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Friday, June 24, 2016

Compromise GMO Labeling Bill Set to Kill Vermont Law

GMO labeling has been a hot topic of late, and in polls, 70% of American consumers favor knowing what is in the food they consume and feed their families.

On June 22nd, the Senate unveiled a bill which would, if passed, overrule  Vermont's recent law requiring food producers to clearly indicate whether or not the contents of their package contain genetically modified organisms (GMO's).

If you are not familiar, Vermont was the first State to successfully pass a bill that requires food containing genetically modified ingredients, to be disclosed clearly on the packaging. It goes into effect July 1st this year.

The new 'compromise' bill did not make it to the floor in time to be voted on before the lawmakers break for the fourth of July, so it will most likely be taken up promptly as soon as the senate is back in session.

You can count on the lobbyists to be out in full force when the senate returns.

If you are interested in voicing your approval or opposition to this new bill, you can do so at this site.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Draft legislation on tightening food checks agreed in EU

By Joe Whitworth+, 20-Jun-2016

Draft plans to tighten up official controls along the food chain have been informally agreed in Europe.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Panama Improves Most in Peace Study for 2016

Reduction in military spending deemed the most influential factor in higher rankings for most peaceful countries.

Every year, for the last ten years, The Institute for Economics and Peace, a non-profit and non-partisan organization, produces a peace report on 163 independent states and territories of the world.

From their website:

The Institute for Economics and Peace is the world’s leading think tank dedicated to developing metrics to analyze peace and to quantify its economic value. It does this by developing global and national indices, calculating the economic cost of violence, analyzing country level risk and understanding positive peace.

The 2016 GPI report provides a comprehensive update on the state of peace. It shows that amidst the global deterioration the world continues to spend enormous resources on creating and containing violence but very little on peace.

The report shows violence in 2015 cost a total of $13.6 trillion dollars, or roughly 13.3% of the world GDP.

Most of the cost increase was due to more violence and war activity, and over the last 10 years the average deterioration in peace measured 2.44%, with 77 countries improving and 85 deteriorating.

Battle deaths from conflict are at a 25 year high, and the number of refugees and displaced persons are at a level not seen in 60 years.

Central America and the Caribbean region improved the most, while the middle east, north Africa and Europe declined the most.

The U.S. dropped to 103rd on the scale, while Panama came in 49th most peaceful, showing the largest improvement in the region.

Folks, we're not going in the right direction here in the good ol' USA, and Europe doesn't seem to be doing much better.

If you are looking to secure a private spot for you and your family in the country that has a growing economy, and shown the biggest improvement in peace, give us a call or send us an email.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Panama Leads the World in Well-Being Survey...Again!

Country rankings from the Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index show that, for the second time since last year’s inaugural report, Panama has the highest overall well-being in the world. The new report* ranks 145 countries and areas based on the percentages of their residents that are thriving in three or more well-being elements.

In the study, people from all over the world were asked questions about five aspects of their well-being: their sense of purpose, social relationships, financial situations, community involvement and physical health. Based on their responses, participants were considered "thriving," "struggling" or "suffering" in each of those five aspects.

Panama, the home of the man-made canal, bustling Panama City and lush farmland, leads the world in well-being, with 53% of residents considered thriving in three or more of those elements. Costa Rica and Puerto Rico round out the top three as the only other countries or areas with at least 45% or more of their populations thriving. This is compared to a score of 30% in the United States and a world-wide average of 17% of people considered thriving in at least three of the five elements. 

Panama happiness chart

Click to Enlarge

Part of the reason for Panama's high ranking may be that people there, and in Latin America in general, tend to report experiencing positive emotions more often and negative emotions less, compared with people in other parts of the world, said Dan Witters, research director at Gallup-Healthways. 
Panama also had a growing economy in 2015, is relatively politically stable; additionally, city dwellers and tourists alike escape to the cool, refreshing mountains in the heart of Chiriqui Province, Panama's “breadbasket” where most of the country's food is grown as well as coffee and plantains—a national staple food. 

Best country to live in Panama
Click to Enlarge

For cultural reasons, there may be some differences among countries in how people interpret the questions asked in the Gallup survey, the researchers noted. However, Gallup takes a number of steps to reduce the effects of misinterpretation, including translating questions so that they are as close to the original meaning as possible, and conducting interviews face-to-face or over the phone, rather than using a paper survey, Witters said.

Well-being is an important measure to consider, because studies show that people with higher well-being are healthier, more productive and more resilient in the face of challenges, Gallup says. 
And, despite their recent bad press claiming that some people looking to reduce their taxes may have had hidden accounts there, the overwhelming consensus is that Panama has a very optimistic future ahead of her.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Documents Needed to Obtain Residency and How to Get Them

Easy, but not quick, steps to getting the proper documentation from the FBI and other officials.


Panama is now requiring a Federal FBI Identification Record for purposes of obtaining Residency in Panama. This criminal background check/criminal history record/rap sheet can no longer be just from the state in which you last resided. 

This Record is a listing of specific information taken from fingerprint submissions retained by the FBI in connection with arrests and, in some instances, federal employment, naturalization, or military service. If you have been arrested in other countries, those arrests may also show up if your fingerprints were taken.

To Request a Copy of Your FBI Record - Submit your request directly to the FBI.


To use the FBI Record in Panama, you must specifically request it be FBI-Certified it at the time of the request for the Record.  The FBI will return the document directly to you when completed, but it will not yet be Apostilled, or notarized for use as a legal document overseas.  The following note will accompany the record:

The FBI's CJIS Division has authenticated the enclosed U.S.Dept of Justice Order 556-73 finger print search results.... If you require an Apostille, you must submit this authenticated document to the U.S. Dept of State (DOS) for further action. 

You may contact the U.S. DOS at:

U.S. Department of State    518 23rd Street NW SA-1    Washington, D.C. 20520          Phone: (800) 333-4636

You will now need to forward the Record to the U.S. Department of State Authentications Office http://www.state.gov/m/a/auth/  which will place a formal Apostille on the document for use in Panama and return it to you.  This cannot be done at the US Embassy in Panama because they do not have access to the data files that would allow signature comparisons for this purpose.
If the FBI finds no record, you will receive a “no record” response. If you do have a criminal history record on file, you will receive your Identification Record or “rap sheet.”

For More Information - See the responses to some frequently asked questions.


Step 1: Complete the Applicant Information Form
  • If the request is for a couple, family, etc., all persons must sign the form. 
  • Include your complete mailing address. Please provide your telephone number and/or e-mail address, if available.
  • Make sure to check the Live, work, or travel in a foreign country box
Step 2: Obtain a set of your fingerprints.
  • If you already have a fingerprint card, it must not be older than 18 months to be accepted by the FBI
  • For new cards, provide the original fingerprint card. Previously processed cards or copies will not be accepted.
  • Your name and date of birth must be provided on the fingerprint card. Fingerprints should be placed on a standard fingerprint form (FD-258) http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/background-checks/standard-fingerprint-form-fd-258  commonly used for applicant or law enforcement purposes.
  • Include rolled impressions of all 10 fingerprints and impressions of all 10 fingerprints taken simultaneously (these are sometimes referred to as plain or flat impressions that include both thumbs).
If possible, have your fingerprints taken by a fingerprinting technician. This service may be available at a law enforcement agency.
Taking of fingerprints in Panama is provided by the DIJ (Dirección de Investigación Judicial), located in Ancon, in front of the “Mercado de Abastos”, telephone: 512-2222.

You will then have to take the fingerprint card to the Panamanian Ministry of Foreign Relations to authenticate or Apostille the document before sending it to FBI Headquarters so that they will accept it as your fingerprints.

The Ministry authenticates the signatures of all the ministries and official offices in Panama except the Ministry of Government and Justice (Including the Public Ministry - Attorney General, Fiscales, etc.) and the signatures of official public translators. They may be reached at 511-4045 or 511-4046 or at fax 511-4061.  The fee for the authentication is $2.00, and the hours of operation are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  They are located in the Sun Tower Plaza, Ave. Ricardo J. Alfaro, on the First Floor

Step 3: Submit payment.

Obtain a money order or cashier’s check for $18 U.S. dollars made payable to the Treasury of the United States. You may get these from your bank or ask your lawyer to obtain one for you as part of the application process for residency.  Please be sure to sign the cashier’s check or money order where it is required. 

In Panama, money orders will likely only be available at a bank where you have an account. We have heard that some banks are more receptive to opening accounts or providing services if you inform them that you are in the process of obtaining your residency.

You may also use the form I-786 Credit Card Payment Form downloadable from the FBI website to submit the payment.

Important note: Cash, personal checks, business checks, or credit cards WILL NOT be accepted for payment of the fees from outside the U.S.  Payment must be for the exact amount.
  • If the request is for a couple, family, etc., include $18 for each person.
  • If the request is for multiple copies per person, include $18 for each copy requested.
Step 4: Mail the required items listed above—signed applicant information form, fingerprint card, and payment of $18 U.S. dollars for each person or copy requested—to the following address:

FBI CJIS Division – Record Request1000 Custer Hollow RoadClarksburg, WV 26306

Note: Although the FBI employs the most efficient methods for processing these requests, processing times may take approximately five to six weeks depending on the volume of requests received.

Getting Your Documents Apostilled (Certified for International Use) 03/12/2013

Since October 15, 1981, the United States has been part of the 1961 Hague Convention abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents. The Convention provides for the simplified certification of public (including notarized) documents to be used in countries that have joined the convention. Panama has also been a member since 1991.

With a certification by Apostille, the document is entitled to legal recognition in the country of intended use, and no further certification by the U.S. Department of State Authentications Office or legalization by the embassy or consulate is required.  http://www.state.gov/m/a/auth/

Most documents can be obtained on-line from the agency or organization that provides them.   This is usually the Vital Records section in a State or County agency.

Documents requiring certifications with an Apostille by the U.S. Department of State are those that have been signed by a US federal official with the official Seal of that agency, The U.S. Department of State will not issue an Apostille for State Department - issued documents.

General Documents - For general documents such as Diplomas, Powers-of-Attorney, Agreements, Bylaws, Transcripts, Deeds of Assignment, Income Verification, and other business or legal documents, you must complete the following steps before submitting your request to the State Department.
  1. Have it acknowledged before a notary public;
  2. Have it certified by the clerk of court of the county in which the notary is commissioned
  3. Have it certified by the individual state Secretary of State or equivalent in which the document is executed.
Documents originating in the District of Columbia must be certified by the District’s Office of Notary Commissions and Authentications.

Note:  All seals and signatures must be originals and all dates must follow in chronological order. 

         Item 2 may be omitted if the authority in item 3 will certify directly to the notary.

All documents in a foreign language must be accompanied with a certified (notarized) English translation. If a copy of a document is used, it must include the statement that is a true and accurate copy.
State and Local Government Documents - For these documents and Court Records such as Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates, Divorce Decrees, Probate Wills, and Judgments, submit an original document that is:
  1. Certified by the custodian of those records (county clerks or state records offices)
  2. Certified by the Secretary of State of the State in which the documents are recorded. The Secretary of State should be requested to certify to the officials signing the document under the impressed Seal of the State.
Federal Agency and FBI Documents – For those documents executed by U.S. federal agencies and courts or District of Columbia courts, your document must have an original official signature and be Certified under the official seal of the agency or the Court. (Original Official Signature required)
Requesting Authentication Services (Apostilles) from the State Department
  1. Confirm that your document needs an authentication certificate or Apostille from the State Department. 
  2. Ensure that you have all the required certifications for your document(s).
  3. Prepare a self-addressed stamped envelope or other pre-addressed, pre-paid return mailer for your request.
The Authentications Office will mail documents directly to a foreign embassy or consulate if you provide a cover letter, the correct fee, and a pre-paid (or stamped), pre-addressed envelope. Please enclose an additional self-addressed stamped envelope for the embassy or consulate to return the document.  If you do not include a self-address stamped envelope we will return your authenticated documents back to you."

A PS Form 2976, Customs Declaration CN22 – Sender’s Declaration, must be used on all First-Class Mail International® package-size items (small packets), the Priority Mail International® Small Flat Rate Box, M-bags, and certain Express Mail International® items. Also use this form on a First-Class Mail International mail piece or the Priority Mail International Flat Rate Envelope.  Refer to the USPS International Mail Manual for more information.  You may also use Fedex or DHL to provide the mailing and return service.
  1. Complete form DS-4194 “Request for Authentications Service”Your input to the form creates a unique bar code containing the information needed to prepare individuals certificates and mailing labels. http://www.state.gov/m/a/auth/c53226.htm 
5.  Send a personal/company check or obtain a Bank money order or Cashier’s check for $8 U.S. dollars made payable to the U.S. Department of State for each document to be authenticated. Cash or credit cards WILL NOT be accepted for payment of the fees from outside the U.S.  Payment must be for the exact amount.

You may get them from your bank or ask your lawyer to obtain one for you as part of the application process for residency. Please be sure to sign the cashier’s check or money order where it is required. 

In Panama, money orders will likely only be available at a bank where you have an account. We have heard that some banks are more receptive to opening accounts or providing services if you inform them that you are in the process of obtaining your residency.

6. Submit request package to the Office of Authentications at the U.S. Department of State. Requests are accepted by mail, courier, or in person. The address is:

U.S. Department of State - Authentications Office         202-485-8000
600 19th Street, NW    Washington, DC  20006      www.state.gov/m/a/auth
The average processing time for mail-in requests is 10 business days from the date of receipt from the Department mailroom (different from the date of delivery for most tracked packages) to the date of return to the Department mailroom. Use of tracked mail delivery will expedite handling of your request by mailroom and may prevent damage to documents caused by irradiation of USPS regular mail.

Source: US State Dept