All posts by Don Ray

About Don Ray

US retiree living in David, Chiriquí Panama. David, Chiriquí Warden for the US Embassy in Panama City.

SETI Briefing at BCP

You may remember my posting about the SETI observatory that is in Boquete.

Today, I received the following from a CC Reader related to a BCP meeting with a speaker on SETI.

I thought you might be interested in posting this on Chiriqui Chatter.
Too bad I will miss it but maybe someone can go pro it or record for YouTube!

Boquete BCP, Tuesday, Feb. 16 — The presentation will be given by Ben Schuetz; a retired physicist/engineer and resident of Boquete since 2007. Everyone knows what SETI is, but few know about the Optical Search for Extraterrestrials (OSETI), i.e. searching for laser signals from ETI. The presentation will include discussions about the current rate and state of exoplanet discoveries, why after 50 years we haven’t found anything, the problems of searching, laser facts, small observatory viability and what will happen when a signal is discovered. The observatory on Volcancito Rd. is dedicated to optical SETI and became operational in 2010. It has been under continuous development ever since. Last year, a larger telescope was installed that doubled the system’s sensitivity. The Boquete Optical SETI Observatory has a number of innovative features that help achieve sensitivities found only at larger observatories. During November of last year the observatory participated in a cooperative effort with SETI International, SETI Institute and the Allen Telescope Array observing a star that exhibits singularly peculiar behavior that could be related to ETI. This too will be a topic for discussion and copies of the joint paper will be available to those interested. Prospective attendees are encouraged to visit: for additional information.”

POL and Lost SS Payments Follow-up

I took Natalie to visit Robert today. While they were talking, I wrote the Embassy to see if they had learned anything about the missing SS payment. This was the response from the FBU.


I just verified the International Treasury Service and no one is showing up with the SSN provided. When this happens it’s because the address on record with the SSA is not a local address.

I sent an inquiry to the SSA on his payment dated 02/03/2016. Beside the POL, his benefits could be suspended for address reasons also. I’ll wait to see what the SSA responds.

In these particular cases where the beneficiary is unable to handle their own affairs, someone, preferably the person taking care of them, should apply to be the representative payee.


What can be learned from this response? Several things if you look carefully at what was written.

First, you will notice that the Embassy contacted the “International Treasury Service”. They do not interface with the stateside office of the SSA. This is why I said in previous comments that state social security offices are not up on the requirements of US citizens living outside the US.

Second, the international office has no record of any individual residing in Panama with this SSN. This tells you that the individual moved here and did not change his/her address with the SSA. He/She had not registered a local Panama address.

Third, the FBU is saying that the payments could have been stopped because of address reasons. This may mean that while all payments are being deposited in a bank in the US, it was noticed that all withdrawals are coming from Panama. I don’t know this for a fact, just analyzing the reply.

Lastly, the reply suggests that if the individual is not able to manage his/her financial affairs, it is preferable to have a person, responsible for care taking, doing it. This will be difficult in the situation, since the caretakers are not family.

I hope I’m wrong, but I suspect the individual will be lucky to get the payments turned before the next month pay period. The problems would have been avoided had the individual registered his Panama residency with the SSA. Then the SSA would have sent out a POL form to be returned.

In summary, this is a US citizen with a US address registered with the SSA and money being deposited to a US bank. Seems like this is what others have commented was in compliance SSA requirements.

ASUS ZenWatch 2

I mentioned the other day I had made some technology purchases recently. One was the Nvidia Shield K1, which I really love. Nvidia has still not issued a formal fix for the Android Marshmallow 6.0 battery problem, but since I chose not to update, it hasn’t affected me.

From following the Nvidia thread, it appears that the fix is close and many have tested it and found that it solved their problem. I will wait until the final fix is issued and stable before I move to Android 6.0.

None the less I really love my Nvidia Shield K1. Likewise, Lilliam is loving having her own iPad that isn’t being changed into English every now and then. It makes sense. If there are two people, there needs to be two tablets. Lilliam has really gotten into this technology thing and can WhatsApp with the best of them.

Another piece of technology i bought was a rapid charger for the nvidia shield and a rapid mobile charger for use with my cell phone in the car.

However, my most fun technology purchase was the ASUS ZenWatch 2. I had been researching smartwatches since Apple came out with theirs, but only became interested after buying my LG G4 cell phone. Continue reading ASUS ZenWatch 2

I’d like to thank whomever told Lilliam that WTF means “wow that’s fantastic.” Her texts are so much more fun now.

I never thought Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” was about me. However “Nobody Does It Better” was both flattering and a little embarrasing.

I finally figured out what flies and mosquitoes are for. They’re God’s way of making us slap ourselves.

Latest Embassy Case

My most recent Embassy case concluded successfully with an email I received this morning.

I got a call several nights ago from the Security Desk at the Embassy in Panama City. The duty officer said he had just talked to a US citizen, in David, who had called frightened for her life because her male housemate had locked her in the house after beating her and threatening to kill her. He had then gone to Panama City.

The duty officer was wanting to know a number in David she could call for help and if it was 911 as in the states.

Staff at the Embassy change every two years and it is not uncommon to have new staff that don’t have all the knowledge they need to assist people. I gave him the numbers for the police and went back to sleep.

The following morning, I received a frantic phone call from the lady who had escaped when her roommate had returned earlier that morning. He allowed her to go pay some bills and instead, she went into hiding and called me. A friend of hers had given her my number.

I called my contacts at the Embassy and updated them on the situation. Shortly they sent me an email with the number for INAMU, which is a women”s abuse organization.

I picked up the lady and she wanted to go to COPA and buy tickets back to the states because she said she didn’t want to be another statistic. I took her to COPA and then we went to find the INAMU office. I had to call for directions.

We were taken to a private room where a social worker took the information related to the abuse case. The social worker was accompanied by a lawyer, who understood some English. I acted as interpreter.

I explained to the social worker that it was my understanding from talking to the US Embassy that they assisted women in these situations and they would provide protection and shelter.

They said they would take her to a safe house and then the next day take her to the airport for her flight. They informed her that she would not be permitted to use her cell phone while she was going to/from the safe house and while in the safe house because of the phones having GPS capabilities.

They offered to take her to her house to get personal belongings, but she was afraid that he would become violent. Most individuals like him become cowards when confronted by police, but that was her desire.

I can understand her fear because he had to!d her that he had killed two other women in Panama City and knew how to do it without being caught.

This morning, I received an email from her saying she had made it back to the US and was with family. There are a few loose ends remaining, but at least she is safe and based on the bruises I saw, it might not have ended that way.

It is good to know that such an organization exists and they assist Panamanians as well as foreigners. Thanks go out for Tania at the Embassy for knowing about this organization and  making the initial call. Thanks also for those working in the organization supporting abused women.

The organization is INAMU and their number is 774-7093.

Message for U.S. Citizens: Zika Virus Update

Following is the latest ACS message.

Zika virus infection is an emerging infection now widespread through much of Latin America. There is a strong potential that this infection will continue to spread. A Zika infection spreads through mosquito bites and is typically manifested as a mild flu-like illness, fever, a rash, conjunctivitis, and joint pains but most cases are “silent”, meaning that the infected person feels no symptoms at all. Health authorities such as the U.S. Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization harbor serious concerns that an infection during pregnancy can cause birth defects in new borns whose mothers may have been infected with the Zika virus. The latest list of all the countries covered by the CDC Travel Alert Level 2 can be found here: CDC Travel Health Information.

The Panamanian Ministry of Health (MINSA) has confirmed 50 Zika cases. To date, the outbreak has been confined to the Guna Yala province. MINSA Department of Epidemiology is working with the Gorgas Memorial Institute to control mosquitos in the affected areas. Gorgas provides the testing facilities for Zika. The latest notices from MINSA can be found here.

For the latest and more in-depth information, please also see the following:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Zika Virus
Pan American Health Organization Zika Virus

First POL (Proof of Life) Paperwork Victim

I just got a call from a caretaker of a US citizen saying that he was unable to withdraw funds this month. He has many monthly needs and is unable to pay for them.

I have notified the Embassy and the process to reestablish the monthly deposit will begin. It will be complicated because he cannot talk for the Embassy because of a stroke and can’t go to the Embassy to handle the paperwork.

Make sure you have verified that you received your US government February payments, because February is the month that payments are stopped if POL was not submitted.