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Friday, August 22 2014 @ 05:50 AM EDT

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Frank Gehry Is Still the World's Worst Living Architect

Panama NewsBy GEOFF MANAUGH - While it's been widely known for at least a decade that Frank Gehry is the world's worst living architect, it's not entirely clear why some people—mostly very rich clients—haven't picked up on this yet. The utterly god awful and ridiculous Biomuseo in Panama, an eco-discovery center that cost at least $60 million and took a decade to construct, is only the most recent case in point.

Gehry long ago stopped pursuing any interesting material or tectonic experimentation—and he used to be an interesting architect!—to become the multi-billion dollar equivalent of a Salvador Dalì poster tacked to the wall in a stoned lacrosse player's dorm room, an isn't-it-trippy pile of pseudo-psychedelic bullshit that everyone but billionaire urban developers can see through right away. What's particularly frustrating about Gehry's career is that he's somehow meant to be cool, a kind of sci-fi architect for the Millennial generation, a Timothy Leary of CAD; but he's Guy Fieri, his buildings hair-gelled monsters of advanced spatial douchebaggery.

His work is badly constructed, ravey-balls hair metal, a C.C. DeVille guitar solo that cannot—will not—end until the billionaire clients who keep paying for this shit can be stopped. Worse, no matter how much diagrammatic handwaving someone like architectural theorist extraordinaire Peter Eisenman can do—and he can do an awful lot of it—to convince you that Gehry is, or was once long ago, on to something interesting, these buildings are not even compelling from a theoretical standpoint. So, yeah, he used software normally found in airplane design—great. That's awesome. I can imagine amazing things coming out of such an irreverent mixing of design tools.

But the results are just crumpled Reynold's Wrap on an otherwise white-bread interior, a boring, room-by-room grid surrounded by hair spray, like some lunatic version of Phyllis Diller blown up to the size of a city block and frozen mid-stroke.

Gehry has already built the worst new residential building in New York City of the past five years, and now he's on his way to ruin part of downtown Berlin with a faux-golden Accessorize trinket you'd expect to find in a 1980s roller rink in suburban Wisconsin. It's like a JWoww unsuspecting Germans can live in.

But it's no use. We're stuck with this guy for what feels like forever. It's like being forced to watch M. Night Shyamalan films when you were hoping for David Cronenberg, or being stuck in a room with Steve Vai when you thought you were listening to Andrés Segovia.

No doubt, in a city council out there even as I type this, some doe-eyed general manager is shaking up a can of crazy string and preparing to enfecalize an entire neighborhood near you with the pink slime of another Frank Gehry, a man for whom architecture is all McNuggets, all the time.

The tech world might have Moore's Law, but architecture has found its own unbreakable rule: year after year, Frank Gehry will always get worse.

Editor's Comment: Thank God. Someone who hates this new monstrosity as much as I do. I remember back when this thing was first unveiled. I think it was at an ExpoComer at the Atlapa. There was a booth set up, and a bunch of suits were standing around sipping glasses of champagne. A model (mock up) of the Biodiversity museum was there in the middle of them. Frank Gehry was standing there, and he asked me what I though of it. I told him (to his face) that the building they were proposing to build on Amador was the single ugliest building I had ever seen. I told him I thought it was totally and absolutely inappropriate for the space and the setting. And while it might be his idea of a wet dream, I hoped it would never be built. Jaws dropped all around. I bid them a good day, and left. So here we are now, ten years later. And there it is. It still sucks.

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Yankees, Marlins to bring Major League Baseball to Panama in two-game set on March 15-16

Panama NewsA two-game series between the New York Yankees and the Miami Marlins will mark the return of Major League Baseball to Panama for the first time since 1947, Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) announced today. The "Legend Series" will be played on March 15th-16th at Panama City's Rod Carew Stadium and will honor the legacy of newly retired Yankees great Mariano Rivera, the game's all-time saves leader.

Rivera will serve as one of the promoters of the event in his native country, along with Magic Dreams Productions and Patricia Lynch. The Legend Series will include charitable events away from the field, including a gala featuring representation of both teams on Friday, March 14th that will benefit the Mariano Rivera Foundation. Proceeds from the dinner will go to Children's Hospital in Panama City, the largest pediatric hospital in the country.

"It is only fitting that one of our game's greatest ambassadors, Mariano Rivera, could help us bring Major League Baseball back to his beloved Panama," said Paul Archey, Senior Vice President, International Business Operations for Major League Baseball. "We look forward to partnering with the Marlins and the Yankees to deliver a groundbreaking sporting event to the fans of Panama, particularly the young fans who looked up to Mariano during his historic career."

"We're delighted to be joining Mariano Rivera and the Commissioner's Office in bringing Major League Baseball to the baseball-loving fans of Panama," said MLBPA Chief of Business Affairs, Tim Slavin. "We anticipate a warm reception, and believe these games will help advance the growth and popularity of baseball in Panama and throughout Central America. In addition to the Yankees and Marlins players and their respective front office personnel, we extend our gratitude to all involved in making these games a reality."

"The Yankees recognize that the sport of Baseball truly belongs to the world," said New York Yankees President, Randy Levine. "It makes our organization proud to support Major League Baseball and the Players Association in spreading the excitement of the game in the international community. Visiting Panama, the homeland of the great Mariano Rivera, will be a privilege for all those involved in this historic endeavor."

"The Marlins are extremely pleased to be playing in Panama and we look forward to introducing our team to our neighbors in Central America," Marlins President David Samson said. "Teaming up with a baseball legend in his home country will be a great experience for our players and fans alike. The Marlins are excited to support MLB's and the MLBPA's continuous efforts to promote our great game internationally."

Rivera said: "As long as I can remember, it has been my dream to bring my team, the Yankees, to play baseball in Panama. I grew up playing in Puerto Caimito, where I developed my passion for baseball and began a journey that brought me to New York. It is my hope that this legacy series will inspire other young players to pursue their dreams. I am very grateful to Major League Baseball, the Players Association, the Yankees and the Marlins in making this dream become a reality."

The Marlins and the Yankees will stay at the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower Panama.

Donald J. Trump said: "Our hotel will deliver a first-class experience for the New York Yankees and the Miami Marlins during Major League Baseball's Legend Series. All of Panama stands behind the legendary Mariano Rivera, and we are honored to play a part in a sporting event that the people of Panama will remember forever."

The two-game set is part of the 2014 MLB Spring Training Schedule. Tickets for the Legend Series can be purchased at

The Legend Series will mark a new chapter in Major League Baseball's history in Panama. Members of the Yankees, under Hall of Fame manager Joe McCarthy, trained in Panama in February of 1946 and played against an all-star team from the Panamanian professional league before an estimated crowd of 10,000 fans on February 21st. In the spring of 1947, the Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers played several exhibition games in Panama during a trip that also included stops in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.

The Marlins-Yankees match-up is a renewal of the 2003 World Series. Both Clubs have participated in previous international events. Most recently, the Marlins squared off against the New York Mets in regular season games held at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2010. The team also traveled to Puerto Rico in 2003 and 2004 for regular season games against the Montreal Expos, who played a portion of their home schedule on the island. In addition, the Marlins played a pair of Spring Training exhibition games against the Houston Astros in Mexico City in 2004. The Yankees opened the 2004 Championship Season at the Tokyo Dome in Japan against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Overall, Panama will become the seventh country to host a contest between two Major League Clubs. MLB and the MLBPA have staged regular season contests in Mexico (1996, 1999), Japan (2000, 2004, 2008, 2012) and Puerto Rico (2001, 2003-2004, 2010) in addition to Spring Training matchups in the Dominican Republic (1999-2000), Mexico (1999-2004, 2008-2010), Venezuela (2000-2001) and China (2008).

There are currently four Panamanian players on 40-Man Major League rosters, including Atlanta catcher Christian Bethancourt; Arizona pitcher Randall Delgado; Philadelphia All-Star catcher Carlos Ruiz; and infielder Ruben Tejada of the New York Mets. Panama has produced 50 Major League players all-time, including Rivera; Hall of Famer Rod Carew, who was an 18-time All-Star and the winner of seven career batting titles; and Carlos Lee, a three-time All-Star who finished his 14-year Major League career with the Marlins in 2012.

Rod Carew Stadium, the most prominent baseball facility in Panama, opened in October 1999 and most recently played host to the Qualifier for the 2013 World Baseball Classic in November 2012. Team Brazil advanced to the 2013 World Baseball Classic after winning the Qualifier, which also featured the national teams of Colombia, Nicaragua and Panama.

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Berlusconi Senator buying trial gets underway

Panama News(ANSA) - Naples, February 11 - A trial into allegations ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi bribed former Senator Sergio De Gregorio to change political sides started in Naples on Tuesday.

Valter Lavitola, an associate of the ex-premier's, is also on trial for allegedly acting as a go-between.

Prosecutors have claimed Lavitola also tried to bribe other Senators who have not been identified.

Berlusconi is accused of paying De Gregorio a bribe of three million euros to leave the centre left and join the centre right, helping to undermine the 2006-2008 government of Romano Prodi.

De Gregorio has admitted not declaring to the tax authorities two millions euros he received and plea-bargained a 20-month sentence.

De Gregorio has not gone to jail because sentences under two years are automatically suspended.

Prodi's 2006-2008 government fell after losing the support of the Senate, leading to new elections that Berlusconi won.

Senate Speaker Piero Grasso announced last week that the Upper House would request to be made a civil plaintiff in a trial, prompting howls of protest from Berlusconi's Forza Italia party.

The case is only one of a series of legal woes for billionaire tycoon Berlusconi, the charismatic centre-right leader who was ejected from the Senate and last year after a definitive conviciton for tax fraud at his media group, his first binding conviction in 20 years of judicial battles.

The three-time premier is appealing two convictions by courts of first instance: one for paying for sex with an underage prostitute and abusing his office as premier to try to cover it up; and another for involvement in the publication of an illegal wiretap.

The Forza Italia leader says he has been targeted by politically motivated magistrates since he entered politics in 1994. (

Editor's Comment: Berlusconi and Lavitola were at the center of the Finmeccanica scandal in Panama, which would have involved millions of dollars in kickbacks for the current Panamanian government. Lucky for Martinelli, it all fell apart before it could get done, because Berlusconi's sex scandal broke in the Italian press, right at about the same time the suitcases of cash were supposed to have been delivered to Panama. This is the real reason Martinelli fired his former ally Juan Carlos Varela, who is currently the presidential candidate for the Panameñista party. Varela was the Foreign Minister at the time, and he is the one who put the whole Lavitola package together. When it blew up, Martinelli fired him.

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North Korean Vessel Chong Chon Gang Will Sail From Panama After Paying Fine

Panama NewsThe North Korean ship Chong Chong Gang, seized in Panama since July last year for carrying undeclared Cuban arms under a cargo of sugar, may depart immediately after those responsible for the vessel paid the fine imposed by the Panama Canal Authority for violating navigation rules of the waterway.

The ACP said in a press release issued today representatives responsible for the vessel Chong Chon Gang paid the $693,333 fine that hung over the ship.

"With the payment received, and in strict compliance with its processes, the ACP authorized the departure of the ship, so therefore its representatives can dispose of it immediately," said the statement.

The ACP specified that in the case of the North Korean vessel Chong Chon Gang, their only responsibility is for the infractions and offenses committed by this vessel against the rules of the Panama Canal, which are unrelated to any other possible faults that might have occurred outside the jurisdiction of the Panama Canal.

The Public Ministry of Panama reported on Wednesday that it will auction off the 10,000 tonnes of sugar used to conceal the undeclared Cuban arsenal.

The Government of Panama had held the North Korean vessel Chong Chon Gang since last July , when it was searched on suspicion of carrying drugs, but what was found was an arsenal of weapons that Cuba later acknowledged to be theirs.

The weapons, including missile platforms, two MIG-21 fighter jets, new motors for these aircraft, and other parts and ammunition were unloaded and taken to a hangar near Panama City.

The ship's 35 North Korean crewmen are still in Panama. Thirty two of them are waiting to be repatriated and the other three are facing charges including endangering the public safety, a crime that carries up to 12 years in prison.

The 32 sailors are still being held in a naval base of the Panamanian police, while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Authority for Migration (ANM) makes arrangements for their repatriation.

The destination of the weapons in the hands of the National Security Council of Panama, that has not yet been determined.

In the case of the North Korean ship carrying undeclared Cuba arms, Panama asked for help from the UN, and last August a team of experts from the Security Council came to the country to inspect the arsenal.

The UN team said in a preliminary report that in the case of the North Korean ship, it violated the resolutions that prevent Pyongyang from importing or exporting weapons of any kind, according to a report issued to Panama on 28 August 2013. (Panama America)

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Martinelli Fires Foreign Minister (His Cousin) Núñez Fábrega

Panama NewsBy Don Winner for - Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli fired the Foreign Minister, his cousin Fernando Núñez Fábrega, again. What's this, like the third time for this guy?

When Martinelli first took office in 2009 his cousin Núñez Fábrega was appointed as the "Anti Corruption Czar." He didn't last very long in the position, which he used to make a whole lot of noise. He became such an insufferable pain in the ass, after awhile Martinelli got rid of him (promoted/fired him) by making him the new Governor of the Province of Coclé. Yeah. Send him off to the interior. That'll work...

Nope. That didn't last long, either. It seems wherever this guy goes, he makes waves and creates more problems than he's worth. There were all sorts of allegations of wrongdoing that followed him up to Coclé, that eventually Martinelli had to get him out of there, as well. So what did he do? He moved him again (promoted/fired) to be the new Foreign Minister.

I was amazed when Martinelli made him the Foreign Minister. Martinelli probably thought he couldn't screw that up too bad. But for me it was a real head-scratcher of a decision. Made no sense at the time, and I sort of predicted it wouldn't work out too well.

And now he's been fired again. Well, officially he supposedly resigned to take care of personal and family matters. That's what they all say. He was tossed. End of story. Maybe he will stay gone this time. That would be nice. Maybe he could make us a nice raspado or something.

It looks like Núñez Fábrega will be replaced by Francisco Álvarez De Soto, who was formerly the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs. He resigned less than 24 hours after learning (at the time) Núñez Fábrega had been appointed as the Foreign Minister and would be his new boss. I like him already...

Copyright 2013

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Panama orders release of crew of N. Korean ship

Panama NewsPANAMA CITY (AP) — Panama's judicial authorities have ordered the release of 32 of 35 crew members of a North Korean ship detained last July for carrying hidden arms from Cuba and they were working Thursday on paperwork needed to leave.

Prosecutor Nahaniel Murgas said the captain and two other crew members will remain to face arms trafficking charges.

He said a search of the ship turned up documents that showed "that the ship's captain, first officer and political officer had been given instructions about what to do if the illegal shipment was detected. There were certain recommendations."

"Together with that were the statements by the rest of the crew, who said they were employees on the vessel, but not responsible" for the shipment, he said. "It was based on that the decided to free the other 32."

The Chong Chon Gang was carrying Cuban fighter jets and missiles. The owners agreed to pay a $670,000 fine this month to release the ship.

The ship was headed from Cuba to North Korea when it was stopped in the canal on July 15 based on intelligence that it may have been carrying drugs.

The Cuban military equipment was found beneath sacks of sugar. Panama has not released the 10,000 tons of sugar or the arms.

After the seizure, Cuba said the cargo included "obsolete defensive weapons" including two MiG-21 fighter jets and 15 motors, nine missiles in parts, and two anti-aircraft systems that were being shipped to North Korea "to be repaired and returned."

A preliminary report by U.N. experts determined that the seized ship violated U.N. sanctions against North Korea.

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Venezuela sees more airlines suspend ticket sales, demand payment

Panama NewsBy Mery Mogollon and Chris Kraul CARACAS, Venezuela — Three more international airlines on Friday joined the list of companies that have suspended ticket sales in Venezuela, complaining that the government owes them billions of dollars.

U.S.-based American Airlines and United Airlines and Panama’s Copa Airlines said they were halting ticket sales in Venezuela in lieu of the government’s failure to pay arrears that as of last month totaled $2.6 billion. Under Venezuela’s complicated foreign exchange rules, the government acts as intermediary in foreign sales of goods and services transacted in the country.

Airlines that previously announced a suspension in business operations included Air Canada, Tame of Ecuador and TAP Portugal. The $2.6 billion figure for the accumulated arrears came in a statement issued Dec. 12 by the International Air Transport Assn., an airline trade group.

“We can’t let this financial hole deepen on this route because of the lack of payment transfers,” Tame General Manager Fernando Guerrero said during a press conference in Quito, Ecuador, on Wednesday. He said Tame had not been paid for Venezuelan ticket sales since March.

As of Friday, no flights in or out of Venezuela had been canceled by foreign carriers, but the airlines had halted ticket transactions in bolivars, the local currency. Sales of tickets purchased with dollars are still being made, airline officials said.

Venezuela finds itself in a tightening cash shortage partly because of falling oil revenues resulting from declining productivity at oil fields and refineries, which supply more than 90% of government revenue and 70% of export sales.

An increasing percentage of oil output now goes directly to China to repay cash advances that over the years have exceeded $42 billion. Free or discounted oil that Venezuela ships to Cuba and several Caribbean nations generates less than market rate.

Of Venezuela’s estimated 2.3 million barrels of average daily oil output, about 330,000 barrels per day are thought to go to China to pay cash advances. Another 260,000 barrels per day are sent to Cuba and other neighbors at cut-rate prices, while 760,000 barrels per day are refined to meet local demand for fuel sold at a fraction of what it costs to process it.

The country’s dollar shortage is also a result of accelerating capital flight, analysts say, and the fact that sellers of dollars on the black market can receive 10 times or more the official 6.3 bolivars-per-dollar rate.

Last week, President Nicolas Maduro said in a speech to the National Assembly that the government was not planning to devalue the currency.

Domestic companies also claim the government is a deadbeat. Empresas Polar, Venezuela’s largest food products manufacturer, said it is owed $463 million destined for foreign suppliers but which the government has refused to transfer. In a statement this week, Polar said some suppliers have halted deliveries until they are paid.

Another sign of the government’s liquidity crunch can be seen in the scarcities of items at supermarkets in Caracas, the capital, where shelves have been emptied of basic foods and household items, including cooking oil, rice, poultry and toilet paper. (Los Angles Times)

Editor's Comment: Ah, communism. Central planning. Government run economies. Hasn't history shown us how well these sorts of things have always worked? (Err, no.) The fact of the matter is no government has ever been able to run anything better than private business in an open market with free competition. That goes for Venezuela's oil fields, public schools in the US, or healthcare. Governments are great at spending money, really bad at making it...

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Copa suspends flights to Venezuela

Panama NewsAmerican Airlines, United Airlines, and Panama's Copa Airlines have all temporarily suspended the sale of tickets to Venezuela.

The measure comes as the result of a multi million-dollar debt held by the Venezuelan government with these airlines, and recent changes made on the value of the Venezuelan currency by foreign exchange authorities.

There was no response to this issue from the offices of Copa Airlines in Panama City.

However, this week at a Copa press conference, where company executives highlighted their achievements in 2013 and challenges for 2014, the President of Copa Pedro Heilbron indicated they were having problems with the collection of debt from Venezuela.

According to Costa Rica's La Nación, the government of Venezuela owes the airlines more than $3.3 billion dollars.

Added to this, the recent changes made ​​by the Government of Venezuela to the banking system, eliminating the exchange rate of 6.30 Bolívares per dollar for travelers, was also one of the reasons the international airlines and Panama's Copa decided to suspend service. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: The problem comes from Venezuela not allowing the money for ticket sales made inside of the country to be transferred out. So the flights are not being cancelled, but you cannot buy a ticket inside of Venezuela. If you have a credit card (for example) you could buy a ticket online, pay for it with your credit card in dollars, and fly. So far a total of six airlines have all cancelled ticket sales in Venezuela.

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Panama: North Korea ship owners will pay fine

Panama NewsPANAMA CITY — The owners of a North Korean ship seized by Panama for carrying Cuban fighter jets and missiles are paying a $670,000 fine to recover the vessel.

Panama’s foreign minister, Fernando Nunez, said Thursday that North Korea has agreed to pay the sum.

The nation’s canal authority had initially set a $1 million fine because the crew didn’t declare that it was transporting weapons. The country later reduced the fine.

The ship was headed from Cuba to North Korea when it was seized in June by Panamanian authorities, who suspected it was carrying drugs. Two Cuban fighter jets in perfect condition were discovered inside the vessel.

Panama’s prosecutors said crew members are still in custody but they will soon decide whether they will be freed or held for trial. (AP)

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USA Gives Panama $7.8 Million To Strengthen Security

Panama NewsThe United States will provide $7.8 million dollars in security assistance to Panama through its Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) program. The money will be used for counterterrorism training, counter drug efforts, to enhance public safety, reduce gang crime, as well as for the modernization and professionalization of the police force.

This was announced during a ceremony to sign Amendment No. 18 to the CARSI letter of understanding, the US Ambassador to Panama Jonathan Farrar and Panama's Foreign Minister Fernando Nunez Fabrega, held yesterday in the Bolivar Palace.

Farrar said the assistance offered is part of the "regional security strategy" of his government and that the agreed amount is in addition to the $30 million awarded last year as part of the "strategy of global cooperation," which includes the "implementation of the bilateral trade promotion agreement and the eradication of child labor."

The U.S. assistance program also includes institutional strengthening of the justice system .

The Foreign Minister Núñez Fábrega stressed the importance of this support in the fight against transnational crime through the "training of the members of the National Police to manage their tactical teams, and sensitive investigation units" against trafficking drugs, among other areas of action.

Nunez Fabrega referred to other conflicts of an international character, including that relating to the retention by Ecuador of the Panamanian-flagged ship Doria, in October 2013.

The return of the ship to Panama has been delayed, because the Ecuadorian prosecutor Galo Chiriboga is investigating the case after having discovered 799 kilos of drugs on the Panamanian vessel. In turn, the for President of the Central Bank of Ecuador, Pedro Delgado, is being investigated for alleged acts of corruption. Fabrega said "he has not had time" to consider the Panamanian request for the ship to be returned. The process began in April last year. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Good. $7.8 million isn't a whole lot of money but the United States is certainly getting a good return on its investment with regards to the anti drug efforts here. Panama seizes about 50 tons of cocaine per year. The US government should place strong emphasis on corruption in the judicial system. There is no judicial security in Panama. None. It's like a bridge that's built out of mystical, magical clouds. Sometimes you can skip right over it and get whatever you want. Sometimes it looks like it's there and it's real, but when you try to use the system to right some wrong, it melts away and evaporates like it was never there. In Panama big money can "buy justice" at any time. This issue is particularly important to the members of the English speaking community of expatriates living in Panama, as well as those who invest in Panama, own property, or conduct any other sort of business here. I've literally seen people get away with murder, simply because they have money and political connections. The fact that you're a "gringo" is not a positive, but rather a negative. There is no judicial security in Panama - the law is selectively enforced. I'm going to say that a thousand times, until people understand that it's real. And, it's a huge and massive problem, especially for foreigners.

Just this week I received no less than three new cases - one involving the theft of more than $500,000 from an investor. They simply take the money, then use it to pay bribes to make sure they are never prosecuted. Pretty cool gig, eh? The US Ambassador should be screaming this from the rooftops, but he's not. Don't expect any help at all from the US Embassy. Well, they might give you a cup of coffee while they listen to your sob story, but that's about it. They will tell you to "hire a lawyer".

I guess it's not very diplomatic to complain about judicial corruption in the press. The US State Department has bigger fish to fry, I guess. YOU are not their priority.

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