asked Zeman.

“Yes, the wound is on this side of John’s head,” he replied, pointing to his right.”He is lying on his back. The gun is over there on this side of the bed, near his arm. So you know that doesn’t look good,” he explained, pointing to the left.

“There were no lights on. All I knew is he had a gun and I tried to get it away from him and I couldn’t and it went off,” Ann cried.

But investigators were puzzled over the bullet’s path, entering just below the right ear and ending up behind the left eye. Also odd was the location of a spent cartridge found some 15 feet behind the bed — all, they thought, inconsistent with Ann’s story of a struggle.

“Did you move anything, touch anything, change anything in that room?” Spencer asked Ann.

“The only thing I remember doing is using the radio, unlocking the elevator and touching John,” she replied.

“But as far as the gun?”

“No.”

“The shell casings?”

“I don’t remember,” Ann replied.

“The pillow …”

“I don’t remember anything,” said Ann.

A pillow near John’s head had a tear with gunpowder in it.

“…which means the pillow was positioned over his head and the gun was fired,” Prosecutor Ramirez told “48 Hours”.

Within hours, investigators began to think John Bender may have been shot in his sleep and died where he lay. There were pools of blood on both sides of his body and the earplugs he always wore were still in place.

“From the fourth floor down … we started looking,” said police inspector Louis Aguilar, who led a sweep of the house and quickly discovered something that stopped him cold. “We found a great amount of jewels … precious stones,” he said.

There were thousands of gems — diamonds, rubies and opals — some on display, others in suitcases and worth roughly $20 million.

“But when — when you talk about the jewelry collection, you know, I have jewelry. I don’t think that’s what you’re talking about,” Spencer remarked.

“No. No,” Ann laughed. “No. In no way, shape, or form.”

jewelsleft.jpg

Some of the more than $20 million worth of gems police found the Bender’s home.
FABIO OCONITRILLO

Investigators didn’t see it as a jewelry collection either. To them it looked a lot more like a smuggling operation.

 

 

 

“Do you think … that when the police got here they find all these amazing jewels … do you think that it prejudiced them?” Spencer asked Ann.

“So what?” she replied. “Strange doesn’t mean that you’re a criminal.”

Ann says the gems were merely a hobby and an investment, and says she did her best to cooperate that night.

“I was falling to pieces,” she said, her voice breaking.

Within hours of John’s death, after calling her family and Juan de Dios Alvarez, the trustee of Boracayan, Ann was rushed to the hospital. She was emaciated and covered with sores from John’s injections.

“I went into some sort of shock mode,” she said. “My understanding is they were giving me a 40-percent chance of survival for the first two weeks.”

Ann’s psychiatrist, Dr. Carlos Lizano, who she authorized to speak with “48 Hours,” met her in intensive care just hours later. He described her condition at the time as “Terrible. … Dehydrated … extremely thin.”

Asked if Ann was in touch with reality, Dr. Lizano said she was “in and out.”

“Do you think she was even physically capable of doing what the prosecution alleged?” Spencer asked.

“No,” Lizano replied. “Ann could not even hold a fork when she was here.”

Ann Bender would remain hospitalized for seven months under Lizano’s care and under a growing cloud of suspicion.

“They were beginning to say, ‘This doesn’t look like an accident. This doesn’t look like a suicide. This looks a lot like a murder.’ And they began looking at her as a suspect,” said Zeman.

“Did you for one second, until it actually happened, think that you were gonna be charged?” Spencer asked Ann.

“No,” she replied.

EXAMINING THE FORENSICS

The Bender’s friend, Paul Meyer, visited Ann in the hospital just days after her arrival. She weighed 84 pounds.

“She literally looked like someone who had just walked out of a concentration camp,” he said.

Sick or not, Ann Bender was already investigators’ number one murder suspect. Police confiscated her clothes and her computer. But it’s unclear if they examined John’s messages or ever saw these chilling excerpts, dated just weeks before he died:

“I wish I were f—-ing dead. I feel so f—ing horrible. I want to kill everyone and then myself.”

The messages were a window, Ann said, on a tormented soul.

“John was the most loving, generous person I ever met but also the most tortured person I ever met,” she said. “He had been wanting to kill himself for weeks.”

Ann said the lawyers Bender trustee Juan de Dios Alvarez hired for her should have used John’s messages in her defense. They wouldn’t comment on strategy.

“They never manifested that I was innocent,” said Ann.

“So their position was, ‘Oh yeah…she did do this,” Spencer noted.

“By not doing anything … they were making it inevitable that I would be charged,” said Ann.

Nineteen months after John Bender died, Ann was officially charged with murder. Convinced the gems had been smuggled into the country, authorities later also charged her with possessing contraband.

She is sure it’s all just what Alvarez wanted. Why? To hide the fact, she claims, that he had siphoned money from the $70 million Bender trust.

“I’m the only person that can stop him … or bring scrutiny to what he’s done,” said Ann.

In July 2012, with murder charges hanging over her head, Ann took Alvarez to court for fraud. The suit claimed Alvarez used the Bender trust as his personal piggy bank, buying horses for his horse farm and paying his credit card bills. Authorities raided his office and confiscated 135 boxes of documents. The court then removed Alvarez as trustee.

“The investigation is still going today,” Alvarez told “48 Hours.” “Prosecutors haven’t interviewed me … At the end of the day, this investigation will go nowhere because the accusations are bogus.”

But whatever Juan Alvarez did or did not do, he did not shoot John Bender and prosecutors see Ann’s lawsuit as an attempt to distract them from their firm belief that she did.

“They just didn’t see how that gunshot could have been in that part of his head by suicide,” said Zeman.

Was this suicide, or an accident or murder?

The forensic evidence is so vital in this case, “48 Hours” brought in outside experts to Boracayan and asked them to take a look at it.

In the rarified world of forensic science, Selma and Richard Eikelenboom are internationally recognized experts. From the start, they say, some Costa Rican authorities had a preconceived idea that this was murder.

“The pathology report is very straight from the beginning, ‘This is a homicide… This is a homicide and let’s prove it’s a homicide,'” said Selma Eikelenboom.

“He does look like he’s sleeping,” Spencer noted.

“A lot of people who die with their eyes closed look like they’re sleeping and they might have been wide awake when it happened,” Selma replied.

“The prosecutor said, ‘If you’re going to shoot yourself … Everyone knows it’s here or it’s here or it’s here,” Spencer said, pointing to her mouth, under her chin and her temple.

“Well … that’s completely unscientific,” Selma replied. “If that’s an example of the logic they used in this case, then I’m really very worried…”

The Eikelenbooms cite other monumental mistakes: not immediately testing for gun powder residue, not fingerprinting the gun, not testing the sheets for blood spatter.

“What is the most vital thing that they missed?” Spencer asked.

“I think the trajectory … that you can place the shooter on the scene in relation to the victim,” said Selma.

trajectory.jpg

Forensic experts Selma and Richard Eikelenboom demonstrate how the trajectory — the path the bullet followed — was critical to understanding where the gun was when it was fired and who fired it.
48 HOURS

The Eikelenbooms told “48 Hours” the trajectory — the path the bullet followed — was critical to understanding where the gun was when it was fired and if Ann or John fired it.

 

 

 

“Looking at this investigation, how would you grade it?” Spencer asked Richard Eikelenboom.

“Very poor,” he replied.

In January 2013, Ann Bender went on trial for murder before a three-judge panel. Costa Rica has no jury system. Prosecutors argued that the evidence from the body, the bullet casing, the entry wound, bloodstains and pillowcase all made it impossible that this was anything but murder.

“Once you see the forensic photographs of John lying on his back with his arms down and you see the blood trails … And you see the bullet hole in the back of his head. It’s hard not to at least stop and think wait … how could he have done that himself?” said Zeman.

Defense experts were just as insistent on their suicide theory. Ann’s psychiatrist, Dr. Carlos Lizano, testified about the Benders’ ongoing mental health struggles, describing a syndrome called folie à deux -- when two mentally ill people reinforce one another’s illness.

“She was out of her mind. And he was out of his mind,” Lizano explained.

“And it’s just getting worse and worse and worse?” Spencer asked.

“Yeah, yeah … there must’ve been a folie à deux going on for … three months before John’s death,” said Lizano.

In court, Paul Meyer, the Bender’s neighbor, put a different slant on it.

“What you have here is a genius who’s losing his mind,” he told “48 Hours.” “And I think, in a moment of sanity really, he took his life so that he didn’t start killing the people he loved around him.”

After a week-long trial, the judges decided they could not rule out suicide. Ann Bender was acquitted of murder … but not for long.

SEARCHING FOR THE TRUTH

After her acquittal on murder charges, Ann Bender hoped for a new start. She got an apartment in the capital, San Jose and began dating her now-boyfriend Greg Fischer. When the trust stopped paying her bills, friends and family helped.

Ann said not once did she even consider leaving Costa Rica. “That was the last thing I was thinking about…”

Perhaps it should have been the first, because the prosecution decided to charge Ann Bender with John Bender’s murder a second time.

“She has never not done what this court system has asked her to do. Never not done what this government has asked her to do,” Fischer told “48 Hours.”

“I know what I have to do… I’m telling the truth. I have all the confidence in the world that things will turn out the way they’re supposed to be,” Ann told “48 Hours.”

It may seem odd to Americans, but in Costa Rica there’s no double jeopardy rule. So if a prosecutor doesn’t like a verdict, he can appeal. And if he wins, can try the defendant all over again with the same charges with the same evidence and the same witnesses.

A new panel of judges will hear the case.

And prosecutors began by telling them John was sleeping when Ann decided to take his life.

Ann’s attorney, Fabio Oconitrillo, told the court there’s just no motive here.

“In all homicides there’s a reason. In this case there is no reason,” he told “48 Hours.”

And in a risky move, Oconitrillo decided there’s nobody better able to make that point than Ann Bender herself.

Costa Rican law allows her to speak whenever she wants — for as long as she wants — without facing any questions.

“I was so happy here when we moved here,” she tearfully told the court.

Ann stayed on the stand all day. “John and I used to talk about how we felt we were destined to meet,” she continued.

She described the dream she and John shared, the jobs the preserve would create … the species it would protect…the fight they had waged to keep it all alive and the accident that ended their dream forever.

“He was talking about suicide every day for at least four weeks,” Ann continued in court. “It was an issue of getting through every day.”

“You seem to be saying that there was no way to prevent him from attempting suicide” Spencer noted to Ann.

“I tried my hardest,” she replied.

“I’m not saying no way for you – there was no avenue open, period. This was destined to be,” Spencer said.

“No,” Ann said. “He wanted to die.”

“That evening I had no indication of what was going to happen,” Ann told the court. “…after the shot, I don’t remember exactly what happened.”

Security guard Oswaldo Aguilar described the scene, but he also raises questions about one of the prosecutor’s key assumptions.

“The main point of the evidence for the prosecution was John was left-handed. The bullet wound is behind the right side of his head. You’re lying in bed. How does a suicidal man possibly end up shooting himself like this,” said Ned Zeman.

Aguilar told the court Bender may have been a lefty, but he always carried his gun on the right side. For Zeman, the possibility that John was ambidexterous is an eye opener.

“So it’s conceivable that he could have done this,” Zeman demonstrated, pointing behind his right ear with his right hand.

But testifying for the prosecution, Forensic Pathologist Gretchen Flores doesn’t care if John Bender was right or left-handed. She insists suicide is inconceivable. She said another person would have to fire the weapon.

Her conclusion from the blood evidence and the position of the body: John Bender never saw the shot coming.

At Boracayan, independent forensics experts Richard and Selma Eikelenboom tested that idea — that John’s body never moved.

“It would explain the blood we found over here… but doesn’t explain the blood over there,” said Richard Eikelenboom, pointing to different areas of the bed.

In their view, it had to have moved for the blood to have pooled as it did on both sides of his body.

“So his head was completely different ,” Richard said. “This was the position of his head when he was shot,” turning the mannequin head face down. “The blood pattern analysis supports the hypothesis that there was some sort of fight,” said Selma.

Back in court, Ann tearfully testified: “I lunged forward towards him with my hands. I fell towards the center of the bed … and the gun went off.”

But in an interview with “48 Hours,” Selma Eikelenboom said, “The hypothesis that he was shot in the position he was found is not supported by this evidence.

Also unlikely, the Eikelenbooms say, is the prosecutor’s theory that Ann shot her husband from behind the bed.

“This trajectory is not very likely,” said Selma.

And they showed “48 Hours” why they think the odd location of the spent cartridge — such damning proof according to the prosecution — really proves nothing at all.

“The casing can end up in that position if the gun is twisted far enough around?” Spencer asked.

“Correct,” Richard said. “And what we see very often on crime scenes is that somebody kicks a shell casing and then, of course, it ends up, you don’t know. You cannot relate it to the crime.”

Even John Bender’s own parents told “48 Hours” they think there was no crime. They weren’t at the trial, but Ann’s supporters and her brother, Ken Patton, make the point for them in court.

“There is no chance she murdered her husband,” Patton testified.

“If I thought Ann had anything to do with this, in any way, shape or form, I wouldn’t be here,” friend John Delisi told the court.

Whose version is the truth? For Ned Zeman it’s far from clear.

“So you can see a scenario … where it’s an accident … or it’s suicide … and where it might be murder?” Spencer asked Zeman. “You can see all of these?”

“Yes,” he replied. “Yes, I absolutely can and I think anybody who sat in that courtroom would probably say the same thing except for maybe Ann and her attorney, because any of those make sense.”

Perhaps concerned the judges also might find reasonable doubt, Prosecutor Edgar Ramirez played his trump card: a forensics expert named Donald Montero. The defense hired him for the first trial, but he never testified.

Ann’s lawyer furiously objects now that this witness is tainted. Why? Because of who paid his original fee, then-Bender trustee Juan de Dios Alvarez — the same man Ann claims could profit if she were convicted.

But Montero does testify, and it’s clear why the defense was worried.

“I can’t imagine a suicidal person shooting themselves like this,” he said. “I rule out a suicide.”

In his closing, Prosecutor Ramirez insists this case is straightforward — Ann Bender shot her husband.

Defense attorney Oconotrillo pleads for reason, saying Ann is not an assassin.

Facing a possible 25 years in prison, Ann herself has the last word.

“I did not kill John…” she sobbed in the courtroom.

THE VERDICT

“I know what I remember. I know I did not bring that gun to bed. I did not shoot my husband,” Ann Bender told “48 Hours.”

After four years and two trials, there’s perhaps no way Ann can prepare herself for the verdict: guilty of murder.

Her friends and family sit stunned. Ann was sentenced immediately to 22 years in prison and led away.

“It’s like a ton of bricks…so it’s tough…my worst fears came true,” said neighbor Paul Meyer.

Ann’s boyfriend, Greg Fischer, is frantic about her fragile health.

“I don’t think she is gonna live,” he said. “I don’t think she’s gonna survive.”

In fact, no sooner than she is behind closed doors, Ann reportedly faints. She was rushed to the hospital where she spends 10 days on suicide watch.

“The hardest thing for us right now is just to focus on getting her stabilized because I think this verdict is so unexpected, so harsh,” said the Benders’ friend, Pete Delisi.

“To me, this wreaks of corruption,” said Fischer.

Juan de Dios Alvarez, the man Ann considers her archenemy, has an entirely different view. Though he insisted he has no ax to grind and no financial interest, he thinks this time the court got it right.

“… based on what the tribunal found,” he said, “she killed him.”

Alvarez continues to insist that when he was trustee he always acted in Ann’s best interest. “We paid for Ann’s hospitalization,” he said, “for doctors, lawyers, trips for her parents.” After removing Alvarez as trustee in 2013, the Costa Rican authorities continued their investigation, and it is still under way.

The Eikelenboom’s forensic review did turn up disquieting questions about Ann’s story. For someone lying next to a person who shot himself as she claimed, she had very little blood on her. And the tear on that pillowcase looked a lot like the one Richard Eikelenboom made in his experiment firing a gun across a pillow from close range.

“Does this confirm or dispute Ann’s story?” Spencer asked.

“This could be against Ann’s story,” Richard replied.

They showed “48 Hours” how a struggle could have happened, how Ann’s efforts to get the gun could make it fire and how John’s body then might have moved.

“Looking at the facts we have here, the scenario of the prosecution is wrong,” said Richard.

“I’m pretty convinced that it was an accident,” said Selma.

“I tend also to more that it’s an accident than this was a homicide,” said Richard.

It’s no comfort to Ann Bender, who is now protesting her innocence from prison.

“I’m still surviving and I refuse to give up. This won’t be what pushes me over the edge,” she told Spencer.

“She’s a fighter,” said her brother, Ken Patton. “My sister’s not gonna give up. …And I’m behind her every step of the way.”

Ann is appealing the verdict. Her lawyer is working pro bono. She said the Bender fortune is in limbo — the new trustee isn’t paying her bills nor is he releasing any money for the nature preserve.

“What matters at the end of the day is what John wanted being allowed to happen,” she said.

A few devoted staff are working without pay to keep the jungle from engulfing Boracayan. Once the site of dreams, the home is now a silent witness to whatever really happened the night John Bender died.

The Bender gems, worth an estimated $20 million, were confiscated by the Costa Rican authorities.

Scientists discover new poison dart frog species in Donoso, Panama

Scientists discover new poison dart frog species in Donoso, Panama

Poison Dart Frog

A bright orange poison dart frog with a unique call was discovered in Donoso, Panama, and described by researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí in Panama, and the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia. In the species description published this week in Zootaxa, it was named Andinobates geminisae for Geminis Vargas, “the beloved wife of [coauthor] Marcos Ponce, for her unconditional support of his studies of Panamanian herpetology.”

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-09-scientists-poison-dart-frog-species.html#jCp

Every new species name is based on a representative specimen. The specimen for this species was collected Feb. 21, 2011, in the headwaters of the Rio Caño, in the district of Donoso, Colón Province, Panama, by Samuel Valdés, who was then the MWH Global Inc. environment office director, and his field assistant, Carlos de la Cruz. Additional specimens were collected between the Rio Coclé del Norte and the Rio Belen by biologists Marcos Ponce and Abel Batista, then a student at the Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí. The specimens were deposited in the Museo de Vertebrados at the University of Panama, the Museo Herpetólogico de Chiriquí at the Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí and in the Círculo Herpetólogico de Panamá.

“Abel Batista and Marcos Ponce were the first to note the presence of this species,” said Cesar Jaramillo, Smithsonian herpetologist. “They’ve known it was there for several years. However, they were not sure if it was only a variety of another poison dart frog species, Oophaga pumilio, which exhibits tremendous color variation. Based on morphological characteristics of the adult and the tadpole, I thought it might be a new species of Andinobates.”

Andrew Crawford, professor at Universidad de Los Andes and former STRI postdoctoral fellow, sequenced the DNA, confirming that this was a new species of Andinobates. Genetic information about this species is available in the Barcode of Life Data System and in GenBank. A recording of the call is available at AmphibiaWeb.org.

Because this new frog species appears to be found in only a very small area, habitat loss and collecting for the pet trade are major threats to its existence. The authors recommend the formulation of special conservation plans to guarantee its survival. A. geminisae is included in the captive breeding program of the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation project, a consortium of six zoos and research institutions dedicated to saving amphibians from the chytrid fungal disease, which is decimating amphibians worldwide, and habitat loss.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-09-scientists-poison-dart-frog-species.html#jCp

Panama Canal to get new upgrade within 25 years: official

Panama Canal to get new upgrade within 25 years: official

AFP

The Miraflores locks western gate during maintenance work on August 29, 2014 in Panama City
The Miraflores locks western gate during maintenance work on August 29, 2014 in Panama City (AFP Photo/Ed Grimaldo)

Colon (Panama) (AFP) – The Panama Canal, which is in the midst of a massive expansion, will likely get a new upgrade within 25 years to meet increasing capacity demands, its administrator said Tuesday.

The canal, one of the greatest feats of 20th-century engineering, celebrated 100 years of operations last month, but is facing increasing competition from the larger Suez Canal in Egypt and the threat of a massive new Chinese-built canal being planned in Nicaragua.

The current $5.3-billion expansion, which will add a third set of locks to the canal, is running a year behind schedule after getting bogged down in a dispute between the government and builders over $1.6 billion in cost overruns.

Administrator Jorge Quijano indicated a new expansion would be needed soon.

“In 25 years I’m sure the fourth set of locks will be built,” he told journalists at a ceremony to bury a time capsule with objects related to the current expansion project, to be dug up in 25 years’ time.

But he declined to discuss exactly when a new upgrade would be needed or how much demand was expected to grow.

The new upgrade will enable the canal to handle ships carrying up to 14,000 containers, triple the current capacity.

It is now expected to open in 2016.

Quijano said the upgrade would enable Panama, which depends on the canal for $1 billion a year in revenue, to win back global shipping companies that have opted for the Suez in recent years.

“We are confident that the new fees we’ll be publishing, possibly for the end of this year or early next, will have the necessary incentives to enable us to get back those clients,” he said.

Panama Economy 8.4 percent foe 2013

Panama Economy 8.4 percent foe 2013

Related Video:

Panama Canal to get new upgrade within 25 years: official

 

Panama leads the world in well-being; U.S. fails to crack top 10

Panama leads the world in well-being; U.S. fails to crack top 10

By Jennifer Karmon

Despite financial challenges, Panama scores top in the world for four out of five measures of well-being. Click a photo for a slideshow of the top 10 nations. (Photo: Rita Willaert, Flickr)

Despite financial challenges, Panama scores top in the world for four out of five measures of well-being. Click …

For years now, Gallup and partner Healthways have been ranking U.S. states’ well-being. (See the 2014 best-off states here, and the worst-off states here, or watch the video at the bottom of this post.) Now they’ve added the rest of the world to the mix.

It’s part of a widespread and apparently accelerating trend toward weighing elements like happiness — not just traditional money-based quantifiers like gross domestic product — in evaluating the relative condition of populations. The Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index conducted 133,000 surveys in 135 countries on five criteria. Each of those five elements is defined by two statements that respondents are asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 5, strongly disagree to strongly agree:

Purpose

• “You like what you do every day.”
• “You learn or do something interesting every day.”

Social

• “Someone in your life always encourages you to be healthy.”
• “Your friends and family give you positive energy every day.”

Financial

• “You have enough money to do everything you want to do.”
• “In the last seven days, you have worried about money.” (This was a negative indicator.)

Community

• “The city or area where you live is a perfect place for you.”
• “In the last 12 months, you have received recognition for helping to improve the city or area where you live.”

Physical

• “In the last seven days, you have felt active and productive every day.”
• “Your physical health is near-perfect.”

Gallup and Healthways then determined whether a population was “thriving,” “struggling” or suffering” in each element — that is, strong and consistent in well-being for a given element, moderate and inconsistent, or low and inconsistent. (Click here for a PDF of the full 124-page report, including details on the methodology.)

The index ranked nations by the proportion of their populations that were seen as thriving in at least three elements.

Perhaps its biggest surprise: The United States is not among the top 10 countries. Only 33 percent of its population is thriving in at least three elements of well-being, a showing that Gallup and Healthways deems “good but not great.” While the elements of purpose and social well-being are strengths — “consistent with Gallup’s finding that the U.S. has one of the most engaged workforces in the world” — in other areas, “the U.S. does not stand out,” the report says. Financial well-being is “arguably the biggest area of challenge” for the U.S., because “too many American adults are struggling to live within their means.”

Another surprise of the Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index is the fact that Latin America has six nations in the top 10 — including Panama at No. 1. And it has none in the bottom 10.

Europe has three countries in the top 10. The Middle East, Asia and Africa have none.

Click here or on an image to see the 10 top-ranked countries for well-being.

Here’s a Wall Street Journal video report from earlier this year, on the top- and bottom-ranked U.S. states:

41328_1587390929319_1372187264_1589657_6793620_n - Copy

Info on legal foreign residency in selected countries

“Moose’s Corner” – Info on legal foreign residency in selected countries for single men looking for women. 

September 09,2014 12:53 PM By Moose

Belize
Minimum monthly income requirement: US$2,000
Additional income requirement for each dependent: US$750
Minimum age to qualify: 45
Value of personal goods you can bring with you duty-free: No stated maximum; used goods only
Can you import a car duty-free: Yes, but you pay 12.5% sales tax
Minimum time required in the country every year: 30 days
Special discounts: No
Colombia
Minimum monthly income requirement: Three times the monthly minimum wage; currently US$1,035
Additional income requirement for each dependent: None
Minimum age to qualify: 18
Value of personal goods you can bring with you duty-free: No stated maximum; used goods only
Can you import a car duty-free: No
Minimum time required in the country every year: Must visit at least every six months
Special discounts: No
Ecuador
Minimum monthly income requirement: US$800
Additional income requirement for each dependent: US$100
Minimum age to qualify: 18
Value of personal goods you can bring with you duty-free: No stated maximum; used goods only
Can you import a car duty-free: Vehicle tax is discounted
Minimum time required in the country every year: Can’t leave for more than 90 consecutive days in the first two years of pensionado residency
Special discounts: Yes
Malaysia
Minimum monthly income requirement: 10,000 ringgits (currently US$3,125) plus other minimum investment in a local CD
Additional income requirement for each dependent: None for unmarried children under 21
Minimum age to qualify: Over-50s have lower investment requirement
Value of personal goods you can bring with you duty-free: No stated maximum; used goods only
Can you import a car duty-free: Yes
Minimum time required in the country every year: None
Special discounts: No
Nicaragua
Minimum monthly income requirement: US$600
Additional income requirement for each dependent: US$150
Minimum age to qualify: 45
Value of personal goods you can bring with you duty-free: Up to US$20,000; used goods only
Can you import a car duty-free: Yes (value up to US$25,000; if you sell the vehicle after five years, you pay no sales tax)
Minimum time required in the country every year: Six months
Special discounts: Yes
Panama
Minimum monthly income requirement: US$1,000
Additional income requirement for each dependent: US$250
Minimum age to qualify: 18
Value of personal goods you can bring with you duty-free: No stated maximum; used goods only
Can you import a car duty-free: Yes, but you still pay 7% sales tax
Minimum time required in the country every year: Must make at least one visit every two years
Special discounts: YesPhilippines

Minimum monthly income requirement: US$800 plus a deposit or investment of US$10,000 or more, depending on age, pension status, and number of dependents
Additional income requirement for each dependent: US$200
Minimum age to qualify: 50
Value of personal goods you can bring with you duty-free: No stated maximum; used goods only
Can you import a car duty-free: No
Minimum time required in the country every year: No requirement
Special discounts: No

 

Thailand

Minimum monthly income requirement: 65,000 Thai baht (currently US$2,100)
Additional income requirement for each dependent: None
Minimum age to qualify: 50
Value of personal goods you can bring with you duty-free: None
Can you import a car duty-free: No
Minimum time required in the country every year: No requirement
Special discounts: No

____________________________________________________________

Panama Canal Expansion Dredges Up Historical Treasures

Panama City (AFP) – Panama Canal expansion work has uncovered an unexpected trove of archaeological and paleontological treasures, scientists said, as the massive construction project winds down.

By María Isabel Sanchez AFP

Workers who have blasted through mountains and dug up thick vegetation, have also uncovered the fossils of some 3,000 invertebrates and 500 vertebrates, as well as of more than 250 plants — including the remains of a forest consumed by fire after a volcanic eruption.
The Panama Canal

Experts hired by the Panama Canal Authority have identified remains of camels, crocodiles, the teeth of a giant shark, as well as bones of other animals millions of years old. But the most surprising discovery, researchers said, was about the age of the very land beneath Panama, the southern end of the narrow isthmus that connects North and South America. Evidence uncovered during the canal excavation showed that the land started forming 20 million years ago and finished around 10 million years later. Cruise ships in transit by Miraflores Locks. Panama Canal “What we learned at school was that it formed three million years ago,” said paleontology specialist Hortensia Broce of the Panama Canal Authority. “But we have found organisms from other epochs, which show that the isthmus emerged little by little as the waters receded, and the formation occurred much earlier than we thought,” she said. Research will continue to study climate changes and the origins of the animals that migrated across the land bridge from one America to the other, said Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Carlos Jaramillo, who called the new discoveries “a revolution.”

Dredging work in Lake Gatun and the excavation of tons of earth also uncovered fragments from hundreds of years of human habitations — from pre-Colombian through colonial and provincial times, through independence, which began in 1903.

panama jacks girlfriend panama CanalTamara with Chinese Husband at Panama Canal

Artifacts include pottery shards, arrowheads and items buried during a pre-Colombian funeral. Also found was a dagger from the 16th century, a chimney from 1908, and a collection of bottles, wagons and buckets used to mix cement during the canal’s first wave of construction.

The canal, an engineering masterwork that transformed global commerce, opened on August 15, 1914, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and saving ships the long, dangerous trip around South America.

For the past seven years, Panama has been working to add a third set of locks to the canal, to nearly triple its capacity.

The expansion was initially scheduled to finish this year, in time for the anniversary, but has now been pushed back to January 2016.

Panama Canal Live Web Cam 1Panama Canal Live Web Cam

Costa Rica decided to make a business of the foreign retiree

Costa Rica decided to make a business of the foreign retiree

By Moose Wednesday August 27 2014

Tamara Maria Rosa Dondi Calvo

“About three decades ago, Costa Rica decided to make a business of the foreign retiree. The Costa Ricans invested in a formal and successful advertising campaign, targeting Americans primarily. Tens of thousands of would-be retirees from the States took up the invitation and relocated to this beautiful land of hills and rain forests.

The benefits Costa Rica offered retirees who became resident were terrific, including the original pensionado program against which others were measured for decades. In addition, way back when Costa Rica made a name for itself as a top retirement choice, the cost of everything from groceries and eating out to prime coastal property was super cheap. Fast forward a couple of decades, and, thanks to investors and speculators, Costa Rica wasn’t so cheap anymore, neither its cost of living nor its beachfront real estate. And, while prices had risen dramatically, the infrastructure hadn’t kept pace. Retirees were happy to overlook falling bridges and unpaved roads when prices were low. Harder to rationalize putting up with failing infrastructure in the face of appreciating costs.

Worse, after working so hard to woo American and European retirees, Costa Rica seemed to change its mind. The Costa Ricans didn’t eliminate their famous pensionado program; they simply eliminated most of the tax breaks it had promised, as part of a deficit-reduction austerity package. And they didn’t grandfather in existing pensionados. So those who’d chosen Costa Rica for the retiree benefits it offered were surprised and disappointed to find that those benefits existed no more. Now the Costa Rican government is considering a further pensionado program adjustment. They’re talking about increasing, maybe substantially, the minimum monthly income requirement to qualify. And, again, if the change is made, existing pensioandos won’t be grandfathered in. To renew your status, you’d have to qualify under the new requirements.”

The Best Beach in Panama

The Best Beach in Panama
Date: Tues, 26 Aug 2014 12:27:42 -0600

By Jenny Porter  jenporter14@hotmail.com

Best Beach in Panama by Jenny Porter

 

The Best Beach in Panama – a Latin America Scouting Report
A long stretch of white-sand beach, blue ocean tempting you in for a refreshing dip. Afterward, an afternoon spent idling in a hammock with a good book…followed by a barbecue of fresh locally-caught fish or shrimp, and a cold beer.
A perfect day on Panama’s best beach–that I almost never got to enjoy.
I pass the turnoff for this beach, called Punta Chame, all the time, while I head out to Panama’s Pacific beach and interior to scout property. I’ve asked friends and business contacts in Panama about this peninsula, and I’m always told that there’s nothing going on at Punta Chame, no point in me taking a look.
One friend mentioned that he spent his weekends there, surfing and kicking back, in a property owned for many years by his family…but that I probably wouldn’t enjoy the beach.
I later discovered that this friend was hoping his quiet weekends spent in an undisturbed piece of Eden would last a little bit longer, if I did not get to see it…and write to you about it. So, to him, I must apologize for what I’m about to reveal.
Punta Chame is almost a secret place, known and loved as Panama’s best beach by a select few, who jealously guard it and keep it to themselves. Here’s how to find it.
It’s easy to reach on the Pan-American Highway. Fifty minutes driving from Panama City brings you to a turnoff. From here you pass through wooded, hilly terrain that gradually makes way for mangroves, coconut palms, and small lagoons…and 22 miles of beach, wrapped around the punta, or point.
Even the Taxi Drivers Don’t Know About the Best Beach in Panama
It is an area that our Panamanian taxi driver, Elias, had not heard of. He knew the rough location, and that there was a beach, but that was all. The first thing Elias did when he saw the beach at Punta Chame was to figure out how he could get out of work that weekend so he could come back; the second thing he did was to take photos–lots of photos–to show his friends. Panamanian born and bred, they also couldn’t believe that there was such a gorgeous beach so close to the city.
The first section of the road has been re-paved, and the remainder is being done, scheduled for completion next year. We crawled along this unpaved section in a low-slung saloon, while Elias tried to navigate the potholes (and some parts had more holes than road), wondering what we were letting ourselves in for, rattled, shaken, and uncomfortable.
But it is this terrible road that makes Punta Chame most interesting to me. It’s stopping lots of people (and potential beach home buyers) from seeing what an amazing beach this is for now…but that’s only short-term, as the roadworks are already underway.
And it just takes one look at the beach to forget the bumpy road. If you don’t want to stretch out and relax like I did, you could go kite-surfing, fishing, and wind-sailing. This is not the place for you if you favor nightclubs and partying. You would have to travel back to Panama City or farther down the coast to the big all-inclusive resorts for that. This is somewhere to relax, spend time with your family and friends, and forget the worries and strains of everyday life…to discover the joy of stepping back a pace, and savoring life.
Why the Best Beach in Panama Hasn’t Been Developed–Yet
Punta Chame was originally owned by a wealthy Panamanian family who were uninterested in opening it up for development. Comparisons with Coronado, the closest major beach development, are interesting. Coronado, too, was owned by a wealthy Panamanian family…who decided more than 50 years ago that the way forward was selling land parcels to both individuals and developers. As a result, Coronado is now equipped with a hotel, restaurants, medical facilities, a golf course, an equestrian center, and a mini-mall that includes a large supermarket, along with hundreds of homes (a melting-pot mix of condo towers, tiny local-style homes, and mega-mansions).
Punta Chame, on the other hand, did not start to sell land parcels until five years ago. That fact, combined with the appalling access road, has kept development under the radar here…so far. Plans are afoot for a high-end marina development, and a yacht club, with a major residential component announced this year. Larger tracts of land on the peninsula were bought by owners and operators of hotels elsewhere in Panama. Combined with the road being paved, it all spells one thing: more development, which will push prices up–and Punta Chame no longer being a secret known only to a few!

Panama Economy Growth 8.4 percent for 2013 Largest in the World

Panama Economy 8.4 percent foe 2013

Panama Economy 8.4 percent for 2013

Panama City (AFP) – Panama’s economy will grow by as much as seven percent this year, thanks in large part to revenue from its signature inter-oceanic canal, officials said Monday. The Central American nation’s coffers get an injection of about $1 billion every year from the canal, according to the Economy Ministry, which said that the revenue helps buoy the local economy.

Officials said they expect growth of between 6.5 percent and seven percent for 2014. Foreign investors also have been betting on Panama and its canal, investing $15 billion over the past five years alone, the ministry said. The small nation — population 3.8 million — chalked up 8.4 percent growth in 2013. Completing the widening of the waterway — a massive project which is a year behind schedule and has been mired in controversy — tops new President Juan Carlos Varela’s agenda.

The vast construction project was to have been completed this year, but delays and cost overruns have pushed back the schedule to early 2016. The 80-kilometer (50-mile) long canal was completed by US interests in 1914 to provide a much shorter, safer route between the Atlantic and Pacific.

Work to expand it was interrupted earlier this year over a dispute about who would pay for an estimated $1.6 billion in cost overruns. And Monday, workers walked out at one part of the widening work, seeking a raise, a union leader said. Construction workers’ union chief Abelardo Herrera said no progress had been made yet in negotiations. Stakes are high for the project, with five percent of the world’s maritime trade already passing through the canal. The expanded waterway will be able to process 12,000 container ships in its first year of use, triple the current capacity. The IMF is forecasting an average growth of 2.5 percent for Latin America and the Caribbean this year. Panama City

Republic of Panama Whale Watching Report 2014

The 2014 report July-October Humpback whale watching season has started off with some amazing, up close encounters with the whales. Beny Wilson, one of our very experienced guides said this about a recent tour: “I’ve been guiding whale watching tours for 4 seasons, but today’s show was beyond my memories! 16 whales on the way to Contadora island. 12 on the way back to Panama. Lot’s of breaching (jumping), tail lobbing, spy hopping, pec (pectoral fin) slapping, belly ups, flukes up and all the ethological array that the humpback whales are known for. Best part was to hear them call so clearly!(With our new hydrophone)” Panama Whale Watching Day Tours 1 day tours from Panama city to the Pearl islands 1 day tours from Panama city to the Isla Taboga area 1 day tours from Isla Contadora Sunrise Wildlife tours (from Contadora) Sunset  with the Whales tours (from Contadora) Kayak with the Whales tours (from Contadora) 2-4 day custom package tours in the Pearl islands 5 day Whale and Dolphin Wisdom Retreats Responsible and Sustainable Whale Watching is very important to us. ● All of our guides are professional, bi-lingual and friendly Biologists who are happy to share their passion for the whales with your clients. ● Whale Watching Panama is the only and first dedicated Whale Watching company in Panama. ● We work with the International Whaling Commission to promote responsible and sustainable whale watching all over the world. ● We are proud Ambassador members of Planet Whale Responsible Whale Watch Partnership ● We have a 99% success rate in seeing whales in the Pearl islands. Contact us now to receive details and prices for all of our tours. Click Here

Panama Fresh Fish Market Report 2014

These market research reports offer an in-depth perspective on the actual market situation, trends and future outlook for fish products in Panama. The analyses provide essential market information for decision-makers including:

Panama seafood report 2014

– Overall market value for fish products in Panama
– Overall market volume for fish products in Panama
– Market value and volume for fish products by type (Crustaceans, Dried, salted and smoked fish products, Fish fillets and other fish meat, Frozen fish (whole), Molluscs, Prepared and preserved crustaceans and molluscs, Prepared and preserved fish products, Other fish products)
– Product prices
– Forecasts and future outlook of the market
– Country overview, macroeconomic indicators and indicators of doing business

seafood panama 2014 repor

These market analyses answer to questions such as:

– What is the size of the fish products market in Panama?
– How is the market divided into different types of products? Which products are growing fast?
– How the market has been developing? How does the future look like?

panama fresh fish market
– What is the potential for the market?
– How the indicators of doing business look like? For example, how easily the contracts are being enforced, or what is the inflation rate and how is it developing?

World Retirement In Central America, Why Panama is Doing Better than Costa Rica

Retirement In Central America, Why Panama is Doing Better than Costa Rica

By Garland Baker and News of the World by Panama Jack in Costa Rica

Is Costa Rica moving forward or backward for expats? Is the country killing the golden goose? Is it too late to turn things around for foreigners? Are taxes and the red tape getting to be too much for expats to live here?

Tico's Begging for money downtown San Jose Costa Rica

Tico’s Begging for money downtown San Jose Costa Rica

Even Ticos are tired. That is one reason the new president, Luis Guillermo Solís, received so many votes. The country was trying to send a message to the current powers to reflect their discontent. Does the new man have what it takes to turn things around or will he be inheriting such a mess he will be doomed to failure? One thing for sure, he will have to deal with Costa Rica’s out-of-control national debt and dwindling internationals interest in the country.

Ten years ago, the government started talking about taxing people more and more. Over that time, they have put new computers in place and hired additional personnel to do so. They have added a luxury tax, a tax on companies, and a land-travel exit tax to name a few.

Costa Ricans must shop at outside markets, where they can but produce for 1/3 the cost of a village market of Super Market like Wallmart

Costa Ricans must shop at outside markets, where they can but produce for 1/3 the cost of a village market of Super Market like Walmart I know that is where I shop every Saturday Morning.

On the new president’s agenda, there is a list of new tax proposals to raise more money for the country:

1.) Widening sales taxes to include services;

2.) Increasing sales taxes from 13 to 15 percent;

3.) Making a new scale to include more people who earn service fees;

4.) Capital gains taxes;

5.) Tax on world income; and the list goes on and on.

Last week the municipality of San José notified bar owners they would have to pay an additional assessment of 400,000 colons (about $740) per quarter to stay in business for bars over 60 square meters. For those under 60 they will have to pay 200,000.

Surprises like these never cease. And, they probably will not, because the country keeps on spending more and more like money is going out of style.

Where is Costa Rica in its development life cycle common to tourist destinations? The phases to the cycle are exploration, involvement, development, consolidation, stagnation and, decline and/or rejuvenation. Where does this country lie in this model? Does the life cycle model even apply to Costa Rica anymore?

 

 

 

 

 

Panama City has stepped into the future and looks like first world class city.

Panama City has stepped into the future and looks like first world class city. hats the welcome mat out for world Retirement and has doubled their visa stays to 180 days where as Costa Ricas are 90 and they can waite to kick tourist out if they stay any longer

 

Panamá on the other hand is burning up the metrics. The country’s growth last year was an astonishing 7.0 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP in English and PIB in Spanish). Costa Rica’s was only 3.4 percent, near the bottom of the list for Central America and the Caribbean. Panamá also has reduced poverty 12.6 percent in the past six years.

Costa Rica has added thousands of police officers to protect the tourists from bandits after their turist econmy fell apart from over taxing goods coming into the county

Costa Rica has added thousands of police officers to protect the tourists from bandits after their tourist economy fell apart from over taxing goods coming into the county one time at the Four Seasons Resort they charged me $13.00 for a quart of water, that just says loud and clear Fuck You Gringo

What is the difference? Panamá is working at attracting investors and retired people while Costa Rica seems to be shooing them away. Years ago, Costa Rica had great benefits, too, before the Hacienda ministry started taking them away one benefit at a time, until there were none left. International Living ranked Panamá the best retirement destination in the world not once or even twice, but seven times in a row.

The World Bank is not forecasting a very rosy future for the country over the next few year either. Annual GDP growth is projected to stagnate or decline while debt will continues to rise. This may change if the new administration is strong enough to do so.

For many years Costa Rican Familiies has chosen to sell their children into prostitution to make ends meet or to get ahead

For many years Costa Rican Families has chosen to sell their children into prostitution to make ends meet or to get ahead

There seems to be a fundamental difference in philosophies between Panamá and Costa Rica. Panamá seems to building itself up as a corporate inviting country as well as one for tourists and retired people. Costa Rica on the other hand does not seem to doing much to keep the latter.

Panamá invites retired residents who can show an income of $1,000 a month. Costa Rica requires much more and takes years in some cases to process the file.

Baby boomers retiring from the work force are looking outside the United States for a welcome place to hang their hats. What message is Costa Rica sending to them? Over the past five years expats who once where very happy in this country have sold cheap and left. One woman who had a beautiful house in Nosara sold it for one-third its value. She said at the closing, “I came here to live and not to be hassled. Living in Costa Rica is not fun anymore. I am moving back to the United States because it seems easier than living here now.”

Costa Rica is a beautiful country, unique in the world. However, politicians must believe it is so unique retired people will live here regardless of what they do. Here is a wake up call. There are other very nice places in the world. They need to learn that squeezing every nickel out expats and Ticos alike is not a good economic policy.

The Panama Canal 3 big economic trends that will hit home soon

Joel Naroff, founder and president of Naroff Economic Advisors, wants to change that. In his new book, Big Picture Economics, Naroff and his co-author Ron Scherer explain how faraway events that might seem arcane to ordinary Americans can end up having big consequences for them. More importantly, things can change in ways that require ordinary folks to change their thinking or behavior. “The standard view of things we may have had over 10 or 20 years may be different now,” Naroff tells me in the video above. “Every individual has to keep that in mind.”

Naroff sees three big changes taking place globally that could directly impact the U.S. job market and other facets of the domestic economy:

The expansion of the Panama Canal. The canal is being widened and deepened, to allow today’s huge cargo ships to pass through instead of taking the much longer route around the tip of South America. Once the work is completed in late 2015 or 2016, the expansion will significantly change the way goods are shipped to the United States and moved around once they’re here. There are already several big construction projects underway at ports along the U.S. East Coast as they prepare for a surge of new goods arriving. Naroff expects there will also be big changes at cargo distribution hubs in the Midwest. Will it create jobs? “I think it’s going to,” he says.

Panama Canal

Panama Canal

Related: China’s GDP slows: Time to panic?

Rising wages in China. “Ten or 15 years ago, it was a no-brainer to offshore manufacturing in China,” Naroff says. But the rapid growth of China’s economy has pushed wages there much closer to levels in the United States, erasing much of the cost advantage of producing in China. Other low-cost countries, such as Vietnam, Bangladesh and Cambodia, are getting some of that business, but some of it is returning to the United States, as well. That doesn’t mean the textile or furniture mills of the 1970s and ‘80s will return. Instead, new U.S. factories are likely to be high-tech and highly efficient, with jobs available for people trained in using the latest assembly-line machinery.

Related: Fracking has made the U.S. “the envy of the world”: Russell Gold

The proliferation of natural gas. It’s no secret than new “fracking” technology has helped open up vast U.S. reserves of oil and natural gas to drilling. But the consequences of this momentous shift in energy production are barely being felt yet. There’s obviously a boom in places like Minot, N.D., which sits atop the Bakken shale formation. What may be coming next, Naroff says, is a huge build-out of energy infrastructure to take advantage of the newfound energy. Eventually, we may see more cars powered by natural gas and other big changes that capitalize on cheaper, cleaner energy.

The Panama Can Tours

The Panama Can Tours

As the United States becomes more energy-independent, it could dramatically alter the entire geopolitical order. Less reliance on energy from turbulent regions such as the Middle East could reorder national security priorities. It could also give the United States more leverage over Russia, which is currently causing mischief in Ukraine that is unnerving much of Europe. Eventually this revolution will show up in your front yard, in one form or another. The big picture matters to the little guy.

Rick Newman’s latest book is Rebounders: How Winners Pivot From Setback To Success. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.